Julia’s First Year

Our baby girl is one year old today. It’s been an incredible 365 days, no doubt about it. We had a great party this afternoon which Julia thoroughly enjoyed, although she refused to participate in any sort of “smash cake” ritual. She barely even touched (literally) her cake, focusing instead on the mice made out of strawberries that Nana brought.

Anyway, to commemorate this wonderful occasion, I’ve put together a video of moments in her life between birth and now. It’s just under four minutes long. Compacting an entire year of a firstborn child’s life into four minutes is tremendously challenging, but I’m happy with the result. Julia grinned and laughed at it, which is all the affirmation I need.

Enjoy!

One Week Shy of a Year

Today marks the end of Julia’s 51st week with us. We’ve got Christmas and her first birthday party coming up soon and requiring some time and planning effort, so I figured I’d take a short break in between things and post a little update before all of the festivities.

Julia’s second check-up MRI results came back a couple of weeks ago and showed all good news: there are no new items of concern, and all of the LCH lesions on the previous MRI are either measurably smaller or show no growth. This progress means that she can switch to the maintenance phase of her treatment, which means a lot less chemo and a lot less Prednisone. She can finally settle back into a more normal sleep pattern (gradually, with interruptions every few weeks). Her next check-up MRI will be around March.

On a different but also happy note, she’s started to say “dad-dee!” in a manner which makes it obvious that she knows what she’s saying. Also, “bay-bee!” when she sees either herself or another baby. It’s awesome. However, she also says “dad-dee!” when we tell her to say “mommy,” which is a little less awesome. We’re still working on that, for Courtney’s sake. Julia: despite the downward trend in linguistic skills of the average American child, I don’t think you can get by in life with only two words.

Actually, make that three words. We’re teaching her to say “please” and use the circular-hand-on-chest ASL sign to match when she wants something. She can get “peez” out sometimes when she’s not in so much of a hurry that she’s squealing with delightful anticipation. I suppose, being totally honest, that “dad-dee,” “bay-bee,” and “peez” with a lot of pantomime might actually keep someone alive for a while in a crowd of observant people.

She’s also starting to eat more normal food and less formula and milk, and on a more regular schedule. We try to feed her basically what we eat when we eat it, focusing on the healthy stuff. We figure, if she doesn’t even know what ice cream or refined sugar is enough to ask for it or recognize it, why introduce stuff like that? She absolutely loves berries, kiwi, apples, and almost any fruit we put in front of her, along with many vegetables, salmon, and chicken. Her little chompy face is so adorable, it’s hard to make her stop—although, she has developed an “I’m finished” signal on her own, which consists of taking whatever food she still has piece-by-piece, leaning over the edge of her high chair, and testing whether gravity still works.

She’s still not quite walking, but really close. She crawls everywhere all the time, stands on whatever she can, cruises around with remarkable speed, and tries to climb the stairs whenever I accidentally leave the door open (or sometimes even bangs on the door until we open it so she can access them). She’s definitely all about motion.

It’s amazing that she’s almost a year old, but I wouldn’t say that it felt like it went by faster than it did. She is, as always, an absolute joy to be around.

Welcome to the World, Julia!

Have you ever heard the term “daddyblogger” before? I haven’t–but apparently, it’s a thing. A brief Google search turns up many, many instances of the term. Good thing I didn’t try to get “daddyblogger.com” or something for this site.

A few ideas have bounced around in my head over the last many days about how best to remember as much as I can about the growing-up years of my kid(s). I want to note all of the “firsts,” all of the funny statements, all of the sweet moments, and even the hard bits in between. And more than that, how great would it be for Julia to see her first few years through her parents’ eyes?

Therefore, given the kind of person I am, I’ve opted to create a blog. This not only accomplishes the main goal, but also gives me good motivation to write regularly (which I enjoy) and ensures that the large portion of my family that does not live nearby will have a more direct window into these wonderful formative years. I can turn it into a book later if I want to, or anything at all. Maybe one day, I’ll hand it off directly to Julia. Wouldn’t that be something?

So.

The Chronicles of Julia, part one.

Julia is about ten and a half days old as of this minute, but I’ll start at the beginning. On second thought, maybe about nine months after the beginning. No need to go all the way back.

Julia’s 0th birthday, her entrance into this world, did not quite occur on our expected timetable. Courtney’s regular OB check-up visits estimated her due date at December 6th or December 9th, depending on a couple of factors. Courtney is small, so we planned for the 6th ourselves and hoped for just a bit earlier so Julia could be on the small side as well. Julia, however, would have no such thing. She decided that “inside mommy” was a much more pleasant spot to hang out, and refused to budge. (Or rather refused to leave, since she seemed to have her own budge-filled dance parties on a nightly basis inside the warm comforts of Mommy.)

After the 6th came and went, Courtney’s doctor continued to monitor Julia with stress test equipment and ultrasounds every few days, and both she and her environment seemed to be completely fine. But as more time elapsed after her due date, we decided that inducing her would be wise.

Almost two weeks late with Christmas rapidly approaching, we headed to the hospital just after 6am on December 18th, per the doctor’s instructions. He came in shortly after we got settled in the room, and then at 7:45am used a small plastic hook-stick thing to break Courtney’s water as a means of hopefully triggering the labor process. Our desire was to keep everything as natural as possible (while still ending up with a healthy baby and healthy mommy), so we chose this route rather than just dosing her with Pitocin right off the bat.

It took a few hours, but the broken water did seem to make a difference. Courtney’s contractions increased in frequency and intensity, albeit slowly. Yes, I did say “increased,” because they were there before; she had in fact been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for many months. (Or, as I started calling them, Briggs and Stratton contractions, or Braxton Higgs-Boson contractions. The doctor did say they would “become more pronounced” as time went on, so I am still at a loss for why Courtney kept punching me in the arm every time I pronounced them more.)

An hour or so into the process, it occurred to me to set up a silly novelty domain along the lines of some others I’d seen in the past, to easily let friends and family members know the status of Courtney’s labor. $10 on NameCheap and 20 minutes of Rackspace cloud instance wizardry later, I had “hasjuliabeenbornyet.com” and a really simple one-page website with a great big “No.” in huge text in the middle. This evolved a bit over the next 24 hours, and I have now archived the final state of the site here for anyone interested. The domain itself will expire (we don’t plan to have another daughter named Julia), so while it might be up in its original location now, it won’t be later.

To make a long story short, after nearly 24 hours which included a much-needed epidural halfway through, Julia was delivered naturally at 7:10am on December 19th, 2014. She was 6 pounds 11.3 ounces, 19.0 inches long.

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How Courtney managed to expel something that large from her small body, I’ll never know. But I have the utmost respect, admiration, and gratefulness for her perseverance. She never gave up. Her mom was also with us the whole time, having previously trained as a doula, and she offered invaluable emotional and physical support during the whole process. Sonia, we are forever thankful for that.

So what’s the long version of this story? I’ll elaborate on the same set of updates that I originally posted to hasjuliabeenbornyet.com, this time in forward chronological order:

  • 12/18 @ 5:30am – Called labor and delivery to confirm availability to induce. The doctor had us do this to make sure the maternity ward was not unexpectedly overrun with women in labor. As it turned out, we got in at just the right time, since it completely filled up not long afterwards.
  • 12/18 @ 5:45am – Breakfast and final gathering of stuff. Courtney had already packed virtually everything in anticipation of this day, so this step only took a couple of minutes.
  • 12/18 @ 6:45am – Arrived at hospital and checked in. Shifts change at 7am, so we only got the first nurse (Olivia) for 15 minutes before the second one (Kathy) swapped in.
  • 12/18 @ 7:25am – IV access finished and monitoring set up. Courtney now has some equipment hanging off of her, but not too much. She’s still mobile.
  • 12/18 @ 7:45am – Water broken. Starting point for dilation is ~3cm. Here we go!
  • 12/18 @ 10:45am – Contractions increasing slightly over past few hours. Not too much to show for it yet.
  • 12/18 @ 11:45am – Contractions continue to increase. Not yet serious, but there is a little more pain. Courtney’s baseline Braxton Hicks contractions make this seem pretty run-of-the-mill.
  • 12/18 @ 1:15pm – Much more effaced now, dilated about 4-5cm. Increasing frequency and intensity of contractions.
  • 12/18 @ 4:00pm – 85% effaced, solid 5cm. Julia is notably lower now.
  • 12/18 @ 5:40pm – 100% effaced, dilated to 7cm. Good progress for an hour and a half!
  • 12/18 @ 7:00pm – Now dilated 8-9cm, looks like she’s almost ready to push.
  • 12/18 @ 8:30pm – Not pushing yet. Julia is somewhere in transition, and Courtney is dealing with ridiculously painful contractions almost constantly. So far, she’s had no pain medication.
  • 12/18 @ 9:50pm – Finally got an epidural. Courtney really needs rest, and there is no other feasible way. The epidural went in without issue and has done wonders for her ability to relax. We are hopeful that this will help move the labor process forward.
  • 12/18 @ 10:40pm – Now completely dilated. Waiting a bit until pushing to make sure everything remains stable despite the epidural.
  • 12/19 @ 1:00am – Ready to start pushing. Her uterus has done its job after Courtney’s stress level dropped.
  • 12/19 @ 1:25am – Apparently, Julia doesn’t like being pushed. Her heart rate drops every time Courtney tries. Laboring down a bit, slowly, to let the muscles and contractions do it on their own little by little.
  • 12/19 @ 3:45am – Pushing once again. Julia is taking it better now, with her heart rate recovering to nominal immediately after each push (momentary drops are normal).
  • 12/19 @ 4:35am – Continued hard pushing. Julia’s heart rate is staying in the healthy zone even through pushing. We can see bits of her head showing now!
  • 12/19 @ 5:05am – More of the same pushing. Nurse says she’s doing great.
  • 12/19 @ 5:30am – Doctor checked in and gave a thumbs-up to her status. She’s still pushing regularly with almost every contraction.
  • 12/19 @ 7:10am – Julia is here!

I’ll admit it. I cried a bit when she finally made it. Dads are allowed to do that, so I’ve heard.

I also cut the umbilical cord, which was somewhat of a spur-of-the-moment decision made when the doctor handed me a pair of scissors and said “Here you go, Dad. Cut between here and here.” And there was Julia, all alive and breathing and crying and covered in everything babies are usually covered in when they are born.

And she is beautiful.