Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holy growth spurt!

My little pumpkin isn't so little anymore! At his two-month appointment with our pediatrician Dr. Casper (on Halloween no less), we discovered that this one-time preemie is now in the 70th percentile for weight measuring in at 12 pounds, 2 ounces. And this on a regular birth chart--not a preemie chart! I can't believe how quickly he's growing. That was two weeks ago. By now he's probably up to 13. I guess that's what happens when you're a high-calorie preemie formula. He'll be on this formula until the end of December, so he could be huge by Christmas!

As you can imagine, we are still going through the clothes quickly. It's almost like I have become attached to certain outfits--wanting to save them until the person who bought them comes to visit, or for a get together, but before you know it they are too small! It's a bit depressing actually. But with each piece Austin outgrows, I can add to the stockpile of clothes to save for baby #2. And no Grandmas--that is not happening tomorrow or in the near future!

The last few weeks have certainly been eventful. We celebrated a great aunt and three cousins' birthdays, so Austin was able to meet more family at these gatherings, as well as revisit with those who had already met him. Most of our relatives were fighting in line to get to hold him next. At my nephew Mitchell's birthday, my sister Stephanie had to hide from her 10-year old daughter Morgan because Morgan wanted to steal Austin. And their neighbor Susan literally snatched the burp cloth from my shoulder right after I put it on as her way of getting to hold the baby next. It was quite entertaining, and let's be honest--too many people wanting to hold your baby is a nice problem to have. And when some of those people are just babies themselves, it's too cute for words.

Thanksgiving was a fun day too. In fact, Austin finally got to wear the outfit I've been most excited to put him in. It says "Mommy's Little Turkey" on the shirt front, with "Gobble" on each of the feet. On the butt, there was a colorful turkey :)  It was precious! By the end of the evening, we had changed him into a Christmas onesie with fleece pants. This one read "What Santa doesn't bring for Christmas Grandma will." Likely true!

In addition to first holidays, we also survived our first baby headcold. The bug reached Jim about three weeks ago, then I was coughing and had a sore throat, and then finally we could hear the stuffiness in Austin's little nose. If he was feeling nearly as crappy as we felt, then he must be one of he most mild-mannered kids ever. Even after we get in his face and literally suck the snot out of his nose with this ginormous green bulb syringe from the hospital, he is as pleasant as can be. It's so weird. I keep saying he sounds like a pug dog with the stuffed up nose sound effects.

Speaking of animals, I told you last time that we were taking our 16-year old cat, Jordan, to the vet for a check-up. Unfortunately, he did not come home with us. After about a year of multiple pills and special food, he was still losing weight, and still had high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, a heart murmur and kidney disease. This cat that once weighed over 20 lbs in his glory days was now down to about 10. I knew I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. It was very tough, but we elected to put him down. It felt like forever sitting in this small room, just Jim, me and the cat, waiting for the doctor to come back. I asked him if people do this--or was I just being cruel? There were other foods and pills we could try, but I just couldn't fathom putting him through more treatment attempts. The doctor was somewhat consoling when he explained that he doesn't do "convenience euthanasias." Apparently people will go to the vet saying that they've moved into a non-pet property, or they had a baby and don't want the pet, etc. and expect the doctor to euthanise the animal. I knew something was up with Jordan when after the baby came home he wasn't eating well, but it was more than the baby... everything had built up over a long time. The relieving part about it all was that usually when we go to the vet, the cat is meowing in fear every 2 seconds (literally--this is not an exaggeration). One time he even pooped in the car! But he's always on the defensive. This time, he was extremely relaxed, purring and even cuddling up next to me when we were waiting for the doctor. I believe he was ready to go, and his demeanor was his way of telling me it was ok. Jim and I were both sobbing by the time we left the vet office. And that night when I woke up to feed Austin, I remember my vision being a bit foggy because my eyes were still swollen from crying. I had been through so much with that cat! This was certainly a tough day. Maybe in a few years we'll get a new pet to start new memories with. Or as Jim said in the car on the way home, "You know, we may be doing this again in another 20 years when Austin's pet is on the way out." I say for now let's enjoy the baby--he keeps us plenty busy :)

Other updates ... Hmmmm ... well, the Couch-to-5K is going slower than I need it to go, but with the busy schedule lately and the new 5 p.m. darkness, it's tough to get out and run 3x a week. I've finished the first three weeks, but am about a week behind schedule. I remember how much I enjoyed running outdoors this time of year--the cold weather is somehow inspirational (likely in the sense that if you stop, you'll freeze!), and holiday decorations were already popping up like two weeks ago. It was gorgeous to watch the leaves fall, but it seems like people had started putting their Christmas trees up much earlier this year. It's too soon for me if it's before Thanksgiving. Sometimes I guess I just feel like Thanksgiving gets cheated out of it's time. Let's not jump the gun folks. I mean, seriously, how would you feel if Valentine's day stuff was in stores before Christmas?!

Like working out, I am still far from getting my sea legs back in terms of alcohol tolerance. I may have thought certain mixed drinks would have affected me, but one glass of wine? And now my latest casualty, a Sr. Pancho's margarita. We were thrilled to get out of the house for a dinner date with a few college friends at this mexican restaurant in Orrville. Apparently the margaritas were on special that night, so I decided to try one. It was only 12 oz. You'd think I could handle 12 ounces, right?! After about 1/4 of the glass I could already feel it. But after finishing the glass I was laughing so hard I was crying. And nothing was even funny! I just felt like my head was spinning, and looked at Jim and started laughing. There was no explanation for what was happening. Then I turned to the rest of the table and apologized (while still laughing and crying), and pretty much buried my head in my hands until I could contain myself. It was slightly embarassing, so I'm thankful it was in the company of good friends and not complete strangers. Since that outing, we also got to go out to dinner and to a bar to hear some of Jim's work colleagues play in a band. I'm happy to report that I had a full draft beer without any affect :)

The last big update to share is that I start an exciting new job on Monday! I will be a Project Manager for Grabowski & Co.  working Monday, Wednesday and Friday all day. This gig is very much like what I did at Malone Advertising with the Johnson & Johnson account, but it's close to home and part-time. I couldn't be more excited. I still get to be with the kiddo on Tuesdays and Thursdays so it's perfect.  

Ok wait, I lied. Two more exciting updates. Austin has slept through the night three nights in a row! Seriously, he went eight or more hours each night. I am amazed. He is such a good baby. And he is super smiley and giggling now. It's adorable how much his face lights up when he smiles. Adorable. I could just stare at him all day long.

Let the Christmas season begin... I can't wait to share every minute of it with our new bundle of joy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Changes in Mom & Baby

It was really eager to go back to the hospital recently to drop off a tray of baked goods and a thank you card for the NICU staff. Picture this: first-time Mom lugging her "compact" stroller out of the trunk; strapping her six-week-old in his car seat to the stroller, then trying to balance a big plastic tray of baked goods in her left hand while pushing the stroller with her right hand. All the while carrying a diaper bag and purse. I trekked from the parking lot up to the main entrance where a group of elderly folks lined the walkway and gawked at the goodies and my little man before one gentleman grabbed the door for us. If I thought I was a multi-tasking guru before, I’m an Olympian now. Although I probably looked more like a circus clown than an athlete.

In some way, this thank you was my closure for the whole experience. And like I said before, I hope I never have to see these people again (unless we happen to run into them at the grocery store; just not on the 4th floor at Aultman). Naturally, none of our favorite nurses or doctors was there when we stopped by, but some of them had shifts that night.  

AJ and I ventured out again the following day for my six-week post-partum checkup. I have to tell you that this was a bit of a frustrating excursion. AJ ate at a perfect time that morning and then fell asleep before we got in the car. This meant he would likely be out (quiet) for the projected appointment at 10. They ask you to be 15 minutes early, and because AJ was so good we were there at 9:45 on the nose. Unfortunately, we weren't called back until after 10:30 and didn’t see the doctor until about 10:45. He was quiet the entire time we were in the waiting room, but started getting fussy when we were in the exam room. Then, with hilarious timing (can you see how this is starting to be a trend with him?), he pooped right as the doctor walked in and was admiring him. And I mean POOPED. You could have heard it down the hall! I left the diaper bag in the car because I didn't think I'd need it. Think again. Typical first-time parent mistake ;) Everything worked out, it was just frustrating to do everything they ask you to do and still have to wait forever … with a newborn nonetheless. While I thought these “mishaps” would be embarrassing, this is what every kid (and Mom) goes through right? And honestly, every time we’ve had an appointment somewhere he seems to have the perfect body clock that allows us plenty of time before and after. So I can’t complain. I just better knock on wood—his two-month appointment at the Pediatrician’s is just a week away!

Never thought I’d say this, but the most exciting part of my checkup was getting weighed. I hadn’t been on a scale since the day before Austin was born. I hit the 33 lb mark that day. To my amazement, I had managed to lose all but 10 of these pounds. I’m not sure what the average weight loss is after giving birth, but I was pretty happy with this. Since we’ve been home, the clothes don’t exactly fit like they did before, and I’ve been spending most of my time in pajamas or warm-up pants and a hoodie. Needless to say, it’s been hard to feel pretty at times. Of course it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had to start somewhere. Now I am working on cutting out pop and sweets and managing portions so I can try to get rid of these 10 or more.

I also started the couch-to-5K training plan mentioned in my last post. I’ve got to tell you—while it felt good to get back out there, I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of having completed the Indy half-marathon in May 2010. This body did 13.1 miles? HA. The first three outings require a rotation of 60 seconds jogging and 90 seconds walking for a total of 20 minutes. While you would expect each set of 60 to become easier, they actually made me more winded. I felt some mild chest pain and a bit of a stomach cramp with each rotation. The funniest part of this whole ordeal? Discovering that gravity is selective. When I was pregnant, that belly was HIGH. Don’t you think a 6.5 lb, 5-week preemie would have dropped before his arrival?! It was definitely a haul around work and the house with that belly, but it felt like nothing compared to what I was trying to cart around the streets of North Canton for 60 measly seconds! Long story short, I’m feeling quite out of shape. But with the help of an upbeat playlist on my ipod (including everything from Justin Timberlake to Broadway hits to Brad Paisley) and memories of the enormous emotion I felt while circling the 2.5 mile Indy 500 track and crossing the finish line, I completed the first two sessions in no time. They really do go by quickly, but I know it will take some time to build up my mileage again. And that’s ok.

Me, Emily, Benn, Kristin, Daniel and Mike after the Indy 1/2 Marathon
Me crossing the finish line!
Another pastime I need to slowly work back into is drinking wine. Seriously. I enthusiastically uncorked the bottle of Riesling from our dear friend Megan and woke up with a headache that lasted the entire next day. It wasn’t until after lunch that I realized it was likely from the wine, and quite comically, was my first post-pregnancy hangover! That’s what you get for ignoring your wine glasses for 10 months. I want to finish that bottle, but maybe I’ll wait until a weekend when Jim is on night duty with the kiddo and I can sleep in ;)

Speaking of weekends, we were really excited to get back to the theatre and have a date night! Although I have to admit I was yawning in the first act. It’s hard to believe I designed props for a show in April when I was 15-20 weeks along, and now I could barely stay awake! This was no fault of the production—called “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” as it was hilarious. I just hadn’t been out that “late” in so long! Jim even called his parents, the babysitters, to check in at intermission. And we were more than eager to show off cell phone or wallet pics of the little guy to our theatre friends all night. Yep, we are THOSE people now. And it cracks me up.

The highlight of the last week was definitely Ashland’s Homecoming. Dressed in his purple and yellow Tuffy the Eagle sleeper and cap, Austin made his first “out of belly” appearance on campus and got to meet lots of our college friends and some of my co-workers. He may have stolen the show. Especially after making quite a large poo when our friend Kevin was holding him! It was certainly an odd experience to be walking into a campus restroom looking for a changing table. This was there the whole time I’ve worked at AU, but not something I ever noticed until now. Funny how that works, isn’t it?!

Ashland University Homecoming - October 15, 2011

Speaking of Ashland, It's been a bittersweet couple of days after I announced that I would not be returning to work. This was a very tough decision for our family, but right now, I just can't fathom making the hour commute each way, especially when I usually work more than eight hours each day. I really loved my job (and my Mac laptop!!), but I have an even more important job now. And there are exciting opportunities much closer to home for me to explore in the coming weeks. Jim helped me clean out my office Sunday but I'll be back on campus to go to lunch with my former colleagues one last time. Many of them want to meet Austin, so he'll be along for the ride too. Employed or not, I still hold a special place in my heart for AU. I spent four fabulous undergrad years there and met my hubby and some amazing friends. That will never go away.

Well, today Austin is eight weeks old, and we are officially out of newborn sized clothes and diapers! All 0-3 and even some 3-6 month clothing has been washed and is ready to wear. It's been surprising how well some of this stuff fits already - rather, how quickly babies grow out of things. And I’m happy to report (knock on wood) that I think he really understands the difference between night and day, and even more exciting, his nighttime feedings are becoming smaller in ounces and shorter in time. He’s not as hungry—which means he’s sleeping longer unless he needs a diaper change. He also seems to have fallen asleep for us faster than in recent weeks. That’s not true for our daytime rituals though—he’s a spoiled little monkey that always seems to need Mommy to hold him. It means I don’t get as much done around the house, but I can’t say no to him!

Before I go, I had to share a photo of Austin with his youngest cousin, Joel, born June 3. They technically met for the first time last weekend, although, they were next to each other a few times in their mommies’ bellies before that. Can’t wait to see them grow up together. Next on the “meet the cousins” list is my Godson, Justin, born Feb. 1. So excited Austin has cousins close in age on both sides of the family.

Austin's first meeting with his cousin, Joel

Next time I’ll have updates on Austin’s two-month pediatrician appointment on Halloween (with a frightening four shots!), plus stories from family parties Halloween weekend and possible news on our cat Jordan, who hasn’t been loving the new kid on the block. Since Austin has been home, Jordan has been really lethargic and is puking more and more. If you remember a few years ago, he had separation anxiety when Jim went back to work in August, and we think a similar anxiety thing is happening now. Plus he’s on multiple (expensive) pills, special kidney food, and is pushing 17 or 18 years old. I just don’t know if he can stick it out; and the kid isn’t going anywhere, so we may need to make a tough decision if you know what I mean. Vet appointment is tomorrow afternoon.  

Until then, adios from Austintown!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Three weeks and counting

It's hard to believe Tuesday was Austin's original due date, but I'm so thankful we've been able to spend five amazing weeks with him. It's funny how things works out... and everything happens for a reason.

Throughout this entire journey, the theme has been "It's hard to believe __________." Hard to believe we're trying to have a baby; hard to believe we are pregnant; hard to believe we're 12 weeks or 20 weeks along; hard to believe we're having a boy; and my personal favorite--it's hard to believe he was five weeks early. This is nothing you haven't heard from me before.

But it's still holding true even after Austin's arrival. I see him, feel him, hear him and even smell him but can't quite believe that he's my baby and that he was in my belly until just five weeks ago. And five weeks? Where did those 35 days go? The two weeks we spent in the NICU seem so long ago, yet they felt like forever when we were there. I think I'll be in this state of disbelief until the little guy graduates from high school. And then I'll be in disbelief about how old I am by then.

In the three weeks we've been home, here are a few things we've learned:

1. AJ isn't a fan of his bassinette, but will usually sleep in the pack & play portable bassinette (i.e. Jen was sleeping more on the couch than in her bed). We quickly moved to the crib, and he's doing better there.

2. For a kid who couldn't eat in the NICU, he's eating like a champ now! He's nearly doubled his intake per feeding from two to four ounces.

3. Because he eats like a champ, man does he burp like one too!

4. Day and night--we still don't know the difference.

5. The kid loves his hands, and as early as a week or two ago, he started occasionally putting them on the bottle when I'd feed him. I didn't think newborns were this coordinated this early.

6. Daytime TV needs some help. Who's idea was it to give Jerry Springer's bodyguard his own trashy talk show?!

Speaking of daytime TV, one thing I'm embarrassed to admit I've been watching is "A Baby Story" on TLC. I hate to admit it, but sometimes these stories make me feel better about my delivery experience. These women are crying, screaming and sometimes unmedicated. Many of them are in labor for hours upon hours. Their husbands or families are off the wall (and not having to do any of the work!). When I compare it to my experience, often I am thankful that I was drugged and didn't have to hear or feel much. The idea of my insides being exposed on the other side of a curtain and the doctors telling me what they are doing is just odd. So I'm glad I didn't have to deal with that. On the other hand, I tear up every time the babies come out and the moms are immediately embracing them. That was not something I was able to enjoy until nearly six hours after Austin was born. Before I got to even see him, I spent two hours in a recovery room, then was wheeled to my hospital room to get settled, and later had to painfully get out of bed and into a wheelchair to be carted over to the NICU for the visit. The other difference in my experience was that Jim and I were separated for most of the ordeal instead of being able to enjoy it together. We didn't get to have that emotional moment together as a family when the baby was delivered.

Most other daytime TV is hideous, so I'm learning to multitask while holding to baby in order to get away from the TV. I like to hold him when he's awake, but I also want to feel like I accomplished something other than watching "A Baby Story" between bottles and diapers each day! A great example is that I'll cradle Austin in my left hand while using my right hand to paint a giraffe canvas decoration I plan to hang in the nursery. The final product is pictured below. I am by no means a painter, but have enjoyed this creative outlet. Other than this, the only time I get to be creative is when picking out Austin's outfits :)

And speaking of nursery decor, we received some pretty neat gifts in the mail this week. My dad made and painted this giraffe and the AJD initials shown below. The giraffe was designed around the one his girlfriend, Candel, stitched into an animal quilt she sent a week earlier. She also sent a ton of burp cloths, receiving blankets and other gifts with Austin's initials or name embroidered into them. I've never been so excited about burp cloths! We seem to be going through these the fastest, so it's great to have them on hand. Not to mention personalized for my little guy!

I don't have anything hung up on the walls yet, but I'll definitely take a picture of the room when it's complete. I can't wait to see it all come together, and I can't believe my dad made these things. They are perfect!

My new creative outlet... until I mess it up! Still need to add the spots, but you get the idea.

Dad's project - can't believe he made these!
Quilt by Candel Russell - adorable!

Last Friday we were able to get out of the house again for our second trip to the pediatrician--this was Austin's one month appointment. I'm thrilled to report that there were no peeing on the wall (or nurse) incidents this time! AND, my guy has gained two pounds since we were there two weeks ago--he's up to 8 lb, 10 oz! I couldn't believe that, but based on everything he's eating, it shouldn't be a surprise. The best news of the trip was that the doc said we can expect him to start cooing and socially smiling in the next few weeks. Right now he really only smiles after he poops or farts, so this is very exciting, HAHA!

As if I didn't have enough reasons to celebrate, next week is my six-week follow-up appointment with the doctor, where I expect to be cleared to start "living" again.  I am itching to get back out there and try to build up my running mileage again. It's obviously been quite some time since I ran, so I'm considering using the Couch-to-5K training plan. If you have used this, let me know what you think. And does anyone know if there is a similar training plan for those wishing to enjoy a glass of wine for the first time in about a year?! Our friend Megan stopped by to visit last week, and to my surprise brought a bottle of my favorite wine, reisling! I'm eager to uncork that bottle, but wondering how much of a "light-weight" I've become!

Thank you again to all of the friends and family that are still stopping by to meet our new addition. Especially those who traveled far distances, including Aunt Mary and Uncle David from Columbus; Megan and Cory from Orrville; Melissa from Elyria, and my work friends, Kathleen, Kathy, Jennifer and Katie from AU (pictured below).

I also want to send a HUGE thank you to my sister and brother-in-law, Steph and Scott, for all of the hand-me-downs they've sent us, including tons of clothes, and most recently, a swing, bouncy seat, Bumbo seat and more. I found out I was pregnant the day before their youngest son (my Godson!) Justin was born, and it's crazy to think that he's eight months old, and that his cousin is already here. As you can see, Austin is already in love with the seat. I cannot thank you enough Steph and Scott--you have done so much for us, not to mention setting a terrific example of what model parents are. I have so much respect for you guys.

I'll leave you with another baby commercial, this one much more emotionally captivating than the first one I shared weeks ago (I believe the catch phrase was "Poop there it is" for Luvs diapers, LOL). This is also a diapers brand, but Pampers delivers a touching message that often brings me to tears each time it airs during "A Baby Story" commercials. I know, I need to get away from the TV and get a hobby. Perhaps after my painting bug ends, I'll start brainstorming new diaper designs.

And for any soon-to-be moms out there, take my advice and do not buy Babies-R-Us brand diapers. Even if you have a coupon! Trust me :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


My first lesson as a new mom: expect the unexpected.

Austin James Draher arrived one day shy of 35 weeks on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. He was born at 7:26 p.m. via c-section, and weighed 6 lbs, 9.8 oz. That's right. He was five weeks early, but still was a pretty big fella. If I had a nickel for every time I have wondered how big he would have been as a full term baby, I might have established his college fund by now.

The story leading up to his arrival is a bit entertaining. I'm just going to get it out of the way now. Jim was right. There, I said it. I should also admit that I was being a bit stubborn that day, although I didn't want to be "that couple" that visits the ER 18 times before actually going into labor. So here's how it went down.

After our visit to the ER the day before with pre-term labor signs, I knew I couldn't travel too far from home in case my water would break (i.e., no more driving to Ashland for work). I was already planning to work from home starting the following week anyway, so this was no problem. The only "problem" was trying to figure out how I could complete the various projects I had pending at the office before the baby came (something I always said would happen sooner than the due date, but certainly not THIS soon). I tried to remain level-headed and just start plugging away, but in the back of my mind all I could think about was all that remained left to do.

The morning began with a staff meeting as usual. I called into the conference room phone and participated in the discussion like always, just through a speaker this time. A few emails came in from various colleagues who had heard I wasn't coming in, and I appreciated their well wishes and kind words. The rest of the a.m. hours were pretty uneventful (business as usual), although I found I couldn't quite get comfortable at our spare bedroom/office desk. I thought at the time this was because of Jim's oversized desk chair, and that my back just needed better support. So I switched chairs a few times, threw in some pillows, stood up, sat down, did a dance... you get the idea. Still couldn't get comfortable. I went to grab a bite for lunch from the kitchen before a 1 p.m. web projects meeting. That's when the fun really started.

Throughout the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, I had felt this pain on my lower right side--more like pressure really--but kept saying it was "pre-baby pain" that I didn't think was related to carrying the baby. Starting around the 1 p.m. meeting, this pain became stronger and was somewhat radiating. To appease my mom and husband--both of whom had been texting me throughout the day to check in--I started timing these pains. In my mind, there was no way these were contractions. They just weren't what I expected as contractions. Too low, on the side... surely I was losing my mind. Until they got worse.

Jim got home around 3:15 and found me in the living room on the phone during another meeting. I had moved my laptop to the living room for a change of scenery--surely this would cure my pain. HA! Cut to 10 minutes later when I'm hunched over the table and trying not to breathe heavily into the phone: Jim has grabbed our book from labor class and is pointing at the "First Stage of Labor Symptoms" page and whisper screaming "get off the phone--you are in labor!"

I let this go on for maybe another 10 minutes before I finally told my colleagues that I needed to call them back. Ironically, I didn't call back until 7:45 the next morning to let them know I was out of commission.

Jim forced me to call my step-sister Steph for advice, who definitely suggested I call the doctor's office. Later I learned that she called my mom immediately after talking to me and said something like,
"Jen is in labor!! You need to call her!! But don't tell her I called you because I was really calm with her on the phone and I don't want to freak her out." The doctor of course recommended we leave for the ER. I am in complete disbelief at this point. There was no way this was happening--no reason or logic to explain why this baby was coming. For sure, we would be sent home again.

We arrived at Aultman's ER around 4:30 to be monitored in the maternity triage area. The pain by now was definitely stronger. I was still timing what I now knew to be contractions, and they were anywhere from 3-5 minutes apart. The resident doctor who saw us the day before came back into the room to examine me before uttering the words I will never forget: "We're going to have a birthday today."

The first thing that crossed my mind was that Austin wasn't going to be a September baby like I thought. Already making a liar out of him Mom! Then I kept thinking "August... it's only August. This isn't possible." Shortly thereafter, a flurry of activity stormed the room. Jim did a great job of staying out of the way sitting in the corner texting as many family and friends as he could, while I sat on the bed to receive an IV, answer questions for anesthesia and sign paperwork (with a signature that was obviously overpowered by the pain and looked nothing like mine). By now our parents were on there way or already in the waiting room.

The doctor came in to explain what was going to happen in the operating room (remember, he was breech so we had to have a c-section). Because of my scoliosis back rods, they were going to try the spinal--similar to an epidural, but numbs your body and keeps you awake during the procedure. If this didn't work, they would have to put me completely under and Jim wouldn't be allowed in the room. This made me a bit nervous, but what choice did I have? I just wanted the baby to be safe.

By 6:30 we were rolling into the OR. A nurse took Jim to get his scrubs on while anesthesia spent 40 minutes trying to get the spinal to work. I was terrified to have these needles going into my back, but it was necessary. There were many times when I could feel them hit something they weren't supposed to hit. The pain was surprisingly minimal, other than a few shooting pains to the left or right. The contractions are still going on at this point, so between the two sensations I had enough to keep me busy. And frankly, the pain from my sciatic nerve when Austin moved the wrong way in my belly was more intense than the spinal pain. Eventually they gave up and decided to put me under via IV. I realized at this point I wouldn't get to see Jim in his scrubs. He loves the TV show "Scrubs" so I tried envisioning him as the actor Zach Braff wearing scrubs, walking around the hospital as if he were in his own made up episode of "Scrubs" just to take my mind off of the situation at hand.

The worst part of going under was the oxygen mask that I thought was going to suffocate me. I knew they were going to put a tube in my throat too, but at least I didn't have to see or feel it (until I woke up with a sore throat). It was a bit unnerving to think of the number of people that were in the room opposite the curtain that was covering my lower half. While I could hear and feel them getting ready for surgery, I couldn't see much at all. But all that really mattered was getting this baby out safe and sound. The meds soon hit my vein and I was out in a matter of seconds.

I woke up in recovery around 8:45 p.m., drowsy as ever. Vision was very blurry, but I could see the outlines of a nurse on one side and Jim on the other. He was excited, and surprisingly calm! Austin was perfectly fine, but taken to the NICU for observation. He had a smooshed nose, but that's what he gets for camping in my rib cage for all those months! Then Jim told me how much the baby weighed, and I made him say it again because surely my drugs had translated that into an extra few pounds. How was it possible for a baby five weeks early to weigh that much?

We finally rolled out of recovery and into our hospital room around 10:30 p.m. I got to see my mom, sister and step-dad along with Jim's parents before they went to grab a bite to eat. Jim went to the NICU so I could nap, but by 1 a.m. I was out of the drug haze and itching to see my baby! I almost couldn't make it because it was so painful to even get out of bed and stand up to get to the wheelchair. But it was beyond worth the pain to see Austin. I didn't realize at the time that we'd spend the next two weeks with him in that room, itching to leave.

My stay in the hospital ended Thursday, 9/1. I had probably eight or 10 different nurses, four or five resident doctors and a slew of other staff that cared for me or visited my room for one reason or another. By far the most entertaining interaction was with the male resident doctors who had a funny habit of visiting in the 5 a.m. hour to check my incision and then ask if I had thought about post-partum birth control. I wanted to say, "Dude, I don't even have a pediatrician picked out yet, so I couldn't care less about birth control right now!" And ironically the most painful part of the whole experience (aside from general sitting/standing pain from the incision) was getting the IV and other medical tape pulled off the skin. Honestly. It could have been much worse.

And the best part--unlike other medical procedures--I got to (eventually) go home with more than a scar. My little bundle of joy, once he learned how to eat in the NICU, arrived home Tuesday 9/13--which would have been my 37 week full-term date. The hardest part of the NICU experience, other than being a completely unexpected introduction into parenthood, was simply wrapping my head around why we were stuck there for a 6.5 lb baby that simply put, didn't know how to suck. When I think "NICU" I think breathing or developmental problems, incubators and small babies. We had none of those with Austin, except for the incubator for 24 hours to regulate his temperature. But every time I heard the docs say "it's completely normal for him to have an immature sucking pattern," I still couldn't wrap my head around it.

It was terribly frustrating, but it made complete sense that he just hadn't had the time to learn these things because he was early. He had a feeding tube in his nose that was taped to his face--and he ripped it off almost three times (we caught him the second time, and were able to get the nurse to fix it instead of having to reinstall it completely). It's the worst feeling in the world to have to watch them shove even the smallest of tubes in your week-old baby's nose and hearing him scream ... sigh. Fortunately, he was given two to three bottle attempts a day, and finally, as the nurses said it would, the light bulb turned on and he was only taking bottles.

Speaking of nurses, these women were amazing. At least two of them had even cared for Jim when he was a NICU baby at Aultman almost 27 years ago! These ladies were patient with us and all of our new parent questions, but best of all, they spent the time to help reassure us of the skills we needed to care for Austin on our own once we were home. Jim had never changed a diaper or given a baby a bottle, but with the direction of the NICU nurses, he left the hospital feeling more like a pro. And two of the doctors' kids had Jim in class, so by the time our stay was over we had made some really great connections with the NICU staff. I could not be more thankful for each and every one of them, and in fact I'm tearing up just thinking about them as I type. I'm forever grateful, but at the same time, I hope I never have to see them again!

The first couple days home have been relatively uneventful. Other than you know, feeding, burping, diapering, bathing, holding, etc., every 2.5 - 3 hours :) We did go to our first pediatrician visit Friday, where Austin made his presence known by peeing all over the scale (even hitting the wall, and nearly hitting the nurse!), and almost pooping on the table. And yes, he's already peed on our wall at home in his room, and leaked through his diaper onto Daddy, and my cousin Bob. Bob even texted me later to say he suggests we rename AJ "Pee J." Hilarious.

The last, but most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU to the many family, friends and neighbors who visited in the hospital or brought us dinner(s), snacks or coffee (yes, I'm still drinking decaf). Without you, we would have spent hundreds on romantic dinners in the Aultman cafeteria.
As much fun as that sounds, and as good as their coffee was, I cannot thank you enough.

The little guy went with Daddy to grandma and grandpa's tonight, so I'm going to go shower and nap. I never thought I'd love that combination as much as I do now. Until the next post... here's hoping we get some sleep!

Giving the "stink eye"

Austin and Mommy in the NICU

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hello, curveball

Austin enjoyed his first friday night high school football game this weekend as Hoover took on Stow here in North Canton. Apparently our quarterback and wide receiver are both named Austin too, so it was kinda neat to be walking up to the stadium and hear all sorts of "Austins" over the loudspeaker. Even though Hoover wasn't victorious, I felt my own victory in being able to sit in those bleachers at 8.5 months pregnant for almost the entire game! After half-time, Jim's brother Benn and his wife Emily joined us (us being me, Jim and his parents) and I learned that they have matching shirts to wear to the hospital when the baby is born. It's too bad they aren't excited to become an Aunt and Uncle!

Saturday morning I attended another pregnancy education class at Aultman Hospital. This time, it was for breastfeeding basics. Since we signed up for classes, Jim insisted he would attend this class too--he's been to every doctor's appointment and constantly asks how I'm feeling, so he's completely supportive. But I really didn't want him to go! So we asked the nurse Monday at the last labor class what she thought about men going to this other class, and she basically said most men don't go (her husband didn't), but it wasn't completely out of the question. He decided not to.

So naturally I walk in Saturday and find two other couples. I couldn't believe it. It didn't bother me that he wasn't there (I was the one who didn't want him to go in the first place after all), but it was strange to be the odd one out when you're talking about something like breastfeeding of all things! All in all, it was still very informative. And something I really appreciated about this class was that the nurse included tips for women who are planning on returning to work. I feel like so much of what I've read or seen in advertisements about post-pregnancy (feeding-related or otherwise) is geared towards stay-at-home moms, so this was a welcome change. It was also challenging to think how many times a day I may need to pump at work, and therefore, how that might impact what I can accomplish each day and still get home at a decent hour to be with my new baby boy. But other than that, it's a piece of cake! We'll see about that.

Saturday night I was able to kick back a bit and rest while Jim was out working hard to draft an amazing Fantasy Football team, and my Mom stopped by to drop off a few goodies for the nursery, including the handmade crib skirt. It's yet to be determined if Jim's fantasy team looks as great as the crib skirt, but I will tell you that he's already having some doubts.

It's a good thing I got some rest Saturday because I wound up back at the hospital Sunday morning after experiencing some signs of pre-term labor. I won't go into the details, but we found out that I'm 2-3 centimeters dialated and 80% effaced already. The big kicker is that we also confirmed that Austin is completely breech. That round bump high on my right side that I was hoping was his cute little baby bottom is actually his head, and his feet are with the cord closest to the "door." The doctor basically told me to stay close to home and get to the hospital immediately if my water breaks because there is concern that the cord could get kinked up in the birth canal and possibly lead to complications.

It's possible I could still carry until 40 weeks like this, but I just can't risk being too far with the breech status. I was planning to work this one last week on campus in Ashland, then work from home starting 9/6 (36 weeks and on), but because of these new developments, I'll start at home 8/29. It's still business as usual until this baby comes! And honestly, I have a feeling it could happen in the next week or two. You better believe that hospital bag got packed today ;)

As promised, I leave you now with some of the most entertaining one-liners/zingers of the pregnancy:

"Hey 'Preggers!' How's it hangin'?"

"Austin, hit the rock... whoa, he just kicked me!" --My sister, Jess

"WHAT exactly is holding that up?!" --Our friend, Megan, referring to my 33-week belly

"Jennifer, that is a BIG BELLY!" --My four-year-old cousin, Nathan (also the 33-week belly)

Neighbor: "I saw Jim, but never got to tell you 'congrats' until now."
Me: "Well that's not fair, I'm doing all the work here!"
Neighbor: "Nah, you both did some work, but that was the fun part, right?!

"It looks like you have a basketball under that shirt."

Lots of people I rarely see at work, but happen to see when I'm pregnant: "Wow, I bet you're ready."
Me: "Sure am, except I'm only 34 weeks, so I'll be even bigger the next time you see me."
(and then I think to myself, what WILL they say when I'm bigger?!)

"You know when your belly button pops out, you'll be ready.  It's the 'done button.' " --My college roommate, Bethel

Me: "The ultrasound showed he's completely breech Mom."
Mom: "Well if that's been his head up there this whole time, he's gonna have a big head!"

Doctor during ultrasound: "He's definitely being moderately uncooperative."
Me: "He has a tendency to misbehave when he know's he's on camera, but you're saying you've seen worse?"
Doctor: "Well, no, I was trying to be friendly!"

Doctor (about 2 minutes later): "Wow, good luck with him!"

"Whatever you do, can you please try not to go into labor on Thursday when I have my other Fantasy Football Draft? I love you." --Jim, after we got home from the hospital Sunday

Me (about an hour later): "You know, it would be kinda cool if Austin was born 9/1 because his cousin Justin was born 2/1."
Jim: "Wait, that's Thursday isn't it?
Me: "Oh, nevermind."


Oh and by the way, this post was drafted Sunday afternoon, ready to post Monday evening (8/29) until I WENT INTO LABOR!  Austin James was born at 7:26 p.m. Monday, a day shy of 35 weeks, but still weighing in at 6 lbs, 9.8 oz.  Mom and baby are doing well, but he's still in the NICU and it's hard to believe this happened at all. Pictures and details to come!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three weeks till full-term!

So if you read the last post, you are up to speed with the official name, Austin James! AJ for short. I'm thrilled with the positive reactions we've received to this name from friends and family alike. Originally, we weren't going to finalize our choice until we met the baby, but we both fell in love with this name much earlier than expected. It just felt right to share it right then and there.

We first announced the name on vacation with Jim's family at Sunset Beach, where we were lucky enough to have Jim's cousin take some great photos of us by the water. Thanks to Jen Stem for these great shots!

It's really hard to believe that these shots were taken only four weeks ago when I was 30 weeks along. I keep saying that since we've been back from vacation, these weeks haven't felt like they are going by as quickly as before. I have no doubt that's because the weight of the belly and my overall pain has become so much more prevalent.
If you look at my belly you can usually see how the baby is camping out only on my right side. This was the same side that was arched higher when I had scoliosis, so I'm not sure if there's more room over there or if that has nothing to do with it at all. I'll be in a meeting at work, or home watching TV with Jim, and you can literally see a bump slowly rise on that side. Can't tell if it's his head or bottom, but it's definitely more than a limb! With that, I have pain low on my right side, and occasionally half-way down my back on the right (what I imagine to be kidney area).

The left is a different story. I rarely feel kicks or movement over there, but what my left side lacks in belly action it makes up in knife-like sciatica pain and foot swelling! So it's an odd mix of right and left sensations. And the pain is really starting to ramp up in intensity. Just this week at work, I was in a co-worker's office and literally had to brace myself in the doorframe when the sciatica pain hit. Much like a bright bolt of lightning illuminating the sky when you're driving home in the rain at night, this shooting pain strikes unexpectedly and usually startles you. There's nothing you can do about it or the swelling for that matter. Our President walked in to see me two days ago and I said, "Please excuse my unprofessional flip flops, but I have two different sized feet this week!" He laughed.

The most exciting news to report is that we completed our child birth and labor classes at Aultman Hospital! I know I mentioned last week how informative these have been, but seriously, I feel so much more at ease about the entire process now. While no one ever fully knows what to expect going into labor, I have all the options now, and that makes me feel more empowered to cope with whatever happens. The third class focused on epidurals and c-section details, as well as miscellaneous tools the doctor might need to use to turn the baby or help yank (yes, YANK) him out. I didn't like that class too much. But the final session talked about post-partum events, baby care and ended with a tour of the birthing center. Biggest surprise of all - I had NO idea what kind of theatrical quality lights were used in the delivery room!!! Other than that, the rooms were really nice and I left the hospital with a great calmness that I know will help me get through the next few—but important—weeks.

Speaking of weeks, I finally realized that "full-term" is only three weeks away! Yes, 37 weeks is 9/13 and 40 weeks is the 10/4 due date. Some other interesting week/date trivia:

--Jim was born at 34 weeks
--10/4 was my mom's due date with me, but I was born 9/19
--The baby typically runs out of room at 34 weeks (and on average weighs about 5 pounds!)
--Next ultrasound will be 36 or 37 weeks, where doctors will make sure the baby is not breech

We visit the doctor Wednesday 8/31, and then start weekly visits until the baby is born. I still have a few other classes about breastfeeding, baby care and CPR, but other than that, we don't have too many appointments left before we start visiting a pediatrician. Still can't believe it!

To end this week, I want to share a two photos I was lucky enough to take with fellow pregnant women. We had to take these shots because our bellies are just so different and seeing them next to each other is, well, entertaining! First, Jim's cousin Kristin and I took the left pic on Memorial Day when I was 5 months and she was just 5 days from a scheduled c-section where she delivered Joel Matthew at 9 lbs., 2 oz! The right image was taken just last week with my former boss, Nickie, who's six months pregnant with her baby boy (and as you know I am eight plus). My belly is higher compared to both, even though I'm farther along in the Nickie photo. Couldn't resist the side-by-side comparison.

And finally, I want so send a huge thank you to Megan, Laura and Laura for surprising me with the amazing Mama Mia massage at Oglebay Resort over the weekend... I am so blessed to have great friends who are not only supportive, but sympathetic LOL!

Next week I'll share some of the best one-liners I've heard in recent days (is it possible that I've grown that much bigger over the weekend to warrant these entertaining lines?!).

Until then, adios from "Austintown" ;)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Classes and doctors and showers, oh my!

I'm happy to report that both Jim and I survived the two labor videos in our second child birth class this past week. Although I have to admit there were a few moments when the nurse was explaining the stages of labor before the video where I felt like I was having an allergic reaction or quasi panic attack! Seriously, I was just trying to wrap my head around the whole idea and I think the baby could even tell how freaked out I was (he was dancing a jig I tell you).

To be fair, it was scary, but it was extremely informative and I'm so glad to be able to take these classes. In fact, the one woman from the video went natural and I was pretty impressed by what I would call her "calmness" (calm compared to what I think I will sound like in that situation). I think the worst thing that came out of her mouth was "I can't do this" or "I'm not ready," but I have a feeling my version of that might be a bit more vulgar! Just give me the drugs, and no one will get hurt ;)

One thing I've been thinking about outside of class is that my hospital bag isn't already packed. I have time, right?!

So after Monday night's class at the hospital we wound up right back there Tuesday morning for our anesthesia consultation. The nurse anesthesitist who met with us was so detailed and informative--more so than anyone at the doctor's office has been so far. I can't tell you how much I appreciated her time and professionalism. Even when I started to get emotional, she was friendly, supportive and spoke about her own labor and delivery experiences.

So just as a reminder, the reason we had to have this consultation was because of my back surgery and the spinal rods that remain. Sometimes, former scoliosis patients who go into labor can't have epidurals because of the length or location of their scars in proximity to the rods, not to mention how far they can bend forward to expose the space between certain vertebrae, etc. I was really anxious to know what my options were, and after all this, all they could tell me was that it would be a gameday decision. They promised me it wouldn't be a student doctor administering the epidural (which brought some relief), but even then, they will only be able to work with the bottom inch of my scar and the vertebrae will have to be in the right spots. So now I'm trying to drum up as much courage as I can find incase I can't have it. Just need to keep reminding myself that I went through two major back surgeries at 14, and that this is nothing compared to that. Plus, I'll have a new baby boy to look forward to after it's over. And that's all that matters.

Last big event of this week was the shower! Many thanks to all of our family members for throwing such an adorable event complete with entertaining games, awesome food and cute as can be decorations. The theme, dreamed up by my sister, Jessica, was "Ship's Ahoy, It's a Boy!" and everything fit right in... from the blue foamy (ocean-esque) punch to the sailboat centerpieces and more.

And speaking of the ocean, I can't forget to mention the surprise shower Jim's mom, Kathy threw for us at the beach on vacation in July. It was such a shock to see the house decorated and gifts for the baby from all of Jim's extended family that was on vacation with us. I cried of course, AND we unveiled the baby's name that night! We also revealed the name to the rest of the guests at the shower this past Saturday, so if you weren't there, I guess you're out of luck until he's born.

Just kidding! It's with great excitement (and some shock that we were able to agree this early), that I announce Baby Draher's real name, Austin James (AJ)!

Well, that's all the news for now. Below are some photos from the shower and the nursery that is really starting to take shape. Even with the crib fully assembled, it's still hard for Jim or me to believe we're having a baby. And that he'll be here in a month and a half!

32-week profile

The Grandmas!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where has the time gone?

Well, here we are. About to enter week 32 of our first pregnancy, and I really can't believe how fast the time has gone. And as soon as I think about the past weeks, I know the coming weeks will go even quicker! I'm dying to meet our son, but there is still plenty left to do before he arrives. Let's take a stroll down pregnancy memory lane...

January 31: Positive home test and announcements to the grandparents
February 7: Doctor visit confirms pregnancy
February 24: Ultrasound confirms 8 weeks along and 10/4/11 due date
April 8:  The secret is out... we've gone "Facebook official!"
May 20: Five month ultrasound = IT'S A BOY!
August 1: Labor & Delivery class begins (4 Mondays for 3 hours each)

Unveiling the gender via cake icing (inside) to Jim's family (5/22/11)


20-week profile (5/20/11)

24-week profile (6/14/11)

30-week profile (7/26/11)
Jim's belly @ 30-weeks ;)

Just two days after we returned from vacation, we started our birth classes at Aultman Hospital. This started what I consider the beginning of the end of pregnancy. Oddly enough, out of just seven couples in the class, three of us have 10/4 due dates, and only two of us are expecting boys. One of the couples just relocated here from Virginia (literally just moved the weekend before class started—something I wouldn't wish on even my worst enemy at 8 months pregnant!), and another woman's husband is in Iraq, so she's in class with her mother. I can't imagine having gone through this without my husband, so I have a ton of respect for her. All in all, it's a great group of people and I'm excited to see what the next three weeks have in store. Well, except for the "video" the nurse warned us we'd be watching in the second class.   

Other appointments include a consultation Tuesday with the hospital's anesthesia team. Since I had back surgery for scoliosis, and have titanium rods in my spine, my delivery options might be limited. This is the one area that's been really unknown throughout the pregnancy, so once I know what options I do have, I think I'll be less anxious. As for regular doctor visits, we're down to two week intervals until 36 weeks.

Aside from all the medical to-dos, at home, Jim got the nursery painted last week! I also bought fabric for curtains and the crib skirt. The crib will be assembled this week, and our families are throwing a shower Saturday. It's really coming together!

On an entertaining note, and since I'm a marketing and advertising person, I couldn't help but share this entertaining commercial. I find it a bit gross, but it's completely memorable, and that's what it's all about:

Luv's Diaper Campaign

That's it for now... I will try to post once a week up through delivery, and then after that, we'll see. Everyone says life is going to change when the baby shows up, so extra time may be more limited by then ;)

Thank you to my family and friends for their continued support throughout pregnancy! I can't believe this journey is almost over.