The C Word

I likely only refer to myself as a writer in my own head, but at my core, I absolutely claim it as an identity. Sometimes I write for people, but usually I write as a release. It typically becomes a sense making activity... do any of these thoughts swirling around in my head make any sense? Let’s see what happens... I leave the burdens of the day/week/month on the page and feel lighter. Consequently, those words stare back at me in black and white. They may bring joy or happiness, but they also serve as a reminder for dark, trying, emotionally and mentally taxing situations. This is one of those times. And it’s hard to avoid things when they stare back at you in black and white. So I deflect and ignore the urge and I don’t write. I can feel the mounting frustration and overwhelming feelings that come along as a result of no release because lord help if I have to physically speak to communicate this pain. I just can’t. Anyone who has had a conversation with me about it knows that I speak about the situation as though it is an article I read in the medical magazine. I research and I recite facts. I disassociate with “The Who” and focus on the what. This is how I “cope”, and I call it coping so I can pretend like I am, in fact, coping. So, here we go, the release...

It had been years since we had been able to have an adult conversation for more than a few minutes without being interrupted by demanding children or wandering trains of thought. Years since the “original 5”, just my parents and their 3 daughters had spent a few hours together. Like life before husbands and babies and the evolution of our roles from daughters to wives to moms, navigating the transition from mom and dad to Bampa and Gramma, we had all grown and changed but still longed for those moments that grounded us as a unit. Before there were 15, there were 5 and before we were 5, my parents were 2 kids trying to figure out life as a newly married couple in their early twenties, balancing the mouths to feed with the desire to strike out on their own and build a life. I stared at them now, the years had always been kind to them, and I couldn’t help but think that this was a pivotal moment in my life, one I would likely never forget.

The anticipation was practically killing us, we had no idea what they would say. My mom looked at us with piercing eyes, willing herself to stay strong, willing us to be okay.

“They found a mass in your mother’s brain,” my dad said when my mom couldn’t form the words. My sisters immediately started crying and I folded myself into the sweet warm body of my three month old son. My mind was spinning and my eyes welled up. I stared at my mom. My beautiful, kind, caring, loving mother. I saw the desperation in her face, the heartbreak on my father’s, masked in optimism. “We don’t know enough yet. We’re staying positive.”

My mom went on to explain the weeks or months in which she had not felt quite like herself. She had noticed a few things that I could relate to as a result of having a newborn and rough sleep pattern...losing my train of thought or being easily distracted. No headaches, nothing major. We had seen her grow quieter, possibly less patient or more easily irritated so we assumed she was stressed out, overwhelmed, busy with work and travel and all of her many hats. She had been planning a trip to Germany, then traveling on said trip for 2 weeks with her sister. She did all the things, all the time, so we assumed she was probably just tired. Maybe it was menopause? We never, NEVER expected to hear that there was something more seriously wrong. A mass in her brain?! An actual brain tumor?!

We cried, we told stories, changed the subject, asked questions, sat together. She asked for one thing, a picture with all 7 of her grand kids. They would likely have to shave her head, at least part of it, and she needed this one thing before her whole world was turned upside down. Of course we would do it.

I reached out to a friend/photographer to see if she could help us out with a quick family photo session that week.  We organized our crazy crew on the golf course, during men's golf league night, and sped through a photo session.  It was crazy, looking back on it. We were literally stopping golf traffic in an effort tocapture images that we assumed could be the last we would have with my mom as my mom before she underwent a massive surgery. We painted on smiles while tears formed in our eyes. We organized and planned and willed our children to behave so we could just freeze time, and if only for a few minutes, preserve what life was like BD (before diagnosis).

I knew the moment was pivotal, sitting on the coffee table listening to the worst news of my life. But at that moment we still had hope that mom would have surgery, maybe have a partially shaved head, maybe have a wicked scar on her face, but no longer have a brain tumor. We still had hope then that they would take it out, that maybe this could be a blip on the radar, a story to tell that "could've been so much worse."  Fast forward 10 days and we're sitting in a room reserved for consults with neurosurgeons.  Her surgery wasn't supposed to end for 2 more hours, we were heading to lunch when they stopped us and told us the surgeon was ready to speak to us.  It's too soon. She shouldn't be done yet. This usually isn't a good sign. We muttered some of these concerns out loud before choosing seats in the room and trying to remain calm. This is a pivotal moment. I knew it would be. I can still feel my legs folded up on the chair, the pressure I felt in my shoulders and back, as though the full force of gravity was attempting to fold me into myself.

The surgeon came in and explained that he could only take enough of the tumor out to biopsy. It was too risky.  He threw tons of terms around that I was oddly familiar with because I had spent the previous days researching everything there was to know about brain tumors - types, grades, prognosis.  I was a full-blown google expert. I could see my dad's eyes glazing over in frustration, trying to piece together what the Dr. was telling us, trying to understand what it all meant, hoping that it wasn't as bad as it seemed.  "We're staying positive."

As the days passed, we grew used to waiting. We would find one thing out only to wait for days for the next course of action, the next pivotal moment.  My mom is a fighter and through each step of the process, whether for our benefit or her own, she has remained positive and strong. When the results came back that the tumor was cancerous, our hearts sank. I spent days being nauseous, throwing all my energy into mundane tasks and projects to keep my mind busy and focused, but effectively numb. I have three little kiddos, a job, a house, a husband.  Somehow the world keeps turning and the demands keep coming, even when it feels like everything should come to a screeching halt.  Press pause. My mom on the other hand, has continued to go to work, to volunteer, to lead non-profit boards, to love on our babies, to support us.  She is a fighter.

She’s been going through treatment, eating an incredibly clean diet, focusing on rest and recuperation when she can get it, and ultimately going about life in a wonderful, intentional way.  She’s here and she’s fighting and for that I am eternally grateful.  We recently spent a few days at the American Brain Tumor Association National Conference.  We interacted with other patients, caregivers, and researchers who are working on cutting edge treatment options in various phases of testing and trials. We were exposed to a world I never really knew existed and found comfort and camaraderie in shared stories and time together as the ‘original 5’. We ate Chicago style deep dish pizza while talking about electromagnetic therapies.  This new world is so surreal, but it’s our reality right now and we are armed and ready for it.

Our husbands (mine and my sisters) are an amazing support and have given us the freedom of a little space to when needed to spend time with my parents while they hold down our respective forts. We love the craziness of all our crew together but a break in the madness is also a breath of much needed fresh of air.  We’ve received so much support and love from friends and family all over the country- her army is a big one and it’s strong.  The prayers, the good vibes, the love…we feel it all. So, if you’re out there and you have the pleasure of knowing her, or even if you don’t, send some healing thoughts our way. If anyone can get through something like this, it’s my mama.

Until next time,
-T-

Postpartum Update: Truth Talk

Postpartum life is a fickle thing my friends.  At first you have the potential baby blues, unexplained crying, hormonal shifts, night sweats, etc., all while your heart expands tenfold and you get to know the sweet nugget that came into your life.  I'm nursing round the clock, sleeping when I can catch it and trying to not fail my other two babies in the process, not to mention my husband and the dog.  There is so much love I could burst with joy. But there's also so much mess, noise, chaos. So much milk sprayed in the face of my infant and all over my clothes while I fumble around in the dark for another late night feeding. So many angry, impatient outbursts at my toddlers for not listening again to whatever thing I've asked them to do...or not do.  So many piles and piles of laundry and dishes, floors that need to be vacuumed, meals that need to be made, you know the drill.
For the first few weeks, though, I truly felt like I was on cloud 9.  I was no longer pregnant and I was snuggling my absolutely perfect third baby boy.  Every day my big kids would go off to daycare while my husband went off to work and Grayson and I would snuggle and nurse while binge watching shows on Netflix. I'd have friends come for coffee or lunch visits, family members stop by for baby snuggles, meals delivered by sweet friends to feed my entire family.  Someone would pick up my big kids from daycare and take them to the park or their home to entertain them until bringing them back home where I was waiting with open arms {or at least one arm depending on the day and whether or not I had decided to let Grayson nap in his bassinet}.  People would ask how I was doing and I would genuinely answer "Great!".
Weeks passed and the weather went through fits and starts of nice weather and crappy. On days we couldn't get out of the house, I'd remind myself that these days are fleeting and soak up the opportunity to hunker down. On days we could get out, we'd grab coffee or go on lunch dates, running errands with an ease akin to how I used to feel solo... one kid in the grocery store is far easier than three! We got into a good groove, I started cooking more meals and picking up the kids from daycare more days than not and seemingly without warning we exited the sweet coddled phase of life after birth and were plunged back into life.  Life with 3 kids, and a dog with the most basic of needs, a house to take care of and bills to pay. For this life I prayed. 
I went to my 6 week postpartum checkup very honestly and told my doctor I was doing okay but definitely struggling with irritability and frustration. I was managing but life isn't about just getting by and we made a plan to work towards getting things back on track.  The never ending challenge with anxiety is that it can come in fits and starts year to year or month to month or week to week and while I can certainly feel it shifting and changing, I know my family can too.

Sometimes I think they can see the walls I put up brick by brick in front of them. Sometimes, it must be hard to love me. They know I’m in here, the smile, the glow, the love, but where does it go and how do they break through the walls? Should they? Or should they wait patiently asking “How are you?” and getting a perfunctory “good”.  How is anybody? Do you mean right now? This moment? I’m probably annoyed. Because when you say how are you? I think of all the reasons I’m not okay. And all the reasons I don’t want it to be any of your business. All the reasons I’m strong enough to handle it. All the reasons I don’t need you to ask. But I do. I need you. I need you to ask. I need you to be there. There is a still a piece of me that knows that but I will push you. I will push you because I know you’ll stay and pride makes people do silly things.  

I had so many people tell me how crazy my life would be with three boys so young, how I would be busy and have my hands full and every time I heard a version of "good luck", I heard it as a criticism.  I felt like I had to prove to everyone that I could handle this because I had already heard the doubt in so many voices.  So I needed to have it all together and make it look easy so as not to admit defeat.  Somewhere along the line though, I started to take my own advice and hear what they were saying to me in a different tone. Maybe they didn't mean it in the negative way I was hearing it.  Maybe some of them simply meant "get ready for the ride of your life. It's messy and beautiful and you'll never be the same...you'll be so much better. You've got this, mama" 
I've seen a meme floating around that says something like "check in on your strong friends too" and it's spot on. I am so lucky to have people that check in on me, that stay by my side when I respond to genuine questions of concern with short, blunt answers.  They give me permission to be "okay" or not okay and the respect to come to them when I'm ready.  There were moments in those first few weeks where I really felt like we had it down and we were nailing life with three kids, and maybe we were.  But nothing is perfect.  When things get hard, my initial reaction is always to bristle up and put my armor on, to handle it, to figure it out, to make it work.  But I'm learning more and more that it's so important to lean on others.  It's so important to ask for and accept help when you need it.  Take the wall down, and let them in. 

I know that posts like these, when I lay it all out there, are the ones that are read most often which tells me that someone out there might find comfort or peace in these words. Maybe they feel the same way or know someone who does.  I hope for that when I write, but honestly, I write because it's therapeutic and it helps to remind myself that I AM okay.  When I'm great, I'm really great. But some days are a lot harder, and that's important to talk about too. It's not all smiles and cuddles and afternoon naps, but there are still beautiful moments in the hard days.  There are belly laughs and pre-bedtime snuggles when I silently beg for forgiveness for losing my temper.  There are first moments and milestones, and lots of delicious coffee.  There are walks in the sunshine and lazy Sunday mornings. For this life I prayed.  
This life, my friends, is beautiful. It's crazy and overwhelming. It's deafening and blissful. It's messy and just plain wild, and I love it. I have 4 wonderful weeks left of maternity leave and you better believe I'm going to soak it in, through the high moments when I'm clearly Mom of the Year and the low points where I'm counting down the minutes until I can pour a cocktail.  So cheers to the good days and an early bedtime on the bad ones.  :)

-T- 



All About Duke: How we're prepping for preschool and keeping up with our first baby

A couple of weeks ago I signed Duke up for Preschool 2019-2020! Our sweet 3 year old will be going 3 mornings a week and he is so excited.  Back in October when we went in for Duke's 3 year well child check-up, our pediatrician recommended that we do a speech evaluation for him.  He was very hard to understand and I was pretty much the only person that could fully translate what he was trying to communicate to other people. The key thing that pushed us to do the evaluation (despite the fact that we really trust and value our pediatrician's opinion) was when he said adults will likely take the time to understand what Duke is trying to say, but kids won't, and the last thing we wanted was for him to get left behind because his friends couldn't understand him.

We started speech sessions 2x per week in January and he's been making a lot of progress. One of the main factors in my mind that really affected his overall speech is the fact that he knocked out his front tooth when he was 18 months old.  A lot of sounds are harder for him to make with that gap! Anyway, he's really been improving and it's gotten me exploring other educational resources for him to continue to challenge him and get him excited for school in the fall.

I came across Education.com and they reached out and asked if we'd like to try an activity for Duke.  He's been interested in letters so the tracer worksheet they sent us was absolutely perfect! He still needs a lot of practice but one of his favorite things is doing his homework (anything to feel like a big kid!) and he loved getting out a pencil and sitting with me to practice this worksheet. We've been spending a ton of time outdoors as the weather warms up, so this bug-theme was spot on for us!  Look how cute it is!
Learning fun will be in full bloom with this spring bug-themed word tracer worksheet. Word tracers are a great way for little ones to practice pre-reading skills such as letter formation and word recognition. For even more reading skills practice and learning fun, be sure to check out Education.com.

Now that we are rocking the 3 kid life, I am always on the lookout for creative solutions to keep the bigger boys entertained without always resorting to screen time so I can't wait to check out more activities like this in the future. Duke has already been asking for another one and I know Theo won't be far behind in his quest to be just like big brother.  Other favorites for these two include chalk drawing in the driveway, water beads, and loads of pretend play with tractors, trucks and dinosaurs!

Between mastering potty training (thank the good Lord! By far my least favorite thing...) and seeing him in a school setting during speech class, the past couple months I feel like our first baby has grown up so much! He is just the sweetest big brother with such a caring heart. He's funny and absolutely wild and I love watching him grow into his own little person, although nothing about him is little! He is so tall, weighs in at 43lbs and it's hard to tell how old he is when he's running around with kids that are a couple years older than he is at the park.  He can scale the climbing wall and slide down the fireman's pole BY HIMSELF at the "big park" in town and he's got a pretty good t-ball swing.  He absolutely loves driving his truck all around the neighborhood and helping Dennis and I with any task we'll let him.  He truly embraces his role as the oldest boy in the family and I know Theo and Grayson are lucky to have him looking out for them!



One last thing I don't think I've shared here before was how we finally decided on Grayson's name.  We had it in the running with a few other contenders for months and had actually settled on a different name pretty confidently before changing our minds.  Anyway, I started to ask Duke one day if the baby's name was some of our other choices and with each one he would say "Nope, mom, that's not his name."  When I finally asked him about Grayson, he said "Mom! That's his name!" and I almost burst into tears. It was the sweetest most confident declaration, like somehow my three year old already knew so much about his newest baby brother, I knew we had found the right name for our guy!
Time is certainly flying these days but we are soaking up the few years we still have before full-time school and all the activities dominate our schedules. These boys are simply the best and I don't want to forget all the sweet moments of this season of life. The tantrums and whining? Those we can gloss over ;)

Happy Sunday, friends! Thanks for reading!

-T-

Grayson Patrick | 6 weeks old!

Our sweet baby Gray hit 6 weeks on Monday!  While that means I am half way through my maternity leave {cue all the tears}, it also means that our sweet boy has "woken up" a bit more and is starting to show us his little personality. I love watching him grow and change each and every day- the Wonder Weeks app has always been one of my favorite apps for the boys and last week Gray started his first leap and I literally felt like I was watching it happen right before my eyes! He went through a big growth spurt and started taking in the world around him as he became much more aware of his surroundings. He has started to turn and look towards me when I'm talking and other people are holding him and even give some pretty great smiles {my absolute favorite new skill}.
I love knowing when he is approaching and going through a leap because it typically means he'll need some extra attention, snuggles, and nursing and being in the right state of mind helps me to focus in on giving Grayson what he needs instead of getting frustrated that he's changing up the game on me.  Anyway, I want to capture some of the details of this 6 week milestone so here we go!

Eating

Grayson is exclusively breastfed and it's going really well.  The first 2 weeks were pretty brutal. I honestly thought since this was the third time around, I'd just ease right back into it but HOLY COW that was not the case. I got extremely sore and had moments of dreading the beginning to each nursing session because the pain was so brutal. I was taking some serious deep breaths and counting to ten until the pain would somewhat subside and buying lanolin in bulk on Amazon.  Thankfully after the first two weeks, I healed up and we hit our groove and now I love nursing just as much as I did before! Gray eats like a champ which is such a relief.  I did a little at home weigh-in for my guy last week and it showed him at 10lbs even! He won't have his next appointment until 2 months so we'll see some official numbers then.
We haven't tried bottles yet but plan to this week because I will be at a concert next week and he'll have to have at least one bottle while I'm gone.  I'm sort of dreading starting bottles this time to be honest.  Partially it's because I don't love pumping before I have to {when I'm at work} but mainly it's because I feel like the time is going by really fast and bottles mean not only having to share my sweet boy but also that daycare is on the horizon. Trust me, I totally know the benefits of getting him started on bottles, I am just so acutely aware that this is our last baby so I want time to slow down just a bit.

Sleeping

We love the eat + play + sleep routine in our house so after Grayson nurses, he hangs out on his playmat for some tummy time, listens to me tell him crazy stories, or sits in the bouncer and looks around. Some days he has pretty long stretches of awake time during the day but others it's pretty brief until he needs a nap. Each cycle is about 3 hours so longer play time equals shorter sleep time and vice versa before he's ready to eat again.  I don't let him go longer than 3 hours during the day between nursing sessions so that his evening sleep stretches have a chance at being longer. He typically goes 3-4 hours between feedings at night. We nurse/go to bed between 10 and 11 and then he wakes up around 2 and 5.  After that he usually wants to nurse again at 6:30/7 and Duke comes in to say hi and get some snuggles. If I got decent stretches of sleep, we will get up for the day at that point, but we usually go back to sleep from 7:30-8:45 or so.  That might seem crazy to some people, but sleep is insanely important for my overall happiness so we take full advantage of maternity leave and get as much of it as we can!  Dennis takes the boys to daycare before work so I just have to worry about myself and Grayson, of course, during the work week.
Grayson likes his pacifier, especially when he's really tired. He typically spits it out once he's asleep and never really uses it at night because he falls asleep once he's done nursing, but for nap time and car trips, it's a life saver to soothe him.  We've been using a new swaddle that I am obsessed with.  We got this bundle from Lou Lou and Company and the swaddle blanket is perfection.  It is super stretchy so we can bundle Grayson up snug as a bug and he can't wiggle out of it. I highly recommend it if you're expecting or want to give an amazing baby shower gift!
Routine

Once we're up, I get ready for the day and grab a big cup of coffee and some breakfast.  Some days we head out of the house for appointments or a coffee date but otherwise we snuggle up and binge watch something on Netflix. I found Jane the Virgin a few weeks ago and am absolutely obsessed. I loooove it. We've had some awesome lunch date visitors the past 6 weeks that either come to the house or meet us out somewhere.  I love getting to catch up with friends or family and get a little adult interaction while I'm off work.  Depending on how the day is going one of my sisters or my parents will pick up the big boys for me from daycare and stop over for a visit or take the boys to their house to play. I feel a lot more comfortable with all three kiddos than I did a few weeks ago but it's amazing having family on standby since Dennis works until at least 6 every night and nearly all day on Saturdays. Some days we totally crush it- primarily when the weather is nice and I can take the boys to the park.  Other days, I am tired and have zero patience and do just about anything to keep us all happy until Dennis can tag in.
Grayson reminds me so much of Theo when he was a baby.  He looks just like him and has a very similar temperament, possibly even calmer. He is seriously sweet as pie. He cries when he's hungry or tired but otherwise he's pretty content.  I snuggle him pretty much all the time.  He sleeps in a bassinet at night and sometimes naps in the pack in play during the day but for the most part I love holding him for naps! I was like this for Duke and Theo too- I pretty much think the goal of maternity leave is baby snuggles any time I want em, so that's exactly what I do. :)

Big Brothers

Duke and Theo are loving life with G. They both check on him all the time. Duke loves to hold him and talk to him while Theo just makes sure to give him kisses on the head, say HI BABY and BYE BABY whenever he can and yell for me the second Grayson starts fussing {see, I put him down sometimes}. The transition from 2 to 3 has been really similar to the transition from 1 to 2 except now Duke and Theo have each other which is amazing. They play together really well so when I'm nursing or trying to get meals together, etc., they do a pretty great job of playing by themselves or together.  I've even had some Saturday mornings where the boys are playing great together while Grayson naps and I fold MULTIPLE loads of laundry - a huge accomplishment in the house where clean clothes go to die.  :) I love watching the relationship between Duke and Theo grow as they get older- they love each other so much and despite the occasional screams (Theo) from too much wrestling (Duke), they are a great team.

Alright I think that's all we've got to report on for now! We're just hoping warm weather comes back and sticks around so we can get outside more often for walks and park time. There is simply nothing better than kiddos that are worn out from running wild in the fresh air! Happy Tuesday friends!

-T-

Easter 2019

I can't tell you how many moments I've had in the past few days of overwhelming gratitude.  There is something about seeing my boys all dressed up in their Easter gear, watching Duke and Theo hunt for eggs, and seeing all the kiddos run wild on the farm that just about made my heart burst this weekend.  Don't get me wrong, when I was nursing Grayson, wrestling Theo on and off my lap, and trying to get Duke to pick up the 30 loose sheets of paper that were all over the floor because I packed the wrong sticker book, things felt a little overwhelming. I forgot to mention that was all during the first 15 minutes of CHURCH on Easter Sunday.  Three kids is busy and wild and sometimes it's frustrating, but I have never felt more confident in that fact that this is exactly how our sweet little family is supposed to be...even when we look like this ;)
 

During an Easter egg hunt at my parents house on Saturday, Theo found a couple of eggs for his basket and then grabbed a blue egg in each hand and went to hunt for "Duuu". He walked all over the yard to find his brother to give him an egg.  It was a silly thing to get emotional about but in my mind it just encapsulates their little friendship as brothers.  They drive each other crazy but they are always the first one to look for each other and they've already started fighting over who gets to get Grayson's paci when he's upset.






The big boys got to participate in a community Easter egg hunt on Tuesday last week and they both loved it. Theo had quite the entourage during his hunt, including one cousin holding his basket while another cousin and Duke helped direct him to all the best eggs.  Thankfully they let him pick them up himself otherwise the kid literally wouldn't have lifted a finger! Duke was pretty self sufficient during his hunt aside from the fact that he kept trying to fill up his shirt with eggs and then transfer them to his basket. I was cracking up- I love how his little mind works.


We celebrated Easter with extended family on Saturday this year which meant Dennis had to work.  We hoped he would get done early but he ended up having a pretty busy day (luckily it was lucrative!) and he had about 30 minutes to say hi and inhale some food before his tee time with my brothers in law at 3:30.  The rest of us really enjoyed the morning- full of mimosas, kids running wild outside, and gorgeous sunny weather.  There was a line of people waiting to meet Grayson so he got loved on by my family while I get to relax and actually finish a conversation or two.
Clearly Grayson prefers being naked but they sure do clean up nice!

On Sunday we were so excited to bring the boys downstairs to see what the Easter bunny had brought and their reactions did not disappoint! They were both so excited and we loved it - their favorites were new water bottles and volleyballs from us and new baseball gloves from Dennis mom and step dad. They are so small and so stinking cute on their little hands!  We all got ready for church and showed up right as mass was starting.  We rotated juggling the trio for an hour, attempting to listen to father's sermon about the celebration of Easter, and left with grateful hearts.  Our family picture attempts were sort of laughable but they'll work! After mass and the photo op, we went to my parents house for brunch and relaxed for a few hours before taking the boys home for a late afternoon nap.

After nursing Grayson I ended up taking a nap myself while he and Dennis cuddled on the couch.  We were all clearly exhausted (and have been battling awful Spring colds :() so we napped a bit too long but Dennis was able to get the big boys outside to test out their new Easter bubbles and I pulled out leftovers for dinner.  We've been so insanely blessed with meals from some of my book club friends and I'm trying my best not to waste all the good food (especially because I didn't have to cook any of it and it's all lasted into lunches and dinners beyond the first night!).  We let the boys stay up a little later than normal due to late naps and then melted into the couch at the end of the night. It was an amazing weekend- full of more "real" clothes than I've work in a long time and good old fashioned quality family time.  Hope you all had a wonderful Easter celebration! Don't forget it's not actually about the bunny and the chocolate ;)

-T-

Grayson Patrick Felecos | Birth Story


It's been 15 sweet days since our third baby boy, Grayson Patrick, came into the world and we are absolutely over the moon in love with him!  It's no secret that this pregnancy was my toughest...I wrote all about back in November (click here if you missed it!), so to say that I am thankful this baby boy is now laying on my chest and no longer in my belly is a huge understatement.

Backing up a bit, this pregnancy was very different from my first two (which were also very different from each other!) and I started having loads of Braxton hicks contractions around 31 weeks. I assume they were Braxton hicks but they would definitely come at consistent intervals, sometimes for hours at a time, and then fade away. They were never painful, just a very obvious belly tightening.  By the time I hit 36 weeks, I was pretty convinced this baby could come out at any point. I was wildly uncomfortable and felt like things were definitely progressing.  While I had made some progress at that appointment, 1 cm and 50% effaced, my doctor said everything was looking good and each week we could keep him cooking would be a plus.

 I tried to make a conscious effort to take it easy because chasing around and lifting up two very big toddlers took a quick toll on my body.  Duke started to learn that mama needed to hold his hand more often than carry him down the stairs and thankfully was very patient with me!  I continued on with my weekly checkups- week 37, 38, on the Monday of each week and left work on Friday wondering hoping that I wouldn't be coming back the next Monday! There's only so many times a person can hear "You're still here?!" weeks before you're even due before it starts to get a little old ;).

On week 39, I woke up and got ready for work. I had been pretty crampy all weekend and was having some more uncomfortable contractions. Some sticking around for a few hours at a time before tapering off. I was convinced I'd wake up in the middle of the night like I did with Duke and my water would have broken, but no dice.  I had been talking with a friend of mine who is a nurse and she said it sounded like I might be in early labor and she was on call that Monday and hoped I'd be making my way to labor and delivery. Unlikely. My doc came in to the appointment and agreed that my body was likely gearing up for labor and when she checked me and found that I was 3 cm and 70% effaced, she stripped my membranes and suggested I go down and get hooked up to a monitor to see if it was picking up any of my contractions. She casually said "maybe we can break your water and get this show on the road" or something to that effect and got a nurse to walk me over to the hospital. 


I will be 100% honest in that I did not think they would actually let me stay. By this point, I had imagined labor happening in a dozen different ways and while I loved the idea of it happening on that day, I didn't get my hopes up that it actually would! It was also so surreal just casually walking down the hallway to the hospital room.  It was around 9:30 that I got into the room where my friend had been setting everything up and I opted to stay in my work clothes while I got monitored, assuming they would be sending me on my way after a bit. I had been texting Dennis to keep him updated and his excitement was my favorite. We were both a little shocked that we could be having a baby that day, albeit still skeptical.  When my doc came down to check on me a bit later, I got changed into a gown and she asked if I was comfortable with them breaking my water. My contractions were picking up but weren't terribly strong or consistent and this would surely kick my body into gear. I excitedly agreed and told Dennis he might want to leave work and come on over because apparently we really were having a baby today! It was around 10 a.m. that she broke my water and my nurse quickly started getting paperwork together. 



Surely enough, my contractions picked up quickly. I recognized them as feeling the same as my contractions had felt with Duke when I went into labor on my own- strong lower abdominal menstrual-like cramps. My contractions with Theo were never strong enough on their own after my water broke and I ended up getting put on Pitocin which was a very different experience from letting my body do it on it's own.  I hung out and filled out paperwork, chatted with my mom and Dennis, and sent a few messages out to people at work letting them know I would not be in today and to consider my out of office in effect.  By 11:30 I was 4cm and 80% effaced. I got up to use the restroom which completely changed the intensity of my contractions. My nurse had warned me that they tend to pick up when you get up and move around and shortly after I asked if she would get my IV started so I could be ready for an epidural when things got more uncomfortable. I was still in a weird state of denial at this point- I was breathing through pretty painful contractions and mentally gearing up for it to be a really long day. While I had a quick labor with Duke, my labor with Theo was a bit more drawn out (still quick compared to standard labor times!) so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect this go around. 



I don't remember exactly what time I got my epidural- I think it was between noon and 1 p.m. and my contractions were really painful at that point.  I couldn't talk through them and struggled to hold myself still while she administered everything in my back. It was painful but not as bad as I had been building it up in my head. I tend to labor very privately if that makes sense...I don't like to be touched or talked to when I'm having a contraction. I was silently thinking self-affirmations You can do this, you're okay, you've got this and breathing through each contraction with my eyes closed before coming back to being present in the room.  Once the epidural started to kick in, I immediately relaxed. My blood pressure dipped a little so I started to get really sleepy and light headed. I laid on my back and side for awhile while my body adjusted and while my blood pressure stayed lower than it had been, I started to perk back up. Eventually I could drink some chicken broth, chat with my mom, sister, and Dennis and just relax. My dad had been by to check in that morning and told us he had an appointment an hour away that afternoon and hoped he wouldn't miss all the fun. I assured him I wouldn't have the baby that quickly and I'm sure he would be out in the waiting room when Grayson came into the world.
My nurse was struggling to pick up some of my contractions on the monitor and worried they had really slowed down since the epidural started- totally normal but they didn't want it to slow down too much.  I was still feeling pressure, just enough to know when contractions were happening, but had no gauge of how powerful they were.  At 2:15 p.m. my doc came in and checked me again and found that I was about 6-7 cm and 95% effaced. She was very happy with that progress and said there wouldn't be any need for Pitocin. #praisehands  For the next 30 minutes, I was feeling intense pressure that would only pause for 30 seconds before starting again. My sister and mom were watching the contraction monitor and could see that the pace was pretty fast and furious. At 2:40 a nurse asked if I was feeling any pressure and I told her I had been feeling tons of pressure so she decided to check me and quickly declared I was complete and ready to go. They called the doc and quickly got the room prepped for delivery.  I had gone from 7-10 in about 20 minutes (and from 4-10 in just 3 hours!) and all of the sudden we were gearing up to actually welcome this baby into the world! I was shocked at how fast everything was happening. 


I was a little nervous about pushing- knowing this was the third time I was giving birth in 3.5 years, that seems a little silly but every time I've doubted if I was going to be able to do it. It's just an overwhelming feeling- being so close to the finish line but not knowing just how hard it would be or how long it might take.  Thankfully, this time around, it took all of about 15 minutes! Grayson was face up, just like his brothers, but since my body had been to this rodeo a few times, he still came out relatively easily. 

Gray was immediately placed on my chest and I just kissed his forehead and practically melted into him. It was like it was only he and I in the room, my sweet third baby finally here and ready to be smothered in kisses. He cried briefly and then just snuggled in, attempting to open his eyes and shortly after, he started to root around and try to nurse.  I couldn't believe how quickly he wanted to latch on but we rolled with it - clearly my boy was ready to come into the world! After 45 minutes or so we let the nurses take his stats so Dennis could hold him for the first time.  He weighed 7lbs7oz (1dsoz more than Theo) and measured 19inches long. I couldn't believe he was that short! Nearly 2 inches shorter than Theo and 3 inches shorter than Duke.  Such a peanut! 

Grayson was born at 3:02 p.m., just a quick 6.5 hours after I had checked in for my doctor's appointment that morning.  Since we were all feeling great, we had my parents bring the boys over to meet him after daycare that night.  Duke was very concerned about me- he didn't like the band aids I had on and asked tons of questions- the first being "Does this mean you don't have a baby in your tummy anymore?!" Theo said "BABY" about 400 times and brought Grayson everything he could get his hands on...stuffed animals, blankets, cookies, etc.  I loved getting to see them both and introduce them to their baby brother at just a couple house old.  After the visit my parents took them back to the farm where they got to spend 2 nights while we holed up in the hospital and got to know our new nugget. 
By Wednesday morning, after countless vitals checks and too many hours in a hospital bed, we busted out and headed home. Dennis and I spent the afternoon resting and settling in at home. I took a hot shower and immediately felt so grateful to be back at home with a sweet, healthy baby. Since then we've been accepting all the help we can get with daycare pickup, meals, errands, etc. and adjusting to life as a family of 5. So far, it's wonderful. The boys truly love Grayson, Duke wants to hold him all the time and does a surprisingly great job at being gentle.  Theo loves to check on him and ask about him but quickly moves on to play with his toys. As long as he can still snuggle up with mama, he's content, and he's only had a couple of instances of being a bit too rough. It broke my heart because his little face was immediately devastated when he thought he hurt his baby brother.  He has a big, caring heart, and I know he will do just fine as he adjusts to his new role!
In the past two weeks, we've been able to welcome Dennis' parents into town, celebrate Theo's 2nd birthday, take Grayson to his first restaurant, and venture out to the grocery store.  I'm dying for the weather to warm up so we can go on more walks and get some fresh air, but other than that I am just soaking up these days that go by so so fast. I plan to pop in again soon with an update on life with 3 under 3, but until then, I'll get back to this...
Until next time...

-T-

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