Monday, February 24, 2014

The nursery reveal

It's FINISHED!!! I am so excited to be able to reveal our little bubba's nursery! When I was pregnant with Oliver, we lived in a gorgeous but petite European 1 bedroom apartment. We didn't have a dedicated nursery, so decorating one has actually been a first for this second time mama. Although our newest bubba boy will be sleeping in our bedroom for the first 6 months in a co-sleeper, I still wanted him to have his own special space - not to mention a place to change nappies out of our bedroom.

The vision I had in mind was a rustic, woodland theme - minus the typical woodland cartoon animals that are in abundance when you search for woodland nursery on Pinterest. My general style is quite simplistic; I don't cope well with clutter and so I just used some existing pieces of furniture as well as some new, borrowed & handmade additions. It feels like a really soft, happy space - I'm really pleased with how it turned out...

Now we just need a bubba boy to complete this picture - c'mon baby!

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

la petite bump {38 weeks}

How many weeks? Yesterday marked 38 weeks. Wow! Which means I'm reallyyyy hoping this is my last bumpdate...

Baby's size and weight? 19.61 inches / 6.80 lbs (49.8 cm / 3083 grams).

Pink or blue? It's a BOY!

Weight gain? 16.4 kg / 36 lbs.

Symptoms? So, the braxton hicks have been out of control this past week - getting to be more regular, often keeping me up overnight and accompanied by bad period pain. I'm extremely reluctant to use the word painful because I know how much worse the real deal is (especially after having a pitocin induced labor the first time around), but lets just say it's pretty uncomfortable. On Wednesday night I truly thought labor was on its way, but clearly I was wrong. I'm honestly finding it pretty darn tiring, especially as it's affecting my sleep but I'm trying to stay positive and remind myself that it's a good thing; my body is getting ready.

Movement? There are lots of hiccups these days, and still plenty of movement every day although not as crazy/jumping all over the place as it has been. I think the little guy is running out of space in there...

The best thing? Hitting the full term mark!

The most difficult thing? I had thought that I had managed to avoid the blood pressure problems I had during my pregnancy with Oliver, but no - it just decided to start at the end of the pregnancy this time. It just means more regular monitoring, which honestly I'm glad of because had everything been normal, they weren't going to book me in to see my ob between 37 weeks and my due date. Seriously. 3 WEEKS. And the insurance I have here is meant to be pretty good?!?! By this point in my pregnancy with Oliver, appointments were weekly (more because of my BP, but weekly was the norm). I'm really hoping & praying that my BP doesn't go crazy and the protein levels stay low, because I really, really, really (really) don't want to be induced.

Appointments? Because of my blood pressure, I'm having to go in for checks every couple of days. I don't actually see my particular ob though again until 39 weeks as she's away. I'm seriously hoping there's a baby before then though... We'll see. My waters broke with Oliver at 39+1 so I kind of have it in my head that I might go early, but of course there's always the chance I'll be overdue too.

Looking forward to? Pregnancy being done and dusted. I know the newborn stage is pure exhaustion, but I just want this little guy here. In my arms. I find these end weeks really hard - being large and uncomfortable, people always asking if he's here yet and just the waiting and wondering what day will be his birthday.

Bump comparison? I don't have a photo from 38 weeks with Ollie, but the 38 week bump with this baby is feeling positively enormous!!!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

la petite bump {36 weeks}

How many weeks? 36 (almost 37) weeks - the full term point is so close!

Baby's size and weight? 18.66 inches / 5.78 lbs (47.4 cm / 2622 grams).

Pink or blue? It's a BOY!

Weight gain? 15.9 kg / 35 lbs. 2 more pounds and I will have reached the same weight gain that I had with Oliver. Given that I've only got 3 weeks (*hopefully* less) to go now, I'm feeling ok with it. Enormous, often elephant like - but ok.

Symptoms? Other then coming down with the flu this past week, I've actually been feeling pretty good in general lately. Still getting A LOT of crampy braxton hicks after exercise and when I sit down on the couch at night, but in general I'm feeling pretty good. Last night the braxton hicks were really taking my breath away and got to 15mins apart before a warm bath helped ease them off. I was starting to get a little nervous although I have a feeling I've still got a few weeks to go yet. I should probably pack my hospital bag though... I'm spending a lot of time rocking over the birth ball while watching TV and our doula showed us THE most awesome pain reliever - turning a rebozo (essentially just a long scarf) into a sling/hammock for my belly and having Mitch hold it up while I'm leaning over the birth ball. It takes away all the uncomfortable weight of my big belly and is so relaxing I almost fall asleep. I guess it works similarly to a girdle?

Movement? He's still moving around with lots of uncomfortable jabs - ouch :-( Ollie loves putting his hands on my belly and telling me baby brother is dancing in there :-)

The best thing? (1) My baby shower! It really was a lovely day and I felt so blessed to be able to celebrate this new little man with friends. We have another one coming up with Mitch's work; a pleasant surprise! and (2) getting the best news of the year: my sister is coming over to help after baby boy is born!

The most difficult thing? I had the strep B test done and it came back positive :-( Ollie's labor was so long & difficult and being hooked up to an IV sucked, big time. I'm really, really disappointed I'll have to be on IV antibiotics for this labor also. We've been taking so many measures that I had hoped would mean I could (a) labor at home for as long as possible and (b) be free to move during labor, especially while in the hospital. I've been feeling so positive and this just feels like a huge kick in the guts.

I'm also frustrated because it's one of those things that can change but we wouldn't know it. I could go from positive to negative (or vice versa, had my result been different) without knowing it. I wasn't tested for this in the Netherlands, so there we would have never known if I had it or not. I just don't think there's much we can do at this point unfortunately except pray that this labor is a more healthy experience compared to the first time.

After talking to my doula about it though and finding out that I can request to just have the antibiotics then be unhooked until it's time for the next round, I'm feeling a little less anxious but still, it's frustrating. I know it's a small bump in the road in the grand scheme of things however.

Appointments? My next appointment is on Friday for my 37 week check. I saw my ob at 35 weeks - baby was still head down, although not yet engaged and all was looking well. We did get a peek on the ultrasound but honestly it was so brief I can hardly remember it. Poor Ollie was probably a bit disappointed - this time we dragged the kiddo in there with us at 8am with a promise of watching baby brother on the TV again...

Looking forward to? At this point, I am mostly looking forward to meeting this little one. Now that we know when my sister is arriving, I don't want to pop too early, but I'm also hoping I won't still be pregnant on my due date.

Bump comparison? I seemed to have stopped taking weekly bump photos from 34 weeks when I was pregnant with Oliver or they at least aren't saved on my computer - why, I have no idea. Here's the 36, almost 37 week bump front & side on with this pregnancy - much like my pregnancy with Oliver, I'm so very thankful I acquired the no stretch mark gene. Thanks Mum!

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weekend goodness: wine country getaway

In recent weeks, Mitch and I had been umming and ahhing over how to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Over the years, we've always celebrated our anniversary in style and I didn't want this big one to become overlooked just because my due date is so close. We took our child free getaway when we were in Australia - staying at the Sheraton, Noosa where we kicked off our honeymoon all those years ago so we wanted to go somewhere as a family this time; our last getaway together as a family of three.

Finally, we decided to take a night away in the Napa valley. Yes, wine country. Wine country while heavily pregnant and with a toddler in tow. Call us crazy? Well, the best adventures always have a little crazy in them and despite the torrential rain (seriously - it was FLOODING in Sonoma county when we left) and the fact that I came home sick as a dog (thanks, flu season), it was still a great getaway.

We've lived in the bay area for almost two years now and I really can't figure out why we hadn't made it up to Napa/Sonoma until now. It's under 2 hours from home and I was amazed at how child friendly some of the wineries were. We chose to do the most touristy places for our first visit (and the ones that would entertain the little guy the most) and visited Castello di Amorosa and Sterling Vineyards in the Napa region.

Castello di Amorosa - aka the castle winery - was actually really pretty. Even after having spent years with real castles on our doorstep in Holland, this one was still impressive. Mr Oliver LOVED it! He had been talking about going to the castle ever since we booked our night away and it didn't disappoint - especially as he was given white grape juice to taste, his verdict being 'mmmm it's sweet Mummy'.

Sterling Vineyard was only minutes away from the castle, and accessed by an aerial tram (cable car) up the mountain. The tasting involved walking around the winery at your own pace with tastings set up along the way. At the end there was a great outdoor patio which on a clear day would have had lovely views of the area.

Accommodation was difficult to find last minute for only one night, so we ended up staying in downtown Napa at the Westin Verasa. It was lovely and walking distance to the fun little Oxbow Public Market. We had a huge suite and the hotel had complimentary wine tasting, tapas & massages in the lobby every evening. It was really child friendly - Oliver was given a fun kids activity pack when we checked in and no-one seemed to mind him running crazily around the hotel. The hotel even surprised us after we got back from dinner that night with a bottle of champagne... Oh how I miss being able to drink!

We also took a quick stop in Sonoma county, to visit a winery recommended by a friend: Imagery Estate Winery. According to Mitch, the wine here was pretty awesome, so much so that he actually joined their wine club. I only wish the weather would've been better, as this winery had a great outdoor picnic area and was super kid friendly.

This past weekend was definitely a great introduction to our local wine country, although I have to say the experience would've been improved had I been able to drink! There were a few activities we had planned that we had to skip due to the weather, but it was still a fun albeit soggy getaway. We're already plotting out our next trip over the summer - when the weather is warmer, hopefully not raining and our newest little boy is here... I can't wait :-)

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 7th, 2004

February 7th, 2004 - February 7th, 2014: 10 years of married life. Given that I've still got a year until 30, it feels unreal. 10 years ago today I made some very important vows; I married my high school sweetheart and it truly has been the best decision of my life. Since that big day, one DECADE ago, life has taken some twists & turns. I've had a lot of adventures and what makes them all so memorable is that all of them have been with my very best friend by my side. One day, I know we are going to be that old couple on our rocking chairs reminiscing over the good old days; our adventures past, full of so many wonderful shared memories.

After starting our married life as broke uni students, we've made countless moves both within Australia and abroad. Taken off on adventures all over the globe. Completed 2 bachelors degrees and one PhD. Started a new life together in not one, but three foreign countries. Learned 2 languages together. And in recent years, the biggest adventure of all: starting a family. Having our first baby in a foreign, non-English speaking country brought us closer then ever before and now we're about to embark on another adventure with our little Californian boy due within weeks.

We've packed so much into our first 10 years of marriage, I can hardly imagine how the next 10 years are going to look. With our somewhat nomadic lifestyle, I used to find myself anxious about what the future holds, but so long as I have this man by my side, I know it's all going to be okay.

Happy anniversary to my sweetheart, my Mitch x

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Friday, February 7, 2014

On combining the expat life + pregnancy

Mid-twenties. Adventurers. Expats in a non-english speaking country. Temporary contract; no permanent job. Terrified of babies & small children. No support network. Clueless about pregnancy-childbirth-babies. Unfamiliar medical system. 24 hour+ plane ride away from family...

All of the above combined sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, that was Mitch and I when we were having our firstborn. In 2010, after 6.5 years of marriage we decided to take the plunge and start trying for a family. Mere months after moving from Australia to Northern Europe, taking with us only what we could carry in our well worn backpacks. I'm sure that if anyone close to us had known our plan, they would've called us crazy. Heck, looking back and knowing what I do now about pregnancy/parenthood, I would call myself a little loopy.

With it being my first pregnancy, I really had no idea what to expect: the standards in the Netherlands felt normal to me, because I didn't know any different. Only a few friends of mine had started having kids back in Australia and I honestly don't know that I really absorbed any details when my sisters were going through it. Despite the ordeal that was Oliver's birth and my misgivings about the hospital experience, the prenatal & postnatal care was top notch. Truly, I felt better taken care of in a country where I could only understand half the things that were said to me then I do here in the land of plenty.

In the Netherlands, pregnancy is viewed as being natural: unless you are deemed a 'medical' pregnancy (which I eventually was at 37 weeks), there is no need to see an ob-gyn. You simply go to your local midwife practice and are given the option to (a) home birth - the norm (b) birth in a birth clinic - which in our case was attached to our hospital or (c) hospital birth. All of these options were with my midwife in tow; not a doctor. After much research, we decided to plan for a home birth, while knowing that we could move to the birth clinic or hospital (only a couple of blocks away) at a moments notice. Our insurance company made it very easy for us, providing a kraampakket and of course, our team of midwives who were on call. We ended up going down the hospital path, with an unfamiliar ob as my midwife decided at 37 weeks that it was too risky for me to home birth or use the birth clinic and once the hospital agreed with her decision, I was deemed a 'medical' pregnancy. It was disappointing, but definitely the right decision and I was comforted to know that at the end of the day, the health professionals were working together to get the best possible outcome for mother + child.

Oliver's birth was drawn out; hard work, emotional, stressful. 68 hours from my waters breaking & first contractions until he made his grand entrance. I certainly don't look back on the hours leading up to the moment he was placed in my arms with fondness. It wasn't until about a year after he was born though that I really re-visited it in my mind and honestly, it was traumatic. I still feel a lot of guilt and I'm hoping & praying that we have a more positive experience with baby boy#2. However, despite my negativity towards the Dutch hospital experience, I still feel that we were in the best possible foreign country for having our first child. The best part about pregnancy/childbirth in the Netherlands? The postnatal care. Honestly, I don't think another country quite has it quite as good. Within one hour of us arriving home from hospital, our insurance company had a kraamzorg on our doorstep. It was 5pm on a Friday night; peak hour for cars & cyclists, and yet she was there. Kind, caring. *thankfully* speaking English. This amazing lady not only made sure Oliver was feeding well, we were comfortable, had dinner etc that first night, but came back every day, 8 hours a day for a week after he was born.

Our sweet kraamzorg was a trained nurse, specializing in mothers/babies. She took care of me and my post birth healing, she showed us how to take care of Oliver - changing nappies, bathing etc, she assisted with every breastfeed, she checked his weight daily to make sure he was gaining at the right rate, she cooked our dinners, she cleaned the house - toilet and all - did our laundry, changed the sheets daily. She even took Oliver into the living room every day from 1-3pm and made Mitch and I both go take a nap. You would think we'd be broke after paying for these services, but we didn't fork out a cent. Yup, the amazing kraamzorg care was all paid for by our insurance. And the best part - if she or I felt we weren't coping (for example, breastfeeding wasn't going well or I wasn't coping with post baby blues), all she had to do was call our midwife who could come and sign a piece of paper to get additional days covered by insurance.

This service saved us. Truly. Being sleep deprived new parents, in a foreign country with no on site support - well, I don't know how we would have coped until my sister arrived when Oliver was 3 weeks old. Our kraamzorg was such a blessing and I only wish our insurance here would offer the same service. I have to admit, I'd been struggling a bit with the thought of how we will manage after baby boy#2 arrives - this time with a toddler, limited time off work for Mitch and no family around. Thankfully, a few things have fallen into place in the last week and my sister is flying in a week after I'm due. I can't begin to explain how excited/relieved I am. I'm not overly stressed over having 2 boys in the long term, but just those first few weeks, you know - when hormones are raging, sleep is at an all time low and all three of us are having to get used to this new little person in our life. To have a family member around during this time is such a blessing and not an easy feat, when you live on the other side of the worl.

So, some 3+ years later, I reflect on our choice to combine the expat life with pregnancy, and I wouldn't change a thing. Which is just as well, because with baby boy#2 due in only four weeks - while we are living in the USA - we've gone down that path yet again. In yet another unfamiliar country *sigh*. With a little Dutch boy and now a soon to be American son, I wonder what nationality baby #3 will have?

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bring on the happy

Finally - it's February. And I hardly know how to explain just how happy that makes me! After starting off the new year all bright eyed and positive, January ended up being a really blah month. Oliver was a bit of a horror for the first few weeks after returning home - sleeping worse then a newborn, unable to get through more than 1 sleep cycle and having massive tantrums throughout the night: hello, sleep deprived parents and terror of a toddler. You can only imagine how a lack of sleep affects a 2 year olds daytime behavior.. .He also started phasing out his nap - wonderful timing with a new baby due - although we are enforcing quiet time in his room each day. Then, from colds to gastro - we all got sick, Mitch had a crazy month with a lot of work going on and I felt myself growing anxious every day about the prospect of having a new little one with no family around to help. Oh, and I passed my due date with the one that wasn't meant to be. So can I say - January kinda sucked?

February however, has been off to a much brighter start. I had my baby shower aka sprinkle on Saturday, and I'm kicking myself for not getting Mitch to go over and take photos because it was absolutely gorgeous. The weather, the decor, the company... The expat life can be so hard but I've been really blessed here with the most wonderful little village of women and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

We also had some great news: I get to see my sister in less than 6 weeks. A few things fell into place in recent days which meant she is able to come over to help after baby boy#2 is born and I hardly know how to explain how happy/relieved/excited this makes me! Seriously, the best news of the year. And then this week we are celebrating our 10 YEAR wedding anniversary and after much deliberation on how to acknowledge a decade of married life, we've decided on a weekend away to a new Californian destination... I can't wait :) For the first 7 years of our marriage, we always celebrated our wedding anniversary in style. We've been scuba diving in Fiji, had weekends away at gorgeous Qld resorts and even spent the night at a chateau in France... Since having kids however, things have changed. We've been out for dinner the past 2 anniversaries with Ollie - the first year being a lovely dinner in Nijmgen with our 5 month old and last year being the dinner from hell with our crazy toddler in tow after our sitter fell through. I'm feeling that year 10 will be a good one though - not to mention our last chance to get away as a family of three...

We may also meet our newest baby boy this month, we may not. But either way - February, I think you are going to be a good month.

Bring on the happy!

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