Friday, January 21, 2011

Four Months

Lily Rae is four months old today!

I used to say that six months was my favorite age for a baby. I always loved that age because they were playful, smiley, and chunky, and they usually could stay put in one spot. I'm sure I'll love it when Lily gets there, but right now it's hard to imagine any age cuter than three to four months. I've been enjoying this stage so much. Besides, all the things I love about the six month stage are true about her now!

Right now my girl weighs just under 13 pounds. Her four-month checkup isn't scheduled until February 1, so I'll know her exact weight and height then. We did have to see her doctor last week because she wasn't feeling well. It's so sad when you do your very best to keep your baby protected and healthy but something manages to creep in. I'd noticed for a day or two that her poopy diapers didn't look quite right. The color was different and I thought I noticed some mucus in them as well. On the third day I called to check with the nurse. Lily hadn't been running a fever (I'd been checking), so they told me to just watch her for another day and save the next diaper if it looked the same. That was the plan, until later that afternoon she refused to nurse. I couldn't get her to eat for the life of me. She would just cry and cry when I tried to feed her. I called the doctor's office back and they said to bring her in. After listening to her symptoms, he said it sounded like she had a little intestinal infection that was causing her pain when she tried to eat. He wanted me to try again to see if she would nurse, and he left the room to give us some privacy. She did eat, poor thing. At that point she had not eaten for about 7 hours (which sounds bad, but I guess she had really missed only one feeding).

The doctor said we did the right thing to call and come in before she got dehydrated. Of course, I would have kept trying to feed her at home too, but I was glad we went because he checked her ears and throat and all of that and said they all looked great. It is always reassuring to know that she's gaining weight, and she weighed 12 lbs, 13.8 oz. He did not give any medicine to treat her, because the virus would just have to run its course. He said the best thing to do was feed her as often as she would eat. This is what we did for the next couple of days. For a sick baby, she did remarkably well. At least once a day, though, she would refuse to eat and we would wait a while and give her a bottle of breastmilk, which she seemed to take a bit better. After two or three days of this she was eating normally again, and after about a week her diapers were looking normal. I'm so glad that now she is feeling better. It's amazing what you can tell just from looking at a baby's poop!

Aside from that little tummy ache, Lily is doing really well. She normally eats about every 3-4 hours. Nursing is going great, which I still consider a blessing each and every day. I remember in the first month, a dear friend of mine told me that one day nursing would be a relaxing and enjoyable time for baby and for me. She said I could just kick back and watch a movie, but I couldn't imagine having a free hand to hold a remote at that time! It seemed like I would never get to a place where breastfeeding wasn't stressful or painful, but now what she said is exactly true. I look forward to taking a break to sit and nurse my baby 4 or 5 times a day (and once during the night). I use the time, usually about 40 minutes total, to catch up on TV shows on my DVR or read a book, which is easier to do on my new Kindle that I got for Christmas! Sometimes, though, I just sit and look at Lily, stroking her sweet head (which has less and less hair on it every day), or holding her busy, constantly-moving hands. Now, nursing is a good time for me to sit quietly and thank the Lord for giving me the desire of my heart.

Lily's sleeping habits are pretty good for this age, I think. During the day she usually wants a nap about 2 hours after she eats. Her naps are usually pretty short, though, between 30 minutes and an hour. Sometimes she will nap for almost 2 hours, but she doesn't do this every day. At night she will sleep for about 7 hours straight, waking up to eat around 5 AM, and then she will sleep for 2 or 3 more hours before getting up for the day. I would love for her to have a slightly earlier bed time and to take longer naps (she usually gets fussy after a couple of those little cat-naps in a row), but this schedule is very livable and such a relief after those tough newborn days! Lily is still sleeping in her bassinet in our bedroom. Pretty soon I know I'll need to move her to her crib in her own room, but I'm just not ready for her to be that far away.

Lately Lily is becoming more and more interested in her toys and books. It's fun to watch her discover new things. Just about everything that she gets her hands on goes straight into her mouth. When I'm bathing her these days, I have to wash her hands and hold them tightly before I hurry up and rinse them so she won't eat soapy fingers. Still her favorite thing to look at or play with is people. All it takes to get her to smile or laugh is just a look in her direction. She absolutely loves it when her daddy and I make her "fly" above our heads. This gets a laugh almost every time. I try to do tummy time with her most days, but she doesn't care for it very much at all. Her head control is really good, though, and she has started enjoying time in her Bumbo seat.

I can't believe that four months have passed already. Suddenly the time seems to be flying by while we try to cherish every moment. Yesterday, January 20th, it was a whole year since we had the positive pregnancy test that brought us our beautiful daughter. What a year it was! She's finally here and we absolutely love being her parents.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where The Heart Is

In my last post I mentioned that I've been struggling with the idea of "home" lately. I thought I'd go into some more detail here in hopes that it might be cathartic in a way.

I'll start by saying that I like where we live. My husband truly enjoys his job as a software engineer at NASA. The job is what brought us here, and it has been a rewarding job for him for the past ten years. I knew it would be hard to leave Louisiana, but the opportunity was there and we both agreed that it was the right time for us to make that move back in 2001. We'd been married for three years and I think we were ready to feel that we were truly "on our own." Moving away meant leaving his hometown, and the town that had been my new home since starting college six years earlier. His parents lived there and we had a great network of friends as well. Leaving was very hard but it was the right thing to do for us. This became even more clear when the next chapter of our lives began -- trying to have a baby. Living near Houston opened up a lot of opportunities to find a doctor who could help us. It took us a while to do that, but we've been very glad that we had those resources available.

There have been lots of great things about living here, not to mention that we are only a little more than two hours' drive from my family. I know that fact may make it seem silly that I often bellyache about being homesick. But the fact is that, even after ten years, Texas still doesn't feel like home. My heart is back home in Louisiana.

If you know Louisiana, then you know that it's a place all its own. No, I don't mean New Orleans, although it's certainly unique! Contrary to popular belief, the whole of Louisiana can't be summed up by experiencing only New Orleans. As close as we are here in this neighboring state, the way of life is really quite different. I use expressions here all the time that make my friends ask what on earth I'm talking about. I talk of food that they've never eaten, much less heard of. It's a culture and a cuisine that can't be re-created anywhere. That place will always be home to me, no matter where I live.

We have made a great home here, though. We bought our house in 2002 after a year of apartment living. It's a modest three-bedroom house that has been just the right size for our small family. I love our home. As a homemaker I spend lots of time here. I like the paint colors we chose and the way that we've decorated it with things that we love. We've made lots of good memories here, although this house also holds the memories of our six miscarried children. Those are tough memories, but also ones that I don't wish to forget entirely. The back yard is home to the tree we planted for them (well, we planted it for our first baby, but it has come to represent all six for us over the years). I know that it will be hard to leave this place someday. I'm sure that future residents here won't give that tree a second thought.

So, I'm torn. I like our home here, but lately I feel so disconnected. I think it all began to snowball about a month before Lily was born. You see, I've been a stay-at-home wife (and finally now, mom) for the past decade. I don't have a very large social group here. The majority of my local friends have come from church. My church family are the only people that I see on a regular, weekly basis. About five months ago, though, the small mission church (or church plant) that we'd been attending for the past eight years abruptly closed its doors.

We'd been members there through thick and thin, since its very first meeting. In the early years we met in a school before renting our own building. Numbers had been dwindling and finances were tough for the past couple of years, and we were back to meeting in a temporary location and trying to figure out what to do next. My husband and I personally weren't sure at that point of the future of that church or whether God was leading us to look for a new church home. The end came suddenly, though, and it left us feeling pretty unsettled. Of course we have stayed in touch with a few very dear friends whom we treasure, but we miss that scheduled weekly time of worshiping together.

I think the combination of losing our church home right before having a baby has been even tougher than I first imagined. It's so hard for me to think of visiting churches with a small baby. She's sort of on a schedule now, but it would be difficult to keep her with us during a service and even more difficult for me to leave her with total strangers in a different nursery week after week. There are lots of aspects to this that I could go into, but I'll just say that I don't feel up for it yet. I know from experience that church hunting is not an easy thing to do. And it intimidates me even more to think of doing it with a baby.

On top of all that, I think that having a baby in general has made me think more and more about home. I want my little Texan to grow up knowing as much as she can about her Louisiana heritage. It is a long and rich (in tradition, not in wealth) heritage that I've researched and can trace back at least seven generations on my side of the family alone, not to mention my husband's. And although I know we are just over two hours away, sometimes I really do wish that Lily could just hop on over to her Granny's house for a visit. There are times when two and a half hours seems like so far away.

My heart is there, but it's also here. It's here because "home" is where my husband and daughter are. Within the walls of our house, I feel perfectly happy and secure and at peace. But when I think about getting out there and finding a new church family, and especially down the road when we must start looking at schools for Lily, it feels so foreign and unsettling. It's hard to imagine our future here, but I know that moving back would never be exactly the same as it used to be.

It feels that somehow, at the same time, I have two homes and yet no home. Does that make sense? My heart is in two places: here and there. But staying here means starting over, just like returning there would also be starting over. Like I mentioned in the last post, we have no plans to move. It's just something we think about, especially now that we have a child.

And after all of that, I realize that houses aren't really what make up a home. People do and families do; I know that. Sometimes I wonder if I'm simply chasing some elusive feeling of what home is or used to be.

(I'm not even sure if these thoughts of mine have translated well into a blog post, but there you have it. Thanks for sticking with it if you've read this far!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A (Happy) New Year

Before Lily came along, New Year's was always one of the hardest times of the year for me. I know that many people dealing with infertility have a hard time around the holidays, particularly at Christmas. That was tough, too, but for me it really hit after Christmas.

I guess it was largely because being with my family made me feel secure and happy and made me (almost) forget about the familiar sadness of being without the children that I'd lost as well as the one(s) I wasn't sure I'd ever have. The warmth surrounding Christmas with family and what it means to me as a believer in Christ, the joy of sharing the holiday with our sweet nephews each year, and even the beautiful decorations and music that I anticipate all year long always helped get me through what could have been a very sad time. But when all of that was over and we returned to our quiet house, the empty feeling would return. My undecorated home after the holidays even reflected how I felt: empty and cold.

On top of that, January is my birthday month. Exactly one month after Christmas I turn one year older. Because of recurrent miscarriage, that wasn't really a happy time for me anymore. I dreaded another year gone and all of the lost opportunities of having our baby while my age kept increasing.

Every new year had me wondering if it would be the year that we would bring home a baby. I would start each one with a mixture of hope and dread (mostly dread), unsure of what it would hold.

Of course this year was different. While I don't feel that infertility is no longer a part of my life, I didn't start the year with it at the forefront of my mind as I had previously done. It felt... refreshing. It truly felt as every new year should -- like a new beginning and a fresh start.

I still struggle with coming home after being with family in Louisiana all week. I think that will always be hard for me. The past few months have been a struggle for me as I've been thinking a lot about "home" and where we may live in the near future. No, we have absolutely no plans to move; it's just been on my mind lately. Ever since Lily was born, I'm just not sure Texas is where I want to be. (Nothing against The Lone Star State!) I have A LOT more to say about this, but I think it's a topic for another post!

Anyway, back to the original subject... new year... starting over...

The other day I was cleaning out the cabinet underneath our bathroom sink. The sink had been draining slowly and my husband was getting ready to take a look at the pipes, so I figured it was a good time to clean out some stuff we don't use or need anymore. I threw out two boxes of (expired) ovulation predictor kits. There was one box of home pregnancy tests with one unopened test remaining. It was the same box that gave us the two pink lines for Lily one year ago. The test doesn't expire until the end of this year, so I decided to hang on to it. It felt good to throw out the OPKs, I have to admit, but seeing the pregnancy test made me realize that my concerns about my future fertility aren't over. But, with that being said, I prefer to spend my days enjoying the child that we finally have rather than worrying about what might happen in the future. I can't help but think about it every now and then, of course. I still pray that our days of dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss are over for good. I have no idea whether we'll be able to have a sibling for Lily. Thinking about it at this stage makes my stomach hurt, so I try not to let the subject occupy my thoughts for too long.

I still think it's a miracle that we had a successful pregnancy last year and that we started 2011 with a smiling, happy 3-month old. It blows my mind. My husband and I still ask each other pretty frequently, "Can you believe she's here and we get to keep her?"

I'm anticipating this happy new year with all of the special memories we'll be making with our precious girl.

Lily Rae at 3 1/2 months, January 2011