Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30, 2011 - Today's News

1. Noah's umbilical cord fell off (8 days old).

2. Grace went pee-pee on the potty for the first time (27 days shy of 2 years old).

3. Mama cried for a few minutes because I would like to slow down time just a little bit.

We also had a group of our Danish friends over for coffee and cake today so they could meet Noah. Asger and Silas, who are both 3 and go to Grace's school, were here along with Sigurd (6 months), Jonas (2 months) and Julius (1 month). Little Miss Grace is the only girl in the group and seemed perfectly fine with that arrangement.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 29, 2011 - The Sweetest Thing OR Love at First Sight

Noah Dean Welsien, our beautiful son, was born one week ago today on Saturday January 22, 2011 at 9:39 in the morning at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. In a scene very similar to the one that brought us his big sister Grace 23 months earlier, he was delivered by c-section with the exact same team of doctors (obstetrician, pediatrician, anesthesiologist) that helped Grace into the world. Noah weighed 3.8 kg (8.4 lbs) and was 53 cm long (21 inches) - a bit bigger than his sister for sure! While the set-up was similar, this little guy has been letting us know for months that he is his own person, different and unique from his sister, and yet still all ours, still a Mueller-Welsien, still perfect in every way.

The night before Noah was born I was admitted to the hospital to meet with the anesthesiologist and have my blood work done since the surgery was scheduled so early in the morning. Kirsten and Hans had arrived early that morning and were instantly in “Grace mode”. Kristoffer stayed home to have an evening with them and left me to have some quiet hours to myself at the hospital. I greatly appreciated doing three People magazine crossword puzzles that I had been saving, writing in my baby journals, watching a few of my favorite episodes of The Office, eating a quiet dinner alone, and sleeping pretty well during the night. When Kristoffer arrived at 6:30 the next morning, we were both really excited and relaxed (can you be both at once?), and very ready to meet our baby.

The surgery was delayed because of some staffing issues in the operating room so our anxiety built up a little, and we were very relieved when the show got started. Everything started off well as I was sitting up to begin getting anesthesia. The doctor had to give me two extra doses of local anesthesia because I still had feeling when she went to give me the epidural, and apparently watching me get those shots didn’t go over too well with Kristoffer. He hadn’t slept much the night before because Grace was up a lot, he had eaten breakfast very early and had been standing up waiting with me for quite awhile so was perhaps also a bit dehydrated. When I thought he was bending over to make eye contact with me, he was really trying to hold himself up. At some point he made eye contact with my doctor and said something about not feeling well. Next thing I know, the lower half of my body is completely numb but all of the doctors and nurses are rushing to lower a passed out Kristoffer to the ground. That’s right, the poor guy fainted L I got really worried about him but of course there was nothing I could do, and once he woke up and I knew he was OK, my reaction was to start laughing. Like: belly laughing (even though I couldn’t feel my belly) / tears streaming down my face / nervous but relieved laughter (which did turn into a bit of weeping just before the surgery started). The doctors eventually laughed too (although not as hard as me) and reminded Kristoffer that he is not the first expectant-father to faint on the job. He was given some sugar and some tea and some water and a chair to sit in next to me while Noah was delivered.

Luckily, that was the only drama of the day! Very shortly after Kristoffer was all sorted out, I felt all of the weird tugging and pulling that I felt the last time and in just moments I heard Noah’s cry. I had been praying aloud, just like last time, and his doctor brought him over to show me right away. It was such a relief to hear his cry and see his squirming body. I remember my first two thoughts about him were that his umbilical cord was so long (I didn’t see Grace’s) and that he had my father’s nose! Kristoffer went with Noah and the doctor so that he could be all checked out; they brought him back a few minutes later so I could look at his face and touch him for a few minutes while my surgery continued.

Apparently I am a chatterbox during surgery (surprise surprise), a joke between my doctor and the anesthesiologist by now, and we continued to chat while Kristoffer went to the nursery with Noah. Eventually I asked for something to sedate me so that I could rest a little. I was never completely “out” but was definitely in a happy place where I was so grateful that this beautiful boy – the one whose pregnancy gave me a real run for my money – was safely in the world. We remain very pleased with and grateful for the good medical care I received here in Nairobi and for the fact that we've had the same team with us through the births of both Grace and Noah.

I know that I stayed in the recovery room for a shorter period of time than I did after Grace was born, for which I am very grateful because I just couldn’t wait to hold him! He was able to latch on and try to breastfeed right away, although it took 3 days before I had anything more than a little bit of colostrum to give him. The next few hours were a bit foggy: I did call all of my immediate family members, although I don’t remember speaking to most of them. I was in and out of a fuzzy happiness until the afternoon when I faced the pain, got out of bed for the first time, and welcomed Grace, Kirsten and Hans to come and meet Noah.

Grace’s reaction to her brother’s arrival and the details of her first week of her life as a big sister deserve a blog in their own right (which I will get to eventually), but I will say now that her initial introduction to Noah could not have gone better. She calls him "Oah" and kissed him and touched him and (luckily) didn’t have to see him breastfeed that day so her anxiety was kept at a minimum. Part of me wonders if she was just relieved that all the mystery and waiting were over and this “baby” we kept talking about was finally a reality that she could see and touch. We could not be more grateful that Kirsten and Hans have been here to make this transition possible for Grace and for us; keeping her on schedule and giving her 100% attention and love. There is absolutely no way we could have survived this week without them - they are super grandparents for sure!

We got home from the hospital on Tuesday evening after Noah and I were doing well breastfeeding and were both given the all-clear by our doctors. Our first 3 nights at home were challenging because Noah thought he was born in Boston instead of Nairobi and was sleeping/eating according to the wrong time zone. Additionally, after we came home from the hospital I had some pain-management issues. While my c-section recovery is going really well and seemingly quicker than the first time around, I had a much harder time dealing with post-anesthesia issues, specifically a painful spinal headache. So we did head back to the hospital on Wednesday for a few hours of help and since then I have been feeling much better. Last night we gave Noah a late-evening bath, which he loved and which helped him get on a better schedule for the night. I woke up this morning like a new woman after actually having gotten some sleep!

So what do we know about Noah so far? Well, to date: he is extremely quiet; he is a slow-patient-infrequent eater; he likes being in the car; he loved taking a warm bath; he didn’t really cry much with his first vaccination and didn’t cry at all when he had blood drawn today; he has an extremely strong kick which was well-noted by the hospital nurses (and which I have been saying for months); he has a little bit of dark hair – looks like fur! – on the top of his ears; he was born with very long fingernails and I think he has my toes; he makes the occasional super-sweet little baby noise; he has dark blue eyes that sometimes look gray; everyday he is alert for a little bit longer during which time he seems to be a very good and intent listener; he has not met with too much success yet but is aspiring to be a thumb-sucker; he does not seem bothered by the fact that his sister has taken possession of almost every gift he has been given.

I suppose I should stop writing now, or maybe I never will, except I do want to document one more thing. As a second-time mother, I had plenty of moments during my pregnancy when I wondered if it was really possible that I could love another child as much as I love Grace or in the same way. As with many other parents I have spoken to, I worried that I would not be able to bond with my second child right away or feel the same instincts that I felt the first time around, and I was fearful of short-changing this little baby right from the start. But one week into motherhood-par-deux, I can honestly say – with extreme relief in my heart – that it was, without a doubt, love at first sight. After only seven short days it is completely impossible to imagine our world without Noah in it, and that is truly the sweetest thing.

I know these pictures are belated, but here are (more than) a few precious moments from Noah’s first week.

BEFORE (at the hospital)

AFTER (at the hospital)

Our former neighbor, Sam, lives in the US now but happened to be in Nairobi for Noah's birth!
He was also one of Grace's first visitors when she was born!
Mike and Caroline, our neighbors, were very happy to meet Noah!

Our first and so-far-only picture as a family of four!


Noah was welcomed home by Grace, Farmor and Hans with a beautiful sign that Grace made and lots of presents (for Noah and Grace!) and treats and flowers and balloons and flags! It was a welcome home fit for a little prince.
Later that night, he got to "meet" Nene and Pops on skype for the first time.
They had been waiting very patiently to see him!
Little Socrates
For the first time today, Grace was ready to hold her little brother.
She kept giving him kisses and saying, "I'm holding Oah!"

Our perfect, perfect boy: life doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 2011 - Big Girl Bed

In light of the previous night's events, last night we turned Grace's crib into a toddler bed. I can't say that the evening went perfectly, but it did go A LOT better than the night before. As Kristoffer said, "We were in control tonight instead of her being in control like last night." I suppose expecting the drama was better than the night before when we were completely unprepared. We remained calm and consistent and she definitely responded well. There were quite a few "wake ups" during the night but through those as well we managed decently. At least we are moving in the right direction and we don't have to worry about crib-jumping injuries anymore. Just another change to add to the list.

Change isn't just coming anymore, it has arrived!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20, 2011 - Uncharted Waters

Apparently Grace read my blog from yesterday, because since I posted it she has become a different person. Okay, not quite a different person, but she is trying out new personality traits that we've never before experienced...for sure.

Yesterday afternoon was traumatic for me. Grace was asked to bring in a stuffed elephant or elephant book to school because they are "studying" elephants in her class. She chose a stuffed elephant and we brought it in, but when she went down for her nap yesterday afternoon she got really upset that the elephant wasn't at home. And by "really upset" I mean "threw the worst temper tantrum she had ever thrown a long shot [until later that night]". There was over an hour of screaming and throwing things out of her crib; she wouldn't let me touch her or pick her up, didn't want Mama, only wanted the elephant (which she had previously liked but it had never one of her chosen few). Eventually I succeeded in distracting her with something else, she let me hold her, and all was well. But it scarred me. For real.

Then came bed time. Normally Grace is a champion "go to sleeper" because since we sleep-trained her at 5 1/2 months old, she has always gone to bed easily with a few rare exceptions related to jet-lag and travel or sickness. She knows and loves her bedtime and never cries going to bed. Literally. Never. Until last night, when she topped her earlier temper tantrum with a 3-hour scream-fest that involved climbing up and jumping out of her crib onto our extremely-hard-wood-on-top-of-concrete floors. She only wanted me to hold her and rock her and read to her in this situation, as opposed to earlier in the day. When we finally got her to go to sleep at 10 pm, she still woke up every couple of hours crying. She did sleep until 7:15 am, which is some kind of record in this house, but only after about 6 1/2 hours of sleep total. If I thought her daytime tantrum was traumatic, I had no idea what she was capable of. Kristoffer and I are still in shock that that was her. It was unbelievable.

But off to school she went this morning, where we traded a safari book for her precious elephant. I had warned her teacher, Miss Mbata, about what happened last night and that Grace might be a little off today given her lack of sleep. Sure enough, when I picked Grace up after lunch I was told that she was naughty for the first time ever. She threw her shoes, she hit another child, she threw sand at some other kids in the sandbox. Grace. My child. You've got to be kidding me.

So OBVIOUSLY this extreme change in behavior is related to the fact that she knows someone new is coming out of my big belly very soon. We've done everything all the books tell you to do (and more!) to prepare your only-child toddler to become a big sister and for the last couple of weeks she has seemed really "into" the baby. But I hate to tell you, Rocky, she's just not that into you! While she has good communication skills for her age, I think they are no match for the overwhelming variety of emotions she must be feeling and her behavior must be considered "normal", right?! (please say right, or else I might start to cry...again).

Her teacher said, "Once you have the baby and come home from the hospital and everything is stable, she'll be OK. At least we know why she is acting out. But I have to say I almost didn't react when she hit the boy because I was so shocked that it was Grace!" And as Kristoffer wrote me in a text message today, "She will need a lot of attention over the next weeks. We have to give her as much lover as possible and try to be very stable parents." Right. Okay. Attention. Love. Stability.

So, the bottom line is: I want my little girl to be happy and feel secure and loved and not to feel like we are replacing her...and I want my new baby to feel all the love and attention and awe s/he deserves upon his/her birth...and I can't help but feel we are venturing into extremely uncharted waters here. Good thing we have two life-preservers arriving in the morning.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19, 2011 - Three More Days

As of yesterday I was 38 full weeks pregnant and for a variety of good reasons, my c-section date was bumped up from Monday morning to Saturday morning. For me the only downside is that I wanted to have the baby on my father's birthday, which will no longer happen, but that is not a big deal to Dad and I suppose we can just say that we're celebrating him a little early.

On Friday morning, Kristoffer's mom and her husband, Kirsten (Farmor) and Hans, will arrive for four weeks. 24 hours after that I will be wheeled into the operating room and the third love of my life will be born. Amazing. While I am REALLY uncomfortable and exhausted right now, I am just mostly REALLY eager eager eager to meet Rocky.

I also have a strange mix of emotions that I didn't expect to be so hard. I feel sad for Grace that her days as the sole-center of our universe are coming to an end. I feel a little sad to be losing all of the special things about it often just being the two of us or the special things about being just a family of three. I feel a little sad that she is old enough to be a big in, enough time has passed since her own birth that someone else could be born too. Someone who, no doubt, we will love just as much, but also someone who will never have the experience of being our one-and-only...which also makes me a little sad for Rocky! I have no doubt that there will be infinite happy and joyful and not-sad emotions and moments in the days following Rocky's arrival and, believe me, I'M READY for them...but in the last few days I've just been hit by this new wave of emotions I didn't quite expect. Motherhood is complicated, isn't it?!

So in these last three days before Rocky's birthday I'm getting ready for Kirsten and Hans, continuing my attempts to get Grace ready for lots of big changes in our house, and am trying to remember that I can survive insert any or all of these ailments: insane indigestion; severe, sharp, shooting pains down my legs; no appetite; insomnia due to discomfort; irregular contractions; swollen and tired feet; the feeling that I'm falling over a lot because my feet are so small and my balance is all thrown off by my enormous belly; or having to go the bathroom every 20 minutes for three more days. Because then I will have other things to look forward to, like recovering from major anesthesia and abdominal surgery...but even more so, like getting to meet and hold and snuggle and feed and fall in love with my second child. I think that last bit makes all the rest of it seem highly worth it and I almost can't wait. Just three more days.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13, 2010 - Bedrest Book Reviews (or not)

Well...I have completely slacked in the reading department lately. Admittedly, I have read NOTHING but the news, my email, facebook and "What to Expect When You are Expecting" (also, the 1st year and toddler years "what to expect" books are frequently all open at the same time). It is not that I don't want to read for pleasure, because of course I do...but I blame a number of factors...
  • I was writing some curriculum for a former professor of mine at Syracuse University, which took up 70 hours of my time. Basically, when I wasn't trying to sleep or eat or doing something with Grace & Kristoffer, I was doing that. Finished as of this past Monday.
  • I have been uncomfortable in any (or every) position for long periods of time which means that sitting or laying down to read has been physically uncomfortable for me.
  • I have had very little attention span for the last many weeks.
  • Grace didn't have preschool for 6 weeks. Rose and I concocted a schedule so that I had a break from Grace each day to either work or rest and so that Rose also had a break from Grace to clean our house. And the reality is that Grace is actually very fun to play with, even if most of the things I play with her involve me moving as infrequently as possible (puzzles, legos, trains, bubbles, etc.). I left all of the swinging, sliding, sandboxing, running around to Rose. And now Grace is back in school every morning from 9-12.
  • Nesting: when I have had a little extra time I have focused on getting our lives ready for Rocky.
All excuses aside, my "partial bed rest" is over in 11 days anyway when Rocky arrives and then I suspect the only things I'll be reading for awhile are the faces of my beautiful children. Children. As in more than one. Plural. WOW!

My apologies for not reading and sharing more. I did get a lot of positive feedback when I did share so whenever my pleasure-reading resumes I will continue to write review and hope that is OK with you.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12, 2010 - Duck Tales

One of Grace's favorite new things is to watch her duck - named Quack Quack - "fly". Admittedly, Quack Quack gets some nice air here, but we are hoping she does not attempt to launch her baby sibling in the same way.

(not the best picture quality because they were taken on Kristoffer's blackberry)


Friday, January 7, 2011

January 7, 2011 - Politics on the Brain

Kristoffer and I have been talking a lot about Kenyan politics lately, both to each other and with some US visitors we've had. I have to admit that the tone of our conversations has not been so positive. We are frustrated with Kenya. As Kristoffer says, "You think that nothing else will surprise you, and the government goes and does something that completely blows you away."

So I've already written about the six high-profile Kenyans that the International Criminal Court's prosecutor, Louis Morena-Ocampo, named as being behind the violence that occurred after the December 2007 election. Ocampo will now try to prove to the ICC judges that he has enough evidence to prosecute these people for crimes against humanity (only one of whom was a bit of a surprise to anyone over here); it is understood that many other high-profile people were involved but Ocampo only named those who he believes he can successfully prosecute with evidence.

The next step after that was that ALL BUT ONE Member of Parliament (MP) voted to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute, which would effectively withdraw them from the ICC and repeal the International Crimes Act. It wouldn't change the current investigation, but it would mean that the ICC could not prosecute Kenyans in the future. In voting this way the MPs basically told the world that they believe Kenyans should receive impunity and in the future should not be held accountable for their actions [as an aside, Kenyans argue that the US is not part of the ICC either which most people around the world think is insane and horrific. The US should not be used an example in this situation, there is no good reason at all why the US is not part of the ICC except that the US thinks they can and should do everything according to their own rules.]. The irony here is that before Ocampo named his list, the ICC gave Kenya MONTHS AND MONTHS to establish their own local tribunal to try those suspected of fueling and financing the post-election violence. Nobody wanted to do it, everyone opposed it and said "Bring on the Hague!" Now that the Hague has come a-knockin', the government is looking to run and hide. Ocampo has been accused of being biased against Africans and worse, but the reality is that the Kenyan government realizes that they are in dangerous territory and they don't like it. By voting to withdraw from the ICC - which, by the way, needs the president's approval before becoming a reality and thankfully he hasn't given it...yet - the MPs gave the appearance of their own guilt in what happened or what could happen in the future. Nobody seems innocent from committing crimes or corruption in this country.

Today's headline in the Kenyan paper we read says, "Kibaki, Raila plot way out for Ocampo 6", and goes on to explain how the President and Prime Minister are looking for ways to reclaim the option of trying the six suspects here in Kenya at a local tribunal instead of letting them be sent to the Hague. They are publicly looking for a way out! Does anyone else think that sounds really, really guilty of them?! So once again, Kenya surprises us. This is a country with incredible resources and potential and money and international hope/support. And yet, she remains her own worst enemy.

If the President agrees with the MPs to withdraw from the Rome Statute, then things around here should change a lot. We don't believe that the United Nations can continue to have 2 large headquarters here (UNEP and UNHabitat) and to be the 3rd largest UN compound in the world. It could very well be a game-changer in regards to the international community here. (Except China won't go anywhere because they don't care about crimes against humanity - their financial support and the incredible infrastructure they are building here secures their position in the region with access to our resources - and, surprise surprise, makes them oh so very close to all that oil in Sudan. But that is a blog for another day I guess.).

So, alas, I sigh. The government of Kenya is not heading in the direction that we hoped it would be heading in right now. We know the country is better than the image it is showing the world - we know that regular Kenyan people deserve more from their leaders - and we sincerely hope it changes face soon.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 4, 2011 - Sooooo Close...

(sorry for the fuzzy picture; self-taken photo using the camera on the laptop is not the best quality)

Today I am 36 weeks pregnant and the "poll" will close at the end of the day; obviously "you" are of the opinion that Rocky is definitely a fighter and not a leggy female dancer :) That is actually pretty funny because when Charles came to work this morning he told us that his mother had a dream that our baby is a boy! He said she has never had that kind of dream before and that he promised to buy her a goat if she is right (that is a pretty serious promise, by the way)!

Lately I have been feeling somewhere between uncomfortable and miserable. I can't sleep because my back hurts and my indigestion is so terrible. Nairobi is out of Maalox :( Rocky is apparently not one of those babies who slows down towards the end because this child is moving almost all the time. I've had tingling in my extremities, which I never had with Grace, and my incision scar from Grace's delivery is very stretched and sore. And...have I mentioned that I am HUGE?! I now look bigger than I did at the end with Grace and also have gained about 7 lbs more than I did with Grace (to date). All of this, of course, is good news for Rocky's health, never mind my sanity and energy. My over-the-top waddling was easily explained at my doctor's appointment this morning when she examined me and said, "You aren't dilated at all yet, but the baby is fully engaged, which might explain all of that pressure you're feeling."

Again, great news (we never got to that stage with breech-baby Grace), except that Kristoffer is scheduled to travel within Kenya for work next week and will be gone for 4 days/3 nights. It is sort of a long story, but it is not a trip he can get out of, regardless of how engaged his child is. Of course our ideal situation is for Rocky to be born as scheduled on January 24th, but should s/he decide to arrive earlier than that let's just all say a prayer that Kristoffer is not in the middle of the desert (literally, and also a 5 hr drive from Nairobi).

Kristoffer's mom and Hans arrive on the 21st and all important actors are scheduled for 7:45 am on the 24th (my doctor/surgeon, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, operating room staff), Kristoffer will donate a unit of blood on the 22nd just in case I need it for the surgery, and our hotel-like room at the Aga Khan University Hospital's Princess Zhara Pavilion is ready for us to check in at 4pm on the 23rd. Not to mention the fact that we haven't bought my dad a birthday gift because really, what could top a new grandchild (sorry to my siblings, but I so win "Best Gift" this year)?!

Pretty much all we have left to do now is pack a bag and keep reminding Grace how much we love her and how much she is going to love being a big sister. It seems to me that the next pictures you'll see of Rocky will be included in his or her arrival announcement...and then we'll see if Charles' mother gets her goat or not!


p.s. at my 34 week scan, Rocky was estimated to weigh just about 6 lbs and this morning my doctor said, "I think this is a big baby!" Hmmm....we'll find out soon enough!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 2, 2011 - Godt Nytar

We went to a Danish New Year's party on Friday night with a few Danish families that we've gotten to know in Nairobi, and their respective visiting family members. It was a family-friendly affair and we had a great time. Such great people and some Danish traditions to boot! I made it to midnight without falling asleep and Grace, who slept from 9 to 11:30, woke up in time to be scared stiff by the fireworks and "rockets." She'll be talking about the things that go "BANG" for awhile I'm sure.

We were not too quick with the camera, but Kristoffer did manage to catch this one moment before we put Grace down in her pack-n-play. I particularly like this picture because Grace is hiding my enormous belly :)
New Year's day involved lots of napping for all 3 of us and not much of anything else. We also started our official "Rocky Countdown" which is a little different than the ticker on this blog since our c-section is scheduled. 22 days. That's right! Rocky is almost here!

Godt Nytar to you!