Archive for September, 2013

We have proudly bore the title of parents for 2 weeks now and are slowly but surely finding our way through the topsy-turvy terrain of caring for a newborn. It’s been better, sweeter, and at times (usually in the wee hours of the morning), much harder than we imagined.  It feels like any given day, any given hour, can hold the highest highs and the lowest lows.

I stood with Juliette in my arms in the nursery the other night, bouncing and shushing until I was short of breath, watching the clock tick its way past midnight, crying tears of frustration as she wailed in my ear.  How could she possibly be hungry again?  I fed her thirty minutes ago.  Couldn’t she give my sore breasts a break? Was I producing enough milk? Or was she just an over-eater? Why did I let her take that long evening nap, right before bedtime? My mind ran amuck, all sense of reason lost in the mix of too little sleep and too many hormones. But once I worked up the will to feed her again and laid her quiet, milk-drunk little body across my chest, I was reminded that she’s not trying to be difficult – she’s just trying to figure out life on the outside, and the learning curve is steep, for her and for us. This mutual vulnerability sometimes results in tears, but it also results in a kind of closeness I’ve never known before. There is no match for the feeling of her collapsing against me after a big meal, her serene, satisfied face saying “thank you”.

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As I’m feeling stronger and Jules is more alert, we’re embarking on mini family outings to break up our long, quiet days at home. We took her out to the Columbia City farmers market on Wednesday night, eager for fresh air and a short walk. Shane and I tucked her into her car seat and then playfully argued over who would get to push the stroller and enjoy the best view of her curious, wide-open eyes. It was fun to join the ranks of other neighborhood families, to see cider for sale and sense the onset of Fall. But then Jules started to fuss as I lingered by the freshly picked apples. We headed back to the car, wanting to keep her happy and squeeze in a quick run to the grocery store before going home. Halfway to PCC, the girl totally lost it – we called it quits on our fun family outing and turned the car around just as her crying morphed into full-on purple-faced shrieking. Shane became frantic as we waited at a stop light, begging me to do something as her periods of suspended breath between wails grew longer and longer – he thought she was literally crying herself to death. I assured him that she’d be fine, but by the time we made it home and pulled her out of her (apparently tortuous) car seat, my nerves were shot. Hearing her cry like that and feeling powerless to stop it had left me tired and anxious – I cradled her in my arms and sighed as I wondered how many more years of on-the-road meltdowns we had in front of us.

Every day holds one or two (or 15) moments of doubt or fatigue; thankfully, every day is also full of precious nuggets that outshine the tough stuff. A smile, a goofy cross-eyed gaze, a quiet minute to stop and stroke her soft brown-and-blond hair – these are the joys that get us through the day. When she drapes her arms across my body after a good feeding or nuzzles against Shane to watch the Giants game, all is suddenly right in our little world.

And, by popular demand, the latest photos…

I’d like to think she was smiling at me, but the sounds coming from her derriere suggest there was something else going on:

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Best natural highlights I’ve ever seen:

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Blue steel:

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Passed out.  One of these days I’ll learn that I should be napping while she’s napping, rather than obsessively taking photos of her:

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Feelin’ fresh after her first shower:

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Sleeping the day away on her 2-week birthday:

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Our little girl is one week old today. It seems impossible that eight days ago, we had yet to find out who she was, what she would be like, what we would be like as parents – eight days ago, we were just beginning the labor that would bring her into our arms.

I awoke early on the morning of Friday the 13th with light contractions. We started timing them were certain by mid-morning that I was in the midst of early labor. Finally! This baby was ready to say hello! I saw the doctor that afternoon, who confirmed that things we’re progressing – I was dilated 3 cm and was having contractions every 9-10 minutes. She sent us home, telling us that she (or one of her colleagues) expected to see us again soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening bouncing on our balance ball, breathing through the increasingly frequent, increasingly painful contractions. Nancy came over at 7:00 and stepped into her role as birth doula, offering us her encouragement and advice, and helping us make the call at 9:00 pm that it was indeed time to lay down a towel on the passenger seat of the car and head to the hospital (it would be a shame to add “clean up amniotic fluid” to our post-baby to-do’s, should my water break in the car). I waddled my way into the hospital, stopping in the garage and then the elevator lobby to breathe through a couple of contractions, and was given a small room in triage, where they checked my vitals and assessed my progress. Cervical exams are never pleasant, but I set aside any qualms about the discomfort and looked forward to seeing how far I’d come – after all the laboring I had done since our doctor appointment earlier that day, I was hopeful that I’d be well on my way to that ultimate goal of full dilation at 10 cm. My spirits fell when the nurse said that I was at 3, maybe 4 cm and told us to go walk around for a couple of hours to move things along. The thought of enduring several more hours of labor was daunting, but I summoned what energy I had left and we set out to wander the hospital’s deserted hallways while baby Schnell packed his or her bags. Shane and Nancy naturally fell into their roles as my perfect support team, Nance keeping me focused as she counted through each contraction and Shane offering physical encouragement as he rubbed my back or allowed me to lean into him. By the time we returned to triage around 1 am, I was exhausted and quickly climbing the pain scale – 18 hours of contractions, now coming just every three minutes, had taken a hefty toll on me, physically and emotionally. The nurse checked me again and said I had progressed only 1-2 cm, which sealed the deal: I wanted an epidural, stat. They moved us into our birthing suite and after a painfully long hour of watching our kind-but-sloooooow nurse fumble around the room to get supplies ready and place my IV, the anesthesiologist swooped in to offer me that sweet, blessed, magic medicine. I collapsed into the hospital bed as the pain subsided, thanking God for rest and relief. I fell asleep around 3 am and awoke a couple hours later to a leaking sensation – my water had broken! A sign of substantial progress! The doctor came in to check me shortly thereafter and surprised us all when she said I was fully dilated and ready to push. I asked for a little time to psych myself up, and at 7:30 I started in on the final stage of labor. After just a couple of pushes, the head was visible and the nurse excitedly remarked over our baby’s full head of hair. Hair? Our baby had hair? As in, there’s a real person in there ready to come out and meet us? Shane and I looked at each other and both started to cry – this was the moment our child’s imminent arrival became undeniably real. Our questions were about to be answered, our greatest longing fulfilled. The wait was nearly over – I wiped my tears and pushed like hell.

And then, at 9:03 am, our baby was born. The doctor held her in front of Shane for a brief moment and placed that slimy, wiggly, wailing little thing on my chest as Shane cried, “It’s Juliette, buhb, it’s Juliette!” Oh, that moment. It is sealed in my memory as one of the greatest joys of my life. I mean, I have cried tears of happiness before, but I laid in that bed and I outright sobbed, with relief, with gratitude, with the fullness of this brand new love. She was so beautiful, with her rosy skin and matted brown hair. Her cries were so strong but so vulnerable, like she was telling us, “Don’t worry, I’m ok, but I still really need mama right now.”

(Thank you, Nance for the photos!)

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We spent the next 30 hours in our post-partum room, in a hazy blur of feeding (our girl is an eater!), dozing, and getting poked and prodded by nurses and doctors. By Sunday afternoon, we were ready to get out of there. The hospital’s photographer snapped a few shots of our family of three before we left. Three. Two was pretty damn great, but three is amazing.

(Photos by Bella Baby)

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As we packed up our things and tucked Juliette into her car seat, we both started crying yet again (nothing like birthing a child to clear out those tear ducts!). I had dreamt of this moment for so long, this assertion of our status as capable parents, striking out to blaze our trail as the newly expanded Schnell family. Shane was overwhelmed by the thought that her care was being entrusted to us – his chin quivered as he squeezed his eyes shut, in that Shane way of crying that so rarely comes out, and he muttered, “I just really, really want to be a good dad…”. God had given us this precious gift, and we wanted nothing so badly as to do right by her.

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We toasted to Juliette’s one-week birthday this morning with champagne and donuts, and I was reminded that our family is in fact much larger than just three. There are people from coast to coast that love her and want to share in the journey of seeing her grow. Grandma and Grandpa Schnell oohed and ahhed over every little half-smile and wrinkle of her nose when we video chatted with them on Tuesday. Yesterday we received a card from Great Grandaddy Jarrell with thoughtful congratulations and the beginning of Juliette’s college fund. And these people, our Seattle family, are already lavishing her with affection and gifts (thanks, Jordan and Bees, for unexpectedly scavenging that hideous diaper cake on your latest Craigslist run – the nursery needed a touch of pink).

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What a crazy, wonderful, blessed week.  Life will never be the same again.

Juliette Grace bid hello to the world on Saturday morning, screaming like a banshee and weighing in at 7 lb 7 oz. She’s healthy, (usually) happy, and knock-your-socks-off beautiful. Shane and I both cried like babies on the way home from the hospital – we can’t believe this little girl is ours, that we have been blessed with the burden to keep her safe, to help her grow, to love her with total selflessness and vulnerability. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that four days ago, she was still that nebulous little creature that wriggled around inside my belly. Now suddenly she’s here, and I can’t imagine life without her.

I’ll fill in the details of her arrival later – for now, just say hello to Jules!

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Our hospital bag is packed. The car seat is in the car. I have scrubbed the insides of our kitchen cabinets, dusted the mini-blinds, washed and folded our stack of baby blankets.  C’mon, baby!  It’s time to get this show on the road!

Or not. We saw the doctor yesterday morning, and it seems that little Schnell is, in the words of La Verne, “still clinging to the sides of my womb” (Jack and La Verne know a thing or two about stubbornly late babies).  The past couple of weeks, I’ve met these progress reports (and I use the word “progress” lightly) with a mixture of disappointment and relief, relief being the dominant emotion – I wasn’t quite ready, the house wasn’t in perfect order, I wanted a little more time to myself.  But yesterday, upon hearing that my cervix isn’t looking labor-ready, impatience began to take hold of me.  My checklist is complete.  It’s been borderline hot in Seattle.  The bowling ball strapped to my front side is making it hard for me to walk/sit/lay comfortably.  And more than anything, I really really really want to meet this kid.  I’m tired of trying to picture baby Schnell and coming up with only vague, fuzzy images of what our child might be like.  Will he or she have hair?  Will he or she like to be rocked, or bounced, or taken for long car rides?  And for Pete’s sake, is it a he or a she?  I’d really love to narrow this down to a single pronoun.  Even in my dreams, the details elude me.  Last week I dreamt that I gave birth to a stuffed teddy bear – I reached out to pick it up and was completely crestfallen by its glassy-eyed gaze.  A couple of nights ago, I dreamt that my doctor pulled the baby out during my regular check-up.  Thankfully, the baby was human and healthy, but I was so surprised by the whole thing that I rushed home and spent the entire day calling family members and marveling over my newly flat stomach – it wasn’t until late that evening that I realized I had left our child at the doctors office, without having asked whether it was a boy or a girl.

Nance suggested that we pack a couple of comfort items in our hospital bag to help me cope with labor – tokens of support or encouragement for when the going gets tough.  So tucked in my duffel bag, next to the camera and the baby clothes, is a snapshot from my 6-week ultrasound, the appointment where we discovered with overwhelming relief that our little embryo had a heartbeat.  I look at this miniature pea-sized blur and am flooded with gratitude for how the baby has grown over the past eight months.  I’m reminded of all the waiting and hoping and praying that has led us here – it’s been a long, winding road, but finally, we’re on the verge of parenthood.  So what do you say, kid?  Shall we put an end to all this crazy anticipation and meet face-to-face?  I vote yes.

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A notification popped up on my phone first thing this morning:  “Showtime!”.  Shane put this “reminder”  on our Google calendar months ago (as if we haven’t been counting down to this day since January).  40 weeks into this journey.  Due day.  No baby in sight. And no signs that this kid is in any rush to make an appearance.  He or she may have inherited mom’s tendency toward tardiness. Dad is not so pleased.

But for now, I’m alright with hanging tight.  It was a pretty great weekend – dinner with ladies on Friday night, followed by cupcakes at Chez Rust to celebrate baby Chen’s hundred-day birthday, pedicures with Nance yesterday, a visit to Kedai Makan last night with Jack and La Verne, and some last-minute check-listing today (they’re starting to know our faces at the Goodwill drop-off station).  These last few days have been full of rest, full of laughter with our dearest friends, full of quiet moments at home, laying on the couch with Shane as he rests his hands on my belly in his best effort to high-five our little one.  A part of me is eager to move past the waiting and get this show on the road; another part of me is soaking up every last drop of this peaceful contentedness, reveling in this time when I’m able to meet our child’s every need without even thinking about it.

We snapped what will probably be our last baby bump pictures today (I’ll spare you the ginormous belly shots if I’m still pregnant at 41 weeks).  Like I said, I don’t mind if the baby wants to hang out in utero for a few more days…as long as he or she temporarily stops growing.  If I run into you this week, please spare me your stories about past-due 10-pound babies.  I don’t wanna hear it.

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See you on the flip side, kiddo…

After several months of purging and organizing and painting and shopping, this bedroom is ready for a baby!  I’ve had a lot of fun preparing the nursery – there were moments when I questioned what I had gotten into with that wall mural, and how I was going to find the stamina for one last day in the print studio, and whether or not we should have gone ahead and bought that fancy Oeuf crib, but in the end, it all came together into a room that’s perfect for baby.  And me.

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Shane and I had a fairly intense design debate about this wall – I wanted to line it with several rows of shelves to put books on display; Shane thought it made more sense to buy a low shelf (that a toddler could actually reach) and keep the wall free from the holes for all those wall brackets.  Shane won.  And kudos, hon – this turned out to be cleaner and much more functional.

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I wanted to incorporate a few personal touches to the nursery, while keeping it simple and modern.  I’m hoping we’ll look at this photo wall with the baby and talk about grandmas and grandpas and cousins and friends.  Then we’ll look at the AT&T Park print and talk about Buster Posy and Matt Cain.  😉

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The glider was hands-down the best purchase for this room – after test-driving a dozen different chairs, this one from West Elm won out for comfort and style (most stores make it an either/or decision).  I imagine we’ll be logging a lot of hours in this seat…

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The deets:

Paint: “Storm” by Valspar

Hudson Crib by babyletto

Parsons Low Bookshelf by West Elm

Wooden Storage Crates by Lucky Clover Trading Co.

Graham Glider by West Elm

Tripod End Table by Urban Outfitters

Malm Dresser by Ikea

SF Giants Print by Bird Ave

I cleared my inbox, turned on my out-of-office message, and said “peace out” to my co-workers yesterday.  Today marks day 1 of my six-month maternity leave!  I have been eagerly anticipating this break for awhile – I hit my 8-year anniversary with my firm in August, and while I take a lot of pride in what I do, I was feeling ready for a change of pace.  A hiatus from Revit and building permits and too many emails.  I’m wanting new challenges and opportunities and forms of communication (remember when I talked about dancing around with a bowl on my head?  not likely to go over so well in my workplace).  But when I shut down my computer and walked out the door last night, rather than throwing my arms out in overwhelming relief, I felt surprisingly anxious.  The frustrating-but-true fact is that no matter how much I look forward to something new, whether it’s a vacation or an art class or motherhood itself, when the rubber hits the road, I freak out a little bit.  Whenever we go on a big trip, I spend the entire ride to the airport thinking about work deadlines and our unmade bed and that extra sweater I should have packed.  Yeah, the day-in, day-out can wear on me, but I also find comfort in it.  I like stability.  I like knowing what to expect and knowing what’s expected of me.  Same old, safe old.

As I was getting into bed last night, I realized that I don’t have to set my alarm clock for the next six months (let’s temporarily forget about the fact that I’ll be waking to an alarm without a snooze button once the baby is here).  And this morning, I lingered in bed until 8:00.  I made myself breakfast and ate it slowly while I watched the rain fall outside and checked my favorite blogs.  I took a shower and blow-dried my hair without once looking at the clock to see how much time I had left to get ready.  I went out to lunch with La Verne and satisfied my persistent shaved ice craving.  That nagging pain I’ve been feeling in my right shoulder didn’t bother me a bit today.  I watched a movie this afternoon, and then dozed/read/dozed/read on the couch for awhile.  I had the time and energy to do a little yardwork while Shane cooked dinner on the grill.  I’m capping off the day with Project Runway, kicking back while my belly rocks and rolls (baby loooooved that shaved ice!).  So all that stuff I said about maternity leave anxiety?  Nevermind.  Day 1 was kind of amazing.  And watching La V cradle baby N in her arms over lunch, I realized the best is yet to come.

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I capitalized on a final bout of nesting adrenaline and spent Sunday in the print studio, wrapping up a couple things for the baby’s room.  I had initially flagged a few cute prints of birds and trains and fruit as inspiration for the nursery art wall, but ultimately decided I wanted something a little more personal.  So I gathered some photos of our most memorable trips and put together a series of prints based on our favorite places:

One incredibly bumpy car ride landed us at Polihale Beach in Kauai – Shane swam in the ocean while I laid in the warm sand.  I remember thinking that this was the closest we’d ever come to paradise.

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We caught one absolutely perfect sunset in Bruges three years ago.  It was pouring when our train pulled into town that morning, but by mid-day the clouds had parted and the sun had come out.  We stood on a little bridge that evening and watched the sky change colors with the town’s charming skyline in the foreground.  Oh, and the mussels and beer we had for dinner that night…Belgium was good to us.

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And Banff…I’ll never forget the sunny afternoon we spent paddling around Lake Moraine’s crystal blue waters in a little canoe, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  That trip was also the scene of my first and only bear sighting!

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Here’s to hoping that little Schnell shares our affinity for travel and adventure – there’s a big, beautiful world out there!

This baby is due in six days.  Six.  Such a small number.  And so I’m doing my best to enjoy this last stretch of pregnancy.  Notwithstanding the acid reflux, and the back pain, and the weird sensation of my organs being pushed around by our squirmy kid, I feel good.  Thankful.  Surprisingly energetic.  And just the tiniest bit sad at the thought of no longer bring pregnant.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost over.  So when I found out that Nance’s friend Lea is working on getting her photography biz started, I asked if she’d be willing to do a little shoot with Shane and I, to capture this precious, fleeting time in our lives.  We spent last Saturday at the Olympic Sculpture Park with her, memorializing week 38.  A few favorites:

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And just think…bump pics will be baby pics any day now!