Monday, October 26, 2009

Pieter Arrives

Anyone uninterested in reading about my labor and delivery details of Pieter's birth, please skip to the end of the post to find pictures. I realize I can provide TMI for some people.

So life has been progressing along with our newest addition, Pieter Johannes. The boys have been dealing with him pretty well, and we're all adjusting to becoming a family of five. My mom arrived a few days after his birth and has been a big help in helping us settle in. For those interested, Pieter's birth details are below.

After celebrating Gerrit's birthday, I started noticing I was having some minor contractions that night. Nothing to be too alarmed about as they were only coming every 45 minutes... but as the evening progressed, they seemed to be progressing some in intensity.

Around 4 am I awoke and was a bit uncomfortable. (I was still not really thinking this was going to be Pieter's birthday. I assumed I had just overdone it the day before with all the running around I'd done.) I moved downstairs to the couch to be more comfortable. It became a bit more clear to me that things were going to progress when two hours I was leaking some amniotic fluid (not a gusher, as with Gerrit, but definitely noticeable). My contractions immediately ramped up to 20 minutes apart and became a bit more intense. At this point, I went upstairs and woke Gerard and the boys, told them today was the day, and began packing a bag for them and a hospital bag for me.

As a side note, I had been telling Gerrit for months that one of his birthday gifts was going to be a new baby brother, so I think it's quite fitting that his new baby arrived right after his fourth birthday. Needless to say, Gerrit was quite excited about the announcement, though honestly, I'm not sure he really understood what that REALLY meant. Willem had no clue what was going on, but was just excited by all the morning's activity.

Gerrit, still playing with his birthday gift from the previous day (a digital camera), was snapping pictures of me all morning. This was something I began to have a bit less tolerance of as time went on and my contractions became even stronger and closer together. Still, I tried to keep a happy face and take it all in stride.

We dropped off the boys with a friend of ours around 8:45 a.m. and headed to the hospital. (I really wanted to try to have this baby without pain medication. I was unable to make it through my previous two labors of 20 and 24 hours without any medication, and I hoped that this one would progress a bit faster. The long labors have been a killer for me and I caved after about 16 hours.) While driving to the clinic, I was seriously doubting my ability to have a natural childbirth. I was already in quite a bit of pain but kept imagining the midwives telling me that I was only a few centimeters along. If that was the case, there'd be no way I could last.

We arrived at the hospital around 9am. At this point, I'm telling Gerard that if I'm not further along in dilation soon, there is no way I'm going to make it without drugs. My contractions were 4 minutes apart, HARD, I was having a really hard time breathing, and I literally felt my cervix moving and stretching with each contraction. Still, not to be disappointed I was prepared for the worst when the nurse checked me. Thank GAWD she said I was nearly 5 cm at that point. Woo Hoo! If I continued at this pace, perhaps there was hope for me. The midwife was great. She told me that she would check me in one to two hours and that if I wasn't much further, we would negotiate drugs. However, she also encouraged me that I was progressing at a good pace and that she thought I might be nearly ready in a few hours. All great news to me. I was in! Gerard was good, too. I asked him to help slow me down with breathing because I could feel myself getting quite dizzy and beginning to hyperventilate.

At nearly two hour marked, the midwife checked me again- 9cm, awesome but so incredibly painful. I felt ready to push, and after two more contractions she told me to go ahead and do so. Okay, so everyone who has had a baby without drugs tells me the pushing is a relief. While that may be true, I still felt this whole experience frenetic and painful. I think it's only slightly less painful if you push and just don't stop at all until the baby is out. I had a terrible time controlling my breathing during this process and I literally just pushed nearly the entire time, with short breaths in between. When he was born, I took a huge breath like I had literally just come up for air after being trapped underwater. Thank god he was out. In the past, I've been able to watch myself deliver with a mirror and then touch the baby and the head, etc. This time, the midwife asked me if I wanted to touch the baby's head. NO WAY!!! Just get him out - the quicker the better. Apparently, Gerard said I was clamped onto his arm while I was pushing. I don't think I pushed more than 8 minutes at most before he was out. Thank goodness!! Out popped Pieter at 11:11 am.

Pieter was born on Thursday morning and I was ready to leave a few hours later but Gerard always likes me to stay at least one day. I tried to get out of the hospital Friday at 9am but was only released after 7pm. I guess they are not used to people wanting to leave the hospital so quickly. In Germany, you are allowed to stay 5-10 days post delivery and most women do, so they always seem shocked when someone actually wants to go home early. I just find hospitals uncomfortable. I'd rather recover in my own house in my own bed. Incidentally, I felt surprisingly better after delivery than I expected. My midwife thinks this is from a lack of drugs, and I think it's probably more likely the shorter labor. My midwife tells me statistically the third one comes the fastest and that after that, stats show the labors are longer again. So any of you ladies thinking a third is in order but concerned about a longer labor, I say go for it. I was thrilled to bits that this labor was so short.

So... a few pics and stats.

Pieter Johannes van Belle -Born October 8, 2009 (one day after his oldest brother's birthday). Weighing in at 3,780 grams (approx 8 1/2 pounds), length 55 cm (22 inches). We're all home and doing well, and big brothers are adjusting to the baby. On the way home, Gerrit and Willem informed me that Pieter cried too much and both of them covered their ears.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gerrit's Turns Four!

So this happened several weeks ago now, but I have fallen behind on blog posts yet again. I think facebook has ruined my blog, by the way. It had sort of gotten to the point where more people were interested in looking at my blog pictures and video than were actually interested in reading my posts, so as I started posting more images on facebook, I started posting less and less on the blog. Hence, it's demise. Alright, people, to inspire me to keep this thing up, let me know you still look at it from time to time- and not SOLEY for the pics.

We had a lot exciting things happen these last two months. In September I began in intesnsive German course. It met nightly for three hours (Monday-Thursday). As it was in Munich, during rush hour, we decided it made more sense for me to take the train into the city, rather than drive. This, however, meant that I needed to leave at least one hour before my class. With the commute time there and back, my three hour class had now turned into at leat a five hour adventure each day. Bleh! Even with my enthusiasm, the class began taking its toll on me by the first week in. To motivate myself, I kept repeating that taking this class made sense because Gerard was in town and could watch the boys at night. Plus, the baby would arrive soon and taking an intensive class like this would then be much more difficult. I started this class one month from my due date and was already waddling all over town. I found walking that much each day was proving more difficult than I had originally anticipated, so I decided to ride my bike to and from the train station. This seemed like a great plan... until my bike was stolen. Rats! Back to walking. Fortunately, I survived, though immediately ending the class I ended up with some sort of stomach virus for a few days. I can't say the course improved my German much, but at least it was something, right? I continue to struggle with this ridiculous language on a daily basis. I honestly doubt I'll improve much more before we leave here, but I continue to try anyhow.

The next bit of exciting news...

My big boy turned four. Yes, Gerrit celebrated another birthday here in Germany. When we arrived he was just shy of two and now he is four. I know he's still young, but I can remember his birth so clearly. I feel like he was just born. I can clearly remember my teacher friends telling me that I looked "lower" than normal and asking me how I felt. "Fine, fine," I would say. "I haven't had any contractions but my mucous plug came out and I think it's still a few days away." (Yes, I know that's gross and probably TMI for most people, but if you know me, you are not surprised that I would discuss such things openly.) In fact, my water broke (and we're talking a gusher) about five minutes after that conversation. I remember still being in denial that the time had come (I was still two weeks from my due date and felt not at all prepared for a new baby). I think I was still in denial through the entire labor, birth, and first few hours thereafter. This being the U.S., they whisked Gerrit away from me within the first twenty minutes after delivery to do a bunch of tests. I didn't get him back for hours.

But when I did... and I unwrapped my swaddled newborn son.... I fell in love. My denial melted away into adoration.

This year, Gerrit received a special gift for his birthday- his very own kid-size digital camera. For some time now, Gerrit has been fascinated with our camera and has taken some decent pictures now and then. So we decided it was a good time to introduce him to a camera. The problem with these kid-cameras, is that picture quality is sacrificed for camera durability. This camera can be dropped on the ground, survive in water, and can withstand most things little hands can throw its way- but the pictures come out rather dark and sketchy. Still, Gerrit enjoys the camera and that's what matters. As a side note, I've also noticed that since Gerrit now has his "own" camera, he has taken much more liberty in snapping pictures of any old random thing. So practice makes perfect, little man. Keep it up.

Gerrit, trying out his new birthday gift

Here you can enjoy some of Gerrit's photos- life from his perspective.

A view of the cat's litterbox
Ready to mop the floor
Little Brother, Willem
Waiting for grandma to arrive at Munich airport
Grandma's HereGrandma and new brother, Pieter

It's hard to believe it has already been four years. Gerrit is becoming such a little man. He attends a German kindergarten, and is picking up a bit of the German language. His ability to understand is still much stronger than his ability to speak it, but it is coming along. I love to listen to his stories- he is developing such an active imagination these days. Over the last two years, he has developed an extensive vocabulary and an outgoing personality. He is empathetic, affectionate, and looks out for his two younger brothers. Gerrit and Willem do have their spats (as most siblings do), but I so enjoy seeing them play together and care for each other. I can't wait to see how Gerrit continues to mature over the years.

A look back at my first baby...

A Few Hours Old (October 7, 2005)

One Year old...

Two Years Old...

Three Years Old...

Four Years Old...

Happy Birthday, Gerrit!