Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best Job Ever

To read about our pregnancy experience, click here.

I'm writing this as my son Caleb, now two months old, naps in the other room. I’d like to be taking a nap myself. And I’m impulsively leaving my computer every two minutes in a state of mild panic to make sure his blanket hasn't suddenly come to life and wrapped itself around his face.

Yet, I’m finally writing this. I've spent the last two months soaking up every moment with him. Luckily, because of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, we had an abundance of family members and friends to do the dishes and cook meals for me.

As you can imagine, it was absolutely wonderful. I've had the best time of my life, enjoying my beautiful baby boy and this special time with family. It’s actually the least stressed I've been in quite a few years, which is nothing less than a gift from God (and thanks especially to my mom, who made our first three weeks with Caleb wonderful).

It is, without a doubt, the best job ever. Not the easiest. Not the least time consuming. But definitely the best. The most enjoyable. The most rewarding. The most fun being sleep deprived I've ever had (and I've been sleep deprived many, many times thanks to ridiculous credit loads and demanding jobs with never-ending deadlines).

Yes, these are the happiest of bad hair days. The most fun wearing frumpy pants and being shut up in the house for days (thank you, Idaho).

Because my little boy is absolutely amazing! A miracle. The joy of my heart. I smile even when I hear him cry (okay, maybe not every single time), because I love taking care of him.

And, I admit, we lucked out, because he is such a sweet boy. Caleb loves to be snuggled and kissed and cuddled, and, of course, we’re happy to oblige. He’s already sleeping through the night (minus one early morning feeding), and he loves to be awake and looking around with his big, beautiful blue eyes at everything there is to see all day long. Now, at two months, he’s full of smiles and sweet baby coos, too.

Consider my sweet, handsome husband, who is loving every moment as a new dad, and you'd have to agree that I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

And if you don't believe me, just take a look at these pictures, which I am now posting with one hand, as I hold the no-longer-sleeping Caleb. Best job ever!














Saturday, November 9, 2013

Our Maternity Photos

So, here they are! My friend told me I'd never regret having maternity photos taken, and now I'm so glad we were able to capture this special time. It makes me even more excited to see pictures of our new little baby boy in the not-too-distant future!



















Photos by Austin Williams at AWMass Media

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Does It Mean to Be a Man These Days?

This post is actually an article recently published by my dad, Rob Jenkins. 

He wrote the book on fatherhood...literally. His book Family Man is full of frank advice, laugh-out-loud humor, and just plain common sense. 

Plus, he’s one of the greatest men I’ve ever known, so I can tell you that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to being a real man. I can't tell you how much I look up to him.

Please read this with your sons, your husbands, your friends, whoever. Share this with everyone you know.

We need to take a stand on what being a man is really about, and refuse to accept the concepts of “manliness” that society presents us with now. We need a higher standard for husbands and fathers. We need boys to grow up understanding what it means to be a man. Our families, our communities, our country, and our world need more real men.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A MAN THESE DAYS?
by Rob Jenkins

In a recent column, I wrote that “thousands of boys…grow up with no idea how to be men.” Jeffrey in Ohio emailed to say that he basically agreed, yet wondered, “What exactly does that mean in 21st-century society?”

Excellent question, Jeffrey. Having been a man for approximately 36 years (depending on when I officially “grew up”), and having raised three sons (two, thus far, to manhood), I think I’m as qualified as anyone to attempt an answer.

Some may consider my ideas old-fashioned, out-of-date, perhaps even chauvinistic. I suppose that’s to be expected from a guy who still doesn’t own a smart phone. But, even though I occasionally fall short myself, I still believe the world would be a better place if more men embraced, well, manliness.

Here’s what I think that means:

#1) A man is someone who does what he says he’s going to do. He doesn’t make promises he can’t keep, and he keeps the promises he makes. His word is his bond. His good reputation means more to him than anything except his family, his faith and his country.

#2) At the same time, as long as he’s convinced he’s on the side of the angels, a man doesn’t really care what other people think. He does what he believes is right, not what’s popular or serves his own interests.

#3) A man does not refrain from telling the truth just because it’s difficult or people won’t like it or it might cause him problems. At the same time, he does not use the truth to injure others for his own personal satisfaction or gain.

#4) A man treats women with deference, children with kindness and all with respect. He is gracious to those less fortunate and gentle to those who are weaker. A man is strong, but he does not use force to coerce, belittle or make himself feel more powerful.

#5) A man is not afraid to show his emotions when deeply moved. Most of the time, however, he keeps his emotions in check and is guided instead by reason.

#6) A man strives, through his own hard work and diligence, and with God’s help, to carve out a place for himself in society and to become a useful, productive citizen.

#7) A man doesn’t simply father children. He provides for them — and their mother— financially. He also spends time with them whenever possible, disciplines them when necessary, and takes every opportunity to teach them how to be decent people and responsible adults.

#8) A man does not shrink from his duties as a husband, a father, an employee and a citizen.

#9) A man would rather die than permit harm to those he loves. He would also rather die than live as a serf or a ward of the state.

#10) A man may have many fears, but his greatest fear is that fear will prevent him from behaving as a man.


This article was originally published on September 7, 2013 in a weekly lifestyle and family column by Rob Jenkins in The Gwinnett Daily Post, a metro-Atlanta newspaper (click here for the original article). 

Rob is also the author of the book Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility, available in paperback on Amazon and as an ebook on Kindle. Read more about Rob at familymanthebook.com or email him at robjenkinsfamilyman@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pregnancy: The Whole Story

Well, as many of you know, we’re expecting a baby this November! This is my fourth pregnancy, and it’s been a little overwhelming for me to write about this miraculous experience, because a big part of me is afraid to believe it’s really happening.

But, since this is one of the main reasons I started a blog in the first place - to document major life events - I felt the need to start sharing details. I’ve been keeping track of my experience month by month, and I decided it would be best to keep it all in one blog post so that it’s easier for you to follow.


Start at the top to read about the first few months, then check back to see updates.


To be honest, writing all of this is both satisfying and terrifying. I remember how painful it was to read about other women’s pregnancies - the ups and downs - when I couldn’t help thinking about my own failed pregnancies. I know so many women who are still waiting for their miracle pregnancy - many, many more years than I waited - or who are grieving for lost little ones or hoping to adopt.


I don’t want to write about this experience as if it’s made all of that pain go away. In fact, in some ways it’s been more difficult to enjoy this pregnancy and feel excited, when I’m so aware of how quickly it could all end.


Thankfully, everything seems to be going to smoothly so far, and so I just take it day by day and celebrate every week and month I cross off the calendar! My heart gets bigger and bigger - just like my middle - as my love for this baby grows.
 
Month 1 – March 2013

I started having some strange symptoms - ravenous hunger, rapid weight gain (almost 10 lbs in a week, probably because of the ravenous hunger), a growing abdomen (probably also because of the extra 10 lbs and ravenous hunger). But I knew I couldn’t be pregnant - I’d taken dozens of ovulation and pregnancy tests over the last 3 months. Even now, three different doctors (and as many nurses) have told me there’s no way I could’ve gotten pregnant when I did.

My nurse knew I couldn’t be pregnant either, but she ordered the routine blood pregnancy test before having the doctor prescribe any more tests or medications.  It’s just part of the drill - I’d done this so many times before, I didn’t even get my hopes up. After the nurse took my blood and sent it off to the lab, she did a simple urine test. She picked it up and sighed, Well…”


I thought, “I knew it. It’s negative.”


But then she showed me two little pink lines.


I was just shocked, and not a good kind of shocked. Terrified. This couldn’t happen; I couldn’t lose another baby. We just looked at each other in confusion. She smiled and said, “Let’s hope for the best this time.”


The lab results confirmed a strong but early pregnancy. Ben was over the moon. “This is the best news we’ve had all year! This is a miracle! Let’s just be excited!” I wanted to be, but I braced myself for another miscarriage.


Thankfully, the first couple ultrasounds showed a normal pregnancy (a tiny blob with a heartbeat). The doctors also put me on a slew of medications along with daily injections for my blood clotting disorder right away.  The next few weeks would be crucial, but there was definitely a baby in the works!


5 Weeks on March 27



Month 2 – April 2013

In the second month, I started to experience classic pregnancy symptoms. The morning sickness hit hard and lasted pretty much all day every day. I was so tired I felt like I was barely alive sometimes. I was overwhelmed by odors of all kinds. I had a bitter taste in my mouth all the time. My digestive system pretty much went berserk - killer heartburn, indigestion, excessive burping (sorry, coworkers!), etc.

In spite of the misery, the constancy of the symptoms was a comfort. Every time I threw up, I knew I was still pregnant. In this way, I was frequently reassured of my baby’s well-being. :)


Really though, I was always on the verge of vomiting. All that seemed to go through my head during this time was, “Don’t throw up...Don’t throw up...Please let my baby be okay!..Don’t throw up...Don’t throw up...Don’t throw up."


As I watched that little blob grow into a little bean, I started to have a strong feeling that Baby Steinmetz was boy. I also started recording thoughts and feelings about my baby and pregnancy. We shared the news with our families, and we became even more excited and hopeful every passing week with each new ultrasound.


9 weeks on April 15


Month 3 – May 2013

Since this was my fourth pregnancy, getting past 9 weeks felt like a HUGE milestone. That was the furthest I’d ever gotten before. I cried in the bathroom at work when this realization hit me.

But I just kept taking it one day, one week at a time. I was half elated, half miserable. I struggled with fears of another miscarriage, bad dreams, side effects from the daily injections and medications, constant nausea and vomiting, headaches, long hours at work, and extreme fatigue.


I had to learn how to manage my fears and my discomfort. I allowed God to comfort me instead of insisting that this was too good to be true. I discovered I could usually keep down apples and granola bars, and so I could stop worrying that I was starving my baby. And with nausea-relieving acupressure bracelets and ginger gum, I was at least somewhat functional.  


I wore these acupressure bracelets 24/7...day, night, and in the shower


The ginger oil in this gum didn't taste great, but it did help calm my queasiness.
I chewed a piece of cinnamon Trident with it to mask the ginger flavor.
 

I also took comfort in talking to other women who’d “been there before” - my wonderful mothers, sisters, and friends - who were incredibly supportive and encouraging.

All in all, this month was the hardest, but most exciting month so far. It started to feel like a “real” pregnancy, especially when my belly became too big for my pants, and when I started to have my first cravings (junk food - french fries, donuts, pizza - not so great for the nausea), and especially when I saw my little baby jumping and kicking on the ultrasound.


12 weeks on May 9


Little Baby Bump 


Month 4 – June 2013

I made it past the first trimester! I felt as happy as a newlywed, full of joy and hope and gratitude to God. I still couldn’t bring myself to hope for a full-term pregnancy, but I could definitely feel excited about being 4 months pregnant!

Plus, the nausea wore off, and that was such a relief. It was wonderful to enjoy eating again! I was still sensitive to some foods, and every now and then I threw up, but I wasn’t feeling the constant sickness I’d been dealing with the past couple months.


We moved and started a new chapter of life in Boise, with Ben working and me staying home. I worked on getting settled into our new home, found a wonderful new doctor here, made new friends, spent time visiting family in Georgia and Southeast Idaho, and tried to eat healthy and take good care of my body and my baby. 


I even had two LOVELY baby showers (one in Georgia, one in Southeast Idaho), with the people I love most. It was a very special and joyful time.


New experiences were feeling the first “fluttering” movements at around 15 weeks (which quickly progressed to karate action), beginning my transition into maternity clothes (the rubber band just wasn’t cutting it anymore), and having a hard time sleeping (bad dreams, achiness, too many pillows, not enough pillows, etc...).


The best thing, though, was seeing our beautiful baby boy on 4-D ultrasound. I told you I knew it was a boy!

15 weeks on May 28


Showing a little more!
 


Month 5 – July 2013

If it didn’t feel quite real before, it definitely felt real at this point. I started to let myself think about the delivery. With this pregnancy halfway over and the due date only a few months away, I felt a sense of urgency to make plans and get things ready - the budget, the nursery, the delivery plan.

At first, it was just emotional and overwhelming. I put off thinking about it for a while, because it was too much to think about getting ready for a baby that wouldn’t make it.


But, I had a pamphlet from the hospital and a piece of blue and green fabric picked out for the nursery, along with a pile of beautiful baby gifts from my showers, and that’s where I started. After a few talks with Ben and trips to Babies’R’Us (just to look, not to buy...yet), it became more exciting and fun.


I was also excited to feel the baby moving and growing, along with my belly and the number on the bathroom scale. Ben felt him kick for the first time, too. (It was actually a few weeks after he saw him from the outside, but the sneaky little guy stopped kicking the moment he put his hand there.)


Ultimately, we were downgraded to “not special” by our doctor, which is to say, instead of getting VIP treatment with the fancy 4-D ultrasound, we were shuffled in after an hour-long wait just to hear the heartbeat for 10 seconds, then told to come back in a month (not 2-3 weeks like before).


I guess it’s good to be "not special." That means this is officially a “normal” pregnancy!


But enjoy these pictures from an earlier "special" ultrasound!

Handsome boy at 19 weeks on June 25
(That's the cord in front of his face.)


He's got Ben's ears and my nose (I think...)


A little shy...


Tiny foot


Strong profile

My profile is growing, too....



Month 6 – August 2013

My six month of pregnancy was blissfully uneventful - nothing but the occasional punch in the bladder or Braxton Hicks contraction (yes, those started around 25 weeks). It was definitely the easiest month so far. People ask how I feel, and the truth is, I feel great! Physically and emotionally.

Maybe that’s because no one asks me that question first thing in the morning.

Actually, mornings were better this month, too. I didn't have as much trouble sleeping as I did in my fourth and fifth months. For one, I figured out how to keep my body pillow from smothering me. I wasn’t having as many nightmares, and because of that, I wasn’t waking up all night long anymore (a situation that can’t last too much longer with Baby Steinmetz on his way!). I do wake up every morning in intense pain, though, but it’s mostly because my bladder is about to explode.

Also, I felt my baby’s movements become even stronger and more constant. It was so reassuring to be able to feel him move all day long; I finally stopped checking for blood obsessively every time I went to the bathroom.

As of the end of my sixth month, I was up about 20 lbs. from my pre-pregnancy weight. My belly grew quite a bit, and even strangers started to point it out and ask questions about my baby. It’s exciting, and I actually don’t mind when people rub my tummy.

There’s not much more to tell right now as far as this pregnancy goes. On a personal note, I met my goal of having our new home (mostly) put together by the end of August, so I can focus on getting ready for the baby in September and October. This involved quite a bit of purging, selling, and re-organizing all the "stuff" we’ve accumulated over the last 5 to 1o years. I've been itching to do this for a while, and since everyone knows that having kids come with lots more "stuff," I wanted to get on top of this before the baby comes. Of course, it helped that my “nesting” energy kicked in this month.

Speaking of energy, here are two short videos of Baby Steinmetz kicking - one from the outside and one from the inside!




And here’s a picture of my progress at 6 months.

On my 26th birthday



Month 7 – September 2013

So I promised to tell of our adventures in buying baby necessities, anemia, swelling feet, childbirth prep classes, and more. It’s been a very busy couple of months, and I’m nearly a month late with this post.

We did indeed buy baby necessities, including a crib (which came with a FREE video baby monitor, SCORE!), plus a car seat, stroller, and high chair, ALL with gift cards from our wonderful friends and family...THANK YOU!!! Also, thanks to many of you, I have about 200 diapers in each size from newborn to size 2. WOW!

Not to mention, I have a mountain of hand-me-downs! These are all the clothes I have for just the first 3 months…Oh, and I literally just received another garbage-bag-size delivery from a neighbor about 5 minutes ago.

Notice the cat for scale

Do you know how much I love getting things second-hand? At least half of what we own is from DI or Craigslist. It’s just so practical, and I really enjoy thrifting. Now with hand-me-downs and second-hand store purchases, we’re also outfitted with a pack’n’play, swing, bouncer, bathtub, bassinet, dresser, bookshelf, and rocking chair.

I’d say we’re set, wouldn’t you? Moms, if I’m missing something, let me know.

Moving on, I dealt with the oh-so-common issue of anemia in pregnancy without the lightheadedness and fatigue getting too out of hand. (What’s a couple more pills when you’re already taking 6 and giving yourself a shot everyday?)

And for my swelling feet, I bought a comfy pair of flats in a size larger than I usually wear. I wear my wedding ring on my locket chain, since that doesn’t fit anymore either.

As for childbirth classes, that was quite the adventure. And by “adventure,” I mean watching videos with a somewhat shocking amount of nudity and crying.

Don’t get me wrong, they were very helpful and informative, even, um, enlightening. But I most enjoyed my birthing exercise class, which was more about prepping the body and mind for birth than reviewing medical procedures; the class was physically challenging and mentally stimulating. I don’t know if I’d call it “fun,” but it was definitely confidence-boosting.

With all of these experiences behind me, I had hoped to feel ready and excited, but until recently I was feeling stressed and anxious. I worried about him coming early, when it could be complicated for Ben to get the message at work and get there in time, or when I still had a huge pile of baby things in the hallway, or the unthinkable - when it meant he might not make it or that he would be in critical condition.

As with all of my pregnancy fears, I had to work really hard to come to terms with these possibilities and trust God. I had a few breakdowns, but Ben has been wonderfully sensitive and supportive as always, and I know so many people are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers, too.

It means so much to me to hear my mom tell me about all of the family and friends (and even strangers) back home in Georgia who constantly ask about us. We are in awe of the many thoughtful messages and beautiful gifts we’ve received from loved ones all over the world. And our new neighbors and church family here in Boise have been such a strong support system so far. There’s no doubt, we feel incredibly loved and blessed!

As always to end with, here I am at seven months.

At 7 months at the end of the summer



Month 8 – October 2013

As my third trimester progressed, I was anxious to get things wrapped up and to feel ready - as ready as anyone could be - for this baby.

Some of the projects I volunteered for at church had me running in circles, and so I started looking for people to take my place, at least for the next month or two. I also backed off from some freelance marketing work and home projects (which, in case you're wondering what I've been up to, that includes things like organizing, decorating, refinishing furniture, going through all our old photos and putting together albums, updating our contacts and addresses, building up our food storage/emergency supplies, filing and digitizing important documents, selling belongings we didn't need anymore, working on family history, etc.). I hadn’t been working full-time since May, but I’d been keeping myself pretty busy, especially with some things that had been on the back burner for a while.

I turned my focus more toward my Before Baby To-Do List, which I made back at the beginning of September, and, as a way of publicly reporting my progress (which “studies show” increases success, right?), here’s where we’re at:

Before Baby To-Do List:
  • Attend childbirth prep classes - CHECK
  • Create a baby registry for 10% off on items we still need - CHECK
  • Wash and organize all of the baby’s clothes, blankets, toys, etc. - CHECK
  • Set up the baby’s room, crib, and bassinet - CHECK
  • Organize and clean the rest of the house - in progress...isn’t it always?
  • Get cost estimates and pre-register at the hospital - CHECK
  • Set up our short-term and long-term budgets - CHECK
  • Get new life insurance and a will in place - in progress…
  • Get Ben’s paternity leave scheduled - CHECK
  • Decide on our favorite names - CHECK...we like Caleb, Jacob, Samuel/Sam, and possibly John/Jack, with Warren and Kent as our favorites for middle names...please feel free to leave a comment with your vote or suggestion!
  • Do something memorable with Ben - CHECK...we had a very special day by the river in beautiful downtown Boise
  • Set goals for the first few weeks of parenthood with Ben - CHECK...well, it’s more like a game plan than goals...basically, we keep the baby alive and try not to starve or go insane from sleep deprivation...Nonna (Grandma) will be very helpful during this time!
  • Put together a birth plan with Ben - in progress…
  • Receive a special priesthood blessing from Ben - CHECK

That last one was extremely helpful and comforting to have checked off. Ben shared some beautiful reassurance and guidance, and it was a very powerful experience for both of us.

So, we’re making pretty good progress, don’t you think? Again, moms, let me know if I’m missing anything really important. Otherwise, we should be ready to have this baby in a couple of weeks!

And here I am at 8 months and almost 9 months...aaand as a basketball goal for Halloween.

At 8 months at the beginning of October

At almost 9 months in mid-October

He shoots, he SCORES!!!


Month 9 – November 2013

So, because of my blood clotting disorder (which we think caused my previous miscarriages and which we treated this time with a daily injection), I’ll be induced on November 12th (11/12/13...great birthday, huh?). Explanation: being off the blood-thinning medication for 24 hours before being induced will reduce my risk of losing too much blood during delivery, without putting the baby at risk of a blood clot in the placenta (which could happen if I’m off the medication too long).

It’s probably silly, but I’m more nervous about the balloon catheter that will be inserted into my cervix the day before and the recovery after the delivery than the actual delivery itself. For the most part, I’m feeling pretty excited about the delivery. Advice welcome (in the comments section below)!

I don't know if I'll get around to posting any updates here in the next couple of weeks. So if not, wish us luck!


Last Update – November 10, 2013

Well, Nonna has arrived in full mother/grandmother-mode, we’ve checked off all the items on our Before Baby To-Do List (above), and we have a few freezer meals ready to go (thanks to my wonderful friend, Cathy) so I guess we’re ready to have this baby! 

By the way, here's the baby's room...I thrifted and crafted and sewed, and I'm really happy with the end result! Plus, I had so many lovely gifts...Take a look, you might see yours.






So, I’ve been having some pretty intense and painful contractions for the last week or two, and all this false labor has made me even more anxious for the big day to arrive. Only two more days to go, and then we’ll be holding our baby boy. It feels even more impossible than it did two weeks ago, but we’re so close, and I just want to see him and touch him and know that he’s real.

Also, my friend convinced me to have maternity photos taken, and I’m so glad I did. She told me I would never regret it, and I think she’s right, even though I think my face looks puffy (yes, it is, even if you don’t notice...and I wore my rings just for the photo shoot, even though I could barely get them on and off...I guess that’s because I’ve gained almost 40 pounds total now...impressive, huh?).

I thought you might like to see the pictures. By the way, they’re by Austin Williams at AWMass Media, and he did a beautiful job. Thanks, Austin!


(This link will open a different post on this blog, not an outside webpage.)


Alright, wish us luck one last time! Baby Steinmetz is on his way...