Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adventures in Korea

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. We spent 9 days in South Korea, came home for 6, then I headed out to San Francisco for 7. 

And you guys, I am DEAD. 

But first thing's first, Korea. 

From the minute we landed in Incheon until we set foot back on American soil, we were whisked away and treated like kings. Harim's family was amazingly generous, and showed us every square inch of South Korea. It is a stunning country. However, I am certain that I have never hit the ground running this hard in my life, and with a baby, that did not come without a price. But everything we saw was beautiful, and we were so grateful for the experience. 

We were also relieved to find a Burger King in the mall on our last day. So there's that. 

Trying street food everywhere we went

Seoul Tower

Cable car ride to the top of Seoul Tower :: This day Michael rented us a car and driver for the day to take us around Seoul

The Asian Games were in Incheon while we were there, and Michael got us passes to a handball game. 

What I wish the entire trip consisted of: listening to Harim play the piano for hours

Seorak Mountain

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Pet Cafe with Harim

Silkworm larva is a delicacy in South Korea, woof

A temple in Gangwon Province

So down to business...

How was the flight? Actually, better than expected. We had heard that 4 months was the only window to travel internationally with a baby, and we agree. 15 hours is long no matter what, but I will be a lot less anxious about flying with Rowan from now on. She did great.

What was my favorite thing about the trip? Seeing Harim and all the places he talked about while he lived with us. I'm also glad we saw both urban and rural places, so I felt like we got a good feel for the landscape of Korea as a whole.

What was my least favorite thing? The schedule was really tough while we were both jet lagged, and then added a jet lagged infant just for fun. I think we could manage ourselves, but convincing a baby to swap her days and nights was just as terrible as you'd imagine. Which left us with not a lot of energy for the daily rigor of South Korea.

What was the weirdest food option? Red beans in ice cream, slices of raw fish at the table as a side dish, silkworm larva, dried fish, fermented octopus, the list goes on. I still have anxiety. Also, I brought 18 Cliff Bars, and by day 3 I was having to ration. Poor Patrick forgot to bring his own snacks. 

Biggest surprise? Babies come with a lot of stuff, from strollers to diaper bags to toys. And wherever we went, each family member took something off of our backs to carry. So one person would push the stroller, one would carry Rowan's diaper bag, one would carry our camera, etc. It made it so much easier on us every day to have everyone pitch in. 

But, DID YOU SEE GANGNAM? YES. And you guys, Gangnam is the coolest place in Korea. The streets all cross in unique directions, the architecture is crazy unique, and it is just beautiful and vibrant. We ate dinner at the Ritz in Gangnam, and I felt every bit as upscale as you can imagine. I borrowed a few Gangnam pictures from Google, since mine were terrible:

Huge thanks to Michael and Sook for being gracious hosts, Harim for still being every bit as perfect as we remember, and for Rowan hopefully forgiving us for dragging her across the world to see and experience something new. We've kept thorough notes for her counselor when this experience comes up later in therapy.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oopa Gangnam Style

     Most of you guys know about our adopted Korean child, HaRim. But if you don't, here's a quick re-cap: HaRim and his family moved to America for 2 years, as his dad was a diplomat. We got to know them fairly well, and tutored HaRim for about a year in school. When his dad got re-assigned back to Korea, HaRim came to stay with us for 4 months. He was legally ours for all of those 4 months. He spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in our home, and we took our parenting assignment very seriously. And by seriously, I mean we constantly tried to talk him out of studying so that he could come hang out and watch movies with us. I'll go on and subtract one star for that. But we did do our best to make his time in America as fun as it could be. We took him apple-picking in the mountains, took him to the Varsity, to new restaurants, to pick out a Christmas tree, to our small group, etc. Basically anything that we did, he did. So we all just laughed A LOT. He fit in so seamlessly, and our lives will never be the same without that experience.
     And to really round out our Korean experience, we'll be taking to the skies on Thursday to visit HaRim and his family. My only request is to visit Gangnam. And oh, did I mention we're bringing a 4 month old to South Korea?! Woof. FIFTEEN HOUR FLIGHT, Y'ALL. So we'll be pleading for prayers that we make said 15 hour flight, but also that the 13 hour time difference does not do us in. I have a feeling we'll be reverting back to the sleepless nights of newborn babies. Big tears, guys. But I know it'll be worth it, and we can't wait to see our wonderful friends in their element. Enjoy a few pictures from their stay in America!

The origination of Camp West

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pictures Upon Pictures

First off, this is your warning. This post is 100% baby pictures. In the earlier days I might have felt ashamed to be posting SO MANY of these. But alas, this is my life now. And I love this little cherub. However, I have started back to work, so life is slowly starting to take some sort of shape again. And I promise there will be more "life" pictures and stories to come, because I know you're dying to see our office field day pictures, hear about our upcoming trip to Korea, and my work trip out to San Francisco in October. I promise I'll get to those. But for now, let's enjoy baby Rowan and all her sweet smiles. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A letter to Rowan

To my precious Rowan,

These last 11 weeks with you have been the most exhilarating weeks of my life. I was naively unprepared for what life would look like with a newborn, however God was so kind when He gave us you. Despite how tired your dad and I have felt each day, you have remained the joy in our lives. We take such pride in taking care of you. We love brushing your hair when you get out of the bath, wrapping you in blankets, listening to your baby sneezes, playing music to calm you down, and reading books to you each night. We sneak into your room time after time each night just to look at you. We can't believe that you're ours.

Watching you start to smile in the middle of the night when we'd get up with you was one of my favorite moments. And those middle-of-the-night smiles turned into every morning smiles, and now they've become a constant part of your day. They are radiant and pure, and we feel like we get glimpses of heaven every time we see them.

We've loved getting to show you the world. Taking you to the beach and mountains, out to dinner, through long walks in the park, and all sorts of gatherings. We love telling you about the people you'll meet and the experiences you're going to have. Introducing you to our amazing friends who have also prayed for you has been so special. It has taken a village to get us to this point, and we'll continue to need that village for the years to come. You are loved dearly by so many.

Every day I am faced with the fact that I am building your foundation, and shaping the way you see the world.  I want to not take that for granted. I want to invest in you in as many ways as I can, especially when you're little and I have the opportunity. Gradually you'll start to embark on your own grand adventure in the world, and my prayer is that you will always feel rooted in love. We loved you long before we met you, and that love only grows with each passing minute.

At this age, you are awake and alert for most of the day. Your eyes watch everything in the room, and you love listening to music. Sitting outside or taking a bath can calm the most violent of your tears. You grin constantly, and love to raise one eyebrow at a time. You hate having a wet diaper, and we're banking on that making potty training super easy. You have started sleeping through the night, and taking really great naps (although you tend to flail your arms and legs so much that it takes you awhile to actually fall asleep). But you sleep soundly and we're so thankful for that.

We love you to pieces and are so excited to see who you become.

Thanks for being part of our family.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Keep the Faith :: Anthony Skinner

theres another cloudy day
maybe we should go outside anyway
you never know what you could find
what's the chance my hand you'll take
maybe we should go and walk in the rain
and let your troubles just fall away
you gotta trust me darling when i say

you've made it once before
you've made it thru that storm
so come on baby keep the faith
everything'll be okay
it aint over til its done
I swear we're gonna see the sun
whats wrong with getting caught in the rain
tomorrow is another day
so come on baby keep the faith

and everybody's life's rains fall
looking for the door but all you can find are walls
people can be hard when you hit the ground
don't let the heavy people bring you down down down

'cause I've made it once before
I've made it thru that storm
so come on baby keep the faith
everything'll be okay
it aint over til its done
I swear we're gonna see the sun
whats wrong with getting caught in the rain
tomorrow is another day
so come on baby keep the faith

when the walls are closing in
troubled water is the world you swim in
when theres nothing left to lose
baby theres one thing you can choose

let me take you by the hand
baby give me your hand
together we'll find a way
I know we're gonna find a way
ain't over til its done
keep walking til you see the sun
until the race is run
until the Kingdom comes
until we hear 'well done'

come on come on come on
we gotta keep the faith
come on come on come on
til we feel it rain
come on come on come on
we gotta keep the faith
come on come on come on
til we feel it rain

we made it once before
we made it thru that storm
so come on baby keep the faith
everything will be ok
it aint over til its done
I swear were gonna see the sun

whats wrong with getting caught in the rain?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Perhaps This is the Moment

What if today was meant to be the most significant day of your life? What if you're meant to contribute something more powerful to the world today, than you were yesterday? What if you are more significant and influential than you ever realized?

What would you change? How would you invest in today? 

My current stage of life is hard. It is beautiful and messy and precious, but at the end of the day, it is still hard. And my biggest challenge to myself to get through the hard days is to invest in myself in some small way each day. Anne Lamott would call this 'radical self-care.' This means that I will intentionally take care of myself in a way that makes me feel human. Makes me feel significant. And some days that just means that I take an extra long walk, or spend 15 more minutes with the book I've been admiring on my bedside table. But other days 'radical self-care' means Starbucks, dinner out with a group of friends, or a weekend away. 

And I'm convinced that if I don't care for myself in the small ways each day, I'll get wrapped up in the hard. And I'll miss the beautiful and the significant. 

I might even miss that one moment that would change the course of my life story, or even yours. 

I want to be ready for life's sacred moments. Not wishing that it was still yesterday or wishing that it was tomorrow. I want to soak in today's moments, and not only be present for them, but come at them with a full heart and an eagerness to play a part in their significance. 

So let's all take care of ourselves so that we don't miss an opportunity to impact the world. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Showing Up

The last few days have left me with the sense that I am FINALLY coming out of the fog.

Transitioning into motherhood was one thing I had hoped to do gracefully. Maybe even easily. But somewhere along the lines I missed the fact that it would be H A R D. That the sleep deprivation wouldn't be that bad. That I would still have time to go on long walks, dry my hair, cook gourmet meals, and keep my toenails freshly painted. That I could still do laundry, read books, grind wheat and keep up with the Kardashians.

But I can promise you that no book, friend, parent, pediatrician, counselor, street vendor or store clerk told me that it would be like this. They didn't tell me that there would be nights of endless crying when I've exhausted all options of getting Rowan back to sleep. They didn't tell me that I would feel inadequate, exhausted, and overwhelmed. They didn't tell me that there would be hours/days where I'd want to see no one, and just sit in utter silence. Nor did they tell me that my emotions would be forced into high gear almost instantaneously with her arrival, and that that would get very, very ugly. 

Just kidding.

I was told all of those things. And yet they still surprised me. But, why? Why did I not listen? Why did I imagine myself to be the one woman who could take all of these new feelings and tasks and emotions in stride, and lovingly tend to a baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with constant, overflowing love and acceptance in my heart? And while I was lovingly tending to my little one without stress, I would be cooking, baking, crafting, walking, visiting friends, reading books, and spending copious amounts of time resting in this newfound role as a mother? Psh. This should have all been so easy!

But alas, I was lied to. And by the worst person: myself.


So honestly, my goal at this point is to just show up each day. With my whole self. To communicate more openly and candidly with those around me with what I need. With what I'm feeling, or how I'm struggling. There isn't room for manipulation, passive aggression, or a false sense of control. There isn't the time or space for lip service when it isn't real and gets us nowhere. I want my relationships to be authentic and deep, honest from the start. I own who I am and how I respond, and I want to do a good job. But I have to show up. I have to be me. And I have to communicate me or else no one else will really know who I am or how they can help.

I have to show up to love my daughter. I have to show up so that she can see that being honest and true is normal and good.  That we can love each other deeply and without hindrance. And that its okay to have hard days, and even acknowledge their hardness openly. Pleasing others gets us further away from who we really are, so we have to show up with ourselves, ready to fully be us and all that entails. 

Despite my unfortunate shortcomings in terms of all things domestic, my only hope for these days is to just show up. And I know I can do that. And so I will. 

I hope you'll show up with me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rowan's Birth Story

On May 21, our family of 2 became a family of 3. We welcomed sweet Rowan into the world at 8:49am, and have been smitten ever since. She is perfect in every way and our days are spent just staring at her, wondering how we got to be so lucky with such a beautiful baby girl. 

Rowan's Birth Story

     May 16, Rowan's due date, came and went without much fanfare. We had made no plans for the week in hopes that she'd make her grand debut somewhere close to her due date. But that day passed, and we headed into the weekend. I'd had Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, and I kept hoping that they'd start coming with more regularity. However, they did not. When we had gone to the doctor for my 39 week appointment, my OB said that I didn't meet enough of the qualifications yet to be induced, so we set up an appointment for May 20 to check her size, weight and position. He also wanted to see if I had dilated at all. Then they'd be able to make some decisions about getting her out (thank God).
     Our ultrasound showed nothing unusual, but they were concerned that she was almost 9 pounds. That was just an estimate based on measuring her head, torso, arms, legs, etc. so we knew that that could be off. But it was still something worth noting. Luckily I had dilated to 2cm, which was our golden ticket to begin the induction process. When our doctor said that we could be induced, I started crying with relief. I had been so incredibly uncomfortable for weeks and would have given anything to get her out. The doctor assumed I was nervous, but I assured him that I was ecstatic, and couldn't have hoped for a better response. So finally, after 10 months, the end was in sight!
     Our doc told us to go home, pack our stuff, and they'd call us and tell us the plan. So we went out to lunch, Patrick went back to work to wrap up a few things, and I went home to tie up some loose ends for myself with work and get our bags together. 
     We went to the hospital around 8pm, and it took several hours to get me into my (glamorous) hospital gown, get monitors hooked up to my stomach, take my medical history, start IVs, and give me the rundown of how everything would work. Starting at 11pm, the labor and delivery nurses would give me Cervadil, a cervix softening gel that helps get your cervix ready for delivery. I would have that until 7am the following morning, and at 8am they would break my water and start Pitocin to get labor going. I was deathly afraid of Pitocin because of how intense your contractions are from the start (rather than letting your body work up to that level), but I was so ready to not be pregnant I would have given myself the IV to get it going. 
    Once the Cervadil was inserted (it is like a really small tampon that gradually releases the drug over several hours), Patrick and I each settled in to get some rest for the night. The nurses told me that I had a couple of pain management options, as the Cervadil can cause some crampiness. They assured me I probably wouldn't feel much, but to call them if I wanted something. 
     I tried to rest for a little bit, but after about 2 hours, I was really uncomfortable. I could watch my contractions and the baby's heart rate on my monitor, and I could see that I was starting to have some pretty regular contractions. I would watch them rise and fall every 2-3 minutes, so I knew that my body was making some progress. I had had a friend who had recently had a baby, and Cervadil was used on her (as Pitocin is not used in Germany where she lives) to induce labor. So I knew going in that Cervadil could be really helpful, and as I was watching (and feeling) my progress, I hoped that my body was further along than it started. 
     At about that 2-3 hour mark, I was starting to have trouble breathing, and couldn't really focus on anything but getting through each contraction. I was still assuming this was the "crampiness" so I didn't say anything to Patrick and let him rest. I did call the nurse and ask if I could have some type of shot or narcotic to help with the pain, so she gave me (an incredibly painful) shot in my left hip. Several minutes after the nurse had gone, I heard a pop and felt water gushing out of me. I didn't say anything right away because I didn't know what the point would be, as my water breaking was just a sign that things were still moving in the right direction. But I was curious if I had dilated any further, so after several minutes I called the nurse and told her my water had broken, and would she mind checking me again. I didn't wake Patrick up, but he heard my call to the nurse and got up and came over to the bed with me. 
     The nurse confirmed that my water did break and that I was at 4cm. 4 CENTIMETERS!!! This was probably close to 3-4am, so I asked if I could have an epidural (for my sake and everyone else's). I know that nurses try to make you wait until 4cm to give you one, so hearing that I was there was such a relief. The contractions were fairly intense, and if you've been pregnant before, you know that sleeping in the last month is virtually non-existent. So I was exhausted and uncomfortable, struggling to breathe as my contractions were getting closer together, so the nurse went ahead and called the anesthesiologist. He came within minutes, although I had been warned that it usually takes 30 minutes to an hour for them to get there, and then putting it in is about a 15-20 minute process. Seeing his face was wonderful. The nurses and Patrick propped me up in bed, and the anesthesiologist numbed my back first (which hurt worse than the epidural itself), then inserted the IV into my spine. He did it between contractions so that I would be as still as possible, and he was incredibly quick. The medicine took effect almost immediately. 
     I laid back down to rest, and around 5:30 or 6 the nurses told me I was at 9 1/2 cm! Once I got to 10, the doctor came in to help me start pushing. We had noticed that the baby's heart rate would drop every few contractions, and the doctor said that she wanted me to push so she could watch how the baby would do with the pressure. After 3 pushes (in very strange positions), the doctor told me that pushing was causing too much strain for the baby. She explained that labor is just as much a workout for the baby and their little hearts as it is for us, and that her heart was getting tired and not pumping well enough to her body. So she said that they were going to prep me for a c-section to go on and get the baby out. I wept uncontrollably for several minutes upon hearing that news, because I felt like all of that effort getting up to the 10 centimeters was wasted. I knew I was proud of myself for getting to that point and seeing that I could do it, but I was still sad that I wouldn't be able to have a vaginal delivery. 
     I have a dear friend that is a NICU doctor at the hospital who came to my delivery room just as they told me about the surgery. She hugged me, and asked if I'd like her to come with me to the OR. Of course having a familiar face was so welcome, and I'm even more grateful for her now than I was then. They took me to the OR, and took Patrick somewhere else to get suited up while they got me and the room prepped for surgery. Wendy, our friend, stayed with us through the whole operation, and once the baby had been pulled out of my stomach, she stayed with Patrick and the baby to help explain what was going on and to just keep an eye on everything. They showed Rowan to me, but I was so bleary from all the anesthesia that it hardly registered to me that she was mine. I wanted to have this huge monumental moment with her, but I didn't. And to be honest, she didn't look anything like me or what I expected, and she didn't yet feel connected to me. I knew that she had grown in my stomach for months and months, but the pieces weren't all connecting for me emotionally yet. But I knew she was healthy and safe, and in that moment that was all that mattered.
     Rowan's heartrate was the reason we needed to have a c-section. We learned later that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her chest, and that was preventing her heart from pumping blood effectively through her body...hence her low heartrate with each contraction. 
     Once she was out, they took the baby and Patrick to the recovery room to wait on me to be stitched up, and then they wheeled me down to the recovery room too. I watched the nurses give Rowan a bath and teach Patrick how to swaddle her, and I was so grateful that he was with her for every second since I couldn't be. I knew that the next few days would be a very tough recovery for me, so getting to watch Patrick change her diaper, swaddle her, put socks on her feet and mittens on her hands, and bring her to me whenever it was time to heart just melted over and over. Getting to watch him become a dad was the most beautiful thing of the whole experience. 

     The next few days were really hard on me recovery wise. I couldn't sit up on my own or do any walking, and my sweet Patrick had to help me do everything. It was such a humbling experience to not be able to bend over or sit down or turn over in the hospital bed, or even pick up my new daughter. I couldn't shower alone, go to the bathroom alone, or get dressed. And I didn't have time or energy to be weird or awkward about it because I had no choice. I needed help. Every second. And Patrick didn't bat an eyelash when I needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and he had only slept for 30 minutes. Nor did he get frustrated when the baby cried, or when nurses were in around the clock taking my blood pressure, checking my incision and levels of bleeding, or taking my temperature and handing me my medication. I thought he was going to break in the first 2-3 days at some point, but he was just so attentive and patient, taking pictures of the baby for us, watching her sleep, adjusting her blankets, and making sure I had no need in the world. There were times that he'd just sit and hold her, tears streaming down his face, and talk about how beautiful she was. For a mom who couldn't do much, these moments were priceless and precious. I feel like God was showing me these depths in Patrick's heart that I had never seen before. I also feel like watching him love her helped me connect with her too. Being so distant the first few days kept me from feeling truly connected to her and the experience, but Patrick was what brought all the pieces together for me. I seriously couldn't be more grateful for him throughout this whole process.