Wednesday, December 17, 2014

back to the blog with a small update

So I've been putting off writing because it's a little intimidating to try and update and get up to speed on everything that had happened. But I decided that's not really necessary. I'll just let you know what's up now!
1. We moved from Spain to Colorado for Ulises to study his PhD
2. I work in a daycare facility at the Colorado athletic club where I run arts and crafts. I get to take Walter. It's great to have him always near and accessible but also be out and interacting with the community.
3. Our ward is giant. 200 kids in the primary alone!
4. Ulises is enjoying his engineering construction management program and is excelling.
5. Walter is rolling sitting and babbling. He is our sunshine! And is a pure delight!

Now for some pictures

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Welcoming Walter! --his birth story.

Hello again!
 I suppose the birth of a baby is  a good reason to update our blog. I've never been a huge blogger and I can't promise how things will go in the future, but I hope to at least write some of the major events in our lives.

How do I even begin? Baby Walter is the sweetest and most wonderful thing to happen in our lives. We are so blessed!

Walter was hoped for and prayed for and planned for. Ulises and I planned to have our first baby in the summer  of 2014 right as he was finishing his Masters degree here in Spain. We got pregnant right away and our due date was June 7th. (a little earlier than his last day of school). My pregnancy was pretty uneventful. Nausea was almost absent and I felt absolutely great the majority of the time. I was tired the first trimester but that was about it. I continued going to the gym, running and exercising up through my 7th month of pregnancy. I continued with a full work load till the very end as well. Because things were going so well I had no reason to believe that my plan for a natural unmedicated childbirth would be hindered. I got signed up for the hospital of my choice with a birthing pool and natural child birth protocols. Everything was going so well! 

But then at the third ultrasound baby boy was still in a breech position. I looked up so many methods to flip him. I tried spinning babies ( and regret that I hadn't been doing it the whole time!) and went to a chiropractor. I did moxibuston (Chinese medicine) and went to the swimming pool and stood on my head. On May 16th I had an appointment scheduled at the hospital to see if the baby had turned vertex. If he hadn't, then they would do an External version which is basically the doctor putting his hands on my belly and trying to grab the baby's bum and head and manually flip him!

On May 16th I went to the doctor to see how baby was, and they confirmed that he was still breech. But more than that, they said that he hadn't grown very much from my last ultrasound and that my amniotic fluid was dangerously low. It was so low they asked if my water had broken or started leaking. Because of the low fluid the External Version was completely out of the question. And they recommended that I check myself into the Emergency Room (that sounds serious but don't worry) and get a second opinion. So Ulises and I went upstairs and waited in the ER. 

While we were waiting I called my mom and said that the doctors wanted to perform a c-section that day or the following day because of the baby's growth and low fluid. I was a bit teary because everything was going so fast and I wasn't prepared for any of it. I was only 36 weeks pregnant. My mom who spent more than 30 years as a labor and delivery nurse told me that the baby would be small, but that there shouldn't be any big problems. She told me to go meet with the doctor and that I should call her back with more information.

Well I was checked by the ER doctor and OBGYN and they recommended delivering the baby...right then! Ulises was really excited and said " today we get to be parents!" and I was still a little in shock. They put me in a hospital gown, got me on an IV and started to monitor the baby. His heartbeat was a little irregular due to my nerves but everything else was fine. The only time we weren't rushing was when they gave me some medicine to make sure I didn't vomit my breakfast up when they gave me anesthesia. So I had 20 minutes to digest that gross stuff before they wheeled me into the operating room and cut that  baby out of me!

Did I mention I wanted an unmedicated, natural birth?

Within 2 hours of going into the hospital on the morning of May 16th I was suddenly a mom! Walter was delivered by c-section at 1:30 PM in Barcelona Spain on May 16th. Ulises was by  my side in the operating room. As they pulled the baby out Ulises could see and was giving me a play by play. "I see his feet, his bum...I see his head! He's got HAIR!" (my consolation prize I guess) They took him to the other room to clean his lungs etc. As the nurse walked past I saw a TINY little head cradled in her hand (with hair) and couldn't believe it was my son! I told Ulises to follow her and he was in the other room with baby Walter and I heard him cry from the Operating room. It was a beautiful sound! They quickly brought him back into the room and put the blue little baby on my chest and I just kept saying "I love you son, I love you, I love you!" I investigated his little body as best I could in that awkward position. I held his little hands, counted his little fingers and stroked his sticky cheeks. He was so small!

I don't know how long I got to hold him but it wasn't too long (probably until they finished stitching me up) and they took him to get checked out. They took me to a post operating room where they let the anesthesia wear off. I got the shakes really bad which I guess is normal. Ulises came back and said they were checking Walter out and that they would be bringing him to me shortly. It seemed like an eternity but they brought the baby back to me and laid him on my chest. The idea was for him to stay with me. But as I was holding him his breathing became quite irregular and they decided they needed to monitor his heart rate and get him on Oxygen. I didn't know that this would be the last moment I saw him for the rest of the day. So--they took my baby boy and Ulises followed him and I sat there watching "The Simpsons" in Spanish on the recovery room

When Ulises got back he told me that Walter would have to stay under observation for a while and that I couldn't see him until I could physically walk down ( or be wheeled down) to the NICU. At this point the lower half of my body was still completely numb..... 

I took this time to call my  mom. She was waiting for my call but was surprised when instead of telling her what the plan was, I told her that she "had another grandson!" When I told her she laughed with surprise and joy. I told her that I didn't have time to call and tell her before but that they just performed the C-section and that I was a mom! At the time I was on the phone with her, my dad called her cell phone. He was out of the house and called because he needed my mom to drive and pick him up. So I heard her answer her cell phone and say "Merrill, Mary just had her baby!" and she continued to laugh on the phone with my dad. I ended the phone call rather quickly, promising to call back soon, and was wheeled into my hospital room.

Once there, Ulises and I called his family. It was quite interesting. The night before, May 15th, Ulises' sister had given birth to her daughter, Guadalupe, 5 days past her due date. So everyone was at the hospital enjoying the new little granddaughter. When we called to tell them about Walter, you can understand why Ulises dad didn't believe us at first. He thought it was a joke because I wasn't due for another 4 weeks or so. But once Ulises started to tell details and tell them why the External Version didn't work and how they delivered the baby instead, they believed us! But wow. The first two grandchildren on Ulises side of the family were born within 17 hours of each other. Ulises mom got on the phone with me and kept saying :why didn't you call me! why didn't you call!" Well-- we didn't have time basically! It wasn't like Ulises sister who called several days before to let everyone know she started to have regular contractions. It all happened so fast!

So Ulises family came to visit and with Ulises each of his parents got to go see Walter from the incubator as I stayed upstairs trying to recover from a c-section ( no one tells you about the gas in your shoulders by the way. It's painful and strange!) I was a little jealous. Each 3 hours that passed Ulises got to go down and see Walter as I stayed upstairs. Ulises would take videos of him and bring me updates about his condition. They told us that he weighed 2800 grams ( that's about 6 lbs) and was 47 cm long (that's about 18 inches). He was recovering from some fluid in his lungs but they expected to move him out of the intensive section of the NICU into the more stable section within a day. And they did! And within 24 hours I had forced myself to get verticle and waddle down to the NICU and see my baby. I cried! He was beautiful! He was covered in some wires and a CPAP but he was still beautiful. I couldn't hold him but I could place my hands on him. And it was that way for another day or so. But soon when he was off the CPAP I was able to hold him. 

Ulises and I would go down every 3 hours to hold our baby and feed him. He lost some weight ( which is normal) and went down to about 5.5 lbs. It was a really stressful time trying to get him healthy enough to go home.The days kept dragging on. We were at the hospital for 5 days until they released him-- but in the end we got to take home a beautiful, small, healthy baby boy.

My recovery has been wonderful and horrible at the same time. The first few days after the c-section were quite painful. Ulises felt helpless that he couldn't ease my pain. He helped me walk and sit and stand and get in and out of bed. That was the worst. ( and the gas in the shoulders....) But within a few days it was manageable. And by the time we left the hospital I had recovered quite completely to be honest. I know that that is seldom the case so I should be grateful. But I felt quite whole. Just an incision and some staples to take care of. I haven't needed to take any type of pain medication whatsoever after I checked out of the hospital. I can do cartwheels!

My emotional recovery has been a little more difficult. I am learning to see my role as mother in a different light. I sometimes feel like I cheated in some way. Here I am a mother who has never felt a single contraction or labor pain. Feeding my child and caring for a premature infant and trying to overcome all the challenges that our extended separation had caused has been incredibly, incredibly challenging for me. My body didn't experience birth nor its natural extensions as I had expected, and it has been something very difficult to accept. 

To overcome some of these feelings of inadequacy I savor every moment I have to bond with my baby in additional ways. Maybe I didn't get those "love hormones" from a natural birth. Maybe I didn't get the 1 hour of uninterrupted skin to skin contact that I wanted. Maybe breastfeeding isn't an option for us.  But I CAN stare deeply into my baby boys' eyes and sing him lullabies. I CAN massage his little feet and hands as I feed him during those quiet morning hours. I CAN rock him to sleep and soothe him with my voice--a voice he knows and recognizes. I CAN rush to his aid and be the first responder and best comforter when he is uncomfortable, hungry, or restless. And I CAN and WILL do many more things over the next couple decades as he grows up, to more than compensate for some of these experiences I feel I missed out on.

Will I try for a natural birth for future pregnancies? You bet. Will I let whatever my experience is define me? Not at all!

I love little Walter. He is a blessing and light in our lives. I call him my angel baby. He hardly wakes crying and is so easy to please. He lets us sleep a good amount of time and is so happy sitting in our arms. He is fattening up and is making the cutest faces. He has his own spirit and personality in that little body. I stare at his face whether awake or asleep and I think "Wow, this little person was INSIDE me!" I see his face and think that he is part of me-- that I contributed to his existence. Part of Ulises is in him to! yet he is his own person with his own special gifts and abilities that we can't wait to discover as he grows.  ( BTW, no one told me how much I would mourn every single day that passes as he 'grows' up. The day I discovered that his eyelashes finally grew in felt like I was sending him off to college)

Walter isn't out of the woods yet. He still has some mild and treatable health 'problems' that the doctors are addressing. But the reality is he will be just fine. he is Wonderful. Perfect!

I can't wait for my mom and dad and all my siblings to meet him. It's been hard having a life experience like this so far away from my own family. A girl misses her own mom a lot when she becomes a mom! So right now I am hoping that little Walter won't grow TOO big before we go to the USA for my family to meet him. But at the same time I am so happy that he is finally eating well, putting on some weight and becoming a little more fleshy. He was so skinny at first but  now when I look at his rosy round face, I feel so happy and blessed.

Walter is our little angel. We love him so much and when you meet him, I am sure you will too!

Thanks to you all for your thoughts, prayers and congratulations you have extended! We appreciate it so much.

and now? PICTURES!

My first time really holding Walter

Look how small his head is in Ulises hands!

Walter and his cousin!!

In premature clothing. It no longer fits him!

In his dad's (Ulises) premature sweater that his Grandpa (Daniel) knitted when Ulises was a premature baby.

Newborn clothes are a bit big

First Bath

He was so skinny! Don't worry, He's fattened up!

He sleeps like this a lot. And it's how he was in utero.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Uruguay, Baby, Graduation, Moving, Change!

I know I should perhaps dedicate one post to Christmas and the holidays and another post to announce our baby and future but I think that time is past. So I'll divide it in two parts!

Part I

Ulises and I went to Uruguay for Christmas this year. The idea was for me to get to know the people and country where Ulises grew up. We also met some relatives and friends of Ulises and they all treated us so well!

They all asked me  how I felt about Uruguay. Sometimes it wasn't a question of  liking Uruguay, but how bad it was. When they asked me directly I was pretty honest with them--that the public transportation was hot, uncomfortable and incredibly ineffective and that the weather and housing conditions were uncomfortable. Everything was also VERY expensive. (Let's not mention that the cost of this trip could have landed us on a 7 day all inclusive cruise to the Caribbean.....) But considering there were only a few bad things-- they should be proud of their little country!

Now the good things: The people in Uruguay are very congenial and open. The neighbors of Ulises grandparent's neighborhood were so kind to us! When they found out we were expecting a baby,  these strangers would buy us baby gifts. His cousins did the same-- all were so kind to us. They also fed us some great BBQ. You haven't had BBQ unless you've been to Uruguay! They throw a whole carcass on a big brick oven grill and eat every bit of it ( I stayed away from the organ meat) and boy is it tasty. For those of you who know me, you know that I love a good steak. Can you believe we had BBQ so often that I almost grew tired of it?.....almost. hehe

The beaches have great sand and it was fun to go to various different coastlines and take a dip in the ocean. Also just driving through the countryside was delightful. Really lovely and green!

Christmas Eve was spent eating cold pork and salads. Not my typical Christmas meal but tasty anyway. Ulises family laughed at me when I wanted to microwave my pork. But honestly, it was much tastier that way! After dinner we sat around and talked until the firework show went on. Fireworks go on at midnight to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After the fireworks end everyone goes back in the house and Santa has quickly come and left presents for everyone! Then everyone opens them right then and there! No waiting for Christmas morning. No stockings, Just open! So we opened them and we got some really cute baby clothing in neutral colors. Ulises got a hat that he lost 2 days later. I got a necklace. It was a nice Christmas.

The next morning I had Ulises fake Christmas again and look in his stocking as if surprised ( It was just a sock...haha) and he got some candies. weee!

So it was really strange to have Christmas in the summer. But the important thing was that we maintained the spirit by spending time with family, reading the Christmas story and singing, and also going to a Christmas concert at the Montivideo Temple grounds. It was LOVELY. It was just what I needed to feel the spirit even in the heat of summer and when I was missing home. It really made a difference for me. Christmas would be so dismal and gloomy for me if it weren't for the music!

At times it was uncomfortable and expensive but looking back I am so glad we went. We won't have the opportunity to go back for a while. I owe a lot to Uruguay. It made Ulises the man he is now. I am not sure if he grew up in Europe if he would have met the church and become the man he is. So I am grateful.

But it is funny the love-hate relationship Ulises has with his country of birth. He LOVES Uruguay and gets emotional when he hears national anthems and thinks of his childhood etc. But then a few minutes later you can hear him say how he hates the country and is so glad that he went back to the home of his forefathers-- Spain! One day he might tell you he is Spanish and another day he might tell you he is Uruguayan. The chances he will tell you he is Spanish increase depending on your perception and knowledge about Uruguay. If you think Uruguay is full of burritos, chile con carne, sombreros  and mariachi bands, then you will get the look of death from him. Ulises biggest pet peeve is people thinking that all South American countries are homogeneous. I'll leave that discussion for another day

Instead, enjoy some of these pictures from Uruguay and scroll down for an update on our Cute Little Baby!

 Me starting to look a bit pregnant. In the hot Uruguayan weather outside a nice museum.
 Uruguayan dinner show. This was some Tango
 me eating popcorn...
 Ulises enjoying nature
 We went to the temple! I saw the new instructional video! It was wonderful!
 The nativity on the temple grounds. We saw the choir that night as well. LOVELY
 Government building :)
 Lovely part of town
 I can't focus a point and shoot camera. I am a failure.
 me so sweaty in the Uruguayan weather. We hiked up to a fortress overlooking the sea in 90 degree weather. phew!
 some of the Uruguayan Coast
 Punt Oeste. it's alive!
 A little dark, but here we are!
 Ulises wearing patriotic colors at this Uruguayan Landmark
 And that was just for starters!
 This brick grill and fireplace was indoors. They are serious BBQers over there.
 He feels so powerful
 My Sandcastle
 Its kinda small, but it was fun
 This is my way of enjoying the beach
 Until this happens
 We hitchhiked home from church. I haven't told my mom that yet. But it's ok. We weren't picked up by Axe murderers. We made it home!
 Ulises' childhood home
 Another shot of the temple
Enjoying the art

Part II

So we announced our pregnancy a couple months ago. For those of you who missed it, our baby is due June 7th 2014. It is a Boy! Ulises and I are very excited. His sister is pregnant with a baby girl and is due about 3 weeks before our baby boy is due. So his parents will become grandparents to both a granddaughter and a grandson all within a month! So they are very excited to have one of each! As for my family, already full of grandsons and granddaughters, another one of whatever gender is still a celebration!

We feel really blessed that we were able to conceive when we did and that I can have the baby at the same time Ulises finishes his Masters degree in Engineering. (well, a month before. So please pray for Ulises that he can pull through that last month and successfully defend his thesis and project while having a newborn at home)

We will name him Walter, which means "ruler of the army". It's amazing how many people here ( and perhaps people in the states would do the same. I don't know) are really vocal about their disapproval of the name we have chosen. If it were their own kid I guess I could understand their concern. But it's our kid! And we chose the name because... well... we like it! Walter is the name of Ulises' Grandfather and it also happens to be a lovely English name. This makes it easy for both his family and my family to pronounce and it also carries some deeper meaning. Ulises Grandpa, Walter, is the father of Ulises' dad, Daniel--an only child. Daniel has 3 children and Ulises is the only boy of those 3 children. And now the only boy is having a boy. So it's quite meaningful that we name him Walter, especially if Grandpa Walter passes on soon. My brother did the same with his first son  and I think its a wonderful gesture!

My mother loves the name Walter cause it's old fashioned and reminds her of Walt Disney. It reminds me of Walt Disney and also my mission president whose name is Walt. So get ready for little Walter to come in June. You can call him Walter, Walt, and Waltie ( you can call him Wally in front of me, but Ulises doesn't like Wally so much hehe)

 Ulises got me flowers when we had our positive pregnancy test.
This is before I had a 'bump'

 Here is cute little Walter. I love seeing the bones in his little legs!

So you know how pregnant women look as if they have swallowed a watermelon. Well.... I've swallowed a WALTERmelon!

So when Walter comes in June I will leave work and Ulises and I will try and live off of some savings for a couple months as he finishes up his thesis and project and graduates with his Masters degree in Civil Engineering (in July). After graduation, God willing, we will be moving to the states in August for  Ulises to persue a PhD. Ulises has heard back from some professors who want to work with him and although he has been accepted into a PhD program, we are waiting for a final word on funding (which is a bit more difficult as an international student) and also responses from other schools, before we make a final decision and announce anything. But if you are a praying type of person, we would love some prayers in our behalf-- that Ulises PhD program can provide enough funding for us to actually accept it and make our way back to the states, where we feel we can progress as a family and provide a better life for our children. We love Spain but the truth is the employment situation here is dismal. If we want to raise a family in financial security the obvious choice is to go back to the states for a while. While it's true that he can apply for a green card and residency through my citizenship, the preferred route is through a PhD which Ulises wants to obtain anyway.  Prayers prayers prayers!

So how is my pregnancy going? Pretty well! I was exhausted the first trimester and emotional, but managed to make it through unscathed (not sure about Ulises, he was at the receiving end of my emotional breakdowns). I had only a hint of  nausea and I am grateful for that daily. My health is important for my work and my work is important for our upkeep! So I am grateful everyday that things have been going so smoothly. I still make it to the gym weekly and manage to run a few kilometers on the treadmill each time. People sure look at me strange. But I am grateful for my health and want to keep my body in good condition so that baby is born healthy and strong. ( I also hear labor goes smoother if the expectant mother consistently exercises).

Now that I am about 6 months along ( that's what the books tell me. 24 weeks today) I look pregnant and can feel little Walter wiggle. I am reading all I can about child birth and watching videos. It's been great and I've learned a lot. It's amazing to think this little life will be joining our family in such a short time. And... YOU CAN'T PUT IT BACK. Not that I would want to...but it just makes it seem so real! I know Ulises will be a great father. I am more worried about my own capabilities but I also need to realize that the Lord will make up the difference. Here goes nothin!

So that's our update. I wish I had the ability to write witty and clever things but my travel log type blog is what I got!

Sending love from Sunny Spain