Saturday, December 31, 2011

We've got a streak going

As we were putting away Christmas decorations, we discovered we have Baby's First Christmas Ornaments for 2010 and 2011....

Rob is always joking that he wants a new baby each Christmas. Looks like he's got his wish for the past two years running.

Friday, December 30, 2011

From Wombie to Roomie Part 2 - Nora Cate's Arrival

So here it is, the riveting conclusion to Nora Cate's birth. If you missed the first part, you can find it here.

I left off with Rob racing us to the hospital. Me propped up in the front seat talking through every contraction so that I wouldn't have the baby in the front seat. I was feeling a lot of pressure, more and more with each contraction, and panicked that we wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. It's a good thing we're only a few minutes from St. Mary's, we couldn't have made it any farther. My water broke about half way there. Luckily, the only pants I could find at home were Adidas nylon workout pants which were lined with sweat pant material.... no clean up required!

Rob swung into the Women's Pavilion turn around. He jumped out and grabbed the emergency phone. "My wife's having a baby NOW!" A nurse met us at the entrance with a wheel chair and told the nurse there was no way I could sit in it. I had a contraction and then made my way on foot to the elevator. 3 floors up I had another contraction just as the elevator doors opened. I was just sure the baby was going to come with that contraction and tried to do everything I could to keep her in.

Rob calls it my Monster Roar moment. I tell him I call that sound a Guttural Moan in birth classes so as not to scare the moms. Whatever you want to call it, I let it out just as the doors of the elevator opened on the LDR floor as 3 more nurses greeted us. "Oh great" I thought, "they're probably thinking I'm 2 cm dilated - in early labor - and a huge baby." Later, I also thought I must have scared the daylights out of any laboring woman within earshot. There were probably many pleas for epidurals after that from women on the floor. However, I must say that my groans weren't so much due to pain as they were pressure and trying to not push out a baby on the elevator. That wail did however, get me a room immediately - totally skipping triage. I walked off the elevator straight into the first room with an open door I saw, Room 14.

My pants however, never did quite make it as I lost them somewhere along the way. I got up on the bed and pleaded with the nurse to tell me I was a 10 and could push. She checked me at 3:50, and said I was 10cm, 100% effaced, and +1 station. I then asked who was going to catch the baby and Rob asked if that meant I could push. I knew my body was going to whether I joined it's efforts or not. But, it seemed like all the nurses stepped 5 ft back. One finally said, "I will if it comes to that." Nurse G had only caught 2 babies previously. In our haste we had only called our midwife, not the hospital to let them know we were on our way. So, unfortunately they had no idea who we were, they asked who I was, my social (which I remembered!) and if I was a patient there and who my doctor was. To them, we had just walked off the street.

I didn't know it at the time, but as I was getting off the elevator, Nurse G did a "round-up" sign with her hand calling all the nurses into our room, she knew our baby would be coming before our midwife would have a chance to arrive. Nurses flooded into our room for back-up for Nurse G.

It didn't seem like anyone was in the catching position though, and Rob told them that our first was born in about 10 minutes. I asked Nurse G if she had any techniques to help me not tear (because I tore so badly with Eli). She hemmed and hawed enough to make me a little nervous, so with the next contraction I wailed, "I Want Judi!" for the entire duration of the contraction. I was still refusing to forcefully push because Midwife Judi had not yet arrived and I didn't want Nora to be born too quickly. I asked the nurses if Judi was there, if she'd been called, where was she. Rob gave them a stern look and nodded his head yes, as if to say - "tell her she's coming".

Another nurse attempted to find Nora's heartbeat with the EFM sensors. I did not want to be touched; however, I was curious how baby girl was handling such an intense labor. The nurse never was able find a heartbeat. This made Rob and I very nervous. I kept asking if she was okay and don't remember ever being answered - which added to my uncertainty. But in my labor haze, I remembered being a doula for moms in labor when this was the case once the baby descended so far into the pelvis. I prayed this was the case with Nora.

I never did really push because I was afraid of tearing and wanted Judi to arrive so badly for the birth. I was uncertain of how hard to push because of the great intensity of the contractions. I was much less composed than with Elijah's birth and mostly hung on the railing of the bed groaning through contractions. I guess that's what happens when you labor for less than 2 hours and more or less are just along for the ride. Rob did an amazing job of telling me when he saw the head, when her head was born, her shoulders, etc. He was amazing for me - keeping me connected and knowing what was going on and what various sensations were.

Nora Catherine was born healthy, pink, and squalling at 3:56am into the arms of Nurse G. A full 6 minutes after arriving. Everyone was so relieved she was here and healthy. I think I squealed, "my baby, she's mine" as they placed her on my chest.

Nora Cate had been so low for so many weeks, that finally pushing her out was the biggest relief I've ever felt. I instantly felt not pregnant and like I could move again. Judi arrived during the short time between Nora's birth and the birth of the placenta. She almost made it from all the way across town. She stitched up my 2nd degree tear and made over how wonderful Nora was and scolded me for not calling her earlier. I jokingly asked for an epidural while she repaired my bottom and then said, "but seriously, can I get the epidural now?

Soon, I was set up in our room with orange juice, an ice pack, and some Motrin. I felt like a million bucks and was on cloud 9 with my little girl on my chest. Several nurses and staff came to visit and see who had caused so much commotion at 4am. And the nurses joked that they needed the excitement - it had been a little boring until we arrived. Rob and I were soon left on our own though to enjoy our new little one - who nursed like a champ from the beginning. I remember watching her in the early morning hours and thinking how beautiful she was - but how she looked nothing like Elijah. And how weird that was that we could make a completely different baby.

Several medical people have since instructed Rob that if we have more babies, he needs to take an emergency childbirth class because it's probable that my labors will be this quick in the future. And unfortunately, my personality is a bad match for this predicament. I seriously hate admitting I'm in labor and try to deny it for as long as possible. I also try to wait to go to the hospital for as long as possible. Luckily, this time, I did wake Rob up and we made it. But had we lived farther away or had I waited much longer to wake Rob we wouldn't have. I really dislike the idea of going to the hospital for false alarms and getting checked repeatedly, which may be what needs to happen next time so that we can be sure of our baby being born not in the car or at home without support.

Now, as a birth teacher, I would seriously be doing a disservice to not include the following information. (Though I totally get that this was an easy labor and I don't want it to sound at all like I'm complaining about the awesome birth that we got to experience with Nora. After all, we got a happy healthy baby at the end of not even 2 short hours - and I did not have to experience the exhaustion of a 24 hr + labor). I get that I'm lucky. But, first stage labor (basically what I skipped entirely) serves important roles for both mom and baby. Nora and I missed out on some of these benefits. Fast labor is NOT the goal of any birth.

Contractions are GOOD for baby. Nora did not have enough contractions to help clear her lungs of mucous. She had trouble clearing mucous for a couple days after birth. Thankfully, she was born breathing well - as contractions also help stimulate the lungs to begin breathing at birth. Secondly, she swallowed a good bit of blood during the birth process, from what I remember, this was because of the fast birth. It was quite alarming to watch her struggle to spit up what looked like chewing tobacco for the first few days after birth. She was also born with a few burst blood vessels in her eyes and a small heart murmur - all these can be normal newborn issues, but I can't help wonder/worry if perhaps they are due to the fast intense labor.

And, I'm not quite sure, but I'm afraid that some of the things we wanted for Nora's birth were not followed because hospital staff didn't have time to review our birth plan. I don't know if they were even able to review our chart before her birth! For instance , I think Nora's cord was cut before the placenta stopped pulsating, costing Nora about 6 months of iron stores for her blood.

First stage labor is also a time of hormonal, physical, and emotional changes in mom. I bruised and tore because of such a fast labor and birth. And while I'm happy with my birth experience with Nora and wouldn't trade it, I do miss having the chance to work with my labor. I had planned to spend labor with my family, taking Eli for walks, baking for the nurses station, taking a bath, and listening to music. While this may be overly romantic, I barely had time to wake up. Instead labor was fast, furious, and intense from the beginning. We didn't ease into anything. And I spent the duration of it wondering where I was in labor and what was going on -not having enough time to wrap my head around much of anything. I also didn't have the support of the birth team we'd assembled. Both our doula and midwife missed the birth due to no fault of their own. I'm so glad labor did begin when it did in the wee hours of the morning, because had it not, Rob might not have been home (what would I have done without him!) and we wouldn't have been able to make it to the hospital in any kind of traffic. He was much more clear on where I was in labor - had I been home by myself in the middle of the afternoon, I don't think I would have even called him.

Lastly, I must say I am very grateful for the care we received by all the nurses, doctors, and lactation consultant. They did such a great job. St. Mary's was a wonderful birth place and we'll go there again. I couldn't have asked for better care of me, Nora Cate, or Rob. They were all simply amazing.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big Brother

I'm no longer afraid of having ruined his life

Elijah pulled up a chair to get a bit closer to little sister. Winnie the Pooh is so much better to watch together - holding hands.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hormonal Flux

So after the earlier post on our family of four on how rosy life is, I thought I'd include another bit of realism - postpartum hormones!

Baby blues hit hard with Elijah - probably a combo of a rough PA winter, an early baby, many sleepless nights and being overwhelmed with learning how to mother. It wasn't easy, but I remember them fading pretty easily once we'd adjusted and I got longer stretches of sleep.

This go around the baby blues came again all be it much softer. And, with so much help this go around and a full term easy baby - life has been much easier and I'm so much more rested. Normal baby blues provide more comic relief than hot flashes during newborn days - So I thought I'd share some snippets from our life lately.

Rob and I tried to fly out the door last Monday morning for our 1st pediatrician visit with Nora Cate. My mom was still in town, but we decided Eli should go with us so he didn't feel left out or left alone again. I made the appointment for 8am so we wouldn't be infected by germy little sick kids. This meant leaving the house by 7:30, which meant being functional and out of sweatpants way to early. Oh, mistake. We ended up in the tahoe at 7:50, Rob driving in the front seat by himself. Me in the back with the kids without brushed hair, in the same sweatpants I slept in with a large thermos of coffee. Eli was crying because he didn't have breakfast, Nora was crying because the carseat was cold and I was crying because a song I used to sing at Christmastime in a friend's church when I was little came on the radio - Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem. Poor Rob had 3 in the backseat boohoo-ing the whole way to the office.

Rob and I have had fun playing a new game nightly. It's called, "High, Low, Crazy Thought". High Low is a game you may know. You tell your high moment of the day followed by your lowest moment of the day. We've altered this a bit to include your craziest thought of the day. Some of my crazies have included - "we've ruined Eli's life", "what if Nora has some sort of birth injury from being born so quickly into the arms of a nurse?", and "won't we miss life as a family of 3? Eli is the coolest kid ever and this girl doesn't do anything yet!"

Another - in retrospect - funny hormonal moment came when a little 5 year oldish boy saw Elijah crying (he was crying because Nora had just gotten upset and that upset Eli). The little boy bent down and started talking to Eli. Great mother that I am didn't even realize Eli had been crying or what the little boy was telling Elijah as I was paying our bill. I then saw his mother bend down and shake the kid saying, "Don't tell that little boy Santa's not giving him any presents because he's crying! That's not nice!" What? I wanted to bend down and tell that kid, "Didn't you hear the 11 o'clock news last night? Santa's been shot - nobody's getting any presents!" I controlled my hormones and my tongue. Though, it may have turned out differently had Eli been old enough to understand him or believed in Santa in the first place....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From Wombie to Roomie Part 1 - Nora Cate's Arrival

Nora Cate's birth was what is known as a precipitous labor. A precipitous labor is define as labor lasting less than 3 hours from first contraction to birth. I was holding Nora Cate about 1 hr 56 min after labor began.

But, let's back up just a bit.

Monday and Tuesday I had resigned that baby girl was never coming and that I might as well keep myself busy and distracted. I made a couple returns, ran errands, cleaned the refrigerator, and even baked a cake Tuesday night, i.e. major nesting. I should have realized labor was imminent. I specifically baked the cake for baby girl's birthday, but decided instead of writing "Happy Birthday Baby Girl", I should ice it with "We're Waiting!" So that we could go ahead and eat it before it went stale.

Note to self: If you find yourself baking a baby birthday cake watch out! Notice I didn't get a chance to write anything. I baked the cake at 9pm Tuesday night and was too tired to frost it. I went to bed deciding I would frost and decorate it the next day. Turned out Nora couldn't wait until then.

Tuesday, I also told Rob that I thought it was a romantic idea to have a baby in the middle of the night - the world is still with a cover of darkness for protection. And, I debated all day whether or not to call my mom back up to Knoxville to be with Eli. She'd already come and gone once for a false alarm, so I decided to wait. All these things should have tipped me off that something was brewing in my belly.

Rob and I went to bed Tuesday watching the Biggest Loser Finale. Rob said we should have ordered me a biggest loser t-shirt for before and an evening dress for the after picture to wear to the hospital and he could dress up like Bob. I told him I didn't think I'd be in a joking mood once we went to the hospital.

I woke up somewhere around 2am because I heard Eli stir. I told Rob to go cover Elijah back up.
Rob did though he doesn't remember this request. I laid awake in bed and noticed a few contractions. I got up and went to the bathroom. I had another contraction there. I came back in our room and debated whether or not to wake Rob up. He got mad at me a couple weeks ago after I had a couple hours of contractions before I woke him up, so I decided to go ahead and wake him up around 2:17 am. I said, "Rob". "Hmmm"...quickly followed by a "yeah, baby?" He had been on high alert for a week or so. "I may be in labor" I replied. "Probably not, but I thought you'd want to know. Help me time a few, but I'm probably not in labor and will just go back to bed"

We laid awake for what seemed like forever before I had another contraction. Then one came. It was 8 long minutes before I had another one. They were strong. But I thought too far apart to mean anything serious so I told Rob I was going back to bed and we probably wouldn't need to leave for the hospital - if this even was labor- until 7 or 8 am. Rob suggested I get a snack. He knew I was in labor and also thought we'd be leaving for the hospital before 8am. The snack didn't sound like a bad idea so I went to the kitchen and got a bowl of yogurt and banana. Without a single contraction along the way. I got back to the bedroom and ate my snack. Finishing it without any contractions as well. This further convinced me that this was like every other night and that I'd go to bed and wake up still very pregnant.

As I had my snack though, Rob and I talked about who would take Elijah, when we'd call the midwife, and when we'd let my mom know to head up to Knoxville. All hypothetically in my mind however, because I'm convinced I'm not really in labor.

We turned the light out and I started to settle back in to go back to sleep. Rob got up and got dressed saying he was going to have breakfast - and then get ready for us to leave. I didn't catch that last part and thought he just wanted breakfast because I had woke him up in the middle of the night. He, however, was apparently much more convinced that I was in labor. It's now around 3am.

Before Rob gets out of the bedroom doorway, I gasp, "Rob! - ohhhhh" I had a huge contraction where I could almost feel myself dilating. Rob was by my side in an instant. I had another major contraction. "Okay," I said, "I'll call my mom now." My mom and I had a deal that if I went into labor in the middle of the night, she would wait until 5am to come if I told her as soon as I knew. I don't like people to know when I'm in labor. I didn't want her to be on the road in the middle of the night. I had 3 contractions on the phone with her, one right after the other. I told her it was a good day to head up to Knoxville.

After that Rob asked when we should call the midwife. My contractions spaced out once again. I said not yet, I'm not far enough in labor and it's so early in the morning to wake her. My midwife, however, had told me to call her with my first contraction because she thought I'd go fast. Of course, I didn't listen. I'm very private when labor starts and knew I'd never call her that early. Then I had another big contraction and decided okay, it's time to call. By the end of our short conversation, I went from - "we're going to labor at home for a few more hours" to "Oh, my we've got to leave now, I feel kinda pushy!"

Rob was getting dressed and loaded the car before I knew what was happening. He asked who we should call to get Eli and I said, "I don't know- I'm so confused, I can't think!" "Oh no!" I thought, "I'm in transition and we're not yet to the hospital". With the next contraction my legs started shaking. "Oh no!" I thought "I am in transition, we're not going to get there in time." Rob dashed out to get out next door neighbor while I tried to call her on the phone. She answered and I groaned, "Can you come NOOOOOWWW!" The NOW being my first really big pushing contraction. Rob raced back into the bedroom hearing our neighbor on my speakerphone and I told him to call 9-1-1 we weren't going to make it to the hospital. I had to stay up on my tippy toes to not push through contractions now. After I said that though, I thought, "it will take them just as long to get to us as it will for us to get to St. Mary's" - "And, I don't want EMT's to deliver my baby." I retracted my plea for 9-1-1 and said we'd have to leave right now.

Rob flew out the door to pull the Tahoe up to the street and our neighbor came in the door to me having another contraction leaning over the kitchen island. I talked through it trying not to push. I told her all about Eli, gave her a list of phone numbers, and showed her the notes I had for instructions about him that I'd left on the fridge. Later, she said she had no idea I was that close to having a baby. We left the house around 3:40am. I asked Rob to let me set in the back. He refused saying he wanted me up in the front seat with him. I told him I'd be more comfortable in the back. He refused. I learned later it was because he knew I'd have the baby in the backseat if he let me lie down. He was right. I spent the entire ride to the hospital hanging on to the hand rail with one hand and propping myself up with the other hand on my side. Rob flew (safely) through our neighborhood about 60mph to St. Mary's. I kept saying "we're not going to make it." And Rob kept thinking "should I pull over?"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays from the Hartleys

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Family of Four

As you can imagine, we've been busy around our house this week, but here's an update on how everyone's adjusting....and some more pictures!

Nora Cate

Our precious girl. Obviously she's probably the best adjusted. She is the easiest baby in the world with a minor exception of some gas issues before bedtime. She sleeps, eats and sleeps some more. Her being so easy has really allowed us time to love on Eli during this transition. She's a great new family member. Some things we're learning about Nora: She has her daddy's looks, but her mama's personality. She loves to eat and a schedule. She's already set herself up on an eating schedule (something Eli never did) and she's gained almost 1 lb in her 1 week old life. Way to make your mama proud sweet girl! Speaking of her mom's personality she also has a flare for the dramatic, but otherwise pretty easy-going. Her cry is either just a whimper or a squeal whale song cry. She also gets the loudest hiccups. Now I know how she shook my belly nightly with those tremors.

I think she is the most beautiful girl-baby I've ever seen. She has Rob's darker complexion and dark eyes, long slender fingers and dark muppet hair.


From the moment we brought her home Thursday evening, Eli squeals "BABY!" every single time he sees her. This is notable because he is a man of very few words. He wants to hold her constantly, kiss her on the mouth, and carry her around. We entertain the first 2 requests every time possible and we're working on helping him understand he can't carry her. Most of the time after he's asked to hold her and we put her on his lap, he immediately says, "no no no" and wants to just look at her. He's a funny bird. But I think he loves his sister already. She's been knocked around, poked, prodded, and I'm sure much more to come by big brother. But she's a tough lady. Eli is anxiously awaiting being about to drag her around like a rag doll.

He was/is a little confused. In my postpartum delirium, I'm afraid he's been scarred by waking up without me home Wednesday morning and then seeing me in the strange hospital environment. Whenever he senses someone is leaving, especially Ma, he's at the door in a flash shoes in hand, not to be left behind again. He got upset one evening when he heard Rob and I talking about going out to see Christmas lights. Poor kid understands more than we give him credit for.

All in all though he's been a complete dream. His biggest struggles have been nap and night time where he's taken longer to settle and go to sleep than normal. The closest he's come to acting out against Nora has been while I'm feeding her, he'll occasionally try to push her off my lap (ouch) and snuggle with me. When that happens, I either move seats and let Eli sit beside me, or I interrupt her meal and hand her over to Rob. Little girl's not hurting for calories and 2nd kids get the short end of the stick sometimes. She's never fussed, though. Very easy going.

My mom gave Elijah lots of attention while she was here, spoiling him with too many treats. Early Chirstmas presents haven't hurt either. And a quiet newborn have allowed for a pretty smooth transition for our boy. I'm looking forward to Rob's parents arrival to help carry us through this time period of needed extra attention and love. We were able to take Eli to the park yesterday on a very mild December afternoon. And Rob takes him with him for each and every little errand. These things have kept Eli busy and distracted. What a great kid.

My first little love


Rob has been super sweet, attentive, and patient. Such a great partner for me. He's picked up the house work for me sense my mom's gone home. And even before she left, he's been pitching in with the extra work that comes with already having a toddler. He's also made me feel special in my post pregnancy puffiness and during those moments after having a baby where your husband knows more about your person than you ever wanted.

He's also been patient with all my requests. "Husband can I have some tea. And please bring me another diaper. And have you seen my pen. Eli needs a drink before you sit down." And so on and so on.

He's fallen hard for this little girl. And I've fallen for him all over again.

Wife, Ma, Danielle

For me, it's not gotten hard yet really. Though my mom just went home yesterday and I've attempted little more since she left than taking a shower and giving Eli a bath. Once we came home from the hospital life has been surprisingly easier than the last time around with a newborn. Being in the hospital was hard. I missed Elijah like crazy. I missed him so much it hurt. I wanted to be with him so badly, I talked the hospital ped into letting us come home early if we promised to come back the next morning for an additional test (baby was Kuhn's +, no biggie). After we arrived home - life began as a family of four and I was able to relax having both my babies with me, sleep in my own bed, and shower in our bath. Oh it was good to be home. This is totally different from Elijah - they basically had to kick us out and I cried in the Tahoe for an hour while we tried to figure out how to strap in a car seat.


So far, it's been a million times easier this go around. There is a BIG difference in the abilities of a full term baby and a pre term baby. Nora Cate nurses like a champ, wakes up on her own to be fed, is not sleepy at the breast and is gaining weight well. I love full term babies and will gladly trade being uncomfortable for a month to have such a mature baby. She sleeps like a champ too, partly because I think her little digestive track is more fully formed and more easily processes what she eats. We have only a minor struggle with gas this go around. For me too, it's been easier. I didn't tear as badly - nor did I lose the excessive amount of blood that I did with Eli. I have a ton of energy - though to be fair, I've really only attempted to dress myself, shower, and write Thank Yous. I enjoy (carefully) wrestling Eli on our bed and am able to play on the floor with him. I get a lot more sleep than with Eli and I've learned more tricks this go around. Nora sleeps on her side (my babies don't do to well on their backs), nursing is easier and more relaxed. We're not afraid of breaking her and we've got all our baby stuff. I'm not overwhelmed with learning how to be a mother. I guess we just know more of what to do this time. I'm just focusing on resting, healing and ENJOYing our new family.

Don't get me wrong, it's been hard. And will probably get harder once family has gone home and people stop bringing meals and gifts. But, I love this life with my babies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

She's Mine!

And she's finally here! She arrived like a freight train, more about that later.

But here's the good stuff - Nora Catherine

Little sweet Hartley feet!

It's okay Nora Cate - I had a double chin for awhile there too. Yours is way cuter.

News of the Big Day

My sweet girl. I think I'm going to like this girl.

This is the same outfit I wore home from the hospital that my Grandma made for me. I asked my mom what if I'd been a boy? - Her answer "it's gender neutral".

Look mom! She's here!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Waiting on a little girl

39 Weeks pregnant. I've never been 39 weeks pregnant before. It's not as bad as I originally thought it would be when I was dying to be done at 36. My body has adjusted to baby's new position and I've gotten a second wind - the cleaning bug has yet to hit though - as is evident by my undone house. I've also had plenty of time to get rid of my cold/cough and replenish my energy. Don't get me wrong - I was waking up everyday analyzing my body...Is today the day? Did my body forget how to have a baby? Will I ever go into labor? What if I go more than 2 weeks past???

I've been able to relax a bit though. Our dates were off some and we thankfully learned today that we have one more week than we thought we did. I'm so glad to have the time I feel little girl may need. I'm also happy to relax about feeling the need to go into labor to prevent induction. We've got plenty of time now!

Still, it takes effort to look on the bright side of not yet having baby girl. I'm getting so excited to see, hear, and smell her. To name her. And for Elijah to meet her! But, some things we've been able to do to stay busy and productive and entertained while we wait are - we got to enjoy Thanksgiving as a family of 3 for the last time, once again at Calhoun's this year. We've decorated for Christmas. And, we're getting to do some Christmas festivities we weren't sure we'd get to - like the Christmas Tree lighting and the downtown Knoxville Christmas Parade. We're also finished with Christmas Shopping!

Together at the Christmas tree lighting. I'd like to say it was the camera angle that gave me a double chin....instead I'll blame it on the lighting....

Our golden boy. Mmm, I love him. He loved the parade this year, which is a great improvement over last year's glazed-over-non-responsive look.

This pregnancy has been 100% different from the beginning and the end of it has followed suit. With Elijah, I had no clue labor was about to begin and though I had plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions, I only knew I was having one by feeling my tummy harden up. Labor began by surprise with my water breaking at 6am at 37 weeks. This go around, I had more false starts than I can count with "Braxton Hicks" that felt more like transition contractions but then would just pittered out in an hour or two. I'm hoping all those warm ups make for a fast easy labor. But, who knows? They have, certainly, already messed with my psyche. Recently though, I learned that it was probably my illness coupled with dehydration that caused the contractions to be so intense a few weeks ago. That, with already having had a baby at 37 weeks, you can understand why I thought "Today is the Day, everyday for a good week or two." I give up trying to guess at this point and am just so much more relaxed and thankful to learn that I have 2 more weeks before any interventions would have to take place. One thing is for sure though, apparently, "sugar and spice and everything nice" takes a little longer to bake than "frogs and snails and puppy dogs' tails".

To stay cheery, I'm trying my hand at a top 10 reasons it's okay to still be pregnant list. This is markedly different from another list I have. Things I have to say every time I leave the house to go out in public - a list which would include favorites like:

1. "why yes, I am pregnant"
2. "no, you cannot touch my belly"
3. "yes, you're right I do look like I'm going to pop"
4. "no, I'm not planning on having my baby in Target/Kroger/Wal-mart - Don't worry"

So here goes - a much nicer list to think about:

Top Ten Reasons To Go To Your Due Date and Beyond

10. You get a little bit longer to make special requests at restaurants that amuse waiters instead of annoying them.

9. Everybody loves a pregnant lady with a big round belly, especially at Christmas time

8. Strangers in parking lots will be very eager to help get your car to run- My car has been inexplicably deciding not to start on some/most occasions. Nice timing, right?

7. Nightly bowls of ice cream are still acceptable - no need to worry about baby weight coming off just yet.

6. You can cry whenever / wherever you deem appropriate.

5. You have a great reason for not being social or attending anything you don't want to.

4. A delay in midnight feedings - In-utero babies are so much quieter and easier to care for!

3. People are still complimenting you - not knocking you over to get to the baby

2. There's just a little more time to savor being a family of __ before it becomes plus one more.

... and the number one reason To Go To Your Due Date and Beyond

1. Your husband/family/friends have to be exceptionally nice to you for a longer duration of time no matter how rotten you are

Hope this list encourages preggers and future preggers everywhere to take heart and enjoy the last few (though long and uncomfortable) days of pregnancy.

And, one of the last pictures of this pregnancy before labor begins - at least it will be if my face continues to expand as it has of late. I've titled it - Tired pregnant lady with Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.