A birthday love letter to my daughter

Doting on the newest addition

Karissa, Spring 2010

My dearest Karissa,

I can’t believe it has already been 11 years since you entered this world.  I remember just watching you sleep for hours, too afraid that if I closed my eyes I would wake up and you would only be a dream.  You were such a happy baby, always full of smiles.   I remember sleeping next to you, so that I could keep you close and keep you warm at the same time.  You were my first, so in some ways you were the guinea pig of motherhood for me.  I know I haven’t been perfect over the years, and I do have some regrets.  Unfortunately, in life, there are no “do-overs”.

First day of kindergarten 2005

Six years ago when I stepped out on my own, you were forced to grow up just a little faster.  You became the little mommy to your younger brothers when I wasn’t able to be with you.  I tried my best to make sure you got to still be a kid whenever you were with me, sometimes to your disliking!  You are a good role model for your younger brothers, always enjoying a challenge at school, and such a loving and caring little girl all around.

Always a loving big sister

The day I married your step-dad, you were so pretty in your little white dress.  You were all smiles that day, sharing in my own happiness and joy.  You seemed really excited to be gaining not only a great step-dad, but a fun step-sister that you could look up to as well.

Mommy's wedding day

The following summer, when I moved to Florida, I knew how sad you would be.  I also knew that you would try your best to be a good student at your new school, and make new friends once you got there.  I saw you thrive at your new school, getting straight A’s every report card.  We talked often, and I did my best to come see you as often as I could.  You seemed content, but that little sparkle in your eye wasn’t there anymore.  I feel responsible for that.  I often wish there had been some way I could make staying with you guys work.  Then I remember all the reasons that I had to move, and I know that I made the right choice, for all of us.

I remember how excited you were when you found out you were going to be a big sister again!  Even though your little brothers aggravate you often, you were still excited at the prospect of another baby.  Although I know you were really hoping for a little sister this time around, you took the news that “it” was going to be a “he” really well.  I will never forget your first meeting with your baby brother, at your fall concert.  You were so proud, and you smiled so big again!  I hadn’t seen you smile like that in so long!  You are such a caring little girl, and I’m thrilled that Tristan has you to look up to as well.  It was really fun to watch you “mother” him, so eager to change his diapers and hold him as often as you can.

Proud Sissy!

I love our little talks over the phone, and I really love hearing you get excited about things that are happening in your life.  Whether it be a friend’s birthday party, the talent show at school, or even your upcoming trip to see me over Spring Break, I’m all ears!

So, here it is, eleven years later.   I couldn’t have ever dreamed of having a little girl as smart and pretty and loving as you, but here you are.  I am so blessed.  I look forward to a time when I will be able to see you more often, and I know that time will come as you get a little older.  In the coming years you will be both breaking hearts and getting heartbroken, struggling with social pressures at school, and other things that life brings your way.  I just want you to know that through it all, you can count on me.  I will be there for you in any way that I can.  I love you and I’m so very proud to call you my daughter.

Karissa, Summer 2010

Love,

Mommy

My 6 month “Mommy” report card

It’s been six months since Tristan was born.  I have to admit, I had many ideas prior to his birth about how I was going to do things “right” this time around.  I was viewing him as my second chance at being a good mom, and giving him the family that I couldn’t give my other three kids.  You know, a mom and dad who are happy being together?

Along with that, I also wanted to invest as much time into him as I could.  I had grand ideas that I would only cloth diaper him.  I kind of gave up on the idea of ONLY cloth diapering, when I realized just how messy some of his blowouts could be and realizing that is NOT something I wanted to deal with while traveling, or at the grocery store, or even at my in-law’s while visiting.  So, I gave myself a permission slip to use disposable diapers anytime I leave the house.

Cloth diapers...a great idea I don't use 100% of the time

This worked out great for a while.  Lately, this has come to be more of an obstacle because some days I’m REALLY not feeling the whole wash/rinse routine with the diapers and will make up excuses like, “Well, after he has his big blowout of the day, I’ll put him in a cloth diaper”.  Truth be told, I am definitely not a poster child for cloth diaper advocacy.  I’m just too lazy to do it all the time.  I know there are moms out there that would NEVER put their child in a disposable diaper.  I’m just not one of them.

Another thing I decided I was going to do “right” this time around was nurse exclusively for at least six months, and not let the doctors pressure me into giving him cereal and/or baby food too early.  There is absolutely NO reason to feed your baby cereal or baby food until they are even 8 or 9 months so long as they are nursing well and mom’s diet is sufficient to support baby’s nourishment.  I feel my diet is more than sufficient, and I really think I do a great job of restricting my diet to mostly good clean foods so that Tristan gets the benefit of those nutrients as opposed to sodium and sugar overload.  I was successful in this task, and Tristan has just started to try baby food.  We skipped the cereal altogether, as white rice cereal has no real nutritional value.  The multigrain cereals have a bit more texture to them, so we’ll be waiting for a bit for him to try those.  So far, his favorites are carrots.  He’s working on the green veggies, like spinach, but hasn’t really taken a liking to those just yet.  I still haven’t started him on any juice and don’t plan to.  I think juice is full of sugar and empty calories, so we’ll be sticking to breastmilk for now.

Look at my happy boy

Co-sleeping is another thing I’ve managed to do right.  I can’t imagine having to get up in the middle of the night, every 2-3 hours, to the sound of him crying from across this house.  When he wakes up hungry, all I have to do is roll over to nurse him.  He doesn’t cry when he wakes usually, because I’m so close that I can respond to him waking up quickly.  I think this is what has helped to make him such an agreeable baby.  He’s always happy and smiling (most of the time!).  I will continue to co-sleep with him until he is ready to transition to that beautiful crib we bought him.

Too pretty to sleep in? Nah....Mommy just likes to snuggle him!

All in all, I think I’m doing pretty good.  I’ve had lots of practice at being a mom, and I will say that I am really enjoying having a baby around again.  Since it’s been so long since Jacob was a baby, it’s almost like the first time all over again.

Is it fair to compare?

As a mother of four children, I find myself sometimes “comparing” them to one another.  Not where they can hear me, but just inside my own little head.  I’m mostly comparing developmental things and milestones.  For example, I will compare how big Tristan is compared to Karissa’s size when she was his age.  That’s typical mom stuff there.  I think that type of comparison is just fine, and does no harm!  But, when I do other types of comparing, I wonder if I’m over-thinking things, or if I have a valid concern?  Let me explain where I’m going with this.  Two years ago, my son Nathan was in the first grade.  The first grade at his school does the “Flat Stanley” project, where they send a paper version of themselves to a family member or friend in another state and that person becomes the “Flat Stanley” host for several days.  The host family then sends back a “report” of what is special about our state, what we did while we were there, pictures, etc.  In addition, the student would include a letter to the host, written by themselves.  Nathan’s letter was VERY legible.  It was written on the type of paper that has the guidelines…you know, a solid line at the top, a dotted line in the middle, and a solid line at the bottom.  It was very short and to the point.  Now, Jacob is in first grade.  He has the same project.  It’s the same time of year that Nathan did his project (actually, it’s a couple of weeks later than when Nathan had to do his).  Jacob’s letter was written on regular wide rule loose leaf paper.  No guidelines.  Jacob’s letter was barely legible.  He drew the cutest picture, and I could make out that he drew a picture of our house, and included me, Tommy, Karissa, Nathan, himself, Tristan, Helo and Lilly in the house.  He also drew a picture of his step-sister Brianna in the pool out back.  He even got so detailed as to put the “125” on the mailbox that the mailman was delivering to.  However, the writing part was not so good.  Most of the words were misspelled.  Many were so misspelled that I have been unable to translate them!  Let me give you a sample:

to ma ev thing he like to ent and to do. he like to eat vechtubols a lot and he like to play with bwrub? alus and guns and stuf like that but he will be new so Thristin will not be vavey hapey if you show him it to Thristin for the fisrt time he will pobley not be vavey clos to Thristin.

to Flindue

from Jacob

YIKES!  So, my heart breaks because Jacob is the one that has had the least “Mommy” time of all the kids.  He doesn’t have me around to help him with his reading and his homework.  Karissa had my help until the end of 2nd grade.  Nathan had me through the end of Kindergarten (which is when he learned to read).  Jacob didn’t have me for ANY school.  Not even Pre-K.  I feel this shows in their development and progress in school.  Jacob still has a speech impediment, and he writes like he talks.  Make sense?

I want to make it CLEAR that I’m pretty sure that Jacob’s teacher wasn’t privy to the letter he sent me.  I believe that was part of the assignment that may have been optional.  Nathan’s letter was most likely seen by his teacher, and I can see some erase marks on his that shows he had it wrong at one point and fixed it.  So, I’m in no way blaming the teachers here.  This is a case of my kids not having anybody around to help them and show them the right way to do things.  Looks like I have my work cut out for me this summer!

If any of you are homeschoolers…any tips on helping Jake to “get it”?  I would appreciate any help I can get!

Tristan’s Amazing Home Birth Story

This post is soooooo long overdue.  My handsome little man will be 4 months old in just a few hours.  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone!  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I was fast approaching two weeks past my “due” date, and growing increasingly anxious with each day.  Then something started to happen.  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I woke up to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night for probably the 9 gazillionth time during this pregnancy.  When I laid back down, I thought I felt a slight twinge of a contraction.  I figured I was probably just imagining things again, so I forced myself to go back to sleep.  When I woke up early the next morning, I was still feeling the same type of twinge…and thinking it might be just a little bit stronger.  Hmmm…Is today going to be the day??  I wondered.
I ate some breakfast and went about my day.  I tried to work, but I remember being VERY easily distracted.  I had some homework that needed to get done, but again…distracted!  So, I decided to run out and do a few errands with my mom who was in town, awaiting Tristan’s arrival with me and Tommy.  I drove us to Kohl’s and we walked around and did some shopping.  I picked up a bunch of stuff for Tommy’s future new home in Afghanistan–sheets, towels, etc.  I found a couple of adorable baby outfits that I just had to have for Tristan.  Mom picked out a couple of tops for herself.  Oh, and I found a great robe that would be awesome for right after the birth.   While we were walking around the store I found myself having to pause to breathe a little bit through the contractions.  At this point I was sure I was having contractions, but I was still thinking that it was going to stop and not progress.

When we got home, I was putting everything away, and Mom had already volunteered to make dinner-beef and broccoli out of the Weight Watchers cookbook.  Tommy had been checking in with me all day via telephone and was home for the day from work.  I went into my office to finish up the last assignments for the week for school, all the while having to stop and breathe through those contractions.  I don’t remember exactly what I was working on, but I DO remember that I felt a lot of pressure to get it done!  I finally finished up the assignment and shut down my laptop for the evening.  Mom finished dinner and I was REALLY interested in eating…until I walked into the kitchen.  All of a sudden I decided it might NOT be such a great idea to chow down at dinner.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and called my midwife instead.

Birth Bed all prepped

Pam was wonderful.  When I called her, she at first told me to call her back when they ( contractions ) got really hard.  She was out running errands herself.  Then she called me back within the hour (I’d say it was around 7 pm by now) to tell me she could come whenever I was ready.  I told her we would call her in a little while.   I started to really time my contractions at this point.  I was feeling very anxious, not really knowing what to expect.  Even though I had three other children, never had I attempted to give birth at home, without an epidural or any other “modern” medical treatments.  Tommy was starting to get really attentive towards me and help me through the contractions.  Then around 9 pm I asked Tommy to call Pam and let her know I needed her.  She was at my house with her daughter and assistant, Muraiha, within 15 minutes.  They brought all their equipment in, with Tommy’s help, and began to set up shop in the bedroom.  I continued to bounce away on my exercise ball, whilst wearing my snuggie.  What a sight I was!

Laboring on the ball with my snuggie

Pam came out and was sitting in the living room, watching me work through the contractions.  I remember her telling me to try to relax during the contraction and not tense up so much.  Boy, that was really tough to do!  I had to put all of my effort and concentration into that task.  Pam decided it would probably be a while, and she had forgotten her book at home, so she asked if I minded if she ran home to get her book.  I was fine with that, and she left Muraiha there to keep an eye on things.

Soon after Pam left, I asked Muraiha to check me.  I was really curious as to how far I had come, and how much further I would have to go.  By now it was around 10 pm.  Muraiha checked me and she said I was around 3-4 cm.  Bummer!  I decided I needed a good soak in the bath to help get me through the contractions.

Relaxing in the bath

Tommy was amazing.  He held my hand through the contractions, even through my “death grip”.  He heated the water up when I asked, ran and got the fan for me when I got too warm, kept me covered with a warm towel when I got the chills, and continued to time the contractions for me.  At this point, timing wasn’t really necessary, but it was helping me to stay in a rhythm and pass the time quickly.  Before I knew it, it was 1 am. I had been in that bath for nearly 3 hours!  During that time, Pam had come back and was continuing to check the baby’s heartbeat and check in on Tommy and I to see how we were doing.  I was feeling a lot of pressure, and the jets were starting to really irritate me during the contractions–both the pressure of them and the noise of them.  I decided I was ready to get out!  Tommy helped me out and helped me to get dressed.  I decided I wanted to bounce on the ball, so he rolled up his mechanic’s stool behind me and applied lots of pressure to my hips and lower back, and was constantly massaging my neck and back in between contractions.

Some of the hardest work I've ever done

While he and I were in our bedroom “laboring”, my mom, Pam and Muraiha were out in the living room chatting and hanging out.  It was so peaceful here at home.  There were no intrusions, no loud noises…it was awesome.  I wouldn’t have known they were out there if Pam and Muraiha hadn’t been checking in on me every now and again.

Pam, Muraiha, and Mom (L to R)

I bounced away for quite some time and was getting zero relief between contractions.  I was starting to feel a ton of pressure and told Tommy to tell them that it was time to push.  Pam and Muraiha came back in to check me.  I was at 9 cm finally!  Pushing was just around the corner…I was exhausted, but excited at the same time.  I started out trying to push on my back, just because that is the only way I knew how.

First stages of pushing

This was clearly not going to work.  Gravity was working against me.  I asked Pam if I could change positions.  Muraiha suggested hands and knees, kind of like a squat.  Tommy supported the front side of me, while Pam and Muraiha applied counter pressure warm compresses with a little EVOO to help me out.  That felt AMAZING!  I pushed, and pushed, and pushed.  It didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere except tired, and fast.

I was getting lots of encouragement from Tommy…”you’re doing great babe…come on, push a little harder…you can do it…”  Oh my goodness it was driving me NUTS!  I just shushed him…”SSSHHHHHHHHHHH” I kept repeating.  He was like, “What?”.  I told him to be quiet.  He got the picture.  I was trying to be as nice as possible.  I didn’t want to be the mean, screaming lunatic that is so often portrayed in film and television in birth scenes.  And I CERTAINLY didn’t want to remake the scene from The Backup Plan with Jennifer Lopez.

I continued to push and finally felt like I was getting somewhere.  I dug my grips into Tommy’s shirt (and apparently his bladder, so he told me later) and pushed with everything I had left.  Finally!  Tristan was being born!!  Tristan entered this world at 3:50 am on October 9th, 2010!

The first picture ever taken of Tristan

Tommy was still in front of me, and I got myself turned around so he was sitting behind me, supporting me (as he had been throughout this entire labor…heck the entire pregnancy!).  Apparently he was snapping pictures too…one of the few men I know who can multi-task!

Daddy's first glimpses

What a joyous occasion!  Every ounce of tired left my body.  I was feeling such a rush!  I couldn’t believe at the amazing feat my body has just accomplished!

Looking stunned....definitely not stunning!

Tommy did his daddy duty and cut the cord…what a beautiful moment.

Tommy cutting the cord-so happy to give him this opportunity

I delivered the placenta, and in the meantime was attempting to nurse this beautiful little boy.

Tristan's first nursing session

Afterwards, Muraiha helped me into the shower so I could get cleaned up while Pam, Mom and Tommy got the bedroom cleaned up, bed stripped down and put back together and the laundry started.  When I got out of the shower, my room looked like nothing had ever happened.  All of Pam’s equipment was even packed up, with the exception of the few items they would need for Tristan’s exam.  Muraiha started to do Tristan’s exam once I got myself settled back into my cozy bed.

Tristan's Newborn Exam

The exam wasn’t rushed at all…it was so cool to experience birth from my favorite place…my bedroom.  I was so excited to find out how big my little man was.

Preparing for the weigh in

Oh my goodness…my little guy weighed in at 9 pounds!  I couldn’t believe it!  9 pounds and not a single solitary tear!  Thanks to Pam and Muraiha!!

9 pounds...does that really say 9 pounds??

Once the exam was done, Tommy and I were left to enjoy our new little family, in the peace and comfort of our home.  I honestly can’t compare this experience to anything else I’ve ever done.  This was Tommy’s first ever birth experience and I have to say he is definitely a home birth advocate now.  I would never do this any other way (unless medically necessary, of course) again.  I feel somewhat empowered by the whole experience, and I really feel that it brought Tommy and I even closer than we were before.  He was my rock during the labor, and I was so impressed with how he was there for me.

So in love with our new little guy

Tristan Davis Bowling
Born October 9, 2010 at home
3:50 am
9 lbs, 22 inches

I am special...I was born at home