Two Months With Otis

I am a bit behind writing Otis’s two month update because let’s be real – life is insanely busy. I know we can often succumb to “I’m busy” being our motto, but well and truly, this is one of the busier of busy times in my life. Raising two littles, planning a move across the globe and finishing a massive season for both Robbie and me makes for long and full days. Alas, Otis has been two months for a week already, and before I know it, I’ll be writing his three month update. I am determined to at least get these updates written for him, but I am hoping for more.

Ok here we go…

Highlights & Milestones

When I wrote Otis’s one month post, he was just starting to give social smiles. Well the smiles are abundant now and incredibly cute. My heart explodes every time. He has this great smile that overcomes his whole little body sometimes, and then other times, he smiles with his sweet, little eyes. He will occasionally do a one eyebrow raise that worries me that he’s already trying to flirt. It’s pretty cute, though.

We had his 6-week checkup this past month, and that went really well. He weighed in at a whopping 10lbs 11ou (4.85kg). It’s actually pretty average (48th percentile), but compared to Eleanor, who only weighed 9lbs at her 6-week checkup, this is huge. He did really well at the appointment and actually did better than Eleanor ever did with his first set of shots. He only cried for a few seconds and then settled.

Another highlight this past month was that we finally got his birth certificate in the mail and went to Sydney to get his Report A Birth Abroad at the US Consulate. He slept through the whole thing, but we were excited. The day before, I sent off for his Australian passport as well. Of the four passports we’ve had to get in the last month (including Robbie and my Aussie passports), we finally received the last one yesterday, which was Otis’s Aussie one. We will be traveling back to the States with eight passports between the four of us.

He has found his hands this last month, and he’s started to suck on them just like Eleanor did. Robbie always said it looked like Eleanor was eating an ice cream cone, and the day Otis started doing this, I immediately remembered that comment. It’s good because it helps him to last a little longer laying on the play mat or in his bassinet. Overall he’s slowly but surely gaining tiny bits of independence, which helps me to get a little more done throughout the day. He is still a massive cuddler, though, and I’m often holding him throughout the day.

We haven’t gotten anywhere with sleep training yet. We did sleep training with Eleanor, but I’d say we didn’t really do it until she was about six or seven months old. There were many reasons for that. While I definitely don’t plan to wait that long with Otis, I sort of feel it’s a bit much for this season. Everything is about to change, and we are going into a new time zone, as well as into “holiday mode” for Christmas. I think once we settle in Indianapolis, we can start working on it a bit more. I am looking forward to us all getting a little more sleep, though!!

Another sort of milestone is that he has mostly outgrown all of his newborn clothes. The only newborn items that even remotely fit him anymore are pants. What can I say? My kids have short legs! He outgrew newborn diapers, though and definitely newborn shirts and onesies.

Likes

  • People – he will smile for just about anyone and sleep like a rock if he’s being held. He does not, however, like to be alone!
  • Eating – this kid loves his milk!
  • Movement – always moving his arms and legs and appreciates when he’s being moved – in the car, in the pram, in your arms.
  • Fans – just like his big sister, fans bring much entertainment.
  • Baths – he actually really enjoys baths, even since we’ve transitioned out of the sink into the big tub. He loves the warm water.
  • Black & White Paintings – we have two paintings/pictures in our living room of different Paris scenes, and they’re black and white. We will often find him smiling at these if we are sitting on the couch near them.
  • Eleanor – he loves his big sister!!!

Dislikes

  • Waiting – he does not like if he has to wait for food, even if it’s just to get a diaper change or to find a suitable place to feed him. Not so good with the patience thing yet :)
  • Car Rides – our children are not the kind of children that you put in the car to get them to sleep. He’s just like Eleanor and is generally not a fan of the car, especially when we hit red lights.
  • Being Alone – he doesn’t have much endurance for being put down by himself under the play mat or on a blanket, but I have noticed that he’s building up an endurance. Slowly but surely he’s getting a little more ok with it.

How Am I Doing?

I really wasn’t sure how to answer this question at first. I thought maybe I should keep it just about how I am doing in regards to being Otis’s mom, but I can’t truthfully answer a question like this without including everything. Let’s be real: life is FULL ON right now. I have a 2.5 year old and a two month old, I’m wrapping up one of the biggest and most significant seasons of my life, saying goodbye to people I love so deeply, moving across the globe and starting anew with my little tribe in a place thats familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. You could name most emotions right now, and I’ve probably felt it recently. I actually don’t even know how I’m feeling half the time because life is just too busy to stop and think about it. I want to write a bit more about our transition in the coming months because I think there needs to be more written about something we all do at different points in our lives – transition. This is what I’ll say, though – life is incredibly bittersweet right now. As excited as I am for the future and confident in the vision and direction God is leading us in, I am so sad to say bye to my friends and community, as well as this beautiful nation that has adopted us in. It’s breaking my heart to see Eleanor’s little heart and mind trying to comprehend everything when we sell something or pack something away, but then I think about the beautiful gift of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that she is getting. There are things about life here and in this situation that are far easier than in the States and also things that are super hard here that will be easier there; such is life. Conflicting emotions. At the end of the day, we rely on that vision and trust from God, though, and the excitement quickly follows.

Other than that, I am physically tired, but that’s to be expected given the season! I am loving having two kids, even if it is twice as hard at times. Everyday that goes by with Otis, we get to know him a little more, and we are smitten. It’s such a privilege to be a parent, and what people often say, I’ve found to be true – it’s the hardest but absolute best thing I’ve ever done!

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Welcome Otis Daniel

Even though I wrote a couple months ago about taking a maternity leave of sorts, I always had it in my mind to write about our new baby’s birth story. After experiencing birth for the second time, I am so excited to write this story simply because it’s such a completely different story than Eleanor’s.

A brief recap of my first experience when we welcomed Eleanor – my water broke at 38 weeks and 3 days. We went to the hospital because there was quite a bit of blood when my water broke, and they wanted to make sure baby was ok. Her heart rate was very high, they gave me fluids, it calmed down, and they sent me home with an appointment 12 hours later to reassess and an induction time the following day if I hadn’t gone into labor on my own. Got home and contractions started. They picked up and intensified. Went to hospital – only 3cm – got sent home. Labored all day with intense back labor at home and went back around 6. At 8:30, the contractions were intense and back labor was draining my energy. They checked me…4cm. Decided to try for a couple more hours but if no progress was made would get an epidural. 10:30pm…4cm. Switched rooms. Got an epidural. After a couple hours, her heart rate started decelerating. They realised she was posterior and made me move positions. They also started a syntocin (pitocin in the US) drip. Another hour, heart decelerating more. Wanted to check her lactate levels and told me if over a certain amount would have to take me back for an emergency c-section. Other Dr. wanted to check me again, and when she did, I was at 9cm! Another 30 min, I was at 10, and 1 hour of pushing after that, Eleanor made her debut!


After you have a baby, your attention goes straight to the baby, and unless you actively make the decision to “process” what you went through, it sort of becomes “out of sight, out of mind”. As time goes on, the feelings aren’t as raw, and you can almost forget that anything challenging happened…

…until you get pregnant again and approach your due date!

As I passed 33-34 weeks this time, I started getting nervous. I had hoped to have a natural birth without any medication/pain relief with Eleanor, and even though I am so proud of the hours and hours I endured before getting an epidural, I was doubting I could actually do it naturally this time because of that experience. I also spent the bulk of my pregnancy worried that he would be posterior and that I’d have back labor again. The back labor is what really got me with Eleanor.

After I passed 38 weeks and 5 days, I felt like I was late, even though I was technically still early. Oh the joy of your first baby coming early! I tried to mentally be ready for anything, but I don’t think I really prepared myself well enough. On Saturday, 23 September, I woke up as normal. I hung out with Eleanor and Robbie that morning, and we tore off another paper from Eleanor’s countdown until Gaga and Papaw came. Around 9 or 10, I was lying on the couch while she was eating her “second breakfast” and watching Moana, and I felt a pain. I had a brief thought that maybe it was a contraction, but I didn’t think much of it. I had sort of resigned to the idea that this baby wasn’t going to come early. I did think about the date, though, and I thought maybe it could happen since it was my Grandpa’s and my sister’s birthday.

Another 15-20 minutes went by, and I felt it again. Nothing too crazy or intense but enough to be distinct and definitely enough to be out of the realm of “braxton hicks”. I mentioned it to Robbie but just continued on.

That kept going all day long. This is my “I hope this is it and not just a really long and painful day” face, followed by my giant torpedo belly in the final day before Otis arrived.

It would be considered “early labor”, but it was tiring both physically and mentally because it was enough that I couldn’t ignore it and yet it wasn’t progressing closer than 15-20 minutes. I went from walking around the yard, sitting on the ball, and climbing stairs hoping to help move things along all the way to giving up and trying to sleep and back again. After we put Eleanor to bed, I went outside, and I cried.

My friend Jess came outside and gave me the biggest hug and prayed for me, and soon, Robbie came out and joined as well. I didn’t want to be “defeated”, but I was starting to feel like my body didn’t know how to progress on its own. I was also starting to have back pain, which didn’t help with my fear of him being posterior.

I came back inside and decided to take a bath. I knew that lounging back wouldn’t help things along, but it felt like it was the best plan so I could at least relax. My contractions stopped while I was in the bath, and I was able to relax. I spent some time praying and letting go of the idea that this had to go a certain way or even the idea of him being born on my Grandpa and sister’s birthday. The bath really helped, and when I got out, I felt a little more relaxed.

About 30-40 minutes after I got out, contractions started again, but they were still slow going and not progressing past the 10-12 minute mark. The back pain also intensified. I went through the process again, and just after midnight, I reached the “defeated” point and called my midwife. I knew I wasn’t ready to go in to the hospital, but I needed some reassurance. My midwife was actually off that day so I got her partner, Bec. Bec said that baby was probably posterior but that just like I suspected, the contractions weren’t doing enough for me to come in. She recommended a heat pack for my back and to try and rest.

Like I said, defeated. In my mind, it was happening all over again. The back pain was going to tire me out and my hopes for a natural labor were done. So I sort of “gave up”. I stopped trying to move things along, all my expectations were gone, and I just went to bed. I tried to sleep. That was 12:30am.

Apparently that was exactly what needed to happen and what happened next just reinforces my belief that labor is mostly a mental game!

1:45am.

A contraction hit me that got me out of bed and on my feet. It was incredibly intense. It was long. It was different.

I went to the bathroom and walked around the kitchen a bit as another one hit. I had been keeping track of the contractions on my phone all day, and I continued to do that. I came out to the living room to see if sitting on the ball would help, but I found that incredibly uncomfortable and unhelpful. I went back to the bathroom/kitchen, walking around, leaning into the counter and breathing as contractions continued. I decided to hop in the shower and see if the hot water would help a bit. It definitely helped, but I found myself getting overheated very quickly with the intensity of the contractions. When I got out and powered through another contraction, I looked at my phone.

2 minutes apart.

What?!

It was only about 2:35 at that point. I was in disbelief that maybe things had shifted and this was actually happening. Because Eleanor’s labor took so long, I was hesitant to call the midwife again. I was super hesitant to go to the hospital too early and be sent home. After another 10 minutes of intense contractions, though, I realised that I was starting to have a hard time distinguishing between when these contractions were starting and stopping, so I called Bec back.

Almost immediately after she picked up and I got out “they’ve picked up and gotten really close together”, I was slammed with another contraction. She waited patiently, and when it passed she said she would meet me in at the hospital. Apparently midwives have this special ability to know just where a woman is at based off her breathing during a contraction.

I woke up Robbie, who was a bit surprised considering he’d only gone to sleep a couple hours prior. He got dressed and called Sai, our friend who was organised to stay with Eleanor. Fortunately she lives in the flat upstairs, so she came right down. I was already outside waiting by the car.

Robbie got the bag in the car and hopped in, and I waited for a contraction to pass before getting into the “box of pain on wheels”!

Car rides are THE WORST when you’re in labor, and the pain of it from Eleanor came flooding back as we took off for the hospital. Only this time, it was about a million times worse. I couldn’t sit in the seat so I lifted up and leaned into Robbie’s shoulder…and yelled.

We got to the hospital at 3am. I had 4-5 contractions on the walk in. When we got to the ward, we were greeted by Fiona. My friend Jules had just told me about Fiona that week. Fiona did a YWAM DTS back in the day, and she’s now in charge of the midwives at the hospital. I looked up from a contraction, noticed her name tag and said “You’re Jules’ friend!” Even though I had never met her, it was nice to see someone that was somewhat “familiar”. She was so lovely and exactly what I needed as we arrived. She walked with us to the room and worked with me through a couple contractions. When we got to the room, she asked if she could pray for me, and I was so grateful.

I immediately asked for the bath, and considering these are massive bathtubs, they started filling it right away. I walked around the room working through contractions. The contractions were so intense and unlike anything I had experienced with Eleanor. I was still skeptical that things had actually progressed, though, because I had convinced myself this baby was posterior and would take forever.

Not long after that, I got into the bath. The hot water was a welcome relief at first, but the contractions were so intense and long that I was quickly getting overheated. That’s when I remembered the lovely ice machine and the giant cups and asked for some iced water. In between each contraction, I found my mouth so dry and started chugging water to keep hydrated.

I felt out of control to be honest, and I found myself yelling the typical things that you hear women say – “I can’t do this!” It’s too much!” “I want this to be over!” “I want an epidural!” I don’t remember yelling or saying much at all when I was pregnant with Eleanor, but this was an entirely different scenario. Robbie and Bec, my midwife, kept reassuring me that I was doing well and that I could do this. Bec was trying to check the baby’s heart rate while I was working through contractions and trying to tell how things were going. She said she could see things progressing and that I was doing well.

Eventually, it became too much, and I yelled again, “I want an epidural!” Bec responded that if I wanted an epidural, I would have to get out of the bath and let her check how far along I was. Then she said, “BUT, I think what we are going to find is that you are going to have a baby before you would get the epidural.”

My response? “I don’t believe you.”

So I got out of the bath tub, and I actually found the cold air so refreshing in that moment. I got onto the bed for her to check baby’s position and to see how far dilated I was. This was the first time I had been checked, and it was probably only 3:45am or so. We had literally only been there for for about 45 minutes.

She felt for the baby’s position, and he wasn’t posterior. He was at an angle but in a fine position. Then she checked me.

9cm!

I was shocked and grateful and in disbelief. Hearing that I was at 9cm was all I needed to have a fresh belief that the end was near. It was the most reassuring moment because I knew my body was doing what it was meant to do. I knew that these awful and intense and long contractions were actually transition – the hardest part of labor. It wasn’t in my head. This was reality, and it was incredibly gratifying to know that I was doing it. That I was near the end. I couldn’t believe it.

She told me that my water just needed to break, and then I would be nearly ready to push. She thought my water would likely break within the next contraction or two. I got up off the bed and asked for a mat to kneel on and lean onto the bed. She also asked if I wanted to try the nitrous gas, and I said sure.

She came back with the gas and the mat, and I hated both of them. I took one breath of the gas and wanted to throw up, so I quickly abandoned that idea. I started to kneel on the mat, and I was so uncomfortable and abandoned that idea as well. It’s crazy when you do this naturally because you can really feel every little thing so you know what your body needs and what it doesn’t need. I didn’t want the bath, and I didn’t want the mat. So I climbed onto the bed, and they raised the back of it upright. I draped myself over the back of it and held on for dear life. I was staring at the corner of the room and the floor, and I was kneeling on the bed. I felt as comfortable as possible. Robbie was up near my head, and the midwife left the room to get something.

In that moment, I yelled out a prayer “JESUS BREAK MY WATER!!!”

This is Robbie’s favourite part of the story (::sarcasm::). Almost immediately after yelling that prayer, I had the mother of all contractions. It was the worst and longest of all of them and will be burned into my brain forever. About 20 seconds in, as I was yelling like a crazy person, my water broke. It was like the movies. It was loud, like a water balloon had been thrown against the wall, and it went everywhere. Robbie was like a deer in headlights. As he says, “It was a very intense moment because you hear it, you see it and you smell it! It went everywhere, and she was still yelling in pain!”

I was still yelling because the contraction kept going, and I was certain the baby was going to come out right then. I yelled for him to go find the midwife. I knew she needed to be in there right away.

He went to the door to see if he could see her in the hallway, and as she was coming back, he told her my water had broken. She came in with another midwife, as well as my student midwife. They were all behind me, and as I was still freaking out through this crazy long contraction, Bec yelled to me “ASHLEY! You need to breath and you need to listen to us or you will tear!”

I seriously felt so out of control the whole time we were at the hospital. I felt like a crazy person, and I surprised myself by how much I yelled. They told me I didn’t yell that much, but I feel like I was crazy. They gave me specific instructions for pushing, and I tried my best to listen and do as I was told.

Pushing without an epidural is insane. The human body is unbelievable. I just cannot even comprehend how God created our bodies to do this after going through this with no pain relief and coming out the other end in such great shape!

I started pushing at 4:10am, and after a few huge pushes, Otis Daniel came into the world, fist pumping, at 4:19am!

2.5 hours of active labor. I cannot even believe it. We were only at the hospital for an hour and twenty minutes when we had our baby. My mom had a dream a couple months ago that he came really fast – boy was she right!

I immediately turned around and sat down and held him to my chest like nothing had happened. The relief was instant. It was the most incredible moment. I felt so proud, and I kept saying to Robbie, “I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I did that.” I was shocked.

My midwife Bec called my actual midwife Libby later that day, and she said, “You may want to call her. I think she may be traumatised with how fast it all happened.” Libby asked a bit more about it, and although she did get in touch with me, she felt confident after knowing about my first labor experience that I was likely feeling so happy with how things went this time. She was right.

I was still in shock for a couple days, but I was so proud. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was really doubting myself. I prayed so much into this and into the labor. I wrote out everything I hoped for in a note on my phone, and it almost all happened exactly as I had prayed and hoped. I prayed that God would show me that I could do hard things because I wasn’t believing I could at that point. The entire experience was so redemptive, and I am really grateful.

We spent a few hours relaxing with Otis. I got checked out and repaired (only one tiny tear), and they checked Otis out to make sure he was all good. They weighed and measured him, and we were all shocked to find him two more pounds than Eleanor was at birth. Eleanor was 6lb 2ou, and Otis was 8lb 5ou! Their head circumference and length were exactly the same, though – 34.5cm and 48 cm respectively.

Around 8:30am, they said everything looked great, and they would finish our paperwork before sending us on our way. We headed home around 9am – 6 hours after arriving at the hospital! *The midwife program I went through is for low risks mums, and they allow you to go home 4-6 hours after birth as long as mum and baby are ok. Then your midwife does home visits for up to 2 weeks. I loved this program and so preferred coming home rather than to the post-natal ward with 4 women and their babies to a room!

We got home to peace and quiet and were able to rest for a couple hours before my friend brought Eleanor home. Before I could rest, though, I sent Robbie down the road to get me food – the best ham and cheese croissant of my life!

Around 11, Eleanor came home, and it was so wonderful seeing her and giving her a great big hug! She was pretty excited to meet her little brother, and we all settled in together before my parents arrived the next morning. Talk about perfect timing! Good job, Otis!

I have two pretty different stories when it comes to childbirth, and I am so glad about that. I have experience with my water breaking early, with a long labor, with a posterior labor, with an epidural, with a tiny baby, with staying at the hospital, AND with a short and intense labor, with a completely natural labor, with a bigger baby, and with coming home immediately after. I will say recovering from a labor with no pain relief was actually a million times easier than when I had an epidural, but I am not sad about either experience. Every birth experience is so different, and every woman is so powerful and capable and should be proud. I have a renewed respect for the human body, for God’s willingness to let us create with Him and to bring new life to this earth. It’s such a beautiful privilege!

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One Month with Otis

Otis Daniel is one month old today, and this is actually the first time I’ve mentioned him on the blog since I’ve taken a bit of a break over the last few months. I want to keep with the tradition and do monthly recaps of Otis, though. I hardly wrote about my pregnancy this time around, which is fine. I really love that I have a record of life with Eleanor over the first two years, though, and I want Otis to have that as well.

Eventually I will get into a format of answering the same questions each month like I did with Eleanor, but considering it’s only the first month, I don’t have tons of “milestones” or “likes” and “dislikes” quite yet. This will be a bit of a rambling post.

First things first – there will be a birth story. I’ve nearly finished it, and even though the birth was insanely short, the post is quite long. I am editing it a bit and adding a couple photos. Look for that soon.

Everyone talks about how every child is their own person. It’s obviously so true, but when it comes to siblings, you often immediately comment or notice on how they may look similar. It takes time and getting to know them to notice the personality differences. We are still getting to know Otis’s personality, but as far as looks go, he’s definitely related to Eleanor!

We have so many photos of the two of them as newborns in the same position, making the same face, wrapped in the same blanket, and it’s nuts the similarities. The biggest difference is that Otis is the chubbier version! He has the cutest, fullest cheeks and tiny, chubby rolls. They both had a lot of hair when they were born, but Otis’s is quite a bit thicker.

Otis’s size was the first major thing (aside from the labor) that stood out as different – they didn’t stress out about how often he was eating like they did with Eleanor. “Every 4 hours is fine,” they said (even though he definitely has only made it that long a handful of times…the kid liiiiiikes to eat!). I have had to really push myself to get out of the mindset of constant (and stressful) feeding like I had with Eleanor. He weighs enough, and he definitely eats enough.

My parents were here for the first three weeks of Otis’s life. His arrival ended up being perfect despite my impatience, and he arrived about 24 hours before they did. Robbie and Eleanor went to the train to pick them up, and Eleanor repeatedly looked at them over the next few days and simply said “on train!” in total amazement. It was wonderful having them here during this transition from one to two kids. They helped in so many ways but in particular, it was so good for Eleanor. She absolutely loved having them here, and she probably didn’t feel the change in attention as significantly as she would have had they not been here. That helped soften the transition for sure.

When they left, we were a bit nervous about how we would go handling everything, but I think because I was feeling much better physically and emotionally, we transitioned ok. We are definitely still figuring it all out, though. Right now, we are working on getting Otis used to taking a nap or two without being held. He was pretty much held constantly for the first three weeks, so I am sure this may take a week or two to change. He’s doing so much better overnight sleeping in the bassinet, even if he is still waking several times. The other thing I am working hard on is making sure that he is getting a full feed each time rather than snacking. It’s all a learning curve again, but I am trying to remember things we learned with Eleanor along the way and implementing them before bad habits form.

For me, I am trying to figure out how to continue giving Eleanor some solid attention when it’s just me at home during the day. Part of the challenge is Otis wanting to be held constantly, so hopefully as he grows and learns to interact more or settle on the floor mat, it will change. When Robbie is home, I am able to focus a bit more on her. Most mornings, we go next door to the warehouse, and she hangs out with her little friends. That’s an incredible privilege, and I will miss that when we move for sure.

In the last few days, we have started to see a few social smiles from Otis. I am so excited for this. I feel like this is when it starts getting fun. Baby snuggles are great, but smiles (and then giggles and coos and sitting up and crawling…) are amazing. I have loved watching Eleanor grow over the past two+ years, and I am so excited to get to know Otis in that way!

A few other things about Otis… He spits up. That’s different considering Eleanor ate so slow that it was never an issue with her. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the amount of times she spit up in that first year. Otis is definitely not a slow eater! It’s different having a boy. I miss pretty bows, but I got the best head of hair of all the babies to make up for it! Having him in Spring here has also been nice, and I haven’t had too many times where I’ve had to worry about him being too cold. In fact, I am having to get used to making sure he’s not too hot.

We have a 6-week checkup in two weeks, and I am looking forward to it for a number of reasons. I am so curious how much this kid weighs. He’s already getting too big for some of his newborn clothes, which to put it into perspective – Eleanor was just starting to fit into newborn clothes at this point! I am also thrilled beyond belief to see our Dr, who is a good friend and mentor of mine. She has a habit of being out of the country when my babies are born (haha), so I cannot wait to see her. I am also so excited to get cleared to work out and to slowly get back into things. That made such a difference in my life once I made that a habit after Eleanor was about 6 months!

That’s all for this catchup I think. I feel a little rusty writing these, but I am sure I’ll get back in the swing of things. I am planning to start writing more in the coming months, but I think my relaunch of everything may take a bit longer than I had planned. I’d rather do it really well, though, than rush it!

Be on the look out for Otis’s birth story soon!

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