Wednesday, 21 August 2013

:: gratitude ::

In this haze that I can claim is part of the newborn experience, I'm realising (again!) that it's important to focus on what I can be thankful for, because it can be all too easy to notice the mess, the failures and in tiredness to react negatively those around me, who I love so much. A friend recently posted on my Facebook wall "...Keep the thanksgiving going which you did so wonderfully with the challenges you faced with the twins." Her comment has stuck with me and reminded me that, even though we're not going through anything like the stress of those early days with the girls, it is easy to focus down in the chaotic moments, rather than up, and expressing thankfulness for even the smallest things makes all the difference to perspective, also to my heart and soul. Especially in these early days of learning how to parent three little people. So...without further ado, here are some of the many things I'm so thankful for right now...

Two wonderful little girls who have taken the big change of having their little brother occupy much of mummy's time in their stride. There are moments when they want and need my attention and I can't always do what they're wanting right in that moment because of feeding or changing Théo, but in general they are doing extremely well and I'm very proud of them. Their tender hearts are being expressed in their cuddles and kisses for their baby brother, and their initiative and desire to want to help from taking his nappies to the rubbish to finding items of clothing that he might need.

A little man who is very settled, peaceful and wakes me more often with his wriggling rather than with cries of hunger. I sensed when I was pregnant that he would have a peaceful little nature because of his gentle movements, so it will be interesting to see how his character develops as he grows. He's treating us to more awake times and is very alert to our voices, turning towards us and focusing his eyes on our faces. I'm sure his gorgeous smiles will start to appear any day now. Such a sweet, precious little gift he is to us!

The grace and energy that is given when sleep hours have been few. Since Théo's birth I have found that, as soon as the sun is up, I seem to possess extra energy that I definitely didn't have throughout a long night! Although, in saying that, those nights have been generously balanced with several other nights of 4-5 hour stretches of sleep, so I cannot honestly claim that I spend all of my waking time in a haze of I tried to earlier :o) There are definitely moments of that, but in general I've felt pretty good. We're going through the two-week growth spurt, which brings it's extra feeding and spills, but with a wonderful husband and parents at hand, there is plenty of help in those tired moments of trying to juggle what needs to be done and whose needs are in which order of priority to attend to!

Eti has done a wonderful job picking up on what I haven't been able to do and doing it all without any complaints. He sent me off to bed early last night even though the lounge looked like a tornado had swept through it, and the kitchen wasn't a whole lot better! He settles Théo on the nights that he struggles to go off to sleep, and spends a lot of time with the girls doing what they love - reading stories, making huts or going to the playground. I am so thankful!

My parents are inredible! They are an invaluable help to us - with a freezer full of meals so that each night we have something ready to pop in the oven (my sisters have been equally wonderful in joining in with this, which is such a blessing!). Mum comes every morning around breakfast time to help get the girls ready for the day and take any washing, then returns around 4.30pm when the day is getting long, tiredness is setting in and patience can be harder to find. Dad did the morning duty this morning and found himself cleaning up several 'messes' from a little toilet-training girl. If that doesn't demonstrate a heart of service, I'm not sure what does!

I'm thankful for our little family of five. The photo above shows the beautiful certificate given to us with Théo's one-week footprint beside the celebration certificates that a lovely neonatal nurse made for each of our girls when they passed 1000g, with their footprints at roughly 6 weeks of age. Such difference in the perspective of size! I'm thankful for each of our children and their stories so far in life. I'm thankful the girls came early, survived and are absolutely full of life. I'm thankful for all we have experienced in their 3 years - the hard and the good. I'm so grateful Théo arrived right on due time (well, one day early in true Swiss style!) after a very good pregnancy, and for the joy he brings us. And I'm thankful for Eti who has walked alongside me through all of these moments, with a calm and loving strength and a desire to be the best papa he can be. We have much to learn as parents, but we're committed to doing just that and bringing up three little people who will one day leave home full of hope for this world, with generous hearts and a love for others.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

:: he's here with us! :: théo's story ::

These past 10 days have been the most beautiful of my life (alongside those when our girls came,  equal in joy and awe, but minus the anxiety of that time!). Our little man is here, on the outside, and I'm still in awe of the reality, even though it feels like a dream :o)

The timing of everything was amazing. God is so good like that! I should never need to worry, as I do too often. Because His timing has always been spot on. I was quite anxious about when everything would kick off with the birth, having my parents-in-law staying right with us. I'm a quite a modest person at the best of times (!), and the thought of going into labour (and the pressure to do so before they returned home) was sometimes overwhelming. But, as both of my midwives reminded me...God knows and His timing would be best. And, in hindsight, the timing was very good. His French grandparents had a week of enjoying cuddles and peeks at their beautiful little grandson.

I had a lovely midwife, Deb, throughout the pregnancy. I had originally hoped to have another in their team of three, with whom my sister, Beth, had done a large practical part of her midwifery training. But with the timing of my due date and Irene's holidays booked just beforehand, I went with Deb. Who was also wonderful! However, Deb got engaged and her wedding date was booked for 5 days after my due date, and her leave would begin a few days before that date. So it was going to depend on whether the little man decided to come early or late! I reached Deb's last day of work and had my first appointment with Irene...not knowing at the time that in a little over 24 hours later it would be all go!

Last Saturday, the 3rd, I woke early in the morning with terrible stomach cramps. It reminded me very much of a bout with food poisoning that I had while living in Lausanne when the girls were in Neonatal. I had an anxious few moments wondering if food poisoning would affect the baby, so there was a flurry of early morning texts to family and a call to Irene. As long as I could feel baby moving, and I wasn't getting worse, there was little I could do but wait. So much of the day was spent in bed, forcing myself to nibble on crackers, and sip from a variety of drinks that were accumulating around the bed! I eventually asked Eti to go and get some Coke. I don't normally go anywhere near Coke, but I remembered that last time it seemed to have helped...and at that point I was ready to try anything and seriously considering asking for a caesarian if labour started because I had absolutely no energy!
Thankfully, probably with a combination of prayer and Coke (!) the cramps disappeared and I could rest up to try and get some more energy. My sister had said that some labours start this way, so I was semi-preparing myself in my weakened state of mind! But also was secretly 'sure' that it didn't feel anything like the beginning of labour.

In the early evening I realised time had passed quickly and I hadn't noticed any obvious movements from the baby, which I needed to at least every two hours. As the evening progressed I still wasn't convinced I was feeling much, compared to the usual activity that I'd feel each evening. I had been lying down all day with no energy, so I thought that it was probably also due to that. I wasn't too worried because every so often I felt a possible flicker of movement, but I wasn't convinced or reassured at the same time! So after a few phone calls and an hour of drinking more Coke, playing loud music and trying to encourage movements, we decided to play it safe and go over to Middlemore Hospital to be monitored. I felt more guilty at having woken Irene at 5.30 that morning, then calling her into the hospital at 10.30pm at night! But I had to kick myself into reality that this is her job, and the baby's safety was much more important!

The monitor instantly picked up a strong heartbeat. It also noted the light, painless contractions that I'd felt pick up sometime during the evening. Because the baby's heartbeat descended sometimes with the contractions the doctor wanted to keep me in overnight to just check how things would go. Also, because I had had a previous caesarian and was planning on going for a VBAC (i.e. birthing naturally). Irene went home "to get some sleep" but said that it could still be a few more days. Eti also went home shortly afterwards because the chairs in the small room were not quite accommodating enough to ensure a comfortable sleep for him! I was left feeling fine and prepared for a night of waiting, so I tried to get as much sleep as I could.

About two hours later, as I slept, I felt the strangest sensation - as though someone punched me with an audible "pop!" and all of a sudden I found my bed drenched! I gasped with the sudden shock! The lovely midwife who responded to my bell exclaimed "Oh good!!!" when I showed her that my waters had just broken! After a quick shower and change into a hospital gown (I had nothing else with me!) I started feeling stronger, regular contractions. It was semi-dawning on me that this is it! I called Eti back in, and Irene arrived an hour or two afterwards, saying that she wasn't surprised :o) The contractions were reasonably strong and a little painful but not overwhelming and completely manageable, although my intentions to relax my body weren't entirely successful!

Eventually we were transferred to the birthing room. Everything seemed to be progressing quite quickly. I had heard that time often feels like it passes quickly when in labour. It looked like a long time ahead, but in hindsight it really was flying by. And there were several expectations I had held that I didn't really experience, which was reassuring! While there was a moment of deciding three children would be enough, it was never really overwhelming...on the contrary, the moments I had expected to be the hardest almost passed by without my noticing. I had intended to be upright and moving around as much as possible, but because of my dehydration and lack of energy I found it so much easier to lie on my side...and thankfully, it didn't seem to hinder the progression at all. An IV line was put in to hydrate me and soon I felt like I had enough energy to keep going, at least for a little longer :o) Eti did a wonderful job, and Irene was amazing with her direction and her ability to involve Eti. I was offered gas, which I tried half-heartedly, but more with the intention to have something to hold onto rather than to take away the feelings. They kept saying "You need to suck more often to get the effects!" and I would reply "I don't's just to give me something to do!" The transition phase passed like that, and soon came that irrepressible urge to push. Because he was turned slightly the wrong way it took quite a while to get him out. Nearer the end he was starting to stress a little, and I was beginning to feel pain from my caesarian scar, so I was given an epsiotomy to make it easier. And we did it! At 10.35am on Sunday morning Théo Victor came out with a beautiful cry, and we cuddled for the next hour or more. A beautiful, healthy, 3.47kg, 52cm long little boy joined our family. It was so surreal that I'm not sure I realised much of the reality of all that had just happened until the following day...and am probably still waking up to reality. What a beautiful reality it is!

I spent three nights in a maternity home, which was really helpful in the transition to going home. I was asked a few times if Théo was our first child. I replied saying "No, we have twins, but they came so early that yes, he is like our first!" I have much to learn about how to start from the very beginning :o) The staff were lovely, and patient with all the calls and questions! They were committed to helping us get the feeding thing going well, which is great. It was a surreal little world to be apart of for those four days. Everyone had a new baby and exchanged stories over dinner in the dining room, shuffling around and learning how to take care of our precious little people. Our girls visited every day, running in with flowers and drawings for "baby Théo" The months of talking about his coming had prepared them well and they love to shower him with kisses, cuddles and get anything he might need, like a hat or blanket if it's cool! They spent almost a week staying with my parents, who did a wonderful job taking care of them, and returned back to us a couple of days after we had come home.

And, so we are five. Life with three children is a real gift, but will take some adjusting to. I've had a few moments in tears knowing I'm failing to meet all three needs at once, and still recovering from the birth. But, as mum reminded me this morning, it's not about being a perfect mum and getting it all right at once. It may take 6 weeks, but we'll get there and we'll be just fine. She's right, and it's a good opportunity to let go of some of these perfectionist tendencies and just enjoy the moments with our three, as they show me so well how to do so. Beds are unmade, toys are scattered everywhere, piles of clothes sit on couches and chairs to go away, washing to be done...but we're doing just fine :o) And that's all that really matters. My parents are an absolute gift in doing many of these jobs for us and helping out at the busiest times of the day. We're in very good hands :o)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

:: looking forward to baby ::

Well, today is the day - the 1st of August - that had several people betting on our baby coinciding his arrival with la Fête nationale Suisse (the Swiss National Day). Unless he plans on giving me a 7 or so hour labour, then chances are there's another date in his mind! As every other day recently, there are no signs of an imminent arrival. Although, having never been through this before, I don't know what to expect. It is quite an experience waiting and wondering when things will kick off leading to the arrival of our baby, which will no doubt help my mind to catch up in realising there really is someone in there!

It's quite a surreal experience, as I've said before. This is our third baby, but in so many ways it feels like the first for me. I had an emergency c-section with the girls at 26 weeks, which was surreal enough. Often when I've looked back I know they're my daughters but I don't feel like I actually gave birth to them. Partly maybe because it was such a rapid c-section that was already over as I was asking if they had started (!), and partly because of the blur of the actual day and the circumstances of the girls' extremely premature arrival. I never saw the girls immediately after the c-section, and only have a vague memory of the blur of an incubator as it was rolled up to Neonatal. I'm not one to be opinionated about which method of birth is best or to say that c-section is not a real way to give birth. Clearly we all want the best for our little babies, and if they need to come by c-section, for their sake or ours, then that's the priority. In saying this, until this time around I didn't know what pregnant life was like from 26 weeks onwards, which is quite a significant part of pregnancy! And, it's been so completely different to last time that it's taken me a long time to even feel pregnant. I don't feel any of the baby's weight, though it's definitely there because I got such a shock at the number flashing up at me from the scales at a recent midwife appointment! Now, 4 days out until the due date, our baby is ready to come at any time. And he'll be BIG (in our perspective!), healthy and will fit clothes straight away! 

Another new experience will be to take the baby home with us within days of being born. And then adjusting to being up several times throughout the night for the first weeks. Amélie came 'home' at 3 months old and Elise at 5 and a half months. While Amélie was still only 2.1kg at that time and 'newborn' in her adjusted age, she had had the benefit of a great routine in the neonatal unit for the previous 12 weeks, was only waking once a night, then relatively soon was sleeping right through. When Elise was discharged she was the same and both slept through the night within a couple of weeks of being home, and have done so ever since. Sometimes I find myself wondering how I will know what to do with a newborn! But I'm sure the first few days will put me in good stead and it will all come back.  

I'm hoping and planning for a natural birth this time. I have to go to the hospital and have an IV line in just in case but it's funny to realise that I haven't really considered a c-section as an option in my mind, though it will be there as a back up if necessary (and, more recently I've been thinking that I may choose it as a 42 week option if baby hasn't come). It's not recommended that I have an epidural because I need to be able to feel the scar area from my previous c-section, in case of a rupture, and I will also need constant monitoring of the baby. But I hope not to take anything more than basic pain relief, unless my ideal hopes fly out the window! I've been reading up about natural birth and how much fear and lack of control can result in a much more painful and long labour. I'm looking forward to it with a degree of nervousness combined with a trust that God will be with us and with a goal to be focused, to be present, relaxed, peaceful and filled with a sense of joy and excitement of the imminent arrival of our little boy, rather than a fear of the tremendous effort that will be required. I've been really encouraged to read beautiful stories like this one and this one, that show that it can be a really uplifting and wonderful experience. So these are my hopes for the experience but I will be open to whatever is necessary to bring our baby safely into the world. 

In the meantime we wait for this moment to arrive. The girls have decided to get the hang of potty training and have been doing really well at going on the potty. I have anticipated this moment for so long and can't wait to not have to buy nappies anymore, but at this stage of pregnancy I find myself getting to the point that I say "Ok, let's put your nappies back's ok if you do it in your nappies now" much to the protest of the girls! We'll get there :o) They are also anticipating baby's arrival and tell me that they will be "really, really happy!" We are collecting a growing pile of drawings of the baby and I have no doubt they will be wonderful sisters and helpers. 

I've tidied and cleaned pretty much every part of the house that has occupied a space on my 'to do' list over the last several weeks. The bed is made and ready, the changing table stocked with nappies and tiny bodysuits, and my suitcase is just waiting for the moment that I need to grab last minute bits and pieces before we head to the hospital. And now we wait and anticipate...and I try to make myself make the most of these last-minute moments of rest and quiet! 

The photos in this post have no relation whatsoever to what I'm writing about as you can tell! They're of a beach trip we enjoyed last weekend with Grand-papa and Grand-maman