Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Birth Story: Part 2

Now, nearly three weeks after she was born, it is difficult for me to remember the events and emotions linked to Willow's birth. It just seems like a dream in slow-motion that had a lot of after effects and recovery involved.

After the doctor and nurses plopped Willow's purple-y, slimy body on my chest and I had my thought about how small she was--I just stared at her in amazement. How could this little person be my daughter? I studied her screaming face curiously. And then she was whisked away to be cleaned up and checked.

Backing up a step or two, I remember when Willow first emerged into the world and the doctor announced that she WAS a girl, I felt a little burst of relief. Now I wouldn't have to return all the cute girly things given to us.

While Willow was being cleaned, checked, and dressed--I was also being fixed up. Apparently, I had torn and so my OB started stitching the tear. I was in such a daze after all the adrenaline of having a baby--so I don't really remember the next few hours very well, but I think my doctor finished fixing the tear, Adam ordered dinner, Willow was handed back to me to start nursing, and all those nurses left. Willow had passed her Apgar test with flying colors, but was not very coordinated when it came to nursing. The amazing nurse that had been with us throughout the whole active labor/delivery experience (Shannon) encouraged me through Willow's clumsiness. Ok, this might be too much information for a blog, but the hardest part about the initial recovery was trying to use the restroom for the first time. My bladder felt painfully full, but I couldn't 'remember' how to relieve that discomfort. It took an hour, and it was surprisingly an extremely discouraging experience. Once again, Shannon was helping and encouraging me through this trial too. Ugh.

Within a few hours, we were moved into a different room and I got to eat for the first time in 30 hours. It was already after 9pm, and we were tired. God was thinking when he designed newborns to sleep so much in their first 24 hours. We couldn't decide what we wanted more--sleep, or to just look at Willow and hold her warm little body.

Little Willow with her squished-up post delivery face. Such a sweetie!

Overall, it was an amazing experience, and the hospital did a great job of taking care of all of us. I'm thankful that we were able to go through this whole ordeal in America.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Willow Rose

Willow is 16 days old today. She's already changed so much, but it's hard to believe that we didn't know her little face 17 days ago. At her 2 week check-up, we learned that she had passed up her birth weight and gained one pound since her 1 week check-up. She's definitely filling-out and getting rolls around her arms and legs. Not to mention her chin; it's definitely a double chin!

She's very alert and loves to hold her head up on her own for as long as possible. She follows people with her eyes if they're 1-2 feet away from her, and likes to look at lights (ouch!). She is beginning to have longer awake times throughout the day and sleeps 3-4 hours at a time during the night. Although, last night she slept for 6 hours straight and I woke up in a panic at 7am.

Willow makes plethora of interesting faces. She's been smiling since she was born, but is learning to smile more and more on cue. She is very strong and tries to scoot and roll around as much as she can (which isn't very much, but still impressive at her age). She likes to be walked around and prefers to be held as much as possible, which can be exhausting (so we are thankful for all the family and friends around who are happy to hold Willow!).

Her number one desire is milk. She likes to eat all the time. She is a frantic, voracious eater and often chokes and gags while trying to eat. Willow needs to learn how to slow down! When she is sleeping and starting to feel hungry, she starts to grunt. Most of the time I think her grunting is hilarious, but sometimes it is exhausting to listen to (like in the middle of the night).

Overall, Willow is doing very well learning, growing, and staying healthy. Adam and I love her so much and can hardly believe that we get to take care of such a cute girl! She is an incredible blessing that we get to take care of day and night and love more and more every minute.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little Raspberry Rumble

Willow Rose Johnson is one week old today. We love her so much! I can hardly believe that she was still in utero last week--she seems so big and grown up lately.

If you want to be spared the details, you should skip reading this post. Here's a little anecdote of how Willow came into the world on July 8 at 4:11 pm.


It all started on Tuesday (July 5). I was frustrated that my body wasn't doing anything to get Willow out. I had been drinking raspberry tea, taking walks, etc., to encourage her arrival. On Tuesday, I set about trying to finish a to-do list. Somewhere in that process, I started organizing my mom's laundry room. I spent four hours working up a nasty sweat, and was out of breath by the time the room was in order. I also started to feel some contractions and I started praying that they would stick around and not stop.

I started feeling regular contractions. They had a definite time pattern, but were not growing in intensity or frequency. They were anywhere from 5-8 minutes apart and did not subside. Adam and I went out for dinner with friends from Moody. We hadn't seen many of these people in two years, and it was fun to be in the windy city again. We ate at Giordano's--and while I was melting in the mid-summer heat, I was hoping that the pizza would somehow magically kick those contractions into high gear.

Well. The pizza failed.

So did my attempt at sleeping that night. I felt extremely uncomfortable. Between the usual pregnancy discomforts, plus the added pain from Willow dropping, and the regularly spaced contractions--it was near impossible to sleep on Tuesday night. I did get a few hours, and was thankful for that. The whole night, I was praying that Wednesday would be the day.

Wednesday came and went with no additional progress. I kept praying and praying that Willow would be born on Wednesday, and if not, that my prenatal check-up on Thursday would at least show that my body had made progress. I couldn't bear the thought that all these contractions might be for nothing. The week before, I was only dilated at 1 centimeter and baby Willow seemed very comfortable in her womb-home.

Wednesday night was even worse for sleeping. I just felt uncomfortable and frustrated with my contractions. On one hand, I was thankful for the contractions--but on the other hand, I just wanted to sleep.

Thursday. I went to the doctor's office for my appointment and my OB did a membrane sweep. She said, "hopefully this will get things going and you'll be calling me tonight". She also said that if I wanted to, I could go straight to the hospital to be induced, or set up a 6am appointment for the next morning to be put on pitocin.

If I had the luxury of time, I would feel less anxious about being overdue. Actually, my due date wasn't until July 10, so technically I wasn't overdue. But always my mind was thinking about the paperwork that needs to be done in order for Willow to go to China with us. All these documents are extremely time sensitive and take a while: birth certificate; social security card; passport; visa....

When given the option to have Willow early--even if just by a few days--my heart skipped a little beat. I told my OB that I wanted to think about it. She said that I had until that afternoon to decide whether or not I wanted to be induced in the morning. During the appointment, she told me that I was at 2 centimeters and 70% effaced--so there was little risk to being induced. And at least the pitocin would help the contractions to become more regular and effective.

On the car ride home, my contractions were beginning to become more regular and painful. I had only been home for a few hours when I decided that I did want to schedule an appointment at the hospital for the next morning--I wanted this baby out! By Thursday evening, I was feeling the contractions even more. I didn't eat supper, but did snag a bowl of raspberry rumble ice cream. It's basically vanilla ice cream with raspberry syrup and chocolate truffles. Yum. I tried to watch, "Taken" with Adam, while I kept track of my contractions on our iPad. I thought, "if I can make until 6am, then it will work out perfectly with my appointment at the hospital".

By 10pm, I was writhing in pain and shaking uncontrollably. Adam decided, after performing a quick google search about stages of labor, that we should go to the hospital. My contractions had been 2-3 minutes apart for at least 2 hours and I could hardly stand the pain.

Well, I'm a pansy.

We got to the hospital and discovered while in the triage room that I was only 3 centimeters dilated. I was a little upset. The hospital contacted my doctor, and they decided that we should just stay the night.

All night, Adam and I were up, trying to get through each contraction. At any point, I could have asked to be put on the pitocin or given an epidural, but I wanted to see how long I could go. By 8am, I was struggling. I was in active labor, but was so exhausted from lack of sleep that I was falling asleep between each contraction while sitting on one of those exercise balls. I was weak and tired and the only thing I could think of was, "I wont be able to push this baby out--and then they'll have to perform a c-section". I knew that I had to be put on pitocin, because the baby would never arrive at this rate. And I wasn't sure I would be able to endure the pitocin without I caved. "Exhaustion" had been the one exception to my "natural child birth/no drugs" plan. At 6 centimeters, I just couldn't do it anymore.

They hooked me up to machines, gave me the amazing epidural---and then I slept. Somehow, I was able to hold still enough (from all the shaking) while the anesthesiologist did his magic. For 4 glorious hours--no nurses bothered me and I was able to rest.

When I woke up, I had an amazingly strong urge to push. Epidural are amazing. While I slept, I reached 10 centimeters and the baby had started to push her way down. I tried to breathe through and resist the urge to push as much as possible--since it was just Adam and I in the hospital room. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore and so Adam called my nurse. She was quick in coming, thankfully, and helped me to get started. She called my doctor, who was at the hospital but in a meeting. My doctor said she'd be there in 15 minutes. I couldn't wait that long, and the nurse didn't want to make me. So, she told me to start pushing--she was on my right side and Adam was on my left side. There were no other nurses and my doctor was still unavailable. My nurse was calling everyone else, trying to get more help in the room, but everyone was busy. There were about four other babies being born at the moment.

I could have panicked, but by God's grace, I was able to focus on what my body was telling me to do and on trying to push that baby out!

30 minutes later, my doctor showed up. She took one look at me, and squealed, "Give me one minute to change!" She was in her scrubs lickety-split.

10 minutes later, the room was filled with nurses and Willow was flying out of my body. Relief.

It's a girl! Yay--no more guessing or speculating on the gender of our baby. She is definitely a girl after all. Thank you very much, China.

They plopped Willow's slippery purple body on my chest and all I could think was, "She's so small!" I think that I had imagined Willow being a 10 pound monstrosity--because that's what it felt like when I was walking around.


Okay, taking a little intermission from this story. We've been without power since Monday morning (it's Friday night)--and it finally just turned on again! I need to feed Willow, so this will be have to be continued later.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

39 Weeks

While in China, I feel like I am writing to all my American friends and family. Now that we're in America, I feel as though my audience comprises of my China-community. It's weird to live on the flip-side of things.

If you want to be technical, I will be 39 weeks pregnant in just a few minutes. I'm not sure how exact a "due date" can be, but it feels strange to be so much closer to having our baby. In some ways this pregnancy has felt eternally long. When I think about it, it's encompassed most of the school year and most of the summer. Being pregnant for nearly 10 lunar months....oi.

The word of the month for me is, "uncomfortable". I'm so uncomfortable. Here is my uncomfortable list. It might sound like complaints, but I'm trying very hard to be content with all these symptoms because it is worth it. Whatever it takes for this baby to have a good start to life.

1. I can't breathe. It feels like I'm suffocating--even though the baby has dropped significantly, there's still not much room for my lungs. It's how I imagine breathing with only one lung must be--or with punctured lungs.

2. Heartburn is always just around the corner. Sometimes, it's not a problem at all. While at other times, if I just put my flip flops on I'm all of the sudden attacked by acid all the way up to my throat.

3. Water retention. It makes me feel and look very swollen. I can't wear my rings anymore because my fingers have exploded at least 2 sizes. Flip flops are the only comfy option, so I'm thankful that it's summer time.

4. Constant soreness. When picking up one's foot six inches becomes them most painful part of your day, you know you're sore. When you realize how often you have to pick up your foot six inches, you start to wonder if you will ever be able to get into a car, put on your pants, or walk up the steps again without wincing.

5. Fat-whale-syndrome. My wardrobe options are pretty slim these days. I can't wait until I can wear something other than the four shirts that still fit me...sort of...

6. Inability to sleep. There is no longer a comfortable sleeping position.

7. Always thirsty. I wish that I could walk around with an IV so that I wouldn't have to feel dehydrated all the time.

8. Always tired. So. Lame.

9. Always so hot and sweaty. I used to feel cold most of the time, so it's hard to get used to being so hot no matter what temperature it is. I think the ideal temperature is 40 degrees. Just put me in a freezer.

Ok....There's my list of how I feel. Which brings me to my next soap box.

I'm beginning to get tired of all the questions that people ask. It doesn't matter if it's family, friends, or complete strangers--the questions are always the same:

1. How do you feel?
2. When are you due?
3. Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?

How do I feel? Well, that's a 10 point sermon.
When am I due? Ugh. I don't even feel like typing it.
No, I don't know know if it's a boy or a girl, but we think the baby is a girl.....Which invariably is answered with, "Well, all that matters is that the baby is healthy. You'll be happy with a boy or a girl".

Gender isn't a huge issue. The only thing inconvenient about having a boy is that we don't have any boy things at this moment, and gender neutral isn't really existent anymore. But even shopping for boy things after the baby is born--if the baby is a boy--wouldn't be that bad.

But what really annoys me is the part about, "all that matters is that the baby is healthy"....So, what if the baby is NOT healthy. What if the baby has to spend extra time in the hospital for special care. What if the baby is born with a health issue that we do not know about at this time? What if the baby is blind or deaf? What if the baby doesn't develop or learn 'normally'? What if the baby isn't healthy? Then, will I not be happy? Will I not be overjoyed to meet our baby? Will I not love this baby unconditionally?

I know that I'm over analyzing this sentence--but when you hear it almost everyday (and sometimes 10 or more times in day), it causes you to think. It doesn't matter if the baby is a boy or a girl. Likewise, it doesn't matter if this baby is healthy or not healthy. This baby is a human being who will be loved regardless of how God has fashioned her (or maybe...him). Of course, I hope and pray that my baby is healthy. I hope that the baby will come into the world as safely as possible. I hope that there will be no complications. I pray and pray that the baby will develop and grow and learn right on track. But I know that a lot of this is out of my control and that really what I need to be doing is trusting God to take care of our family no matter what the situation is.

All that really matters is that we are living in accordance to God's plan and trusting in His provision. My to-do lists, my anxieties, my qualms with people's statements, my physical discomforts---these are nothing.

My top three things to do this week is to find contentment in my discomfort, to find patience with the world at large, and to trust in God's timing for our baby's arrival.


Hobble and Waddle's Summer Vacation

Part Seven

Hannah and Josh's Reception....

Just a few pictures from the reception that was held after Hannah and Josh were married. The tent looked beautiful in the Johnson's backyard, and everything seemed to work out well. Volunteers from the Johnson's small group helped serve drinks and appetizers, as well as guide guests to their parking spaces. They even helped to decorate the tent during the ceremony and helped clean up afterwards. The Johnsons are blessed with many great friends.

These candles are actually battery operated--but that didn't stop Adam from trying to set one of the guest book pages on fire.

Adam with his beautiful aunts, Mindy and Carmen.

Adam with his cousin, Nathan. Adam hadn't seen him in at least two years since they've both been busy (we're in China, and Nathan serves on the Coast Guard). This was the first time I had ever met Nathan.

Hannah and Josh saying goodbye to their guests.

Hannah's pretty hair piece that she wore during the reception.

Proof that I was actually at the wedding....and as large as a whale.

This baby bump is taking my body over---I can't breathe or bend or do anything comfortably any longer. Bummer.

Adam acting like a middle schooler, as usual, and eating the centerpieces.

Cleaning up after the reception had concluded.

Congratulations, Hannah and Josh! We're so happy for you and pray that your marriage is God-honoring and a blessing to one another.


Hobble and Waddle's Summer Vacation

Part Six

Hannah and Josh's Rehearsal Day.....

Hannah and Josh's wedding ceremony was held at the Conference Grounds--family and friends worked hard to decorate this room for their wedding. It looked beautiful! Of course, Adam and I didn't feel like much help at all (mostly because we didn't help as much as we wanted to). We are the debilitated couple.

Adam was given a manageable responsibility, considering his knee: taking care of the guest book.

Adam and his grandad--who has also had a difficult year medically. He spent some time in the hospital earlier this year but seems to be recovering very well.

Aunt Mindy helped Hannah to coordinate details throughout the rehearsal and ensured that the processional was timed exactly right.

Hannah was a very well-composed bride. She was patient and kind throughout each situation that transpired.

This picture cracks me up---I was sitting in his seat.

Adam was feeling rather sore on Friday (and Saturday as well). Between weeks 2-8 after his surgery, his body will start to break-down and then build up his hamstring. It's quite amazing--his body will turn his ligament into a tendon. His former hamstring will become his new ACL--but this process will cause some additional pain and soreness. He was starting to feel it, I think during the wedding weekend.

We were grateful to be included in the rehearsal dinner, even though our roles were not significant. The food was from an amazing local Mexican restaurant--Adam and I have missed good Mexican food! It was an exciting evening and we were happy for Hannah and Josh as they prepared to start their lives together.


Hobble and Waddle's Summer Vacation

Part Five

Getting Ready for Hannah's wedding!

Between prenatal visits, as well as Adam's surgery and therapy sessions--we tried to spend as much time as possible at Adam's family's house. Adam wanted to be stationed at my parent's house after his sister's wedding because he is nervous that the baby will come flying out at any moment. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but it is a little reassuring to be 20 minutes from the hospital instead of two hours away.

I'm so glad that we were able to be in America this summer so that we could be a part of Adam's sister's wedding day.

Here are some magical wedding centerpieces that Grandmas and Aunts worked on.

The reception was held in this tent in the Johnson's backyard. It was a large tent that could comfortably seat up to 250 people. The weather was up and down with wind and rain, so it was definitely a blessing to have this tent to protect the reception guests.

Getting manicures and pedicures two days before the big day.

Pretty nails, Hannah! I felt special to be invited too--and to get a nice pre-newborn pedicure. It felt extra good since I can't reach my feet very easily any longer.

When we got back to Adam's parent's house, the guys were on the front lawn painting lines for a temporary parking lot--they painted lines for almost 100 cars.
I loved that Adam was able to help, but he did look a little pathetic out there with his crutch.

The inside of the tent once the tables and chairs were set up.

It was quite a lot of work to prepare for the reception and wedding--but the Johnsons tackled each project with a lot of ease and energy. They did a good job delegating jobs and planning ahead so that it wasn't insanely busy on Saturday. Adam and I didn't feel very helpful because of our various physical hindrances, which is when Adam's dad started calling us "Hobble and Wobble".

I have changed Wobble to "Waddle"--because that's how I roll these days.