Hunter’s Birth Story, Part Two

For Part One, click here.

We jumped right into pushing, with Mike and my mom each holding a leg and me pushing for ten seconds, three times per contraction.  I was so excited, so positive and convinced that this might actually work and I might be able to experience pushing a baby out of my body.  The epidural was working but gave me enough sensation that I could move my legs or change position without a lot of trouble.

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Pushing must have been my nurse’s forte, because suddenly she was bright and optimistic.  Perhaps she was anticipating the delivery and therefore conclusion of dealing with me in labor?  Perhaps it was nearing the end of her shift?  Perhaps she genuinely was excited?  I’ll never know, but she dropped the sass and became Susie Sunshine for the next few hours.

We tried different positions and kept the pushing consistent as the hands wound round the clock.  I had no concept of time as I labored, elated and anticipating meeting the baby whose gender I didn’t even know.  The nurse kept saying, “I can see hair!  It’s getting closer!” And I would surge with energy and push all the harder.  My mom later told me that she was watching and the baby was not getting any closer, and as each hour passed she wished the nurse would stop giving me false hope.  Looking back now, I’m actually glad she encouraged me because I wanted to give it all I had, and I don’t know if I could have if I’d been told I wasn’t making progress.

The doctor checked in periodically and reached his hand inside to try to manipulate the baby’s head a bit to assist.  It was so intense it felt like he was reaching to the back of my throat.

The epidural started to wane, and I pushed the little button to deliver more of it.  Minutes would pass and I’d only feel more sensation, more pain, and I started to mildly panic.  I told the nurse the drug wasn’t working anymore; I could feel the contractions and pain with every push.  She told me it was likely working but I was just getting worn down after hours of pushing.  I told her the statistics about redheads and anesthesia (we have high drug tolerance so typical pain management is often inadequate).  She seemed irritated by this and became impatient that I was focusing on my pain.

She told me to get on all fours and try to push that way, and just getting into that position was a laugh riot in itself.  As soon as I started to push my body erupted in pain and I told her I couldn’t deliver a baby like a dog.  I returned to my back and the contractions started to come faster, and when they came I reverted to breathing to cope with them, and the nurse noticed this and said, “No, you’ve got to keep pushing!”  To which I replied, in desperation, “I can’t do both!  I can either cope with the pain or push but I can’t do both!  The drugs aren’t working!”  And she said, which I still can’t believe, “Well, what do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t have these drugs?  You wouldn’t have a choice.  You have to push!”  I felt venom run through my veins and gave Mike the universal wife glare to please clock this lady at his first opportunity.

Luckily he was still in his rational mind.

After another hour of pushing with nothing to show for it, the doctor came in to talk to me about having a cesarean.  I shook my head in denial and disbelief, saying I hadn’t come this far to quit; I was determined to have a vaginal delivery.  He was completely calm and drenched his words in kindness, and he explained that four hours of pushing with almost no progress was a sure sign that the baby wasn’t coming, and this was the best thing to ensure the health of both of us.

“Abby,” he said compassionately, “if you were my wife, I’d already have you prepped for surgery.  No question.”

I stopped talking then.  I sat quietly and then told him I just needed a minute to accept it.  He left the room and I broke down crying.

I asked why?  Why was this happening?  How had we come so far and had this happen again?  How had all of my effort lead to surgery again?  Was something wrong with me?  With my body?  All of my family members came into the room and poured love over me, saying again and again that this wasn’t a failure, this was a saving grace, and thank God there was this operation to help us meet this baby.  I cried quietly and then nodded, and the doctor came back in and we prepared to head to the operating room.

By this point the epidural had worn off almost entirely, and the pain was almost unbearable.  They wheeled me down the hall and I couldn’t stop repeating “How much longer?  How long until they do the full block?  How many minutes exactly!?”  I can’t describe the pain because I can’t remember what it felt like, but I can remember never having felt more desperate or scared in my entire life.  I thought the pain would make me faint.

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When they sat me up to move me to the surgical bed I held onto Mike and begged him to do something, do anything to help.  He felt incredible pressure and pain at seeing me like this, and would ask “How long until you can help her?  How many minutes?” And when they said six more minutes I cried again thinking there had never been such a long period of time.  Writing this feels utterly pathetic, but I can’t overstate my misery.

At that point, my lowest by far, the nurse said to every doctor and nurse in attendance, “This one has a lot of questions,” with a look of total contempt.  She might as well have said, “This one is a handful,” to all the people about to deliver my child.  I couldn’t believe it, but I also didn’t have mental energy to give to her.

Finally the anesthesiologist inserted the block and they laid me down to begin.

Since the pain had abated, Mike and I refocused on the importance of what was about to happen: we were about to meet our third baby.

We reminded the doctor that we didn’t know the gender, and that Mike wanted to be the one to announce it to me.  The doctor made his incision and described what he was doing to me, and then said, “You’re going to feel some pressure…” and then he and the other doctor gasped as they glimpsed our baby.

“What!?” we said, convinced something was wrong.

“It’s HUGE!  It’s a toddler!!” they exclaimed, laughing.  And then he lifted our precious baby high in the air for us to see.

“Abby!!!  It’s a BOY!!!” Mike beamed at me, radiant with joy.

And there he was; extraordinary, perfect baby Hunter.

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Everything slowed to a quiet hum as they laid him across my chest and I kissed the softest newborn skin and said hello to his perfect chin, chubby cheeks, and plump round body resting against my heart.

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The pain and exhaustion disappeared, replaced with absolute peace and gratitude.  Mike leaned in and we greeted our baby with overwhelming love, amazed that this was our son.

Our son whose size no one could get over, by the way.  The doctors kept chatting about him as they stitched me up.

“Easily my biggest baby of the year,” my doctor told the room.

Every nurse called out bets, all in agreement that he was over ten pounds, it was just a question of how much.

He was born looking like a three month old, and it was pure joy to witness.

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He weighed ten pounds, eleven ounces.

His size also made it immediately obvious to everyone why he wouldn’t come out the traditional way.  The doctor launched right into how he was simply too large for my body to push out, and had he come that way, I would have likely needed surgery to repair the extensive damage.

I was flooded with relief, and also shame at having been so angry at how he needed to get here.  Even though he didn’t come the way I’d dreamed, God still gave me so many gifts in what I didn’t get to experience with the twins: my water breaking, going into labor naturally, laboring to eight centimeters before resting, pushing with all my strength (okay I did also get to experience that with the twins).  Seeing how large he was allowed me to turn my disappointment into great gratitude for us meeting each other in perfect health, just as we were meant to.

In one of the happiest experiences of our lives, we were wheeled down the hall to a crowd of waiting family, me in the bed and Mike walking next to me holding Hunter, and he yelled, “It’s a boy!” to enormous cheers.  I shared his name with everyone and then we went into our room to let everyone meet him.

The next morning (since he was born at 8:02PM, it was past the twins’ bedtime) Henry and Arden came to meet their little brother for the first time.

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They were like…what baby?  My mom is in a bed.  This is not normal.  Are there any snacks?

Others were more interested.

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We couldn’t get over his dark hair and skin that was much more olive than Henry or Arden’s.

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Not surprisingly, he was a great eater and sleeper right from the start, which we credited to his enormous size.  He was such a contented baby, and we delighted in him.

A day after he was born, it was time to remove my catheter to get my body back in order.  I asked for a little more time, even six hours, because it was so painful and difficult to get in and out of bed to use the bathroom.  The nurse on duty said she would delay it a few more hours, but it would be out by early the next morning.  I agreed, gratefully.

The next morning a new nurse arrived and removed the catheter, and soon afterward asked that I try urinating to make sure things were working as they should.

They weren’t, and so began the most agonizing ordeal of my life.

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Part Three coming soon.

 

 

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Hunter’s Birth Story

Remember that one time I had a baby and promised I would tell his birth story before he was 21 months old?  You probably don’t, because you have a life, but I do, and it haunts me. Hunter turns 21 months old on February 10, so I’m keeping my promise by the most anorexic of margins.  I originally made that odd-numbered-month promise because that’s how long it took me to write the story of the twins’ birth.

I know procrastination had a starring role, but the other lead actors in my failure to record his birth actually involve his birth: it was an emotional and unexpected series of events, and the drama of circumstances after his birth made me recoil at the thought of writing it all down.  I’m still not sure how much of his post-birth story I’m going to share, because it’s very personal and hard to write about.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Sunday morning, May 10, 2015 was Mother’s Day, and it was also the day we were planning to dedicate Henry and Arden to the Lord in a service at our church.  We had attempted this twice before, both times resulting in illness and missed dedications, so I was determined to make it to church that morning.

I have no memory of what we did that morning.  I am sure Mike made a special Mother’s Day breakfast and tried to let me sleep in, but I was having Braxton Hicks contractions every day by that point (two days shy of my due date) so I probably just waddled around trying to get the kids dressed.

This was the state of my ginormity (taken the previous day at a Mother’s Day celebration at my parents’ house with precious baby Gardner, now two and a half (sob!)):

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I was standing near the family room at 7:50AM when I felt an odd sensation that drove me to the bathroom.  The second I sat down my water broke.  I knew instantly that was it, and I was amazed my body warned me to reach the toilet.  I called to Mike the phrase all men ache to hear, “Babe………….my water broke.”

He couldn’t believe it because this was a first for us, having been induced with the twins.  I called the doctor’s office and the nurse asked me to sit on the toilet again and wiggle around and see if more fluid came out.  She wanted to ensure I hadn’t mistaken this for peeing.  I was vaguely insulted but did as I was told and said yep, more fluid, lady.  She said “Come on in, you’re in labor.”

Normally this would be music to my ears, but I temporarily lost my mind and said, “You know, we have a dedication this morning with the twins, and would it be okay if we just swung by there on our way and took care of that and then came in?”  She was like, um, no.

Which is funny, because it’s also what Mike said when I posed the same question.

We called my parents to come over to watch Henry and Arden, and then I started packing up last minute items and Mike ran around getting everything ready to go.  I started laboring immediately, surprising both of us, and had to stop every couple of minutes to breathe through contractions.  I couldn’t believe how fast it was happening, and I was so excited to be in labor naturally.

My parents arrived and I kept tidying things, bending to breathe, telling my mom things to remember, bending to breathe, walking room to room thinking about what needed to be done, bending to breathe.  Mike became more and more alarmed by the closeness of my contractions, and kept saying, “BABE.  WE NEED TO GO.  NOW!”  And I kept saying, “It’s going to take hours, don’t you remember last time?”  And then I’d bend over and breathe.

I stopped in Henry and Arden’s room to say goodbye to them, and felt my throat tighten and my eyes burn as I hugged them goodbye.  I felt I was saying goodbye to us, to the Fab Four, to the era of my life when it was just us and the twins.  My mom could see the emotion rising and said, “They’re fine, you don’t have time for this, you’re in labor, GO.”  So I heaved myself up and walked out the door.

As a reminder, these little babies were who I was saying goodbye to.

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It’s shocking to look at them now and think that I was having a baby with twins at this age.  At the time I knew everyone around me was deeply concerned for my sanity at having a baby when the twins were so young, but I couldn’t see it then — they looked like big toddlers to me.  Probably because it felt like it took so long to get them to this point, they just seemed older to me than to everyone else.  And now I look at this photo and can’t believe what babies they were.

Once we checked into the hospital, the nurse took us to one of those super private triage areas where you’re separated from the other laboring moms by nothing but a curtain.  We could hear what sounded like a man making deeply disturbing moans, and of course it couldn’t have been a man in the maternity ward, but I kept saying to Mike, “What IS that?!  Do we have to listen to that?!”  And then I’d contract and wouldn’t care again for another sixty seconds.

The nurse was a little, shall we say…huffy.  That’s probably the only word.  I am an open communicator, particularly when I’m engaged in something as enormous and rare as giving birth, and she seemed indignant that I would ask so many questions; she took it as a personal offense like I didn’t trust her.  So we were on rocky territory right from the start.

I’d been laboring hard and in significant enough pain that I told Mike I was sure I was more than five centimeters.  She checked me and announced I was three, and I was completely aghast.  I told her that was impossible, and that I knew through my prior birth experience that my cervix was tricky to measure, which she accepted with an eye roll and a threat to do a balloon to try to open my cervix.

I asked if my doctor could check and this did not please her at all, but she called him.  He came in very shortly (it was 10AM now) and after checking, announced I was at six centimeters.  Triple victory!  Far along!  No balloon!  And most importantly, in-your-face Nurse Huffy!

We proceeded to the delivery room and I labored in all the ways one does — on a ball, standing, holding Mike’s shoulders and leaning, walking around, the works.  Each contraction approached like a bell curve, slow to start, peaking, then slowing backing away.  I told Mike this was night-and-day different from laboring on Pitocin during my induction with the twins.  It was drastically easier to manage, way less pain, and I could totally cope.  I had to admit it became progressively more painful, and I must have expressed as much because he started to ask me to order the epidural.

I told him I was fine, and I wanted to see how far I could go, and I did for another half hour or so, but then things became much more intense and I told the nurse I was ready for help.  She called the anesthesiologist and reported back to me that the one on-site was in a c-section and she’d paged someone on call.

“One!?  There is only one for all of the women here?  How is that possible?  How is that responsible?”  I gasped.

“Well it’s the weekend,” she replied, like that made any sense.

I knew I was crossing into the ugly side of my personality, but I was in labor and didn’t care.  “Oh, because women only have babies Monday through Friday?  Incredibly logical.”

She sort of glared at me.  I sort of glared back, and then I contracted.

Just before the glorious anesthesiologist arrived at 11:40AM, they checked me again and I was at eight centimeters, which made me feel like superwoman.  I had only made it to four with the twins before needing help, and though there is no shame in that, Competitive Abby wanted to better her score.  You know, for those non-existent awards handed out at the end of each delivery.

The drugs worked like a dream and I took a little nap from 12:30 to 1:30PM.  My mom had arrived by this point and she and Mike hung out while I dozed in medicated bliss.

At 3PM they checked me again and I was a full ten, ready to rock.  And so the pushing began.  My old friend!  Oh wait, my foe.  I always mix those two up.

Part Two Coming Soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baby Number Four!

It’s only fitting that I break a four-month blogging break with the news that we’re having baby number four!

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And quite soon — the end of March, in fact.  And it’s only one, another major news bulletin.

We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, because we’re wild that way.  We don’t go out on the town as often in this stage of life, so we get our kicks by delivery room shouts of genders.  To each their own.

Henry and Arden will be freshly three and a half, and Hunter will be 22 months old, so this puts us firmly at four kids under age four.  I’m just disappointed Kate Middleton couldn’t keep up.  We really had a thing going there for awhile, with our first two pregnancies resulting in births just four and eight days apart, respectively.  Would it have been too much to ask for her to give birth twelve days before me, to keep the pattern alive?

I’m endlessly grateful to God that this pregnancy has been a cakewalk.  I don’t know how I would have managed to care for the others if this newbie had made me viciously ill.  I have several friends who endure this and I don’t know how they manage.  Now that I’m 28 weeks, I’m in the third trimester and feeling more of the effects, which is fine considering I’ve had such an easy time until now.

The twins are really excited about having a new baby in the house, though they each demand that it be their corresponding gender.  Arden won’t hear of it being a boy, and Henry doesn’t even respond if you say it’s a girl.  So that might be tricky on delivery day.  But I comfort myself with the knowledge that literally all of the siblings throughout time have had their newest sibling’s gender be a surprise, except in the last twenty years.  Plus we talk to them every day about how it could be either and how great it will be either way.  They’re like….sure.

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Hunter really doesn’t know what’s coming, but all signs are positive.  He adores his cousin Kinsley, eight months, and he points to my belly and says “Baby” and gives it a kiss or a raspberry.  It’s adorable.

Mike and I are really joyful, really excited, and really thankful.  We’re also really aware of what it’s like to have a newborn with other small children, so we’re luxuriating in the quiet evenings and long hours of sleep we have now.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t filled with dread at the amount of work ahead of me, but I feel much more experienced this time around, and much more aware of how quickly that newborn turns into a three month old, and how quickly that three month old is a sitting-up-and-eating-solids six month old, and how quickly that six month old is crawling, then walking, then turning one and making me weep for my newborn again.

So I’m going to take it day by day — who am I kidding? — hour by hour, meal by meal, nap by nap, until we’re steady on our feet and our lives are functioning again.  I’m praying the Lord will show me the best way to help myself; maybe a mother’s helper once a week?  Maybe preschool in the fall?  Maybe a minivan?  HA — the minivan is certain, people.  It’s happening in the next two months.  I just need a bumper sticker that reads, “Respect the Van” and I’ll be locked and loaded.

Did I just use a gun metaphor in my baby announcement post?

How things have changed.

Bring on baby number four!

 

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Beat the Bridge

Last April 2, a day which will live in infamy, we attended the opening of the new 520 bridge.  For you non-Seattleites, the 520 bridge is our famous floating bridge erected and unchanged since the ’60s, now to have a new, longest-floating-bridge-on-earth edition erected right next to it for our commuting (and the governments’ tolling) pleasure.  The high-priced tolls have left many Seattleites more than a little outraged, so this event was intended as a goodwill gesture to remove the bad taste from our mouths.  Key word: “intended.”

We would never have considered going to the opening of a bridge with three small children, but a friend of ours works for the Washington State Dept of Transportation and told us it would be really fun with lots of trucks for Henry to touch and lots of trucks for us to eat from.  Plus it would be free.

We said sure, we’ll come to your bridge.

Our first clue that this event would be more popular than we imagined occurred as we tried to exit the freeway to the bus station to catch a ride to the bridge.  It was organized like so: park at the park-and-ride, get on the bus, go to the bridge, take the bus back to the park-and-ride, go home.  Simple, yes?

It took twenty minutes just to reach the park-and-ride as we watched busload after busload of bridge-goers pass by.

“THIS many people want to do this??” I said as I watched sardine-filled double-length city buses stream by.  “It’s just a bridge!”

“Why are WE doing it?”  Mike asked helpfully.

We escaped the traffic by parking a block away from the park-and-ride.  We loaded the kids in the stroller and Hunter on my chest and headed for the line.

I did a very aghast, hand-to-the-chest expression as we turned the corner and saw the line for the bus reached the entire length of the park-and-ride.  We shrugged and dutifully headed for the end of it until we realized everyone was two deep — the line snaked all the way back to the front again.  A haunting feeling followed us as we got in line, one of diving into the sea only to realize we had no idea how to swim.

Mike and I spent our time in line strategizing for successful bus boarding.  We sounded like gymnastics coaches, except instead of saying, “You need to pop on that vault and twist hard left to make the double-flip complete before sticking the landing,” we were saying “You need to unload both kids while I’ll hold their hands and the bag, you collapse the stroller and stack it as small as possible, I’ll walk them on and we’ll collectively pray for seating.”

I’m sure everyone around us was assessing our three kid/large stroller situation and concluding that this would be additional free entertainment (or hugely annoying should they be seated next to us).  The bus driver waved us on and we executed our launch plan and strode onto that bus with ease, making me prouder than if I’d actually accomplished something.

The novelty of it being their first bus ride, coupled with the mélange of asses directly in their tiny faces, made for two quiet twins who absorbed every mile of our adventure.

We disembarked and walked out from the underpass into the bright, unusually warm day.  The energy of everyone being off of the punishing buses, the sight of the huge expanse of bridge stretching across Lake Washington, the aroma of food trucks  and the plethora of selfies being taken convinced us this had been worth it.  The kids were excited and we felt victorious for overcoming the annoyances to get to a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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We headed straight for the enormous trucks we knew would enthrall Henry and Arden.

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We were having a grand day out.  This was fun!  This was easy!  The views were stellar and we were loving the truck action.  The true peak came when a truck driver invited the kids to sit in his cab.  I thought they might faint.

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Arden promptly honked the horn which made the truck driver jump like it was the first time he’d heard it.

We spent ninety minutes walking half the length of the mile and a half long bridge, which in kid time is like half a day.  A happy half day, we thought.

We were still patting ourselves on the back when we decided to head to the food trucks for some lunch.  The kids were getting hungry and we knew if we didn’t feed them we’d be heading straight for meltdown town.

As we approached the row of food trucks, we saw deeply frightening lines, lines that would make the heartiest foodie abandon all hope.  We decided we’d just hurry home and feed them there.  Now as I type the words “hurry home” I throw my head back and laugh.  Oh the naiveté.

We moved through the crowd toward the bus line as the kids whined for food.  All of a sudden we stopped; the sea of people we were moving through wasn’t on our way to the bus line, it was the bus line, and it stretched back along the bridge so far we couldn’t see the end.  What we could see was the end of our sanity.

We later learned WSDOT expected several thousand people, but 27,000 showed up.

Panic set in.  The bus was the only way off the bridge.  We hadn’t packed any food, like absolute fools.  The kids were hungry, tired, and beginning the meltdown.

“I’ll get in line for the bus and you go get those tacos we saw.  Then we can at least feed the kids while we wait,” Mike suggested.  “But no onions!  They had pickled onions!”  He strapped Hunter to his chest and pushed the twins in the stroller over to the line of misery.

I ran to the taco truck and waited twenty minutes to order, specified no onions, and twenty more minutes to receive the tacos.  Before they came out, my phone rang.

“WE’RE AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE.  WHERE ARE YOU?” He was officially freaking out.

“I’m waiting for the tacos! What am I supposed to do!?  Just let people go past you until I can get there!” I said.

“Arden has peed her pants and is crying!” he yelled.  “Henry is asleep!  How do we get him on the bus!?”  He, and now I, was in pure parental panic.

Seventeen years later, our tacos appeared, absolutely riddled with pickled onion.  I sprinted to the line, where Mike stood holding a sobbing (and soaking wet) Arden, a passed out Henry, and a fussing Hunter.  As I ran I realized that we not only had no time to eat the tacos, but both my hands were holding plates, thereby making me useless for helping us to board the bus.

Mike was in that dark place of parental frustration and helplessness so acute that there was no reaching him.  He was enraged and I was panicked and I kept saying, “I think I’m having an actual panic attack, what are we going to do!??”  There wasn’t a single surface where I could put the plates, Arden was lunging at me for comfort, the line was moving, people behind us were angry, and there was an enormous feeling of anxiety covering the crowds.

Before we could think any further, the WADOT official forced us to cross the street to the waiting bus.  We stood there waiting to board, me telling everyone to EAT as fast as they could, when Mike looked down and exclaimed, “I SAID no onions!” with such contempt I actually thought he might jump off the bridge.  And who could blame him?  I might have followed.

The bus driver hollered at us to get on the bus and instead of trying to do our original maneuvering, I just said, “Push the stroller on the bus!” and Mike hoisted the whole thing on, kids and all, and in a miraculous moment for which I am still grateful, it worked.  We were the last ones on the bus, and the stroller fit right in.  I heaved a sigh of relief so intense I am still having aftershocks.

Then we chowed.  When I say “we” I mean our offspring.  We stuffed those tacos in their mouths, onions and all, and we didn’t get a lick of one of them.  They inhaled street tacos like they had been raised on them.

At the end we all had hands covered in pork sauce, and a gracious angel from heaven reached over and handed us some baby wipes from his bag.  It was the perfect moment of grace after our waking bridge nightmare.

Later I compared notes with a friend we’d run into on the bridge, and she said they had felt so trapped that they actually climbed the grass hill of the overpass with their two-year-old and nine-month-old, stood on the bridge overlooking the bridge and ordered an Uber to take them back to the park-and-ride.  Forget car seats; they tossed kids in that sedan without hesitation. Anything to escape the special circle of hell that stewed beneath them.

When I heard this story, all I could do was nod yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  It was every man for himself, it was desperation, it was parental disaster.  Most importantly, now, it was over.

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Conquering Costco

I think the best way to summarize my feelings about Costco would be to borrow from my daughter.

Today, in Costco, after she screeched from dropping her spoon from a sample of Indian lentils:

Me: “Arden!  We do NOT yell in a store!”
Arden:  “It’s NOT a store!  It’s COSTCO.”

She gets it.

It’s not a store, it’s a planet; one teeming with food in mass quantities, offering samples right before lunchtime, otherwise known as appetizers, and feeding four of us two hotdogs for $3.23 that I would never otherwise eat.

We go about every other week, and it is always enjoyable, satisfying, necessary work.  And I always go alone with three kids.  That might sound oxymoronic, but alone really means “the only person over three feet tall in my party.”

I want to emphasize that I built up to this feat, doing it for the first time three months ago. Before that, forget it.  I’d bring only two kids or another adult to assist.  Also, the first time I did this I felt heroic upon completion, only to turn and see a mom getting hotdogs with a toddler in her cart and newborn twins wrapped across her chest in a Moby.  I was knocked off my high horse faster than you can say free refill.

Like her, when I roll in with two kids in the cart and one on my chest, the stares roll right along with me.  I am entirely accustomed to this and don’t mind in the slightest.  We would be able to buy so much more food if only Costco gave me store credit every time someone said to me, “You’ve got your hands full!”

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August 2014 and April 2016.  The only real difference is on the right I have a baby strapped to my chest.

 

Friends and family are often deeply perplexed as to why I don’t go when I’m alone in the actual Webster’s definition of the word.  The answer is simple: I love Costco, but I do not want to spend “my time” there.  “My time” is evenings or naptime, or the occasional hour-escape by myself on the weekend.  I want to go to Costco on “kid time” when I need something for us to do anyway, and I have food that needs to be restocked.  Besides, they love it.

Should you venture there with one/two/three/baker’s dozen of your own progeny, my hot tips follow:

Get Gas First

Costco is a good time, but nobody wants it to continue once we’ve exited the building.  Once we’re in the car, it’s time to go home, it’s not time to ask the kids to endure another errand.  They like getting Costco gas on arrival, but getting it afterward is like asking for one of them to pee on the car seat after holding it successfully all this time.

Park by a Cart Bay

Even if it takes a minute longer to find a spot (and it nearly never does), this is essential for getting kids into the cart safely and returning it later without leaving them alone in the car.

Costco IS the Activity

The entire reason Costco works as a morning errand is because I am not rushing.  I am not  going to Costco on my way to a play date or an appointment.  No – that would be masochism, which is not my brand of fun at all.  I make a trip to Costco sound like a trip to the park and the kids are all in.  This doesn’t take nearly as much work as it sounds; they already love going, so I just say, “Do you think we should go to COSTCO today?!” and they’re already squeezing their little feet into their Natives. (One of them can do this successfully, the other cannot, and I do not blame her; it’s hard.)

Make a List

There is enough to think about in a warehouse with three kids without having to ask oneself if there are eggs in the fridge at home.  Or having to walk each aisle slowly to mentally assess if there’s anything one has forgotten.  Make that list and then haul your massive cart across that shiny cement like you were born to do it.

Let Samples be Your Friends, But Discriminate Against Your Friends

Eating free snacks is a highlight for the little gremlins, because they share my genes and are predisposed to love anything that’s a snack and anything that’s free.  Free snacks is a unicorn that must be ridden across the sky.

However, I take full advantage of the fact that the twins face me in the cart, and Hunter faces me in the Ergo, because then I can see what snacks are ahead before they can.  Costco loves to push flavored yogurt, “cracker cookies” and other garbage, so if I spot those I steer clear or make an early announcement that our train will not be making a stop at that station.  “Oh that’s yucky yogurt, that’s not the kind you like,” I assure them.  For now they believe me; we’ll see how this goes when they’re old enough to read.

Involve Them

I think attitudes transfer pretty easily, not just to kids, but in general, and this applies here.  If I’m stressed and annoyed at having to do this, they pick up on it.  Instead I really try to have fun and let them feel like it’s a group endeavor.  I’m constantly talking. “What else do we need, you guys?  Let’s check our list.  Shoot, we forgot your favorite salad in a bag!  Back to the cold room!  Do we need anything else in there?  Oh and later let’s remember to get napkins.”  They totally dig it, and – hand to heart – remind me of things I’ve genuinely forgotten.

Henry: “We forgot the quesadillas!”

He means raw tortillas.  But he’s right.

Lunching There is a Double-Edged Sword

Eating hotdogs after shopping serves several purposes: lunch is done with no cooking or cleaning, it’s a treat for being well behaved while shopping, it’s a treat in general because we don’t eat hotdogs at home, and it’s $3.23 for two dogs, which feeds four of us, so it feels almost criminal to walk on by.

HOWEVER…it’s a little work to get it done.  I make the twins stay in the cart so that they can’t mess around on the benches, fall, or run around.  Hunter stays on my chest, and we get our hotdogs and then park next to the end of a table.  I need a little table surface so I can put our hotdogs and drink cups down while I’m trying to hand things to each of them.  I fill condiment orders, then hand them each half a hotdog while I fill the cups 75% with water and 25% with lemonade, which is possibly their favorite part of Costco.  Then I stand in front of them and remind them over and over, “hold it tight with both hands!” because I recoil at the thought of a hotdog dying on the floor.  All this while trying to feed Hunter and myself, and providing them sips of their precious lemonade.

People stare, and I just keep trucking, because once this is over, we’re home free — riding home with a car full of fresh groceries, full bellies, and smiles as big as the one drawn on the receipt.

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The Upside of Going it Alone

Mike has had to travel for work quite a bit lately, and it’s given me the opportunity to flex my put-the-kids-to-bed-myself muscle.  Do you hear the positivity in that sentence?  That took months of self-pep talks and slightly angry prayers.  But here we are – positive!

 Today he was away and we had a really great day.  My mom came over and we went to the first farmer’s market of summer and had a truly terrific time.  Henry and Arden’s experience of the market compared to last summer was palpably improved; rather than passively observing and tentatively interacting with the vendors and food, they were excitingly pointing and talking about every sight, particularly the waterfront.
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When we got home, I threw together a healthy, if unstructured, meal, and then it all started to be exactly what you would imagine pre-bedtime would be for three children under age three.

I made a dozen trips from the table to the sink to carry dishes, wipe mouths, wipe the floor, wipe the hands, remove the food, stack the plates.  Hunter cried until I let him out of his seat and then speed-crawled to the slide to do his newfound head-first dives.  Henry asked to go outside in his bare feet, with Arden immediately following.  Two minutes later I was on my hands and knees wiping grape skins off the floor when Arden barreled past, announcing her need for the toilet.

A minute later Henry called from the backyard, “Arrrrrrrdennnnnn!  Arden!”

“I’m wiping right now!” she hollered back, in a classic unselfconscious toddler overshare.

I was too amused by the cute exchange to actually process the information, and by the time I did, I heard splashing.  One should never hear splashing coming from the bathroom of a toddler.

I darted into the room to find she had not only peed, as I had assumed, and was attempting to handle the situation on her own.  There was no mess, there was no issue, but she had put paper after paper into the toilet and was now holding one high and moving it around as if she were stirring a bowl of soup.

Then like a shot in my mind — had she closed the screen door?  Was Hunter crawling toward it AS I was wiping her?

I raced to the back door to close it and glanced in the living room to see he was still contentedly playing by the slide.

After handling Arden’s situation, I got all the kids outside and we were having a happy time running around and getting our final ya-ya’s out until last call for bedtime…wherein Henry promptly tripped on the pavement and scraped an elbow.  Minor!  I promise it was very minor, but as I hugged him to comfort him, the pain made him angry enough to bite me across my collarbone so hard I actually screamed.

Moments like this are when I want to call human resources and say that these work conditions are unacceptable.

We made it inside and up the stairs to their bedrooms.  I changed the twins into pajamas, Hunter cried from exhaustion, and I took him into his room to get him ready for bed.  I told the twins it was time for quiet and to stay in their room while I changed Hunter.

One minute later I step into the hallway to see Henry dragging the last of their rug from their room.

Before I could go with my first instinct of rage, I looked up and saw them dancing around in the altered space, a space they changed, a space they made their own on a whim.  I walked Hunter inside and he broke into a little chortle, tears still sitting on his cheeks.  He smiled ear to ear and then sucked his thumb as he watched his siblings cavort around the room.

I herded the clan into the bathroom for tooth brushing, and then sent the twins back to their room while I lay Hunter down for the night.  I stood rocking him, singing to him while he sucked his thumb with his head on my chest.

“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing.  Oh praise Him, hallelujah…”

The sound of the twins’ laughter from their room next door was so joyful, so abundantly glad, I realized they are lifting up their voices.  I so often try to quiet them, to stifle that joy in the name of order and my own sanity, and as I rocked Hunter and listened to them I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of their happiness, of their limitless love for one another and their lives.  Despite my failings, despite my frustrations and selfishness, this remains.  They remain, just as they are.  Pealing melodies of belly laughs down the hall.

I laid Hunter down and went back into the twins’ room.  Normally I’d curtail the fun and usher them to bed, but I just leaned on the doorframe and watched, taking the best video my flippant memory could muster, brand-ironing the image on my heart of Henry chasing Arden, of Arden being chased, of them catching each other, tumbling down to the ground in a heap of happiness.

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All the Things

My little sister Sam is pregnant with her first child (!), a darling baby girl, and since I promised about 21 months ago to do a post about essential baby gear, this is the perfect excuse to end the procrastination.

I’m excited to catalog the items that have proven to be utterly, desperately necessary.  We all know that this is a first-world post, because children really need food, shelter, and unconditional love, but I’m going to assume that anyone with access to the Internet is already providing their children with those things and now would like to know more about the tangibles.

Let’s rock this.

The Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station

Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station, Chevron

My devotion is limitless.  It would be impossible to overestimate the obscene places I have had to change my children (think downtown bathrooms with no changing tables…I put them on the floor on this), and if I hadn’t had this, if I had just carried around diapers and wipes, I do not know what I would have done.  This perfectly collapsible, diaper-and-wipe-compartment, nicely-chevron-designed changing station has been used hundreds and hundreds of times.

It’s companion is the Planet Wise Wet Diaper Bag, which holds the soiled items, along with anything else you don’t want touching everything in your bag (wet bathing suit, blowout clothes, etc).

Planet Wise Wet Diaper Bag, Owl

Stokke Tripp Trap High Chair

Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair - Walnut

As soon as it was time to buy high chairs, I knew I didn’t want the conventional stand-alone-with-tray setup.  Probably because I had to buy two, I didn’t want plastic monstrosities filling the dining room and hollering KIDS LIVE HERE to every person we had for dinner (I let every other corner of the house holler that).  We discovered these high chairs and scored two used ones (for the price of one) from a fellow twin mom whose four-year-old twins had outgrown them.  This was part of the purpose — they are useful as kid chairs beyond the high chair age.  They match our table perfectly and slide right under just like a regular chair.  The kids are eating at the table with us, which has always made dinner time feel more family-centered.

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I promise the chairs don’t encourage these manners.  And neither do we.  Ha.

Also in lieu of a tray we lay down these placemats (seen above tossed casually on the floor — thanks Henry!):

Summer Infant Tiny Diner Portable Placemat, Green

Now if I could only find a used Stokke for Hunter.  Alert me if you know a guy.

 

Sleepsacks

HALO SleepSack 100% Cotton Swaddle, Cream, Small

From birth to literally today, my children have spent every unconscious moment in sleepsacks (car naps excepted, obviously).  I cannot recommend them enough.  Initially, after trying half a dozen, the best swaddle we found was the one the hospital sent home with us as a gift (nice market placement, Halo).  The Halo Swaddle Sleepsack fit our kids great and kept them tightly bundled all night.  Once they moved into the non-swaddle variety, we used Halo and Aden + Anais with cotton for summer and fleece for winter (though the twins don’t sleep in fleece ones anymore).

aden by aden + anais Wearable Blanket, Life's A Hoot - Turtle, medium

It’s a great comfort to know they’re safe from blanket suffocation, but also they’re a cue for bedtime and a reassurance if they’re sleeping away from home.  It’s one more part of their routine that can be taken with us to help them feel comfortable enough to fall asleep.  I genuinely don’t know at what age kids stop using them.  Is nine too late?  I’m kidding.  Am I?

The Tummy Tub

The Original Tummy Tub Baby Bath - ClearWe loved this bathtub because it submerged our newborns/early infants so that they were warm throughout the bath instead of laying half-covered in water, freezing and blaming us for it through their screams.  The laugh was on us though when Hunter was born at a near eleven pounds and could only fit for the first…month?  Two?  It was not enough for his burly physique but it will be for any other child’s first five months.

DSC_0047 (1)She’s saying, ahhhh, baby spa.

Baby Jogger City Select Stroller

I’m not even going to give this a whisper because I’ve given it a novel here, but I promised an update once we had three kids and needed to use the glider board so…maybe I’ll whisper extra softly.

We added the glider board when Hunter was born and my 21-month-old kids were having exactly none of it because they just didn’t have the agility to ride and hold at that age.  Or maybe they just didn’t have the guts.  Either way, it was rejected.  Now, however, they ride along just fine and we go on our walks where we incur the stares of many.

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The Ergo

Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier - Black/Camel - One Size

If you’d rather not fall to your knees and beg for mercy on behalf of your back, the Ergo is for you.  We received this and the Baby Bjorn and it was no contest right out of the gate.  The Ergo is infinitely more supportive and easier on your body than the Bjorn, which relies entirely on your shoulders and lower back to hold your baby to your chest.  We also tried the Moby Wrap, and all the others, and this was far and away our favorite and I still use it today (front for Hunter, back for twins).

Moby in the early days:

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And then the Ergo once Hunter was big enough:

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HOWEVER, you can’t wear your baby facing outward in the Ergo that we have, you have to buy the “four position 360” for that, which didn’t exist when we were in the market.  The babies have all loved facing outward in the Bjorn, which is why we’ve kept it around, along with our chiropractor.  I kid.  Again, do I?

Aden + Anais Muslin Burpy Bibs

aden + anais Muslin Burpy Bib, Jungle Jam, 2 count

I have more of these than I care to admit but they are so, so useful.  For newborns they cover your whole shoulder and down your front and back for spit up, they’re useful for any sort of quick-grab cloth for baby needs, and as the baby ages they’re a super-coverage bib.  Done and done.

Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra, Pink, X-Small-LargeI promise you this was the least-cringe-inducing photo of this product available.  You do not want to see the photos of the women wearing this contraption while casually paying bills or making dinner.  You don’t.  Or maybe you’ve had three glasses of wine and you’re eager for a laugh, in which case, please pay attention to the women attempting to make this as attractive as lingerie.  You can thank me later for your LOLs.

Shortly after the twins were born, I wrote this as part of an update on how we were doing:

“Oh and the breastfeeding and pumping.  My word, are those time-consuming activities with two babies.  I enjoy breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, but pumping is really nobody’s friend.  I’m not bonding with a baby when pumping.  I’m attached to a machine like a dairy cow, unable to do anything else at all because my hands are holding the receiving containers.  I can’t even scroll idly on my cell phone.  This sounds like an incredibly inane first-world complaint, but when it’s done four or five times a day for fifteen minutes each time, believe me, it gets old.” — Sept 23, 2013

After writing that, I was inundated with emails from people telling me about the Simple Wishes bra.  I was hugely skeptical based on the preposterous photos I described above, but with one use my life literally changed as I was able to use my pumping time for such invaluable activities as: phone time, Netflix time, iPad time, snack time.  Need I say more?

Graco Pack ‘n Play

Graco Pack 'n Play Playard with Twins Bassinet, VanceIt’s the most obvious thing in the world of babies, but we use it to this day.  I knew I’d need it initially, but once we removed the twin topper (used while they slept in our room the first few months), we have traveled with it and also used it just to take naps at Nana’s or Nonni’s houses.  Don’t question, just get one.  But not the twin one.  Unless, well, you know.

Fels Naptha Laundry Soap

Dial Corp. 04303 Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap - Pack of 4

I want to say “don’t ask” but of all the things listed here, isn’t this the one you’re most likely to…ask?  Specifically, “what the junk?”  This is a bar of soap that costs approximately a dollar and gets out all the stains and lasts for years.  Well, mine has.  I bought it because another blogger recommended it, and I was skeptical because who uses bars of soap anymore?  The Amish, that’s who.  Which is exactly how I feel every time I wet my kids’ clothes and start scrubbing this bar into the stains.  But it works.  Bodily fluids, mud, food — it gets nearly all of it out.

I just have to strengthen my inner hippie when my mom catches me rubbing the soap into a shirt and says, every single time, “This you have time for?  When Oxyclean is a thing, you want to scrub!?”  But it costs practically negative money and I’ve had the same bar for two and a half years.  That little cake of soap is the train that keeps on chuggin’.

Zutano BootiesZutano Newborn Unisex-Baby Fleece Bootie, Cream, 12 Months

We’ve tried all kinds of baby shoes and these are the ones that stay on.  Staying on is all you really ask of an infant shoe, besides warmth, and these are made of fleece so they cover both necessities.  They come in lots of colors but they’re pricier than some baby shoes, so I just buy ones that go with everything (Hunter wears navy almost every day).

 

Let’s flip the coin.

Items I thought I would need but never did:

  • A video monitor –  Everyone I know swears by them, but we sort of swear against them.  People look at us like we’re from the stone ages — or worse, the 80’s — but we’ve never regretted it.  All we need to know we can hear.
  • Cloth Diapers –  I tried, I did, but with two it was just not happening.  I couldn’t handle the extra work, which felt punishingly unnecessary.  Kuddos to all who can pull it off!
  • Sound Machine – we received one but never used it because we were afraid of it becoming a sleep crutch (not being able to ever be without it).  Again, this probably works great for many people but we just never introduced it.
  • Fancy Clothes –  This one bums me out.  Going into having babies I thought this was a large part of the game, I really did.  Now I know that true fancy and incredible clothes opportunities are rare and expensive.  Sound the sad trombone.
  • A “diaper bag” – I gave this way too much thought prior to purchasing, and then realized I didn’t like any of the “diaper bags” made for that purpose.  If I wouldn’t carry it normally, why carry it when I became a mom?  So I ditched the whole category and bought a Zella bag (no longer available on Nordstrom, apparently) which I would easily carry for going to barre class or running around town.  It had tons of pockets and was black so Mike wouldn’t mind carrying it too.  After the twins turned one and I didn’t need to carry quite so much, I bought a Madewell tote and now I just throw it all in there.  There is – count it – one pocket, but that doesn’t matter because I carry my changing station and small cloth bags to organize key items.

 

As an aside, none of the links above are affiliate links, so I’m not profiting from your clickety-clicks.  If I were a cooler, more prolific blogger, maybe I would be, but alas.

These are just the opinions of one teensy weensy mama, so feel free to balk or disagree entirely with my recommendations.  I’d love to hear what items you cannot live without, so please share that we all might benefit in our baby gear acquisitions.

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