Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear Charlotte, 1

Dear Charlotte,

This is a tricky post to write because I can't begin to put into words how completely smitten I have become since seeing your little face two months ago today.

Everything has changed. I'm myself, but not. You're here and now I am different, your dad is different, and our whole world is just a tiny bit better.

The song, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" now holds new meaning... When I listen to the words, I can't help but imagine future dance parties and sleepovers and nail painting. Your sweet face comes instantly to mind and I daydream about you growing up, hanging out with me, having adventures.

I'm only starting to get a glimpse of your little personality, but you are AWESOME! Inquisitive, sensitive, and a bit impatient. You love to stretch your growing body and look out the bathroom window. You stick out your tongue to explore anything within reach. You take your time waking up and you can't really handle the feeling of a wet, stinky cloth diaper on your bum.

People say you're my "mini me" and I think we definitely look alike. But you've got the look of your dad about you, too. Plus, you're just yourself in many ways. Not Joel or Kelly, just Charlotte.

Sweet girl, you are so much fun! I love you and I love being your mom. I am so grateful that God put you in our family. I'm so excited for our future together!


Saturday, March 29, 2014

A girl and her dad

Charlotte has two funny PJ sets... One says "I love daddy" and the other, "Daddy's girl."

They both make me smile. It's a funny thing bc Charlotte definitely loves to eat and sometimes I'm the only one who can soothe her. Because, you know, I've got the food.

But it's amazing how she recognizes Joel's voice and stops nursing to listen as he comes up the stairs. And the way she watches as Joel moves around the room. Or how she relaxes in his arms to drink a bottle. Or how she looks around calmly as he gives her a bath.

These two have a really special thing and I'm excited to watch it grow.

I couldn't pick a better hero for my daughter to admire and learn from.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The bittersweet

Well, my first week back at work is almost over.

This time tomorrow night my babe will be 8 weeks old and I will have successfully knocked out one week of 12 left in the school year.

It was bittersweet, this week.

Sweet to see the faces of my 20 kiddos. Sweet to connect with colleagues who are so enthusiastic about Charlotte. Sweet to show the fifth graders pictures of my family. Sweet to celebrate Charlotte's baptism last Sunday with many friends and family members. Sweet to nurse my little worm after a long drive home. Sweet when Charlotte slept until 3am so I could get a bunch of hours snoozing in a row. Sweet to eat meals with Joel's parents and brother while we held Charlotte and got our snuggle on.

Bitter to drive away from a fussy little girl Monday morning. Bitter to be locked in my room pumping while my students played at recess and Charlotte ate from a bottle. Bitter and chilly and dark. Bitter to just have 2.5 hours in a day as a family before bedtime. Bitter to have no new photos of Charlotte because it was already starting to get dark and shadowy in the house each evening when I got home.

I'm pondering the whole "have it all" thing. Right now I seemingly have it all. And I'm so so grateful for my job and my baby and my husband and my family and my friends. But even having it all can be sort of bittersweet...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Charlotte's life lately

This weekend Grandmom Nelson came to visit and today Charlotte got to see her Granddad and to meet Uncle Allen.

She has also been stretching her neck muscles, smiling, cooing, and holding up her head a lot better. What a big girl!

Monday, March 17, 2014

growing like a weed!

Just a few sweet photos for your viewing pleasure...

Happy 6.5 weeks to my sweet babe.

8:00 Monday morning

This morning I nursed Charlotte for her 8am Monday feeding for the last time for awhile...

So I snapped a photo of us snuggled up on our bed together. Sure, it's mostly her little body, but my PJ pants and feet made an appearance. And sure, she's only wearing a diaper and it's blurry, but this picture is significant.

Next Monday, someone else will give my babe her 8:00 feeding. And every Monday through Friday for the foreseeable future, someone will feed her a bottle at 8am. And 11am. And 1pm, too.

Next Monday marks my first day at work in 7 weeks. I've been so blessed with time getting to know Charlotte, so grateful for the chance to hang out and watch her grow.

I'm also blessed with a great job at a great school. With amazing students and a supportive community. Plus, quality people will be caring for Charlotte until school gets out for the summer.

So I'm grateful, and I'm looking forward to teaching again. But 8:00 this Monday morning was still quite bittersweet.

All week long I'm planning to savor every feeding, every diaper change, every cry, and every snuggle. Because 8:00 next Monday morning is coming fast.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I was angry

When Charlotte was 5 days old and we were without power, staying overnight at our friends' house, she woke up sooner than I thought she should after being put to bed.

She wailed and wouldn't be soothed and as I rolled out of bed to pick her up to nurse, I was angry.

I held her, grabbed my shirt quickly up, and pulled her to me somewhat roughly.

As she latched on and began to eat, I immediately started sobbing, dripping tears on her little face- appalled at the way my heart had sinned against my tiny, hungry daughter.

I was so ashamed of my anger, so frustrated at myself for being annoyed at her utter baby-ness. She was hungry and upset and I had the means to soothe her, but I was tired. I wanted to sleep. I wanted her to sleep longer and I don't know, maybe... need me less....?

When I confessed my feelings and actions to Joel, he showed me much grace. He comforted me with the reality that I will sin against Charlotte so many more times in her life, but that Jesus offers forgiveness for even those sins I commit quietly in my heart. I cried again and have cried many times since that day, as I dwell on the reality of my heart and as I am frustrated with her many times for simply being a baby.

As overwhelming as my love for her can be, I'm also tired and emotional. I get angry when my dinner plans are interrupted and annoyed when I have to change yet another onesie in the middle of the night. My sweet daughter is, sadly, going to be very aware of my human-ness as she grows.
I only hope that this process of mothering Charlotte will draw me closer to Jesus and sanctify me more and more. I only hope that my baby will see Christ in me as I fail and confess and repent and change. And fail and confess and repent and change again. I only hope that I will show her grace and patience as she sins against me, and that I will point her to the cross every single time.

Also-- this post. Amazing. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

One month old!

Happy birthday, Charlotte!

You are actually 5 weeks old this weekend, but we had your one month checkup on Friday morning so I am writing all about you now.

You weigh 9 pound, 7.5 ounces. That's about two pounds gained since birth.Way to go!

You are 22.7 inches long, which, hilariously, puts you in the 90th percentile!! We guessed you would get Dad's genes there, kiddo!

The worst part of your checkup was the second Hep.B shot the nurse gave you. Oh. Did your face get red as you cried in pain! Fortunately, they let us hang out quietly in the exam room so you could nurse before we drove home. They are nice, those pediatricians.

Here are some things you've enjoyed lately:

Stretching! You are long and lean and you love to stretch your arms above your head, especially when you first wake up from your nap!

Wearing your awesome new headband. 

Snoozing with Dad in the Ergo while I make dinner.
Taking a short road trip to New Jersey to have lunch with your Granddad. You actually slept through our lunch, but got to snuggle with Granddad before you ate your own lunch. You like listening to him sing "your song."

Making funny faces for the camera (That's my girl!).

Representin' West Philadelphia, Fresh-Prince style. And hating it ;)
And trying out your new cloth diapers! They fit your skinny legs! So exciting!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

on pride and humility

Today Joel came home to a perfectly content family. Charlotte was napping (in her crib! with blackout curtains keeping the room relatively dark!), then I fed her a bottle, then she hung out with Joel while I finished dinner. Then she sat quietly in her swing while we ate, and I commented multiple times on what an awesome kid we have. I told Joel how so many women at the breastfeeding support group I attend have stories about their babies screaming bloody murder, spitting up constantly, refusing to sleep, etc. etc. We both smiled smugly about our happy, easy baby.

Around 6pm Joel went to a meeting and I went upstairs to nurse Charlotte. She ate peacefully.

Then proceeded to scream for the next 35 minutes.

Nothing I did soothed her. I sushed and I swayed. I put her in the Ergo and walked around. I swaddled her. I turned on the fan. I sang. I whispered to her. I turned off all the lights. I gave her a pacifier.

Finally I decided to put her to bed, so I changed her diaper, nursed for a long time, swaddled her in the sleep sack, and kissed her goodnight. She fell asleep promptly.

And woke up 5 minutes later. So I nursed her a little more, snuggled, sang, patted her back, put her to bed.

She stayed quiet for 10 minutes, then needed more to eat and some more snuggles and a little rocking before she fell asleep again.

Here's the moral of my story: pride comes before a fall and parenting well requires humility.

I was so proud that my baby sleeps good chunks at night. I was so proud of getting her to nap with those blackout curtains. I was so proud that my daughter can soothe herself (sometimes!). I was so proud that she only spits up a little. I was so proud of her weight gain (up to 9 pounds, 6 1/2 ounces!).

Now as I'm typing I can hear her stirring, again. This going to bed process has taken over an hour and I'm utterly exhausted.

And humbled beyond belief.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Okay, how come nobody told me how TOTALLY IN LOVE I would be with this little girl?!
Just look at her!
That face! Those little hands! Her big expressive eyes! The lips!

Monday, March 3, 2014

my better half

Today is my better half's birthday and I dedicate this post and this day to celebrating him!

As I mentioned in my birth story post, Joel was the absolute best support person during labor and delivery. He's my number one fan in all things related to Charlotte's care.  He advocates for me to breastfeed. He holds me when I cry. He lets me talk on and on about the mundane tasks of days with a newborn. He steps up to wash basically all the dishes because Charlotte sometimes nurses after dinner and my hands are occupied. He gets up to help with middle-of-the-night diaper changes and re-swaddles. He patiently gives his opinion and his support on big & small decisions.

PLUS, he is the absolute sweetest dad. Joel and Charlotte often read books together and he wears her with pride in our Ergo carrier, either for a day at the zoo or just walking around the house to help her sleep before dinner.
He is a champion diaper changer and bath giver and super tight swaddler. Charlotte CAN'T break out of the sleep sack when Joel puts her to bed, which means she sleeps longer and cozier. Awesome!
Joel loves Charlotte so tenderly; he snuggles her when she is mad and whispers sweetly to her as they walk around the house.  He carefully tucks her little arms in her clothes during changes and says, "Hi!" so so brightly when she wakes up from her naps.
One of my most sacred memories from Charlotte's first few days is the way Joel cared for my heart during the struggles of new motherhood. Charlotte and I were figuring out nursing and often when I was holding her, she was crying and frustrated. Once she settled down and was resting peacefully, Joel would bring her (all snuggled up!) to me so I could have a turn hanging out with a quiet, content baby. He would say, "Here, Mom. You need to hold her while she's happy." <3
Joel, you are the most amazing husband and dad ever! I love you and Charlotte loves you!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

the birth of Charlotte Adeline

Disclaimer: slightly graphic post ahead, including some non-graphic photos.

I spent the first day of my maternity leave wandering around IKEA, hoping to "walk this baby out." I was so ready for her to come and I didn't want to "waste" many of my days off without an actual baby. In the afternoon I went shopping at Wegmans, feeling irregular contractions that sometimes made me stop to breathe. Joel and I went out to dinner and had friends over to play games. I knew I needed to be distracted from the waiting. My friends brought some spices to help me kick start labor. I told them I was pretty sure things were already moving, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.

We went to bed around 11 and I woke up at 1 with much stronger contractions. I got in the shower to manage them and let Joel sleep another hour. I woke Joel up around 2 saying, "I need some help." At that point I was confident this was the real deal but had no idea how much longer I would be laboring.

The hours we spent at home are all a blur. I know I took at least two more showers. I know Joel called Melissa, my BFF and doula. I know they both rubbed my back. I know I was tired. I know I sat on the toilet- a lot. I know I threw up twice. I know I asked for counter pressure, some hip squeezing. I know I walked the upstairs hallway, back and forth. I know Melissa helped me breathe deeply and slowly. I know Joel got all our bags ready by the door. I know Melissa made our bed. I know I drank water. I know when we called the birth center's on- call phone the midwife talked me through some contractions and told me I could stay home longer. Twice.

Around 7 am Joel drove me to the birth center. I spent all ten minutes of that drive on my knees, leaning over the back of my seat. I absolutely couldn't sit on my butt- my back killed me and contractions were coming fast!!
Upon arriving at the birth center, I was already 6 centimeters dilated. The baby's head was really low, which was making me feel the need to push even though it definitely wasn't time. The midwife on call wasn't the one we'd seen most, but she told me they were changing shifts at 8am so "my" midwife would be on her way shortly. I love both of the midwives and was pleased to have both of them involved in my labor, but I was really thrilled that the one we knew best would likely be there to deliver our baby. I quickly got in the jacuzzi tub and labored there for the next three hours.
Joel and Melissa took turns massaging my back and doing hip squeezes through contractions. The pain was unbelievable and I couldn't handle it except with their help. Being in the water was amazing; between contractions I could lean back into the jets and let my body relax a little. During my time in the tub I often felt the urge to push. Melissa or Sarah, my midwife, would help me breathe through each contraction when I said, "It's so hard not to push!!" over and over and over again. I was moaning and breathing and hanging out on my hands and knees as labor progressed quite quickly.
The next time I got out of the tub to be checked, I was 8 centimeters so back into the tub I went. During that check, Sarah did some maneuvering with my cervix because the baby's head was still low, but I wasn't open quite enough for her to actually start moving through.

A little before 10am, Sarah suggested I was probably close to being fully dilated so I should get out of the tub. Lying on my back to be checked was total torture so once we discovered I was 10 centimeters, Sarah let me get on my hands and knees to push.

The pushing was horrendous- unbelievably painful and so so hard! I can't imagine pushing for longer than I did, though I know most people have a much longer time of it. I had Joel's hand being crushed on my left and Melissa massaging my back/butt on the right. Sarah was coaching me and encouraging me and telling me exactly what I needed to do. After a little while she had me lie on my side and hold my right leg up. This gave me a chance to focus and I tried so hard to breathe deeply and push when the contractions came. Joel was holding my hand and letting me squeeze his to death and keeping a cool washcloth on my face/forehead. Melissa helped immensely by giving a running commentary... "Ohhhh, Kell, I can see her head!"Just the words I needed to hear, as I couldn't see at all and the pushing didn't feel like it was accomplishing much.

At one point Sarah let me feel Charlotte's little head, which was slimy and hairy and amazing. That slimy, hairy, amazing head gave me the courage and stamina to keep pushing despite the piercing pain of my body parts stretching to beyond their maximum capacity. It's a bit hazy now, but at some point once Charlotte's head was out, there was a bit of a stall and Sarah had me switch back to pushing on my hands and knees. I got really scared because I was afraid something was wrong and immediately started praying and crying, "Lord, please let her be fine. God, help me. Don't let her be in distress. Please keep her safe, Lord." I think I asked Joel to pray through my fears, too, but I don't remember if it was during this stage.
Right around 10:20 am on Friday, January 31st, my sweet darling girl came flying out and was caught by Sarah, who immediately put her up by my head so I could see her beautiful (bloody!) body. Charlotte Adeline Alberts came into the world with her tiny fist squished up against her cheek. She had a little bruise on the right side of her face, due to that hand blocking her exit. That tiny fist made me tear slightly, so once Charlotte was checked out and placed on my chest, Sarah had to do a few small stitches. Charlotte's head was cone shaped and Joel told me later that he wondered why his wife had birthed an alien! She snuggled up with me under some blankets and our birth dream team took care of everything else. Joel and I just gazed at her and I took some deep breaths and reveled in the reality that I'd just pushed a 7.5 pound human out of my body.

The entire experience was incredible and painful and heart-wrenching and scary and perfect and beautiful. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful first labor and delivery. I couldn't have imagined a better team supporting me the entire way.

Though bringing Charlotte into the world was physically the hardest thing I have ever done, it was the most rewarding and the most wonderful. 
All images by Melissa of Melissa Hassey Photography.