Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moving on up!

...out of our basement Korean apartment and into a hotel to wait for our flight out of here next week!  :)

Maddox took one last picture with our sunflower that we planted a few months ago.  We planted six, and one has bloomed!

We had spent quite a while getting rid of stuff, and organizing what needed to be packed into a pile so that the packers wouldn't have to go through every room of the apartment.  This is around the size of the pile of stuff that we sent here.

Some of the other stuff to be packed- our new hutch, a dresser, the TV...and you can see a few plastic tubs in Mdx's room.

The movers showed up and got ready to work!  Those large wooden boxes are what get packed full of stuff, and eventually put onto a container ship or airplane to be sent to the next duty station.  

Marshall was supervising (in other words facebooking)

The packers worked extremely quickly and got everything boxed up!

Hmm..  "The Careful Movers".  If this is the truck of the careful ones, I'd hate to see what the truck of the NOT careful ones looks like!

This is what we were left with, to head to the hotel!  6 suitcases for 4 people, that's not too bad! Of course, that's not counting our carry ons!

This is our hotel room in downtown Songtan. The TV is around the same size as the purple couch you see, and the beds are pretty soft for Korean beds!  We are now living out of suitcases once again, until we find a house in Germany.  Back to a life of being homeless!  LOL!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Three Bears

Maddox learned this song at school.  It is about the Three Bears (I think!)

video

Happy 4th Birthday Maddox!

Newborn:

1 year old!

2 years old!  Daddy skyped in to watch the birthday party from Iraq.

3 years old! Headed to her first day of American preschool!

4 years old!  Headed to her last week of Korean preschool!

Four trips around the sun, and you've done so much!!  I can't wait to see what your fifth year brings!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Ketchup

Here's a photo dump of some recent pics of the kids:

Monsoon season is over thankfully!  But Maddox enjoyed playing in the puddles!

While Maverick enjoyed playing with the shoes (yuck!)

We went over to a friend's house, and he was delighted by this stroller.

And it was just SO funny!

Here's Mdx with her best buddy K.

In K's room she has this SuperawesomeIreallythinkMdxneedsone playhouse.  It is made out of cloth and on top of what seems to be a card table.

There was a children's theatre production for kids on base, and Mdx's other best buddy A played a caterpillar.

Mav helped Marshall with his beer.

Mdx and I went to a birthday party for another friend at the Bowling Alley on base, and got this cute photo of the two of us before Mdx bowled.




Friday, August 19, 2011

Birthday Boy!

Maverick Garrett is ONE year old!

Newborn:

1 Month old:

2 Months old:

3 Months old:

4 Months old:

5 Months old:

6 Months old:

7 Months old:

8 months old:

9 Months old:

10 Months old:

11 Months old:

And TODAY- on his 1st Birthday!  One trip around the sun, many more to go!









Part 3

If you haven't yet read the first two parts, make sure to start there!  :)  This post has more gory details, but childbirth isn't all clean and sterile- so be prepared!!

Alright, it's after midnight, though I haven't looked at or paid attention to the time for quite a while now.  I'm in the big, warm, relaxing birthing tub.  My doula and husband are both doing a great job letting me hang out and do whatever I feel like doing in the process of laboring.  But that's an interesting word: laboring.  I didn't really feel like I was working really really hard through the contractions.  In fact, I was mostly sitting back and letting my body do whatever came next in the normal, natural process of childbirth.

As far as pain goes, I never felt like it was enough to ask for any kind of medication, or pain relief.  The water did a great job relaxing my body and mind, and I knew that I had nothing to fear about the whole birth process.  I felt that I trusted the people on my "team" completely, I knew them well, and they knew what to do.  It was a wonderful feeling.  Tara had returned from helping the woman next door deliver her baby, and said she could tell I was getting close!  She had been checking the baby's heartbeat with a doppler (they work under water too!), and every time she checked she'd smile and say softly"Happy baby"  So reassuring, and I was never worried.

Around 12:15am my body started pushing the baby out.  That may seem like a surprising way to put it, but it is exactly what happened.  During a contraction all the sudden my stomach muscles started tightening in a different way, and it almost felt like I was coughing.  I had very little control over it at all! If you had told me to stop pushing, I probably couldn't have done it.  During one push my water broke, and Tara said it was clear.  The water broke with such force it felt like a balloon exploded (and I guess it kind of did!)  I could feel the baby's head descending, and feel myself opening even more that I knew was possible.  There was no one yelling in my ear to push, or forcing my body into an uncomfortable position.....however I was floating in the water was how the baby was going to come out- and that was okay.   Babies come out all sorts of ways!!   I do remember Heather at my side gently telling me to put my chin down, but I was in another place at that moment, so she tapped the bottom of my chin and then my chest and said "Put this here"- and it worked!

Tara shined a flashlight down so they could see the head start to emerge.  In between contractions she said, "Mary his head is coming out, do you want to reach down and feel it?"  and I said "Oh no!  I can feel it!!"  Hahahaha!  I was feeling the "ring of fire", and wanting him out (who doesn't?), so I asked her "Can you just pull him out?" and she laughed.  I don't remember exactly what she said, but I know she told me I was doing a great job getting him out myself.  I had some tearing with Maddox, and I had shared with them my fears of tearing again, so Tara did her best to help me ease him out, and I really think the water helped too!

Just 14 minutes after my SROM (spontaneous rupture of membranes), at 12:39 am Maverick entered the world under water, and went straight into my arms.  Tara caught him, and brought him up out of the water as I grabbed him.  She got quite wet in the process- but that's part of the job!!  He was so warm and wrinkly, and amazingly clean!  Tara remarked about how clean he was.  I held him for a while as he was wrapped in a towel and given a hat.  Heather took a few photos, which I'm keeping for memories, but not going to share.  The labor pains seemed to disappear, although I know that it wasn't completely over, I just don't remember pain anymore.  Once the cord was cut he went to be cleaned up (minimally) and then went straight to skin to skin time with Marshall while I got out of the tub and got cleaned up.  I had to deliver the placenta, and only needed one tiny stitch.  I started nursing right away, and it seemed like time was standing still.

I'm clean, now pick me up!!



At some point I remember the Peds nurse coming in to give us our bracelets, do the paperwork, etc.  She looked to be about 75 years old, and seemed forgetful.  We declined most of the common newborn treatments except the Vitamin K shot.  She took his footprints, did some other things, an said she'd be back later to weigh him. (she forgot and we had to call them to send her down again later)  Tara left to shower and said she be back to check on us, and we sent Heather home to get some sleep after having an incredible "Wow, we did it!!  Can you believe how perfect it was!?" conversation.  Then it seemed the whirlwind was over, the lights were out, and we were both lying in bed together just looking at our sweet baby before 2:00am  It. was. AWESOME.  I couldn't sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about how awesome it was.
My favorite photo:


Coming up....some pictures of the Birthday Boy, and thoughts and doulas and midwives.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Part 2

Heather was on her way and we were down in the lobby of TLF, having decided that laboring at home for a while (which had originally been the plan) wasn't going to happen.  We needed to get to Norfolk as my contractions were now moving towards 4 to 5 minutes apart, stronger, and I could no longer talk through them.  I was more than happy to just get to the birth center and be able to labor there, with the big shower, birthing tub, rocking chair, big Queen sized bed, etc.

One of the Birthing Rooms at the Midwifery Center



Heather arrived, and we were off.  She followed behind us.  As we came up to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, we could quickly see that what is normally a 2 lane tunnel was going down to one lane for some night-time repairs.  Wonderful.  Every contraction I had was pretty painful and I was grabbing on to the "oh shit" handle (you know, the one above the passenger window?) and pulling myself up off the seat because it made my back feel better.  As the cars were merging together into one lane, Heather was stuck to our bumper trying to stay with us, but there was this one guy who was acting like he was going to run her off the road rather than let her in.  I was looking in my side mirror thinking "Oh my lord, my doula is going to get into a road rage incident on our way to have a baby!"  Hahaha!  She got in, and all was well.  She probably would've gotten out of the car and beat the crap out of the guy if necessary, she doesn't mess around.  I also shot off a quick text message to my friends (the Real Housewives of Hampton Roads) letting them know we were sneaking off to the hospital....they were all thrilled!

What normally was a 20 minute drive to the hospital ended up taking us around 45 minutes, so it is a good thing we left when we did.  As we pulled into the hospital Marshall dropped me off at the door and then drove across the street to park the car.  Heather was also parking, and hurrying to catch me.  I tried the door and *IT WAS LOCKED*.  No joke.  I totally forgot that they said after 9pm (or maybe it was 10?) they would lock that entrance and you had to enter the hospital through the other entrance CLEAR ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BUILDING.  Not cool, DePaul, not cool.  So I turned around and yelled across the street to Marshall, who was getting our bag out of the car, and said "The door is locked!".  He thought I said "My water broke!" and came sprinting across the street with a towel in his hand!  I think men who have a wife in labor have a little hard time hearing because of their adrenaline level.  :)

Just then a car pulled up and a hospital worker got out and used their badge to open the door.  She could see that I was there to deliver a baby, and told us to come on in!  Thank you random stranger!  We made our way up to the floor where the Midwifery Center is, and went right into one of the birthing rooms, since we had already pre-registered at the hospital.  It was nice not to have to fill out forms and answer tons of questions right away.  We met our nurse Colleen, who was wonderful and did a great job helping me get changed and set up to do the initial 20 minute fetal monitoring period, after which I was free to labor how I chose with intermittent monitoring, as long as everything was fine.  Tara came in to check on me and see how I was progressing.  She let me know that she'd be with the woman in the next room who would be delivering soon, but that she'd soon be back.  The hardest part was just lying still on that bed, I wanted badly to get up and move around, it was SUPER uncomfortable.  I was lying on my left side, which was most comfortable to me, and when I would have a contraction I was pushing with my right foot downward on the bed, lifting up my pelvis a little bit.  I don't know why this felt better to do, I think it had to do with the position of the baby at the time.  The contractions were maybe 3 to 4 minutes apart, I can't really remember at this point- I wasn't timing them anymore, just focusing on breathing.  Heather was doing a great job keeping a cold washcloth on my head because I was sweating a ton (thank you hormones!) and so hot, and she also talked to me and helped keep my mind off of feeling chained down in the bed. The monitoring was FINALLY over and I got out of the bed as quickly as I could.  I'm not sure exactly when it was, but sometime around now is when Colleen asked me if Marshall was my husband, and I looked at her and said "You don't think I drag him around for fun!?"  Sorry Colleen!  I bet nurses get snippy b!tches giving birth all the time right??  I think if that's the worst thing I said during labor, then that's pretty good!

I have to say, that at no point during any of this was I scared, and I don't think Marshall was either.  We had taken a Birthworks Int'l class that helps couples prepare for natural childbirth, and it was fantastic.  So, we knew what was happening, what was coming next, what we could do, etc.  We were empowered and over all just excited!

They checked me and I was already 8cm dilated!  Woot!  I really felt great about that, like most of the hard work was already behind me!  The tub was already filled, and I knew I wanted to labor in the water, so I got in.  I left my sports bra on, but really, all modesty is out the window at this point in childbirth, you really don't care who sees your business, or what you look like.   As soon as I got into the water, I knew I probably wasn't getting out.  It. was. AWESOME.  The water just lifts up all your heavy pregnant weight, and takes the pressure off of your joints and back.  I was still feeling the contractions, but they were localized, and I wouldn't say they were severe.  I was shaking on and off, which is a sign that I was having some major hormonal stuff happening, but I never felt nauseous.  I leaned against the side, sometimes on my left, sometimes on my right.  I tried to get on my knees and lean forward, but that didn't feel good, so I just leaned against the side again.  At this point I started making this "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh" sound during the contractions- trying to keep my mouth open, taking deep breaths, and focusing on opening and relaxing.

...more coming...

Maverick's Birth Story Part 1

I don't recommend waiting a year to try and properly write out your birth story- exact times get a little hazy, but I really do remember this birth and the details and how it felt so much better than I remembered Maddox's birth.  I'll spare you the goriest details, but still include the fun stuff.  :)

On Wednesday, Aug 18th 2010 (one day overdue) Marshall, Mdx, and I were taking our daily walk around Target.  You may laugh, but that's not really an exaggeration!  We were living in the Bayview Tower TLF (Temporary Living Facility) on base because we had moved out of our rental house a week and a half before.  Now, WHY in the world would a family with a woman almost ready to deliver a baby move into TLF??  Truly, it was our best option.  Marshall was heading to Korea Labor Day weekend, and I was moving down to NC to stay with family until we joined him.  I didn't want the stress of having the movers and everything crazy with a newborn baby, so we got permission to live in TLF for almost a month so that we could be moved out, deliver the baby, have some time to recover, and then leave.  We were so thankful that Langley TLF was understanding and extra accommodating!  So anyway- back to Target.  If you've ever lived in a TLF you know what I'm talking about here- you quickly become tired of flipping the AFN channels, staring at each other, and riding the elevator for fun. Not that we would ever do that.

We made a few videos just for fun:
video


video

We also got many hours of playground time (mostly Marshall and Mdx)


So, with Target a few minutes down the road and a kid who loves shopping carts and popcorn- you get the idea!  Every day those poor red shirted employees watched me dig through the dollar section and mutter generally rude things under my breath about organization and rednecks not putting things back.  They may or may not have had to draw straws to see who was going to have to clean up the mess when my water broke, after daily watching me waddle through the door.  I think on this particular day we made a few laps around, when I started to feel the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions.

I knew my body was preparing to deliver for a few reasons.  The baby had dropped LONG ago and was engaged.  With every step I could feel his bowling ball of a head (as I imagined it, because Marshall's head is huge) knocking on the door.  I also had been at least 3cm dilated for weeks.  My body had "cleaned itself out" over the last day, which is definitely a sign (sorry folks, but it's the truth!)  I knew second babies generally come faster than first babies, and Mdx's labor was about 8 hours, so once labor started, I shouldn't dilly dally.  Still, the contractions were really not too bad.  Stomach tightening, back definitely hurting, but manageable.  I could still carry on a conversation but every seven minutes or so I got this look like I was thinking really hard about buying that spiky blue ball that goes in the dryer.

After timing contractions for around 30 minutes (7 to 6 minutes apart) I told Marshall that I thought we should go back to the hotel and see if they stop or continue.  He agreed, so we got into the car and headed back.  Having contractions sitting in a car is not fun....it's an awful position for the pelvis to be in with all that extra stuff going on down there.  By the time we arrived back on base I couldn't walk during a contraction, I had to stand still.  So I stood still in the parking lot, then in the lobby, then on the elevator, then in the hallway, and finally safely back in our TLF.  The contractions seemed to be closer together, and once I began timing them we saw that they were now 6 minutes apart consistently.  Time to start making some plans!!

Marshall called our friend Jamie who had offered to keep Mdx for us whenever it was time to go to the hospital.  Jamie was so thoughtful and would check in with me before going out and doing anything, to make sure that I knew she would be just a phone call away.  Coincidentally, Aug 18th was also Jamie's birthday!  She lived in the neighborhood right next to TLF, so it was a quick trip for Marshall to gather Mdx's things and run her over.  Mdx was really excited about getting to sleep at Miss Jamie's house, she didn't even notice anything was going on with me!

While Marshall was gone I called my doula Heather (more about her later!) and let her know what was going on.  She was at a sewing party with some friends, and told me I should probably call the midwife and let her know I was in labor, and then call her back and tell her what she says.  So I called the Midwifery Center, and was pleasantly surprised to have my favorite midwife Tara answer the phone!  The Midwifery Center at DePaul is a birth center that is inside a hospital, staffed by Certified Nurse Midwives, who are assisted (when necessary) by OBs.  (I'll write another post about my new views on birth....)  I had received all my prenatal care there, and gotten to know the four midwives pretty well.  I was THRILLED to be able to birth there.

Tara talked to me on the phone, assessed the situation, and recommended that we head over to Norfolk sooner rather than later, since sometimes tunnel traffic could be bad.  She said she already had one woman laboring there, so she'd already be there for the night!  I hung up the phone and called Heather back.  The first words out of my mouth were "You are going to hate me....."- I felt bad that she was going to have to leave her sewing party- but she was stoked to know that it was GO time!  She didn't mind one bit, this is what we'd been preparing for all this time!  I started gathering all our stuff so that when Marshall got back and Heather arrived we'd be ready to go.

....more to come as the essay continues......

Monday, August 8, 2011

DMZ Part 3

After going through a checkpoint our bus arrived at the Joint Security Area.  We were then boarded by an American Soldier who is stationed at Camp Bonifas and assigned to work at the JSA.  He wore a special armband designating him as assigned to the DMZ, and recited quite a few memorized speeches during our time there.

Camp Bonfias JSA water tower.  No pictures allowed after this until told otherwise.

We rode in our bus to the Visitor's Center where we were shown a brief presentation regarding the history behind the JSA, and the seriousness of our visit there.  There can be (and have been) incidents within the DMZ where people can get hurt, and there is a very strict protocol that must be followed.  There was a dress code we were given when we bought the tickets-no logos or provocative sayings on clothing, no short shorts, women dress modestly, etc.  I was told my Bermuda shorts might be too short, so I wore jeans.

After the presentation we were put onto a JSA bus, and driven up into the JSA.  The building is called the Freedom House, and stands directly across from the blue buildings that straddle the Military Demarcation Line.  You can see a better layout on this website.

This is the view from the steps of the Freedom House, over the blue buildings that were intended to be temporary when they were built.  The large building you can see is the North Korean building where they gather their negotiators and distinguished visitors before entering the blue building.  When our tour group was getting ready to enter the building, the South Korean soldier locked the door to the North Korean side, and stood guard.  It can only be used by one side at a time.  

The soldier is standing with half his body hidden behind the building so he can signal if he needs to without the North Korean guards being able to see him.  These guards stare at each other all day long.

Inside building T2, the American soldier is explaining to us that within this building is the only place where you can set foot into the North Korean side of the DMZ.  The South Korean soldier is standing at a position sometimes referred to as "ROK Ready"- it is a modified Tae Kwon Do stance.  You can see their ginormous arm bands.

Running down the middle of the buildings is the MDL- you cannot cross this line.  Actually, you used to be able to, but after a series of violent attacks, it was decided that both sides should stay on their side of the line.

Marshall is trying ROK Ready.  It doesn't have the same effect somehow.  Maybe it is the loafers.

The soldier peeking around the building.

It's hard to see, but in this photo there is a North Korean soldier at the top of the steps peering at us through binoculars.  Hope he liked my jeans.

When we were done at the JSA Panmunjeom we traveled to an observation point where we could see North Korean observation towers.

The skies finally cleared enough that we could just barely see Gijeoung-dong Village, which is a North Korean village built for the sole purpose of propaganda.  North Korea has tried to make this village look like a place with nice apartment buildings and people working in the fields, but it is obvious that there is no glass in the windows of the buildings, and the people working in the fields are transported in.  Surrounding the village are powerful loudspeakers that sometimes send out propaganda messages or music.  What you can see in this picture is the giant flag tower they built so that the North Korean flag could be visible from the South Korean side.  However, the flag is so heavy that it sometimes rips under its own weight.

Here is a view down to where the axe murder incident happened.

This is a memorial marker, in the exact spot where the tree stood.  Reading about this incident, and listening to the stories really goes to show how volatile this whole area is.  That people would be killed over trimming a tree- how senseless. 

Around the checkpoint you can see the entrance to the bridge that straddles the MDL.  

This bridge is known as the Bridge of No Return.  Soldiers were allowed to pass across this bridge only once at the end of the war, they had to choose which side they wanted to go to.  But wherever they went, they could never go back.  And what is amazing, is that it is now 2011, and they STILL cannot go back.

That concludes our pictures from the DMZ tour.  I highly recommend it to anyone who gets a chance to go.  It helps to understand why these countries are divided, and why our forces are still necessary here.  I pray for peace for all Korean people, and that their country can be reunited one day.