Monday, May 20, 2019

Baby Story: Baby H's Time in the Hospital

Our newest little nugget!
I'm not going to lie, our first night with Baby H was rough.  Unlike BrightPoint. Royal Women's Hospital in Abu Dhabi (recently renamed NMC Royal Women's Hospital), Mediclinic policy is that babies 100% "Room-In" with the mothers. The hospital doesn't even have a nursery for babies to go to - unless the baby is in the NICU, it is in the room with the mother.

According to the World Health Organization, "Rooming-In" is better for the babies, and supposedly better for the mothers - I strongly disagree with the second part of that statement.  When  I gave birth to Baby L, I lost over a liter of blood, my hemoglobin was below 5g/DL, and what I needed more than anything was uninterrupted rest.  So the nurses at BrightPoint took my baby to the nursery for 2 hours until she needed to eat so I could sleep.

Fortunately, with Baby H, I still lost a liter of blood, but I had boosted my iron ahead of time, so my hemoglobin was around 7.5 g/DL. I was also in labor a lot less time, so even though the labor was harder, I was "less tired" - but I still could have used some uninterrupted sleep, which Baby H was not having at all.  She fussed all night, to the point where I had to start "tuning her out" because she wasn't hungry, her diaper wasn't poopy, she was just making fussing sounds because she didn't like being out of the womb (sorry, kid).  Between that and the nurses coming in and out to take our vital signs all night, I got maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep in the wee hours of the morning.  I'm pretty sure that this is how post-partum depression starts, by sleep-depriving a new mother immediately after giving birth to her child.  I'll come back to this later, but I'll hop off rant for now.

After our rough night where neither of us got much sleep (G reports that the pull out sofa bed was extraordinarily uncomfortable), G went home to pick up Baby L and Miss J and bring them to the hospital to meet Baby H.
Baby L is a little apprehensive of Baby H. We're sure she'll get over it, it's just going to take some time.
I mentioned in my post about the induced labor that we weren't able to have a birth story photographer because the hospital policy is only one extra person in the delivery room.  This also worked out pretty well because Jo, my new favorite photographer in UAE had also just had a baby almost 3 weeks prior to ours, so a 4-5 hour birth story would have been tough for me to ask her to do.  Instead, I asked her to come do a fresh 48 the morning after delivery, and I'm so glad I did because the photos she took were beautiful!  She also took some great shots of the whole family on the hospital bed, something I forgot to do with Baby L because of all the trauma of both my blood loss during her delivery and her treatments for possible infection. This is not yet the full gallery, but
she sent me a sneak peak so I could share with friends and family.  I just love the way that Jo captures naturally happy moments in our family - even when she poses us, it doesn't feel horribly staged, we're just having good time being ourselves.

Our beautiful Baby H, bright eyed and bushy tailed even though Mommy was exhausted

Making  sure Baby L still gets some love from Mommy!

First family photo
I think Baby L was actually playing peek-a-boo with Jo and her camera!

Super Dad with his new baby girl
Jo stayed with us for a few hours and it was also fun to catch up with her about her birth experience and how things were going with her newborn as well.

After Jo left, we got the bad news that Baby H's blood type came back, and she had ABO incompatibility jaundice.  Essentially, she inherited G's blood type which was incompatible with my blood type, and my immune system created antibodies that would break down Baby H's red blood cells faster than her liver could process.  This is apparently very, very common, and the most typical treatment for newborn jaundice is light therapy, so Baby H was going to have to spend 24 hours in this special light box, with only breaks for feeding and diaper changes - I was crushed because it meant I would only have very limited cuddles with my little one.

Baby H in her light box
Let me tell you, 24 hours in the light box for a new mom and baby is hard.  My milk hadn't come in yet, and Baby H was HUNGRY. With jaundice, it is really important that the baby eat to help clear out the bilirubin in her system (the toxin from the breakdown of red blood cells that causes the yellowing of eyes and skin for jaundice).  G took Baby L and Miss J home, then came back to spend the afternoon with the baby and me so I could get some more sleep - we decided that he would not spend the night since there wasn't much he could do other than suffer on the mattress. He'd be more helpful to me with a good night's rest.

It was a struggle from the start - Baby H wanted to eat all. the. time. And getting her to settle back down on the table without crying was really difficult. By around 10pm, I finally had my first crying breakdown, and I called the nurses to help me with the babe - the nurse took the baby from me, telling me to calm down since my being upset would also make the baby upset.  She advised that formula might help her sleep, and reassured me that all babies struggle with phototherapy.  Intellectually, I knew this was the right answer - I had even just listened to a podcast and posted a NY Times Article on Facebook from economist Emily Oster that discussed this very thing, that there is no conclusive data that formula is bad for your baby or that "nipple confusion" is actually a real thing.  Emotionally, it was hard to say yes - Baby L had 100% breastmilk until she was 6 months old, and I wanted to the same for Baby H - but I also really really wanted to sleep, so I signed the formula consent, and the nurse fed the baby and put her down.  And I got 3 glorious hours of sleep.

At 2am, Baby H woke up and I changed her diaper...and after an hour of unsuccessfully trying to put her down, I called the nurses again.  More formula, and they settled her, and I got 3 more hours of much sleep.  It was amazing.  The nurses were somewhat shocked at how much Baby H could eat -she finished all 60 mls of formula both times, and that was after draining the colostrum in both my breasts. She was a big baby! And at this point I realized, that "rooming-in" doesn't mean you have to go it alone as a new mom - it just means you need to ask for help.  I still don't like the 100% rooming-in policy because I don't think most moms KNOW that you can ask for help - so I wish that new moms were told after being wheeled to the maternity ward postpartum to call for help.  Not just that the call button is on the hospital bed, but please use it and actually call for help.

The next morning, we got Baby H's initial results at 10am.  We could take her off the light table, but we had to wait until 4pm to confirm her bilirubin levels wouldn't rebound.  So I finally got the cuddles I was hoping for, and we hung out and took some passport photos.  This one was my favorite, but the passport photo people said we should probably use one of the more neutral-looking ones.

Baby H, looking super duper Asian
The nurses took Baby H's blood in the afternoon, and the doc came back with the results - they were just barely in the acceptable range, so she recommended we stay another night.  At this point, I really, really wanted to go home, so the doc scheduled us to return the next day, and warned us that we might be due for a second round of photo therapy if Baby H rebounded.  The hospital had promised discharge would go quickly, but it still took forever - we didn't get home until around 8pm, and we had an appointment at noon the next day with the pediatrician.  Had I known discharge would still take that long despite the doctor's promises, I would have stayed the extra night, but hindsight is 20/20.

Baby H ready for her first car ride!
It was, indeed, amazing to sleep in my own bed again.   But alas, as I'm sure you can from above, we ended up back in the hospital for another round of photo therapy, from 3pm until 11am the next day.  Her skin had yellowed, and her bilirubin levels were just into the therapeutic range.  She was only 3 days old,  bilirubin levels peak around day 5-7, so while the doc was on the fence about re-admitting her, and I told him I wanted to do it just to be sure. Day 2 was even harder, because now Baby H knew when the eye protection went on, she would be on the light table.  And unfortunately, my night nurse this time around was not has helpful as the previous nurses - she was unwilling to feed the baby for me, or really even hold the baby to help me settle her, she just sort of stood next to me watching me and advising me to try things that I had already shown her didn't work.  I finally asked her to just leave. I was on my own - but at least this time around I had the tools (and the previous good night's sleep) to help me get through the night.

Round 2 of phototherapy
Even after the nurses took Baby L's blood for testing, I kept her on the light table as much as I could just to be sure. Her levels were back down, and we would be discharged in a few hours once things were sorted out with billing. We were scheduled to return in 1 week for a check-up - So Baby H will have that in common with Baby L, both of them spent their first 5 days of life in the hospital for some sort of treatment!

We got all packed up, and I came home to deliveries from my wonderful co-workers of flowers, more flowers, and chocolates! More on our first days at home in our next post!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Baby Story - Induced Labor

Warning! This blog post is very text-ey without a lot of pictures.  It’s also more a record of what happened for my benefit and for Baby #2, so if you’re more interested in baby pictures than in a gory labor and delivery story, wait for the next blog post. :-)

My most amazing midwife, Gabriela!
After the False Alarm one week before Baby #2 (aka Baby H)’s due date, I was ready and anxious to have the baby!  Literally every night, I would think that contractions were starting again, only to discover they were Braxton Hicks “practice contractions”.  I would go to bed hoping to go into labor naturally and wake up in the morning super grumpy that I was still pregnant.

My doctor offered to perform membrane stripping a few days after the false alarm, but I held out for a few more days, and finally, we scheduled a membrane sweep for 09-May.  This was my due date based on my 12-week ultrasound, and slightly later than the due date calculated by my last period.  By the time we got to the day of the membrane sweep, I was so uncomfortable that I scheduled labor induction for 48 hours later — CTG Machine be damned.

The membrane stripping didn’t really do anything to progress labor - other than give me cramps and make me nauseous from the hormone release.  So after a day, we started to prepare for an induced labor.  Our instructions were to check into the hospital Labor and Delivery Ward (L&D) a little after midnight on the day of of induction. The midwife and nurses on duty took a few blood samples, hooked me up to the CTG for a few minutes to get a baseline for the baby, and then told me to get a few hours of sleep - we would start the procedure at 6am.

G - getting some zzz's before the excitement begins

At 5:30 am, a light breakfast was delivered to me, the midwife did a little more monitoring, and then she went ahead and ruptured the membrane - i.e. manually broke my water in hopes to kickstart labor. My belly was so big and stretched that the release of fluid was actually a huge relief, I felt so much lighter! I was instructed to walk around for a few hours, and see if things progressed.  So G patiently walked with me around and around the labor and delivery ward until finally I asked for an exercise ball to sit on because my back hurt from walking with my big belly.  Around 8am, I’d had a few contractions, but still nothing regular, so the nurses and midwives began to set me up for medical induction.  I was given the option now for an epidural in advance of induction because it would be easier now than in between contractions. I originally was not going to use an epidural, but I also was originally not going to be induced - I figured if I was going to be strapped to the chair, I might as well have pain relief, so I agreed.  By 9am, drugs were flowing, and I was being induced!

I tried to watch a movie but there were constantly people coming in and out to check this or that so eventually I gave up and tried to doze for a little bit.  According to G and the CTG machine, I was having contractions about 2-3 minutes apart, so I took that as a good sign - until I started to feel some of the contractions, like monthly period cramps. The midwife looked concerned and with the anesthesiologist permission, increased my epidural and checked my dilation - it was maybe 11am? And I was dilated to 4 cm.  I had started at around 2 or 3, so not much progress.

It was a busy day at L&D with 1 woman having already given birth before I started my induction, 2 more laboring at the same time as me.  At this point, there was an emergency C-Section thrown into the mix, and G and I could hear mad chaos in the hallways of people running around to tend to the patients - I think this was the busiest the labor and delivery ward had been since opening 9 months ago! I give this context because it sort of sets the tone for the rest of MY delivery.

The epidural seemed not to really be working - it was taking the edge off the pain, but I started feeling contractions very, very strongly. The midwives were not happy about it, and they kept trying to call the anesthesiologist, who was with my doctor tending to the emergency C-Section.  The unit manager came in with one of the midwives because they didn’t like how the baby’s heartbeat looked, so they helped me roll onto my left side - which was horrendously painful for me at that time.  I don’t think the unit manager is normally on the floor, but it was all hands on deck in L&D!

My original midwife - an angel named Gabriela from the Czech Republic - came in boosted my epidural further. It seemed to help very, very briefly, but in the short period between with Gabriela left me to check on her other patient and come back, I was in pain again. G suggested maybe I’d made some progress, but I didn’t think I’d go from 4cm to ready to delivery in less than an hour.

When Gabriela came back she checked the insertion point of the catheter, and found part of it had slipped out. “Do you want to have it replaced? I’d like to increase your induction meds to help lengthen your contractions, but I know you’re in a lot of pain”.  I told her I was concerned that my contractions were too close together to re-do the epidural, and she offered to check my progress. Sure enough, I was at 8cm. Gabriela advised again, we could either re-do the epidural or try to deliver the baby, and I said let’s have this baby! And can we take the epidural out if it’s not going to help me?

Well, I had to wait for both my doctor and the anesthesiologist to come out of that emergency C-Section.  In the meantime, Gabriela offered me nitrous oxide, which didn’t do much for the pain but definitely helped me relax in between contractions.  When my doc and the anesthesiologist came, I tried to negotiate removal of the epidural and she offered to give me a booster dose to help take the edge off while she fixed the catheter - again, it worked for a few minutes, but then wore off shortly after she left. My doc gave me some meds to help further soften the cervix, and advised me to rest as much as possible in between contractions, and let them know when I start to feel pressure to push.

Shortly after my doc left to attend to other patients in clinic, I told Gabriela that I was starting to feel pressure, sort of like constipation.  She checked my cervix, and told me it was open enough, but the baby’s head position wasn’t quite where it needed to be - so she then started coaching me on starting to push the baby downward during my contractions. She helped me figure out where I was wasting energy by tensing up, and she helped me focus my efforts into the right muscle groups. She was hoping that by pushing the baby downward, the baby would naturally rotate into the correct position for delivery.  We did this for maybe an hour, and G was standing right next to me holding the laughing gas mask for me to take a few breaths to relax in between - I have a tendency to continue clenching my muscles even after the pain has subsided, and I really needed to conserve some energy. I couldn’t breathe the N2O continuously though, because it made me really dizzy, so G would count 3-4 for breaths for me and then take it away.

After about an hour of this, I needed a break, so Gabriela and G helped me roll to my side to just rest and breath without pushing.  I could feel the baby’s head moving downwards, and I think while I was on my side, she rotated to where she needed to be on her own.  I was so tired, I felt in that moment “This is how women end up in emergency c-sections - they just can’t push any longer!”, and after all the pain and struggle, I really didn’t want that to be me.  I quietly started squeezing my abdominals during the contractions while on my side to see if it helped move the baby, and when I felt I had energy to push the way Gabriela wanted me to, I told her I was ready to move back to sitting.

At this point my doc happens to walk in - apparently Gabriela called her while I was resting on my side to tell her I was very exhausted and the doc should come check up on me.  Doc took a quick check of my cervix and announced that I was ready - we’d have a baby in 10 minutes, so the nurses needed to help her scrub in!  After that, there was an insane flurry of activity, and then my doctor started talking me through it.  “Ok, Kim - chin to your chest, deep breath in, and hold your breath for a long push.  When you can’t push anymore, quick breath, then push again.  Goal is to do three pushes per contraction”.

I don’t think I ever got to 3 per contraction, but I did push that baby out at 3:27pm.  At the very end, I was pushing even without contractions because the baby’s head crowning was so uncomfortable, I couldn’t wait the extra 2-3 minutes for my body to help me. I’m not sure where the extra energy came from, but I imagine most mom’s who delivery naturally go through something similar - you just do what you have to do.  And then I found out why this baby - Baby H - took so freaking long to come out - she was 4.4kg, or 9.8 lbs - 2 1/2 lbs heavier than her sister!  And she wasn’t really any taller, Baby L was 51 cm vs Baby H’s 52 cm - so this little baby was all chunk! G even joked that her umbilical cord was twice as large around as Baby L’s, so she had access to a lot more food.

I was able to hold the baby for a few minutes, then after her cord was cut, the nurses and midwives took her for cleaning and checkup.  Similar to with Linh, I started hemorrhaging, but my doctor was already ready for it - and so I was given meds to help my uterus contract and my doctor called for help from another one of the L&D Ward doctors to control the bleeding while I tried to push the placenta out.  This actually took awhile because I was just so tired from pushing the baby - I felt like I had no abdominal strength left.  They tried to see if they could remove the placenta without me, but they were concerned with tearing, so eventually I was able to find some strength and push it out as well.  Gabriela told me later that it was huge 1.5kg, so no wonder I had a hard time! The doctors stitched me up, and kept massaging my abdomen (both of which were painful since the epidural had completely worn off by now) to stop the bleeding. I told G to take some photos of the baby, and he did, but then he came back to help hold my N2O to get me through this last part.  

Our gorgeous Baby H!  H for HEAVY at 4.4kg, or 9.8 lbs!!
When the docs finally finished, I still lost about a liter of blood - twice what I should have lost for a normal delivery.  The L&D Ward doc who was helping my doctor had to rush off to another delivery, along with some of the nurses and the other midwife. Apparently, with 5 deliveries in one day, L&D had also started running low on supplies, so Angie, the unit manager, was also running back and forth from the post-natal maternity ward with extra dressings and gloves, supplies to clean me up and a fresh hospital gown for me to wear that was specially designed for nursing moms.  My doc wanted me to stay in L&D for a few hours to ensure I didn’t have anymore blood loss, and so they cleaned up my baby, put her in a crib next to me, and while she slept, G and I ate some food for the first time in hours. Gabriela also had another delivery to run off to, but told us she would be back because she still needed to do a lot of clean up and documentation for her report of our delivery.

After her other patient delivered, Gabriela came back to remove my epidural catheter and transfer me to the maternity ward.  I decided early on that if the baby wasn’t born before 2pm, we would not bring Baby L to the hospital, and it was a good decision - we didn’t get to our maternity room until 7pm.

I have to give a shout out to my amazing and wonderful husband throughout this whole ordeal. He was involved every step of the way, from walking with me in the hallways, to holding my laughing gas mask, to massaging the tight spots on my back when I was sore.  He held my hand when I cried, stroked my hair through the worst of the labor pains, and helped the midwives move me every time I wanted or needed to change positions.  Even Gabriela commented on how helpful he was in the delivery room, and I couldn’t be more blessed to have him as my husband and father of my children.  Even after delivery, when Baby H and I were in the hospital, he made it a point to spend extra time with Baby L every day to make sure that she still felt that she was special and loved.  

My amazing husband with our new baby girl
Compared to Baby L’s birth story - I would say I definitely felt more “beat up” and sore everywhere, but that is probably a combination of the epidural being less effective and Baby H being 30% larger.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel as physically drained / fatigued, despite losing the same amount of blood, most likely because (1) labor was only 8-9 hours instead of 17 hours and (2) I’ve been able to eat red meat during Baby H’s pregnancy and my iron levels were much higher.  I’m glad we induced when we did, if Baby H were any bigger, I would have likely ended up doing an emergency C-Section at the end of my labor.  Fortunately, now that we have 2 beautiful baby girls, G and I have decided the baby making factory is officially closed. ☺

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Baby Story - False Alarm

So yesterday, I learned the importance of proper hydration and fever management during pregnancy.  It all started Sunday evening - I was feeling mildly dehydrated, so over the course of the evening, I sipped on 2 glasses of water and brought a third glass with me to bed.  I started having some mild contractions that were may 60-90 minutes apart, so decided to go to bed early, around 8:30, to get some rest.

I woke up around 1am Monday morning to some pretty severe back pain, a little nausea, and contractions.  So I started timing my contractions.  When they were about 10 minutes apart for an hour, I dragged myself out of bed, finished the glass of water I brought with me, and promptly headed for the toilet and vomited it all up.  I had read that nausea during labor was normal, so I didn't think much of it - I switched to ice chips and went about getting ready to go. I think I woke up G around 4am because I wanted to take a hot shower before going to the hospital, and he also started getting ready - and in the process, I made friends with the toilet 2 or 3 more times, usually right after a contraction finished. G also mentioned feeling nauseous, so at this point I was a little worried that we might have picked up the stomach bug that Baby L was currently recovering from. We left for the hospital shortly after 5am, with my stomach completely empty and my contractions were 6-8 min apart.

We got to the hospital, checked in, and I got hooked up to a CTG machine so the staff could monitor the baby.  At this point I was soooo uncomfortable because I wasn't permitted to fully sit up, nor was I permitted to fully lie down - I had to sit in a sort of reclined position which was killer on my back.  Since the baby was in distress though, I had to continue with monitoring until the staff was comfortable that the baby was ok.  The doctor checked my cervix, and after all that, I was only 1cm dilated!  I was just crushed, because by that time, my contractions were about 2 min apart and I was ready to go.  The doctor advised that I had a low grade fever, the combination of the fever and dehydration were causing stress to the baby, so she ordered 1 liter of IV fluids and medication for fever.

During all this, G also made friends with the toilet and emptied his stomach, confirming that both of us likely had the same virus as Baby L.  To make matters worse, Miss J texted us while we were at the hospital that Baby L vomited a little while after waking up, and then took a very early morning nap shortly after that.  As usual Miss J is totally fine with no signs of nausea or vomiting (praise God!).

As the IV progressed, the contractions slowed, and by the time I'd absorbed a liter, had completely gone away.  We are both relieved to not have a baby while everyone has a stomach virus, but at the same time a little disappointed that Baby #2 wasn't ready to join us.  We briefly discussed the possibility of inducing labor since I was already at the hospital, but it also meant being hooked up to the CTG machine for monitoring, so I opted to go home.  My doctor kept me at the hospital for a bit longer after the IV to make sure that I could drink water and eat some crackers without vomiting again, mostly so I didn't end up right back in the hospital a few hours later.  Once I passed that test, I was released instructions to drink a lot of water and take Panadol (Tylenol) if the fever comes back.

We got home from the hospital around 10am, and I then proceeded to sleep 17 of the next 24 hours, getting up long enough to eat some more crackers, drink more water, and then go back to sleep. watch continues!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

March/April Project finishes!

So G has had this horrible cold that just refuses to go away (we actually think it was 3 different colds) so he's essentially been sick for the last 5-6 weeks.  Baby L has been sick, gotten better, and then gotten sick again during the same period. I had a little sore throat and cough for a few days (thank you pregnancy immune system!) and Miss J seems to have made it through this whole ordeal unscathed. That means G has had some early nights to bed, and I've had a lot of time at my sewing machine!  I'm taking full advantage before Baby #2 comes along and whisks away all my sewing time.

So first, a quilt finish that I didn't share previously because it hadn't made it to its final home.  Now that it has, here it is!
A fun geometric pattern on front, and cuddly minky on the back
Next in the project finish list is a chair cover for a kid's Ikea POANG chair. I used an old shower curtain to save a bunch of time hemming, so this project came together in a little over an hour.  Now when Baby L wipes her snot all over the chair, we can pull the cover off and wash it.  She still prefers the big chair over her little chair, but I think that's more because she likes climbing more than she likes the actual big chair.  We're working on that...

POANG Chair Cover
I also made Baby L some bathrobes from hooded Ikea towels.  Since our amazing and beautiful apartment doesn't have any bathtubs, we've been teaching her to take a shower, and then walk from the shower to her bedroom so we can put on her diaper and pajamas.  She's not really coordinated enough to hold a hooded towel around herself, so I converted these 2 towels into baby bathrobes.


After some quick cutting and sewing....
Baby robes with sleeves!

In keeping with the theme, I decided Baby L needed one more towel bathrobe in her rotation because only have 2 is a little short based on our laundry schedule - especially when she's a little bit sick and super duper snotty all the time.  Rather than buy another hooded towel, I decided to make one from some terry that I purchased from another expat here in Dubai - and I wrote a tutorial about it!  I also made 4 extras of these little robes to give away as gifts since they are pretty quick but have a pretty good "wow, you made that?!?" factor.  Have I mentioned I love baby projects?  They are so fast, the instant gratification is just so....instant! I could have made 6 robes out of the terry cloth that I had, but I ended up cutting the the first one in such a way that the scraps don't really work out for making a second robe without adding a few those scraps will probably turn into bibs, burp cloths, and washcloths.
One of five toddler bathrobes that I created a tutorial for.  Baby L's is pink on pink, but currently in the laundry so I didn't get a photo of it.  

In between all this terry cloth, I made up some quick cloth bags as part of a volunteer effort for Dubai Sustainable City. While we don't live there because it's too far from my office, it's beautiful community! The mums that live light put together care packages for the workers every year at the end of Ramadan, and the package is housed in a "boomerang bag", which is basically just a cloth tote bag. I couldn't make it to any of their sewing events, so instead I committed to making 5 of these quick and easy bags at home.

Boomerang Bags for Ramadan care packages

And finally, the best project, for me anyways - my new sewing table!  I had been sewing in a little cubby area under the stairs (very Harry Potter-ish, I know), and I had to duck every time I went to and from my sewing machine.  No more!  With my new sewing table and the removal of a big ugly out-of-date treadmill from our stairway landing, I now have a big space for sewing.  My old sewing desk is now my cutting table, and I have tons of room to spread out - plus a nice big rug (not in the photo, I happen to be standing on it when taking this shot) that I can work on layouts with!  The only issue I've had with my table so far is that since it's mostly steel, it tends to shake a lot when I'm sewing fast (vs a wooden table), but I'm in love with how much s-p-a-c-e I have.  I'm pretty sure once Baby #2 is born, she'll be in a little bassinet or rocker sitting next to the sewing table while I work away.
Mama's new happy place!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Kim, G, and Baby L as nearly 4

Maternity photo shoot in the desert, with credits to Jo Cole Photography and Denize Xenia Dress Hire!
When I was pregnant with Baby L, I found an amazing photographer in Abu Dhabi to take my maternity photos, Baby L's birth story, and a home session once G and I got our parenting feet under us.  And then Lacey moved back to the USA :-(.  It was definitely the right thing for her and her family, but I was so sad to see her go!

So when we found out we were pregnant with Baby #2, of course I asked Lacey for a recommendation.  Lacey connected me with Jo, an amazing award-winning lifestyle photographer in Dubai. I was so nauseous and exhausted all the time with Baby L that we a fun an intimate maternity session at our apartment in Abu Dhabi.  With Baby #2, I was more exhausted and more nauseous early on, but it has mostly cleared up and I've had quite a bit more energy these last few months - as noted by all the sewing projects I've finished!  So I decided to do a maternity shoot in the desert instead, to round out my UAE pregnancy experience.

I found a woman who rents out BEAUTIFUL dresses in the area, so I made an appointment and picked out a dress. Denize Xenia Dress Hire allowed me to have a lovely dress for our desert photos without having to spend a fortune to buy a dress that I might never wear again.  It was also super easy, I just scheduled a fitting, picked it up on the day of my shoot, and dropped it off the next day - all the cleaning costs were included in the price. A winning situation all around!

We had some terrible dust storms during our scheduled photo session, and Jo was so flexible - we ended up rescheduling once, and we almost rescheduled a second time. Thankfully we didn't, because we were able to sneak into a perfect weather window in the desert! G and I had such a great time, and while we learned that Baby L is not AT ALL a fan of the sand (which is why she has no solo-shots), she warmed up to Jo right away and had lots of smiles for the camera.  We also got some really great formal photos of Baby L with Miss J, which I wanted to have since Miss J is such an important part of our family.

Below is a small sample of my favorites, the full gallery is located here: Kim's Maternity Session by Jo Cole


And of course, some outtakes from G and Baby L. They and Miss J were such troopers, putting up with my desert photo shenanigans.  

Friday, March 8, 2019

More Project Finishes!

We got home from Oman on Tuesday afternoon, and which meant I had a little extra time to finish a few more sewing projects!

This first one, I actually finished back in January when Dad and Mary were visiting, but I wanted to wait until Danielle received it before posting it.  Danielle has been a penguin lover for as long as I can remember, so I completed my very first applique project - a cute little penguin mug rug!  As a late Christmas gift, I sent this back to her via my Dad with a package of yummy TWG Masala Chai for her to set her giant mugs on during the chilly Boston winter.

Penguin Mug Rug & my first applique project! I've learned that applique for tiny circles is actually a big pain!!

The next project finish is a fun memory game set for Baby L.  She's a little young for true "memory", but she does like to play matching where I take pick one tile, and she picks the matching tile.  I followed this simple tutorial from Apple Green Cottage to create a set of 16 (8 pairs) of fabric memory squares.  I also made a cute little bag from scraps of projects from the last "Project Finishes"

Quick and easy memory game from scraps in my stash

For Christmas, Miss J gave Baby L a little cash register and grocery set, which she loves!  The only bummer is that the little shopping basket that came with the set is much too small to hold all the grocery pieces - so I sewed Baby L a little elephant-print shopping tote from this tutorial from Diary of a Quilter. The elephant print in my stash wasn't quite the same size as a FQ, and the scraps that I had for the handles were a little longer, but the end result was still cute and  served the purpose that we needed - a little bag for Baby L to carry her "groceries" around!

Baby L' s elephant grocery tote

And finally, I finished a hexagon play mat bag from a fat quarter bundle I bought a few years ago. Baby L was gifted some blocks for Christmas, and this is the perfect way to keep them contained! 
Baby L loves her play mat! 

There's a few more projects in the pipeline before baby #2 arrives, some of which require fabric coming in our baby shipment (so excited!) Next post will have photos from our amazing photo shoot, I just need to put it together! 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Dubai Visitors and Early Adventures of Baby L: Muscat, Oman!

We had planned to go to Oman back in November, but due to some visa issues, we had to cancel the trip at the last minute.  So on the second attempt at Oman, I took Miss J to the Omani Consulate here in Dubai, we got her a visa stamp in her passport, and we were good to go!

But before we left, we learned that my sister's husband's parents were taking a little vacation tour to Dubai - so of course we had to go see them!  They spend most of the year in Hong Kong, so we hadn't seen them since Danielle and Jonny's wedding in 2015. We found out they were staying a night at Atlantis as part of their tour, and Baby L LOVES fish, so we met at the Lost Chambers Aquarium.  Incidentally, this is also the same aquarium that Danielle and I did our tank dives last year!  Baby L was a little doll, walking around saying "Fish! Fish!", and it was nice to see Jonny's parents, even if only for an hour or so.

Baby L, a very pregnant mommy, Mimi, and Richard

Baby L loves her some fish!

Baby L didn't really want to be held, because walking up to the glass is way more fun

We left the next day (Baby L's 18-month birthday!) for Oman.  Having Miss J with us while travelling made managing Baby L so much easier.  I know, I know, tons of parents travel with their kiddos without a nanny...and yet having her best friend along for the flight was definitely great for Baby L.  Plus, it's means that G and I get to take a real vacation, and Miss J gets to go somewhere she wouldn't otherwise be able to win win win all around.

We chose to fly instead of drive since Baby L and cars have about a 90-minute maximum, and the flight there was a little rough. We've gotten a ton of use out of our mountain buggy bagrider suitcase - we purchased it for full price on, and I am not receiving any bonuses for stating that I love the product!

Jet Set Baby!
When we arrived in Oman, we were able to skip the visa collection line since I'd gotten everyone's visas in advance.  This was a huge time saver.  We breezed through immigration and met our meet & greet outside customs to be whisked off to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.  It's about a 45 minute drive from the airport, and it's nestled between the coast and the mountains just outside Muscat. The resort has 3 different hotels, Al Husn for adults only (mental note for future trips!), Al Bandar for the more business-focused traveller, and Al Waha for families.  We had a "family" room, which was basically 2 rooms connected by a very narrow entryway.  The rooms were a bit dated, but having the adjoining rooms was nice because we could close the entry to the hallway, and Baby L could wander between the 2 rooms like she owned the place.

Baby L and Miss J spent time exploring the resort while G and I took long naps, went to the spa, had nice evening dinners, and generally relaxed for our last getaway before Baby #2 graces us with her presence.
I would give the Shangri-La a 3 out of 5 stars - the resort itself was beautiful, and amenities like pool and spa were great.  The rooms were pretty dated and looked fairly run down, which is unlike any Shangri-La I'd been to previously, and the room service menu was pretty limited (seriously, what kind of family-focused hotel doesn't have PIZZA on the room service menu??).  The Shangri-La also didn't have an Asian restaurant on site, which was surprising since the Shangri-La chain is based in Hong Kong and started in Singapore.

Baby L making friends at the pool
Baby L VERY interested in the horsey horsey, but afraid to pet it!
We spent 3 glorious nights at the resort, and while we didn't see much of Muscat other than the mountains, we had a blast.  I think Baby L's favorite thing was running up and down the long hallways of the hotel. Since it was carpeted and "family friendly", we pretty much just stood at either end of the hall and let her run free!

The flight home was much better as we flew Emirates instead of FlyDubai and we were able to get the bulkhead seats with extra legroom.
Perks of travelling with a lap infant
The flight attendants on Emirates are usually super baby friendly and this trip was no exception. Fortunately for us, Baby L was sooooo exhausted from her adventuring that she passed out about halfway through the 1-hour flight.
Sweet snuggly baby!
The next time Baby L gets on a plane, it will be as a big sister!!!  Only 2 months left until Baby #2 joins us, and we can't wait to meet her!