Twelve Days With Beautiful

Twelve days ago, something wonderful happened.

We welcomed a daughter.

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Little Miss Josephine Marie Walsh was (finally) born on Thursday, February 4 at 12:38 in the afternoon. She weighed nine pounds even and measured 21 and a half inches long.

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We followed our tradition of choosing a family name for our girl, just as we did for her brothers. “Josephine” is for my great-grandmother and “Marie” is after my middle name and my mother’s. (And my mother received her middle name in honor of her Aunt Marie, so there’s another level of family connection to that one.) I love how “Josephine Marie” hearkens to the Holy Family. What a good reminder her name will be to our own little (well – less little now) family.

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Josie and I are both doing very well at this point, thank goodness. Like her brothers, this little one proceeded to loose far too much weight in her first several days (nearly 16% of her birth weight), so we’ve had to begin supplementing with formula. (No surprise there.) Within days of beginning it, Josie rebounded beautifully: she gained nine ounces in three days, she stopped fussing so much, her – ahem – digestive system began to function normally again, and she started sleeping through most of the night. Amazing. I’m so grateful.

I’m feeling better too. The last time I had a baby, I was so excited (and, apparently, awake) that I dashed off a quick update for the blog, like, that night or the following day. So I thought I’d be able to do the same this time. I was wrong. Unlike my previous three deliveries, which all went something like this: Pitocin administered around 9am, baby born at 4 or 5pm (full day of work: check) – this one stretched on for what seemed like forever.

First there was the getting turned away from the hospital after a half-day’s worth of waiting and monitoring. Then there was the return to the hospital and the round after round after round after round (literally – four rounds) of a drug that was to prepare me for dilation. Then there was the middle-of-the-night start to my Pitocin. Then there was my customary eight hours of labor before finally, blessedly, pushing for less than five minutes to welcome Josie into the world. (Full day’s work, morning shift, immediately following two back-to-back shifts and one false start: check.)

When it was all over, exhaustion overtook me like it has rarely done before: I was nodding off mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-answer to curiously awake-looking nurses. Needless to say, writing (even to answer emails or texts) was put on the back-burner. So was moving around. And thinking coherently.

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Thank goodness Brennan was such a champ: He stayed up all night long that first night, changing diapers, soothing our newborn, and managing her spit up. (Poor thing was born so quickly she must have taken a gulp of fluid on her way out.) And he’s continued to work super hard for the nearly two weeks of my recovery since then. I’ve managed the baby and some dishes and my own exhaustion/weakness/wooziness; he’s managed the boys and the cooking and did I mention the boys?

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Today will be his first day back to work and are we! going to! miss! him! Thankfully, as of this past weekend, I think I can say I’m emerging from my fog. I think.

What I can say with certainty is that our little Josie is beautiful. Yesterday I sat staring down at her in near disbelief. I cannot believe we have a daughter. I cannot believe how lovely she is. I cannot believe we have been so blessed as to welcome another perfect little baby into our lives.

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Thank you to all of you who kept us in prayer during my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Thank you to all who have given us help and offered Josie welcome. Thank you.

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Today Is The Day. I Hope.

I have to qualify that first statement with “I hope” because yesterday was supposed to be the day – the day I was to appear bright and early at the hospital, get myself pumped full of drugs, go through all manner of torture, and then joyfully, if exhaustedly, finally get to meet my first daughter.

(I’m such a romantic about childbirth.)

Alas, it was not to be. When we arrived yesterday morning we were ushered riiight into the waiting room, where we remained for more than an hour and a half. (Let’s call that clue #1.) Then we were allowed behind the Big Locked Doors, but still kept waiting. Then paperwork and getting set up in a triage room, not a delivery room (clue #2). Then another hour and a half of attempt after attempt to monitor Baby Girl, who was dancing around so much they could barely find her. And during all that time, there was nary a mention of starting me on any of my get-to-it-already drugs (clue #3).

Finally, after we’d been at the hospital nearly four hours, we were told to go home. “There is no room at the inn,” they said. They were slammed, they said. I guess everybody who was fortunate enough to not go into labor during the blizzard decided to do so in the first 36 hours of February instead.

Everybody except me.

Because my body refuses to do something so normal as to go into labor on its own. (Just like it refuses to produce enough milk to sustain the fruits of those labors.)

But let’s not wallow right now. Let’s recognize the benefits of getting sent home from the hospital without a baby to show for our efforts: First, there’s the fact that I didn’t have to start a long, drawn-out, uncomfortable process in the afternoon, my meager breakfast a distant memory and my baby likely not to arrive until late at night. Second, there’s the fact that I got to have lunch. (Food on the brain, Julie?) Third, Brennan and I were both able to fit in afternoon naps. Fourth, we got to spend a reasonably relaxed evening with our boys – a big difference from the rushing of the night before. Fifth, this morning we didn’t have to leave two boys crying at the kitchen table like we did yesterday. Sixth, overall we’re much better rested and prepared to meet our daughter today than we were yesterday.

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So as long as they actually do take us today, I promise to not be too fussed about the delay. (And anyway, this way I get to give my dear old Uncle Tom a birthday buddy. Love you, Tom.)

I have to break here to share with you a clever little something my big five-year-old said the other day. On Monday (one day after my due date and one day before the originally-scheduled induction), our neighbor, who was bringing our guy home from the bus stop, asked him something like, “So, are you ready for Baby Yesterday? Or Baby Saturday?” (Our nickname for the baby during the pregnancy.)

“How about Baby Tomorrow?” he replied.

Then last night, when I said to him, “Hopefully your sister will come tomorrow,” he said “I’m sensing… she will.”

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Love this kid.

I have to share something funny I did a couple of weekends ago — something that seems ironic given my current please-baby-just-come-already situation. I was interviewed on CNN about the possibility of going into labor during The Blizzard of 2016.

Yes! Isn’t that funny?!

The Friday afternoon the storm started, I received an email from a woman at CNN who’d read my “(Please No) Having a Baby in a Blizzard” 7 Quick Takes post. She said she worked on CNN Tonight (anchored by Don Lemon) and that they were wondering whether I might be interested in appearing on that night’s show to discuss my concerns about potentially going into labor during the impending snowstorm.

After a good laugh and about three seconds of hesitation, I said yes. I did a quick Google search and dashed off a Facebook post – “Tell me what you know about CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” because – yes, Julie is a dweeb who watches zero television. I knew nothing about the show. (If it had been an NPR program/host, I would’ve been set.)

A few hours later, after everyone else in my house had gone to bed, I found myself changing into some semi-decent clothes and putting on make-up for my television appearance. I called CNN via Skype from my hastily-cleaned-up bedroom. I sat in front of my laptop and followed the tech guy’s instructions. I found a pen to fidget with while I talked.

Around 10:40pm, I was on. And it was so much fun! The whole thing was good-natured and laid-back – the exact opposite of my few previous experiences of being interviewed for radio or television. (For work, on topics like emergency contraception, immigration, and poverty – much more stressful than snow and babies!) Don and I chatted baby names and contingency plans and how my friends had suggested that I pretend to have contractions during the interview. (He seemed a little nervous at the prospect of any such thing occurring.) Our conversation was light and fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If you’d like to see the interview for yourself, you can find it here.

There was, of course, no blizzard baby after all. I’d say I’m about seven parts relieved that it didn’t happen. (The stress! The safety concerns! The wanting to deliver at my own hospital, which is not the closest one to us!) But I’m also about three parts disappointed: One because it would have been a cool story, one because my parents came out to be snowed in with us for “nothing,” and one because I wanted this baby here by now. I didn’t want to be driving into the hospital three days after my due date to induce labor for a baby estimated to already weigh something like 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

I am so impatient.

I am also so afraid for my pelvis and baby’s shoulders.

But, here we are. I finish writing this post on my phone, in traffic, just a couple of miles away from the hospital where, God willing, we’ll meet our baby girl later today.

Please pray that she arrives safely, with all of us in good health. (Praying for a not-horrible birthing experience would be cool too, but at the end of the day, I’ll take safety over everything else.)

Thank you kindly. I’ll update here after baby’s born.

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We’re now here and they’re all set up for her arrival. I guess this is real.

7 Quick Takes Friday: (Please No) Having a Baby in a Blizzard Edition (Vol. 39)

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

This week’s 7 Quick Takes starts just like last week’s: Tired mama falls asleep on the sofa at a ridiculously early hour, wakes near midnight, and promptly experiences a burst of energy that she feels she should take advantage of.

So here we are. One o’clock AM blogging, it’s nice to see you again.

[Random note: I just sneezed and I think it scared the (still in utero) baby. She seemed to jump and stretch there for a second. I wonder if she did that funny little startle reflex thing?]

—2—

Apparently this has been 2016’s Week of Freaking Out in Anticipation of Snow. My region – the Mid-Atlantic – seems to have one of these every few years. This edition has us preparing to be snowed in against the wilds of a 36-hour snowstorm/blizzard that could bring 20-30 inches of accumulation, 40-50 mph winds, white-out conditions, widespread power outages, and… thundersnow. (Yes, thundersnow.)

Sounds like fun, hm?

—3—

Normally, I’m that damned-by-others sort who stands in the face of such dangers and says, “Bring it on!” But this year I happen to be approaching my 39th week of pregnancy. So I’m a little nervous.

I’m not super nervous: I’ve never fully gone into labor on my own. My first and third children were induced and I required Pitocin to get contractions going with my second. So it’s not like I have some history of sudden, fast, or early labors.

But this is my fourth baby. And we do live 45 minutes from the hospital in ideal conditions, up a long, steep driveway that we’ve gotten stuck on more times than I can count.

And there was that second labor, when my water broke ten days before my due date. Ten days before this baby’s due date… was yesterday.

—4—

I’ve been voicing my fears about this blizzard/baby combo on social media, but of course. And it was funny to see yesterday that I was quoted, via one of my blog-page Facebook posts, in a Reuters article on women who are worried about giving birth during the blizzard. Here’s the post that the reporter took notice of:

It’s 11 days shy of my due date with baby #4, 1 day shy of the earliest I’ve ever gone into labor, 15 days shy of the latest I’ve ever been induced, and 2 days before we’re supposed to get a potentially record-breaking blizzard.

I’m vascillating between thinking this is no big deal and freaking out because GOOD LORD, WHAT WILL I DO IF I GO INTO LABOR IN THE MIDDLE OF A BLIZZARD?!

—5—

I’m a little less nervous about that happening than I was, because we’re actually pretty well prepared at this point: We have plenty of food (so much that I plan to spend part of the weekend preparing meals to freeze for after the baby comes). My husband is taking off work today to (among other things) get the snow thrower all gassed up and ready. Our neighbors (who have some large snow-removal equipment) are prepared to help us keep our driveway clear. A friend who regularly drives emergency personnel in snowstorms has offered to drive me to the hospital if need be. And – here’s the kicker – my parents are coming to get snowed in with us. (They’re even bringing salt for the driveway, a 4-wheel-drive truck, and maybe a generator!)

As one of my girlfriends pointed out to me, there’s no way I’ll go into labor when I have my parents here to help.

—6—

I had another ob appointment and sono this week, and I thought the reactions to my “Hey, I’m a little nervous about having the baby in this snowstorm” concern were pretty funny.

On Tuesday, my obstetrician was clueless: “Oh, is it supposed to snow?” (Wouldn’t you think that folks in her line of work would need to be a little more aware of such things?!)

On Wednesday, the nurses in the sono department seemed to think the whole situation was pretty funny: “And Saturday is a full moon!” they laughed. “Once we had a woman who the ambulance hadn’t been able to reach because her street wasn’t plowed, so her neighbors put her on a sled and pulled her down to the main road!”

It’s good to receive such sympathetic responses from medical professionals.

—7—

To give you a sense of what we have to work with at our house, here are a couple of pics from the winter of 2013-14, when we had several “big” snows (but nothing like what we’re expecting this weekend).

Here is the upper part of our driveway – the part that’s all gravel, and mostly flat.

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And here’s part of the lower, steeper part of our driveway – the part that’s paved, but which we get stuck on all the time. (Yes, the van + Christmas tree are stuck in this photo.)

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Also, for good measure, here’s a snowy view off our front porch.

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People keep asking me how I feel about all of it. Physically, I feel pretty well. Though I continue to have lots of little contractions all the time, that’s not unusual for me, and I’m nowhere near as uncomfortable as I was at the end of some of my other pregnancies. So I really don’t think I’ll be going into labor this weekend. In all likelihood, this whole thing is No Big Deal. It’s just that if I do go into labor, it suddenly becomes a Very, Very Big Deal.

This is going to be fun! (I’ll keep you posted.)

 

Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes Friday. Stop over there to check out the rest!

(Not) Watching the Debate, Political Parties and Mr. Fluffy Puffy, and Staying Close to the Stories: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 38)

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

I feel like if I’m to publish anything this morning, it should really be a review of last night’s GOP presidential debate. I mean, along with the mush and the madness that comes from being a mother, that’s what I do here, right?

Alas, I didn’t watch it.

By the time the evening came around, I was just so tired from the pregnancy and the parenting and the cold and what I now suspect is an ear infection, that I just had no energy to get excited about the debate.

So I lay down on the sofa to relax a while with my smartphone, I checked Twitter, promptly got all jealous of the people who were tweeting the debate, turned on the TV in spite of myself, saw about five minutes of the melee… and fell asleep.

Which is why I’m writing this 7 Quick Takes at one in the morning: When I fall asleep on the sofa, I have a heck of a time getting back to sleep in bed.

—2—

Let’s show you some images from our life here lately, shall we?

This was yesterday morning. The bigger one was a very, very fast cheetah and the littler one was… I don’t know… an excited toddler? I should have kept the video going another few seconds: As soon as I stopped it, little brother tackled big brother.

The two are becoming quite the pair now that their biggest brother is at school all day.

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—3—

The 4-year-old has retained his ridiculously long-lasting obsession with setting up “museums” all over the place. He already had a big bin of dinosaurs and another of animals with which to re-create The Museum of Natural History (a la Night At the Museum) when he made his Christmas wish known: He needed people. So the little guy asked (a very confused-looking) Santa for people for his museum (namely: Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Abraham Lincoln, and Sacajawea) and thankfully, dear Santa delivered.

Kiddo had me take some pictures of him with (part of) his collection the other day:

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—4—

Poor biggest brother – I don’t have as many photos of him these days. But here’s one from a few nights ago. The older two carefully spread out a few pillowcases on the floor, placed throw pillows on top of them, sat down, and then the oldest said: “Mommy, look! We’re playing rug!”

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Creative kids, they are.

—5—

I realized the other day that I may well have taken zero – zero “baby bump” pictures this whole pregnancy. Mostly, it just never occurred to me to do so. But also, every suitable mirror has been surrounded by junk for so many months that I probably (subconsciously?) didn’t want to bother with it.

Anyway, I figured I should have at least one such picture before baby comes, so I cleared away the obstructions from the front of one mirror (but not the background – sorry!) And… here you go:

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37 weeks, 3 days. To be precise.

I feel like I’m a little smaller this go-round. (Though I have nothing to show you by way of comparison, because I’m not well enough organized to know where those photos are at 1:30 in the morning.)

That “smaller” feeling is ironic given that last week the sono tech told me that Baby Girl is going to “break the bank” insofar as weight is concerned. (My babies were 8 lbs 10 oz, 8 lbs 15 oz, and 9 lbs 1oz. If this one keeps on her current trajectory, we’re looking at the upper 9’s. Ugh.)

—6—

I read a really thought-provoking article the other day. As I put it on Facebook:

This was fascinating to read – probably because it affirmed several observations I’d already made. 😉 But seriously, a huge reason why Republicans and Democrats get annoyed with each other is that they imagine the other as a mirror of themselves. And they’re not. Democrats are less ideological than Republicans imagine them to be; Republicans are less policy-oriented than Democrats assume them to be. The two parties don’t simply hold different positions – they ARE different.

In other news, my 5-year-old has named his coat “Mr. Fluffy Puffy.”

I kinda-sorta wrote on the subject (the difference between the parties – not the coat) a few years ago, in one of my first posts on the blog.

—7—

To close, here’s another compelling piece I read this week. Laura, of Mothering Spirit, shares her heartbreak over learning her twins’ lives may be in danger. The situation is quite serious, and I’m sure she and her babies could use our prayers. (Please pray!)

But what really struck me was Laura’s recognition that even these very personal, intimately painful struggles are connected to bigger, older stories.

There it is: quiet and simple and true. The deepest memory, the of-course of the ancient story, the same anger and despair, the fearful frustration of the wild unknown.

Read the whole thing for a much better relation of what she means than I’ve presented here. I’ll just add that when I find myself worried or scared or frustrated or overwhelmed – and then I have the good fortune to recall a story, or to have an image come to mind, of other people throughout time who have experienced similar struggles – I am heartened. I feel less alone. I feel more connected to other people, indeed to humanity itself, and to God.

I wish I remembered those connections more frequently, and I’m glad Laura has the comfort of doing so in this very trying time.

~~~

Have a wonderful weekend, all. And please be sure to stop over to Kelly’s to read everybody else’s Quick Takes for the week.

Ready, Not Ready

This past weekend I hit the magical 37-week mark of pregnancy (full term!) and my husband and I cleaned out our minivan. He vacuumed and rearranged the car seats; I cleaned the van’s interior with – what else? – baby wipes.

I also laundered various baby gear, cleaned out my boys’ closet, and starting shifting the toddler’s belongings from his room to his big brothers’. (Kiddo’s getting promoted – a.k.a. demoted – to the rank of “roommate” here in the next week or so. Poor thing.)

I haven’t yet started washing baby clothes, but I am very proud of myself for having pulled out an overflowing bin’s worth of gender neutral-ish clothing from my (much too large) stash of boy stuff.

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All that is to say, between the 37 weeks and the weekend’s accomplishments and the fact that (according to last week’s sono) baby girl likely weighs about 8-and-a-half pounds already, by the end of the weekend I was officially Ready For This Child To Be Born.

But then Monday happened.

Monday happened, and though it contained nothing but normal, low-level mishaps, it left me wondering (not for the first time) how I could possibly think I’m fit to handle four children under the age of six. Here’s a sampling of that evening’s Facebook activity:

It’s 5:27 on a Monday evening. At this hour, responsible stay-at-home mommies up and down the east coast are diligently preparing healthy dinners for their families. But me? I’m upstairs hiding from my boys, eating a chocolate doughnut.

My second chocolate doughnut.

However, today was the day of pink eye, pacifiers dropped on exam room floors, toddlers sucking on public chairs and sticking their hands in public (urine-filled) toilets, little napping, excessive screaming, and cackles from the child to whom I’d just said, “You gave Mommy a hard time today, didn’t you?”

So hide I shall.

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Update: I returned from hiding just in time to catch Today’s Offending Party removing his poopy diaper. And then putting on a fireman’s helmet to (happily) dance around stark naked.

Today is begging to be mommy-blogged.

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My beloved tormentor.

Last week, I was all set to update you fine folks on the health situations I mentioned on New Year’s Eve.

“Though I sit here with a raw nose, watery eyes, and a throat dry from open-mouthed breathing,” I was going to say, “I didn’t want to wait too long to tell you kind souls that things are looking up for our family, health-wise. (Mostly. Because in a household of six people, what would cold and flu season be if somebody weren’t sick at any given moment?)”

But then last week happened, and this one too. And I’m no longer feeling perkily overconfident that we’ll all soon be healthy. Our stupid, nasty cold is hanging on for dear life. Child #1 now has an ear infection; child #2 has an eye infection (and has developed an allergy to the antibiotic prescribed to address it). Child #3 and myself are still congested, sneezing, snotty messes. Brennan has somehow (thank goodness!) escaped the so-called “cold,” but his mother has just succumbed to it.

As much as my sore body wants (Not So) Little Miss Baby Girl to arrive as soon as possible, my good sense really, really wants us to be healthy when she makes her appearance. So I’m feeling a little more down now than I was when I drafted my “things are looking up for our family, health-wise” post.

Still, on one very important count, things are indeed looking up: Brennan seems to be firmly on the upswing. Though he’s still somewhat fatigued, his numbness and weakness are fading. (What a relief!) He’s still experiencing some of the negative effects of the spinal tap – occasional headaches, feeling like his brain is bruised – but he’s not bogged down by them like he was that first week. Every day seems to be getting better, slowly but surely.

Honestly, it’s been like I’m looking at a different (happier, much more comfortable) person from the end of December. The boys and I are so glad to have Brennan “back.”

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Somebody was very sad when Daddy had to go back to work after Christmas vacation.

As for me (insofar as the pregnancy is concerned), Baby Girl and I are coming along fine. I’m still experiencing occasional episodes in which I feel faint and I’m contracting (what feels like) pretty much all the time – but I’m fine. Everything is checking out as it should. And unless I go into labor by myself before then (ha! unlikely!), it looks like we’ll be scheduling an induction for sometime around the 24th.

Which is about ten days away.

So… I suppose Brennan and I ought to wrap up some loose ends so we can plant ourselves firmly in the “ready” camp, hm? (That, and we need to get our family healthy.)

Last but not least: Thank you so much to all who have been praying for us and otherwise offering support. I find your kindnesses at once uplifting and humbling. Thank you, thank you.

GoodBYE December, Hello January

Knock, knock.

Anybody there? Remember me – your unreliable blogger? The one with the three little boys and the political opinions and the big ol’ belly?

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This is the kind of shot you get when the 4-year-old mans the camera.

Yes, I managed to fall off the face of the internet again. At first it was, “Okay Julie, you really need to set aside the computer for a bit – you’ve got Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas to begin prepping for and all those jumbles of dishes, laundry, and toys you’ve been neglecting. Mom up.”

But after a few days of happy productivity (Thanksgiving dishes made! Christmas decorations up! House decently neat! Christmas shopping well underway!), we began our decline.

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I have to show off my Thanksgiving tart. Isn’t she lovely?

I didn’t so much notice it as we went along, but as Advent gave way to Christmas and events in our household took a step up in intensity, it really hit me: This month has been hard. I am worn down. And we’re not done.

Allow me to pause here to say to the few of you who noticed my absence for the past (more than a) month: I’m sorry. I do believe it’s been my biggest lapse yet. Until a few days ago, I felt this nagging guilt about it, especially regarding the things I’d left hanging (like my Home to Me blog hop). But now I feel no guilt. Now I realize that we’ve been in survival mode for most of this time. And as far as I’m concerned, things related to blogging simply don’t matter when one’s in survival mode. This is what matters:

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(Well, them and dishes, because if dishes paralyze the kitchen, then the kitchen paralyzes the household.)

So, what’s the deal? It goes something like this: sob story, sob story, icing on the cake, admitting how overwhelmed and worried I’ve felt, then a dose of pull-yourself-together reality.

Sob Story One

In the first week of December, I started to feel faint – like all the time faint, like “Gee, might something actually be really wrong?” faint. So I went to the hospital, where they found my blood pressure to be a bit high, but otherwise gave me a clean bill of health. (I had no markers for preeclampsia, for those of you who know about that sort of thing.) Another kinda-high blood pressure reading the following week won me another round of bloodwork, but that too, thankfully, came back normal. Since then I’ve continued to experience episodes of faintness (not fainting, thank goodness). At first they came every day, but now it’s down to every two or three.

In sum, I started the month by experiencing yet another round of “Julie develops weird symptoms that doctors get worried about until they realize she’s perfectly healthy.” The frequency with which this happens is, frankly, pretty embarrassing, and gives me very little confidence in my own assessment of my health.

Sob Story Two

As my daily episodes of feeling faint tapered off in the middle of the month, my husband began to experience some strange symptoms of his own: His hands went numb. Soon enough his feet did too. And his lower legs. And his lower arms. And he began to experience weakness in those areas. Last week, when the numbness reached his elbows, Brennan took himself to the ER.

The poor guy underwent a barrage of tests, one of which (spinal tap!) he’s been suffering the effects of for a full week. Thankfully, the tests quickly ruled out the scariest possibilities: stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis. But we’re still waiting for the rest of the results. The doctor’s best guess at this point is that Brennan has a mild case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. (Guillain-Barre is a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks his nerves. It causes numbness, weakness, even paralysis – sometimes of a person’s entire body, and can take months to recover from.)

Scary and stressful enough, right?

But then there’s the context: It’s Christmas. (Brennan came home from the hospital the evening of Christmas Eve and felt too unwell to attend Mass with us the next morning, or indeed to make it to any of our family gatherings over the weekend.) We have three small boys. (Daddy was able to read “The Night Before Christmas” to them at bedtime, but barely had the energy to open gifts on Christmas morning.) And of course, we’re expecting a baby at the end of January.

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This pic will always make me a little sad because it shows that Brennan wasn’t with us.

Icing on the Cake

A few days before Brennan’s symptoms worsened, our toddler cut his eye on a decorative metal bucket, the other two boys had keep-you-up-in-the-night-coughing colds, and I started having “real” contractions. When my obstetrician confirmed their “real” work, she told me to take it easy. I laughed. “So… what about me taking three small boys into Baltimore this evening for a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist? For the toddler? Who cut his eye?”

“After that,” she replied.

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Stupid decorative culprit.

In retrospect, my laugh should have been louder and crazier. It certainly has been in the days since. I’ve been telling my girlfriends that I don’t want to hear the words “You’d better take it easy!” unless they’re accompanied by a live-in nanny and/or housekeeper.

Overwhelmed and Worried

Ever since he came home, Brennan has been weaker than usual, exhausted, suffering headaches, and (in an effort to control the headaches, which come from a lack of spinal fluid) limited from carrying anything heavy or moving in certain ways.

So for me, “taking it easy” has looked like lugging around and wrestling into submission the 32-pound toddler. Through my contractions. It’s looked like three hours of sleep after a late, late Christmas Eve spent wrapping presents. It’s looked like ushering various combinations of three little boys to two Masses and three family gatherings by myself. In and out, in and out of the car, contracting and hobbling and feeling faint, loading and unloading ad infinitum.

Or at least that’s how it’s felt in my woe-to-me worry-fests. (What if Brennan’s symptoms continue to worsen? What if he’s out of commission when I have the baby and I have to manage all three boys, a newborn, and my own recovery without his help? What if he too ends up needing my care?)

Pull! Yourself! Together!

Calm down, Julie.

Honestly, I know the reality is much brighter than my worries would have me believe. Brennan’s health problems seem to be temporary. (Indeed, as of this morning, he was feeling better than he has in some time.) My wonderful dad came to help me with the boys while B was in the hospital so I could focus on him and on our remaining Christmas preparations. We’ve had lots of offers of help in the days since then. (Though, mundane as our needs are, I don’t know how to make use of them!)

And while, at eight months pregnant with my fourth child, I’m contracting all the time, occasionally feeling faint, and suddenly feeling very uncomfortable – I’m healthy. And so is the baby. Even if she comes early (and I doubt she will), she should be fine. Full term is just over a week away, and that’s a great place to be.

Our boys are dealing with nothing more daunting than colds and silly childhood injuries. (The toddler’s eye is healing nicely.) They don’t seem to have noticed our concern over Brennan’s health. (Me: “Daddy’s been feeling a little funny lately. He’s at the hospital to have it all checked out, so Grandpa’s coming to help take care of you.” Them: “GRANDPA’S COMING!”) Our mess of a floor is a testament to the many treasures they acquired over the past week, and they’ll probably remember this Christmas as the one when they sat on the sofa with Daddy to watch their first-ever Star Wars movies.

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Right now I don’t have it in me to write a grand “Year in Review” post. I can’t sit and reflect on the sum of 2015 or come up with resolutions for 2016. But I can tell you that December was hard and I’m hoping January will be better.

I pray yours will be too. I pray that your hurts will heal, your hopes will be realized, and your joys will be amplified. Thank you for reading along in 2015 (except… yeah… for December); I hope to meet you back here more frequently in 2016.

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Sweet Resignation

It is with some (small) measure of regret that I must hereby announce my resignation from MOAB: the Mothers Of All Boys club.

Yes, that’s right:

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I. am. in. shock.

All (yesterday) morning, I prepared myself for my afternoon sonogram by gearing myself up for boy #4: “I’ll be able to say I have FOUR boys!” “The (soon-to-be-not) baby will have a brother close in age to him, just like the first two do.” “Every time somebody stops me in the grocery store to say, ‘Three boys?’ I’ll be able to chirp back, ‘Four!’” “We won’t have to buy new clothes. Or toys. Or anything else!”

And then the time came. I lie on the table looking up at the screen, thankful to get to watch my baby move his hands, his legs, his back. Thankful for a strong heartbeat. Thankful for organ after organ that checked out as they should.

But we were kept waiting on the bits we were most curious about. I stared at the screen, Brennan stared at it, my mom stared. Baby was uncooperative. He had his legs together; he was hunched into a ball.

Then finally, “he” was pronounced to be a “she”!

“How sure are you?” I asked the tech.

“Very sure.”

“Still a girl?” I asked again and again, while the tech moved on to other parts of my baby’s anatomy.

“Still a girl.”

I think it will take some time before this new reality settles in. I might not even fully believe it until I hold that baby in my arms. But for now, I’m so happy. Brennan is too, though his happiness is (and this is typical for us) more muted than my own. Me: “This is so exciting!” Him: “This will be fine.”

This evening we celebrated our baby girl (ack! I can’t believe I can say that!) with a nice dinner out, just the two of us. Then we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a bouquet of pink roses and went home to tell our boys that they’d be getting a sister.

The oldest jumped up and down. I don’t ever want to forget the look of joy on his face! The middle one – who has been insisting all along that the baby is a girl to be named “Saturday” – hugged me tight and squealed and said, “Mommy, I wuv you because you’re having a girl.” The (soon-to-be-not) baby just toddled around in his diaper, looking cute.

We’re so fortunate – to have each other, to be part of such a loving family, to have three beautiful boys and now a sure-to-be-wonderful girl.

Thank you, Lord, for these most incredible of blessings.

Thank you.

Updated to add: Head on over to the blog’s Facebook page to see a video of Brennan and me announcing the baby’s gender to HER big brothers! (And if you haven’t already, please ‘like’ the page!)

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FLOP {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 19)

{pretty,happy,funny,real}

{pretty}

I thought it would be nice to do {phfr} this week, so I reviewed my phone’s photos (no idea where my regular camera is at the moment) to see what I could come up with. And I found, like, three shots that the average person would consider {pretty}. Which are pretty much duplicates of each other:

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See?

Otherwise, all I have to show you are scenes that are “boy” pretty, if you will. You know, like pirates and scaffolding and a jungle’s worth of animals gathered around a single model tree.

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Such is my life these days: a slice of regular pretty frosted with a thick layer of the boy variety.

{happy}

Those boys are so sweet, though. They make me so {happy}. This weekend they earned their own money for the first time. Their cousin had lost a small toy she’d brought with her to my parents’ house, so my oldest son asked his grandma:

“Can I do some work so you can give me some money, so I can give it to Caroline, so she can give it to her mommy to buy a new Mikey?”

My preggo heart was full to bursting – my boy (sniff, sniff) wants to earn money so he can (sniff, sniff) buy his cousin a replacement for the toy she lost? (Sob!)

Both boys did a little cleaning around the house (just toys – not much of a feat) and when they’d finished, my mom paid them each SIX quarters. Man, oh man – were they proud of themselves!

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No, they’re not begging for food — they’re showing off their hard-earned quarters.

And all’s well that ends well: My niece found her toy, so the boys get to keep their earnings. Now to decide what to do with them!

{funny}

Though my morning sickness is tapering off a bit, it still won’t let go entirely. Which is mostly annoying, but once in a while makes for some {funny} when it has the effect of keeping me on the sofa. Because sometimes when I sit on the sofa, my boys decide to do my hair. With tools.

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{real}

I’m kind of cheating here – I grabbed this pic out of my files from a couple of years ago and doctored it up to fit the following {real} thing around here this week:

FLOP

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Yep, my “7 Posts in 7 Days” was a flop. Sigh. Why do I do these things to myself? There was no way I was up to publishing a post every day this week. No way, no how.

Morning sickness is still hanging on. Baby hasn’t been sleeping well. We’ve had commitments. Brennan’s been completely occupied with the roof. Boys have been bickering. I keep walking into the kitchen to find the baby on the table. Then I turn around to find him back up there.

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But I’m going to take Heather’s advice and try to KEEP GOING. I’ve blogged more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I have another post partially-drafted on paper and more in the beginning stages in my head. I have some wind behind my sails. So forget the 7 in 7, right? I’m going to KEEP GOING.

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Thanks for joining me, all! Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 34): He’s Not Afraid to Climb the Roof, But I’m Afraid to Ride a Bike

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Wait, what did I say about posting every day this week? Because yesterday came and went, and as far as I know, I didn’t post a thing. (Shhh…)

For those of you visiting from 7QT, here are links to Monday’s (late) 7QT post, Tuesday’s post on a man who saved 669 children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII, and Wednesday’s post on my 12-week sono and thoughts about mothering all boys.

There’s more to come – I promise.

—2—

If there’s one subject that I’ll spend hours writing on and still not get it right enough to publish, it’s racism. That was my problem yesterday, and it’s been my problem many times before. Can’t… quite… get… up… the… nerve!

—3—

After a kind of foggy/dreamy Wednesday because I was living inside my head, trying (to no avail) to get that racism post right, I took a break yesterday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Brennan had taken off work to tackle a project (see below), so we all spent more time outside than usual. I made a stab at weeding the jungle behind our house, the baby sat in his stroller (poor guy – I don’t trust him to roam free), the boys busied themselves with sidewalk chalk and sand, and Brennan went about his work…

—4—

… which kind of terrifies me.

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Do you see the chimney at the top of that photo? Well, there are some pieces of (wooden) siding just next to it that are rotting because there used to be a leak in the roof. We had the roof replaced a couple of years ago (THAT was a PROJECT), so the leak is no longer an issue, but the rotted siding still needs to be replaced. (Or at least that’s how I understand the situation.)

Anyway, Brennan is a worker-bee kind of a guy who would rather do just about any home-repair job himself rather than pay someone else to do it. So here we are. He bought scaffolding (which he plans to use in the future to paint the entire exterior of the house), a harness and other safety equipment (thank goodness), and replacement siding, etc.

Now he’s off to the races. Yesterday he erected the scaffolding and secured it to the house. I believe today he’ll be building some sort of a platform to reach the roof. Then, hopefully, he’ll be able to complete the actual siding work.

Please pray that he does it all safely!

—5—

As I said above, we all – including both boys – spent more time outside yesterday than usual. For one child, “more than usual” ended up being a couple of hours, maybe. For the other – my lover of the great outdoors, his Daddy’s helper and shadow – “more” meant all day. It was so sweet to see: He followed Brennan back and forth between the house and the garage, he helped me weed the garden, he drew “storms” all over the brick patio, he played in the grass next to the scaffolding while Brennan worked to build it, and he even ate his lunch on a picnic blanket with a perfect view of the thing.

I love that child.

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—6—

Since I’ve got a whole “link to an article and write some commentary on it” thing going this week, I thought I ought to include at least one such piece in this 7QT. A light one, with a little personal story rather than commentary. So here’s a Wall Street Journal article on adults who never learned how to ride a bike.

Alas, I fit into this category.

In my case it wasn’t the whole “kids don’t spend much time outside anymore because of cable and videogames” thing – I spent plenty of time outside. It’s just that my outdoors time was mostly spent loading my favorite possessions into a little red wagon, trekking through the neighbor’s yard as if across the prairies, and then building forts behind his forsythia bush.

For me, it was that we lived on a pretty busy rural road, so we didn’t have a ready-made place to practice. And I needed ready-made, because I was a huge wimp about it. My brother grew up in the same house and on the same road I did, obviously, but once our dad had taught him the basics in the back yard, he took off with it. Soon enough, Eric was riding through the yards and the little streets behind our house. Later, he got into triathlons and long-distance cycling.

(Yes, he and I are very different.) When our dad taught me the basics of bicycle riding in the backyard, that’s where I stayed. To this day, I can make a bike go, but I can’t safely make it turn or stop. If I’m lucky, I’ll do a continuous loop of big, wide circles in the grass.

But really, I can only think of one time in my life when my inability to ride a bike was anything near problematic. And that would be on the campus of Stanford University in the fall of 2000. My senior year of college, I was dating a guy who had just started a master’s program at Stanford. I flew out to visit him a couple of times (which felt like a BIG DEAL) and found, to my dismay, that riding bikes around campus was the thing. My boyfriend had borrowed a bike for me to use, and he clearly intended for us to spend much of the weekend seeing the sights on two wheels.

“But I don’t know how to ride a bike.”

“What do you mean, you ‘don’t know how to ride a bike?’”

“I mean, I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never really learned. I can make one go, but that’s it – I don’t know how to control it.”

He was flummoxed and incredulous and determined that we were going to ride bikes anyway. (Clue #47 that he was not the right guy for me.) So I got on that bike and white-knuckled it across campus. I honestly don’t know how I made it. I know I was terrified, especially whenever we were near roads. I also know I was shaky and wobbly and just about at the end of my rope. On the return from our lunch (or whatever kind of outing it was), my luck ran out: I first ran into a (parked) car, throwing the bike out of the way to avoid damaging the vehicle. A few minutes later, I ran full-on into a bush. At that point, I snapped.

I do not know how to ride a bike. I will not do something I am uncomfortable with.” (Death stare in his direction. Clue #48.)

Fun fact: Just before I was due to fly out to Stanford the second time, the boyfriend dumped me. As I had already purchased the ticket (and had very little money at the time), I informed him that I would still be coming. One night I prepared he and his roommates a delicious home-made dinner that caused the roommates to gush that I was a princess and that the (ex)boyfriend should marry me at once. 😉 The other night, I made him take me out to an expensive dinner. It was overlooking the Pacific and incredibly elegant and I ordered whatever. I. wanted.

—7—

Back to my life in the here and now. (And can I just tell you, when I think back on that boyfriend, how very, very grateful I am to have ended up with Brennan?)

I forgot to include sono pictures in Wednesday’s post! So here’s our little cutie #4:

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Have a very happy weekend, everyone! Don’t forget to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the rest of the Quick Takes!

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Wonderful Because They’re Them: Thoughts on Mothering All Boys

This is post 2 of my series of 7 posts in 7 days. All the time, I run across news articles or blog posts or radio segments that make me want to answer them aloud with my own take on the situation. So that’s what I’m doing this week. For each of these seven days, I’ll take a recent item (by someone more original than myself) and I’ll comment on it. That’s it, but that’s something!

~~~

This morning I had my 12-week sono. Thankfully, all went well – Baby Walsh #4 looks just as we hoped s/he would. As usual, I loved the chance to lie back and watch my baby on the screen, wiggling his body around and holding his hand up to his face. (Yes – I said “his.” No, I don’t know that the baby is a boy. It’s just that with three boys already, I’m much more used to the masculine pronouns than the feminine.)

As I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder who this little guy (or gal) is. I thought of my three boys at home and how little I knew of them when I first got this glimpse at their own wiggly little bodies. And how five, four, and almost two years later, I can’t imagine life without them. It boggles my mind to think of how much is yet to be revealed about this child, and how much I will love him.

I thought, too, on whether this child will be revealed to be our fourth boy or our first girl. Watching him, I realized that I can hardly help but think of him as a boy. It’s what I know. So as much as I’d love to have a girl, I know I’ll be fine if he indeed proves to be a he. He’ll feel familiar to me. And I’ll feel a surge of pride at having a pack of four fine boys to call my own.

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If the baby should prove to be a girl, well, I can only imagine that I’ll stumble out of that exam room in a stupor of disbelief (and joy).

As a mother of three boys, I run across “I Love Being A Boy Mom” blog posts all the time. Mostly, they don’t do anything for me. I find that they tend to either wallow in the misfortune of being surrounded by boy grossness, or serve as overly-enthusiastic cheers for Team Boy.

I’m in neither of those places. I happen to think that my boys are the most beautiful creatures on this earth, so I don’t exactly appreciate diatribes against the publicly-guffawed-about trademarks of their gender. But neither do I appreciate the assertions that “Boys are the awesomest ever! Because sports and loving their mamas and not being emotionally complicated!”

I don’t need to be told that my boys are wonderful because they’re boys. I know full well that they’re wonderful because they’re them.

All that said, a couple of months ago, I came across a Boy Mom post that hit me in just the right place. The author reviewed many of the challenges of having boys, but she did so lovingly, almost tenderly – I felt like I could see the smile she wore as she wrote.

When I’m introduced to another mother of only boys, there are a few seconds of expectation. As if maybe we are going to have a secret handshake. Or maybe we are going to say, “Hey, are there black handprint marks all over your walls? Me too!”

Instead, we just nod our heads and exchange a little smile, knowing we are kindred spirits. Having boys leads to a set of personality traits, namely that you’re not fussy and that you roll with the (actual) punches. If you have a bunch of boys, you’ve probably seen a femur up close. You can get blood out of anything.

Moreover, the author acknowledged what most of the Boy Mom posts don’t – the bittersweet sadness of never getting to mother a girl.

We boy moms won’t go prom dress shopping. We won’t pick the wedding venue. We won’t be in the delivery room. We won’t ever, ever sit on a toilet before thoroughly inspecting it first. But we will strive to raise kind, conscious, able young men. All of this is acknowledged when boy moms meet and exchange a little nod and a smile. The nod is for the food prep and the property damage. The smile is for all the rest: the sweetness of a little boy, and the way he grabs your heart with his dirty hands and never lets go.

This is where I am, even as I stare up at that screen, watching my baby. The one who is still completely mysterious to me. The one who could be our fourth boy, or our first girl: I’m a happy woman in love with my boys, who would gladly welcome another. But who, if I indeed end up with a pack of all men, will always think a little sadly on what I’ve missed.

And that’s fine. I am neither a wallower nor a cheerleader. I’m a mother. I don’t need to be told that my boys are wonderful because they’re boys. I know full well that they’re wonderful because they’re them.

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