Thursday, January 15, 2015

Landyn Avery: Calm Soul in a Noisy World

On the evening of March 25, Collin drove us in my Honda Civic 10 minutes down the road, our last car ride as a family of three. Every available space was completely crammed with everything we owned, it seemed - Bri's animals (Bear and Puppy), toys and clothes, Collin's and my hospital bags, and the infant car seat. The infant car seat!

We settled Bri in at Collin's parent's house and then made our way to the hospital. Collin wanted to stop for a nice, quiet dinner with just the two of us. It would be the last chance we would have for that for months and he was right to want to make time for it, but I am a rule follower and I was told to be at the hospital at 7:30 and at the hospital at 7:30 I would be. So we parked and carried our bags and pillows and pink, feathery door hanger through the parking deck, into two different elevators, and through the maternity ward hallway, finally settling into what would be our home for the next 70 hours.

I was told to change into a gown and there was poking, prodding, and sticking from the nurse, And there was grimacing and gazing out of the window from me. Finally, Collin and I were left alone after being told that I would be given pitocin to push my body into labor around 11 p.m.

"11!" I complained, regretting not having that quiet dinner Collin had suggested. But we were already there and I was already hooked up and there was nothing to be done about that.

The television was on, but neither Collin or I watched it. I turned on some music and we daydreamed and slowly talked about Landyn's arrival. I was nervous about what my body was about to go through, even knowing (hoping!) I would be getting an epidural.

"What if she's not ready to come?" I said aloud or thought to myself, I don't remember which. I just remember worrying that she was comfortable in my womb and we were about to prematurely throw her into this world, cold and bright and noisy, and she wasn't ready. Or I wasn't ready?

But it didn't matter because my body wasn't hosting her as nicely as it hosted Bri. There wasn't enough amniotic fluid for the professionals to be comfortable with and it was just time to bring her out into the world so we could all make sure she was safe; her Doctors, her Daddy and I.

"I guess we should decide on a middle name," Collin said and I was happy for the distraction, grateful for it.

We had both liked Avery, but in the last few months of pregnancy, I threw out Victory, a play on my maternal grandfather's name, Victor. No one liked it but me and so I had conceded to defeat, but in the dimly lit hospital room on the eve of Landyn's birth, Collin told me I could give Landyn this strange middle name if I wanted to. It was so nice of him. It was a gift to me.

But with this freedom, I immediately questioned the choice. Would it be too weird? We were already giving this poor child a boy's name. I didn't want her to HATE me. It was too weird, wasn't it? And so I put off deciding.

Eleven came and went and then the nurse came in and asked if I was feeling any contractions. I wondered why I'd be feeling any since I wasn't in labor and she was alarmed to find out no one had come in to start my medicine. So she started it and I took a sleeping pill, and the next four hours were filled with falling in and out of sleep while the nurse came and left, and came and left.

At 4 a.m. the doctor on call (not my doctor!) gave me the grave news that if I hadn't progressed enough for them to decide it was okay to break my water then they would stop the pitocin, have me wait all day, and then begin the process again the next evening. Luckily I didn't have very much time to worry about this option because he checked my progress and yes! My water could be broken.

The doctor started talking to Collin about the Kentucky sweatshirt he was wearing. The nurse handed the doctor something and without any warning, my water was broken (after a lot of unexpected pain).

I cried. I didn't remember it hurting so much the last time. And Collin and the doctor were still talking about Kentucky and I thought, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.

The nurse was surprised to see my crying. "What's wrong?" she asked. I just shook my head, wondering why the doctor hadn't warned me about what he was about to do, and wondering why it hadn't hurt this much last time.

And then I remembered that I had already been given an epidural when my water was broken during Bri's delivery. I started feeling contractions and I started shaking a lot so the nurse started getting things ready for my epidural.

The anesthesiologist came in wearing a Kentucky cap (Go Big Blue!) and he and Collin chatted while the nurse held me and a needle was plunged into my spine. I thought again, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.

I was able to get some sleep after that and then early the next morning my doctor (Dr. Ellis, yay!) came in to check on things. I wasn't quite ready to push. She saw Collin's Kentucky shirt and they started talking about basketball. Why was everyone in this hospital so obsessed with Kentucky basketball? Turns out, she was a Kentucky graduate.

Dr. Ellis continued to talk to us and then was about to leave again to check on some other patients, but I told her I was starting to feel a lot of pressure so she checked me again.

It was time! A short while later, 9:03 a.m. on her Maternal Grandmother's birthday, Landyn was placed on my chest. She looked like my mom in that first glance I got of her. Dark hair, a very round red, red face, and two deep blue, soul-piercing eyes.

She had of course been crying at first, but the nurses tucked her under my gown so that she was skin-to-skin with me and she immediately calmed down. She was sticky and yucky from birth, but I didn't care about that. I was just so glad she was in my arms and healthy, and she was so quiet.

From that very moment, I was struck with how different her first few minutes and hours were from Bri's. Bri came into this world screaming and hot with temper. Landyn arrived peacefully and with a sweet calmness.

Landyn's first nursing was perfect. Latching immediately, she knew what she wanted and what she was doing. The nurse said that Landyn could teach a nursing class.

Reluctantly, I allowed the nurses the take her. Collin dutifully followed -- watching, smiling, taking pictures. And after she was bathed, weighed and diapered, she was laid down in a bassinet. And she stayed there.

She laid in her bassinet on her own -- something Bri wouldn't do until after that first, exhausting month.

The hours and days following were a blur of visitors, nursing sessions and hospital paperwork. At the last minute, a middle name was chosen. It was Avery after all.

Each hour that passed by, Landyn looked less like my mom and more like Bri (and Collin!).

Landyn got to meet her big sister -- her 4-1/2-year-before twin -- and when Big Sister wasn't there, the name Landyn got called most by me was "Bri". It was as if I'd gone to sleep and woken up in the past, living Bri's first few days over again. Suddenly and very clearly, I understood why most of my life I was called, "Heather, Valoree, Elizabeth, Caroline, Mary, I mean...Ashley."

My body healed more quickly this time. I was up walking that very evening, taking only Motrin for the minimal pain. Collin and I slept longer, sent Landyn to the nursery, allowed the nurses to give her a pacifier, and just enjoyed the time we had there while extra hands were around.

Motherhood made sense to me, holding Landyn those first 70 hours after her birth. Fear and worry didn't exist. Instead, it was replaced with laughter, long gazes, frequent napping and pure joy.

In that hospital room, it wasn't just me - the self-conscious, but otherwise carefree girl I once was. It wasn't just me and Collin - the newly married, madly in love, yet somewhat selfish couple we once knew. And it wasn't me, Collin and Bri - young first-time parents with a willful little girl, nervous and worried and scared, and wondering what the heck we were all doing. No, it was all of us; the four of us. We love each other fiercely and fully, and we are a family.

The Aynes Family.

An email to Dad on his 64th Birthday


Happy Birthday! I hope you are having one heck of a good day down there at the beach. I wanted to let you know on this special day, exactly what you mean to me. 

When I think of growing up, I think of you working. A lot. And I don't mean that as a bad thing. When you come up in conversation (whether it's with people who know you or people who are just asking about my family), I tell them that my Dad is the hardest working person I know, and that he did what he had to do to provide for me and my sisters. I know it wasn't easy, but I love you for not giving up on us and for sacrificing food and sleep for us. 

One of the biggest sacrifices I think of fondly was how you drove me to seminary and slept in the car while I attended. I think of having to do that for my girls and I honestly don't want to. I would rather stay in bed where it's warm, but it's important, and you recognized that it was important for me to go. Thank you for that. 

You know, I tell Bri "I love you" a lot. Maybe I say it too much. Maybe she takes it for granted and it loses meaning by how much I tell her. Maybe I should cut back on saying it and do more to show it. Actions speak louder than words, they say.

I think about this because I notice that when you and I talk on the phone, we don't say "I love you." But you don't have to say it. You show me you love me by the things you do for me, and by the things you've always done for me. 

You do so much for me and my family -- too much, really. So much that I know I can never truly pay you back for all of it. Not monetarily and not by acts of service. I will never be able to catch up, but I think that's okay. I think that's part of it. You do for me, and I do for Bri and Landyn. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to pay you back, as impossible as it is. 

I think of you and I think of the perfect homemade ice cream, corny jokes and Ernest movies. I think of you and I think of someone I want to be like. 

I think of you and I think I'm the luckiest girl to be able to call you Dad. 

Happy Birthday


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why I'm Grateful My Infant Doesn't Sleep Through the Night

After I first learned that I was expecting again, memory after memory surfaced of sleepless nights. Night after night after night of waking up or of not even going to bed in the first place with my firstborn, Bri. And this went on for nine months. Nine months!

I'm not going to lie, I was miserable the first few months of Bri's life. My entire world was turned upside down and I feared I would never sleep again.

I didn't know if I could do it again. I'm a sleeper and I knew it could possibly be even more challenging this time around because after Bri was born and I went back to work, it was part-time. So, the days I didn't work, I spent taking naps with Bri when she did. But this time, I knew I'd be going back to work full-time. Full-time outside-of-the-home job + no sleep = scary times for me. 

This was my biggest concern in having another child. So I consoled myself with the idea that maybe I would get a good sleeper this time, an early sleeper. Maybe I'd be diligent about following Baby Wise and I'd train Bri2 to sleep through the night at an earlier age.

But none of that happened. Landyn Avery was born and the first four weeks went by with her sleeping wherever I could get her to; in her bassinet, in my arms, in the bed beside me, on my chest, in a swing. Wherever. And when week five arrived, I borrowed Baby Wise from a friend and I attempted to follow it.

Landyn did the opposite of what I wanted her to do, no matter what it was. When the book said eat, she would fall asleep after only a few minutes. When it said have playful awake time, she would sleep. When it said it was time to sleep, she would be awake with no indication of sleep in sight.

And it depressed me. I got really DEPRESSED. Why couldn't I make this work? I had already failed at exclusively breastfeeding and now, I couldn't get my baby onto a schedule. What was wrong with me? My hormones raged and my confidence as a mother plummeted.

So I made a decision, a decision that went against what many experience mothers and books would advise. With only a few short weeks of maternity leave left, I decided to let Landyn do what she wanted: eat when she wanted to eat, be awake when she wanted to be awake, and sleep when she wanted to be asleep.

And I decided to not be quick to lay her down. I wanted to enjoy holding her and enjoy HER. She was a great newborn after all, calm and content from the moment she was born. She brought such sweet spirit into our home. Even her cry brought a smile to my face and I finally understood what people meant when they said it was cute when an infant cried. Her cry was cute. And I was ruining it -- the whole experience -- with my expectations and plans and wants.

So the last few weeks of being at home with her were filled with bending to her whim. This meant few errands were run and lots of naps were taken. The floors remained unvacuumed and the showers unscrubbed. Dinners became a nightly fend-for-yourself event.

My confidence as a mother grew and I reveled in each day as if it were our last. Because in a way, it was. Each new day would never be like the day before. Each day brought new developmental milestones and moments that I would never get back.

I spent the sleepless nights memorizing her features, running my hand over the fuzzy stubble of hair on the top of her head and across the fuzzy, soft tuft at the nape of her neck.

So, that brings me to today. Today, at 12-weeks post-partum, and Landyn is still waking up in the night. Sometimes only once, but other days up to three times in one night. She draws me out of bed, not with a cry but with a squeak and a grunt. I tiptoe into her room and find her chewing ferociously on her hands. She looks up at me with a smile.

I feed her and I rock her and I breathe her in; not just her scent, but her. I breathe in the moments we share together in the middle of the night. Uninterrupted by what-do-we-have-to-eats and mama-i-need-to-be-wiped.

And after I lay her back into her crib, before I know it, my alarm is going off and I'm getting dressed and tiptoeing down the stairs next to her room quietly so the tap-tap-tap of my heels doesn't wake her up. And I drive to work with a little pang of sadness of not being able to see her and hold her and kiss her, energizing me for the day like a morning coffee. But the sadness subsides with the sweet memory of the precious moments we shared in a quiet house, in a dimly lit room, in the middle of the night. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Seven Posts in 2013

I posted seven times to this blog in 2013. Seven...times...

I truly contemplated printing the blog and shutting it down. It's just not going to get the kind of attention I'd like to give to it, but then I realized that things are going to get a whole heck of a lot busier starting in April and that I need to take any opportunity I can to try and document things as they are now.

So what if I only post seven times? That's still seven thoughts or pictures documented that wouldn't have otherwise been. So, in an effort to document 2013 the best (and I'll be honest...the easiest) way I could think of was to let my iPhone do the talking. I'm abysmal at taking pictures. I just never think to, but every now and then I'll snap a picture with my (very low quality) phone.

I don't usually make resolutions for the new year, but after reviewing these pictures, I think I'll try and make an effort to take more pictures, especially of more than just our little family. There are others around us while these pictures are being taken; family, friends, friends that are like family...and to not have a single picture (not even on my phone) of the people we spend our lives with...well that's just sad. Wish me luck on that!

So to see what we were up to in 2013, according to my iPhone, go to the next post.

Disclaimer: Collin would be sad if I failed to mention that 2013 was the year we took Bri to her first amusement park (Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana) and she rode her first roller coaster! And...she loved it! I don't have a picture of it. I'm positive Collin does, but since this isn't 2013 according to COLLIN'S iPhone, we'll have to make do without.

2013 According to My iPhone

It snowed and I wanted Bri to play in it so badly that I checked her out of daycare on my lunch break and frantically made calls to stay-at-home mom friends to find somewhere she could go to play in the snow. I mean, how often do children get that chance in Alabama? Luckily, Kristin Tice agreed to watch Bri and she and Josh made a snowman and had other snow adventures while Mommy went back to work.

We had the missionaries over for dinner and they played Princess Candyland with Bri, beginning her love of the  missionaries and the constant question, "When are the missionaries coming back over?"

Collin got me a Kindle for my 29th birthday and Bri immediately took it over as her own. She still uses it more than I do.

Bri perfected the art of lip gloss application.

Our friends, the Bewley's had a mystery dinner party at their house giving us an excuse to dress up and have a night without children. It was a LOT of fun. I prepared more for this night than I did for the proms I went to in high school.

The sweet Beehive class (12-13 year-olds at church) came by our house and "heart attacked" me with sweet notes.

We went to Gatlinburg. Friends (the Bewleys and Ograns) were there and I don't have any pictures of them. Sad.

I took Bri ice skating for the first time.

My friend, Rebecca, watched Bri so Collin and I could snow tube together. It was so fun!

We went on A LOT of Sunday afternoon walks around the neighborhood.

We took Bri to see a movie in the theater for the first time; Monsters Inc at the dollar movies and it was 3D.

We enjoyed the benefits of technology while apart.

Easter program and egg hunt at church.

Easter Sunday at Gran Gran and Happy's house.

I lost weight and fit back into my wedding dress!

Celebrating Mother's Day with all the Jones cousins at Gran Gran and Happy's house.

Squirrels chewed through the shingles on our roof. Who knew squirrels could cause that much damage?

Bri enjoyed cake after her end of the year program at her daycare. And they gave all the children shirts with their own picture on it. I thought it was pretty funny!

Collin and I escaped to Cedar Point in Ohio for some amusement park fun without Bri and had an elephant ear for the first time. I prefer funnel cakes.

Collin doing what he does at amusement parks: admiring that fine piece of craftsmanship behind him.

Bri became OBSESSED with weddings and being a bride. And she just couldn't understand why she couldn't marry Collin.

The obsession continued. My sister Heather let Bri play with the veil from her wedding and it made Bri's day.

Bri got really into tea parties.

I took a moment to capture Bri's beauty while just hanging outside of Target one Friday afternoon.

I realized Collin knows me better than I thought.

We were invited to the lake with our friends the Moons.

Bri spent a few days with Nanny and Nanny's granddaughter, Gracie, while I was at girls camp.

We stopped by the park on the way home from daycare...A LOT.

Bri's obsession with technology grew.

We met my new nephew, Reed Lagrone.

And spent seven whole days in Destin with my entire family. It was perfection, except that Mary and Andy and their two youngest couldn't make it.

Bri spent a lot of time playing in RoRo's kiddy pool.

We transitioned Bri from a toddler bed into a full-size!

And we stopped off at the park on our way home....again.

We got a membership to a pool and spent most of our Saturdays there. Bri called it "the membership pool". 

Collin turned 31! And because we didn't want to burn our house down with that many candles, Bri picked out a Hello Kitty candle for him. What a lucky Daddy!

We found out we are expecting baby #2! And I started wearing maternity clothes right away. I actually thougth I was showing when I took this picture.

The company I work for had an employee appreciation day at the Birmingham Zoo. Collin and I had to take turns riding the carousel with Bri. We're becoming wimpy in our old age.

We (I) carved a pumpkin.

Bri went as Repunzel for Halloween. ahead of myself. We gave Bri a birthday party at a local indoor pool. I was really impressed with the music and activities. Great way to turn 4!

Bri's daycare had a fall festival and Bri told me she rode a pony. I didn't believe her because...reawlly? A pony? I thought maybe they'd had a wooden horse or she'd been playing make-believe, but then her teacher, Ms. Tammy, sent me this picture and sure enough...a pony!

Ms. Tammy has quickly become my favorite teacher of Bri's. She sent me a bunch of pictures and I've just loved seeing what Bri's up to while we're apart.

We found out we're having another girl! Here is Bri eating the pink "reveal" cake we bought.

Here I am again thinking I'm showing so much! Well in hindsight...notsomuch. I was 22 weeks.

Bri hid behind her hair at her daycare's Christmas program. She does not like being on stage, but at least she didn't cry this time!

Bri got her haircut for the first time.

And she got to meet Santa at our church's Christmas program.

We took a last minute trip to Chattanooga just the three of us right after Christmas. Bri wanted to do this jump thing at the mall. She hated it.

Bri recreated a picture drawn by Sonny, Collin's dad. It's of our house and I was pretty impressed. Maybe she'll get some artistic talent from him because she sure won't be getting any from me!

Collin and I celebrated New Year's Eve with our friends, the Ograns, and I couldn't resist getting a belly shot. I was 25 weeks. Also, Bri spent the night with Collin's mom, RoRo. It was fun to have a child-free night out.