Emma Jean, Baby Queen

Dear Emma,

YOU ARE HERE! In fact, I fail so much at finding time to write these days that you are now just shy of 4 months old. Lots to catch up on…. let’s start at the beginning. ๐Ÿ™‚

The final two weeks of the pregnancy were uneventful and dragged on incredibly slowly. But the morning of your arrival came around at last, and as you can see I was VERY MUCH ready to be done with the pregnancy!

That picture was taken right before Dad & I left for the hospital. The birth itself went as smoothly as it possibly could have, other than a large goose almost flying into our windshield as we drove through a busy intersection on the way to the hospital. LOL… I wish I were witty enough to make that up, but it really happened! Thankfully it did not hit our windshield and we made it to the hospital in plenty of time. All the preparations were made, and I very happily signed away my ovarian tubes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ No more pregnancies for me!

And not very long after that, you made your big debut. Another one of the happiest moments in my & Dad’s lives. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll let your birth announcement provide the details:

We were in the hospital for just a couple of days, no health issues for either of us, and you were home by Sunday afternoon. Alex got to visit you in the hospital and was THRILLED to meet you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Charlie met you when we got home and was not as impressed. He’s just not as into babies as Alex is… but he’s coming around, slowly but surely. The boys even argue from time to time over who gets to hold you.

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We call you Emma Jean, Baby Queen because it’s your world & we’re just living in it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Being the “prodigal daughter” of sorts, you are VERY spoiled. Thankfully you don’t act like it (so far). In fact, you’re the easiest baby we’ve ever had! I say that, but I also wonder if I would’ve considered you an “easy baby” if you had been my first…. you have a touch of acid reflux, common for newborns but requires some extra TLC and, in your case, meds twice per day. Prior to starting the medicine, you couldn’t stand to be laid down flat. There was also a bit of day/night confusion around the 1 week mark, but you got the hint pretty quickly after that and have been sleeping through the night since about 4-5 weeks old. Now at almost 4 months, I put you to bed around 6:30-7pm and you sleep for a solid 12 hours straight (I wish I could say the same about your brothers!). You also have a minor case of torticollis, meaning that you prefer to only lay on one side of your head. We’ve been doing some neck exercises and laying your head on a special pillow which seems to have helped a great deal… but your tender skull still has a pretty wicked flat spot. I think you’re probably going to have to sport a very stylish helmet for a few months to round it out again.

These days, you only cry when you’re hungry, tired, or want a change of scenery. You’re full of smiles– I don’t think I’ve ever had such a happy smiley baby! All we have to do is look at you & you break into a huge grin.

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You love snuggles, being worn in the baby carrier, and “playing” in your little baby floor gym/kick piano. Whenever the music stops playing and you can’t get it to start again, you protest a bit until we rectify the situation. You like to reach for things, “baby talk” & giggle with us, and to roll from tummy to back. You HATE tummy time, riding in stop & go traffic, and when your headband falls down into your eyes. We all LOVE you so very much!

Truly, even at less than 4 months it’s hard to imagine life without you. Having three kids under 5 in our house if pretty crazy/chaotic/exhausting/etc etc… and I am definitely very ready to for your brothers to start preschool in the fall/me to go back to work full time, but I’m also very thankful to have been able to take all this time off to be with you guys this spring & summer. You are such a joy and I’m blown away at how quickly you’re growing. At your 2 month checkup, your stats came in at the higher percentiles just like your brothers… but particularly in regards to height. You are apparently quite tall for your age! Many women in our family are quite tall, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

That said, the person you remind me most of so far is actually Alex. You look EXACTLY like he did as a baby, right down to the little strawberry birth mark in the same spot on your torso! The only differences are that you have a little less hair, and I don’t think your eyes are going to be blue. Right now I’d guess green, hazel or brown, but the jury is still out on that. Time will tell!

You were supposed to have your 4 month checkup this week but I took advantage of a last-minute vacation opportunity (woot woot!) so we’ll take care of that when I get back. As I speak you are being loved and spoiled by your grandparents. This is your first time away from me for such a long period of time and while I miss you (and your brothers) terribly…. I really needed this. I’ve written in my letters before about my struggles with PPD, and unfortunately things with that have gotten worse since you were born. My doctor thinks that the combo of being newly post-partum again + having my tubes tied has thrown my hormones out of whack. Your brothers and dad would probably say that I’ve been a hard person to live with. My medicine has been adjusted, and thankfully that is starting to help.

I’m starting to get ramble-y so I’d better wrap this up. So sorry it’s taken me this long to get a letter to you since you were born, but frankly we’ve been too busy enjoying you in person (and making the adjustment to a family of 5) for me to sit down and write!

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All my love,
Mom

The (bumpy) end of the road

Dear Emma,

Here we are at 38 weeks… if all goes according to plan, your birthday is in less than 2 weeks! I am still very much glad that this is my last pregnancy– the struggle is REAL and I’m more or less a beached whale these days. LOL. Obviously this is not my usual bump photo– I had Dad take it specifically to send to a friend who wanted to see how big I was. :-X And mind you, this was a couple weeks ago. The next bump photo I purposefully take will be right before we go to the hospital for your birth.

Truth be told though, lately I’m feeling more impatient not because of being uncomfortably huge… but because I am getting SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED to meet you face to face. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s so close I can taste it! I think Dad feels the same way too. He’s starting to talk more about what he thinks it will be like to parent a daughter– obviously it’s going to be a whole new ball game for us both, but I think he feels moreย anxiety over it than I do. But I also sense excitement from him. He’s not type to be super exuberant about it, but I know him well enough to see the signs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Tonight he was talking about dealing with boyfriends and being a “Papa Bear.” LOL. I, for one, can’t wait to see your & Dad’s relationship develop. The father-daughter bond is such a special, indescribable thing. I’ve been trying to explain this to Dad, but don’t think I’ve been doing it justice.

Dad & I are not the only ones who are excited to meet you! Our family recently threw a baby “sprinkle” (mini-shower) in your honor and there was a lot of cuteness to be had…

We made bows! It’s hard not to go overboard with all the girly-ness after having two boys. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s a nice photo of you & I from the sprinkle as well:

And an awesome ultrasound photo of your sweet face! I went to the specialist at the hospital right around 35 weeks for one last check to be on the safe side (given my history of pre-eclampsia), and you looked perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling so perfect… and in a shocking development of events, I ended up right back in the hospital a few days later with the flu and pneumonia. Seriously, no one was more surprised by this than me. That Saturday morning I ran over to the Minute Clinic because I’d been feeling crappy all week and had come down with a fever the night before… I expected to get some antibiotics and be back home within the hour. I didn’t even put socks on! Just slipped on my shoes and ran out the door.

When the doctor at the Minute Clinic saw me, she confirmed that I had the flu and asked whether I was having trouble breathing. To this I responded “Well I’m 35 weeks pregnant, of course I’m having trouble breathing!” She laughed and told me I should go to the nearest ER and get my lungs looked at, just to be safe. While I was sitting there waiting for her to finish typing her notes/wrap up the paperwork, I started feeling light-headed and had to lay down for the last few minutes I was there. Before I went to the hospital I called the OB to see whether they wanted me to go straight to them at the main hospital or if I could just go to the local ER. I’m glad I did, because they suggested going straight to them since the outpatient ERs would likely send me there anyway. Off I went….

When I got there they were expecting me and took me right back. I went in for a chest x-ray, which revealed the pneumonia. I was admitted to the hospital shortly after that. Thankfully Grandma and Papa were able to come up and help take care of your brothers so that Dad could come be with me. They kept a close eye on you at the hospital, and at first your heart rate wasn’t quite what they were hoping to see. The OB came in and basically said “We’re going to do an ultrasound to see what’s going on, and if I don’t like what I see we’re going to do the c-section today.” This was on Sunday morning… and going from running out the door to the Minute Clinic without socks on the day before to possibly having my baby over a month early had me feeling a bit floored, to say the least. Thankfully the ultrasound looked good and your heart rate was doing much better by the second night. Dad and I watched the Super Bowl at the hospital, and I was discharged/ officially on the mend Monday morning. Phew!

Since then we’ve been laying low, trying to avoid germs and failing miserably. This time of year is the pits. Thankfully I have not gotten sick anymore since the hospital stay, and as it stands you & I appear to be as healthy and normal for this point as we possibly can be. ๐Ÿ™‚ I should know better than to worry about you… with brothers like these climbing all over you all the time, you’re already one tough cookie!

They are both very much aware of your presence (how could they not be with a belly this big?!?!) and Alex is SUPER excited to meet you face to face as well. I doubt Charlie will really “get it” until we bring you home. He has been extra clingy lately though, so I suspect he senses/understands more than I’m giving him credit for. Alex is also more interested in babies, with more of a nurturing soul, than Charlie is… nothing wrong with that, but I don’t expect Charlie to take much interest in you until you can play with him. On the other hand, he LOVES to “help,” and actually a key toย the successful big brother transition with Alex was involving him with all things baby from Day 1 (diapers, bottles, you name it). So I plan to do the same with Charlie and hope he gets a kick out of helping take care of you. Time will tell!

Speaking of time, it’s 10:30pm on the start of my & Dad’s last kid-free weekend before you’re born. The bed is calling my name! ๐Ÿ˜‰ This will most likely be my last letter to you before you’re born… see you on the outside, Miss Emma! :-* We really can’t wait to meet you and adore you SO MUCH already!

All my love,
Mom

Snips, Snails, and Potty Training Fails

Dear Charlie,

The “terrible two’s” are upon us! But who are we kidding really, I think that phase started a bit early with you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nevertheless, 2 years old is a big milestone and you’ve made lots of developmental leaps in the last couple months!

For one thing, you are talking SO much more, although it can be hard for people who don’t know you well to understand you. Here are just some of your more common words/phrases (and translations, where necessary):

  • Ball (and several variations for football, basketball, etc.)
  • Mum = Mom
  • Dat/Dah-dee = Dad/Daddy
  • Bubba (Alex)
  • Uh-nee = Annie
  • Up
  • Esssssssssss = Yes (we like to joke that you sound like you’re speaking parseltongue when you say this)
  • Uh uh = No (you only actually say/scream “NO!!!” when you’re really pissed off)
  • Mine (easily your most frequently used word right now. LOL)
  • Peez = Please
  • Want
  • Uh oh
  • Foo-t = Food
  • Poo = Spoon
  • Boon = Balloon
  • Buh-lalalala = Banana
  • Mo = More (which you also always sign as well)
  • Keys = Kiss
  • Go
  • Ah-eh-see = Medicine

I could go on, there are lots more…. that’s just off the top of my head. You are putting together 2-3 and sometimes even 4 word sentences, as well as singing/humming various tunes and making lots of different animal sounds (your favorites are dinosaur/lion/tiger = ROAR! and monkey = ah ah ee ee). You love trying to sing along to music and you also love watching/listening to me sing to you. After I finish a song you always sign/ask for more. Same goes for reading books– I was starting to wonder if you’d ever have the patience/interest in sitting down to read a whole book, but now you love it and ask us to read you books all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚

You of course still love to do anything your big brother is doing, which has led to a lot of development in your gross and fine motor skills. I’m particularly impressed with your ability to use “big boy” legos already (although you still like to put things in your mouth from time to time, so we only let you do that under close supervision).

But you’re also fearless and an amazing problem-solver, which has led to a lot of development I wasn’t expecting quite yet (like being able to climb the bunk beds, as I mentioned in my last letter)… and getting into LOTS ย of trouble. Just a few nights ago you managed to sneak into the downstairs bathroom, flood the sink and get water ALLLLL over the floor. Lord help me! You make up for it with lots of sweetness. You’re very affectionate, full of smiles and giggles, and are never one to turn down a high five from just about anybody. Thanks to molars coming in, you’ve been a little extra clingy lately. You’re also more into Daddy than Alex was at this age, but you adore everyone in the immediate family really… especially Annie.

I do wonder what you’ll think of your baby sister after she arrives. You don’t seem to get super jealous when other kids/babies are around, but you don’t seem particularly fond of babies either. You’re also not very gentle or sensitive like Alex. Right now I’m pretty sure you just think I’m hiding a ball under my shirt. Boy are you in for a surprise! LOL.

Speaking of babies, you’ve been starting to abandon some of the staples of “babyhood” — namely pacifiers, as you started biting/chewing on them so we had to cut you off cold turkey. It was not pretty, but is getting better. You can use utensils pretty well for your age and have even started using real/non-sippy cups at most meals. You’ve also started to show interest in using the potty and having an idea of when you need to go… but when we decided to try putting you in undies and actually potty training you, it was a spectacular fail. I think giving up the paci and diapers that close together was a bit too much. I don’t think we’ll worry about it anymore until well after Emma arrives, unless you specifically request otherwise.

But like I said before, this really has been a huge year of growth and development for you! I was especially blown away to see it in black & white (so to speak) when I put together your birthday slideshow:

I feel like the switch from baby to toddler has somehow been less gradual with you. It’s like a switch flipped and all of a sudden babyhood was over. Although I do miss your baby phase– you were the sweetest, cutest baby– and your toddlerhood has certainly been more challenging… there’s a lot about it I’m really enjoying. Watching you (and all my kids, really) discover new things is the best feeling. As is watching your relationship with your brother grow. You guys still fight over toys and such quite a bit, but are getting along more & more everyday and are starting to really enjoy playing WITH each other rather than just being in one another’s presence (if that makes sense). Most recently the space under Alex’s bed has been dubbed “The Batcave,” with him being Batman and you being Robin. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Super cute.

This last picture is from the moment Alex gave you the Christmas present he picked out for you– a Paw Patrol ball. It is the first time I’ve ever heard you clearly say “Thank you,” unprompted no less! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m starting to ramble, so I’d better wrap this up. All in all it’s been an amazing year, despite the ups & downs, and I feel so blessed to be your mom. I can’t wait to see what the coming year brings! We love you so much, little Charlie Bean. ๐Ÿ™‚ (And yes, I think your nickname will probably be Bean/Beanie for life. Sorry dear.)

All my love,
Mom

One Smart Cookie

Dear Alex,

Oh my goodness, you are FOUR! I’ve said this out loud a million times already, but I still can’t believe it. Gone are the days of babyhood and even toddlerhood– you are a smart, sweet, precocious little boy now.

As indicated by the title of this letter, you are incredibly intelligent and inquisitive. We’ve finally entered not just the “Why?” phase, but also the “How?” phase. For example, you have asked me a few times over the course of my pregnancy with Emma about how she was going to make her debut… but only recently did you question the logistics of it. A recent conversation we had went something like this:

You: Mom, how is Baby Emma coming out of your tummy?
Me: Well, the doctors are going to help me get her out.
You: But HOW are the doctors going to help you get her out?
Me: …
Me: Well, there are a few different ways it can be done. But for me, I’m going to go to the hospital and the doctors are going to cut her out of my tummy.
Alex: *GASP* But Mom! I don’t want you to be cut! That will hurt you!
Me: Don’t worry, the doctors are very careful and they will make sure to put me back together safely after Emma is out. You and Charlie came out of my tummy the same way, and the doctors at the hospital always take very good care of me.

You still looked unsure at that point, and I immediately regretted my philosophy of being as open & honest with you as possible about things like this. :-X I showed you my c-section scar as well as the video of my coming home from the hospital after Charlie was born so that you’d understand that I will heal and be just fine, which helped you feel more comfortable with the idea. You absolutely LOVE babies and are incredibly excited to meet your little sister in a couple months. This is a friend’s baby that came to visit us for a couple days recently– you were my excellent little helper while he was here.

Another moment where I thought “Oh shit, he’s getting so smart!” was when you got to see Santa this year. We had Santa visit our house during our annual playgroup Christmas party, played by Uncle Eddie. You had a great time telling Santa what you wanted for Christmas (“a ninja turtle robot”), opening up your early Santa gift, playing with your friends and eating cookies….

But that night, as we were getting ready for bed, this conversation happened:

Me: Did you have a good time with Santa today?
You: Yeah, but I think that was Uncle Eddie under there!
Me: *gulp* No, no way! That was Santa! Uncle Eddie had left to take a nap, remember?
You: Yeah, but why did Santa come down from the stairs?
Me: Well, he landed on the roof with the reindeer and climbed in through a window upstairs.
You: Oh, okay…. (still clearly unsure)

OY. I hope you will get to enjoy the magic of Santa/Christmas for at least another couple years, but it’s not looking good! And in other “smart cookie” news, you’ve also been ahead of your peers in the preschool 3’s class for some time now, and the teachers have been working on transitioning you to the pre-kindergarten/4’s class for the last couple months. You made the official full-time switch right after the holidays, and seem to be enjoying it so far.

All your teachers in both classes adore you, and never have anything but glowing remarks to make about you. I do think you’ve matured a lot over the past year, but especially in the last few months… and we could not be more proud of you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of all, I love your imagination and silly sense of humor. I love seeing the world through your eyes, and you keep me smiling and laughing all day long.

Although you’re still very much a mama’s boy, you & Dad have gotten a lot closer in the last 6 months or so. You are starting to also became Dad’s little shadow and wanting to do everything he does.

With me being pregnant and tired all the time, plus Charlie being such a clingy handful, I’ve honestly been thankful for this change. But I’m just as thankful for the occasional moments when you crawl into bed and snuggle with me in the wee hours of the morning. You are growing up so fast, and I know I won’t have those opportunities much longer.

I’m reminded of this all too well whenever the time comes to do your annual birthday slideshow. It never ceases to amaze me what an awesome person you are turning out to be, despite Dad & I bumbling our way through parenthood.

We really do feel so incredibly proud & lucky to be your parents, and can’t wait to see all the fantastic things you choose to do with your life as you grow…. although it’s a bittersweet feeling, to be sure. At least for now I still have the snuggles. But when you’re all grown up and reading this, don’t forget how much your dear old mom LOVES Alex hugs. Even when they are at 4am! ๐Ÿ˜‰

All my love,
Mom

TGIMLP (Thank Goodness It’s My Last Pregnancy)

Dear Emma,

You are just over 33 weeks along now– the size of a pineapple! And boy, are you making sure I know it. In my last letter I said that Iโ€™m rapidly approaching the point where Iโ€™m going to be uncomfortable and exhausted regardless…. yeah. We’re definitely there now. LOL. I keep telling Dad “I swear I don’t remember being this uncomfortable with with the other pregnancies,” to which he responds “Well you said that last time too.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m not sleeping well as it’s hard to be comfortable in any position, everywhere hurts, you move a lot and no area is safe from your jabs/kicks (which are getting MUCH stronger), and I am having a LOT more practice contractions than I remember having with either of your brothers. I suppose being pregnant while chasing around 2 toddlers has something to do with it!

That was taken right at 27 weeks, when 3rd trimester officially began. As I mentioned in your last letter, Alex is still incredibly excited to meet you. Charlie still doesn’t get it, but I’m getting so big now that he’s starting to sense something is going on. He keeps pointing to my stomach and saying “Ball!” (balls are his favorite toys, heaven forbid I might be hiding one under my shirt… hahaha). I’ve been correcting him, but I doubt he’ll understand until you’re here. Anywho, we had a lovely Christmas and everyone was spoiled rotten… including you!

Yes, your closet is already FULL OF CLOTHES and I think you’re pretty much set through size 12 months, at least. Having a girl is definitely bad for my (and Grandma + Nana’s) wallet, as there is just soooooo much cute girly stuff out there. You also have accumulated a few girly baby toys (plus of course we have lots of baby toys already to be passed down from your brothers), various other girly baby accessories (the bows! the shoes! the pink pacifiers & bottles!), and naturally we’re stocking up on diapers as well. I know better than to stock up on much formula since we won’t know what kind you tolerate best until you’re here drinking it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nana & Grump got your car seat for Christmas as well. So, at this point we’re as ready for you as we’ll ever be. But it’s still a bit early, so even though I’m incredibly uncomfortable, I hope you stay put for awhile longer! We have your c-section officially scheduled for the morning of March 9, so if all goes well that will be your birthday. Woohoo!

Speaking of being ready for you…. as promised, here are some pictures of your finished nursery:

SO. MUCH. PINK. I might be a little excited about having a girl, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know, I know… it’s 2017 and all, but pink is my favorite color so I just couldn’t resist. The room is kind of ballet-themed as you can see, and most of the quotes on the collage wall are dance-related.

Now it’s just a matter of trying to relax as much as possible these next 7 weeks. And trying not to fall, which unfortunately I did manage to do not long after my last letter. :-\ Tripped over an umbrella on the front porch and although I felt fine (landed on my side), the OB sent me to the hospital to be monitored as a precaution. All looked fine, but you were measuring a bit small so I followed up with the maternal fetal specialist a couple weeks later to confirm that you are growing properly. Which you are, of course:

I mean, how the heck could I be getting SO EFFING BIG if you were not growing like a weed in there? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and I’m glad we got to go to the specialist because they have much nicer ultrasound machines there. I got to see you in much more detail, and they basically did another full anatomy scan. It’s still hard to say who you look like, as those definitely look like my chipmunk cheeks! Because of my history of preeclampsia, the specialist wants me to come back for one more look in early February. I’m glad I’ll get to see you one more time before we meet face to face.

It’s hard to believe we’ll officially be a family of 5 in just a few weeks! Although I occasionally feel a little nervous about the logistics and finances of handling three young children, overall I’m just so incredibly excited. And VERY ready to be done with pregnancies for good. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Although of course I’m very thankful to have been blessed with three healthy pregnancies/babies. I say to Dad all the time– “How did we get so lucky?!” ๐Ÿ˜€ Well, I suppose that’s all for now… I may write once more before your birth, but you can see by now how that goes. Until next time, sweet Emma Jean!

All my love,
Mom

Bros Being Bros

To my darling boys,

This time around I decided to write a letter to you both, because honestly so much of this summer and fall has been about the two of ย you growing together as brothers. You guys are together almost 24/7 (aside from daycare), including the major development I mentioned in my last letter about starting to share a bedroom. Although my greatest joy is still watching the two of you together, it is also one of my greatest challenges as a parent these days. Don’t let the cute pictures deceive you… life with two toddlers can be TOUGH!

As I said, you two are together much of the time and do love each other bunches… but you’reย also both growing leaps and bounds as individuals.

Alex, you’re learning so much about the world around you, about logic, emotions and relationships. School has done so much for you socially, and you continue to come more and more out of your shell everyday! You’re incredibly smart, kind, cautious and thoughtful. Your teachers never have anything but wonderful things to say about you, and just about everyday at least one of your classmates runs up to you to give you a hug goodbye as you’re leaving. As I mentioned in your last letter, youย still love to read, build, and create things. You still love ninja turtles, but have expanded your horizons quite a bit as well (which is great, because the rest of us are getting kind of sick of TMNT around here…haha). Like your father, you’re incredibly creative and artistically talented. I could not be more proud of you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Charlie, far behind you are the days where I worried about developmental delays– you are ALL OVER THE PLACE now and into everything. And I really do mean EVERYTHING. You are strong, fearless, independent, and stubborn. You are developing excellent problem-solving skills already. You love anything that involves movement– sports, cars/trucks/trains (Thomas the Tank Engine is your favorite character at the moment), music, and animals. But you also love anything your big brother is up to…. much to his dismay. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Your language skills have come a long way in the last month or two, but you have not developed Alex’sย social skills (yet– totally normal for a not-quite 2 year old), and so he gets frustrated with you often. The good times still far outweigh the bad though, and overall I think you twoย get along pretty well considering your ages and how very different your personalities are. You are definitely aย more challenging toddler, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that Stoddard personality all too well, and I think it will serve you well later in life…. if I can teach you to channel it properly! Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

Charlie, you also recently mastered climbing, and haveย enjoyed climbing into Alex’s bed every chance you get. That’s led to a whole lot of trial & error in regards to your sleeping arrangements, as we had to de-bunk the beds for fear that you might somehow fall from up there. Alex, you’ve been as wonderful through all of these changes as you possibly could be, which included many nights of Charlie snuggling up next to you, hogging your bed space & waking you up earlier than you’d like. Things are starting to settle down and everyone is sleeping well again, thank goodness! I’m really glad we decided to work on this transition well before your baby sister arrives. I’d rather be working these kinks out now, rather than when we have a newborn to deal with on top of everything else…. as you can see, there’s never a dull moment around here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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But as I said before, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I spoke about how you two have grown as individuals and as brothers…. but I can also say that we have grown as a family. Dad & I have grown, as individuals & as a couple, so much in these last 6 months as well. Being parents to two toddlers, and then making the decision to bring another beautiful life into the world, has not only brought us more joy and fulfillment than I could ever truly describe in a letter… but it has made us better people. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it. We love you boys so much, and can’t wait to see what the future brings. ๐Ÿ™‚

All my love,
Mom

Kung Fu Baby, Episode III: Emma Strikes Back

Dear Emma,

23 weeks! When I last wrote you we were just coming out of first trimester, and here we are on the brink of wrapping up the second. You’re as big as an eggplant now! So much has happened in the last 10 weeks, but at the same time it’s been relatively smooth as far as pregnancies go. I still get waves of nausea from time to time, but they are thankfully few and far between (mostly if I let myself get too hungry). The “venous lake” which was of concern when I last wrote was fully resolved within a couple of months, and your 20 week anatomy scan went without incident…. except it took 3 separate visits for the tech to get pictures of all your body parts because you were so stubborn! So we were actually given the all-clear earlier this week. Here are a couple of my favorite ultrasound shots:

The classic “skeletor” shot!

This side-profile shot was the one holdout that it took us three tries to get! Thankfully we were eventually able to confirm that you do, indeed, have a nose. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If I had to guess based on ultrasounds so far, I think you’re going to look more like Alex (and therefore Dad). Time will tell, of course!

The only other thing worth noting is that is took me a bit longer to start feeling your movements, because I have an “anterior placenta” (my placenta is in front instead of the back of my uterus). This past week or so, though, you’ve been off to the races! I feel you move throughout the day now. At this last ultrasound a couple days ago, you even kicked the wand in protest. You are one feisty and stubborn gal! I guess the apple truly does not fall far from the tree.

I’m still tired all the time, but luckily I’m close to the point where I’ll be working from home the rest of the pregnancy…. which is a HUGE help. What hasn’t helped lately is all the illness we’ve been passing back & forth around our house. Being sick while pregnant (and unable to take many meds) is the pits. With two germ-factory toddlers in the house, I think I’m in for a long cold/flu season. But that’s okay. Thank goodness for grandparents! I’m rapidly approaching that point where I’m going to be uncomfortable and exhausted regardless, as you’re growing like a weed in there now…

Alas, I’m not as on the ball with taking bump pictures this go-round (and just not on the ball in general, as you’ve probably guessed due to my infrequent letters). But be assured that we are thinking of you and planning for arrival every day! ๐Ÿ™‚ Your nursery has actually been done for quite awhile now, but I haven’t taken any nice pictures of it yet because I’m still slowly working on getting all your clothes put away (between myself and the grandmothers, I’ve accumulated quite a bit already– you’ll be one well-dressed little lady!). I’ll try to take some good pictures in time for your next letter. Here’s a preview though– it’s dance-themed with LOTS of pink. ๐Ÿ™‚

As you can see, Alex is my little helper and is already a fantastic big brother for you– he helped me pick out things for your nursery, and is always asking me to buy you various clothes, toys, etc. at the store. He talks to you in my tummy and gives you plenty of hugs + kisses. Apparently at school, Alex’s teachers and classmates know all about his baby sister but none of them have any idea that he has a younger brother also (until I happen to mention it!). Charlie is still pretty clueless, as evidenced below…ย I do think heย is starting to at least understand what babies ARE, which is a start! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll be very interested to see Charlie’sย reaction to you when the time comes.

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I suppose that is pretty much it for now…. we are incredibly thankful that things have been more or less uneventful and that we feel as “ready” for you as we’ll ever be. That’s the benefit of being the third baby, I suppose! Dad & I are old hats at this now… and when I say that I don’t mean that we’re experts in anything, but that we know well enough to not worry about things so much and just have faith in the process. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Being a parent is all about keeping your mind open and your heart full, the latter of which is pretty easy to do with ourย three little blessings! โค Until next time, sweet Emma Jean. We love you so very much already!

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All my love,
Mom

 

A whole new ballgame

Dear Baby Pacheco,

You’re coming up on 13 weeks along now, and we’re almost out of the first trimester! Before I go any further, I’m happy to report that the second ultrasound to follow-up on your heartbeat went really well. You were a perfectly normal little blob and we could see the little flickering of your heart just fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

That time I had Dad & Alex go with me, and they were both so excited to get their first glimpse of you! Alex especially, although at first he thought there were three babies because they gave us three pictures to take home. LOL. He also asked where your eyes were. I explained that right now you are still a seed growing in my tummy, and won’t be a full grown baby with all your body parts until you’re ready to be born. He seemed okay with that answer (for now!).

By the time the date of that second ultrasound came around, honestly I wasn’t too worried about the pregnancy because…. I was SO. VERY. SICK. They call it morning sickness, but for me it was all-day-long sickness. I started to come down with that right after the first ultrasound appointment, around 6-7 weeks along, and thankfully the worst of it lasted just over a month. It took me quite by surprise, as I experienced little to no morning sickness with my first two pregnancies. But this time, there wasn’t much I wanted to eat (or could hold down), and many other sensations like most smells, heat, too much motion, eating too much or not enough, etc. caused me to get sick as well. One night right after this started, Dad was kind of enough to make chicken teriyaki for dinner while I was staying late at work… only to have me start yelling “GET THAT SHIT OUT OF THE HOUSE!” while running to the bathroom moments after walking in the front door. :-X Sorry, Dad! Anyway, the only thing that really helped me was sucking on peppermints and taking vitamin B6 (who knew?). Although the situation is much better now, actually I still get waves of nausea from time to time, but only if I let myself get too hungry.

The only other major symptom I’ve been dealing with is extreme fatigue…. straight up exhaustion really, almost constantly. Pregnancy + mothering two young toddlers would do this to anyone, I think. I sleep as much as I can and try to function as best I can, but have admittedly been a very lazy parent this summer. Not many homecooked meals, not many fun family outings, and too much TV for sure. But I’m sure your brothers will forgive me someday!

At my 10 weeks checkup, they took my blood for the DNA test where they look for issues/anomalies in your DNA that might be cause for concern. They did not find any, but they did find out whether you are a boy or girl….

OH. MY. GOD. Not gonna lie, the main reason we decided to have one more was in the hopes of having a girl. We (mostly I) thought that I would regret not trying one more time and would always wonder what my daughter would be like if I did not. And I did do many of the old wives’ tales that you hear about with regards to conceiving a girl– timing, calcium intake, etc. etc. And with the huge difference in my pregnancy symptoms, I thought there was a good chance that I had a little girl growing in there…. but doubt continued to flicker in the back of my mind, and when I got those test results I honestly was expecting to read “boy.”

But man, I’ve never been so happy to be wrong! Not because I wouldn’t have loved another boy (we did have a name and nursery theme already picked out for either scenario, along with fantasies about dominating 1/3 of a baseball team, LOL)… but now I will not have to wonder what having a daughter would be like. We have YOU, Little Miss Emma! ๐Ÿ™‚

As you can see above, we just had another ultrasound today to check nuchal translucency (an indicator of Down’s syndrome)– although the NT piece of it looked normal, the tech noticed what is called a “venous lake,” which on the ultrasound just looks like a dark spot on the placenta. The midwife told us later that it could just be old blood, or maybe a cyst, and that it should resolve on its own. In the meantime, I keep going back for ultrasounds every two weeks until it resolves. She assured me that it’s not a cause for concern at all, just something to keep an eye on. For now, I’m not too worried. I have a lot of trust and faith in God, as well as our doctors.

So I decided it would be fun to tell the boys your big news in a fun way (well really just Alex, as Charlie understands none of this yet), so we did one of those balloon gender reveals for them. Alex is so excited and says he loves you already! He talks to you in my tummy all the time. I know he’s going to be an awesome big brother, and I think Charlie will too once he figures out what is going on.

In the meantime, we’ll keep watching our little baby girl seed grow… preparing and anxiously awaiting your arrival! You are so loved already. It feels like the final piece of our family is finally settling into place. ๐Ÿ™‚

All my love,
Mom

Third time’s the charm

Dear Baby Pacheco,

It feels so crazy to be typing that again! There have been so many ups & down these last few years with Alex & Charlie that honestly we were not sure whether or not we would want to have a third baby when the time came. One thing we have always known for sure was that we wanted all of our kids to be relatively close in age if possible, so this spring the time came… and went. I was struggling with depression and had been for almost a year, so at that time I just did not think I could handle another baby. After getting help with that and bringing balance back to my life, Dad and I had a long heart-to-heart about it on the long drive to/from the family reunion in West Virginia over Memorial Day weekend. Lots of discussion and reflection led us to conclude that we really did want one more baby, and given our desire to have kids close in age (and our desire to not have to “start over” with the baby phase long after Alex & Charlie have grown into big kids)… the time was right. I went off the pill a few days later and opted not to track or anything during the first cycle, in order to give my body time to settle back into its normal rhythm. But God had other plans and we got this right around Fourth of July:

We could not believe how quickly it happened! Well Dad could, he has said many times that he has a lot of faith in our baby-making abilities. LOL. Anyway, at that point I was hardly more than 4 weeks along, so there wasn’t much else to do but wait and see how things went. Last Friday (which also happened to be Dad’s birthday!), we went to my first midwife appointment. All was well there, and we scheduled the ultrasound for today. Right around that time (6 weeks or so) morning sickness reared its ugly head, which is a new thing for me as I didn’t deal with that much in my first two pregnancies. I notice it mostly during big meals or when I’m out in the heat. Not throwing up at least, just being hit with intense waves of nausea from time to time.

Dad had to work today, so I went to the ultrasound by myself. It was hard to sleep these last couple of nights, constantly worrying “What if there’s no heartbeat? What if the due date is drastically different from what I thought? What if it’s twins?” Unfortunately, one of those fears turned out to be true:

You are measuring at 6 weeks 4 days, which is right on target based on when I think I ovulated (the pic says 6w6d because that’s based on the last period date)…. but there was no heartbeat. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The ultrasound tech said she thought she saw a flicker but not enough to pick up on the monitor. When she turned the screen to show me, I saw absolutely nothing. With both boys we saw clear “flickers” of the heartbeat at 6w0d. Not to mention this ultrasound picture doesn’t even look like anything discernable, which is very different from how the boys’ first ultrasounds looked. I’m trying not to freak out, and failing miserably. :’-( I go back for another ultrasound next week.

In the meantime, I’m so thankful for all my mama friends out there who I’ve been able to lean on and receive reassurances from. They have told me, and I have read online, that it’s quite common for there not to be a discernible heartbeat this early. I have also heard that some doctors wait to do the first ultrasound until at least 8 weeks for just this reason. So we wait, and go back again next Tuesday for another ultrasound to give you more time to grow. Until then, I will try to relax and constantly repeat to myself the newly pregnant + worried mama mantra: “Right now I am pregnant, and I love my baby.”

All my love,
Mom

Uh-oh!

Dear Charlie,

You’re 18 months old now, which is the time I noticed leaps and bounds of development in Alex… and so far you’re proving to be no different! You’re all caught up on gross + fine motor skills, perhaps even ahead of where I’d expect you to be, and you’re quickly catching up with talking as well. We still have monthly therapy sessions, but switched to someone who specializes in just speech therapy since that’s the only area you really need help with anymore. You walk and run (let’s be real– you practically skipped walking and went straight to running. LOL), climb stairs and even some ladders like a big boy, and are starting to try to jump!

You can throw a ball overhand as well as underhand with a surprising amount of accuracy, and are starting to work on catching a bit as well. Dad & I call you our little athlete because you have SO much energy, are constantly on the move, and have a passion for all things involving balls. In fact, although your vocabulary is still relatively small you know how to say “football,” “basketball” and of course “baseball.” Your first sentence was “Get my ball!” because you love throwing it places that you can’t reach (like in the fireplace, under a dresser, in the back seat of the car… etc etc etc). You know all our names as well as “more,” “all done,” and your favorite word of all– “Uh-oh!” ๐Ÿ™‚

Naturally you understand a lot more than you are able to say at this point, so I’m able to give you basic instructions and know that you get what I’m saying (even if you choose not to follow said instructions, LOL). You are definitely very stubborn and strong-willed, and do not take no for an answer. It seems that you are drawn to all things messy, dangerous or generally inconvenient, so you end up getting into a LOT of mischief. You’re also quite dramatic and throw VERY dramatic tantrums, which including throwing yourself down on the floor head first, even if it’s concrete. :-/

All this combined with the fact that this is just a difficult age in general for discipline, makes life very challenging for us right now. I’m hoping (praying!) it gets better with time as you get better at communicating and expressing yourself. I know all this sounds pretty negative…. and indeed I’d be lying if I said life with you is easy these days. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’ve been a parent long enough to know that all phases with kids come and go, which includes the less-than-stellar phases like this one. So when things get tough, I repeat my favorite mommy mantra: “This too shall pass!”

You are also pretty darn adorable much of the time as well. Despite all your hijinks, it’s hard to stay mad at you for very long because your smile and giggle melt all of our hearts. You have Dad and I wrapped around your finger, which is probably the biggest contributing factor to the mischief. You are so sweet and loving most of the time– you are very generous with hugs and sloppy kisses. ๐Ÿ™‚ And as Dad likes to say, you’re a sucker for a high-five!

In addition to balls, your favorite things are cars, animals (especially our dog Annie, who thankfully tolerates your increasingly annoying advances), music, and phones/remotes. You like playing pretend and dress-up with Alex, especially wearing hats or glasses, and participating as best you can in Alex’s frequent “ninja fights.” You just adore Alex in general, and want to be doing everything he’s doing (although the feeling is not always mutual ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

And I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention– FOOD! Alex is a big eater, but you can put away a surprising amount of food as well. Many of the words you have are food related words, such as apple, banana and berry. You ask for more food almost constantly! Lucky for you quite a few new teeth have come in recently, including some molars, which has expanded your culinary horizons quite a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚

As far as your health goes things have gotten much better as we moved out of cold/flu season, but we have still had many problems with your ears/tubes. The tubes actually got clogged and your ENT said that we might have to replace them, but thankfully we were able to avoid that but flushing them with a water/vinegar mixture for a couple weeks. This was easier said than done because the flushing was very uncomfortable for you. Holding down a thrashing/screaming toddler while you flush their ears for a few minutes 2-3 times a day is physically and emotionally exhausting. I still have quite a few bruises and scratches from the ordeal…. but I’m so glad it worked because undergoing another surgery would have been much worse.

Recently we moved you out of the crib and into a big boy bed, where you share a room with your big brother! You’re loving it and overall doing a lot better than I thought you would , although the transition/training process took a lot more trial and error than it did with Alex… and we really had to step up our toddler-proofing game in your/Alex’s room. Oy!

All in all it’s been a very crazy, busy, eventful few months. That said, it’s also been so amazing to see all the rapid growth and development you’re undergoing. It seems like just yesterday we brought you home from the hospital, our sweet little baby, and now you’re very much a little boy.


(Your first movie– The Secret Life of Pets!)

If anyone ever embodied the boy stereotype of “snakes, snails and puppy dog tails,” it’s you! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think you and Alex balance each other out well, and will be able to learn a lot from one another in the years to come. And there’s never, ever a dull moment in the Pacheco house these days! ๐Ÿ˜‰

All my love,
Mom