New Christmas traditions

This year, we have a Christmas tree for the first time.

Well, unless you count the 2-foot tall tree we’ve put up for the past 3 years. Which I don’t, really, since it sits on a table.

This is the first year we won’t be traveling to our families’ for Christmas, so I thought it was fitting that we actually have a tree of our own. My parents had an extra one that was small and manageable and pre-lit, so on Sunday my mom came to visit and we decorated it with the ornaments from Peter’s and my collections that we’ve acquired over the years.

Some favorites include the kissing fish we received from my aunt as a wedding gift:

(Their lips are magnets.)

One of two cupcake ornaments:

And this:

Peter’s first Christmas! Awww.

I hadn’t missed having a tree in the past, but once we started decorating this one I remembered how much fun I always had as a kid admiring all the ornaments on our tree and on my grandparents’ tree. I’m glad we have one of our own this year to bring back memories and create new ones.

How we celebrate Christmas is definitely something that’s going to change a lot once we have kids. Up until now, we’ve spent Christmas Eve usually at my family’s annual gathering at my grandparents’ and Christmas morning at my parents’ house, almost just like it was when we were kids. Then we visit Peter’s family either the weekend before or the weekend after Christmas and do it all again.

But with a child of our own, I think it’s appropriate that we not only have a Christmas tree but that we have our own family celebration. This is made difficult by the fact that we live in a different state than either of our families, and we’ll still want to see them for Christmas. I guess I always had it easy in that almost all of my extended family lives in the Chicago suburbs, so we could see them all Christmas Eve and wake up Christmas morning at our own house. And then even sometimes go back to my grandparents’ because Santa always left us gifts there too.

So I’m not really sure how the where will work logistically, but tonight Peter and I chatted about how we want Christmas to be celebrated with our kids. It probably won’t really matter for a few years, but it’s always good to discuss these things and be intentional about them.

I’m kind of torn between wanting to set a standard for minimal materialism at Christmas and wanting my kids to enjoy all the fun of opening a ton of boxes under the tree. I think we can figure out a middle ground that is fun and keeps the holiday about Jesus. Here are some of the ideas we floated around:

  • Peter’s family has a tradition of reading the Christmas story from the Bible every Christmas morning. We want to carry that on, and probably make that the first thing we do Christmas morning to start things off on the right note.
  • I’ve done a little bit of reading up on the idea of giving three gifts to each child that represent gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold is a gift of high value to the child – the thing they really want. Frankincense is a gift that helps them grow in their relationship with God (a study Bible, worship music, devotional, Christian game… obviously would be very different depending on age). Myrrh is something for the body – perfume, bubble bath, etc. There is more info on the meanings of the gifts in this discussion thread. The myrrh gift still seems a little bit of a stretch to me, but maybe there is some way to adapt this to make it work a bit more fluidly and without missing the point.
  • We like the idea of volunteering as a family around Christmas, but that is the time of year when charities have the most volunteers. Instead, we think it’d be nice to decide as a family on Christmas where we want to do a volunteer project in February, when many organizations are lacking in support.
  • Special homemade family breakfast Christmas morning!
  • Peter is anti-Santa Clause. He doesn’t want to lie to our kids, and thinks it’s just a distraction from the real meaning of the holiday. He’s right. But I think this will be a tough one! Maybe the gold, frankincense and myrrh will be the gifts we get in our family instead of gifts from Santa… or something like that?
  • I read somewhere the idea of hiding Christmas gifts in luggage. Brilliant hiding spot.

Of course, our first child will inevitably have a birthday really close to Christmas, so hopefully we can also come up with a way to make it special and set it apart.

What Christmas traditions do you have/want to have for your family?

36 weeks

As I type out “36 weeks” I am in shock that I am this close to the end of this pregnancy! I wouldn’t say it’s flown by, but this whole I-could-pretty-much-go-into-labor-any-day-now thing really crept up on me.

No picture today – yet! We had our friend Anna Sparks take maternity photos today, so you’ll have to wait till we get a pic from her to see this week’s bump [updated] and here is one in the style of my weekly photo, only much more professional.

I feel mentally prepared (I think) to welcome our baby into this world, but there are still a few things that need to happen before that day arrives:

  • Receive/set up bassinet that my cousin is sending us (or buy Pack ‘n’ Play, which I’m going to wait till after our final shower on Tuesday to buy with our registry completion coupon)
  • Set up appointment with pediatrician (we have one recommended by our neighbor, but need to meet him and do whatever you do to officially become a patient)
  • Get new tubes for breast pump (after the great used breast pump debate, I never updated you on my decision. Basically, my friend Michelle gave me her Medela Pump In Style. I am cool with it since after changing out the tubes and everything there is really nothing else that touches the milk. And I know who it’s coming from, so there’s no weirdness with that. And it’s free – thank you, Michelle.)
  • Wash baby clothes/blankets/etc.
  • Install car seat and have it safety checked.
  • Call the company that handles unpaid leave for me at work and officialize my maternity leave.

There are also some things that aren’t absolutely crucial, but I would really like to get done:

  • Set up crib
  • Finish organizing/arranging/decorating nursery
  • Purchase glider for nursery
  • Cash in gift certificates for prenatal massage (from Peter as an early Christmas gift) and pedicure (shower gift from my friend Litzy). They sound sooo good right now, but I just need to find the time!
  • Buy all the miscellaneous baby items we still need (this also involves figuring out what those items are…)

Current symptoms

Yeah, life with the bump is not getting any easier. Sleep is tough. Rolling over is tough. Getting up after sitting for a while is painful.

My feet are very swollen and at times it feels like I am walking on water balloons that could burst at any moment if I bend them the wrong way.

Baby still likes that right rib, only he/she is getting bigger and stronger and sometimes putting an undue amount of pressure on it.

Most people are really sweet to me and tell me I am one of those women who only gains weight in my belly when pregnant. For the most part, I think that’s true (and I feel really lucky), but it’s kind of the entire mid-section that’s bigger, not just the bump. One woman in the cafeteria at work (who I think is the same woman who made the weird comment I mentioned in this post) told me she can tell I’m nearing the end because my face is starting to fill out. I don’t know how she would have any grasp on that since I don’t know her, but I kind of have to laugh at the thought that she might be the only person being honest with me. I think my face has filled out a bit, but perhaps not noticeably to others.

And again I feel lucky, because I’ve only really gotten two weird/borderline rude comments over the past 8 months, and both were from the same woman.

In other news…

My co-workers threw me a lovely shower at work on Thursday. This was my only shower that involved animal masks. Which is an awesome addition to any party, in my book.

(Giraffe and pup, a.k.a. me being tall and Jackie being… an attack dog)

(Elephant and bear, a.k.a me smiling even though my trunk hides it and Enrique smiling because that’s what you do when you’re in a bear mask)

(Zebra and lion, a.k.a. Nancy looking cute and my hair threatening to turn into a full-on mane)

There were many more mask photos, just not taken on my camera. I think I wore nearly all of the maybe 15 masks at some point.

(Cake design inspired by this very blog)

(Lots of yummy homemade food)

(Some of the ladies in my department)

It was so sweet, and I was once again taken aback by the generosity and love poured out from the people in my life.

On a much more serious note

Another very busy week ahead. As overwhelming as life feels for me right now though, I would like to ask for prayers for my friend Michelle (mentioned above, who gave me her breast pump), who will be having a double mastectomy this Wednesday. Michelle found out she had inflammatory breast cancer a few days before her 30th birthday and the very same day I went to the doctor and took my official pregnancy test (we actually go to the same doctor). It’s crazy to think that as long as I’ve been consumed by this baby growing inside me, she has been consumed by cancer treatments and all the fear and unknown that comes with that. Her strength and trust in the Lord over this time has been a constant reminder to me that no matter the issue, large or small, God is in control. It has helped me put things in perspective when my problems were the center of my world and helped me realize that it’s God who should be at the center. So please pray for a successful surgery and recovery, no more traces of cancer and strength and comfort for Michelle and her family this week.

Song for Liam

At church on Sunday (with Peter’s family – not our church at home) there was a baby dedication. Little one-month-old Liam.

Someone in the congregation wrote and performed a song for the occasion. And like any good pregnant woman, I cried through the entire thing.

Song for Liam

Verse 1 (female)

Such a strange sight to me; without words yet I want to speak.
Tell you all my heart is holding, overflowing with thankfulness,
Realizing I’m truly blessed, that it’s you my arms are holding,
And I feel Your blessing washing over me.

Chorus

Look at your fingers, look at the details in your eyes,
I know my God spent many moments,
Dreaming of your precious life,
Look at your wonder, look at your curiosity,
Father give me all that I’ll need, that he’ll see You through me,
That every time I marvel at this child,
I’ll feel Your blessing washing over me.

Verse 2 (male)

I pray Father, walk with me;
Daily teaching, training, be all I’m lacking in this journey;
As You’re mine, may I be father, hero, provider of need
To this child on our journey.
Lord I feel Your blessing washing over me.

(Words and music by Gretchen Jester)

Peter, of course, found the song extremely cheesy and laughed at my sappiness. Looking back, I don’t remember a note of the melody, and yes, the words could be considered cheesy, but at the time it seemed like the most sentimental, heartfelt new parent song in the world.

I do still think this is a really great line though, and one that I pray often: “Father give me all that I’ll need, that he’ll see You through me.”

The final ultrasound

When I first started going to the doctor after becoming pregnant, I was told that we would get two ultrasounds: one at 8 weeks to check for a heartbeat and get a measurement for a more accurate due date and one at 20 weeks to find out the sex (which we didn’t) and check for limbs and heart chambers and things like that.

At our 20-week ultrasound everything looked good, except one little thing: the placenta was low in the uterus, closer than it should be to the cervix. This can be a problem come delivery time because the placenta cannot be delivered before the baby. If the placenta is blocking the cervix at the end of the pregnancy, it’s called placenta previa and it requires a C-section, no ifs, ands or buts.

My doctor said not to worry because it was still early, and nine times out of ten it will move up to where it belongs and all will be well. But she needed to schedule an ultrasound in the third trimester to check and make sure it had moved.

Of course when I heard this at 20 weeks I was actually kind of happy – another ultrasound! A peek at our baby’s face later on in the pregnancy!

But as the date drew nearer and we learned more about placenta previa in our childbirth class, I started to worry. What if it hasn’t moved and I need a C-section? I don’t want one! Of course, healthy baby is the #1 goal, and if that requires a C-section there’s nothing I can do about it. But I really would prefer not to have a C-section. I want to go through every stage of labor, no matter how long and painful, and have a baby the old-fashioned way.

After I had worried sufficiently, I switched gears and began to prepare myself for the possibility of a C-section. There are a few pluses to it, and though they aren’t enough to make me want one, I tried to focus on the good. Like knowing exactly when the baby would come, or even being able to choose his/her birthday. A 2011 baby or a 2012 baby? We would (possibly) get to decide. And I would get two extra weeks of paid leave from work. And I could stop practicing breathing techniques and relaxation exercises. And I’d avoid the scary unknown of childbirth (granted, a C-section is a scary unknown in itself and the recovery is harder).

Then I just tried to stop thinking about it and instead pray.

Tuesday was the day. I would finally find out and put the big question mark behind me.

As I hopped up on the table for the ultrasound, I forgot all about placenta previa and just got excited to see the baby. I reminded my doctor that we didn’t want to know the sex.

“Hi, Baby!” she said as the picture came into the frame. There was the face, with chubby little cheeks (as far as I could tell on the grainy image). There was a leg, an arm, etc.

“Looks good,” my doctor told me. I remained fixated on the sonogram. “Yep,” she continued. “Head is up here, placenta is in the right spot, everything’s good.”

Sigh of relief. “Yay!” I said, partially in reaction to the news but mostly because it was so exciting to see the baby’s image. “Can I have a picture?”

Funny how that abstract image on the screen made me stop caring about placenta previa or anything else. I got the good news I was praying for, but by then I was more interested in those chubby cheeks.

I guess it’s just another reminder that the baby is all that really matters. Labor and deliver, whether C-section or not, is just the means to an end – or rather, a beginning. Of life.

24 weeks

Hello, belly.

This outfit definitely accentuates the bump. There are certain things you can wear that make you look a little puffy in the middle, and certain things that make you look preggo. I’ve been leaning toward the “looking preggo” outfits recently, a switch from my usual attire up until this point. More on clothes tomorrow though, with the long-awaited post on looking nice but comfortable for a business trip when pregnant.

Today in church we sang “In Christ Alone,” a song I’ve heard and sung many times and always loved. In fact, we included it in our wedding ceremony. I love how God makes certain lyrics speak to you at different times in your life, though. Yesterday morning when practicing the songs [I was singing on worship team this morning, a.k.a. leading the singing during the service] I got to the verse that says: “From life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny,” and almost burst into tears right on the spot.

The surprisingly emotional reaction can be partially attributed to hormones, I’m sure, but I promise I’m not completely crazy. I honestly had never really paid attention to that particular line before, and with a little one growing inside me getting ready to make life’s first cry, it hit me like a slap in the face: Not only is this child in God’s hands from the second he/she enters the world, but even before that – as in , right now – God is in control. There is only so much I can do to protect this baby, and the rest is all God. Actually, even what I may think is me, is really God. What a comfort that I can rest “In Christ Alone” to command the destiny of this baby.