Sunday, February 24, 2013

Four Months

My little man is four months old now, and every cliche and "parentism" about time going by too fast is completely true and that annoys me.  I don't like to think of myself as a "typical" parent and so generally I assumed that wishing myself uniquely gifted at recognizing every moment and carefully cataloging it away in my steel trap of a brain was going to be what set me apart as a mom.  Turns out that steel trap that had so often served as a fail-safe vault of easily recollectable details has turned into more of a wide mesh strainer that catches only looming deadlines and wilted spinach.  If you're a UND hockey fan think of it as when they used to sub Jordan Parise in for Phil Lamoureux, not good.  If you're not a UND hockey fan, tsk tsk...

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, time flies and no it hasn't all been "fun" per se, but it has been better than I would ever imagine.  Turns out, I may fall in line with the idea of a "typical mom" but I have anything but a typical baby.  He is off the charts in both height and weight and is doing some pretty advanced stuff for a 4-month old, like holding his head up far past 90 degrees, rolling both ways and "tri-pod sitting" (see photos below).  He loves to laugh, stand with any help he can get, smile, flirt, sing, hum, squeal, and chew on absolutely everything.  He gets constant remarks on how big he is but the most often received comments are, obviously, on how cute he is.  And those people are correct.  He truly is the cutest baby there ever has been.  Now, you might be thinking it's just because I am his mom but I want to give you this opportunity to put all other thoguhts of babies aside, even thte feelings you may have for your own children (they don't have to know), close your eyes, clear your mind and then look at these photos:

See?  Now don't you feel better being honest about who is the cutest baby ever?  You don't need to comment unless you agree, for the rest I'll just take your silence as assent :)

In all seriousness I am beside myself with how blessed I am to be a part of this little life, and not simply a part but responsible as well.  I am grateful for every giggle and every cry, because with each breath he's still breathing and that means he's still mine.  Month five is fast approaching and includes lots of finding toes and rolling across the room and many more smiles.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent, Giving Up Excuses

I'm not very good at Lent.  When I was in High School I just thought it was something Catholics did and then all of a sudden my friends ate bad fish on Fridays and didn't drink pop until Easter.  This totally clashed with my steak-laden Coca-Cola parties I had on Friday nights.  Maybe that didn't really happen, but still, I thought they were really harshing my gig, man.

Later in life I learned more about the idea of giving up something that detracts from your relationship with Christ and beyond that the absence of that thing being filled by the preparation for Easter.  There is a lot more to Lent than that, but that is another blog post.  One I may write, one I may just have in my head, or one my husband will compose beautifully in a conversation in the Bible study he is leading about Lent based on N.T. Wright's book, Lent for Everyone.

Still, most years I simply told people I was giving up dieting for Lent.  That was pretty much a joke because I haven't been on a serious diet since I was seriously crazy about dieting (read: not eating) and have decided that Oreos are better than not-Oreos any day.  I didn't see the point in giving up pop or candy, which in itself would probably be a good diet for me to be on, it seemed frivolous.  When I got older I honestly knew people who would go to midnight mass on Easter morning and then go out for a beer because they gave up alcohol for Lent.  Their giving up of something was not born out of a desire to grow closer to God or purify themselves in anyway but out of a guilt-ridden sense of obligation and tradition.  So again, there wasn't much attractiveness to me in that.

Last year I tried to give up cussing (sorry mom) particularly while driving.  I didn't succeed, nor did I tell anyone I was trying to give that up for Lent so when I did slip, or maybe intentionally profane the life of every person in the greater Seattle area who can't figure out what turn signals are for, then I wasn't kept accountable to anyone except myself.  And goodness knows, I can talk my way out of just about any guilt at all, except of course the speeding ticket I got yesterday for going 53 in a 35 because I was rushing and could not in good conscience cry my way out of that one with four kids in the car.

So this year, I'm going to do my best to give up my ability to talk my way out of guilt.  I, Alissa Kaye Hormann, am giving up excuses for Lent and I am telling you all about it so I am accountable to someone.  (I say you all in some sense that there are many of you reading this, I will keep up that thought because if it isn't true I still am just talking to myself)

I was thinking about this today as I was watching an amazing online seminar on restarting your photography business by photographer extraordinaire Jasmine Star.  She is the kind of business saavy, photographic powerhouse that every wedding photographer dreams of being.  Something she kept on reminding everyone who was watching was that you can always make excuses for why you don't get things done but then you just have excuses and nothing to show for them.

That was a really hard thing for me to come to grips with because I was watching it while trying to nurse and spend time with a sick little boy who I love more than anything and he is generally my "best excuse" as to why I don't get things done.  Then I realized something, he is not an excuse, he is a reason.

There is a difference between making an excuse and having a reason, truth be told I've been making enough excuses lately that I started to blur the lines between my reasons and my excuses.  Holding my son when he is sick is not some made up "dog ate my homework" backpedaling, it is a reason and a darn good one at that for why I am not typing this blog post until now.  Spending the night sharing wine and dreams with my husband is not an excuse it is an excellent reason.  So often I lump spending time with valuable people in my life in the same category as cruising Craigslist for someone who will cut my hair for free because I haven't book enough photography clients to pay my girl $45 for a hair cut.  My endless searching for something I don't need is not the same as him:

Or him:

Or them:

Or this:

Or these:

These people, places and things are good reasons to take time away from "productivity."  I will choose my son's smile and my husband's laughter over finishing a blog post or email any day.  But at the same time I realize that giving up making excuses is a resolution to tell myself the truth more often.  It's freeing myself up to be honest about why I am avoiding a specific project or email or text message.  I am choosing to be truthful and actually say, "I am not doing this because I don't want to."  It doesn't mean I'm going to immediately change my attitude but it will probably shine a new light on my choice to stay stagnant or move forward.

So this was maybe a little deep, and not quite as lighthearted as previous posts, so because I like to break tension with jokes, here are some Lent memes to laugh at.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Unsolicited Advice, Volume 1

I have realized since becoming pregnant my awareness has become heightened to the flood of unsolicited advice courtesy of the following two things: my mommy spidey-sense (which oddly enough allows me to see spiders everywhere and I am not a fan) and the fact that when  there is a baby in you, everyone is an expert.  When I say everyone, I am casting a really wide blanketed statement across the general population because, well, it's true. 

I am a woman, that right there should speak volumes as to the volumes of unsolicited advice I've received in my short 28 years.  I am also a pastor's wife, a photographer (read: artist), a youth leader, a writer, an oxygen-breather, and most recently a mom.  All are areas of my life where advice is needed, all are areas where I have sought the counsel of others, and all are areas where another counsel (most likely in league with the Legion of Doom), unbeknownst to me, gathered to take on the task of advising me in hit & stun* fashion.
*Hit & Stun: Ali's made up term for quick interludes where the information imparted is unnecessary and possibly offensive but does not leave time for a reply.

So I would like to do my part in the world of the voluntarily verbose and impart some of my own recommendations you didn't ask me to give you concerning your life.  The irony here, is even though the title is "Unsolicited Advice" you're still reading, which means you are actively seeking this advice out.  The same way you buy that copy of Glamour to see how to look ten years younger only to find out it's common sense, like drink more water or get more sleep.  Are you ready?  Turn to page 78 for great new tips!

Page 78:  Today I take on the topic of talking to pregnant ladies.  This could go on for a while but I will try stick to the basics, maybe venturing for a sequel at a later date.

#1 Pregnant women are still WOMEN, not inanimate objects that you can't offend.

Think before you ask questions or give any sort of comment.  Remember the miracle happening within them, giving them a glow that might be radiance and could be sweat from morning sickness, does not preclude them from feelings.  Ask yourself, would I say this to a woman who wasn't pregnant?  If I noticed a friend had gained weight, would I comment?  If a co-worker looked tired would I remind her that she looks haggard?  Generally the answer is no, if it's not then you need to examine the definition of tact.

#2 The first response to learning about a woman's pregnancy is ALWAYS congratulations.

You would think that one is a no-brainer.  The last thing any woman wants to hear is "I thought you were looking a little heavier, I just didn't want to ask."  That means that people have been discussing her weight.  Let that sink in for a moment, her physical form has become a topic of conversation but in a suspicious way.  You say congratulations and ask harmless questions such as "When are you due?" or "How far along are you?"  Unless you are good friends with the woman and in a private setting you don't ask private questions.  Which leads us to our next topic...

#3 You DO NOT ask if they were "trying."

Ask yourself, would I normally ask this person about the frequency and protective state of their sex-life?  (Remember?  That's how babies are made.)  If this not a person who you normally discuss intercourse with, why in God's name do you feel free discussing it in the lobby of your office building?  Moreover, if you are going to ask that question please do not follow it with "or was this an accident?"  Are you kidding me?!?!  This person is having a baby, their precious child is growing inside them!  Planned or not, my baby is not an accident, it's my baby, whom I love.  This question got me so heated once I came home and had a one-sided pillow fight with my headboard.  Typing it out still makes me see feathers.

#4 "Are you sure there aren't twins in there?" Is not funny

Courtesy of great advances in medical technology it is literally impossible for a woman receiving regular scheduled maternity visits at a western-medicine hospital or birthing center to have twins and not know it.  I don't care if your brother's wife's business partner's daughter's second cousin found out on delivery day that she was having twins, that doesn't happen anymore.  But making light of the fact I feel like a whale and closely resemble one doesn't make me feel better it makes me feel like punching you.  Case closed.

#5 STOP with the horror stories.

Why we as a society love pregnancy horror stories is beyond me.  Shows like "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" should not be entertainment they should be shown in jr. high sex-ed classes in a new "scared celibate" curriculum.  If you have a pregnancy story, make it a great one in which the mom goes home with a healthy baby, her husband and her arms and legs intact.  No pregnant woman wants to hear that horrible things can suddenly happen to her or her unborn child, even if it is true.  Are you going to tell a kid going in to get his tonsils out about the complications that arose for "this one guy I heard about" and now he can't move his face anymore and has to eat through a tube in his stomach?  I didn't think so, and if you would, you should be ashamed of yourself.

#6 Always complement, never caveat.

Always tell a pregnant lady she looks great, that she's doing well at whatever task she's working on, that you're so impressed with her energy and strength.  Then, do yourself a favor and stop there.  Don't continue your uplifting statement with a limitation to her goodness.  Saying "You look great, considering you're 36 weeks pregnant" is the opposite of a complement.  Would you like someone to come up to you and say "You did such a great job at karaoke tonight, especially considering how short you are."  Nothing stings like a back-handed "complement" except maybe being backhanded by a progesterone-laden she-bear.

All in all, use common sense and please don't forget that she will remember your negative or inappropriate comment much longer than the sleeper set you got her at your office baby shower.  Do your best to create a lasting impression, just make it a good one.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How My Joy Came to Be (Soren's Birth Story)

I have had lots of people ask me about the day my little man was born and I love the story, it's frankly one of my favorites.  The thing is, the story starts long before October 11th and I have a tendency to ramble, because of that I often feel like I am boring people with all the details.  Also, I am writing this down for me, so I remember because my mommy brain makes me forget to put both socks on.  So, as a forewarning, if you are bored with details or grossed out by medical stories the following two things are probably true:  you shouldn't continue reading this post and you probably don't watch Grey's Anatomy.

So I had a great pregnancy, one that didn't require much complaining even though I'm sure I did my fair share.  I didn't have morning sickness but I was nauseous at night and basically a vegetarian for the first trimester because the smell of meat cooking sent me reeling.  Strangely enough there was a week in there where we ate Hamburger Helper like four times because it sounded good, which is weird because I never eat Hamburger Helper.  I worked hard at maintaining a healthy weight while still giving in to donuts.  I do not remember a time where I lashed out at my husband, blaming him for my "condition," if I did, I blocked that out, sorry babe.  All in all I was healthy, Soren was healthy and I was prepared to have a healthy delivery.

I chose to work with the midwifery group at Evergreen Hospital not because I'm a hippie and not because I am opposed to western medicine but because I needed a practitioner for my annual check up and my midwife, Shana Burton, was recommended to me by a friend.  I went in to see her for my annual on February 9, not thinking I was pregnant and then, finding out five days later that I was pregnant, decided I liked her a lot and wanted her to be a part of my journey.  I don't know if everyone realizes this but being a mom in this day and age is a constant competition as to who is more organic, whose child can speak Spanish from the womb, who can do prenatal yoga while cooking eight course meals and at the end of the day being attractive for her husband.  The mom-compeition (henceforth known as mompetition) starts at conception.  What I liked about the midwives I met with is they were not interested in everyone else's story, they were interested in mine, not judging me for the fact my birth plan was essentially this: I want a healthy baby boy by whatever means necessary and since this is my first time, I'm trusting you.

So fast forward, this is me at 36 weeks,

Notice the uncomfortable look on my face?  That's two things, looking into the sun is one, the other is being 36 weeks pregnant.  My very wise friend Sarah, whose baby boy Sawyer is three and a half weeks older than Soren, made the following observation: "The last month of pregnancy is less for the baby and more for the mom, because by the end you don't care how much it hurts you just want it to be over."

About a week after that photo was taken I started to develop all the last trimester "symptoms" all at once.  I had carpal tunnel, sciatica (which by the way hurt worse than much of my labor and my sister had it all through her pregnancies, she is wicked tough), constipation, horrible gastrointestinal pain, sleeplessness, headaches, the whole lot.  This entire time I was working as a nanny for three really great kids, truthfully probably not being a really great nanny because all I wanted to do was lay down.  I couldn't lie down however because each time I did I had to run to the bathroom in order to be reminded of my constipation and then I would cry.

Then I arrived at October 10, 2012.  Soren's due date was October 17 and so I figured I had three days left of work and then I would be home for a few days to rest before he came. I mean first babies never come early, right?

I got to work that morning after my 39 week check up, not thinking to mention to Michelle, another one of the midwives, that I had been having new pains in my back starting that morning.  I walked in the door immediately felt that it was going to be a hard day.  I was going to have to pick the two boys up at pre-school at 11 and Lyla and I spent the morning on the couch reading books.  She wanted to go run and I couldn't muster the strength.  We drove to the boys' preschool and picked them up, and I still didn't think much of the pains that were coming more than the day before, because they were more than 15 minutes apart so they couldn't be contractions, plus they were mainly in my back so I was just going to have to be a good Norwegian and tough it out, suffering silently until I could yell unnecessarily at an unsuspecting victim.  However after the kids' and I got home I had to call their dad and say I just couldn't do it anymore that day, I was in way too much pain.

I drove home, took some Tylenol, a bath and fell asleep for three hours.  When Noah came home I apologized profusely for "failing" to stay at work all day.  He, being a good man, laughed at me and reminded me I was 39 weeks pregnant and he loved me and I was not failing.  So that night we spent partly cleaning up but I mainly laid on the couch wincing every few minutes, still not realizing what was happening because I had been in so much pain the weeks previous that I was oblivious to what was really going on.  We sat and watched tv and decided to go to bed around 11.  I tried to sleep but I was getting up every few minutes feeling like I had to go the bathroom but that wasn't the case.  I told Noah I was going to walk around the living room for a little bit.  I broke out the contraction timer on my phone (thanks for the recommendation Tanzi Mitchell!) and walked for an hour.  There, to my face-palm inducing surprise was the proof I was in labor.  Contractions were coming every 4 and a half minutes for an hour lasting an average of 65 seconds each.  Holy crap.  I walked into our room and said to Noah, "Um, honey, I'm in labor."  He sat up and asked if I was sure and I said yeah so he got up and we started putting things in the car.

I called in to the midwife on call, Kathleen, and explained my symptoms, the timing of my contractions but I could tell she didn't really believe that I was in labor because I wasn't screaming in pain.  She said we could come in and just get checked in triage as opposed to getting admitted in case they were going to send me home.  So about 2:45 am we got in the car, after doing some dishes, and drove to Kirkland.  I could tell something bigger was happening when I had to ask Noah to take the corners a little gentler.  We arrived around 3:15 and met Kristen, the charge nurse who brought us into triage and hooked me up to the monitors that measure contractions as well as the baby's heart beat.  When I laid down my contractions became a little less regular and after 20 minutes she looked at my print out and gave me the look I dreaded, without saying anything her face seemed to shout "Really?  You think you're in labor?  Oh great you're going to be one of those, can't hack it moms."  Then came for the ever fun checking of the cervix, where the look on her face changed but I was sure it was still annoyance at the fact I was probably at like 2cm.  Then she looked at me, cocked her head to the side and said "I think you're fully dilated."

My jaw dropped, so did Noah's.  We looked at each other in utter disbelief.  Kristen said, "I have been doing this for 11 years I promise, I've just never seen anyone come in fully dilated and making jokes, so I'm going to check again."  Obviously she had never been a part of a serious situation in my family where we are all uncomfortable with awkwardness and pain so we make jokes.  Apparently my labor coping mechanism consists of bad puns and the phrase "I'm fine."  She checked again and called Kathleen and I was admitted with a seeming flourish because they didn't know if this baby was going to come in the next 5 minutes or 5 hours.  In all the hustle and bustle with nurses and aides getting my room ready I was bombarded by congratulations that the worst was over.  I smiled politely but secretly I was cheering myself on in my head "I am a rockstar!"  Then in the next three contractions the pain caught up to how dilated I was and I went from rockstar to feeling what I imagine Kieth Richards' liver feels like.  I made the call to have the anesthesiologist come give me an epidural.  I don't regret the decision at all, because of the epidural I got much needed rest but looking back I think I got the epidural to both ease the pain and keep me from yelling at all the people who were talking while I was in pain.  I generally endure pain silently and I appreciate if people are silent with me.  So, I got my Minnesota-nice epidural.

I got to rest and text my family until about 6:30 when Kathleen came in to break my water and let me labor down for a little while.  She said we could have started pushing then but since I had the epidural we could let my body do a little work on its own to save my energy.  I got to rest again, I told Noah to nap but I don't think he did, not much at least.  Kathleen came in at 8 to wish me luck but she was having to leave because her shift had ended.  Heather, another midwife came in to relieve her and then found out she was going to have to leave for an important meeting at 11 so Shana would be coming in, that's right it took three midwives and eventually a doctor and a bunch of nurses to bring this baby into the world.

At 9 am Heather said it was time to start pushing and so we did, but she also realized that Soren was "sunny-side up", meaning his face was up instead of down, which is the preferred way to deliver a baby.  So as I was pushing I was on my side with one leg on a table for a while and then switching to the other side and so on all in an effort to turn him around.  After about two hours, Shana came in, helped massage my back and belly and he flipped over!  Then the contractions started coming faster, stronger and the pushing became much more intense.  This whole time Noah was right by my side, not moving except to get me ice chips or give updates to whoever was texting.  After three hours of pushing Shana and Heather, who had returned from her meeting, told me that after three hours they have to let a doctor know I was pushing for so long.  I still had energy left so they said I could go on pushing but if at the 4 hour mark he still hadn't come we would have to explore the other options of using a vacuum or going in for a c-section.  I told them I trusted them and we went on pushing.  I would push and his head would come all the way down but apparently some narrow bones were making it difficult for him to stay down, so when the push would end he would go back up.  At 4 hours I was exhausted, and Shana suggested we ask Dr. Robertson to come in with the vacuum just to hold his head in place through a few pushes.

Dr. Robertson came in and she was great but very matter of fact.  There are really strict about the number of tries you can have with a vacuum, it's four and she said she usually calls for a c-section after three.  I looked up at Noah and with absolutely weary tears said "I'm so scared."  With all the confidence in the world he held my hand, put his mouth next to my ear and said "It's going to be all right, I love you."  I have never felt so sure of anything in my life because he believed it whole-heartedly and was my rock.

So this was it, one push, nothing yet.  Two-pushes, come on Ali you can do it, he's almost here.  Three pushes, the doctors and nurses are all looking at each other with concerned faces but no mention of a c-section.  Dr. Robertson made the call for a quick episiotomy and on the fourth push someone said "He's here."  I saw him for a brief second before they needed to check him over, which they have to do with any baby that needed a vacuum.  I haven't cried that hard in years and I was desperately trying to hear if he was crying.  Behind what seemed like dozens of nurses and doctors and NICU specialists I tried to get a glimpse of my little boy.  Finally I looked at Heather and asked, "Is he OK?"  She looked at me, held my hand and said "He's perfect."  Then came his little cry and my world immediately fell apart and simultaneously was made whole.  After a few minutes they put this little person on my chest and it was as if I had lived my whole life with a gaping hole in my heart I never knew was empty until he came to fill it.

Soren Christian Hormann was born at 1:25 pm on 10-11-12.

As I was getting stitched up and Noah was holding his son more enamored than I've ever seen him with anything in his life, Dr. Robertson said to me, "I was going to call it after three but you had a look of determination unlike I have ever seen so I decided to give you four."  I could not have been more grateful for those last ounces of strength that could only have been from a great and gracious God.

The next 24 hours were a blur, I was more exhausted than I could have ever been and frankly wanted everyone to leave the room just so I could sleep.  During our first bout of rest I slept like a log but poor Noah was keeping and ever watchful eye on this new, fragile little life and didn't get any sleep.  When I woke up I finally got to eat something and go to the bathroom, where I nearly fainted.  When my strength returned I tried to feed him again and he latched on like a champ!  Then he slept, we slept and we met many very nice nurses.  The next morning all I wanted to do was shower but I had to wait to get the IV port out of my hand.  That shower made me feel like I could take on the world and when I stepped out, the world I now knew was waiting to eat :)

Then we met our pediatrician whom we love and she was so encouraging.  We went to breastfeeding class and then while waiting to be discharged we took some pretty great photos.

Then, they let us go home, which was the most inane thing I had ever heard!  They are just letting us take him home, were they crazy?  Were we?  Probably, we still are a little crazy but there has been more love in our lives in the last 14 weeks than ever before.  We drove home to an appropriate song, it was the theme for our wedding, we hope it has been the theme for our marriage and we are striving to make it the theme for how we raise our children :

Come And Listen by David Crowder Band on Grooveshark