Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Far We've Come

Back on Oct. 6, 2008, I wrote a post about "dysgraphia", which is something that Nathan struggled with when he was younger.  He had such a hard time getting onto paper any thoughts he had in his head.  In fact, one reason I did not end up putting him in the co-op that is associated with our elementary co-op is because I was really afraid he wouldn't be able to do well there.  I knew I wouldn't put him in the 7th grade composition class, for sure.  That year, instead, we ended up doing Classical Conversations, which led to Christine and me getting the idea to start Rivendell, and the rest is history.

But Nathan did struggle for awhile, and I really was worried about how he would do in high school and college.  But the Lord is good.  Nathan has excelled in high school classes, even AP ones, where he had to write essays for the big test!  And we just got back Nathan's scores from the last SAT he will ever have to take, and he got an 800 on the critical reading part--and a 700 on the writing section!   Back in 2008, I would never have dreamed that even possible!  I'm so proud of him!  I was just thinking back, and I thought I should update here, in case it might encourage others who are struggling with things with their younger kids.  Sometimes time really does help work out problems.  I am so thankful we were able to homeschool, because I am sure that being able to do things our own way, instead of being tied to how one teacher wanted or expected things to be done, was really helpful.  We could do a lot orally, for example.  Most of all, I am thankful that the Lord is faithful, and we are excited to see what plans he has for Nathan, and where he leads him next year.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons to Learn

Well, things are finally looking up in the nursing department.  Verity is still a slow eater, but she's gotten tons better at nursing, and from our scale at home it looks like she is all the way up to 9 pounds.  Yay!  I would say she is about 2 weeks behind where my other babies have been at this point, so she's taking as long as a 2 week old instead of a 4 week old.  But things are getting better!  She is a good sleeper, especially at night.  I've been feeding her around 11:00 (so putting her down about midnight because she takes so long!), and then she hasn't been waking up until 7:00 or even 7:30.  So I personally am feeling much better and less foggy-brained, giving me hope that I will be able to get back into teaching and everything else!

But it has overall been a more difficult post-partum month.  A lot of that was because of my expectations.  I fully expected to recover quickly and get right back into our routine, and really, I *did* recover quickly!  I didn't have an infection like I had with Drew or anything like that.  But I completely failed to even consider the possibility that my baby would not cooperate with this plan, so it was hard for me to let go of my expectations, especially as far as school went for the younger kids, and just relax.  I started reading Unglued by Lisa TerKeurst, and the book has been helpful for me right now.  I love her sort of "theme" in the opening chapter--"I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control."  Because I know that God is in fact in control, and I can trust his plan.

God has given me several little reminders of his sovereignty over the past few weeks.  One is regarding our Rivendell schedule.  When I wrote up the syllabi for anatomy and for life science, I planned on starting teaching again on Oct. 28, figuring that would be plenty of time.  I did not plan on teaching on Dec. 9, because the elementary co-op was supposed to be performing a play that day, and I wanted to see it, as well as have the older boys go and support their younger siblings.  But at our kick-off meeting in September, we got the surprising news that the lady who was going to be in charge of the play had decided to drop out (we miss you, Michelle!), so now Dec. 9 was just going to be a regular day of co-op.  Now I didn't need that extra day--but I really could use another day on this end.  So I am going to take one more week of break, going back to teaching on Nov. 4 instead.  What a blessing!  I really want to take some time to just enjoy this last newborn stage.  I think it will be easier to do that, now that nursing isn't quite the battle every time!  I always tell new moms that even thought it *seems* like this phase takes forever, it really is over so very quickly.  So now I need to follow my own advice!

Another little sign was that I found my exact same nursing pump (well, quite a bit newer and less used, LOL) on craigslist for $10!  From a person who lived about 5 minutes away!  (Remember, my pump had no tubing or anything--all parts are dishwasher safe, so it's really not yucky or weird.  Plus, all I really needed was the motor.  I can just use my own bottle and the part that goes on the nipple!)  So that was a real blessing as well.  Hopefully this one will be able to make it for a year or so.

The people from our church have been such a blessing too.  When Jacob emailed me after Verity was born to set up the takethemameal schedule, I almost told him to just not worry about it.  We were fine!  And I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to cook up a ton of food to feed our crowd.  But I didn't say that, and it has been so wonderful to have meals from friends these past 4 weeks.  SO much good food!  Enough for leftovers!  And how lovely to not have to worry about cooking.  That probably would have sent me over the edge, LOL.

Also, one of my friends from church, Holly, gave me a bag of adorable newborn girl clothes right before Verity's birth, passing them down from her daughter.  I was so thankful, because I really didn't have very many newborn outfits at all, but I did think, "Well, it's so sad that these will hardly get any use at all, since my babies are all so big . . ."  Ha!  Verity will be 4 weeks old tomorrow, and we are still wearing the newborn clothes from Holly!  Maybe next week we'll be into 0-3 month clothes.  So what a blessing that bag of clothes has been!

It will be interesting to see what lessons are in store for the next few weeks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some Good News!

Verity had another weight check this morning, and she was up to 8 pounds, 6 ounces--a gain of 5 ounces since Friday!  Yay!  And while we were there (it wasn't an actual appointment, but just a weight check with the lactation consultant), I nursed her on one side only, and she weighed 2 ounces more afterward, so she is definitely transferring more efficiently.  The lactation consultant was very happy with it all, so I think that will get them off our backs for awhile.  I'll keep weighing her on our scale here at home, though, just to make sure.  I do think Verity is going to be skinny though, like Grace.  Grace weighed herself today, and she is all of 46 pounds at almost 7 1/2 years of age, putting her at the 5th percentile for weight.  Verity is just not going to be a chunky monkey, gaining weight rapidly, no matter how much she eats!  She'll be happy with that metabolism when she gets older though, LOL.
I was glad to have some good news because my morning did not start off on a good note.  My faithful Medela Mini Electric breast pump died a sad death!  It still makes noise, but it no longer actually provides any suction.  I loved that pump!  I said on facebook that it was almost 13 years old but as I think about it, it's actually just 11 years old.  I used Amy's pump after Caleb was born, and I liked it so much that I bought the exact same kind for myself when she and I were both pregnant at the same time in 2003!  I really don't want to spend $150 to replace it for the 10th baby, but for anyone looking to buy a breast pump just for casual pumping (not because you are returning to work and will need to pump all the time or anything), then I highly recommend this little pump.  It has worked so well for so many years, and it is really easy to clean (dishwasher-safe, no nasty tubing or anything) as well as being really portable.  So there is my recommendation, for what it's worth!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still Small

I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear how Verity's eating has gone this past week.  By last Sunday night she was really fighting the nipple shield, so I stopped using that, and she was fine.  By Monday night, I noticed that she was knocking the supplemental feeding tube out of her mouth with her tongue, so that the extra milk was dripping slowly down her neck, instead of to her tummy.  But she was sucking so well that I decided we could try nursing without anything.  So that was Tuesday and Wednesday.  Verity nursed well, slept well, was happy, and even pooped more.  Yay!  I weighed her on our bathroom scale Wednesday night and Thursday by weighing myself with her and without her--and discovered that she was about 8.2 pounds with her clothes and diaper on.  Hmmm.  That really wasn't much of a gain, considering she was 7# 15 ounces stark naked last Friday.  Christine re-suggested syringe feeding after nursing, so I started doing that again Friday morning.

She had her 2 week well-baby appointment Friday afternoon, and sure enough, she was 8 pounds, 1/2 ounce.  That was after I gave her a bottle of 2 ounces of pumped milk in the car when we got there (and of course she promptly had a huge poopy diaper, of all the times to poop, grrr).  The doctor wasn't too terribly concerned, since she looks and seems so healthy, but I have to go back in Wednesday for another weight check at the lactation clinic.  I've continued with the syringe after nursing, but she will only take about 1/2 ounce.  She really isn't hungry anymore after she finishes nursing, and it seems like she is getting good feeds from me.  I can tell her latch is good and her suck is strong, and she is swallowing the way it is supposed to be.  I easily pump about 5 ounces in 15 or 20 minutes, so I know I have enough milk.  Weird.  So it's still taking forever to feed her.  I need to weigh her again tonight to see if there's been any improvement since yesterday.

I also had my follow-up appointment yesterday afternoon.  Bethesda is trying a new thing--instead of a 6 week post-partum check, they are doing one at 2 weeks, in conjunction with the 2 week well-baby appointment.  So Verity got examined first, then a tech took her to do her 2 week metabolic screening, and I went across the hall where an OB doctor was.  Since I didn't tear or anything, there was really nothing to examine or even talk about, but I think it is a really good idea to combine appointments like that!  As the doctor said, they found that most women, if they were going to have questions or problems, had them in the first 2 weeks, and by 6 weeks were pretty much over all that.  And I am all about not having to make extra trips to Bethesda!  (Although apparently Verity didn't get that memo, LOL)

In the meantime, everyone else is keeping busy!  Bob's sister Ann drove up from Richmond yesterday afternoon, braving the crazy Friday afternoon Beltway traffic.  Bob, Ann, and the 3 girls drove up to PA today to celebrate their mom's 88th birthday.  Ann made lots of good Polish food, plus a cake--sounds like a party!

Nathan was also off early this morning, on his way to take the SAT for the last time.  Unfortunately, there was no Polish food, no cake, and definitely no festive party atmosphere there at the high school.  But now it's done!  Yay!

My dad took Luke and Caleb McC to their cross-country meet, also this morning.  It was cold and rainy, and everyone got very muddy.  Thankfully, Christine was able to go watch the race and bring the boys home.  I wish we could all have watched the race, but it was not a good day for babies to be out!  So instead I spent the morning nursing and syringe-feeding, which is actually how I have been spending most of my time, LOL.  Maybe next weekend!

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Verity has had a lot of attention lately; let's talk about Nathan now!
A week before Verity was born, Bianca, a friend of the McC's, took some pictures of Nathan at a local park!  This was one of those last-minute brilliant ideas I had, ever since I saw some of her pictures on Christine's newsfeed.  Nathan was not very excited about the prospect, but he dutifully went as a gift to his poor, pregnant mom.
But it was actually fun!  Bianca is an absolutely amazing person, beautiful inside and out.  She taught herself English as well as photography, and she has buckets of courage and interesting stories!  She was very easy to talk to, and even Nathan admitted it was better than he thought it would be.
And I was thrilled to have some pictures of Nathan!  My hope is to have family pictures taken in the spring, when Verity is old enough to smile and pose, but before Nathan leaves for college.  However, I am terrible about getting things like that done, especially since I never can figure out what to dress everyone in that looks nice and reasonably coordinated.  So now at least we have some great pictures of Nathan!
Bianca even took some pictures of me, even though I kept telling her I did not particularly want my heavily pregnant stage memorialized!  But I'm glad she did--I've never had pictures taken when I was pregnant before, so it will be good to look back on!
And she took a picture of Nathan and me too.  I love it!
So what has Nathan been up to lately?

  • He took his "candidate fitness assessment" on Sunday, Sept. 21.  We finally found a middle school that had all the facilities needed--a basketball court, pull-up bars, and a track, all in close proximity.  Thankfully Nathan is not even an inch taller though, or the pull-bars would have been too small for him to dead-hang without his feet touching the ground.  The CFA consists of 6 events, done in order, with specified start, stop, and rest times.  It is designed so that you have finished the first 5 events and started on the run within 30 minutes.  First is the basketball throw, which is weird (you kneel and hurl a basketball with one hand as far as possible), but Nathan read some good posts about how to improve this event by using physics and your core.  Second is pull-ups, then the shuttle run, and then sit-ups.  Next is push-ups, and last is the mile run.  Nathan had taken a practice CFA at the USAFA Summer Seminar, and he did pretty much the same here as he had done there, except that one was not run as an official one, so there was more rest time in between events.   He did well, and yay--that was the last big thing to finish for his USAFA application!
  • He got word that he is "qualified" from the DoDMERB board, which means he passed all his medical stuff.  They ask a ton of questions on all the paperwork you have to fill out before the actual appointments, so you have to dredge up stuff from long ago.  In Nathan's case, it was a contact allergy to metal he had when he was really little.  I had to sew material over the snaps on his onesies so he wouldn't break out in a little rash, but we never saw a doctor for it or anything.  And more recently, he had a rash when wearing a cheap watch from Walmart.  So DoDMERB wanted clarification on that.  Fortunately, he didn't have to see a doctor or anything, just write about that in the follow-up paperwork they sent.  We were glad that they didn't have any further questions, and that he is medically cleared now!  That qualification is good for 2 years, and it is good for all the service academies, as well as ROTC.
  • He interviewed with our congressman's nomination panel Wednesday night.  He thought it went well.  He felt prepared for the questions, and he felt he was able to get across the points he was trying to make.  I think he is becoming more comfortable interviewing, what with all this practice he's getting!  He has an interview with a senator coming up as well.  I thought they had to interview everyone who put in an application, but that doesn't seem to be the case for the senators, only the House of Representatives member.  So it seems like this interview is definitely one of those "It's an honor to have made it this far" deals, since there were over 700 applicants, and possibly as few as 45 interviewees.  We haven't heard from the other senator, but actually, it doesn't sound like the VA senators give nominations to people who already have Presidential nominations, so it is probably a moot point anyway.  But more good interview practice, for sure!
  • He's taking his very last SAT on Saturday, missing a cross-country meet to do so, which does not make him happy.  But then he's done with high school standardized tests, except for APs in May!  Yay! 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Baby Progress

Verity had another weight check yesterday, and I am very pleased to report that she has gained all of 4 ounces, bringing her all the way up to 7 pounds, 15 ounces!  Yay!  That is the good news.  The bad news is that giving her supplemental bottles Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday pretty much killed her desire to nurse, so that was very discouraging.  Thursday I purposed that we were *not* going to stop nursing, and that she would drink some from each breast before getting the bottle, but it was a slow go.  Each feeding was taking about 2 hours, with the first hour being her crying with the nipple in her mouth, but never sucking.  Even when she would finally give up and latch on, she would suck a few times, come off, cry pitifully like, "WHY are you torturing me with this thing??", shudder and make sour faces like I was actually making her suck on a sour lemon, and then suck a few more times.  Obviously she was not really getting anything from me, LOL, and didn't matter if I pumped before she tried (so that she would theoretically get more hindmilk) or after, because the problem was that she just didn't want to suck from me.  At all.  Of course, as soon as I brought out the bottle, she latched right on and drank that steadily with no complaints.  Sigh.  I was really feeling pretty rejected!  (Me:  "These nipples were plenty good for 9 other people!!  Why won't you take them?!?")  I went to WalMart and got some low-flow nipples, since the only ones I had on hand from the other kids were older-baby ones, and I knew she wasn't having to work hard at all for milk out of those.  Even with the low-flow nipples, she still didn't have any objections to the bottle.

I did mention to the lactation consultant that Verity's poor nursing habits had started in the hospital, where she would take the nipple, then gag, cough, and spit up mucus.  We asked people about it, and no one really had any ideas or thought too much of it.  The lactation consultant said Verity most likely had an overly sensitive gag reflex, and so she just sort of gave up on nursing in the beginning because she didn't like all the gagging.  Makes sense!  The lactation consultant said fortunately babies have very short memories, though, LOL.

I really was surprised at how very quickly Verity rejected the breast.  If I had known that, I probably would have just syringe-fed, like my friend Siri had to do to supplement.  But I was mainly concerned with stopping the weight loss, and a bottle was a faster, more efficient way to get the most milk into Verity. Oh well.  We have our work cut out for us!

So I was pretty discouraged when I got to Bethesda yesterday morning.  My appointment was actually with the lactation consultant, so after we weighed Verity, I showed the LC how Verity just fussed around at the breast.  She checked Verity's mouth again and said again that she really had a fine latch/suck--Verity just didn't want to work hard.  So we tried a nipple shield.  I always thought those were mainly for poor latches, where the babies were really making the breast hurt, but no, it turns out that nipple shields can also make babies who only want bottles think they are getting a bottle, LOL.  So she wasn't crying the whole time, but she still wasn't all that enthusiastic about nursing, so we added on the supplemental nursing system, where you put breast milk in a bottle-thing, hook that to your bra, tape some tubing to your nipple, and let the baby suck, so she gets some milk from the breast, but also from the tube, so she is rewarded more.  That combined with the nipple shield was a winning, albeit complicated, set-up, and Verity drank an ounce of pumped breast milk I had brought on the spur of the moment (SO glad I did though!).  So I got sent home with all those supplies, and things have been going fairly well since then, although feedings are still taking about an hour.  Less crying though.

I decided that I was not going to use all the SNS stuff in the middle of the night, so last night I tried nursing with just the nursing shield.  Verity actually fussed around with that, knocking it off eventually, and then I tried her with nothing.  She actually did okay--not great, but better--so maybe we are on the right road.  The nice thing about her gaining some yesterday is that we don't have to go back until Friday, for her normal 2 week well-baby appointment.  So hopefully she will continue gaining weight, and maybe after that appointment we can play around more with not using all the extra stuff.  I'm still not planning on using it at night though.

Having all this hassle with feeding has certainly put a crimp on my social life!  I missed most of Bible study last night because I was feeding.  There is a Civil Air Patrol family cookout tonight that only Nathan, Luke, and Caleb are going to, because again, it is just too hard to drag all that stuff out and nurse somewhere in public!  I really want to go to church tomorrow because a possible new assistant pastor is preaching, but again--that probably isn't going to happen.  I really DON'T want to just bring a bottle to give her, thereby setting us back to the beginning again!

I can honestly say that having a baby with nursing issues is simply not something I ever really thought would happen, once I got Nathan nursing successfully over 17 years ago!  So once again I am learning all sorts of new things, and and gaining all sorts of new useful experience, even though I am doing it reluctantly, LOL.  It has been such a tremendous blessing to have friends bring us meals this week.  I am sure that worrying about making dinners would have put me over the edge!  All my time is spent either nursing or pumping, it seems.  On the positive side, I am certainly going to have a milk supply to feed a small nation, since I usually have tons of milk even without pumping a zillion times a day.  And another thing to be thankful for is that I am a good pumper.  I remember when Nathan was a baby struggling with nursing, and pumping was definitely not so easy for me then.  I guess there is still some benefit to this being my 10th kid!

Speaking of the 10th kid, Bob and I had a "deja vu" moment when we left the hospital on Monday after Verity's appointment.  We were getting in the elevator in the parking garage and 2 chatty older ladies came in with us.  They were oohing over the baby, and commenting on how she should be more covered up and wearing a hat (even though it was a very pleasant day and she was wearing a sleeper with a blanket) . . . then they asked if this was our first.  We said, "No, number 10", and they were literally sputtering, LOL.  "WHAT???  Number 10??  You birthed all of them??  None adopted???  Wow!  Well . . . good luck . . .Wow!! . . . "  It was funny.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

One Week

So Verity has been here for one week.  How's she doing?  Well, that's hard to answer.  She is sleeping well and is pretty alert and happy when she's awake, gazing around at all the faces of her adoring fans that constantly surround her.  But she is not a wonderful nurser, and while I thought she was doing better, she instead is dropping weight like a rock.  Also, she hasn't pooped since Friday (not that it seems to be bothering her at all).
She was 9 pounds, 6 ounces at birth, and when we left the hospital last Thursday, she was down to 8 pounds, 12 ounces.  Saturday we went back for a weight check, and she was down to 8 pounds, 1 ounce.  My milk came in Saturday night, so I thought things would turn around.  We went back for another weight check on Monday, and she was down to 8 pounds, 0 ounces.  The doctor couldn't see any issues and felt like it would be temporary, especially since it seemed like she was nursing better now that my milk was fully in.  But when we went back again today, she was all the way down to 7 ponds, 11 ounces.  That's not too far off from losing 2 pounds in one week, which is huge for a newborn!  The lactation consultant at the weight check today also couldn't see anything really wrong--she has a good latch, she just doesn't want to suck long enough to get to the good hindmilk. So she's lazy!

The plan is that I will nurse, then pump and give her that milk as well.  I've done that today several times, so hopefully it will help.  It takes forever, though, and giving her a bottle after nursing doesn't do anything to help her nurse better.  If anything, it should make her lazier, since she'll expect that after nursing a bit, she gets the bottle, which is easier to drink from!  But I don't know that I can deal with using a supplemental nursing system, with the tube attached to my nipple and all that.  I just don't know that it is worth the hassle at this point.  Sigh.  Who would ever have thought that baby #10 would be so much trouble??  If I had any doubts that this should be the last one, they are banished now, LOL.  I seriously do not have the time or mental energy to deal with this!  I really thought that after the baby came, we would be able to get back into a good routine, especially with school, since I wouldn't be going to Bethesda twice a week for appointments and non-stress tests.  Now I'm going 3 times a week!  A good routine?  Ha!  Things are falling apart all over the place!  I don't know what I'll do if we can't get this resolved before it's time for me to start teaching again.  I still haven't even finished writing the anatomy exam the kids are supposed to be taking over the first 4 chapters!  I started that last Tuesday night before I went into labor, but I just couldn't concentrate, so I only got the first 11 or so questions written.  And now I am tired and foggy-brained, so . . .
We're praying that Verity will start gaining weight, as well as start nursing more diligently.  And also that I would know the best course of action.  We go back again Friday for another weight check, but that is also just with the lactation consultant, not with a doctor.  We're supposed to have her 2 week well-baby appointment next Friday, but I would say if she keeps dropping weight like this, we'll have to see a doctor before then.  If only I was dropping weight like that!  Instead, I am enjoying the carbs I have had to avoid the past 12 weeks, and all this stress is not making me think favorably about cutting back--bring on the ice cream and chocolate, LOL.