Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth (Or Prenatal Yoga & Surviving Pregnancy)

I have two pregnant friends right now which has given quite a few opportunities to discuss how much I love prenatal yoga. But clearly not enough or I wouldn’t feel the need to bring it up here.

Being pregnant had its magical moments but overall I can’t say I loved it. Going to prenatal yoga was one of my favorite things about being pregnant if that says anything.

When I shared my excitement for my weekly yoga outing at work, they were… skeptical. They told me to keep my patchouli and mantras to myself. But I just can’t! I must admit, there have been times in the past and in prenatal yoga that I wasn’t wild about. I can only Om so much before you’ve lost me. In a past life the yoga studio I attended played fun, retro music while we worked through poses. It was hip to the max. My prenatal studio, Longwave Yoga in Wilmington, was more traditional with what any skeptic would describe as new age, world music.

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You have to move past all that.

  1. At a certain in pregnant you begin to deal with a lot of physical discomfort and mental anxiety. For me the mental anxiety began almost immediately. Here’s a brief synopsis of my brain during pregnancy:
    • First trimester: Are we making the right choice? Am I going to lose all my freedom? What’s going to happen to my identity?
    • Second trimester: We’re going to be terrible parents.
    • Third trimester: I have to give birth?! I changed my mind.

It was something like that. Physically, my pregnancy was relatively easy but it was still hard. I felt sore, uncomfortable, weak. I started waddling pretty early on. Yoga was the only place I felt I could clear my mind for a few minutes and relax my body. I went every week from about 28 to 39 weeks and eventually it didn’t relieve my physical discomfort anymore. At that point though I had very little motivation to get off the couch and it provided what I needed to get out of the house.

2. When you’re pregnant, all of the sudden you don’t quite fit in the world. Pretty much everything is labeled- pregnant women should use caution or avoid. No alcohol, no hot tubs, exercise class instructors get nervous when you walk in and so on. My work chair was painful no matter how many pillows I brought from home. Prenatal yoga was the only place where it was meant for me. I surrounded my mat with bolsters and blocks to make my poses easier and support my big ol’ belly. The instructor knew what modifications to make to help me and she also knew what was on my mind. It was a safe place to cry through my poses when I needed or just hold my bump and breath for a little while.

3. Even though I was 30 when I had Haines I didn’t know many other young moms or pregnant women. I was desperate to be around women who were going through this same experience or who had just come out the other side. It was so nice to be around women who all understand some element of what I was dealing with, even if just for one quiet hour a week.

4. This is the kicker- the breathing I learned in yoga is the only reason I could survive my contractions. I had wanted to have a natural birth and Haines turned out to be on board for that. He was able to keep things under 12 hours from first contraction to his appearance in the world and I didn’t reach my breaking point until about 10 1/2 or 11 hours. While all the exercise and poses I learned in yoga definitely helped me for the incredibly physical intense experience of delivery the breathing got me through the pain. With each contraction I breathed in slowly silently saying “Let” and then exhaled slowly “go”. Over and over again this was the chant that got me through it. Not the heating pad, not the bath, not the tennis ball on my back, not my husband’s encouragement, not music, nothing but “let go” and slow breathing. Well, that and the living room recliner where I labored and squeezing Tyler’s hand when things got bad.

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I ended up pretty much living in this chair after H was born. 

Obviously yoga isn’t for everyone. Neither is natural childbirth…or childbirth at all for that matter. But if you’re pregnant and looking for relief or even remotely considering non-medicated birth, it’s worth your time to check it out. It’s been a year since I last went and I still think about it often.

 

Postpartum Baby Fever

Somewhere around 6 months postpartum baby fever hit me. I felt weirdly intense about my friends’ new babies and pregnancies. I followed another million mom Instagram accounts. I started to think about Haines as my first baby rather than just my baby. I sized up our guest bedroom for bunk beds. WTF.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve never had baby fever before. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved babies. I love their tiny features and wispy hair and baby smell. I like babies that look like old men (90%) and ones with outrageous fat rolls (sadly, not mine). I have never not wanted to hold any baby I’ve encountered, but I’ve pretty much always been on the fence about actually birthing one. So, when I was struck down with baby fever after recently learning what it was like to birth a baby (without pain medication no less), it was particularly shocking to me.

I started to think about all the new baby things we would need for a second baby, as if we actually needed them. Two babies in cloth diapers- was it possible? As if we actually had another baby on the way. I asked all my coworkers about their children’s age gaps. Planned/not planned? Too far apart or so close together it makes you want to jump off a cliff?

Finally, over one of these conversations I fully fessed up on my baby fever status. My coworker said, “Oh, of course you have baby fever! You were pregnant and then you had a baby and all these things are happening. It’s all so exciting but then it’s just stops. Everything becomes normal.”

At first I thought this was insane. My life isn’t normal. There is a baby here! I have become a parent! He keeps teething and getting bigger and now he crawls at an alarming speed. How is that possible?! The last 18 months (pregnancy + baby) have been a huge whirlwind.

But, I guess this is my new normal. I am a parent…of a baby…who will become a child.

 Unknown Adventure

Pregnancy is so incredibly exciting. Even when it is agony, it is exciting. There is this unknown adventure growing inside you. It is easy to spend much of your time in disbelief that your body is capable of this. No really, this is how babies are made.

At the same time, everyone is talking to you about the baby, the belly, the future. This can be the most annoying thing ever, especially if you do not like to be the center of attention, but it also adds to the excitement. Either way, the dynamic has shifted. There is always something to talk about- you. This is handy because while you’re pregnant your world feels especially small. It’s hard to move your brain past the excitement but also the practical aspects of a new person. So, how exactly is this going to work? Today we are two people, but tomorrow we are three?

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Kindness

Most of the time people are also extra generous and kind to pregnant women and new parents. They stand up so you can have their seat. Your friends stock LaCroix at their house so you can have something to drink. When you birth that tiny person they even bring you food so you don’t starve to death. You are in fact so tired you would probably starve if someone didn’t just straight up hand you food.

But then these things start to come to an end. You start to put adult beverages back in your life and eventually the meal train stops. You also just start to adjust and your baby (hopefully) stops torturing you with needing to eat every 25 seconds. Eventually everyone sleeps and you’re able to go to the grocery store and buy snacks that you can eat one-handed. (Even if your baby isn’t feeding, he’s still most likely on your body in some way.)

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Some people even come from other countries to meet your baby.

Baby Steps

Everything is a total novelty. Every day someone asks me how Haines is and I wish I could explain the new thing he has learned that week but unless you are where I am, it doesn’t mean much. I could tell you that he has started jabbing the air in little punches when he is excited which is adorable but also dangerous because he also sometimes catches himself in the face. I could tell you that this weekend he started standing by himself for several seconds in a row which is a huge step for him.  I could talk about how he’s able to get way more food in his mouth when he feeds himself at dinner time but let’s be honest, last week he was getting like every 8th pea in so there was a lot of room for improvement. It’s baby stuff. Unless your baby has also just learned to eat peas with his or her tiny fists, it’s just not that exciting to you. That’s okay, though. I want you to be more interesting than that, too. (I’m working towards it.)

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#2

I’m not trying to say that people who have babies back to back just want to keep all the baby excitement in their lives going. People want their kids to be close in age. People want to knock out all their sleepless months in one stretch. I get that! But if you have recently had a baby and been struck down with baby fever (severity may vary) there is a chance that you are also in the same spot as me.

There is a chance that you are also caught up in a whirlwind  of everything new and everything cute. Realizing that for me was what finally freed up my mind from bunk beds and new baby names. Now I’m just enjoying a baby who will be 9 months next week and I have the space to figure out what might be the right time if and when that baby needs to become a big sibling.

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To Reveal or Not to Reveal

When you first announce your pregnancy to the world you are bombarded by questions. When is the due date? Did you plan it? (How is this an appropriate question??) Who have you told? Are you going to find out the sex?

I have no idea how it happened but from the very beginning I was completely against finding out the baby’s sex.  Tyler hesitated only briefly before jumping on board. Our family was supportive, for the most part, but they would have much preferred we find out. My sister though was the only one who hated it and let us know!

While a lot of our friends or coworkers, liked the idea of keeping the baby’s sex a surprise most people say, “Oh I could never do that.” They either couldn’t stand the suspense, which I totally understand, or they felt they needed to know to plan for the baby. This I never wrapped my mind around. What do you need to plan? A baby girl and a baby boy need the same things: a car seat, a crib, clothes, diapers, bottles and so forth. Even your nursery’s theme, if you have one, can go a variety of directions. Winnie the Pooh, Disney, travel/adventure, Noah’s Ark- all of these and many more work for any baby. Although if you’re really into monograms, I can see how this would be a problem. I think this is probably a bigger problem in the South than elsewhere. (FYI Haines has the best initials for a monogram. HEB!)

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The best grocery in Texas!

There’s more though that I didn’t expect. Knowing the baby’s sex makes them start to take shape in your mind. They go from this concept, this idea where anything is possible to something real, a person. There’s no more pretending. I liked keeping the possibilities open until the moment of truth, until everything changes, but I can see now how it might be helpful at times for bonding with Haines before he entered the world. Many times when I was pregnant I worried that I didn’t feel a special connection to Haines. It’s strange to remember that now as I can’t imagine Haines not being here, let alone not feeling a connection to him.

When Haines was born and they announced “It’s a boy!” to the room it was a shock, although I’m not sure “It’s a girl!” would have brought a different response. There was a baby in the room where there wasn’t one before. It was the biggest change there could possibly be. There were two people in a family and then there were three.

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On the practical side, because Haines was still an enigma we weren’t tempted to buy him toys or clothes. It wasn’t quite the same for our mothers, but I suppose that’s not surprising. Tyler bought a tiny bat that he said would be a softball or baseball bat for baby B and I bought two newborn outfits for Christmas. Santa wasn’t coming to find any baby Grinch!  Priorities, right?

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For us, it made everything a little more special, the not knowing. We were entering on a journey that we couldn’t start to imagine and keeping all of the mystery intact was something I don’t regret. It’d be hard to do it again but I loved doing it all the same.

Where is My Mind?

I’m totally losing it. I don’t think it’s shocking that a woman with a 7 week old baby would feel like her creativity is missing. But it’s been missing for a long time.

I first noticed it when I was pregnant. During the first trimester I was too tired to care that I hadn’t written anything and my craft supplies were collecting dust. In the second trimester I spent my extra energy canning. Three batches of tomato jam, one applesauce, one apple butter, one pasta sauce, strawberry syrup and strawberry jam later I found myself in the third trimester. There is no extra energy in the third trimester. Everything I had went to keeping my job and eating (I gained most of my weight then, which is not how it’s supposed to go!).

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Now I have a newborn. At 7 weeks we wake up at least twice a night and his preferred spot is in my arms. So no, I don’t have a lot of extra energy for writing blogs, writing letters, creative thinking, cooking fun meals or arts and crafts. And yet it feels so much more extreme than that. When I have a few moments to myself, I have no idea what to do. I have found myself just sitting on my couch staring off thinking, “What do I like to do?” “What do I need to do?” Tyler told me to get out of the house and take a break. I had no idea where to go.

Much of this can be contributed to my recent monumental life changes but I think it’s more than that. It’s not just Haines that’s blinding me, it’s the media. It’s the morning news, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s watching the Today show in the morning while I try to wake up and automatically reaching for my phone every time I’m sitting for a few minutes with nothing to do. Considering the number of times Haines eats a day, that’s a lot.

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Milk drunk baby

I want my brain back, but that means learning to do nothing again. To sit with my thoughts, even if nothing comes at first. To take walks without music or podcasts. Deleting Facebook from my phone. And for the time being make lists so I can remember what’s going on! I know Haines will be impeding the situation for quite a bit longer but maybe I help find my mind little by little.

In the meantime:

  • I’m reading The Sun when I need help staying awake in the middle of the night instead of looking at my phone.
  • I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone so I can’t easily access it.
  • I will be making an effort to get outside every day. (If anyone has any tips for hiking with infants, I see this in my future…)
  • I will sit and do nothing sometimes simply to let my mind move itself rather than have outside influence.

One thing at a time, y’all.

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Get outside!

Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Came Early

We had done our best to think the baby would be late. Unbearably late. This, we heard, was the best way to not be get through the days before baby arrived. The day before our due date we went to the midwife for our weekly appointment. We knew there was really nothing she could tell us to help predict when the baby would come but we hoped for something anyways.

Everything looked great and I was dilated 3 cm. This really means nothing though. You can stay at 3 cm for days without progress. We scheduled our next appointment and an induction for the day after Christmas. On the way home I asked Tyler to stop and buy a Gatorade. I felt nauseas and gross, glad to be working from the couch. I planned to stop work a bit early and get in the bath but come 4 pm there was still too much to do.

At this point Tyler had come home from the grocery and I admitted that I had been having contractions since 2pm almost every twenty minutes. I showed him where I was writing them down in my work notebook. He was not impressed that I hadn’t told him immediately.

Everything seemed very manageable then. I got in the bath and rested. The contractions were felt doable. I could handle this. When I called my mother to let her know what was happening I was calm on the phone. No rushing, drive safe. Don’t come if you’re tired. Tyler arranged for our dog to be picked up by friends.

Although my contractions didn’t become consistently closer together, things quickly deteriorated. My attempts to walk around the house were unbearable. I threw up my dinner- soup and a milkshake generously dropped off by a coworker. Soon I refused to get out of the recliner, dozing between each contraction and squeezing Tyler’s hand when they came. It was hard to open my eyes to see my mom when she arrived. When Tyler called the midwife around 1am I was asking for an epidural. I wanted to go to the hospital. My contractions still weren’t consistently 3 minutes apart and she encouraged me to stay at home and walk around- speed things up. Um, no.

I barely made it to the car.

Mom and Tyler carefully walked me out, holding me up. Our hospital is only 4 minutes away which made all the difference. The midwife changed her tune when we arrived- I was already 10 cm dilated and wanting to push! It was straight to the delivery room where the midwife sat at the end of the bed ready to break my water. I started to fall apart asking for an epidural again (if you’re ready to push this isn’t going to work). With the midwife between my knees a contraction hit and BAM! My water exploded all over her and the surrounding area. She got up to change her clothes with a “Well, that settles that.”

The baby was ready to make an entrance and I was able to start pushing immediately. Fortunately for me it was all over in a matter of 5 or so contractions (20 minutes, perhaps) and also fortunately for the baby whose heart rate dropped significantly for about 10 of those minutes. I ended up getting an episiotomy which certainly wasn’t in my birth plan but was totally for the best. It all came to an end with the announcement of “It’s a boy!”  and the total shock of a baby being placed on my chest.

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Childbirth Surprises:

  • I didn’t curse, which I was proud of as that seems like an unpleasant thing to put up with at your place of work. On the other hand I screamed so hard my throat hurt for days. Sorry, nurses.
  • Apparently Tyler and I both truly thought the baby would be a girl as we both thought/said, “Are you sure?” when we found out it was a boy.
  • It turns out there is no keeping your support team away from the business end of childbirth. With your head to your chest and your knees open and up to your ears, there is no way to distinguish any part of you. The whole of you is in childbirth.
  • The post-delivery shakes completely caught me by surprise. I didn’t know to anticipate them and they felt totally debilitating.
  • The nurses and staff at the hospital completely lived up to their reputation and took care of us 100%. It was incredible.

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Baby Haines has been kind enough to sleep on my chest while I’ve typed but I think he’s reached his maximum. We’ll just have to share more soon.

Happy holidays everyone.

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This is a very photogenic family.