Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Blessing that is Maternity Leave


Only 3.5 weeks left until I go back to work.

I am actually sad to go back to work. Yep, I said it. I know... Who am I?! 

But, going back to work means I have to give up my days of snuggles, baby games and naps. Of baking treats, both healthy and not so much, and having dinner ready when the boys get home. Of picking up the boys early to go to the park or CMoR or some other adventure we have planned (or not planned). Of the hubs getting home early and having a random day date (We haven't done enough of this by the way babe.) Of working out in the middle of the day and getting our chores done so that our weekends and evenings are about family. 

Trust me, I know how shocking this is...

I went back to work early for both the boys. I couldn't tell you how many times I have said, "I'm not cut out for maternity leave" or "I wasn't made to be a SAHM." And although I do miss my job, the wonderful staff I have and the KIDS (boy, do I miss all my kiddos!) I have really, really enjoyed this time.

I think a part of it is with my first, I had NO CLUE what I was doing. Before him, I never had really been in charge of a newborn. I knew babies from working in preschools but those babies were typically 8 weeks old before I met them. There is no real preparation for what life with a newborn entails, especially one that had so many respiratory issues.

With the second, well we all remember that drama. I was strongly discouraged not allowed to drive or be alone with my baby due to all the unknowns with my brain. We had a mother's helper who did the carpool shuttling so our oldest could still go to preschool part-time and who got us to appointments and anything else we wanted to do. But it just wasn't the same. My ego probably definitely played a part in that. I was sharing the work load with another person besides my husband, of getting my oldest to school and keeping him busy when I wanted to do it all and be the supermom I always dreamed of being. And there is just something about always having an audience. I wasn't the silly mom that I have been these last few weeks. Ya know that makes silly faces, and talks in funny voices because every conversation is one-sided and the goal is always to make the baby laugh. 

So this time around, following the best birthing experience, I was ready. Armed with my bag of newborn tricks, sleep training skills, and the confidence a mother needs to have three kids, I was adamant on enjoying my "free" time. And frankly, I have been having a blast.

So as I sit here with my sweet girl sleeping in her crib (first day, yay!) I realize I am really not the same mother I was 8 weeks ago and have learned so about myself in this short time.

-I actually enjoy cooking! It might be my control side because I know what we are eating and that it is healthy or the fact that it really fills my husband's bucket, but my confidence in this department has been my biggest growth area.
-I forgot how much I love to bake! And since I have been out of my baking frenzy for so long, I have enjoyed the added challenge of making things gluten free!
-I am so happy I rekindled my love for blogging. I have so many details from our life saved on this and I want to keep that up. I am sad it took me 3 years to really get back at it but at least I am back. I even have some exciting news to share on the blogging front, but it will have to wait!
-I can handle 3 kids just about anywhere. Well, 2 kids and a newborn. I know I still have so much more to learn here and we have MANY, MANY challenges to face (like zone defense) but so far, so good so I'll take it!
-If ever the opportunity presented itself to stay at home or be a part-time working mom, I might actually consider it. (Where's the jaw dropped emoji when ya need it?!?) This has definitely been the most surprising for sure, but also the most rewarding, as I have spent most of my adult life allowing my career to define me. I think with this shift in perspective, it will actually allow me to be more effective in my current professional role and whatever I am destined for in the future.

Every experience impacts who you are, every situation and especially every life event, but I had no idea how different I would be after this baby or how grateful I would be for how I have already been molded. It's like God knew just what I needed.

Funny how that works out.

Taken on one of AQ and I's adventures to Maymont.

Monday, September 19, 2016

And then there were 5! (Avery Quinn's Birth Story)

If you asked us as a young newlywed couple how many children we were planning on, we would've answered 3-4 kids. But following the Respiratory Chronicles of Cooper and the #tazmanianG saga, we were settled as a family with our two amazing boys. We felt very blessed. Everyone was finally healthy and we were happy.

Happy but not complete.

In the midst of the trouble we had in Griffin's pregnancy, it took me months and months to reflect on the effect it had on my dear sweet husband, the man who was at my side for every test, EEG, neuro appointment, every. single. headache. How could I forget to consider his feelings (other than the fact I had to drag them out of him!?) It wasn't until we were nearing Griffin's first birthday, did I realize how much I needed to talk about everything that happened and how much he simply couldn't. He had to face the thought of life without me, life without his partner in crime, the mother of his children and the woman, he would say, taught him how to be a dad. How could he do this without me? (It is important to mention that he doesn't give himself enough credit. He is an amazing dad, even without all the crazy early childhood knowledge I force him to practice!). And even though things ended up falling into the best case scenario bracket,  that doesn't replace those initial and terrifying feelings. Feelings that I (still) can't fully understand because I had the privilege of being the one it was happening to instead of the one who had to watch, which is actually the easier road I think.

So even if my doctor's EVER thought another child was in the cards for us, he just simply wouldn't couldn't.

They say time heals all wounds, right? 

Sometime in 2015, that feeling of incompleteness was more than obvious. Even Rick felt it. Maybe it was the fact that if we were going to have a third child, that was about the time we would start to think and plan for one. Maybe it was the fact that I was on the path to being the healthiest I had ever been in my adult life (21 day fix anyone?). My brain issues were frankly non-issues at this point (we aren't sure the reason for that either, but believe it has to do mostly with eliminating stress and gluten... and a lot with the power of prayer...more on that later) and I just couIdn't shake the feeling that there was supposed to be more to our family. 

Rick begrudgingly agreed to meet with my ob and neuro and see their thoughts. How would another pregnancy effect the "spot" on my brain? If something did go wrong, how would we handle it? What would be our plan of action the 2nd time around? I was on the boat of "If God wants us to have another baby, we will. God always finds a way." Rick was starting to head that direction when God's plan really did show. We were pregnant. Thanksgiving morning I told him the news as he got in from the grocery store, stocked with my favorite white wine. He was thankful for the news and even more thankful later to learn my doctors were very much on board.

Slowly we allowed the anxiety to come and quickly released it. This was happening and now officially our very last baby (I've had c-sections) and we wanted to enjoy it.

I have to admit there was a very small piece of me that held on to a bit of the anxiety, waiting for the #ricelife shoe to drop. But it never did. Myself, Rick, our two sweet boys and literally hundreds of people, including our family, friends, coworkers and even a small prayer group I was taking a class with at church, prayed away the anxiety.

And it worked. This pregnancy was the best of all 3. I didn't have a single issue the entire 10 months. I had perfect blood pressure and perfect weight gain. And on Wednesday, July 27th at 8:24am, our perfect baby, all 6lbs, 14 ounces and 19.25 inches, was born in the most peaceful delivery that I never even knew was possible in an OR.

I cry every time I try to explain this amazing calm that Avery Quinn brought the moment she entered her human experience. It was the deepest feeling of love I have had to date.
She is our missing piece, the last thing we needed to complete our family and the moment they laid her on my chest, I knew it. I felt it. Deep in my soul. It was a feeling I could never have imagined, even having experienced welcoming a baby into the world twice before. This feeling of oneness, of absolute completeness.

We were (finally) the family we had dreamt of, had hoped for. The family we believed could happen. The family that was possible through God's love, the love we have for each other and the love of those around us. 

And just like that, we were the perfect family of 5.
Image credit: Carmen Doherty Photography

Friday, September 16, 2016

I'm baaaack!

I miss writing to write. I miss working through the hard stuff to find the silver lining which is what this thing has always been for me. I guess the good news is that we haven't had a lot of hard stuff to work through, which has been such a nice change in our #ricelife. But I started reading old posts last night and loved remembering everything in such detail. Two years is a long time to stay away and there is so much more I have to say...

Like how #tazmanianG has challenged everything about who I am as a parent and he is only 3 years old. Yes, our middle child, aka Number Two, has his own hashtag. He is too f*ing crazy not to. (Sorry Aunt Pam for the cursing, but I know you can relate!) I could write a whole blog JUST on him. We used to call it #griffsense because the stories were things that only made sense to him. Like these outlandish stories he tells us about preschool that obviously couldn't be true, and I know that because I work there, but if I was a regular parent, I might be worried where I am sending my kid. 

And how he gets hurt. Every. Single. Day. I swear someone is going to think we are abusing him. This morning, he thought running through the house, at 7am would be a brilliant idea. Apparently he miscalculated his turn through a doorway and hit his cheek, or so he says. He is now rocking a linear bruise on the side of his face, so upon hearing this story I knew that he was in fact telling me the truth. This time.

I recently saw an article claiming studies show that children who lie are more intelligent than those children who don't and the earlier they start the smarter they will be. Uh WHAT?! I guess the good news is that if it is in fact true, G will be golden. Last week I watched him take his hand and hit his brother so hard on the back that his brother yelped in pain. Upon telling Griffin that I saw him hit his brother, he insisted that it wasn't him! Uh WHAT?! Yeah okay and I have 3 heads and I like to cook! (The later is actually becoming true! I know, I can't believe it either... more on that later).

So here I am, with (obviously) so much to say. And now that our newest addition has fallen into a predictable routine, I have a little bit of free time... well at least a couple of hours with both hands free to type... and I feel like it is time to get back to it. To work through life as a mom of three, combating middle child syndrome and at the very least saving all the good real stuff so I can read it later on.
Image credit: Carmen Doherty Photography

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Griffin!

This time last year...

This seems to be a reoccurring theme in the few posts I make time for these days.

This time last year, I was begging and pleading with our nurses to let me see my baby. Begging and pleading to let me out of my bed. To give me a breast pump so I could be proactive and actually DO SOMETHING besides wonder what was going on with my baby and look at a scary picture of my baby with the Cpap on that was tapped to the white board with my nurses name and other insignificant information since my baby wasn't with me...

This would be the last scariest moment after a day full of 'em.

Like the moment when I got a phone call from a St. Mary's nurse as I closed my eyes to take a final nap just after my mom dropped me off from my pre-op blood work. The phone call that said I need to return to the hospital... immediately.

And the moment I realized my OBGYN was beeping in to tell me she just spoke with St. Mary's and I needed to get back to the hospital... immediately and she was headed there to meet me.

And the moment I called my mom to tell her through tears she needed to turn around and take me back to the hospital.

And the moment when my dad was the one to show up to drive me back, because he and my mom KNEW something was wrong.

And the moment when my husband called to tell me he was 3 hours away and I needed to keep him posted as I refused his return now because that would make this whirlwind real. And scary.

And the moment when my OBGYN let me know that we would be delivering the baby as soon as the anesthesiologist cleared me for a spinal.

And the moment I realized my dad snuck out of my hospital room to call Rick and tell him to get back to town because he was sure Griffin was coming today. (Thank you Dad!)

And the moment I saw Rick's face less than 30 minutes before surgery, before our sweet Griffin made his unexpected delivery, realizing without my dad's call he may have missed it.

And the moment, I heard my sweet baby cry. It was sweet and barely there, but a cry nonetheless.

And the moment when I got to lay eyes on that baby boy. That baby boy who is so much more than I could ever imagine. Love, joy and the apple of his brother's eye. Those moments make all the other ones worth it.

This time last year began the journey of being a true mother. After the year we had with Cooper, it proved to be what I needed to begin my advocacy for Griffin. Monitoring his stats, speaking with our NICU doctor, getting the nurses on our side. Reminding them his pulox was improving and his stats were remaining stable and encouraging life without any aids.

I realize in this moment right now, Cooper's medical troubles were about preparing us for what was to come, to my brain troubles and to Griffin's entrance. And as scary as all of the moments were and will always be in our memory, it is this moment right now that I sit, after Griffin's first birthday, remembering the good doesn't feel good without the bad. Tonight was so much more than a first birthday party. It was a celebration of my tiny family of 4. Of love. Of laughter. Of being strong no matter what comes our way and remembering our love will conquer all because it already has.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

March of Dimes - March for Babies 2014

I had the privilege of attending the March of Dimes March for Babies Kick-off brunch this morning. It was way more emotional than I expected but also so inspiring.

Many of the speakers shared their own personal experiences with their own babies in the NICU (one of which was in my first preschool class, small world right?!). They shared stories of their children being too excited to join this world, eager to meet their siblings and impatient to know what this world would be like.

My story is a little different in that Griffin was happy in my belly. It was my body that wasn't happy. And although he was still early, earlier than anyone wanted, he was still so much later than MANY babies end up being. My story isn't one of months in the NICU with lots of intervention, but today I recognized our story is no less touching, or beautiful, or worthy of sharing to inspire others to work together for stronger, healthier babies.

I am thankful for the beautiful anti-partum nurse who peeled me off my bed and let me sneak out on bedrest, 31 weeks pregnant after just finishing the conversation with my husband of what we would do if he had to choose, mommy or baby. Ya know, the conversation you should never have to have with your husband. Because she knew if I sat in that bed a second longer I would literally lose it.

I am so thankful for the research that made my son's arrival less of an emergency even in the emergency that resulted in the 3rd rescheduled c-section. Without the research and the babies who came before him, Griffin's chance may not have been as great and NOTHING about the NICU is easy.

I am so thankful for the journal the March of Dimes gave us in the NICU that got me through those first few emotional days. The one that did more than ask our baby's first smile and leave a place for his first lock of hair. But one that asked about who was present during delivery, including the neonatolgists and NICU nurses, the day he was able to have drops of breastmilk, eat without a feeding tube and the day he got off oxygen, making it feel okay and comforted that we were not the first to live through this.
Celebrating my Griffin's Birthday
Today I am feeling more charged than ever to be an Ambassador family for the March of Dimes. Us moms, start out thinking pregnancy will have its ups and downs but no one envisions going through the trials and tribulations that come with days, weeks and months of the NICU. I am excited to share our story, to show how important it is to support this cause and help many who come after our Griffin. I hope you will join me and my little Rice family. Walk with us, donate money or simply spread the word of why the March of Dimes is so important.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Love conquers ALL.

One year ago today, Rick and I received the scariest news of our lives. One year ago today, our love and faith were challenged in a way we never expected. One year ago today, we came out on the other side knowing the plan for us and our family was beautiful and of God's amazing plan. In the face of uncertainty, this year has been the best of our life. Today I affirm today's MRI will just be a box to check and this too shall pass. We are so blessed to have an amazing and large support system comprised of all levels of relationships and I ask that you affirm the same.

That was yesterday.

Shortly after posting this on facebook, I realized how big our support group truly is.

I come from an amazing support system. I have a wonderful family, filled with siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends that are more like family and family friends I haven't seen in ages but still are on my daily prayer list. I come from and amazing work family, I had an amazing staff, with wonderful bosses, coworkers and a great set of families. Families that cared about me and families that also cared about my husband and children. Coworkers who texted daily and sought out my progress. My wonderful support system went through all of this with me. They sent baskets, made dinner for my family and sent more prayers and positive vibes than I could ever fathom. Not just to me but to my husband who had to be strong for us, to my children both the big brother and my unborn son who could've ended up without a mother had this not gone the way we had prayed it would.

Phew! Sometimes it takes me reading my old posts to remember how heavy all of this weighed last year, a year ago yesterday.

I never thought at the time that I could possibly replicate all of that amazing support in a new environment. But I left Wyndham in hopes to make an impact on a new program. I never dreamed that I would find another nurse, like that of the ones I had at Wyndham that could possibly care for Cooper without having been through our peanut and pneumonia drama. I never expected to find a staff that would rejoice when I walked in after my neurosurgeon appointment and that they would cheers, hug and high five me.

But I did.

I haven't replaced my old support system, I have doubled it. I now have double the amazing mentors, doubled the families that care not only about me, but also about my strong husband and beautiful children and doubled the employees that are going to worry when I am not there and take the time to ask how my appointments go. Even though they didn't go through the scary part with me.

Today, my neurosurgeon informed me that he and the radiologist are leaning on the side that this "spot" on my brain is more likely a hematoma, something I was born with and will have the rest of my life. They said it could possibly still be a low grade brain tumor but being that it hasn't changed at all, they don't need to see me for 12 months and if it continues to stay stagnant, I wont have to return after that.

To walk through my school today, having only been there for 2 months and get hugs, high fives and pure joy was so wonderful. To see likes and comments on facebook from people I have lost touch with was astonishing. I am so thankful that each moment has led me to this one. I now know the amazing power a group can have striving toward one goal and this is no different. I am so proud of the family I come from, both that of non-blood and of blood and the beautiful love you all, every single one of you, has shown my little Rice family. I know the faith II carry plays a role in how all of this has panned out, but there is not a second that goes by that I don't recognize, I could not have done this without  ALL OF YOU. 

So thank you. For loving me. For loving my husband. For loving my kids. For caring enough to focus a second, or a minute, or an hour, or the entire day on a positive outcome. For supporting us in every way you could. I know I would not be sitting here, rejoicing in our positive news with out all of you. You are the village that we needed to turn such an awful thing into this amazing year.

One year ago today, I learned that love is thicker than blood and work life and church life. Love connects us and can truly conquer all. I hope you will ALL feel the power of the love we have felt and will continue to pass on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

30 Before 30: Learn to make baby food

Today I checked #15 off my 30 before 30 list!

We started baby cereal just over a week or so ago. Slim is loving it so onto the next big milestone in our sweet baby's life, baby food!

Here is what I bought at the grocery store:
3 apples (gala)
2 pears
1 avocado
1 bag frozen peas
1 sweet potato

I used a Baeba Babycook which I got used and the lady threw in a set of One Step Ahead storage cups and I had also received a solid food storage kit as baby gift as well (Thanks Shannon F.!). The best thing about the baeba is that I didn't have to separately steam! It is all in one and SUPER easy to use. I rinsed the cooking bowl between each batch and even that wasn't too bad. 
Total prep of dicing all of the fruits and veggies took about 20 minutes. I also received an awesome apple corer and peeler as a baby gift (Thanks Katie W.!) which saved a TON of time with the apples and pears.
I don't think this could have been easier. I got all of the fruits and veggies chopped and ready to go into the baeba. While each batch steamed (which took about 15 minutes) I could fold a load of laundry. The total process from start to finish took just under 2.5 hours and yielded 57 ounces of baby food.

3 apples = 17 oz
2 pears = 9 oz
1 avocado = 6 oz
1 bag frozen peas = 12 oz
1 sweet potato = 13 oz

Slim had an oz of sweet potatoes with his oatmeal at lunch and loved it! The rest of the food I put into the freezer and will pop them out of the trays and store them in a ziplock bag.

Total cost $5.13 which ends up at just 9 cents per oz compared to the ready made Gerber food which comes in just under 60 cents per oz AND I know exactly what is in Slim's food. Sounds like a win-win to me!