Okinawa’s Hydrangea Garden (Yohena Asaji)

Last summer, we moved closer to Carl’s work and away from a lot of the “big city” areas of Okinawa.  Down south, there are cafes, malls, and so many Americans.  Where we live feels wild–nature is everywhere.  Beautiful beaches, overflowing jungles, and plenty of peace and quiet.

I’ve been looking for ways to stay local.  As fun as it is to spend long car rides with a screaming baby (she HATES the car seat), I prefer to find things to do a little closer to home.  When I heard about Okinawa’s Hydrangea Garden, I couldn’t wait.

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Yohena Asaji is so-named for its owner and founder, Mrs. Uto Yohena.  This year, she’s 100 years old!  She has been caring for the hydrangea fields for forty years, and before that they were tangerine fields.  The story goes that she started with one plant, and it did so well that she ended up with more…and more and more and more and more!  She is the ultimate plant lady!IMG_2630

There are over 10,000 hydrangea plants today.  It’s not just hydrangeas, though–she has all kinds of exotic looking and fragrant blooms.  I even spotted a few budding tangerine trees.IMG_2632Teagan enjoyed her nap in the carrier and only poked her head out for this photo.

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We finished off the afternoon with a shaved ice–delicious!

The past few days, I’ve gone to bed with such a full heart and a thankful spirit.  What else could a girl possibly ask for?

Currently readingBorn to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

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“No one you have been and no place you have gone ever leaves you. The new parts of you simply jump in the car and go along for the rest of the ride. The success of your journey and your destination all depend on who’s driving.”

happy reading

My Book Reviews: Good as Gone

I think I’ve watched every show on Netflix.

Recently, I’ve had to spend a lot of time sitting down attached to a baby, which is a pace that I am not at all used to.  But, on the plus side, I finally have the time to read again!

First up, a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while that went on sale briefly for Kindle.  Good as Gone, by Amy Gentry was the perfect first book back after a long hiatus.

The premise is a good one: A family is beginning to give up hope that their kidnapped daughter, Julie, will ever come home when she mysteriously arrives at their door after eight years.  As Julie settles back into life at home, inconsistencies arise in her story.  The family can’t figure it out: why would Julie lie? Is it really Julie?

This was recommended to me as an “unputdownable” book, and it did not disappoint.  For two days, I was glued to the Kindle impatiently trying to put the pieces together.  Proof of how addicting this book was: the baby was asleep, and I was tired, but I stayed up instead to read this book.  That is truly taking your life into your own hands–so worth it for this book!

“If there is something missing—if I am afraid to love her quite as much as before—it is only because the potential for love feels so big and so intense that I fear I will disappear in the expression of it, that it will blow my skin away like clouds and I will be nothing.”

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If you like suspense/mystery/thrillers, admittedly a huge genre now, you will enjoy this book.  Read it if for no other reason than the fact that it’s super, super addicting.  Enjoy!

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Fukushen Garden

Around here, weekend time together is precious.  On one of Carl’s last days off before he left, we decided to go exploring in Okinawa to a place I’d wanted to go for a long time: Fukushen Gardens in Naha.

Fukushen is a traditional Chinese style garden that was built to celebrate Okinawa’s sister city, Fuzhou.  It was smack in the middle of the city with walls on all sides.  When we bought our tickets, a greeter asked us where we were from–a tricky question in the military.   We told her Okinawa, and everyone laughed.

As soon as we were inside, the baby decided she was starving.  I parked myself on a bench overlooking a large koi pond and sculpted garden, one of the most peaceful places to feed a baby.  We were blessed with perfect weather, too: a light breeze kept us comfortable.

My favorite part of the sprawling garden grounds was the largest and according to the brochure, the most dynamic waterfall.

A dirt path took us into a rock cave behind the waterfall.  I was loving it!

All of that sleeping had T working up an appetite, so we pulled over at a nearby beach for a second lunch.  What a perfect day!

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I love continuing to explore Okinawa and finding out more about this beautiful island.

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Weekend Update

Today is my birthday! Hooray!

Each year, birthdays become a little bit less of a big deal, don’t you think?  The last two years I was super sick on my birthday, and this year my one goal was to survive this day without throwing up.  So far, so good!

This week, Carl left for a little while.  I knew I’d miss him, of course, but I was mostly sad that T wouldn’t get to see him.  She loves her daddy time, and even though it’s hard to tell what she understands at this point, I know that she knows something is missing.  I’m just not as good as him at making up stupid songs and dancing around the house with an upside down baby.

With him gone, everything is just a tiny bit more difficult.  The cat caught a huge cockroach and was chasing pieces of it around the house…that’s a Carl job for sure.  He would have taken the bug outside; I shut my bedroom door and hoped she’d just eat it before I woke up (my way worked too).  For a little while, I’ll be on my own, so I am trying to go easy on myself and celebrate the little victories.

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This week, completely on my own, I:

  • Got the baby to sleep for four hours! At night!! (Like I said, little victories)
  • Read two amazing books while feeding a squirmy baby
  • Went to the gym, got kicked out of the gym for having a baby with me, and went to a different gym with a baby room
  • Went on several stroller walks/runs in which T screamed the entire time
  • Tackled a huge project: the overflowing, cluttered closet in the baby’s room

This little prankster baby is fast asleep, so I might squeeze in a shower, my very own birthday present to myself.  Cheers to me!

Currently readingWith Malice, by Alice Cook

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Maternity Leave

I’ve officially been on leave for almost one month, and it’s been a little hard to get used to.  I can’t imagine going back to work, and I have millions of things that I need to be doing, but most of my day is spent attached to this tiny human who is my new 24/7 companion.  So many tasks that I previously did with ease I’ve now learned to do one-handed, or no-handed, while balancing a squirmy baby.  We’ve settled into a semi-routine that goes like this:

5:30–T wakes up, politely requests breakfast.

5:35–T demands breakfast.  Hunger panic ensues.  She feeds for an hour or so.

6:30–We get out of bed, have coffee, she looks around trying to figure out the world.  This is one of the coolest times with her, the few moments she is awake but not starving.  I love watching her and interacting with her in these minutes, but my favorite thing is to watch her hang out with Carl during “daddy time”.  He’ll rest her over his shoulder, read her a book, play guitar to her, whatever he feels like, and she LOVES it.

7:30–Starving again. Time to feed the beast!

9:00–T passes out cold.  I can quickly get dressed, tackle any chores, and plan our day.  If we have somewhere to be, this is the time to sneak her into the carseat.

10:30–On our way to [fill in the blank].  T screams in the car the entire way there.

Eat, sleep, diaper change, repeat.  

During this leave, I hope to love on this baby as much as I possibly can, and I hope to accomplish a few things too.  I’d like to get back into shape (easier said than done), explore Okinawa, read some excellent books, and catch up with friends.  Wish me luck!

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T’s First Week

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Last week, we were discharged from the hospital and it suddenly felt like this baby was really mine.  Nobody was going to check on us every few hours to make sure I was feeding her, changing her, and not shaking her–it was totally up to us.  We barely made it out of the parking lot before I realized that I was totally starving and that we had nothing at home to eat.  Our first stop as a family was Taco Bell; so much for raising this kid right.

Our first week at home has been mostly feeding T all night and adventuring with her all day.  We’ve been good about keeping her in the Moby wrap while out and minimizing her exposure to stranger’s germs, but we really wanted to start showing her how cool Okinawa is as soon as we could.

It was a week filled with administrative work: her first doctor’s appointment, applying for her passport, finishing up a few loose ends at work that I’d dropped once I was admitted.  We took her for a newborn photoshoot, and I LOVE how they turned out.

We decided to use cloth diapers, which has actually been a lot easier than I expected.  The biggest challenge has been fitting the diapers tight enough to her chicken legs to avoid leaks.  This girl is little, but she can sure eat!

As far as babies go, we got a good one: she will eat anywhere, anytime.  It’s been great to be able to breastfeed her inside the Moby wrap so that I can be hands-free for grocery shopping or more realistically, texting.

So far, the biggest change has been that everything takes just a little bit longer and I am definitely not the boss of my life anymore.  We can’t necessarily get out the door to make a 9AM appointment if somebody decides that she’s starving at 8AM.  The few times I’ve tried to bend her to my timeline do not go well; I end up showing up on time, but carrying a screaming baby with a full diaper.  Not ideal.

Today, my mom flies in from San Diego, and I can’t wait to see her! Big T is going to have a blast.

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Teagan’s Birth Story

Fair warning: this is a long, probably boring post if you’re not a labor nurse.  Maybe gross too, I’m not sure what gross is to normal people anymore.

We’re pregnant!

Somehow, life got in the way these past nine months, and I realized that I hadn’t posted even once about this pregnancy!  In August, I found out I was pregnant, and in December we found out it was a beautiful baby girl!  We were overjoyed.

After many months of vomiting and not being able to see my feet, I was completely over being pregnant.  As soon as I hit 37 weeks, I was ready to get her out.  I was exercising, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and whatever else I could think of to get things moving. At 39 weeks after a particularly trying day, a doctor I used to work with offered to “sweep me”, a technique where the provider reaches through your cervix and separates the bag of water from the side of the uterus.  Ideally, this releases prostaglandins and if your body is ready, this can nudge you into labor.  She mentioned that she had been pretty aggressive and wouldn’t be surprised if my water broke soon.  As she was talking, I sat up and felt fluid–we both agreed that it was probably gel from the exam.  I walked out to the car to meet Carl, and it kept running down my leg.  I told him that we should go home and get everything ready just in case this was the real deal.

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The view from our room

1 pm

We headed home, did a few loads of laundry and when the fluid didn’t stop, I decided to return to the MICC to see if my water had indeed broken.  Not knowing if this would be our last day as just a family of two, we went out for ramen and made our way into the MICC right after change of shift.

8 pm

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I was so excited to see so many of my favorite people working.  We decided that my water had broken, and because it had now been about 7 hours without contractions, we had to augment labor to avoid infection.  This was it!  We were staying on the MICC until we had a baby in our arms.  Poor Carl hadn’t quite grasped the situation–I had been throwing out various false alarms for weeks.  He sat down in the designated “dad chair” and blew some deep breaths out through his mouth.

They let me shower and get settled, then placed what is called a foley bulb–basically an inflated balloon to sit against your cervix and simulate the pressure of a baby’s head, releasing prostaglandins and helping to dilate your cervix.  To get contractions going, they also gave me a medication called Cytotec.

The combination was almost instantly horrible.  I went from “Oh, that doesn’t feel great.” to quite literally jumping on and off the bed trying to get comfortable.  Carl reminded me that this was labor, this was normal and it was just the beginning.  It sounded like he was talking to me from another planet, he sounded so far away.  My nurse was my friend Michele, and she offered me an IV pain medication which I gladly accepted.  I’ve told patients so many times about this medication making them feel a little bit drunk, it was crazy to feel it myself!  I remember facing the wall and telling Carl how excited I was to put tiny pants on the baby, only to turn around and realize nobody else was in the room.

11pm (ish)

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I also tell patients that Fentanyl is short acting, so I knew that I was only getting a quick break.  Sure enough, within a half hour I was back to losing my mind.  I was shaking, throwing up, all signs of active labor and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just the miracle patient who flew into labor with just a nudge of medication.  I definitely wasn’t.  With things getting so intense, I knew it was time to call the doula.  When another dose of Fentanyl and an anti-nausea medication were offered, I was ready for it.

1 am

Jen (the doula) showed up just as the second dose of Fentanyl hit my bloodstream.  I was completely high on the drugs, and felt awful that she’d had to come in the middle of the night when I was feeling fine.  She offered to stay with me so that Carl could go home and get his things.  She set up a diffuser of lavender oil and settled in for a long night.

3 am

The foley bulb finally came out!!! Michele had been pulling on it, keeping tension and pressure of the balloon against my cervix.  We were so excited that we all clapped.  I was still having contractions, but the Fentanyl had made them bearable and I was able to pretend to sleep.

6 am

The doctor came in to “check me”, and announced that I was 5 cm.  She completely broke my water, which before had just been leaking.  Happy day! Things were finally moving along, all of this pain was for a reason.  Things were getting intense again, and I told Michele I thought I’d be ready for an epidural soon.  I had it in my head that Carl should be there when they placed an epidural, but Carl was still on his mission of collecting DVDs and snacks from home.

8am

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By this point, I was more than ready for the epidural and thought that Carl was on his way.  Shauna offered me one last dose of Fentanyl to tide me over until he got there but before long I was ready to just get the damn epidural, with or without Carl there.  Shauna sat in the “Dad spot”, supporting my legs while the anesthesiologist worked on my back.  Carl burst in with a huge smile on his face, taking his assigned role.  I can’t explain how grumpy I was, and he knew that smile would instantly disarm me.

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Feeling like a burning pile of trash

9am

The epidural was working beautifully, and a repeat check told me that I hadn’t changed at all.  None of us were surprised, I was a first time mom not yet in active labor.  I think at some point here they started Pitocin to create contractions, but my epidural was beautiful and I began a long day of blissed out naps.

1 pm

I was still unchanged at 5cm, and we were starting to use high doses of Pitocin.  After 20mu, they require internal monitoring of the contractions to ensure that your contractions are not becoming too strong and risk a uterine rupture.  Dr. Turner came in and offered to check me and possibly place an IUPC.  I was still 5cm, and when she attempted to check baby’s position, I heard her heartbeat slow on the monitor.  Instead of the galloping hoofbeats we had heard all day, it was a slow thump in the 60s.  We turned into a hands and knees position, oxygen was placed on my face, and the Pitocin was turned off.  It seemed like forever, but her heartbeat was only down for two minutes before she came back up and we were able to lay back down.

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At some point around here, we were getting concerned at the high doses of Pitocin and baby not tolerating the contractions.  She was starting to get stressed by labor, and was slowly not able to recover after each contraction.  We had to at least talk about the possibility of a C-section, and I was totally discouraged.  Dr. Turner told me that I had an adequate pelvis, and not an overly large baby, which should have calmed my mind but instead made me even more frustrated.  How was it possible that I had carried wide hips my whole life entirely for this, and today was the day they would fail me??  I had exercised, I had gone to chiropractors, I had done yoga.  I was wrapping my head around the fact that this might not go according to my plan, the same thing I tell moms all the time.  Dr. Turner told me that if I hadn’t made any change and baby wasn’t tolerating labor on the next check, it may be time to talk about a C-section.  I grudgingly agreed, trying my hardest to think logically and not let my emotions get the best of me.

6pm

I was 6 cm–active labor!  I was a little skeptical–5cm and 6 cm feel so similar that I didn’t know if Dr. Turner was being generous with her exam, but I was willing to take it.  I had been so shaken by the possibility of surgery that Carl and I broke out the baby name book.  We made a list of possibilities and left the final decision for later, just as we had throughout the entire pregnancy.

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Browsing baby names

Through trial and error, we’d figured out that baby only liked when I was sitting straight up in a “throne position”, which with an epidural is not optimal.  The viscous medication slides down to your legs and is no longer able to reach your belly, so you feel contractions again.  I would sit up as long as I could stand it, and lay down just long enough to recover.  While I was sitting up, I did my hair and makeup–if I was going to the OR, I was going to look my best.

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8pm

Change of shift again–Michele was back!  Angie, another good friend had been texting me all day instead of sleeping.. everyone was so invested in this labor, and I started to believe that my body could do this.  I took yet another nap and tried to open my mind to whatever would happen.  Carl suggested watching Nacho Libre, a movie which I HATE and he loves, and I just couldn’t get myself to care either way so we put it on.

9pm

Something definitely felt weird.  This was another weird moment as a patient–I’ve told people so many times what to expect: if you feel pelvic pressure, or the sensation of having to poop, please call me! It’s probably a baby’s head.

This was not like that AT ALL.  It just felt weirdly really uncomfortable, like my pants were bunched up or something.  I told Michele that it felt like someone had put the foley bulb back in there–we should have known by that description that things were finally happening.  She checked me, and I was still six so we chalked it up to miscellaneous weirdness.  Within a half hour or so, I was really uncomfortable and asked them if they could manipulate something–I was thinking the IUPC was kinked or something.

Angie checked me, and immediately smiled over to Michele.  I’ve seen her do that SO many times, and it can mean anything! She smiles when someone makes change, she smiles when the baby wiggles around, and I was half holding my breath to see what was so exciting.  She announced that I was anterior lip.. aka 9.5cm.  Everyone cheered! Carl pointed to Nacho Libre as the reason for the big change, saying that his girl was coming out to see such a great movie.  During the whole pregnancy, we’d joked that she was a daddy’s girl–dancing at WWII battle sites and making me throw up veggies.  She was proving already whose team she’d be on.

10 pm

Because the baby was still relatively high in my pelvis, everyone left me to labor on and even though I knew why they’d left, half of my brain was bewildered.  The weird feeling was so strong that I called them back in the room shortly after and asked them to “reduce the lip”, aka push the last little bit of cervix behind the baby’s head.  Angie came back, did her signature cryptic smile and told me that I was completely dilated and that baby had come down.  Time to push!

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With the first set of pushes, I saw her head!! My epidural was amazing, and I had to ask if I was doing anything.  When Jen set up the mirror (previously used for my hair and makeup session), I could see exactly what was happening.  25 minutes of pushing, and my baby girl was here!  She was so pink that she was almost red, and was screaming before she was all the way out.  The A-team got to work, and Carl and I stared at this crazy little baby.  She was up on my belly, giving me the evil eye and chomping down looking for food.   Carl cut the cord with a Ka-bar, which made us all laugh.  I couldn’t believe it, everything had gone so beautifully.  I may be biased, but I think she’s pretty perfect.

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Big T with one of her favorite nurses

We chose the name Teagan after many suggestions and vetoes by each of us.  I wanted a name that was a little spunky just like her.

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Big thanks to all of the wonderful nurses, doctors, and corpsmen who helped me to have such a wonderful delivery.  I know how hard they worked to keep us both safe and still give us what I wanted, and I am infinitely grateful.

Happy Birthday, Teagan!

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