Saturday, March 30, 2013

Maternity Photos

These lovely photos were taken by Sarah of LuSarah SEAS Photography, and then jack-of-all-trades Melanie edited them and put them into these pretty collages for me.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Baby Shower (Long Version)

Once upon a time, in the sunny and beautiful land of Cleveland, Ohio (I'm allowed to take some liberties here), there lived a princess (Can I refer to myself as a princess? Yes? I'll just go all out then!)—a beautiful princess and her handsome prince.

Princess Amanda and Prince Danny

On an especially pretty Sunday in February, their kind, lovely, and talented friend, Melanie the Great, threw them a baby shower, which we'll be referring to as a baby ball from this point forward. This was no ordinary ball, that's for certain. This ball was special.

Melanie the Great!

To understand how overjoyed the prince and princess were at their ball, you first have to understand how brokenhearted they were last year. There was a time when the princess spent her days crying, fearing she'd never have a big belly for her friends to rub, and that she'd never get to attend a ball for her own baby.

The prince and princess would have been thrilled to have even a ho-hum ball. Just the fact that they could have a ball in honor of their own baby was enough to send them over the moon. The ball Melanie the Great hosted, though, was anything but ho-hum.

You see, sweet Melanie the Great realized what a miracle Baby Celis was, so she made sure the celebration in his honor was extra magical. She pulled out all the stops. Every detail was so special, personal, and well thought out.

The venue was perfect, and the decor was gorgeous.

Please note how adorable Princess Amanda and Prince Danny were when they were babies.

The food was beyond delicious.

Even the activities were creative and marvelous—and left the princess with some priceless keepsakes.

For this activity, each guest was given a letter of the alphabet, and they were asked to draw something that starts with their letter. Melanie the Great is compiling these pages into a one-of-a-kind alphabet book for Baby Celis. 

We can't forget to mention the 30 or so wonderful ladies who attended the ball, eager to celebrate Baby Celis.

Arlo, do you understand how many people love you already??

They spoiled him like crazy!

Since the theme of the ball was reading, the guests were given these practical bookmarks (made with love by Melanie the Great, of course) as party favors:

Everybody had so much fun at the ball, and nearly 2 months later, people are still telling the princess that her baby's ball was the most spectacular one they've ever attended.

See how much fun Laura and Renee are having??

The princess can't thank Melanie enough for being there for her during her worst nightmares, and then helping to turn her happy times into a beautiful fairy tale. The princess can't wait to see Melanie cuddle Baby Celis. (In fact, the princess has tears in her eyes right now, just thinking about it. Come out, Arlo! Aunt Melanie needs to cuddle you!)

The End
(And the Beginning)

Melanie the Great is so great that, in addition to butterflies in her tummy and a happy heart, she sent the princess home with this:

Address labels with all of the guests' addresses on them, custom thank-you cards, stamped envelopes with the princess's return address already on them, and sweet heart stickers. How's that for awesome?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

39 Weeks = Watermelon

Today, I'm 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and Arlo is approximately the size of a watermelon!

I'm not going to complain that this watermelon is too small. Instead, I'll be grateful that I found a watermelon in March, in Cleveland. Thanks, Chuppa's Marketplace!

I remember, so clearly, sitting at our dining room table 8 months ago, eating an apple and setting aside a seed for my first photo shoot.

I want this jawline back. And my wardrobe. 

At the time, my watermelon photo seemed like it was forever away, and it certainly didn't feel like a guarantee—but whether we only made it to raspberry week, or olive week, or whatever week, I was going to celebrate every week of this pregnancy.

And now, here we are, on watermelon week. The wait is over. Well, kind of. My watermelon still has to come on out and play.

I wish I could Photoshop this hand farther up... Oops.

We had an appointment yesterday, and the ultrasound tech estimated that Arlo is about 8lbs, 2oz—which isn't as huge as my OB was anticipating. However, his Buddha belly is in the 95th percentile, so my OB warned us that delivery may not be a breeze. She really doesn't want him to get much bigger, since I'm set on having a vaginal delivery (as long as it's safe for everybody, of course), so she said we'll discuss induction methods next week. Get your chunky butt out here before that, Arlo!

Please note that I'm not sharing our latest ultrasound photo with you. This is because it scared the living crap out of me. I've been saying some very superficial prayers these last couple of days (e.g., Please, God, don't let Arlo really look like a fat gorilla). Once he's here, assuming he doesn't actually resemble the creature in the photo, I'll post the photo. It's a sight to behold.

I'd say those two are pretty similar in size.

Symptoms? Yes. Everything. My biggest issue right now, though, is insomnia. I'm literally sleeping 3 hours a night, and then I'm exhausted the next day. I'd be fine if I didn't have to drag myself to work and was able to nap throughout the day, but that isn't an option. I'm so scared that I'm going to go into labor after a miserable, sleepless night, and everything will go horribly. It's impossible to tolerate pain and stress when you're running on E.

Emotions? Yes. Everything! My due date is 5 days away!

Oh, and did I mention it's watermelon week? Watermelon week!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

38 Weeks = Pumpkin

Today, I'm 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and Arlo is approximately the size of a pumpkin.

I planned ahead and bought an artificial pumpkin from JoAnn's after Halloween. 

This week's update is coming at you pretty late because it was a hell of a week. When it wasn't snowing like crazy outside, I was spending time in the emergency room, being treated for what the ER doctor originally thought was kidney stones. On our second trip to the ER, though, he decided the back/side/everywhere pain might actually be from ligaments doing whatever ligaments do during pregnancy. All I know is I felt like I was dying, and I have a Percocet prescription in case it happens again (Nooo!).

Any other pregnancy symptoms I'm experiencing have obviously been eclipsed by whatever that horrendous pain was. I'm definitely uncomfortable, and I'm having a hard time fighting the dreaded waddle. I can't sleep, I'm swollen and nauseated, and I've been getting up 5-7 times a night to empty my smushed bladder. When I recall specifics of this pregnancy years from now, when I'm not thinking about how miraculous it was, I'll think of pee.

Anyway, life's kind of weird right now because, in case you missed it in my last post, Danny and I were prepared to meet Arlo this coming week. My C-section was scheduled for Tuesday, March 26th at 7:30 A.M, and we've been so focused on that date for so long that his flipping to the head-down position has been a major adjustment for us. We thought we'd be holding our miracle this week. I didn't research relaxation techniques or pain management, etc. during labor, because I didn't think it would apply to me. That said, I can't tell you how thrilled I am that he's in the proper position and that I can (hopefully!) have a vaginal delivery. It's just been kind of trippy.

I keep thinking it would be awesome if he decided to arrive on March 26th of his own accord, but my gut tells me he's going to bake beyond his April 2nd due date. He defied the odds and flipped past 37 weeks, so it's his prerogative to come out when he's good and ready. (Let's not get too crazy, though, Arlo. We're ready for ya.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Flipper: A Letter to Arlo

March 19th, 2013

Dear Arlo,

Today was a big day. You've been my little breech boy this entire pregnancy, and Dr. Ekman had me convinced that you wouldn't turn at this point—that you were too big and had no room. She actually said that it was impossible. During our last ultrasound, the tech told me that, in 7 years, she's seen two babies flip after 37 weeks. The odds clearly weren't in our favor. We were prepared to bring you into the world via C-section one week from today, and while I would do anything in the world to get you here safely, I was upset that I wouldn't get to experience labor. I was sad everything would be scheduled, instead of spontaneous. Not everybody understands this sentiment, but I felt like I was being robbed. 

You shocked us all this morning. Dr. Ekman wanted to take one last look at you, during what was supposed to be our last appointment. She was blown away—and so, so pleased to report that you're in the head-down position. You flipped, Arlo! It's amazing. When Dr. Ekman left our room, she shouted, "He flipped!" and the nurses cheered. Your daddy and I hugged each other and cried happy-tears. I can't tell you how over-the-moon I am that you get to pick your own birthday. Will you be a March baby, or do you want to hang out with mama until April? I love that you get to decide.

One year ago, I was terrified that I would never get to be somebody's mommy, and here we are. I'm exactly 38 weeks pregnant with you, my little trouper. I can’t believe you’ll be joining us in the outside world in, at most, 3 weeks (but feel free to come on out before 41 weeks, of course). I can almost feel the weight of you in my arms right now, as I write this. Somehow, it feels like I've been waiting for you for a million years, and—at the same time—like I just found out you were in my belly. (I can remember, so vividly, telling your daddy about you for the first time by saying to him, "Kiss your baby, and tell him to stay in there and grow big and strong." He did kiss my belly, and you did stay in there and grow big and strong.) I’ve enjoyed having you mostly to myself, loved being the one to give you everything you need, to feel all of your kicks and hiccups and head bangs, and to know your sleep schedule. (Will you always be a night owl?) I revel in the thought that my heartbeat sounds like home to you. Right now, I am your shelter.

But I can’t wait for you to meet your daddy. I’m so happy that you’ll have such a positive male role model in your life. Your father is the greatest. He’s proof that a man can be vulnerable but not weak, kind but not a pushover, gentle but strong... If I’ve ever done anything 100% right in this lifetime, besides make you, of course, it was marry your daddy. Our love for each other—and for you—is unshakable. Soon, I'll get to witness the expression on his face as he sees you for the first time. I’ve dreamt of this moment more times than I can count, and I know my imagination can’t do it justice. Later, I'll get to witness the expression on his face as you walk, say "daddy," write your name, take off on your bike, and hit a bulls-eye for the first time. We'll never take any of your "firsts" for granted—never take a single day for granted.

Your dad and I talk about what kind of parents we hope to be. Your grandma keeps giving us parenting books, but we've decided we'll just figure it out as we go—and I promise we'll always do our best (and that our best will be pretty great). We do know that we'll always be there for you, always support you, always be on your side. We're going to love and protect you, and pick you up when you fall. We're not going to try to prevent every stumble, though—because there's a lesson in each skinned knee. Failure, rejection, and heartache make the sweet times all the sweeter. Triumphs feel more triumphant when they don't come easy. You are proof of that.

You haven't even taken your first breath yet, but, already, I love you with all of my being. In the 8 months I've known about you, you've made such an impact on my life, and we're just getting started. You've put my shattered heart back together again—quite a feat for somebody so small. You've taught me that hope exists for a reason, and that when a little voice inside my head tells me I have to soldier on, no matter how defeated I feel, I better listen—because maybe, just maybe, there's light at the end of the tunnel. You are my light.

You've instilled hope in countless other people, too—most of whom stumbled upon our blog when they were feeling broken and were looking for stories about miracles like you. These people have sent me dozens of e-mails and messages, sharing their own stories and letting me know that we've inspired them. That's huge, Arlo—to be somebody's inspiration. We'll never meet most of these people, but they're out there, cheering us on from all over the country. I'll never forget them, and I'll never stop praying that they get their miracles, too.

Somebody recently asked me what kind of person I think you'll be, and "happy" escaped my lips before I even had time to think about it. Of course I have hopes and dreams for you, but I don't know what kind of personality traits you'll have—if you'll be serious or goofy, bookish or sporty—and I love not knowing. (Something tells me you're going to be very strong-willed.) I look forward to watching you grow—not too fast, though—and become your own person.

I tell you every day how much I love you, how special you are—and that you'll forever be guided by three magnificent angels. I can't wait to look into your eyes and tell you these things. You are a miracle, and I know, deep down, that you’re destined for greatness; I'm so excited to share you with the world—and to share the world’s greatness with you.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Baby Celis #2

It's March 16th. This is the date I associate with the loss of our second baby, even though she was still technically alive a year ago today. It's been a sad, sad day for this mama, and since I've been reliving the whole awful experience since I woke up (all month, to be more accurate), I may as well share with you the story of Baby Celis #2. I owe it to her anyway.

I've mentioned this before, but I always refer to Baby Celis #2 as a girl, even though we could never verify this because the testing we had done later came back inconclusive. I've seen her in my dreams, though, and I bought a ladybug Halloween costume for her (she was due October 29th) long before she was even conceived. My gut tells me she was a girl, and that's all the proof I need.

After our first loss, Danny and I took a small break from trying to conceive. We were just too damn broken. During this break, everybody we've ever met either announced their pregnancy or had a baby, and it was brutal. The first month we decided to try again, I knew we'd succeeded. I would have bet my life that pregnancy test would read positive on February 17th, 2012. And it did. I hadn't missed my period yet or anything—it was too early for that. Like with all of my pregnancies, I just knew.

I contemplated holding off for two days before actually testing, so that I could tell Danny on the 19th—his birthday, but I didn't for two reasons: I was too excited to wait, and I didn't want to forever tarnish his birthday if something were to go wrong with the pregnancy. It's so sad that I was already programmed to think this way.

When I told Danny the news, he was happy, of course, and he fell in love with our baby right away, but he was as reserved as I was. We didn't let ourselves talk too much about Baby Celis #2. (She's all I thought about, though. How could I not imagine what she'd look like, what her laugh would sound like, what her favorite color would be?) We didn't buy anything for her because we didn't want to have to find a place for it later, if things went wrong. We just focused on making it to March 12th, the day of our first ultrasound, the first time we'd see the flicker of her heartbeat. Then, we would really celebrate.  

When I woke up on March 12th, I was overcome with a sense of doom. I had no reason to feel this way. My hormone levels were "twin-high," according to my doctor. I hadn't had any spotting, and everything seemed normal. There were no physical signs that anything was amiss. Plus, the chance of me miscarrying again was only 13%. But I just couldn't shake the skepticism. 

During the ultrasound, when the tech said, "Baby does have a heartbeat. It's 78 beats per minute..." I cried immediately because I'd researched fetal heart rates enough to know that was at least 22 bpm too low for our baby to be okay. Danny cried because he was so happy that his baby's heart was beating. That's what destroyed me the most—his hope.

A tiny little cloud in the gestational sac, measuring 6 weeks instead of  7.

My OB told us things could go either way at that point, and to come back in 4 days for a follow-up ultrasound. In the meantime, we were to go to work, live our lives, and interact with people—you know, act normal. She told us not to lose faith, but my heart, my gut, my intuition, something told me we wouldn't be taking our ladybug home with us in October.

What kind of mom would I be if I just gave up like that, right off the bat, though? What kind of wife would I be if I didn't lay awake at night with Danny, rubbing my belly, begging that weak little heart in there to beat harder? I hoped with everything I had that our baby would survive, but mostly, I hoped and prayed that Danny would be okay when he learned that she was gone. Those 4 days are a blur.

On March 16th, 2012, that tiny heart was barely beating. The tech let us listen to it, and I'll never forget the sound. Beat, beat, beat...pause...pause...beat, beat...pause. So sporadic. My OB told us it was definitely over, that the heart was giving out, and that we should come back in 3 days to make sure it had completely stopped—and we would schedule a D&C.

All miscarriages are horrendous, but this one was exceptionally gut-wrenching. Danny and I spent 3 days praying that our baby would give up, so we could officially say goodbye to her and start trying to move on. What a shitty position to be in, to beg your baby to pass away. We held each other close. We sobbed and rubbed my belly, willing that sick, itty-bitty heart to stop. We felt the same kind of sorrow we felt after our first miscarriage, only this time, we were met with fear, too. The fear that something was wrong with one of us, the fear that we'd never be parents. 

Our next ultrasound was March 19th, and it confirmed that our baby had no heartbeat. She was really gone. The D&C was a breeze compared to my first miscarriage, which happened at home. Emotionally, though, I was a mess—and I was for a long time.  

I don't feel as broken as I did then, and I definitely don't feel as hopeless—but I do think about my lost babies every single day. I still cry for them, especially on days like this. It infuriates me that anybody thinks I can replace these babies with a healthy one. I know people think this because they've said it.

A friend shared an article with me, "How a Man Handles a Miscarriage," which I found beautiful and very well written, and this line really stood out:

"That [lost] child will always be autonomous in your thinking. A separate being. And should always be thought of that way."

You always will, Baby Celis #2. Sweet little baby, I wish I would have outwardly celebrated you more. I wish I would have bought you all the presents you deserved, no matter how painful it would have been to find a place for them later. I wish I would have told the world about you, so they could have celebrated your short life, too—and then cried when it was over.

But I've cried enough tears for a thousand people. And I love you enough for a million. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

37 Weeks = Carnations

Today, I'm 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant, and Arlo is about 20 inches long, or approximately the length of these carnations (yes, I'm improvising again):

As of 3 days ago, I have officially carried my baby to term (babies are considered full-term at 37 weeks)—something most people take for granted... but I never, ever will. (Keep cooking, though, Arlo. Mama still has to wash your cute little clothes.)

Symptoms? You name it, I have it. My feet are so swollen that they actually hurt, I don't sleep anymore, I pee nonstop, my heartburn is out of control, and I'm just plain uncomfortable. I know this final stretch is going to be pretty rough—but so worth it. 

Most notably, severe sciatica (apparently, sciatica is no joke!) sent us to L&D Wednesday night, which was a blast. It was an all-night affair, of course, so I ended up having to miss my own baby shower lunch that my co-workers had planned for yesterday. I felt like a giant jackass, as you can imagine. They had a quick little celebration for me this afternoon, though, with gift cards (yay!) and cake (which was meant to be eaten at yesterday's lunch but wasn't stale yet, thank God—so I didn't have to feel like an even bigger jackass).  

It's a good thing the end is drawing near because I'm almost miserable, and I'm so, so ready to meet my miracle (as soon as I get that load of laundry done, I mean). The nursery is complete, we've bought (or were gifted) all the essentials, my bags are (pretty much) packed, and the car seat is installed in Danny's truck. This is actually happening! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nursery Stuff: DIY Book Ledges

The book ledges have been built and hanging for a few weeks now, but we had issues with the paint job until tonight (Sorry for being so Type A, Danny), so they weren't ready for their close-up until tonight.

I'd originally planned on using Ikea's picture ledges as our book ledges, but, naturally, the long ones were way too long for the wall, and the short ones were way too short—so I put poor Danny to work.

Danny based his plan on this tutorial by Ana White. How did this project cost Ana $10 and us $100? Whatever. Anyway, we went with the 32" ledges.

Thank you, God, for letting my wonderful but unhandy husband complete this project unscathed.

Chilling on the floor, ready to be sanded, primed, painted, and hung. And then sanded and painted again. And then hung, sanded, and painted again. And then sanded and painted one more time. You think I'm exaggerating, but I'll spare you the details.  (On Facebook, Danny posted this photo and captioned it "Pinterest should be renamed 'Shit I Want My Husband to Build'"


These look amazing, and they were so much cheaper to make than buy, especially considering Pottery Barn seems to be the only place in the world that sells 32" ledges. I couldn't be more proud of Danny!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

36 Weeks = Honeydew

Today, I'm 36 weeks and 1 day pregnant, and Arlo weighs about as much as a honeydew.

Weighing in at 6.75 pounds, this thing is heavier than it looks.

Most babies are in the head-down position by now, but not my baby! No, sirree. We're apparently trying to be part of every statistic we can possibly be a part of, so he's still breech. At yesterday's appointment, my OB told me to please give up hope that he'll flip—because she did an internal exam and knows that it's physically impossible for him to do so. His butt is at the gate, and there just isn't room down there for major acrobatics. (But what does it hurt to hope?)

Speaking of internal exams, last week, I was 80% effaced and already starting to dilate, and yesterday, my OB said I'm "really ripe." This could happen any minute! Or not. It's just one of those wait-and-see games, but that's part of the fun, I think.

My symptoms are still very mild, but I've been experiencing some terrible pressure on my cervix, thanks to my li'l low-rider. A few times, we've ventured from the land of discomfort into the land of oh-shit-that-hurts. On the plus side, I haven't experienced lung-crowding to the extent most pregnant women probably do.

I'm happy. I can't even tell you how happy. Also slightly panicky. We still have quite a few things to do and buy before this guy gets here, and life has been so crazy lately that I'm not even sure when we can squeeze everything in. I hope to knock out a few things this weekend, when we're not busy baby-classing or maternity-photoing it up.

Oh, and on the subject of photos... sorry the Baby Shower (Long Version) post isn't up yet! Sarah, the lovely photographer, is swamped right now, and she doesn't think she'll have the photos ready for a few more weeks. I don't want to publish the post without the photos, though, so I truly might have a baby by the time I share our shower story with you.