Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Two Children.

Many, many kisses for his sister.

They take their jobs as siblings very seriously.  
He likes to just sit next to her in her swing, if I'm looking the other way.  It.  Is.  SO.  Sweet!!!  (and only slightly dangerous).

(Love too that his head is the size of her body.  We measured and his head is only 2 inches smaller than Mark's!)

Early last week I accomplished something I really wasn't sure I would:  I went downtown Boston to the Museum of Science with my 2 year old - who is prone to throwing MAJOR **MAJOR** tantrums when I try to get him to leave exciting places - and my 6 week old.  I was armed with two dum-dum lollipops and a pouch of fruit snacks, because I'm not above bribery.  And also because, even if I somehow did manage to haul my flailing, squirming, screaming toddler over my shoulder all the time when I was 8 and 9 months pregnant, I'll be out of luck if it ever happens when we're out with the baby.

Luckily it hasn't.  So far...  But here's a great snippit from our museum time:

Woman standing next to me, to her friend:  "That's totally going to be us when we have our next kids - did you see that there's a newborn over there totally unattended?"

Me to Woman:  "Yeah, that newborn is mine - and yes, this is going to be you."


And of course, I'm writing this on stolen time - 11:40 pm and I really should be in bed.  Having two is crazy-busy and also just... crazy, but for those of you who still have just one and are living in fear like I did, there's good news:  It's actually not that bad.  At least, it's not as bad as I feared.  Here's why:

  • There's relief in finally doing it, rather than just fearing it.  That feeling of "okay, this is as hard as it gets" goes a long way.  
  • Crazy-busy is kind of nice.  Honest!  I once read a blog post by a mom of many - she was sympathizing and reminiscing about the difficulties of having just one.  Difficulties like ... inventing errands to go on just to fill up the time, because you're *not* crazy busy.  Anyone without a spouse walking in the door by 6:00 to break up that post-nap time period can surely relate.  I'd been dreading this winter, imaging days where Matthew would wake up by 3:00 and it would be dark by 4, and bitter cold - and rush hour.  Where would we go?  What would we do??  While I still try to get him out as much as possible, it's no longer such a big deal to spend half a day at home.  Somehow it's less lame with the 3 of us.  Matthew is already very interested in his baby sister - kind of like getting him a really high-end interactive toy.  And it works both ways - often when she fusses for attention and I'm trying to make dinner, he'll go over and snuggle her or turn her swing on.  Or try to put his trains in her hands.  It usually buys me another 5-10 minutes.
  • I really do believe that Matthew is getting better with transitions *because* we have Claire.  In addition to his epic leaving-an-exciting-place tantrums, he spent the summer fighting me every time we left the house - both going down the stairs, AND getting in the car.  Repeat process upon arrival home.  It really made late-pregnancy a nightmare.  But now that I have Claire, I just start carrying her wherever and he follows suit - doesn't want to be left behind.  WHAT a relief!  Suddenly our narrow, multi-door walk-up that was such a pain with one toddler feels like a breeze with TWO babies!
  • Um yes.  He does love his sister and that's been sooOOooo sweet to see.  My parents swear that I didn't love my brother so I've got to marvel at this sweet boy I have.  Hearing him say "Claire!!!  Hi, Claire!!!!" whenever he sees her melts my heart every time.  
  • Parenting a newborn is so much easier the second time around.  I remember the few times infant-Matthew cried inconsolably... I felt like SUCH a horrible failure, and my heart ACHED for parents of colicky babies who had to feel that soul-crushing despair 24/7.  But now I know I'm doing it right, so if she's fussy she's just fussy.  Such a relief!
  • The sleepless nights are soooooooo much easier when you're not going into it already having been awake for (in my case) 39 hours in labor & delivery and with an utterly broken body.  They're seriously no big deal, and Claire is a much worse sleeper than Matthew was!  Update:  When she turned 6 weeks she passed him up and now sleeps until 3 or even 5 am.  WOOT!
  • Is it "more than twice the work"?  Not for me, for the above-mentioned reasons.  And to my immense relief, Matthew's tantrums have decreased dramatically now that he's finally able to verbally express himself (and now that we've instituted "1-2-3 Magic" which I cannot recommend more if you've got a stubborn toddler).  But even if it was more than twice the work, it's more than twice the reward.  My heart feels so full with these two beautiful children in my life, growing every day.  Our family feels very complete, and that gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.
  • Frankly, being done with two pregnancies is also a huge accomplishment to me, and a major relief.  I love that I now feel like I never have to be pregnant again, unless I go temporarily insane.  As moms I think we feel so blessed to have our children (especially if they are healthy) that we don't ever want to complain about anything related to them.  Well let me be honest with you:  Wanting to throw up most of the day for 2-3 months is no joke.  And spending your final trimester huge and uncomfortable while you wrangle constantly with a just-turned-2-year-old-boy is nothing rose-colored glasses can fix either. 
  • If nothing else, at least you're not pregnant.  Seriously.  I'll take a 2 year old and a 6 week old over a 2 year old and a big, tired, pregnant body any day.

Now lest I paint too sweet a picture, I've definitely still had my struggles these first 6 weeks.  The nights that Mark doesn't come home until they're both in bed can be total insanity, with me running back and forth between a fussy baby and a toddler who's suddenly making a major mess of his dinner and running naked and wet from the bathtub all over the apartment.  It's exhausting.  Plus, cramming all 4 of us into our 2-bedroom apartment with our TINY bathroom feels super cluttered almost all of the time.  Somehow the floors and bathroom get dirty as soon as I clean them these days, even though Claire isn't using them yet.  Hmm.

I also don't currently have any free time other than what I carve into time I should already be sleeping.  I check my email and Facebook sporadically at lightening speed during the day and then I spend an hour or two on them at night, trying to catch up ... but that's usually 11:00 - 1:00 when I should be in bed.  I don't watch any TV shows or take any other sort of break.  And I'm very lucky that they usually nap at the same time for at least a little bit - but I need that time to sleep!  (Why does my free time start at 11?  Claire goes down late and I have plenty of cleaning up to do).

And I'm still terrified for the day when Matthew does have another epic meltdown as we're leaving a place he likes.  I won't be able to transport both of them - so what will I do??  So far I continue to risk it since we can't just sit at home. I stopped one grocery trip in the parking lot before it even started because I could tell it wouldn't end well - and because I wanted to show Matthew I meant business (the next trip WAS successful!).  But basically I'm hoping and praying that Matthew just sort of won't DO that anymore, since the frequency has gone from all-the-time to hardly-ever.  I'm sure my Moment of Darkness is coming... I'm just hoping to only have a few of them as Matthew gets older and more verbal and (so far) these craaaaaazy tantrums happen less frequently. 

I have so many other tidbits I want to blog about, but I don't have time.  Our highlights lately include:
  • We had some very fun visits from Adora ("Ah-Doh-Doh") and Grandma Murakami ("Mo").  Pics at the bottom!
  • Matthew is nothing short of transfixed when Mark plays classical music for him on youtube.  The other day, Mark saw him moving his hands and arms with the music as if dramatically conducting an orchestra.  LOL!!!
  • Since about 25 months, Matthew has been able to identify all of his letters except X, Q and V.  He even knows W from M, C from G, and N from M (most of the time).  When he sees store signs like Macy's we'll hear from the back seat:  "M!!!  A!!!!!  C!!!!! ..."  He also knows and will point out when he sees various colors.  And sometimes he'll take blocks or even food on his plate and make the letters C, T, or M and then announce it proudly (the C's and T's turn out better than the M's).  This has all been a huge relief to me since he was such a slow talker.  Not many kids can say all their letters and many colors before they can call their mom "Mommy" but that's him!  I read in "Nurture Shock" that children learn how to talk by hearing and watching different people say the same word.  Since Matthew's first two years were spent in the dark days of residency, and he really only ever heard me talking, I'm chalking the delay up to that. 
  • Claire has stolen all our hearts.  She loves to have huuuuge nightly spit-ups on difficult-to-wash things, like our bedspread and her car seat, but we've still decided to keep her ;)  I literally feel like I could stare at either one of them all day long, marveling over how beautiful they are to me.  So staring at both is a real treat.
  • Matthew's language really exploded this past week, with my dad visiting.  "Sit down, Papa!" he'd say to get my dad to sit on the couch with him.  And "Dada make... Dada make..." when touching the futon Mark put together.  Update:  One day later it's "Dada make a bed!"
  • I have to brag a little on my very good sharer, because I don't want to forget these stories.  (1) At the "pirate park" an older boy tried to take one of the two toys Matthew had been carrying around since we got there - Matthew gets VERY attached to toys and they are often the cause of the tantrums we have when he leaves a place.  Matthew refused and ran away, and the boy started wailing.  Matthew watched the boy crying and went over and offered him the toy.  The boy took the toy and then tried to take the other toy too - Matthew drew the line at that.  This same thing just happened at the science museum last week - Matthew, on his own, went and shared a toy with a child who had unsuccessfully tried to take it from him.  I'm biased as his mom but watching these things and watching how sweet he is with his sister *almost* all of the time have me convinced my baby boy has a heart of gold :)  
  • I also never want to forget how helpful my dad has been to me over the past four days he visited.  I don't think he ever stopped helping me for a second he was here, seriously - he worked just as hard as I did, *constantly*.  He did my floors, washed Matthew's bedding, cleaned our bathroom, went to the hardware store and got salt for the winter and floor pads for the couch, changed almost all of Matthew's diapers all week, did all of his baths and book times, helped with plenty of laundry, woke up early with Matthew every day and fed him breakfast, got him dressed, and unloaded the dishwasher, helped me cook some, and more.  All of his help enabled me to do many errands (and write this blog entry!) and to bond with and enjoy Claire much more than I'd otherwise been able to.  And we got in some wonderful chats about life, reminiscing about my grandmother - whose funeral was just three days before he arrived.  I was so, *so* sad that it was logistically not possible for us to make it (plane tickets over $600 each and Mark had to work - and Claire had just turned 6 weeks).  This past week with my dad and the time he spent taking me around to visit colleges are two of the memories I will cherish the most throughout my lifetime.  I am so, so lucky to have such an amazing father.
  • Other good news includes Mark often being able to help out with bath time in the evening, and usually being able to spend at least one weekend day with us.  I cannot tell you the difference this makes for me as a mom.  It's a big reason why for me, having 2 doesn't feel much harder than having 1 - and feels easier in some ways.  Hooray for fellowship (or, more accurately, the end of residency)!  And for just 1 more year until he can hopefully spend *both* weekend days and real evenings with us!! 
  • Last, but not least, my favorite story as of late:  As we were leaving church one Sunday, Matthew was throwing one of his epic tantrums.  He'd been throwing it since we left the toys in the kids' area and was writhing on the ground, refusing to be picked up and put in the car.  He got up again at some point and was trying to run off when he saw Claire in her car seat.  He went over to it and everyone watching sort of gasped and I leapt to the spot to prevent him from taking his anger out on her.  But to my total shock, he went up and saw her and sort of held his breath and his anger melted away.  He then snuggled her, as if for comfort.  A woman watching said to me, "Wow, he must REALLY love her!"  Best.  Story.  EVER.  (Claire 6 weeks, Matthew 26 months).
Well that's all I have time to type.  Actually I didn't HAVE time to type but there you have it.  I never want to forget these precious days of having my young babies.  I want to document as much as I can.

Dad & Matthew (26 months)
Dad & Claire (7 weeks)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Claire, Your Birth Story...

Dearest Little Claire,

Having already documented your brother Matthew's harrowing birth story here, I know you'll want to read about your own.  Here goes...

About five weeks before you were due, I started to sense that you were going to be early.  I had Braxton-Hicks contractions with both you and your brother throughout, but with you they started feeling stronger and, for lack of a better description, more "cervical."  These stronger "practice" contractions would happen mainly in the evenings and especially if I'd been on my feet all day - which I usually had been, chasing your brother!  I called your Nonna to make sure she'd be able to change her ticket should I go into labor early, and had her plan to arrive at 39 weeks.

Right around this same time I started sensing that you were going to be smaller than your brother was.  I found it strange that I could tie my shoes all through pregnancy, and didn't need 5 pillows to sleep at night.  As the end grew near, I actually started worrying that you weren't growing.  At 38 weeks they did an Estimated Fetal Weight on you that "confirmed" (as much as these notoriously inaccurate ultrasounds could confirm) that you were about 6.5 lbs.  You ended up delivered 10 days after the ultrasound, weighing just 2 ounces more than predicted.  Exactly three pounds less than your brother had been, you - and I - were indeed much smaller this time around!  

Picking your Nonna up at the airport the Wednesday I turned 39 weeks with you, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I really wanted your brother to be cared for by someone he knew well and who loved him while your father and I were away at the hospital; I didn't want it to be a baby-sitter he'd never met, and I didn't want to impose on any of my busy mommy friends.  The timing ended up perfect.  For two full days Nonna and I got things done and had fun with "just one kid" while we still could.  She watched your brother while I had a dentist appointment in the nick of time - the day before you arrived!  We also hit the sales rack at "Janie and Jack" and got you an adorable pumpkin outfit for next year.  Finally, Friday night we took Matthew to Cabot's Diner for one last fun restaurant outing, and stuffed ourselves full of a Reuben, turkey dinner, and malted waffle sundae.  Back at home that night, Nonna and I noticed that my nose looked swollen and my face flush.  The time was growing near for you to enter the world.  She predicted that night...

The next morning I awoke in early labor.  My friend Sarah and I had plans to hit up one last yard sale, advertising high-quality toddler girl clothing.  She picked me up and while out and about I started feeling a few of those "stronger than Braxton-Hicks" contractions - this was the first time I'd felt them at morning instead of at night.  Still, I managed to score 3 pairs of shoes for you for just $5 total for all three, two of which were like-new Stride Rites!  Haha.  By the time I got home, it was just a question of how long labor would take.  With your brother it took 15 hours before I reached a 4 and they admitted me, but I knew that second births usually went faster.

I called your father at work to give him a heads up.  He had someone who could cover the rest of the weekend for him but he'd have to make the time up... I really wanted to maximize having Nonna here while he was getting a weekend in.  So we waited just about as long as we reasonably could.  As the contractions became really debilitatingly painful I called him again and told him he'd better go.  He called his friend to cover him and biked from Dana-Farber to MGH, while Nonna drove me in the car.

One of my "worst pregnancy nightmares" came somewhat true as we encountered significant traffic heading into downtown Boston.  This wasn't supposed to happen on a Saturday!!  As we sat there my contractions picked up quickly and I think I begged Nonna to put her hazard lights on and drive in the emergency lane!  After what seemed like the longest trip ever, we arrived at the hospital.  Your father was waiting for me out front and things were very intense.  This was at about 6:30 pm.  Upon admission I was already somewhere between a 5 and 6.  From there, they must have been a bit busy that night because it took a good hour to get my epidural in.  By the time it was in, I had progressed to above a 9 (10 is the max, and the you start pushing) with no pain meds.  An experience I never, ever want to live through again, but one that still wasn't as bad as taking 15 hours to reach a 4 with my first baby.  Once the epidural worked its magic I was able to have a delivery I could only have dreamed of after how traumatic my first experience had been.  I was at peace with your daddy, just waiting for you to be ready to come into the world, when they came in to tell me it was time to start pushing.  After just 5 easy pushes they told me to look down and I watched you come right out!  You were all purple and crying and shiny as they put you on my belly and I have to say, it was a miracle.  There you were:  My daughter.

Born at 8:51 p.m. on October 13th, weighing 6 lbs, 10 ounces - three full pounds less than your brother!
Claire Annelise Murakami
Sweet Little Claire
Baby Claire
From there we spent that night and the two following in the hospital.  Your father brought me a sushi feast the next day - he knew I'd been missing it!  He also brought my two favorite cheeses, bread, fruit, cider donuts, and two fancy chocolate bars from Wilson Farm and Whole Foods - what a treat, and what an amazing father you have!!  He stayed with me in the hospital other than brief stints home during the days to shower and take care of other things. 

Family of Four!

Snuggles with Mommy

Head Over Heels
Your Nonna stayed a few days longer to help us get up on our feet, but then headed home.  By the time she left she'd braved 8 nights in the living room of our two-bedroom apartment, on an air mattress!  She did no end of cooking, cleaning, and taking Matthew to the park when we couldn't... I hope you'll always know and appreciate what a help she was bringing you into the world, and I hope I can return the favor to you someday.

Nonna and You
In the hospital I experienced many strong emotions but none stronger than feeling as if I'd won the lottery in terms of having both your brother and you as my children.  Matthew was the dream come true that I couldn't have dreamed up myself, and you were my dream come true from childhood.  You are equally my most intense, amazing, vivid, ongoing, miraculous, and amazing dreams.  As I sit here with him 25 months old and you a full week, I am painfully aware that the time passes so quickly and neither of you is mine to keep forever.  But for the time being you are my children and I am, for all the hard and stressful times, blown away and mystified that twice in my life I've been blessed beyond any other possible Earthly blessing.   

Precious Pumpkin

Big Brother Matthew

First Kiss.

Matthew Shares His Shape Sorter Toys.

With Mommy.

Just the Beginning of the Rest of Your Childhood!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Addicted to cooking. No - it's a real problem.

Who's with me?  Anyone?  Because as I sit here 37 weeks pregnant and with a toddler to chase solo, including almost all evenings and most of the weekends (I asked Baby M yesterday if he knew who was coming to visit in two weeks and he said "Dada?!" - fellowship is in full swing) I am utterly exhausted and spent.  I literally feel like I might die of exhaustion, and certainly I could not survive another labor and delivery in my current state.  Not just because of the nonstop high-energy-toddler-boy chasing.  Not just because it's combined with end-stage pregnancy.  And not even because you can add to that alllllllllll of the housework (ALL).  But also because instead of just getting takeout and making simple meals during this physically intense time, I spent last night poaching chicken and making "Mulligatawny Stew" from scratch (hours on my feet, after a big grocery trip and hauling everything up).  I then spent this morning making banana pancakes - from scratch.  This afternoon, the plan is pumpkin bread to go with the stew...

Somebody... stop me!!!

Oh it crept up on me slowly but I saw it coming - I did.  My addiction started when I moved out to Boston to be an at-home parent.  I was still doing what I could to make extra money - nannying and some legal projects - but I found myself with way more time on my hands than I'd ever had as a full-time(+) practicing attorney.  Whereas "good food at home" in those days meant making a big pot of mom's spaghetti sauce to last us most of the week, it started taking on a bigger (and more demanding) meaning out East.

Shortly after I arrived in Boston (five months into Mark's residency) we found out that Mark's cholesterol was still high - in spite of our having cut out red meat and as much saturated fat as possible.  When his PCP made the call that he was too young for a statin, I started reading up on what else we could do to lower it.  Mark loves to run but had absolutely no time for exercise - in fellowship he gets about two-thirds of the sleep he should... during residency it was far worse.  So I started reading books about cholesterol and cookbooks on heart healthy cooking, and I started trying new recipes (and blogging about it).  To my surprise, it was really fun!  I soon found myself trying at least two new recipes a week, sometimes more.  Once his cholesterol was back within a "normal" range (I was THRILLED) I branched out a bit.  Then Pinterest came on the scene, with its beautiful pictures and easy clicking for new recipes...

Sounds great right?  Well, it is and it isn't (as maybe some of you know?).  We eat very well over here and the husband who used to assure me that finances would be fine "because we only really need peanut butter and jelly" won't touch a sandwich - even a ham sandwich - on the weekends.  It's great to tease him about how spoiled he is.  But the fact is that we're both spoiled.  Old recipes (unless amazing) don't sound appetizing at all.  Takeout is done rarely and is almost always disappointing, and prepared foods have no place in our lives.  Even going out to a restaurant (our FAVORITE) doesn't hold the appeal it once held.  Is this starting to sound crazy?  Because it is.  I know it is.

And all "good" things must come to an end.  I've known ever since I had Baby M that there was no way I'd be able to keep this up once I had a second baby and a husband who was still in the barely-present years of medical training.  I've known... and yet I've just figured I'd deal with it when the time came.  And it appears that the time is here :(  At my appointment today, my OB expressed concern over how exhausted I appeared and told me to get a mother's helper "even if it's just for a couple hours on the weekend."  She told me to "nap when he naps" (oops!  Ha) and since I clearly cannot do lots of food prep while he's awake (plus what about the cleaning?) I guess that Baby C is asserting herself from the womb, letting us know she's going to (rightfully) demand time, attention, and love.

So while I hope to continue the culinary exploration that has been my outlet and stress-reliever as a stay-at-home-practically-single-parent, I know that the time has come to retire it the back burner (no pun intended) in preparation for labor, delivery, recovery, and being a mom of two.  And I also know that as lost as I feel about that right now, it'll probably be a complete non-issue once I meet our newest family member and my heart is bursting at the seams for each of my two babies :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

'Lis's Best-Ever Blueberry-Almond Snack Cake

Nope, that's not a typo or a new nickname for me!  'Lis is Mark's sister Melissa, and I've blogged about her amazing kitchen talents before.  I'm telling you, all five of Mark's siblings are just as driven as he is - they're all seemingly perfect and constantly doing various sorts of charitable work.  Credit my MIL who did an amazing job raising them! 

Anyway, I've tried many, many blueberry muffin and blueberry coffee-cake type recipes and there is just something about this one.  It's perfect.  The texture is perfect - light but substantial, with a finishing crunch if you sprinkle it with some raw or large-grained sugar before baking.  The flavor is perfect too - just sweet enough, with a hint of almond.  And it's so easy to throw together.  I've hardly been able to stop making it since I first started... and since it works just as well with raspberries, that's my most recent kick.  Anyway, here's the recipe:

Blueberry (or Raspberry) Snack Cake

6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 tsp almond extract (depends on your tastes)

Sugar for sprinkling (big grain if you can find it)

1/2 - 3/4 cup blueberries (or raspberries)

Heat oven to 350.  Butter and flour an 8x8 square pan (or a pie pan would also provide the right size).  In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a glass measuring cup, combine milk, vanilla, and almond extract.  In a medium bowl mix sugar and butter until blended; add egg, mix again.  Add the flour and milk mixtures, alternating until batter is smooth.  Spread batter evenly into pan and dot with berries.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 35 minutes.

Just before baking.  Sorry - will have to update with a "baked" picture at a later time!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summary of Summer

As summer draws to a close and I get excited for my very favorite time of year (autumn through Christmas) a little documentation of what we've been up to and the memories we've made this summer:

Lots of time spent at beaches.

My little sea turtle.
I finally feel I've hit my Boston groove - after three years spent denying that such a thing could possibly exist for the young-kids-no-family-here-no-money crowd.  Lately I've found that instead of wondering how to fill the time, I wonder how I'll find the time to do everything we want to do.  Some of our local faves:
  • The Arlington Reservoir ("The Res").  Big thanks to Sarah for getting us into this.  Practically walking distance it's a beautiful, gradual, chlorinated beach that's perfect for post-naptime fun.  Matthew's fave.
  • Various splash parks.  Thanks to Jen, Tammy, and Sarah for introducing me to some free but super fun places and providing excellent company for me and sweet playmates for Matthew.
  • Gold's Gym.  Once Matthew was weaned and (finally!) sleeping through the night, I began going to the gym regularly, and Matthew loves the play room.  
  • Children's Museum, Science Museum, and The Aquarium.  Best way to do these is to all get an annual pass to one place and take friends as guests.
  • Wilson Farm.  I can hardly believe how rarely I get there for produce since we're so busy with everything else!
Splash Park + Ice Cream Truck = Sticky Summer Bliss
Throwing stones with Alex and Chase.
Belmont Splash Park.
We've hardly had time for our staples, like our morning walk on the bike path to Starbucks and the park.  I can't seem to get to Costco or the mall, either - it's hard enough to find a morning or afternoon for groceries!

Speaking of those mom friends, I've loved the time I've spent with Sarah, Jen, and Tammy and their kids.  I am so thankful for their friendships.  For so long here I wondered if I'd ever feel at home and I finally do and I owe so much of that to the comfort level I have with these ladies that only comes from time and shared memories.

What else is new?  Mark started fellowship at Dana-Farber.  This has brought many changes.  Notably:
  • Relief that residency is over.  Mark's hours are still pretty bad but it's great knowing this is the final stretch. 
  • Lots of thinking about cancer.  Lots of hearing sad stories.  Dana-Farber is one of the top cancer institutes in the world and most of Mark's patients are coming in for second or third opinions.  That usually means very difficult situations.  I don't know how he does it; I couldn't.
  • Crazy schedule.  Baby gets to see Daddy maybe twice a week if I generally keep him up until 9:30 p.m.  So baby generally sleeps in until 9-10 and naps anywhere from 1:00/2:00 until 5:00 pm or later.  This makes playdates hard but it's well worth the father-son time we earn!
  • Some really great weekend time with Mark, at least until he's allowed to moonlight again.  Blueberry picking at Parlee Farms, church at Highrock Covenant, and even a jaunt up to Maine.
Blueberry Loot.

My berry-picker.
Hiking in Maine.



Little Hiker.

World at their feet.

My Olaf boys at a restaurant in Maine.  Lobster rolls and blueberry pie!
Pregnancy.  I have 8 weeks to go and I look ready to pop.  I'm sure this will be another big baby and I can't deny I'm terrified after the traumatic delivery and recovery I had delivering all 9 lbs 10 ounces of Matthew and his 99th (sometimes 100th) percentile head.

Thanks to Mark I've been reading all the real medical journals on macrosomia (the medical term for "having a really big baby" which is defined as a baby 9 lb 4 oz or more... Matthew beat that by half a pound).  I've learned that having a macrosomic baby doubles your chance of a c-section.  At this point I think I'm more afraid of repeating Matthew's vaginal-but-barely delivery.  

17 Weeks
27 Weeks
Cape Cod.  I am thrilled that my parents, brother, and sister-in-law came out here to visit us.  My parents generously rented a house on Cape Cod that comfortably held all 6 of us (Mark couldn't go, but Matthew counts) and we had a wonderful time.  The house is walking distance to a gorgeous, gradual ocean beach with soft sand, PERFECT water temperature, and fun-but-not-scary waves.  On the way to the beach is a homemade ice cream shop, an adorable little cafe with house-made cinnamon rolls and breakfast sandwiches, and a "general store" serving amazing sandwiches.  The town (Falmouth) is adorable and good for a nice ladies' afternoon of shopping.  Plymouth made a great day trip with its fascinating "Pilgrim Hall" museum and a replica of The Mayflower.  Lobster rolls and creamery ice cream were had.  I cannot think of a better way to experience this region.

Chappy Beach.

Stretching with Grandpa.

Quintessential Cape Cod on our walk to the beach - ice cream shop and cafe.

Grandfather and grandson.

Fun with Uncle Jeff.

Brave li'l man.

Not even a Momma's Boy... a Nonna's boy.
Hillary.  Though her presence in town was brief this summer, my best friend returned to the area and we were able to get our babies together several times.  She threw me the best baby "sprinkle" a girl could ask for.

With Hillary's Annabelle (and my Claire, though I didn't know it at the time!) in Boston.
So there it is.  A really great summer.  As autumn approaches I know that still more changes are in store for us.
  • I am dying to meet my daughter, but nervous for the transition to two.
  • I am, as always, excited for autumn.  The crisp air, jeans and sweaters, colorful leaves and favorite autumn soups, pies, crisps, muffins, etc.  Apple picking, hay rides, and (out here) apple cider donuts.  "Orchard Day," our family's made-up holiday.  
  • I am SO eager to not be pregnant anymore, possibly ever.  This pregnancy has been rough.
  • I cannot wait to have fun dressing my baby girl and and big boy in autumn outfits.
  • Hoping to still have time and energy to try new recipes!  
With my Little Man.
Our family of - technically - four!
Bring it on, autumn!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"It's a Girl." Claire Annelise.

"It's a Girl... and I'm going to be a lot sicker this pregnancy."

Those thoughts popped into my mind out of nowhere the instant I flipped over my pregnancy test and that sweet pink line confirmed what I already knew.  After five months of trying and truly not knowing with Matthew, this time around I knew I was pregnant before any test could have told me.  I felt the faintest of cramping long before I was otherwise due that month, and I felt hungry in what I can only describe as a "certain way."  Perhaps because I could already feel the effects of this new inhabitant, my mind pegged it for a girl.  Supposedly girl pregnancies involve more nausea... 

I spent the next 14 weeks trying to remind myself that I didn't have any real reason to believe it was a girl.  I did not want to become attached to the idea of any one sex - especially so early in pregnancy.  Mark and I planned to be surprised again at the birth, and I'll never forget that moment during labor with Matthew when I thought they referred to him as a "she."  At that point I was already half in love with the baby boy Mark and I both believed we were having, and I felt a stab of sadness and loss (through my exhausted delirium) for the little boy I had only even really been imagining for a few weeks.  To have such a strong feeling that this second baby was a girl, so early... was dangerous.  Especially because, already having a boy, I really wanted a girl.  (There, I said it...).

But try as I might to control it, my mind kept thinking of the baby as a "she."  At the 12-week ultrasound, her movements seemed so much calmer and more graceful than his had.  Comparing their profile pics she didn't seem to have his big Ellis forehead - which is generally a male Ellis trait.  When my OB told me that she had two children, a boy and a slightly younger girl, it was all I could do to stop myself from exclaiming, "Me too!!!!"

Can you guess which one is Matthew and which is Claire just by the forehead?  Answer below:

Matthew is on top.  Not that Claire's forehead is small.

Eventually I gave up on convincing myself that I didn't know, and tried to full-out convince myself that I was having a boy.  Two family members were already pregnant with girls and a third also suspected she was having a girl.  "I must be having the boy!  Four girls in one year would be crazy!"  I told myself.  Still, whenever Mark would refer to the new baby as "Buddy Junior" I found myself replying, "Oh come on, you know it's a girl!" 

I ultimately came to accept that I could not rid myself of or control these feelings.  I then began considering finding out the sex sooner.  A few advantages quickly surfaced:
  1. If we did need girl clothes, best to pick them out pre-baby since it would be so hard to go shopping with a newborn and a just-turned-two-year-old.  
  2. Bonus:  Some sense of calm and planning as we started into the unknowns of Mark's oncology fellowship.
  3. I realized that as fun as it was to be surprised with Matthew, I couldn't actually remember finding out he was a boy.  So maybe this time around it might be nice to more fully experience that moment, and be able to remember and savor it ... instead of having it be a vague realization through a haze of trauma and exhaustion.
  4. Most importantly, I realized that if it was a girl, I wanted to enjoy the anticipation of her.  In life, the anticipation of a joy often offers as much (or more!) happiness as the joy itself.  Think about the Advent season at Christmas... wouldn't Christmas be robbed of so much if we were unable to really think about it until Christmas Day?  The sicker I got with pregnancy, the more I realized that news of a girl would be a great boost.  Especially during such a busy time in Mark's schedule.
And so, as much as Mark didn't want to find out, he was caving to my begging (and reasoning).  We planned to have them note the sex in a sealed envelope as we had with Matthew, but this time we'd look at it together at a special time.  At least, that's what I was planning... ;)

Fast-forward to my 18-week ultrasound.  Mark was miraculously able to go and so it was a family trip.  With Matthew getting into everything in the ultrasound room, Mark took him back to the waiting area (FYI, do not bring a toddler to an ultrasound without help - ever).  As I gazed at our little wonder swimming around on the screen, she did a flip... and it was then that I could have sworn I saw it:  Boy parts.

"Oh, it's a boy..." my head was spinning.  I'd been trying to convince myself of this possibility for so long but my lack of success was obvious as soon as I knew I might actually cry.  No!!!!  How could I cry at any news of the baby I would soon love so much more as an individual than as either sex??????  I managed to hold it together.  Eventually, in came the actual doctor to double-check the tech's work.  He was an older gray-haired guy, spry, with a gleam in his eye.  "So your husband is a resident here?"  He asked me.  I confirmed.  He then demanded that Mark (and Matthew) be brought back in.

When my boys arrived, the doctor began teasing.  "Now son, who's going to be pushing this baby out??"  "And who's going to be nursing this baby while you're on call???"  I guess the tech had told him that I wanted to find out but Mark didn't.  We all got a good chuckle out of it and still had him write it down and put it in a sealed envelope.  But once everyone else had left, I told Mark that I had to know.  

"I saw boy parts so I already know anyway.  There's no point in waiting.  I can't wait at this point."  Score:  I still wasn't crying.  Instead, I was shakily reminding myself that I'd always believed we'd have boy-boy-girl, and I'd wanted a close-in-age brother for Matthew.  Mark didn't say yes but he didn't say no, either.  As is the case with my dad, no "no" is a yes.  I told him I was going to open it as soon as we got in the car.  After concocting some reason not to get in the car ("Why fight to get Matthew into his car seat when we're just going across the street to Costco?") Mark still waited for me in the Costco parking lot with Matthew instead of going into the store.  I pointed to the envelope.  He didn't approach but didn't leave.  If you're wondering whether we have communication issues, why yes, but we love each other to death and that's all that matters, really.  I started opening the envelope.  I held my breath.  I could hardly believe I was about to find out, but at that point my slightly-wounded heart just wanted to get it over with.  I opened the card and suddenly all the other words on it glazed over and everything other than "GIRL" faded from my consciousness.  I could not believe it.  I was having a daughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

I bolted from the car and ran up to Mark screaming and pretty much accosting him with the news.  "We're having a GIRL!!!!  WE'RE HAVING A GIRL!!!  A GIRL!!!!!!!!!" I cried, shaking with the sort of elation you only feel a few times ever in life.  I think Mark was a little stunned at first but after about an hour of my intermittent squeals of delight, I started catching some grins he couldn't quite suppress.  When I asked him if my reaction made it worth finding out early, another of these grins appeared... despite his very best efforts ;)

While at first he didn't want us to tell anybody - other than my grandma whose health is and had been failing - I eventually convinced him that I could tell my mom and my best friend, since I was seeing each of them in person.  That soon turned into telling "close friends or family I can tell in person" since Mark acknowledged that finding out in person is still cooler than finding out in a Facebook post, even if it's "early."  Since my best friend had already been planning on throwing me a baby "sprinkle" (like a shower but smaller gifts for a second baby) during her summer in town, it occurred to us that we couldn't pass up doing it all in pink and having guests get baby-girl gifts.  Mark gave the go-ahead to announce the sex to the invitees via adorable invitations Hillary customized on Tiny Prints.  I will treasure these always:

Best invites ever.
Other shots from the girlie "sprinkle":

(Most of) My Boston Besties.
Hostess Hillary, me, and Connie.
Homemade pink lemonade (and home made sweet tea - easy!), orzo salad with veggies, and "bruschetta" of apricot, fontina, chicken, and prosciutto.  SO good.
Raspberry Ice Cubes for the homemade Pink Lemonade.  Thanks Pinterest!
Girlie "Black Magic Brownies" with pink baking glitter and silver and white sprinkles.
Dessert:  A trio of home made ice creams featuring Crunchy Coffee, Sour Cream Brown Sugar, and Blueberry.
A gift for the big-brother-to-be.  Thanks Sarah!
Hillary slaved over these hand made coaster sets, the sprinkle favors.
Eventually when skyping with my in-laws I referred to the baby as a "her" or a "she."  Yup, I'm pretty much the worst secret keeper ever.  My MIL asked point blank if we'd found out that it was a girl and there you have it:  The cat was out of the bag.  I delightedly called Mark's sister Erin to share our news, since her new baby Lisi had been born in May and I'd been dying to let her know of the same-age-same-sex cousins we now shared.  I then posted to Facebook.  Now I'm just waiting to meet her!

Her name will be Claire Annelise.  Mark and I picked out our baby names in college 13 years ago, Claire and Matthew.  He's been too attached to stray ("They already exist!") and so other names I've also loved (boy:  Christopher, Nicholas;  girl:  Audrina, Rosalie, Savannah, Elena, Irina, Sabrina, Sienna, Isabelle, and Annelise) probably never really had a chance.

Choosing a middle name for Claire is a struggle; it's such a short, delicate name that most other names overpower it.  In fact, that's my theory on why it's never that popular.  Because otherwise, in my opinion, it's really a great name.  It works well on all ages:  cute baby Claire, sweet little girl Claire, fun teenage Claire, professional Claire, middle-aged Claire, and elderly Claire.  It passes the "lawyer" test (aka the "senator" test) but without being too stuffy.  As my friend Amy noted, "it's simple, sweet, and feminine without being fussy."  (Did you know that people are like-minded about names?  Amy and Scot almost named their daughter Claire Elise and the only other name Mark considered for a nanosecond was "Brooke," which is the name they went with.  This like-mindedness about names has actually been shown in studies, and when I googled "middle name for Claire" I'd already considered most everything mentioned!).  Finally, all those flowery names I sort of dreamt of just don't sound good with our long, bulky last name.  Even the ones that would work don't actually sound good with it.

In the end, the final contestants were Claire Noelle, Claire Marie, Claire Elisabeth, and Claire Annelise.  Claire Marie was the obvious choice - it's every female in my family's middle name, my maternal grandmother's first name, la la la.  But I just don't like it (I can say that, right, since it's my own middle name?).  Maybe because of "Lisa Marie" Presley.   I think Mark favored Claire Elisabeth but when my other friend Sarah insisted that it's still pronounced with a "z" ("EliZabeth"), confirmed:  That spelling is too confusing and not satisfying.  I also sort of wanted to play up the more feminine, whimsical side of Claire, and the name "Elisabeth" is still pretty traditional and slightly heavy, even with the "s."

I do like when middle names are family names and while no other family names were really sounding great with Claire, it occurred to me that Annelise is sort of a compilation of other names.  We have two Nancy's in the family (my MIL and my aunt) and the name Nancy is actually a varient of Anne.  Obviously Lise and Lisa are both variants of Elizabeth.  Claire's oldest cousin is named Elise.  And her closest-in-age cousin's name (Lisi) is itself a variant of Annelise.  Most significantly to me, the name Annelise has an "e-l-i-s" in it.  So it sort of incorporates my maiden name, which is also Matthew's middle name.  Matthew Ellis and Claire Annelise.

In case that's not enough pain-staking detail, more on spelling:  The most traditional spelling is Anneliese (German) - Ann Frank's real name.  Annelise (Danish) came on the scene next and eventually the Americanized "Annalise."  In thinking about the spelling, my friend Susan pointed out that the "e" would tend to be a more delicate pronunciation that the "a."  It's such a subtle difference but she's definitely right, and we wanted delicate - again, trying not to overpower "Claire."  So "e" it was.  We then chose the "-ese" ending over the "-iese" ending because we want it pronounced "ees" not "eez."  Hopefully it goes without saying that the "Anne" is pronounced as such (not "Ahn").

And so there you have it.  Chapter 1 of my baby girl's story.  Now we're just waiting to meet her.  And I am so glad we found out it's her.  While I'm sure the joys of meeting and raising her will, as they have been with Matthew, be beyond compare, I would not have wanted to miss out on this very special "advent season."