4 Months Old

Wow, I really feel like I could write a book about all that has happened this past month. 

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When I think back to last month’s post, it seems like she is almost a different baby now!  I know ‘time flies by’ and ‘they grow up so fast’ are pretty clichéd statements, but they are TRUE! 

She currently weighs about 16 pounds, and is wearing 3 month clothes still (except 6 months in pajamas), but I think in the next couple weeks we will be switching to all 6 months clothes since she is such a long little thing.

I think I’ll start with probably the most “life changing” difference (and I’m really talking about my life here…) is how much her sleeping habits have improved!  Since birth Charlotte has really liked sleeping in someone’s arms (what baby doesn’t!) but seemed unable to sleep by herself during the day.  Naps during the first two months weren’t so bad because I was happy to be holed up in the bedroom with her 24/7.  But by three months my floors were pretty filthy, and I was ready to have a little bit of freedom from my little munchkin.  In last month’s post I shared how she was taking her naps in the baby carrier only, which meant I was pacing around my apartment for 4-5 hours a day to accommodate her four naps (she wouldn’t let me stop moving or she would wake up).  She also was waking up every 1 1/2-3 hours each night, and I was physically and mentally exhausted.

IMG_1991This was my life. Exhausting.

Then right around 3 months 1 week a miracle happened!  Through a bunch of random “accidents” and God given grace, we figured out she slept much better unswaddled, would soothe herself by sucking her thumb, and was capable of putting herself to sleep at night.  That first night it happened she slept for stretches of 3-4 hours and we were in shock!  So, since she had shown us that she was developmentally capable of putting herself to sleep, we decided the next day to try and see if she could do it for naps in her cribs.  We definitely hadn’t planned on doing any “sleep training” this young, but we felt like the night before had been God’s way of letting us know she was ready to sleep by herself.  For her first nap that day she cried for 1 1/2 hours and never went to sleep.  During that time we didn’t leave her alone to cry, we sat in a chair next to the crib and every few minutes would rub her chest and hands and tell her “it’s alright.”  I was pretty much sure that she wasn’t ready to sleep in her crib yet, but we decided to try again for her next nap.  For the next nap she cried for 30 minutes (again, we were sitting next to her crib, reassuring her that we hadn’t left her alone) and the fell asleep.  The third nap it took about 15 minutes, and the same for the fourth.  That night she put herself to sleep for bedtime with absolutely no crying, and again slept for longer stretches than she had before.  The second day of napping in her crib, she fell asleep for 3 out of the 4 naps with no crying whatsoever.  I couldn’t believe how quickly she adjusted!!!

So now I get several breaks a day to clean my house, bathe myself, and just have some “me time.”  It’s awesome, guys.  She only sleeps for about 45-50 minutes of a time, but we’re working on trying to get her to take really restorative naps (which should be ideally 1 1/2 hours).  It’s all a work in progress, but I am so thankful that she is  now sleeping in her crib all the time!  Thank God for her thumbs! (she sucks the left and right, and doesn’t really seem to favor one over the other).

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Speaking of sucking her thumb, in the last month she has become obsessed over putting just about everything into her mouth.  It started with just her thumbs, but now she sucks on several fingers at a time, or just sticks her whole fist in her mouth.  She also loves sucking on toys and has just started trying to put our hands into her mouth.  Her favorite toys this month are her O ball, and her light-up seahorse, and she still loves playing on her play mat.

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Charlotte is eating every 2 1/2- 3 hours throughout the day and about every 3 1/2- 4 hours at night, which feels so strange to me! When she was first born it felt like all I was doing was breastfeeding, and now it seems like such a small part of our day.  I have to admit that I do feel sad about that, and already “miss her” in the sense that we don’t have those really close moments anymore.  I think other breastfeeding mamas can understand…it’s a blessing not to be “tied down” anymore, but it is also a feeling of loss.

This month Charlotte got to celebrate two big things: Father’s Day and the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup!  Although she didn’t technically watch the game (no TV for our little stinker, although she LOVES watching it when she can sneak it), I think she was their good luck charm Winking smile.  Charlotte really loves her daddy so much.  She “talks” to him more than anyone else, and when he is around her she always stares at his face and smiles. 

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For Father’s Day I made Dave a video from pictures of him with Sophia, Champ, and Charlotte, and Charlotte and I did a little secret photo shoot to make him this picture:

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Developmentally she has changed so much this month! In addition to being able to pick up, hold, and bring toys to her mouth, she also has started rolling!  She has rolled from her front to back 3 times, and is so close to being able to roll from back to front unassisted.  Just a week ago I was wondering when she’d start showing signs of being able to roll, and as if she read my mind, during one nap I looked at the baby monitor and saw this:

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(Since it’s kind of hard to see, I added the arrows to show the changing direction of her body)

Now it’s totally normal for her to sleep at the top of her crib, or the bottom.  Vertically or horizontally (meaning crib direction, she doesn’t sleep standing up…)

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She easily rolls from back to side, and now will turn her head under in an attempt to get all the way over.  When she hits this step kind of gets a little stuck and usually turns back onto her back.  But if I give her butt just a little tap, she’ll pull herself all the way over now (see video below). I’m sure in a week or two she’ll have this skill totally mastered, and my life is going to get a little more complicated!

She is getting more and more comfortable with tummy time, although we still struggle to keep her on her stomach for more than 5 minutes at a time.  But the fact that she is still progressing in her developmental milestones makes me realize that each child needs different amounts and not to cling to what the internet says is “normal.”

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Her smiles are given all the time now, and in the last week we got our first real laughs.  You can hear those sweet giggles at the end of the video below.

Since she is becoming so much more active, pictures are just no longer an accurate representation of her development.  So, I put together a short little video showing our little girl in action this month: Four Months Old!

 

Finally, here are some other things Charlotte has been up to this month:

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3 Months Old

Another month has passed, and Charlotte keeps growing!  So much to share about this month:

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Taking this month’s picture was definitely more difficult than last month’s.  Charlotte is much, much more active.  I know this picture is a little blurry but I chose it because it shows two things that really represent this month for Charlotte: smiles and her obsession with her feet.  Throughout the entire “photo shoot” she kept lifting and kicking her legs, all in an attempt to get her feet closer to her hands and mouth.

Charlotte started staring at her feet a few weeks ago, and pretty much anytime she is sitting up (and not distracted by a toy or a face) she is just staring at her feet.  She hasn’t figured out how to grab them yet, but she is close!  She will smile at her feet, kick them back and forth, and just watch her toes wiggle.  It’s the cutest thing!

The world has really come alive to Charlotte this month.  You can tell she is so much more aware of what is around her, and she never wants to stop observing it all.  This past week she has been so excited about playtime that she doesn’t want to spend much time eating.  This worried me at first (I was worried she wasn’t getting enough calories) but apparently this is pretty typical behavior for her age.  She makes up her calories at night—unfortunately—because during the day she just can’t be bothered to eat for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Speaking of calories, Charlotte now weighs just over 14 pounds! She is gaining a pound about every two weeks, and is currently between 75th and 95th percentile for height and weight.  She is still wearing three months clothes, but it won’t be for much longer.  She is so long that it’s starting to get harder to get those snaps closed on her onesies.

Last month she started smiling, but they were few and far between.  This month her smiles abound from the moment she wakes up to the time she falls asleep at night.  When she smiles it’s not with just her mouth, but her whole face scrunches up.  She already has a horizontal wrinkle across the bridge of her nose from her face-scrunching smiles!  She smiles the most when a person smiles at her first, but she also smiles at toys, her feet, books, and even the walls sometimes.  With her smiles have come her first laughs.  She isn’t doing any real belly laughing yet, it sounds more like a single “HA!” with a small burst of air.  We have heard her belly laughs, but only while she is sleeping.  I wonder what she dreams about that could make her laugh so much…

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In terms of eating, as I mentioned above, she has changed her usual feeding behavior recently.  Last month she was still eating every two hours during the day, and now she eats every 2 1/2- 3 hours.  She also went from 30-45 minute nursing sessions to sessions that sometimes only last 5 minutes!  Again, this abrupt change has me a little concerned, but she is still having plenty of wet diapers and she keeps gaining weight.  She took a bottle for the first time since she was in the NICU, but only really once and now she refuses it.  I was hoping she wouldn’t mind a bottle so I could get out of the house a little more, but I guess we’ll have to wait a little longer.  Last month I mentioned her irregular stools, and unfortunately they haven’t changed.  I am still not eating dairy products, and this week have cut out soy products too.  Her pediatrician is aware that the condition is persisting, but doesn’t seem too concerned since she doesn’t have any other signs of discomfort and her weight gain is good.  She also still has thrush, and it is proving very difficult to get rid of entirely!

Sleep has definitely been the most difficult aspect of her life.  Last month she was having trouble sleeping during the day, and that hasn’t really changed.  Well, to clarify, she is actually sleeping very well during the day now, but not in her bed.  Now she takes almost all of her naps in the baby carrier, which means I spend about 3-4 hours pacing around my house each day while she sleeps.  I can sit down for some of the time, but usually after 10 minutes of me sitting she starts to stir so I have to stand up and keep walking around.  Our little princess is very particular!  We are going to try and use a long weekend Dave has off from work to start training her to sleep in her bed during the day.  I expect this will involve lots of crying, which is why we’re doing it when Dave will be home (I can’t stand to hear her cry!).  Thankfully, she still has no problem sleeping in her crib at night, but she isn’t even close to sleeping through the night.  Her bedtime routine consists of a bath at 6 PM, then a lotion massage and pajamas put on, followed by a long feeding session at 6:30 PM.  She usually nurses for about 45-60 minutes because she knows it’s her last time to eat before bedtime, then I put her in bed at about 7:30 PM.  Unfortunately, I still see her 3-4 more times before the morning.  Her waking times are kind of sporadic (sometimes sleeping for 4-5 hours, sometimes only 1 1/2-2 hours).  I’d say that I average 5-6 hours of broken sleep each night.  I am PRAYING that next month’s report will have an average that is at least an hour more…

In regards to her physical development, she is tolerating tummy time a bit more these days.  She used to cry within 30 seconds of being placed on her stomach, but now she will go a few minutes before she starts to fuss.  She LOVES to be put on her play mat, and now reaches for and grabs some of the toys hanging around her.  There is a tiger that plays music and has lights that flash, which hangs in the center of her play mat, and she is obsessed with it.  As soon as we turn it on she just smiles and giggles and stares at it.  She can entertain herself for up to 15 minutes on the play mat, which is a big change from last month.

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She has rolled from her side to her tummy a few times, but none were on purpose.  She hasn’t attempted trying to roll over from from to back yet, so I think we are a ways away from that.  She does use her legs to push herself, and I sometimes find her a few feet away from where I place her on the ground.

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She continues to love sucking on her hands and arms, and has recently gotten much better and getting her thumb into her mouth.

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Another new discovery for Charlotte is books.  In just the last weeks she has started to really look at and enjoy books.  She likes to stare at the pages for awhile, and will follow my finger as I point to different things on the page.  Her favorite books are ones that have shiny pictures in them, and she also really seems to like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The only way she really seems to enjoy tummy time is when we lay her over my breastfeeding pillow and prop up books in front of her.

Besides the troubles with sleep, this has been my favorite month with Charlotte so far!  I feel like her personality is really starting to become clear, and it is such a joy to watch her find delight with some many things around her.  This month I got to celebrate my first Mother’s Day with a baby outside the womb, and the first Mother’s Day that was cloaked in sadness.  How blessed I am to be her mother!

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Here are some shots of Charlotte’s life this month:

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2 Months Old

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Another month has passed in the life of Charlotte Grace! She is definitely not a “newborn” anymore (not just in clothes…she wears 3 months now) but in her behavior and development.  This month has  been so fun because we saw the emergence of her SMILE!

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Her favorite place to flash her gorgeous grin is on her changing table.  Something about that changing table is pretty magical to her, and no matter her mood, once you lay her on it she will just start smiling.  It’s the funniest thing!  In the past few days she has started really reacting to Dave and I and smiling when she sees us.  That is just heart melting.  It makes the long sleepless nights and the long fussy days all worth it.  To know that she really knows us now, and smiles in response to us, is just the best.

This past month she has grown A LOT—2 1/2 pounds and over an inch in length!  Each time we give her a bath I discover a new little roll under her neck or on her thighs, haha.  From the beginning I have been a little scared about being able to provide enough calories for her from just breastfeeding, and I think this last month really confirmed that we’re doing just fine.  She just feels more “substantial” now and not so much like a frail newborn. 

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Charlotte got to spend lots of time with her grandparents from America while they were here, and also continued to get lots of love from her grandparents who live here in Taiwan (my parents live about 5 minutes away.) 

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We celebrated our first Easter with Charlotte, and it was extra special because she also got dedicated at our church.  It was awesome getting to have both sets of grandparents there.  The short service was definitely emotional since it was something we had always dreamed of doing with Sophia.

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Development wise, Charlotte continues to be right on track!  Her neck control has gotten even better (despite HATING tummy time) and she can push her chest off the ground and hold it up using her arms as support.  When she lies on her back we’re already starting to see the beginnings of her rolling over because she turns her head to the side really far and tries to kick her legs.  In the last few weeks she has started reaching for and batting at toys, although her aim is not very good yet.  Her eye sight has also developed more so she can follow me with her eyes and head as I move around the room.  She now gets comforted (or at least stops crying for a few seconds) when she hears our voices, and really loves to be sung to.  Another big discovery for Charlotte this month is her hands!  She loves to suck on them (usually both at the same time) and she is trying hard to find her thumb more and more.  I love this new milestone because she can soothe herself for a few minutes by sucking on them, which buys me a few more minutes of getting chores done.

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This month has been a bit challenging with her day sleeping.  She continues to sleep fairly well at night (she still gets up every 2-3.5 hours to eat), but during the day it is almost impossible to get her to sleep by herself.  I have to hold her, or lay next to her, or put her in the baby carrier in order for her to take a nap.  This just means that unless Dave Is home, I really can’t do anything else during the day.  We try to do the same techniques during the day as at night, but once the sun comes up she is over sleeping in her crib!  I really hope that in this upcoming month she will start to nap by herself, and in her crib, during the day so I don’t feel so exhausted and COMPLETELY tied to her all the time.  If any of you have any advice/tips on this please feel free to share!

We do have a few prayer requests for her health.  First, we discovered that she has thrush in her mouth.  Thrush is not really harmful, just an overgrowth of yeast, but it can be really hard to get rid of and causes some soreness in her mouth.  Please pray we’ll be able to get rid of it quickly so she gets some relief and is not on medication for a prolonged period.  Secondly, and a little more serious, is we need prayer for her intestinal tract.  For the past 5 weeks she has had irregular stools (sorry for the TMI) and a test showed she also has blood in her stool.  Usually this is a sign that she has an allergy to something in the breast milk.  The most common allergy is to cow’s milk, so I have cut out all dairy in my diet, but so far her stools are the same.  Yesterday she had another check for blood and we’ll know the results in a day or two.  Thankfully, Charlotte doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort because of this condition.  Still, prolonged mucous and blood in her stool, and diarrhea isn’t good for her.  Please pray that we will have wisdom to know what is causing these irregularities (whether it be another food I need to eliminate from my diet), and that this will not cause any damage to her little body.

Overall, though, Charlotte continues to be a very healthy and happy little girl!

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As a stay-at-home mom I try to take each day at a time, and remember that one bad day doesn’t mean the next will be as hard.  I continue to pray for patience, wisdom, and the physical strength to be a good mom (I don’t understand how you moms with more than one child do it!).  I already see how God is teaching me so much through being Charlotte’s mom, and I thank Him for our little miracle every day!

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Charlotte’s Birth Story

Now that my baby girl is over 6 weeks old, I figure it’s about time I got her birth story written out!

Charlotte’s birth story starts a bit before her actual birth.  Ever since I was about 30 weeks pregnant, we had been speculating on when she would arrive.  My due date was February 28th, but Dave had an almost 2 week vacation (due to Chinese New Year) that started on February 14th, so we had really hoped she would come around the 14th.  We talked so much about her coming on the 14th that it started to feel like it was my real due date.  So when the 14th came and went, and then another week passed, it felt like I was already overdue.  By the 26th and 27th of February I was about at my wit’s end.  I still hadn’t technically reached my due date, but emotionally and physically I was ready for the pregnancy to be over.  Actually, the pregnancy was quite easy, physically, it was more the anxiousness of actually seeing a live and healthy baby that was driving me crazy.  I just wanted her to be here so I could really see she was ok.  I wanted to hear her screams and feel her in my arms.

On Friday, February 27th, Dave and I went to lunch with my parents at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Smokey Joe’s (yes, they have Tex-Mex here in Taiwan).  We decided to walk there since I was trying to do a lot of walking to potentially induce labor, and it was about at 20 minute walk each way.  I had a chicken taco salad for lunch, and even ate the jalapeños (which I normally wouldn’t) in an effort to bring this child into the world.  I felt completely normal all day, and really had no signs of impending labor.  That night Dave and I went to the elementary school that is next to our apartment to walk around the track, like we had been doing most nights for the past week.  I remember while we were walking saying to him, “I wonder if walking to the restaurant and walking on the track will make her come tonight.”  Little did I know, I was right! 

That night I had a terrible time sleeping.  I think I went to bed around 1 AM, but just laid in bed for a few hours.  Finally around 3 AM or so I fell asleep.  That night I actually had dreams that I went into labor, but in my dream I died during childbirth!  In my dream the doctor was coming to tell my family that I had died, when I woke up.  My first contraction is what woke me up at 5:35 AM.  Since I had been asleep I wasn’t sure if it was really a contraction, so I lay awake waiting to see if another came.  A few minutes later I felt another one.  Could this be it? I wanted to wait for a few more contractions before I woke Dave up, but sure enough it was the real thing!  After having 4 regular contractions I walked to his side of the bed, gently shook him awake, and said “Are you ready to have a baby today?”  We both couldn’t believe she was finally on the way, and that it was exactly her due date!

Now, besides believing I would have Charlotte a few weeks early, I also felt that her labor would be extremely short since Sophia’s labor and delivery lasted almost exactly 5 hours.  Most people say that the second child comes faster, and a lot of times in half the time as the first.  I was actually concerned that my labor would be so fast that I would not make it to the hospital in time!  So, when contractions started I fully believed I would be having this baby well before noon.  I had decided to leave for the hospital when the contractions were consistently 3 minutes apart, so I hunkered down and waited (for what I thought) would be a very short time.

Like with Sophia’s labor, I was going to have a natural birth with no pain medication, and I wanted to be left alone.  I didn’t want Dave fussing over me, and I didn’t want anyone talking to me.  I labored in silence with Sophia, but with Charlotte I had a CD with calming music and sounds (made for people in labor), and listening to it really helped me. 

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I know it’s hard to see, but here is my labor music on my iPod, and my room where I labored.

So, I put on the labor music, turned off the lights in my bedroom, and breathed through each contraction.  At this point the contractions weren’t too terrible, so in between contractions I was going around the house picking up and cleaning.  I guess it was my final nesting instinct.  I even washed the dishes—if I had a contraction I would go back to my dark room, breathe through it, and then return to the kitchen.  Dave periodically checked in on me, but otherwise just waited in the living room for me to give him the orders to drive me to the hospital.

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Dave was just hanging out and watching “Friends” while he waited.

Like I mentioned before, I thought this would be a really short labor.  After a few hours passed and my contractions still weren’t regularly three minutes apart, I started to realize this might not be as quick as I thought.  Around 9:30 AM the contractions started getting more intense, and instead of my regular slow breathing, I felt this instinct to make a low moaning sound.  When I made the “oooooohhhh” sounds it just helped with the pain, so I stuck with that for my pain management technique.  The first time I did it Dave can rushing into the room and was like, “Are you ok?!”  I think he was used to my silent laboring, but I had to do what I had to do. 

We arrived at the hospital around 10 AM (my mom and dad met us there) and when they checked me I was dilated only 2 cm! I couldn’t believe that I had already been laboring for several hours and still had such a long way to go. 

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Making sure I’m in real labor before they admit me to a labor room.

After they verified that I was indeed in labor, I was moved into my labor/delivery room.  For Charlotte’s birth I delivered in a different hospital than I did with Sophia because it’s the only hospital in Kaohsiung where you can labor and deliver in the same room.  If you read Sophia’s birth story, you’ll remember that the hardest part of the whole ordeal was having to move from my labor room to the delivery “chair.”  In this new hospital the bed was able to be adapted for delivery, so I didn’t have to go anywhere.

In the labor room I had my headphones in with the labor music on repeat, and I just swayed or braced myself against the wall, or leaned on Dave during contractions.  By 12 PM I was dilated to 5, and I was really starting to feel exhausted.  Since I had only slept about 2 hours the night before, my body just wanted to rest but I knew I had a few more hours of labor and all the pushing to get through.  Each hour I would have to lay down in the bed to have Charlotte’s heart rate checked (otherwise I was standing the whole time) but eventually the contractions that happened when I stood up from the bed were so intense that I just labored the rest of the time lying down.  My mom and Dave were glad I was finally laying down and giving my body some rest, since I think they were worried I wouldn’t have the energy to push! 

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At 1 PM I was dilated to 6 cm and by 2 PM I was at 7 cm.  When the nurse checked me at 2 PM she told me that she thought I was close, and just to call her when I felt the urge to push.  Well, two contractions after she left and I felt a strong urge to push.  This was it!  I started pushing, and like with Sophia, I hated the pushing part!  It was so much more painful to me than the contractions, and at first I wasn’t pushing very strong because it hurt so much.  The doctor came in and I could feel the excitement picking up in the room.  I so wanted it all to be over, but there was a lot of pushing and pain that needed to happen first.  I just wanted it to be over, so with each push I bore down as hard as I could and held my breath.  I guess I was holding my breath for too long because Dave said I was turning purple.  The nurses put an oxygen cannula under my nose to help me, but I really only remember that happening from pictures.  I was in so much pain!  Finally, at 2:30 PM our little Charlotte Grace came into this world.

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They immediately put her onto my stomach, and she was very dark purple and wasn’t crying yet.  I remember how she felt so soft and so slimy at the same time.  I really wanted to have that “fall in love” moment with her, but I was still in so much pain it was hard to think of anything but it.   I just kept saying, “Is she ok?” and “Thank you Jesus.”  I had her on me for just a few moments, and then they needed to take her to suction some of the fluid out of her mouth and nose.  She apparently had swallowed a lot of amniotic fluid because they not only used the suction bulb, but had to use the suction machine several times. 

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After she seemed clear, and we had heard that precious cry, they brought her back to me for skin-to-skin, and to try breast feeding.  Our poor little girl had been so traumatized from all the suction that she didn’t even want to open her mouth.  It was still so nice just to feel her there next to me, but during that time the doctor was sewing up my tears and I was still feeling so much pain.  Seriously, all I can remember is the pain.  Oh, and saying, “I’m never doing this again!”

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I so wanted to enjoy this moment but all I felt was PAAAAIIIN

After a few minutes of skin-to-skin they had to suction even more fluid out of her which was so sad to see and hear.  I knew it was hurting her, but I also knew it was the best thing for her.  After that second round of suctioning she was much better and her color improved.  Her Apgar scores were 8 and 9.

Dave finally had a chance to hold her, and it was amazing watching him with her for the first time.  It was definitely love at first sight for those two!

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The nurses then took her away to measure her, weight her, clean her up, and do some tests.  Dave was able to be there for a short time, but I didn’t get to see her again for almost two hours!  For a brief time I had the same feelings I had with Sophia—did I really have a baby? Is this real?  But when they brought her to our recovery room, and she was able to breastfeed again (she latched on right away!) that’s when I had the “ohmygoshIlovehersomuch!” moment.

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Overall, Charlotte’s labor and delivery were much harder and longer than Sophia’s, much more painful, but I was able to recover faster this time.  I don’t think I’m still in that “I’m never having another baby again” place, but I think I’d like to wait quite awhile before I’m ready for another one.

Still, it was all worth it to be able to have such a beautiful and precious little girl!

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1 Month Old

Can you believe Charlotte is already one month old?  Yeah, neither can we!

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Since our last update at two weeks, Charlotte has officially sent in her application for an American passport (see mug shot below) and social security number, and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day!

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She is now weighing in at about 4 kg, or 8.8 lbs, and is growing more and more every day!

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It’s amazing how quickly she is changing!  In the last two weeks she has started using her arms and hands so much more, and when she nurses she always grabs onto my shirt or hair and holds tight for most of the feeding.  She also has figured out how to get her thumb in her mouth, which is just about the cutest thing, since she can’t fold the other fingers down yet and they pretty much just cover her entire face.  One time she actually had both hands at her mouth and was switching off sticking both thumbs in.  I was a thumb sucker too, so I think it runs in the family!

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In the last few days she has been able to meet some very important people. Dave’s parents flew in from America…

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and she got to meet Champ!

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I promise she was happy to see him…it was just time to eat!

 

Her jaundice is almost completely gone now (thank the Lord!) and the doctor didn’t even have to do a blood test this last visit.

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She continues to be a pretty great sleeper at night, and can sleep for 3-4 hours at a time before she wakes up to eat.  I’m very blessed that she sleeps much better at night than in the day.  For her day naps I usually have to hold her or lay beside her, but at night all it takes is a tight swaddle and she sleeps soundly in her crib.

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On her one month “birthday” (which was yesterday, the 28th) we had a small little celebration at my parent’s house, and it was extra special because both sets of grandparents could be there!

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Overall, she is doing so well and we continue to be amazed each day at how much we can love someone we’ve only known for a month!  I look forward in the upcoming month to her smile appearing for the first time, and I think it’s not too far off…

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2 weeks old

It seems almost impossible to believe that our little Charlotte Grace is already two weeks old!

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In some ways it seems like she was just born, and in some ways it seems like she has already been with us for months!

I know I haven’t posted her birth story yet (still working on it) but I wanted to share some of what has happened to us, as a family, in the first two weeks, and share how Charlotte is growing.  After this I will monthly give updates on our girl…although I’m sure there will be some other posts in between.

The first few days of Charlotte’s life were pretty typical.  We were in the hospital—she was rooming in with us—and most of the time revolved around nursing and sleeping (as it still does, now).  The day we were supposed to be discharged from the hospital they took Charlotte to do one last well being check.   Dave went with them, and when he came back without her, I knew something was wrong.  He said that she had been tested for jaundice, and her bilirubin level was at 17.  The doctor wanted her to be at a level of 10 before she could go home, and since he knew we wanted out of the hospital ASAP, he said she would need to be under phototherapy for 12-18 hours a day.  This meant she would basically stay in the nursery 24 hours a day receiving the phototherapy, with breaks only to let me feed her.

We knew that jaundice wasn’t a serious condition, but the idea that we would be separated from her was really hard.  It brought back all of the memories of Sophia, and I became very emotional.  The first time I went to the baby room to feed her I just wept and wept.  I couldn’t believe that, once again, we were in a situation where we couldn’t see our own child when we wanted.  I had to ask permission to be able to feed her. 

The doctor thought that after 48 hours under the phototherapy regimen she should be able to go home.  So, 2 days later they checked her bilirubin level again and it was at 13.  I was devastated.  I started to cry, and the doctors seemed so upset at the fact that I was crying that they told us we could take her home.  We were instructed to bring her back in another 48 hours to get another bilirubin blood test, and if her level was below 17, she could stay home with us. Well, those were the words that we were waiting to hear!! We got to bring our baby home from the hospital!  Again, that had always been our dream for Sophia—a dream that was never realized.  For most parents this seems like the most normal thing in the world, but for us it was a dream come true.

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Those first two days back home were so wonderful, and yet very stressful for me.  As the sole provider of her source of food, I felt a lot of pressure to get her well fed, which in turn would allow her to have lots of dirty diapers, which in turn would help lower her bilirubin levels.  As the two days passed we watched her skin color get darker and redder, and we knew that things weren’t looking good.

At her appointment her blood test came back with a level of 20, which is quite high, and the doctor told us she would have to be readmitted to the hospital right away.  We would have to give her formula for 24 hours (he believed she has breast milk jaundice) and she would most likely be in the hospital for 4 days.

Hearing that totally broke our hearts.  Again, we were going back to a NICU.  Again, we would only be able to see our baby for short periods each day (their visiting hours were just 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night!).  It was a flashback to Sophia all over again.

Now, to those of you who are thinking, “it’s just jaundice! that is so common and nothing to worry about”, I want to say that we know jaundice isn’t serious.  We didn’t think she was never going to come out of the hospital, but it just brought back a lot of memories/feelings/fears from our ordeal with Sophia.  Many of our friends and family tried to comfort us by telling us not to worry, and that we shouldn’t be upset, but I think they weren’t considering the  past experiences we have endured.  It was kind of our small version of post traumatic stress. 

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After 24 hours on formula, her level dropped to 15 and they told me I could breastfeed her again.  So, that began 4 crazy days of driving to and from the hospital every four hours, and pumping breast milk every two hours I wasn’t at the hospital.  After her first day back on breast milk her level dropped to 13, and then 48 hours later her level was 9.6.  We could finally take our little girl back home again!!!

We were allowed to take her home with another doctor’s appointment and blood check scheduled for 48 hours later.  Again, during those 2 days I was completely stressed out.  I was so afraid she was going to have to go back into the hospital.  Every hour she didn’t have a dirty diaper I just imagined her levels rising and rising.  We checked her skin every half hour.  It was torture.  Thankfully, at the next appointment her level had only risen to about 13, which was  acceptable.  No more hospital stays, and no more doctor visits or blood draws for two more weeks!

That day when we came home from the doctor’s appointment I was determined to enjoy my baby girl.  I put my cell phone away since I had been constantly Google-ing every fear or thought that entered my brain.  I reminded myself that she was healthy, she was ok, she was not going to die like Sophia did.  That day we spent hours just laying in bed together, skin to skin, and it was amazing.  For the first time in her almost two weeks of life, I could really just relax and enjoy her.  I could marvel at this perfect gift from above, and I spent time just thanking God for this precious blessing.

I am now trying to relax more, and just trust my body and hers.  It’s hard though.  I think it’s hard for any mom to do that, but especially for a first child after a loss.  Projecting Sophia’s life onto Charlotte is all too easy, and I have to pray all the time that God will help me to enjoy her, and not live in fear.  Please pray for us that we can continue to live in full trust of God, and not fear of the past.

And now onto a quick recap of what Charlotte has been up to these past two weeks:

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It’s amazing how much she has changed in two weeks!  In the last few days she has had longer periods of being awake (when she’s not eating) and so it’s been fun to really start interacting with her.  She can follow toys with her eyes and turns her head to follow them as well.  Her favorite toy is a black and red ladybug puppet we bought on a whim just a few days before she was born.  At night she sleeps quite well, and usually I have to wake her up to feed her.  She has been great at nursing since birth, and it continues to be her absolute favorite thing to do.  Not only does she nurse for food, but for comfort, so we are eager to try out a pacifier after she is a month old or so.  She has amazing neck control and strength, and can easily lift up her head and turn it from side to side.  She will even hold her head and trunk up on her elbows when laid on her tummy, for a few seconds. 

Since Dave and I were so used to Sophia’s condition and all of Champ’s delays as our version of “normal”, Charlotte already amazes us at what she is able to do!

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Charlotte Grace Ly is here!

On Saturday, February 28th—her exact due date—our precious Charlotte came into the world.

2:30 PM.  9 hours of labor (I’ll write her birth story later)

7 lbs. 12 oz.

20.5 inches long.

Our perfect little girl.

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She’s now 9 days old and already looks so different from these pictures!  Right now she is in the hospital being treated for jaundice, but we pray she will come home this Wednesday. 

More to come!

Never-changing Goodness

There is something that has been pressing on my heart for awhile now, and I wanted to write it out while I still have time to blog.

I’m sitting here, 39 1/2 weeks pregnant, carrying a healthy 7 pound little girl in my belly, thinking how blessed I am. 

Almost every day I catch myself staring at my huge belly in the mirror, with tears in my eyes, having a hard time believing that we are about to have another child.  A healthy child, that will most likely be perfectly healthy when she is born.  She will most likely come home with us from the hospital, and she will most likely grow up healthy and live a long life.

God is good.

In this season of my life He is so, so good.

But when I stare at my belly now, I also think to the last time I had a big belly.  The belly that held my first daughter, Sophia.  She wasn’t born healthy.  She never came home from the hospital, and she only lived 47 days, all of which she was extremely sick.

She died.  We were devastated.  My whole self was changed. But, God was still good.  In that season of my life He was so, so good.

After Sophia died, when I was once able to look at Facebook again, I started seeing other women who had lost children get pregnant again.  The were having their “rainbow babies.”  And when I saw their pregnancy announcements, my first thoughts were not of congratulations.  I did not feel happiness in my hearts for them.  I felt jealous.  I thought, “Why do they deserve another child, and not me?”

Then as months passed, and my heart began to heal a little, my reactions to pregnancy announcements became “Wow, God is sure being good to them.”

I think that my feelings, reactions and thoughts were all completely normal for a grieving parent, or a person who has always wanted to become a parent.  But my idea of God’s goodness during those early months of my grief was not correct.  I was basing His goodness on my circumstances, seeing it as a fluid thing that could move in and out of my life.

I learned so much about God’s love and goodness after Sophia died.  And what I want to make clear in this post is that I don’t feel that just because we became pregnant again with Charlotte, that God has been good to us.  I don’t feel He has was good just because He gave us a child to foster just four months after we lost Sophia. 

So many of us feel that when times are good, that God is good.  And that when times are bad, that God is either bad or just not being good to us. 

“"I am the LORD, and I do not change.” Malachi 3:6

But when we fall into those deceitful thoughts, we rob ourselves of so much love and tenderness that our Heavenly Father so wants to give us in those darkest of moments.  We lose the chance to learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.  We are unable to grow in our faith because we believe that God has abandoned us.  That His goodness has temporarily ceased.

For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  Psalm 100:5

There is a song by Kari Jobe called, “Love Came Down.”  It has come to have very special meaning to me, and I wanted to share some of the lyrics with you.

The first verse says:

If my heart is overwhelmed
And I cannot hear Your voice
I hold on to what is true
Though I cannot see
If the storms of life they come
And the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith
I will believe
I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

This verse is my Sophia season.  It is also my season with our foster son, Champ.  It represents all of us in our dark times, because Lord knows, we all have them. 

The second verse says:

When my heart is filled with hope
Every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace
Rest upon me
Staying desperate for You, God
Staying humble at Your feet
I will lift these hands in praise
I will believe
I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

This verse represents my current season.  We have been blessed with another child, and so far she is completely healthy.  The verse is all the highs in our life when we simply cannot believe how blessed we have been.

The two verses speak to two very different seasons of life.  And yet, the words following each verse, the chorus, are exactly the same.

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
Lord I’m forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

I know these are just lyrics to a song, but they echo the truths of the Bible so well.  This song reminds us of what God so desperately wants us to remember: He is always good.  He is always there.

When Jesus was sent to this Earth, died on the cross and rose again, He provided a way for you to never be alone.  He made meaning out of our sometimes meaningless circumstances.  He gave our lives a purpose, a direction, and set them on a course that would lead us to eternal life with Him in Heaven.

 

It doesn’t matter the season of your life.  He is still good.  He is still there.

Whether good or bad.

Excruciating or exceptional.

Hopeless or hopeful.

He is constant.  He doesn’t change.  He is love. 

He is yours, and your are His.  Forever.

God is good all the time.  All the time, He is good.

Charlotte’s Nursery

Hey friends! I cannot believe how long it has been since I last posted on this blog!  Last time we had just found out Charlotte’s gender and we revealed her name.  That was around 19 weeks, and I’ll be 39 weeks on Saturday.  Wow, how time flies!  I received a few comments a couple weeks ago asking about Charlotte and wondering how she was, and I realized that I need to be more diligent in blogging.  So many of you have been praying for us, which we appreciate more than you can ever know, and so you need up-to-date info! 

Quick recap on the pregnancy before I share photos of her nursery:

N.O.R.M.A.L  has been the theme of this pregnancy, and can I tell you how wonderful that is?  There is one time in life where you want your child to be completely unexceptional and normal, and that is during pregnancy.  And thankfully, that’s what Charlotte has been.  Of course we’ve heard a few little things here and there that made me over-analyze and go google crazy, but nothing has panned out to be of any concern.  She really could come any day now (although the doctor says she doesn’t look ready to pop out anytime soon…) so please continue to pray for us.  Oh, and if you’d like more up-to-date information (as in, not 4 months late…) you can always “like” Sophia’s facebook page where I still post about Charlotte, Champ, and other big news in our lives. 

And without further ado, here are some shots of Charlotte’s nursery:

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This is the view from the hallway.  Her walls are painted light pink, and when the sun is bright it makes half the hallway pink too.

 

Right when you walk in (on the left wall) are two little pieces of art I made for her:

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The “precious child of God” I stitched onto some cardstock, and the “Oh! hello little rainbow” I just made on the computer and printed at home. *In the child grief community a “rainbow baby” is what you call a child born after you have previously lost one.*

 

Then on the right side wall we have a dresser that doubles as a changing table (I wanted it right by the door for easy access) and a small side table that will hold wipes, lotion, her sound machine, and all of her books (at an easy height for her to, one day, grab herself).

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This will be her view as she gets her diapers changed.

Our landlord won’t let us put any holes in our walls (no nails, screws, etc) so everything we put up has to be using Command hooks.  Because of this I was too nervous to hang anything heavy over the changing table (or crib), so I left the wall there blank.  The hanging pom poms are very light, so if they ever did fall on her they wouldn’t cause any damage.  To the right of the changing table I hung some heavier art (button art I made, and the print was a gift to me from my sister after Sophia died) and to the left is a little bow holder I made from a picture frame, and a little bird hook to hang all her head bands.

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Also on that side of the nursery is a built in book shelf.  This room was originally our office/Dave’s man cave, but we decided to switch rooms with the old nursery.  The old nursery room had so many memories of Sophia and Champ, and we just wanted a fresh start for Charlotte. 

At first I really wasn’t crazy about the glass doors, but now I know it will make it easier to see when we’re running low on diapers or wipes or other things.  As you can see we have quite the stash already built up from the baby shower (thanks friends!) so we should be set for the first 2-3 months.

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Turning left into the room, it looks like this:

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Unfortunately city/apartment living means that you have to cram lots of stuff into little spaces, so even thought this room feels a bit cluttered to me, all the items have to be here.  The futon should come in handy for late night feedings (once she’s sleeping by herself in the nursery), bedtime stories, and just a fun place for her to play when she gets older. 

Above the windows we have this super cute clock:

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On the far wall (as you can see in the photo above) we have another bookcase that holds baskets full of swaddlers, burp cloths, bibs, hats, and toys.  On top we have one of our Sophia bears, as well as the shadow boxes I made for her memorial service.  It was important for us include Sophia in this room, but still make it mostly for Charlotte.

Also on that wall is a white wardrobe for more storage, and on top we have memory boxes for both our girls, as well as a high chair we will one day use.

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The last part of the nursery is her crib!  We love this sweet little crib so much. (That curtained area is our “storage closet.”  We don’t have a single closet in our apartment, so we have be creative! I hope Charlotte doesn’t mind sharing her room with our suitcases and floor steamer.)

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I made the bunting for above the crib, and my parents helped me hang it all up.

These 3 stuffed animals are the first that Charlotte got and funny enough, this is the Chinese lunar year of the goat/sheep (same word in Chinese).  The pig is from her “Charlotte’s Web” baby shower (hopefully I’ll get around to posting photos from that soon).

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So that is her nursery!  Due to space issues and no-holes-in-the-walls policies, it’s not exactly my “dream nursery” but I think it turned out ok with what I had to work with.  We still can’t believe that within a week or two she will be home with us, Lord willing, and we will finally be able to use all these baby things that we never got to use with Sophia.  God is so good! 

I’ll end with a shot of one last decoration…to HIM be the glory!

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Baby #2 gender AND name reveal!

 

I wanted to give a quick update on how this second pregnancy is going, as well as share our new baby’s gender (if you haven’t read the news on Facebook yet) and the baby’s name.

First of all, tomorrow I will be 19 weeks, and things are going perfectly normal, which is still a crazy concept for me to truly comprehend.  At our last ultrasound, 3 weeks ago, the baby’s brain structure looked normal, her profile looked normal, her heart looked normal, and there were no signs of a cleft lip.  Praise the Lord!  It’s such a foreign thing to hear actual good news at an ultrasound—with Sophia it was just visit after visit of doctors telling us our baby was going to die.  I admit, I still struggle with the fear of losing the precious one and the transferring of Sophia’s illnesses unto this baby, but it’s something I am working on.  With God’s help I hope to be able to continue to enjoy a healthy, normal pregnancy and receive it with joy instead of fear.

Anyways, on to the big news!

We’re having a little…………………..

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…girl!  (in case that wasn’t clear from this photo.)

And we’ve decided to name our precious little girl:

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Thank you to all of you who have been praying for Charlotte and myself (as well as Dave!), and please continue to pray that this pregnancy will remain healthy and normal, and that in 4 1/2 months we will be able to have our sweet girl home with us.