Madeleine at Two Years Old

Madeleine Two Years Old

Madeleine’s 2nd Birthday

Madeleine turned two way back in March. The past several months have been so much fun with her, and she is such a joy to our family.

On her birthday in March, I described her on Facebook as follows: These days she loves kittens, princess dresses, the Little Mermaid, saying “NO WAY!” (very dramatically), and dancing any time she hears a song with soul or a catchy beat. She is full of sweetness and has us all charmed!”

Some of her interests and sayings have changed since then, but the spunk and charm are still going strong.

Madeleine-isms

The main memories I want to preserve of Madeleine’s toddler phase are the cute/funny/sweet things that she says on a regular basis. Here’s a list of some of our favorites:

  •  “I miss you, Mom.” – This sweet girl wishes she could be with me all day every day, so any time we have to part ways (the gym, church nursery, etc.), she runs to me and says in a disappointed tone, “I miss you, Mom.” And when we meet up again, she runs toward me shouting “Mom! Mom!” with such excitement, and then says in the same tone, “I missed you, Mom.” I’m not the only one she misses. When Brad goes on a work trip, and when the boys are at school, she frequently tells me she misses them.
  • “I fall upstairs.” – This is her go to phrase any time she gets hurt, whether it was on the stairs, outside, in the kitchen, etc. It basically means “I hurt myself.” She has taken a few tumbles down the stairs, but thankfully she was more scared than hurt on those occasions.
  • “My Mickey house toothbrush!” – Mickey Mouse has been a favorite character of Madeleine’s for the past year. She has a stuffed Mickey that stays in her crib, and a toothbrush in the bathroom, and before she could say Mickey, she used to call it “Mees-ka.” Then it became Mickey house, which is what she usually still says.
  • “You here, Mom?” – If I’ve been away from her for a while (to run an errand, or otherwise out of the house without her), she gets somewhat unsettled, so when I return, she wants to be assured that I’m there to stay. She’ll repeatedly come up to me and ask,”You here, Mom? You here now, Mom?”
  • Scary poo – Somehow this became the name for anything that’s scaring Madeleine in the house. Not sure if it’s an off shoot of Winnie the Pooh or what. But if she’s spooked, Scary Poo is sure to be in the middle of the conversation.
  • “I did it!!” – Her exuberant exclamation for any successful attempt at a challenging task (using the potty, taking off a shirt, going down the slide, etc.)
  • “It’s a long day, Mom.” “All done long days, Mom.” – We recently took a 17 hour, two day road trip to Cleveland, Ohio. When we started the trip, I warned Madeleine that it was going to be a long day in the car. From that moment on on the road, her favorite phrase for times that she was feeling restless was “Long day, Mom.” She would say it in such a sad, resigned tone. Poor girl. But she traveled great. Now that we’ve been home a couple of weeks, she will sometimes remember that road trip when we are driving around town, and when she does, she says in a hopeful and relieved voice, “All done long days, Mom?”
  • “I like your pretty dress, Mom!” – She is full of compliments and kind words. “Oh, Mom! I like your sparkly shirt!” “Oh, Mom! I like your new shoes!””Hey, Mom. You look nice!”
  • “I eat Benjamin crunch.” – I sometimes call Benjamin “cinnamon Bennamin,” so when she took a liking to cinnamon crunch cereal, she started calling it Benjamin crunch!)
  • All things frozen become Let It Go. “I eat Let It Go peas, mom.” Other favorites are Let It Go yogurt squeezers, Let It Go raspberries. She also calls her Frozen-themed clothing and accessories Let It Go shoes and dresses.
  • “No WAY!” – She doesn’t say this one as much any more, but she used to exclaim it with gusto several times a day.
  • Daddy C – My mom’s grandma name is Mama C. My dad is grandad. Madeleine is the first of their grandchildren to come up with her own hybrid of their two names. She started calling him Daddy C this summer.
  • “My waffle pop UP!” – You may have noticed by now that Madeleine is enthusiastic about almost everything, from getting her diaper changed, to going to the park, and even to something as routine as her waffle popping up in the toaster. When she hears that tell tale sound of the toaster popping up, she exclaims, “My waffle pop UP!” with the sort of jubilation you would expect for the arrival of a special guest to the house, or ice cream after dinner. This girl exudes positivity!

Bedtime Routine

Madeleine usually goes down for a nap around 1, and to bed around 8. She often tells me she’s ready to go to sleep. “Put me at bed, Mom.” “My ribbon my bed.” When she lays down, she expects to see kitty, dolly, and Mickey in her crib. She also likes to hold the pink ribbon that is at one corner of her favorite blanket. (A few months ago, she wanted to hold two head bands as she drifted off to sleep, and sometimes she would put one on just for fun.) After she has those items, a couple sips of water, a hug, a kiss, and some tickles on her arms and back, she’s ready to go to sleep. I hope things stay simple when she moves into a big girl bed.

Favorites

  •  Snacks – Goldfish, pea crisps, apple sauce squeezers, yogurt squeezers, nuts
  • Meals – spaghetti, mac n cheese, cheeseburgers
  • Songs – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Alphabet Song,” “Let It Go.”
  • Books – “Cool Dog, School Dog” (I read this to her before bed every day for about a month!) Any Disney princess books, “Good Night, Moon” (she likes to find the mouse on each page)
  • Movies – She was in a big Disney princess phase in the fall and spring, with favorites being The Little Mermaid, Princess and the Frog, and Snow White. Then she got interested in Pinocchio. Since we moved to Dallas a few months ago and the boys were out of school for summer, she’s been watching more movies on Netflix with them. Her most recent favorites were Hotel Transylvania 2 and Home.
  • Shows – Super Why, Sophia the First
  • Apps – Mickey Mouse Color Play, Interactive “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Interactive “Wheels on the Bus.” (How crazy is it that a two year old has the ability to easily navigate an iPhone and a Kindle Fire? Different world we are living in.)

Sibling Interaction – Madeleine loves her big brothers so much, and they help out a lot with her these days. They will get her out of her crib when she wakes up, get her a snack, push her on the swing, and most importantly, include her in their games. We call her “gamer baby” when they hand her an xBox controller and she pretends to play video games with them. She is thrilled when she can play in the sprinkler or with the water hose with them. She also loves playing chase around the house with Peter.

The Curls – Madeleine’s perfectly spiraled curls turn a lot of heads, and we are flattered by all the compliments about our sweet girl and her gold-kissed head of curls. She likes to be wild and free, so any time I try to put a head band or barrette in her hair, she immediately takes it off. The boys both lost their curls when they were about four. I’m hoping hers are here to stay!

The Wardrobe – She is much more of a girly girl than I ever was. She has a particular love for sparkly shoes, so we’ve bought her a couple of pairs. She also prefers wearing dresses more than shirts with pants/shorts. Despite her love of all things frilly and shiny, she also has fun dressing up in the boys’ clothes. Spiderman swimwear, tiger pajamas, etc. She appreciates comfy loungewear. Most afternoons she wears a comfy t-shirt for her nap. Smart girl!

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve covered enough ground to paint a good picture of our two year old Madeleine Claire. We still have six months and a few days of her toddler phase, and I’ll be soaking up every hug, giggle, and snuggle that I can.

 

Madeleine at Eighteen Months

Madeleine is now eighteen months old! I can’t get over how sweet, curious, funny, gentle and beautiful she is – she brings so much joy to our family. Here’s a rundown of her current personality, likes, and dislikes.

“Let It Go” – Her most favorite thing in the world for the past couple of months has definitely been Frozen, specifically “Let It Go.” She actually refers to the movie as “Let It Go.” It started during the summer when she caught the Frozen fever from everyone else in our family (well, mostly me). I couldn’t believe it the first time that she picked up the chorus when I was absentmindedly singing it in the kitchen one day. This is the girl who doesn’t say many words yet – she mostly just babbles in her own language. Now, any time she sees or hears a reference to Frozen, she animatedly points and exclaims “let it go!” with a sense of wonder in her voice. A few days ago, she was thrilled to discover a picture of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf on a box of yogurt squeezers. I cut out the picture, and she carries it around the house when she plays. When she’s being difficult while I’m trying to buckle her into her car seat, all I have to say is “Do you want to listen to Frozen?” and she complies immediately. (We have the soundtrack running on a loop many days, but I swap it out with Princess and the Frog and Mary Poppins occasionally.) At the grocery store recently, I told her we needed to find the frozen corn, and she started singing “Let It Go.” That made me laugh. And while she doesn’t have much interest in watching tv/movies yet, she does watch about a half hour of Frozen every day while I am helping the boys with their homework. Watching Frozen started out as a Daddy/daughter activity. One day, she stayed home with Brad while I took the boys to the Y because she was sick. He turned on Frozen to watch with her, and she loved it. Since then, any time we ask her if she wants to watch Frozen, she immediately sits down in the living room and looks at the television expectantly, asking “Let it go?” To sum it all up, the girl loves her some Frozen!

Rough and Tumble – This is a good phrase to describe her approach to life. Madeleine runs more than she walks, she’s a whirl of motion (hard to get a non-blurry picture of her), she’d rather roll around or put her head down on the ground like an ostrich than sit still, and she climbs whenever she has the chance. The sofa, the dining table, the coffee table, boxes, step stools, etc. She scales these several times a day. Because she’s so adventurous, she’s had several bumps and bruises lately. She recovers quickly from most of them, but a couple of the mouth injuries have required some extra TLC. She’s busted her lip a few times from falls, and the worst was a cut above her top teeth that kept bleeding off and on for a couple of days. She keeps us on our toes!

Independent – This girl likes to do things for herself! At meal times, if I try to feed her, she dramatically closes her eyes, turns her head, and complains. But if I hand over the spoon to her, she happily begins eating. She makes a little less of a mess with each passing day, but I still take off everything but her diaper before putting her in the highchair. While she still enjoys being held and cuddled, when it comes to walking in or out of the house/YMCA/church/etc., she wants to walk! She does her best to keep up with her brothers and do what they do. A few days ago, I discovered her sitting on the couch “playing” XBox with Benjamin. (She was pushing buttons on the controller and watching his racing game, as if she were one of the racers.)

Helper – I’m seasoned enough as a parent to know that things will change when she turns two, but for now, Madeleine is the sweetest little helper and good listener that I could ask for. She tells me when she needs her diaper changed, she willingly heads into her room at nap/bedtime, she puts away toys or brings me things when I ask her to, etc. I’m just going to enjoy this easy phase while it lasts!

Friendly – Madeleine almost always has a smile on her face, and is perceptive about people’s personalities. She is partial to people who are warmhearted and nurturing, and gives them the gift of her outreached arms and her head on their shoulder when they pick her up. It’s the sweetest thing to see her run up to someone like this and give them hugs and babble to them in her toddler-speak.

Daily Routine –

  • A note about sleep – A few months ago, Madeleine finally started sleeping through the night consistently. Now, it’s almost unheard of for her to waking during the night, and if she does, she only needs a quick hug from me, and she’s ready to lay back down and go back to sleep. I am happy to put the sleep deprivation phase behind me!
  • Morning – After sleeping all night, Madeleine usually wakes up between 7 and 8 a.m. I weaned her off of breastmilk (except for an after bath wind down feeding each night) during the summer, so now she starts the day with a bowl of dry cereal and a cup of milk. Most days she sits in my lap while she eats, but others she hangs out with her brothers while they watch Odd Squad on PBS Kids. She loves running errands, going to the Y, playing in the yard, playing with Peter (while Benjamin is at school – Peter’s kindergarten is half day, so he’s home in the morning), and following me around the house. When left to her own devices, she usually decides to go through a drawer or cabinet and pull things out to investigate. As long as she doesn’t encounter something dangerous, I encourage her curiosity. Her current favorite spots are Brad’s desk drawers, the boys’ stash of special things, and our bathroom drawers. Our bathroom counter is cluttered with all the items I’ve had to remove from the cabinets and drawers that she shouldn’t get into.
  • Lunch and Nap – We drop Peter at school at 10:40 everyday, and then we have our girl time at home. I enjoy this one on one time with her, most of which is spent having lunch. She eats early and goes down for a nap around noon. (We dropped her morning nap when the boys started school and moved her afternoon nap earlier, to adjust to school pickup time.) The current routine is for us to sit in her glider, cover up with her special blanket, and read a book together. Then I sing her “I Love You,” give her hugs and kisses, and put her in bed. She loves her dolly, and always expects to have her in hand when I cover her up. She falls asleep quickly and easily, and usually sleeps a couple of hours. (During nap time, I’ve been resting, drinking coffee, reading, and catching up on housework.) I’m hoping to do more blogging during this time, too!
  • Afternoon – After we pick the boys up from school, we enjoy some down time at home. Madeleine’s favorite snacks are yogurt, cereal bars, and graham sticks. A few days a week we go to the Y, and she loves it there! She went through a phase where she was disturbed by the wall divider in the kids’ area, and otherwise didn’t like me to leave her in there, but now she is very confident and comfortable hanging out with everyone while I work out or while Benjamin and Peter have classes.
  • Evening – Homework time is when I play my Frozen card. She will sit quietly and watch her favorite movie while I help the boys with their work. Eventually she wanders away from the tv and entertains herself some other way. She is still a great eater, and has graduated to eating almost all the same foods we eat. She still loves avocado, cheese, and yogurt, and some new favorites are watermelon, mac ‘n cheese, and smoothies. She’s very proud that she learned to drink smoothies with a straw!
  • Bath – She finally outgrew her bath seat and the kitchen sink a few months ago, so now I bathe her in the tub. Between the current water restrictions and the fact that there’s so much to do for a night time routine with three kids, she doesn’t have the luxury of a long play time in the bath like Benjamin and Peter did when they were younger. She’s usually in and out in five minutes.
  • Bedtime – Once she’s in her pjs, I nurse her for a few minutes (which also gives me a chance to sit down for the first time in several hours!). The Dodger game is usually on at this point, and the kids humor me by watching some with me. Madeleine’s bedtime routine is much like her naptime routine: glider, book, song, dolly, blanket, bed. She is so busy all day that she falls asleep within a few minutes.

So that’s a wrap on Madeleine at eighteen months! Now for some pictures:

Madeleine at One Year Old

Our baby girl is one! At her one year checkup, she was 28″ tall (23rd%) and 16 lbs 7 oz (<3rd%). Though you wouldn’t know it from her petite size, she loves to eat, and enthusiastically welcomes almost everything we offer her for meals and snacks. We celebrated her actual birthday with just our family of five at home, opening gifts, singing “Happy Birthday,” and eating cupcakes. A few days later, we invited friends over for a New Orleans style party, complete with jazz music, beads, gumbo, and king cake. She got lots of fun gifts, such as new clothes, a shopping cart, a baby doll stroller, and books. Here are some details about Madeleine at age one:

Routine:

  • She wakes up between 7 and 7:30 most mornings. She expects me to nurse her immediately (any divergence from this expectation leads to a very sad meltdown). I nurse her on the living room sofa, and when she finishes she crawls across to where Brad is sitting (this is also our morning coffee time) and snuggles with him for a while. It’s so sweet to watch her face light up when he tells her to come see him. She bounces toward him with such enthusiasm and then puts her head on his shoulder for hugs. After a few minutes of babbles and grins, she’s ready to go play. Usually she ends up playing in our “red sofa room” while the boys eat their breakfast. Her current favorite toys in that area are a pair of Magna Doodles, a “push the button” Dora book, and a sofa pillow that she throws herself down on.
  • Most days (unless we are running errands), she takes a morning nap, around 9:30. I wake her up after about an hour, so that she’ll be ready to nap again at the same time as Peter in the afternoon. So after play time, errands, and lunch, she takes another nap from about 12:45 to 2:30, when I have to wake both of them up to go get Benjamin from school. This is my quiet time for the day, and I usually spend it taking a short nap with Peter, followed by coffee and reading.
  • The rest of the day Madeleine enjoys playing with or observing her brothers. We eat dinner around 6, and I bathe her (still in the kitchen sink!) around 7. She goes to bed between 8 and 8:30. At bedtime, she likes for us to sing to her, and then I spin her key mobile around, and she lays her head on my shoulder while watching it. She’s usually tired enough that she welcomes her crib and blanket and drifts right to sleep. Still working on her staying asleep all night, as she usually wakes up once during the night.

Climbing:

  • This baby may be small, but she’s already a handful. Part girl, part monkey, apparently, because she is already climbing anything she has a mind to. It started with the bean bag, and now she uses that as a launching point to get onto the end table, and from there on to the sofa! She has also figured out how to climb onto the coffee table, and up into the glider in her room.

Exploring the house:

  • Compared to when the boys were her age, Madeleine has a lot of freedom to move around the house. However, we have started to implement some containment strategies, since every room seems to provide her with some potential mischief or danger. If the bathrooms are left open, she will unroll the toilet paper and dig through the trash for things that look interesting to put in her mouth. Yuck! Thankfully, a closed toilet lid has saved us from major disaster thus far. In the boys’ room, she likes to pull all the tissues out of the box on their night stand or chew on the CDs they leave out on the floor. She could also get into numerous choking hazards in Peter’s “special place.” (I’m planning to cover that in another post.) Our room is safe, as long as I remember to unplug my phone charger and close the closet and bathroom doors. The guest bedroom has a bookshelf full of books and magazines that she likes to pull out and make a mess with. Her own room is safe for her (as it should be!) except for her interest in the night light and sound machine plug. Putting a box in front of it used to keep her from noticing them, but now that’s actually an invitation for her to climb onto the box and pull on them. Thankfully, back when she started crawling, we did a thorough job of making the house safer for a curious baby, so we feel pretty good about letting her explore.

Favorite foods:

  • Avocado
  • Yogurt
  • Rice milled with veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower
  • Fruit and veggie melts, sweet potato puffs

Fears:

  • Blender – Ah, the blender: Madeleine’s biggest nemesis. If I even just open the cabinet where we keep it, she starts waving her hands in the air, “all done.” Unfortunately for her, I make smoothies at least a few times a week. She babbles with a concerned look on her face and doesn’t take her eyes off the appliance, and I have to reassure her the whole time I’m assembling ingredients, and when I’m ready to turn it on, I have to hold her. She puts her head down on my shoulder, and when I finally turn the blender off, she again signs “all done,” with a look of relief on her face. But she’s not completely happy until the blender is out of sight. Sweet girl – she’s a sensitive child.
  • Vacuum cleaner – She anticipates having to endure this noisy machine any time someone opens the hall closet. Luckily for her, Mommy rarely gets around to using it. 😉
  • RC helicopter/cars – Brad has an assortment of these toys, and the poor girl actually trembles with fright when he flies the little ones in the house. Benjamin has a remote control car that she’s not a fan of either.

I could keep going and going with details about this sweet girl, but I’ll save more for another time. Here are some photos from Madeleine’s first year and her birthday celebration:

Madeleine’s First Eight Months

I should begin by addressing the obvious fact that it has taken me eight months to post about Madeleine’s growth and development. With Benjamin, I dutifully wrote about his babyhood on a monthly basis, complete with cleverly captioned pictures, run downs of his sleeping and eating patterns, exact dates and vivid descriptions of his milestones.  When Peter came along, I was almost as diligent, at least for the first year. I wrote a monthly post about his development until he was a year old, and quarterly posts until he turned two. I guess I have a good excuse for not writing any growth and development posts about Madeleine for eight months – taking care of three kids is time consuming!

The biggest problem with waiting so long to write about Madeleine is that I have to really test my memory from the several months during which I’ve been sleep deprived and overwhelmed with responsibility. But, here goes. (And I’m using my handy iPhone photos and videos to jog my memory!)

First seven weeks:
Madeleine was so tiny when we brought her home from the hospital – just a peanut! While she weighed 6 lbs 7 oz at birth, she was down to 5 lbs 15 oz when we left the hospital. We had some early struggles with breastfeeding, and unfortunately they continued for weeks! The main problem is that she was so sleepy, she wouldn’t stay awake long enough to nurse. Plus, she had some developmental issues that were making it difficult for her to nurse. Since I had breastfed the boys, I decided to do what was necessary to make it happen. That ended up being the triple plan of nurse/pump/bottle feed for seven weeks. It was an exhausting, around the clock job, but worth it, since she finally got the hang of it. (An added bonus was that I stored up a freezer full of pumped milk that I later donated to Mother’s Milk Bank, a non-profit group that supplies breastmilk to babies who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it.) The most helpful resources during this time were the hospital grade pump that I rented, and a lactation support group that I went to for moral support and advice. Met some wonderful, encouraging people there!

Like I said before, she slept just about all the time in those early weeks. We would wake her up for feedings, and then she’d stay awake a little while before going back to sleep. During her awake periods, she was very alert and interested in the world around her. When she would fret early in the morning (between 5 and 6 a.m.), Brad would put her in bed with me, and she would nuzzle in right next to my neck and immediately fall asleep. So would I! Those are some precious memories.

During this time, we had visits from Mama C and Grandad, Aunt Cara, and Nana. We were so glad they were able to come meet Madeleine while she was tiny, and we were grateful for their help! Benjamin was especially enamored with his baby sister. He loved holding her, and would “babysit” her while I napped with Peter in the afternoon. Particularly during his two week spring break, I would put Madeleine in her bouncy seat during nap time, and put it in the living room or backyard, and Benjamin would play games or swing, and give her a pacifier if she got fussy.

We had to take her to the pediatrician for weight checks occasionally during the early weeks, to make sure she was gaining enough weight amidst her feeding issues. She consistently stayed around the 5th percentile for weight. Like I said, she was a peanut!

  • Two weeks old: 6 lbs 2oz, 19.5″
  • Five weeks old: 7 lbs 8 oz, 21.5″

Two Months Old:

By the middle of May, Madeleine’s weight was 8 lbs. 8 oz, and she was 22″ long. This was 5th% for weight, 40th% for height. From early on, she only woke up once during the night, usually somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30. After her morning feeding, she would happily sit in her bouncy seat and watch whatever we were doing – drinking coffee, getting ready, etc. She continued to be entertained by Benjamin, smiling at him when he’s sit next to her and make silly faces. She took naps in her crib in the morning and afternoon, but later in the day she would fall asleep in her swing, taking naps there while I made dinner and even later, while we put the boys to bed. I wouldn’t put her to bed until around 11:00, which served its purpose of me only having to wake up once to feed her. She noticed her feet and legs around 2 1/2 months. She would study them as she kicked her legs around. She loved bath time. I usually bathed her in her baby tub in the kitchen, so I could keep an eye on the Dodger game. During May, Madeleine experienced her first day trip, when we drove to Santa Barbara for a zoo visit and to see the kids’ babysitter Kathryn, who is in school at UCSB. Madeleine did great, sleeping most of the day.

Three Months Old:

When summer rolled around, Madeleine weighed 9 lbs. 3 oz (3rd%) and was 22 3/4″ long (25th%). Her personality started to shine through, as evidenced by the many cute pictures we took of her, in which she seems proud of her pretty dresses, ability to lift her head up all the way during tummy time, and ability to charm us. She didn’t like to be left alone in a room, and would quickly make her discontent known with grumbling. She started to really enjoy her tummy time, so we set up quilts in the living room and kitchen, and kept a blanket in our room that we would put on our bed for her to hang out on when we were getting ready in the morning. Occasionally, she would fall asleep on our bed while having tummy time, it was so comfy. She discovered her voice, and enjoyed making sing song noises that were very sweet. She also discovered how entertaining her hands and feet could be, and spent a lot of time investigating them. As for sleeping, she usually still woke up once during the night, but had stretched that feeding time to more like 5:00 or 5:30. And there were a handful of nights that she slept all night. She got to meet Uncle Patrick, Aunt Lindsi, and cousin Louisa when they came out for a weekend visit. We enjoyed Pasadena and the beach with them. And at the beginning of July, she experienced her first road trip, as we went to San Diego with Mom and Dad when they visited. She did great on the drive down, and got a little fussy on the way home because she was getting hungry while we were stuck in traffic. This was also when she started joining the boys in the childcare area at the YMCA. She liked being in there from the beginning, and loves it now!

Four Months Old:

We continued her weight checks, and at four months, she finally made it over the 10 lb. mark, weighing 10 lbs. 2 oz (3rd%) and was 23 1/2″ long (25th%). She was still very petite and skinny, but over the next couple of weeks she started to plump up a little. Peter also took more of an interest in her, and spent more time talking to her and wanting to hold her. She further developed her voice, attempting to sing along when we would sing to her. On July 31, she attended her first Dodger game and did great, staying perfectly content except for when the crowd got too loud after a home run. At the beginning of August, we welcomed Uncle Chris and Aunt Karen to our Southern California home for the first time. We enjoyed a trip to Ventura with them, and a Dodger game. It was memorable because not only did it go into extra innings, but it rained – actual, soaking fat drops of rain! Because of the rain, we left in about the 10th inning (Madeleine wasn’t very excited about the precipitation), but we heard Hanley Ramirez’s winning RBI on the radio as we reached our exit in Valencia. A few days later, after Chris and Karen had left, we celebrated Peter’s birthday at Disneyland. Madeleine did well, as usual, and even seemed to enjoy the Winnie the Pooh ride and a couple of others. The next day we headed to Malibu, where she wasn’t very happy about the beach. The sound of the waves overwhelmed her. This month she also said her first word, “mama,” which we happened to catch on video. Good thing, since she hasn’t said it more than a few times since then! She also really started enjoying playing with her feet.

Five Months Old:

I mentioned that after turning four months, Madeleine started to get a little chubbier. By five months, she weighed 11 lbs. 11 oz., her biggest weight gain month to month so far. We weren’t in a rush to start the tedious task of spoon feeding rice cereal, so we didn’t start that yet. She still continued nursing every 3 to 3 1/2 hours during the day, and would usually wake up once during the night, often around 3 a.m. During the day, she was still taking four naps: mid morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and late evening. Bedtime was around 10:00 or 10:30. She discovered how much fun it was to play with water during her baths. We would pour water from a cup, and she’d try to catch it with her hands. She started to become more mobile, so that during tummy time, rather than stay in one place, she would rotate 180 degrees or more to reach toys that we had placed all around her. She continued to grow more socially interactive; she enjoyed a “game” where she would say “aaa!” and we would say it back to her, back and forth… It was around this time that Benjamin started first grade, and Brad went on a two week business trip to Australia, so we had to adjust our schedule. Thankfully, Nana flew out to help me with the kids, so she’d often keep Madeleine and Peter at home while I dropped off and picked up Benjamin. In early September, we took all three kids to a Dodger game and had a great time. Madeleine was once again perfectly content to be there – born a Dodger fan, I guess! We look forward to taking the kids to some of the games every season.

Six Months Old:

She weighed 12 lbs 6 oz (4th%) and was 25 1/4″ long (30th%) at her six month checkup. Because Madeleine continued to grow at the same rate, her doctor said we could discontinue the weight checks. She continued waking up once most nights, either around 3 or around 5:30. She dropped the fourth nap around this time (maybe sooner, who really remembers?), and settled into a nice routine of a morning nap before we went out for errands (or sometimes took this nap on the go), an afternoon nap that coincided with Peter’s (hallelujah!), and a late afternoon/early evening nap that allowed me some freedom to make dinner and help the boys with their projects. Cutting out the last nap also meant an earlier bedtime, so I started putting her to bed between 9:30 and 10. She started to really show an interest in music. If she was fussy in the van, I would just turn on the radio, and she’d quiet down and listen to the music. If we sang to her at home, she would “hum” along. Her favorite sound to make around this time was “na na na na.” We introduced her to the joys of the exersaucer, as well as the wonders of food. She was initially excited about rice cereal – we have a priceless video that shows her with a death grip on the spoon, not wanting to take it out of her mouth. But over the next month or more, she was mostly uninterested in the cereal or anything else we gave her. Still, about once a day, at dinner, we would let her practice eating for a few bites. Around mid September, we had our last visitors (from back “home” in the South) of 2014: Leah and Evan. We went to the beach with them, and Madeleine was much happier with the waves and sand this time. She even got to swing for the first time at the park that overlooked the beach.

Seven Months Old:

At this stage, she got more serious about playtime. She didn’t want to mess around with the bouncy seat and swing anymore; instead, she preferred to be down on the floor interacting with all her toys, or playing in the exciting exersaucer. It was common to find her studying (or chewing on) the tags on her toys, rather than playing with the toys themselves. Very detail oriented! She occasionally slept through the night now, and continued needing her morning, afternoon, and evening naps (with the morning nap still often being on the go). Bedtime continued to gradually move earlier, so that she was usually in bed by 9:30. Her favorite sound to make was “da da da da.” She especially liked to whisper it back to us if we first did it to her. Most significantly, after a couple of weeks of scooting from one end of her play quilts to the other, she officially started crawling around 7 1/2 months! It started out like an inchworm crawl, developed into a standard crawl, then evolved into an army crawl when she realized she could get around faster/easier on our wood floors that way. Now she uses a combination of those three to get around. For the first couple of weeks of crawling, she stayed in about a five foot radius. I was relieved, since this gave me some time to do more baby proofing. She started to develop more of an interest/enthusiasm for food. Her favorites were sweet potatoes and any kind of fruit.

Eight Months Old:

And so here we are, caught up to the present day. Madeleine turned eight months old at the beginning of this week! Her new found ability to crawl has turned her into a little explorer. Although we still put her down on a quilt with toys, she only stays there a couple of minutes before venturing out to investigate the house. Right now we are letting her go where ever she wants to (minus the bathrooms and closets), under supervision. Eventually, when she starts crawling faster, we will probably close doors to keep track of her. She still takes a short nap (about an hour) in the morning, a longer nap (two hours when possible) in the afternoon, and another short nap in the early evening (an hour to hour and a half). I have a feeling she will give up this last nap soon, which will make it more difficult for me to prepare dinner (she’s usually asleep during that time), but it will also mean she will go to bed at the same time as her brothers. She sleeps through the night consistently now, from about 9 or 9:30 to around 7 a.m. Usually she doesn’t wake up at all during the night. Once she started to enthusiastically eat her food, the better sleep followed. Her favorite foods are sweet potatoes, and Greek yogurt mixed with any kind of fruit. I also make her eat vegetables or baby food “dinners,” but mix them with baby oatmeal to disguise the taste a bit. Last weekend she entertained herself by interacting with her reflection in our mirrored closet doors, in our bathroom and the boys’ bedroom. She has continued to enjoy this, and it’s fun to watch. She also loves playing the boys’ keyboard. And the latest development is that Peter loves to “play” with her, mainly by entertaining her in his room. It’s sweet to see them interact.

To Sum It All Up:

I’m sure I have forgotten some significant details from Madeleine’s first eight months. But hopefully I hit the major milestones. We are just enjoying our happy, laid back daughter so much. I often find myself slowing down to really soak in the details and precious moments of her babyhood. One thing I’ve made a point to do from her earliest days is to hold her while she sleeps. I nurse her in the living room every night before bed, while I’m watching tv. Rather than take her straight to her crib after she falls asleep, I just hold her for a while, listening to her breathing, looking at how peaceful she is, relishing my role as her source of comfort and security. I’ve been doing this for months and months, and I’m glad I did, because already now, there are some nights that she won’t actually fall asleep until I put her in bed. She will stop nursing, turn to see what’s on the tv, snuggle, squirm, etc. While I have her attention, I’ll tickle her face, talk to her, hug her. But eventually on those nights, she just wants to be left alone in her crib so she can rest! During the day, I try to see the world through her eyes. Everything is new and interesting! If I’m getting ice in my water cup, I’ll hold a piece and let her touch it, taste it. When I’m drinking coffee, I’ll let her touch the warm mug. In the bathtub, we splash water around or pour it out of a cup. In these moments, she often looks at me as if waiting for permission to explore. I usually tell her to go ahead. In this respect, I’ve changed a lot from when the boys were younger. I was a bit of a control freak and didn’t let them investigate as much. We continue to enjoy all the little moments of her babyhood, and look forward to seeing how she changes in the coming days, weeks, and months.

 

 

 

The Day Madeleine Was Born

After the hectic weeks leading up to Madeleine’s birth day, Brad and I were excited to meet her. We got up early on March 10 and headed to the hospital (which, conveniently, is literally right down the street from our house) for my induction. Things got started around 8 a.m., and were progressing pretty well by 11. I was experiencing those intensely irritating, Pitocin-induced contractions that I’d come to know and dislike in my two previous labors, so I requested my epidural. I’m no superwoman – just give me the drugs so I can get through this labor thing and meet my baby! Unfortunately, despite the nurses assuring me that I’d only have to wait 5 to 15 minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive, it ended up being an excruciating hour and a half before my epidural was administered. Turns out, they had to summon the on call anesthesiologist, because the other one was held up with another patient. I was so upset and uncomfortable, that I turned into the stereotypical woman in labor: furious, and telling everyone about it, but also in tears. Fortunately, when he finally arrived, he did an excellent job, and I said good riddance to the pain of contractions.

Well, kind of. After a few more hours passed, it was clear that Madeleine was preparing to make her entrance into the world. But it was also becoming clear that my epidural was wearing off on one side of my abdomen. I could feel the contractions again over there, so the nurse told me to push the button that would give my epidural a boost. I ended up pushing the button twice in the next hour or so, providing me with full relief from the contractions again. Other than the epidural frustration, the entire labor went smoothly. It took longer than I’d hoped, about 8 1/2 hours, because they kept turning the pitocin down or off to keep Madeleine’s heart rate steady. She was showing slight signs of stress when they would increase the pitocin. But the nurses did an excellent job keeping me and Madeleine safe, and at 4:18 p.m., we saw Madeleine for the first time, and heard the beautiful sound of her crying. She settled down as soon as they put her in my arms, and she looked up at my face with such a calm, contented expression. We commented on her dimples, how cute they were! She was 6 lbs, 7 oz, and maybe 19.5″ long.

After her birth, Brad and I had plenty of time to spend with her. We had to wait a couple of hours before they moved me out of labor and delivery and into a post partum room. The main hold up was the fact that I couldn’t move my right leg. At all. Now, after I had the boys, I was up and walking around within an hour or two. But that boost button that I pressed for Madeleine took my lack of feeling to a whole other level! I think I rode in a wheelchair to my room. Once there, I was bedridden until the middle of the night, when I awoke and was finally able to lift my right leg on my own. I’d never been so excited to walk to the bathroom and use the bathroom unassisted! The frustrating thing about not being able to stand up is that it was hard for me to take care of Madeleine by myself. Brad wasn’t around to help because I was in one of the semi-private rooms where spouses typically weren’t allowed to stay during the night (even though there wasn’t anyone sharing my room that night). So I had to call a nurse in every time I needed to change Madeleine’s diaper or feed her.

I’m not a big fan of this new “room in” hospital movement. To me, it’s more about the hospital reducing their staff and costs than it is about promoting bonding between mom and baby. I’ll have all the time in the world to bond with my baby for the next 18 years, but after going through hours of labor, I need to get some sleep! I was exhausted the next day. Thankfully, the second night, circumstances allowed Brad to stay with me, so he was there to help, and I requested that the nurses not come in to give me medication during the night. That allowed me to get a couple more hours of sleep.

Backing up a bit in the story, Mom and Dad and the boys came in to meet Madeleine as soon as we got settled in our post partum room. The boys acted shy, but were intrigued by this tiny creature that they’d been hearing so much about and that was finally here! We were thankful that Mom and Dad had flown out to take care of the boys, and that they were in town to meet her when she was brand new.

So, that’s the story of Madeleine’s birth, as well as I can remember it now, seven months later!

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth

Madeleine’s Nursery

My love of reading began at an early age; my mom read me stories at naptime, bedtime, and other times in between. Our family took frequent trips to the library, and I would bring home stacks of books during the summer reading programs. By kindergarten, I was reading books to my classmates. Fast forward 30+ years, and reading is still one of my favorite things to do. So when I found out we were finally having a baby girl, I knew that I wanted to incorporate a literary theme into her nursery. I also knew that I wanted to use the Renoir print “A Girl with a Watering Can” that I still have from my childhood bedroom.

While I hadn’t decorated the boys’ nursery with books in mind, I unknowingly named them after two prominent literary characters: Beatrix Potter’s Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit. I briefly considered purposefully continuing that naming trend, but somehow Beatrice, Lily, or especially Jemima weren’t what we had in mind. Once we decided on the name Madeleine, there were two obvious literary possibilities for the nursery: books by author Madeleine L’Engle, or the book series Madeline. I decided against a nursery decorated with A Wrinkle in Time (my favorite book by L’Engle) decor, and the idea of a nursery decked out in pictures of orphaned school girls just seemed a little sad to me. So, I took to my Kindle to peruse some classic children’s books. I didn’t have to look any further than The Secret Garden. While I never read it as a child, I loved the movie. The idea of a secret, hidden garden with a special key, beautiful flowers, and a mysterious past fascinated me! And so, after reading the book last winter, I planned and decorated Madeleine’s nursery with an understated (read: not frou-frou Victorian) garden theme.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Secret Garden, it’s the story of a little girl named Mary. When the book begins, she is a sickly, unfriendly, lonely child, but when circumstances lead her to her uncle’s house in England, her curiosity about a secret garden leads her on an adventure that transforms her into a blossoming, happy, thriving little girl with new friends. I love how this book shows the importance of friendship and family, and shows how therapeutic it can be to get out into nature and witness the beauty and wonder of creation.

As I read the story, I noted certain aspects that I wanted to incorporate into our nursery. Of course, the obvious one was that of a flower garden. I picked out a whimsical, colorful floral nursery decor on Target’s website. It’s called Layla, by Sweet Jo Jo Designs, and features turquoise and yellow, with bright pink and green accents. The nursery walls were already a cheerful butter yellow, and there were some brown curtains that would work well. We also had never switched out the ceiling fan from the previous owner – multicolored pastels and butterflies – very sweet for a garden theme.

Considering that The Secret Garden is the story of a little girl who becomes absorbed in caring for a garden, my childhood Renoir print of the little girl holding a watering can in a garden was perfect. We found a prominent spot on the wall for it, and ordered a turquoise cast iron wall key on Etsy (representative of the secret key to the garden) to go along with it.

One day I noticed a miniature bird cage in the floral department of our grocery store. It looked like a cute project for the nursery. While my parents were in town for Madeleine’s birth, my dad took on the task of spray painting the bird cage white, and then we purchased silk flowers that matched the nursery colors, and he arranged them in a winding, colorful bouquet in the cage. It’s now a bright spot on the bookshelf, just below the key and Renoir print on the wall.

Speaking of the bookshelf, I’m planning to build up a collection of garden and flower-themed children’s books. We already have a few, including The Tiny Seed, Planting a Rainbow, and In the Garden with Van Gogh. There are so many great possibilities out there, and I’ve built up quite a wishlist on Amazon. 😉

One of my favorite scenes in The Secret Garden is toward the end, when Mary and her friends become aware of how healthy working in the garden has made them, and they are overwhelmed by the beauty of the garden, now that all their hard work has transformed the once overgrown and neglected space into a flourishing display of nature. The children, along with Ben Weatherstaff the gardener, are inspired to recite the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” I discovered several nice Doxology prints on Etsy, and it didn’t take me long to decide which one was perfect for Madeleine’s nursery. The text of the hymn is surrounded by brightly colored flowers, which, as an interior designer would say, provide a “pop” of color in the nursery.

The final touch came when Aunt Cara came for a visit in April. She came up with the idea of making a mobile. We worked together to create it, using ribbon, fabric roses, keys, and paper butterfly cut outs. I love the result, and so does Madeleine.

The floral bedding and decor, the Renoir print, the wall key, the birdcage bouquet, the garden books, the Doxology print, the butterfly ceiling fan, and the mobile all come together to create a sweet, inviting nursery that our baby girl can grow in to.

 

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A cozy, colorful, calming nursery for Madeleine

 

I've been very pleased with the flowery Layla bedding that I picked out on Target's website

I’ve been very pleased with the flowery Layla bedding and decor that I picked out on Target’s website

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A very young (and tiny!) Madeleine in her crib. She has always enjoyed studying the bright colors and patterns.

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Aunt Cara helped design and create this sweet mobile, which includes roses, ribbons, keys, and butterflies.

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Grandad made this by spray painting a bird cage and filling it with silk flowers that matched the color scheme of the room and bedding.

A cute key hanger that I found on Etsy, and which represents the secret key to the garden

A cute wall key with hooks that I found on Etsy, and which represents the secret key to the garden

Renoir's "A Girl with a Watering Can" that was on my bedroom wall growing up

This is the print of Renoir’s “Girl with a Watering Can” that hung in my childhood bedroom. So glad I still have it for Madeleine’s room!

Decorative items above the bookshelf

Decorative items above the bookshelf

A pivotal scene in The Secret Garden involves the children singing the Doxology upon seeing the beauty of God's creation in the garden. I love this Doxology print that I found on Etsy.

I love this Doxology print that I found on Etsy.

A view of the changing table/dresser with Layla decor and the Doxology print

A view of the changing table/dresser with Layla decor and the Doxology print

Australia, Cholestasis, and Other Misadventures Leading up to Madeleine’s Birth

We started 2014 in the South, finishing up our visit with family and friends. Although Brad had a lot of travel scheduled after we returned home to California, we weren’t too overwhelmed, since we’d still have about a month to prepare for Madeleine’s birth once his business trips ended. However, since I was already exhausted and overwhelmed by pregnancy and parenting of two wild boys, I wasn’t too thrilled that Brad would basically be traveling the entire month of February. At the end of January he embarked on a ten day trip to Europe (England, France, and Germany). He would only be home about five days after that before leaving again, for over two weeks straight in Australia.

Since my pregnancies with Benjamin and Peter had both been totally healthy and without incident, I believed it was just a formality when I asked some local friends to be “on call” in case something came up while Brad was out of the country. I actually spoke these words out loud to them: “I doubt I’ll need to call you – I expect everything to be fine…” Famous last words!

While Brad was in Europe, the boys and I survived on takeout, movie nights, and early bedtimes. He returned just in time for me to come down with an awful virus that had all the symptoms of the flu: fever, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, etc. I felt awful – but thankfully Brad was in town to take care of the household, and I recovered within a couple of days.

Unfortunately, a new problem presented itself the next day, just after Brad left for Australia. That night as I got ready for bed, I noticed that the palms of my hands and soles of my feet were itching badly. I figured I was having an allergic reaction to something, and went on to bed trying to ignore it. The next morning it was still bad enough that I called my doctor’s office. They told me to take Benadryl and use cortisone cream. Those remedies didn’t end up helping much, but I didn’t think much of it – just that it was probably one of those weird pregnancy symptoms.

Later that week I went in for my next prenatal visit. When I mentioned to my doctor that the itching was continuing, mainly on my hands and feet, he immediately stated that I might have cholestasis of pregnancy. He ordered blood work to determine if I actually had this liver disorder, but unfortunately it would take a week to get the results. And then he told me not to go read about it on the Internet because he didn’t want me to be scared. Gulp. So of course I went straight home and Googled it. Now, I didn’t read everything about the condition. Just enough to know that it was serious. I stopped reading about the time I came across the word “stillborn.”

What is cholestasis of pregnancy? It’s a rare condition that can develop during pregnancy, usually the third trimester (for me it was at 34 weeks), in which the liver stops properly filtering bile acids out of the blood. As a result, these toxins can pass through the placenta and cause detrimental harm to the baby. Research has shown that early delivery prevents stillbirth, so the typical plan is to induce labor at 37 weeks. For women with cholestasis who continue their pregnancy beyond 37 weeks, the chance of stillbirth increases dramatically.

For that week, while awaiting the blood test results, I tried not to think about it too much. Surely I didn’t actually have this rare condition. I’d never had any problems with my other pregnancies, so why would something come up now? Besides, the itching wasn’t that bad, and I’d had some friends tell me they had had similar itching during their pregnancies, and they weren’t diagnosed with cholestasis.

So it was like hitting a brick wall when I got the call from my doctor the next week. I was in the middle of putting Peter down for a nap, and when the phone rang it was a nurse from my doctor’s office. She started the conversation by asking if I could come in that afternoon for monitoring. That didn’t sound good. I explained that I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids, and that I had an appointment the next day anyway. What was the urgency? Next thing I knew, my doctor was on the phone telling me that I did, indeed, have cholestasis. The blood results were very clear. The rest of the conversation was a blur to me as I tried to process this news. But what I clearly heard him say was “we will monitor you closely, and we will deliver the baby at 36 or 37 weeks.” What?! That’s not part of the plan. Our other two babies were born right on schedule at 40 weeks, chubby and fully cooked. Besides, we had way too much still to do. I thought I had six weeks left to work with, and now I was instead looking at only a handful of days.

When I got off the phone, I finished settling Peter down for his nap, and then I came back out to the kitchen, put my elbows on the counter, leaned down, and cried. It was a lonely moment, since Brad was on the other side of the world. After a few minutes, I dialed up Australia. I’m glad Brad was available to FaceTime at that moment. Several months before, when Brad was on a previous trip to Australia, we’d had a FaceTime conversation at about this same time of day, in which I shared the happy news with him that I was pregnant! This time, it wasn’t a joyful conversation. I was upset and overwhelmed, and Brad felt helpless being so far away. Thankfully, Brad has colleagues and a boss who value family, and they had no problem with him cutting his trip a week short. He was on a plane home the very next day. One blessing amidst that scary time is that Brad’s mom happened to be arriving that very evening – a trip we had previously organized with her to help me in Brad’s absence. I was so grateful to have her in town for emotional support and to help with the boys as we began the new routine of frequent doctor visits and otherwise coping with cholestasis.

The next day, I started monitoring in my doctor’s office. This process tracked fluctuations in the baby’s heart rate in response to stress (my doctor would come in from time to time and use a buzzer on my belly to gently disrupt the baby’s reverie), and I was told to press a button every time I felt her move. It only took about 30 minutes, and my doctor was happy with the results and sent me home.

The day after that, Friday, February 21, Brad landed at LAX after his long flight from Australia. When he got home, instead of taking a nap, he spent a couple of hours calling area Toyota dealers about Sienna minivans. We ended up driving up the road to our local dealership that afternoon, leaving the boys at home to have fun with Nana. A few hours later, we drove home in our new 2014 Sienna! We couldn’t believe we managed to pull off such a major purchase in one day, much less a day that Brad had traveled across the world! We were sad to say goodbye to our Rav4 when we traded it in and left it at the dealership, but we knew it was time to make the transition to a “swagger wagon.” Our Sienna deserves a post all its own, so all I’ll add for now is that it has served us well so far!

That weekend we managed to check several other things off of our list, including ordering bedding and decor for the nursery, sorting and washing baby clothes, and coming up with various contingency plans concerning who would keep the boys if I had to be induced on short notice. We felt very accomplished, since we had crammed a month’s worth of to-dos into a few days. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from the unbearable itching, which was most prevalent during the night, and was therefore exhausted. (My doctor wouldn’t prescribe me medication to treat the itching until I saw a specialist, but the soonest appointment I’d been able to schedule was for later that week, eight days after my initial diagnosis.)

We had a minor scare on Tuesday, February 25, when I went in for my second monitoring session. My doctor was somewhat concerned by the baby’s lack of fluctuating heart rate in response to the stress test, and so he admitted me to the hospital for further monitoring. I am so thankful that Brad had accompanied me to my appointment that day – I would really have been a nervous wreck without him! Upon arrival in the labor and delivery ward, they treated me like a patient who might be having a baby that very day (!!). I was instructed to change into a hospital gown, and they hooked me up to the monitoring equipment. After a while, a technician came in to do a sonogram. The nurse stated that if my doctor had any concerns after the additional monitoring, they would go ahead and induce me that day. I was not excited about this prospect. After all, I was only 35 weeks along. For the next couple of hours, I realized that I had absolutely no control over when I would have this baby. Despite the fact that I was five weeks away from my due date, and two weeks away from the planned induction, my doctor could decide to induce me any day and time!

Thankfully, that day in the hospital, Madeleine cooperated with the stress test, and I was sent home. One of the first things I did that night was to pack my hospital suitcase. But beyond that, there wasn’t much more I could do besides wait and wonder. I had trouble sleeping every night for the next two weeks as I pored over the various contingency plans and emergency contacts in my mind, and tried not to worry about Madeleine’s health in utero, all the while still doing kick counts all day long to monitor her well being as best I could in between my doctor’s appointments.

Brad and I did have much more peace of mind after meeting with the specialist (a perinatologist) the week of February 24. It was encouraging to know that cholestasis was, as he called it, his “niche” of research. He very calmly and confidently answered all of our questions, explained the condition, and laid out a plan that would keep me and the baby safe. We learned that cholestasis only affects about 1% of people of Northern European ancestry, and is much more common in people from Chile or of Scandinavian ancestry. So it was very unusual for me to have it. There is still not a lot known about what causes it, but genetics seem to be a factor, and the specialist I saw believes that it may be viral in nature. (I think the flu-like symptoms I experienced just before the itching started suggest that it was linked to a virus.) If you are interested, you can read more about it here.

One nice thing came out of my visit to the specialist: Brad and I had the pleasure of seeing Madeleine on a sonogram one last time. It was reassuring to see her chubby face, and see her moving around and sucking her fingers like a typical, healthy baby. The doctor estimated that she already weighted 6 1/2 lbs, and guessed that she would be about 7 1/2 lbs. if born at 37 weeks. (I thought he was overestimating, and guessed that she would be 6 1/2 lbs. at 37 weeks. Since she was 6 lbs 7 oz at birth, I was basically correct!)

I couldn’t wait to hold her in my arms and know that she was safe and healthy. Now we had a better idea when that would happen. The specialist recommended inducing me at 37 weeks, since that would allow Madeleine more time to develop, without continuing my pregnancy into the danger zone for cholestasis of 38 to 40 weeks. He also prescribed me the medication ursodiol, which decreases the concentration of bile acids in the blood, and therefore controls the itching. I started taking it immediately, and all I can say is “Hallelujah!” It provided me with immediate relief. The first few days I still had some itching, but after that it seemed to completely eliminate the itching, which had been unbearable for the previous couple of weeks.

By the weekend of February 28, my doctor had set Monday, March 10 as the date for induction. My parents were able to change their flight from late March (back when we were working within the framework of my original due date of March 30) to March 9, so as long as we stayed on schedule, Mom and Dad would be here to keep the boys when Brad and I went to the hospital that day to have the baby. Just in case, though (since I was still being monitored every few days), we made sure local friends were available in the mean time.

With the itching under control, and having a better understanding of the condition that I had been diagnosed with, I started to sleep a little better at night. Well, as well as one can sleep with a huge belly and with needing to use the bathroom several times a night! I always had the realization in the back of my mind that we could lose our baby because of my condition, but I also knew that the risk of that happening was very low as long as she was delivered before 38 weeks. My belief that God is in control and that His plans are better than mine, as well as encouragement and support from friends, family, and my doctors, are what kept me calm and sane for those long days and weeks.

Pregnant me the day before Madeleine was born

Pregnant me the day before Madeleine was born

That last week life went on mostly as normal. Brad went to work every day, Benjamin and Peter went to school, and I stayed home and prepared the house for our baby girl. We still knew that my doctor could induce me at any time, so I kept my suitcase packed, and I was always aware of the baby’s movements. But each day passed without incident, and finally The Day arrived. And after all the waiting and wondering, stress and sleepless nights, I was able to hold Madeleine Claire in my arms at 4:18 p.m. on Monday, March 10. (4:18 was significant to me because I was born on April 18.) I cried tears of relief and happiness as I looked in her big eyes and listened to her sweet newborn cry. She had arrived unscathed by the cholestasis, and we were overjoyed to welcome our beautiful, healthy daughter into the world.

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth