Monday, 31 January 2011

A Day in the Life

Charlotte's day begins with a diaper change. Jason is generally in charge of diaper duties and he somehow manages to change Charlotte on her table while still allowing Milton to keep his favorite spot:

After getting a fresh diaper, Charlotte gets some breakfast. At her last doctor's visit, the doctor suggested that I pump some breast milk for her so she gets used to taking a bottle. She took it like a champ!

Sometimes this happens after an especially big meal:

A couple of times a day Charlotte has her play time. She likes to lay on the Boppy or in her crib and play with her arms and legs.

She also has been enjoying her little lamb bouncing chair:

She also spends a lot of time just sitting around looking cute:

For the most part though, Charlotte's days are still spent engaging in tough cuddle. What a life!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

One Month Old Happy Dance

A special someone is excited to be one month old today!

Sunday, 23 January 2011


With Charlotte's due date (January 4) being so near to the start of 2011, the comment Bethie and I heard most often while Bethie was pregnant -- after "congratulations," of course -- was,
"Hey, if she comes a little early you can get that tax break."
It's not just the IRS that tries to ease the burden a child places on new parents. There are meals in restaurants discounted in size and cost, less expensive theater tickets, and airlines charge nothing or very little for kids to fly until they reach two years.

Unfortunately for us, the government of the United Kingdom has no such provision.

One of the first administrative orders of business after Charlotte was born was to set about obtaining her visa to live in the UK. With our departure scheduled only three months after Charlotte's birth, there has been no time to lose. The procedure is almost identical to the one Bethie and I followed when we applied for our visas, in both complexity and cost. Before we could begin that process, however, there were a few prerequisites.

The first was a social security number. This was easy because the hospital began the required paperwork before Bethie and Charlotte were discharged. We got Charlotte's card in less than two weeks after she was born.

The second was a birth certificate. This was a bit more complicated because the State of Maryland takes 4-8 weeks to put one of these in the mail, which is more time that we could afford. The alternative to waiting was, for me, an early morning field trip to the Department of Vital Records. The thought of a road trip to Annapolis was refreshing to me: a few hours out of the house after being cocooned for a couple of weeks, and in the scenic state capital no less. If you have the chance to visit Annapolis, I highly recommend it. I was surprised to learn that the office I needed to visit was not in Annapolis, but rather Baltimore, but no matter, Baltimore is a short drive away, and I think beautiful in its own right (I've told Bethie a few times that, city-to-city, I'd take Baltimore over Washington). Unfortunately, I was not to be headed to downtown Baltimore or the Inner Harbor, but a place called Reistertown Plaza. Precisely why is outside the scope of this blog, but I recommend avoiding Reistertown Plaza. OK, one hint: there is a store named, "Novilty King." No misspelling on my part there.

The third prerequisite to the UK visa application was a passport. The only really interesting part of this step (I'm filing the trip to the Dupont Circle passport agency under "traumatic" instead of "interesting") was the photo. We decided to try taking Charlotte's photo at home, thinking it would be easier than posing her at a photo shop. Remember: we needed a plain white background, face and shoulders, and no other person in the frame. Our first attempts were made by placing a white sheet in her crib:

Then, we tried holding her against a white background:

Finally, placing a sheet in her car seat:

In the end, we thought this one was the most passport-like, even if it doesn't look much like Charlotte:

Unfortunately for us, our printer's ink cartridges were nearly empty, and we couldn't get the photos uploaded to our local drug store, so we ultimately had to visit the photo shop next to the passport agency in DC. I had hoped to end with that photo (which Bethie says "makes Charlotte look like a Russian mobster"), but her passport is at the British Consulate in New York awaiting its visa. In a couple weeks' time -- when her passport is returned, hopefully with a UK visa -- we will post that photo.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Goodbye Ammee!

We were so lucky to have my mom come and stay with us for the first two-and-a-half weeks of Charlotte's life. She flew out from Seattle earlier than originally expected, after I called to tell her I was in labor. She arrived to the hospital mere minutes after Charlotte's birth.

It was such a treat to have her here! She helped with the cooking, cleaning and would often take care of Charlotte into the wee small hours of the morning so Jason and I could get some sleep! Best of all, though, she was available for lots of cuddle with Charlotte. She also changed A LOT of diapers!

We were surprised how quickly Ammee's visit passed. We all miss her and are looking forward to seeing her again when we visit Seattle in February.

We love you Ammee!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Our Little Loveday

It took Jason and me a while to decide on a name for our daughter. Eventually, we agreed on a first name, but the middle name had us stumped. We pulled out a book of baby names that an English friend of mine had lent us for inspiration. It had all sorts of traditional British names that we had fun making fun of. In fact, Loveday was one of the names we made fun of when we first heard it. Once we read the meaning of the name, though, we started changing our minds about it. We read that the name originates from Cornwall, which is where a part of Jason's family is from. We were intrigued.

The name itself refers to a medieval custom. If there were two groups who were quarreling, the people of their village would enact a loveday in order to negotiate a reconciliation. The two parties would parade into the center of the town, where a facilitator would help them sort out their differences. In celebration of the event, there would often be a child named in honor of the day. Eventually, the name Loveday became more common and was also used as a surname. Today, Loveday is really only seen as a first name in Cornwall, but it is still not uncommon to hear it as a last name.

Jason and I were surprised that we both agreed on the name almost immediately, but Loveday just felt right. Now, getting to know our sweet daughter, it is definitely a good fit. It is a name that takes a bit of explaining, but we don't mind. Hopefully, Charlotte Loveday won't mind either!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Charlotte's Visitors

Charlotte is one popular little girl! She has gotten lots of love from her many visitors.

Stella is Brian and Allison's little girl. They've been over to visit a few times already:

Jessica and Lilly are my friend Diane's girls. They were so sweet and helpful with Charlotte. I can't wait until they're old enough to babysit!

My friend Andrew stopped by while in town from NYC:

Yesterday the Abbotts came by! Katie had just returned from a three month vacation in south America:

Danny and Hiwot were married in April. In fact, we found out we were expecting the day of Hiwot's bachelorette party!

My friend Justine worked with me this summer and got to experience some of my funnier pregnancy moments (pierogis at 8:00am, random nap times and the infamous Z Burger run!)

We've loved having so many visitors. It makes being cooped up in the house much more tolerable! (Somehow we managed to miss a photo opp with the Kavinskis, but I'm sure we'll get another chance soon.) We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Healthy Girl

Charlotte had her second doctor's appointment this week, and we are happy to report that she continues to be very healthy. She weighed in at six pounds and four ounces, topping her birth weight for the first time.

During the five days since our prior visit to the pediatrician, I had compiled a mental list of concerns to present to the doctor -- "doesn't sweat," "lacks teeth," "sleeps alot" -- but I learned these are all normal baby things, and by the time of her exam Charlotte had outgrown her antenatal awkwardness ("head shaped like a cone," "lazy eye"). Her father, on the other hand, had not outgrown his own:
"So, do either of you have any questions for me?"
"Um, yeah. She had a small bump here on the side of her head, but it seems to be gone now...yeah, it's gone."
"So it's gone now?"
"Yeah, uh, it seems so. But, you know...bump?"
"OK, well...."
"OK, well, your observation of a non-existent bump does not technically qualify as a question" is what the doctor was kind enough to not say, but I quickly forgot about that and smiled at the knowledge that Charlotte is healthy.

Healthy enough, in fact, to not go back to the doctor for three weeks. Whether or not the three-week recall time is standard, Bethie and I have chosen not to care. We have instead jointly decided that Charlotte overachieved, medically, by not being recalled sooner. This is not the first time this has happened:
"He's a healthy cat." [Hefts Cowboy aloft by placing hands at either end of his belly] "This is how they show cats."
[Immediately upon exiting the vet's office, to one another] "Did you hear what she said?! She said he's a show cat!"
Aside from an impressive urinary display that made short work of the paper liner on the examination table, Charlotte's doctor's visit was otherwise ordinary, which made for two grateful parents. As part of a standard set of tests, she also had some blood drawn from her heel. This is, in fact, whence they draw blood from infants for a whole battery of medical screenings. Makes me wonder at what point the human heel becomes an unreliable indicator of health. I'm going to ask the pediatrician about it next time.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Charlotte's Birth Story

After getting home late and opening gifts on Christmas Eve, I was glad that my call on Christmas day at The National Cathedral wasn't until 11:00. As I was getting ready to head out, I had my first sign of impending labor: I lost my mucus plug. I told Jason and we both got excited yet tried to remind ourselves that we could still have weeks more to wait. I sang Mass at the Cathedral and came home to take a nap. Then Jason and I headed out to the Kavinskis' house in Alexandria, VA for Christmas dinner.

We arrived home around 9:00pm and began to get ready for bed. That's when I had my second sign of impending labor: the bloody show. I was shocked, excited and scared all at once. Once you have the bloody show, labor is only hours or days away. We cleaned up the house, made sure we had everything we needed in the hospital bag and I called my mom to see if she could possibly get on an earlier flight (she wasn't scheduled to arrive until Dec. 31). Then we went to bed.

I slept for about an hour before waking up with some mild contractions. At about 1:00am I had a very strong contraction and my water broke. We were told to head to the hospital once my water broke, so we packed our bags and pillows into the car and headed to the hospital. Jason made me a piece of peanut butter toast to eat on the way as we knew I wouldn't get another chance to eat until after Charlotte was born. Hospital rules!

Once there, we contacted our friends Allison Navone and Susie Kavinski whom we had asked to be with us during the labor and delivery. It wasn't long before Allison showed up. My contractions were painful by that point but not unbearable. We had a good time chatting between contractions and I think we all got a few short naps in there as well. Susie showed up at some point that morning. With Allison, Susie and Jason, I was very well taken care of.

During the contractions, I found it most helpful for them to just quietly hold my hand and remind me to relax certain body parts that I was tensing up (my face, my shoulders, etc.).
As the day progressed I tried to spend time up out of the bed walking around the room and sitting on the exercise ball. The nurse told me to rotate my hips during contractions to help get Charlotte's head to move further into the birth canal. It felt good to do something more productive than just endure the pain.

After about twelve hours of natural laboring, the contractions went from being the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life, to double that. The pain was so incredibly intense that I began vomiting. I also got an extremely loud ringing in my ears and I felt like I was going to pass out. The contractions were about a minute and a half apart and I was so exhausted in between that I couldn't even keep my eyes open.

The nurse said that my labor was more intensely painful because Charlotte was posterior or "sunny side up" with her head facing up instead of down. This apparently made it more difficult for her to pass under my pelvic bone. The doctor came in to check on me during one of these contractions and said I was only dilated to 5 and that I still had four or five more hours to go. He told me to get an epidural.

I was heartbroken at the thought of not having a natural childbirth. I asked everyone to leave the room so Jason and I could talk about it. He was so sweet and told me he was so proud of me and that I shouldn't feel badly if I wanted to get an epidural after twelve hours of natural labor. I told him that I felt I could probably get through another hour or two but the thought of making it through four or five hours didn't seem humanly possible to me. We decided it would be best if I got the epidural.

Once I got the epidural, labor was a breeze! I took a nap for an hour or two as my contractions painlessly continued. At some point the doctor came in and gave me pitocin to speed up my contractions which had slowed down quite a bit. (Apparently he talked to me about this, but I was so exhausted I hardly remember him being in the room at all!) Once I got the pitocin things sped up a bit and it wasn't long before the doctor said I was ready to start pushing. At that point the nurse took over for a while. She was great. She had me push through three counts of ten during each contraction. I was still pretty exhausted (and absolutely starving!) but was in very little pain. The only actual pain I felt was just below the middle of my rib cage and compared to the pain I was in before, this was nothing!

As I pushed, Jason held my left leg and Allison held my right. Susie helped with counting me through pushes and also had her camera ready for the big moment. I got to rest between each contraction but eventually started getting a bit lightheaded so they gave me some oxygen. They set up the birthing mirror for me so I could see the progress I was making with each push. We were all shocked when we were able to see how much dark hair Charlotte had on her head!
The whole experience of pushing was pretty surreal and really flew by. Before I knew it, the doctor arrived and took over from the nurse. Not ten minutes later Charlotte was born!

Meanwhile, my mom had missed her first flight out of Seattle and had to take a later flight. She arrived in Chicago early afternoon and was placed on standby for her next flight. She was number nineteen on the standby list and there were only six seats available. Unbelievably she made it onto the flight! Once on the ground, she took a cab all the way to the hospital in Silver Spring and arrived about ten minutes after Charlotte was born.

Seeing Charlotte for the first time was an overwhelming moment. No words can describe meeting your daughter for the first time.

Then there was an awkward moment when the doctor asked Jason if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. Jason politely declined so the doctor offered to Allison who also declined. Then he asked Susie if she would like to do it. We joked that he might as well have yelled into the hallway to see if anyone there would want to cut the cord. Finally the doctor just cut it and they took Charlotte away to check her out. After a few minutes, they brought her back to me and put her on my chest.

Jason and I were so in love with her right from the start. She stared at both of us with bright eyes. It was a moment neither one of us will ever forget.

From there the nurse took her again. She weighed her and gave her a bath.

During all of this, I was lying in the bed still amazed at having met my daughter. I was fighting to keep my eyes open and was anxious to get some food so I could feel more lucid. Eventually things calmed down a bit. The nurses helped me figure out how to breastfeed and I was able to get some food. After about an hour or two they moved us into a recovery room. Luckily all of the recovery rooms at Holy Cross are private, which was nice. Jason, Charlotte and I spent two nights there and got a lot of help from the nurses and I even got a visit from a lactation specialist. While we were there we also got a visit from a Catholic deacon who prayed with us and gave us communion. We both really appreciated that visit as well.

We were home by 1:00 on Tuesday and spent the next week cocooning at home. We are so in love with our little girl and are enjoying every moment we have with her. We are grateful that Jason has a total of four weeks paid paternity leave and I don't have another gig until the end of February. I may end up singing my church gigs beginning in February, but I have subs lined up in case I decide it is too soon. Until then, we are enjoying sweet time at home and have appreciated having lots of help from my mom. It is an amazing and wonderful time in all our lives.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Charlotte at Home

Our time with Charlotte at home has been so sweet. We are starting to get into a good schedule of eating and sleeping. Charlotte seems to prefer eating every four hours or so and not every two hours as the hospital recommended. Letting Charlotte have more say in the schedule has made feedings much more pleasant for all involved!

Jason is doing a lot of cooking (he is currently baking a loaf of bread and mixing up a batch of his famous breakfast muffins!) and enjoying sweet naps with Charlotte. He is also working on getting some projects completed around the house.

My mom is in town until January 12. She arrived at the hospital about 10 or 15 minutes after Charlotte's birth after flying standby to get here almost a week before she had originally planned! She has been a huge help to me and Jason. She runs errands, cooks us dinners and takes excellent care of Charlotte. They are having a good time getting to know each other.

Now for the fun part: pictures!

Jason was changing Charlotte's diaper and it was a doozy. He yelled from her room, "can we give her that bath sooner than later?" so I got the water running! Charlotte didn't like it one bit and cried the entire time.

Charlotte spends most of her time sleeping. When she is awake, she is generally eating so we don't have many pictures of her yet with her eyes open. Here are some good pictures of her different snuggle techniques:

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