Thursday, May 18, 2017

Overheard at Home

Between the lack of sleep and the adjustment of having a newborn, there have been some pretty funny quotes stated around our house.  

"Maybe I should start drinking coffee." - Me seriously contemplating drinking coffee for the first time ever

"So Finn and Baby #2 are going to be 18 years apart, right?" - Mike

"Mommy loves you/Mommy loves you/Yes she does/Yes she does/Even when you're crying/ Even when you're crying/Yes she does." -Me singing to Finn to the tune of Frere Jacques when he's crying.  It has served as a reminder to me too during especially long crying sessions...

"I didn't realize so much gas could be released from something so small." -Me after a very loud fart from the littlest Hogan

"I've perfected the skill of doing things with my feet.  You should really try. It's very useful." -Mike after he grabbed his computer charger with his feet as he held a cup of coffee in one hand and Finn in the other.  #priorities

"It's amazing what a good poop can do for a one month old's mood." -Me

"I don't know how it's possible to love something that doesn't do anything more than cry, eat, sleep and poop, but I do." - Mike (and me) as we stare at Finn doing absolutely nothing

What a guy!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dear Finn

Dear Finn,

Happy Mother's Day! It's fitting that we're celebrating your one month birthday today because you are the one that made me a mom and for that, I'm forever grateful.  I have dreamed about being a mom my entire life and you are the one that made that dream come true. Thank you.

I'm sitting here as you are napping in your swing watching you with tears filling my eyes thinking about the past month.  One whole month.  Everyone said it would go by in the blink of an eye and it's true. I can't believe it's already been a month.  We've watched you grow physically as your newborn clothes get tighter and developmentally as you achieve milestones.  Your dad and I are amazed at how entertained we are by you, despite the fact that you really don't do much.  We love you more than you could know.

While everyone said it would go by in the blink of an eye, it hasn't all been fun and games, but each trying moment taught me a lesson that I needed to learn.  I learned about sacrifice when we had to spent a few extra days in the hospital.  All I wanted to do was go home, but I knew that the best place for you to be was in the hospital, so we stayed.  This past week, you tested your dad and my patience as you cried for four hours straight.  Nothing seemed to calm you except nursing, so we nursed.  A lot. You finally fell asleep and your dad and I let out a big exhale. While learning these lessons hasn't been fun, I'm grateful because you are making me (and your dad) a better person and parent.

You are the first born so be patient with your dad and I.  I'll let you in on a little secret.  We don't really know what we're doing.  Everything we do with you, we're doing for the first time. We'll probably be a little more protective and a little less laid back than if you were the second or third child, but just know it's only because we love you so much. You are so loved, Finnegan Michael.  You changed our lives for the better the day you were born and we can't wait to continue on this adventure with you.

Happy Mother's Day sweet boy.


Friday, May 12, 2017

One Month

Finn's technically not quite one month old yet, but since his one month birthday falls on Mother's Day and today he's four weeks old, I figured I'd do a little something today.  Hopefully I can keep these up each month for the first year, but I have a feeling a certain little someone is going to keep me very preoccupied. 

We survived! All three of us! At times it looked bleak, but we made it to one month.  I'm amazed at how fast a month of doing nothing but sleeping and eating for all of us has gone by.  The people who told us we could spend hours watching him sleep were right.  We are constantly amused by watching him and I'm amazed at how much more alert he is now compared to when we came home from the hospital.

A month later and this picture still cracks me up.  He's so little and his cheeks are so big. 

Eating He's a great eater! Hallelujah! One of my biggest concerns was not being able to successfully breastfeed.  I wasn't opposed to formula feeding, but I knew I wanted to give breast feeding a solid shot.  Luckily, he's latched on from day one and we haven't had any issues since.  I can't imagine how much more stressful this first month would have been if we had to deal with feeding issues, so I'm eternally grateful he's a good eater.  I feed him on demand, which means most of the time he's eating every 2-2.5 hours, but every once and a while, we'll get a three hour stretch when he's asleep.  It also means that when he's been awake for the majority of the time after a feeding, the next feeding usually comes a little before that two hour mark.

Sleeping Oh sleeping!  How I miss you! Ha! I think he's actually a pretty average newborn sleeper.  He didn't like sleeping in his bassinet at first, but we seem to have gotten over that, although he would still prefer to sleep on our chest if given the chance.  He seems to have figured out that night time is for sleeping, so after the 10:00/11:00pm feeding, he will usually sleep until around 6:00am waking up every 2-2.5 hours to eat. Our midwife recommended trying to start a routine when it comes to sleep at night, which we've kind of done.  We introduced the sound machine in hopes that the white noise will become associated with sleep. I'm hoping that month two will bring longer stretches in between night time feedings (four hours sounds like a dream!), but we're managing right now with what we're given.

When you're three weeks old and have no muscle tone, you can curl up in a literal ball when you sleep.

Noises The kid is a noisy one! He's had some gassy issues towards the end of the month which has brought lots of grunting (as well as some other noises down south!) after eating.  We're trying to alleviate that by lots of burping, moving his legs and tummy time, but he's still a grunter, especially if he hasn't fallen completely asleep.

Milestones Everything is a milestone this month! ha! Mike and I laugh because any time we do something (like ride in the elevator), it's always "Baby's first...."!  We've done lots of tummy time on his play mat and he can now move his head so he can look the other direction when he's on his stomach and on his back.   He's also discovering his hands and always seems very happy when they end up near his mouth, although I don't think he can get them there on command quite yet.

Favorites He loves riding in his stroller and in the car, thank goodness because we've got lots of road trips and travel planned for this summer.  We were told that we should wait until the one month mark to introduce bottles and pacifiers and while we haven't done the bottle yet, we broke down after a night of fussing, crying and nursing and gave him the pacifier and haven't looked back.  It's been a great way to temporarily soothe him.  He seems to enjoy hanging out on his playmat, although he's not afraid to let you know when he's done.  The swing has also been a huge blessing because he enjoys hanging out in it when he's awake, but also likes to nap there as well.


Nicknames Finn, Finny, Grunty, Grunty McGrunterson, Sweetheart, Buddy

Clothing Size He's still wearing his newborn clothes which seem to fit best, but in the past week or so, he's filled out and his 0-3 month clothes are fitting better.

Diaper Size We started out in newborn Pampers, but once we ran out, we switched to size one.

Height Unofficially 21 inches, although this is just us measuring with a tape measure.  I think he's probably a little bit bigger than that.

Weight  Michelle our midwife weighed him on Wednesday and he was weighing right at 4kg/8.8 lbs! The kid likes to eat!

Mike and I have seemed to have adjusted (as well as possible) to the lack of sleep, although when we are struggling, we're REALLY struggling. I'm recovering much better than I expected and feel pretty much back to normal.  The hormones have seemed to have leveled off and I'm not having the crazy mood swings I was the first two weeks. I've continued taking my prenatal vitamins because they have iron in them which has helped me feel not quite as weak as I was right after giving birth. I was recommended to keep taking the prenatal vitamins as long as I'm breast feeding.  I go back to the OBGYN in two weeks and I'm anxious to get the clear to start exercising again, something I never thought I would say.

We're super excited for month two because my parents are coming and we're going to do our first trip out of Berlin.  We're also hoping that the weather finally stays above 50 F and stops raining so we can start actually venturing out for walks and get out of the house a bit more.

They say time flies when you're having fun and while it hasn't been all fun and games, Mike and I have fallen head over heals for Finnegan Michael. He's constantly making us laugh and keeping us on our toes.  He's definitely our biggest adventure.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Home Sweet Home

We arrived home as a family of three on April 20th, 2017 and that's when the true adventure began.  After such a long time in the hospital, all I wanted to do was get out of the hospital and go home. I wanted to get into our routine, sleep in my own bed, and eat my own food. Plus, I was so tired of spending the nights away from Mike. So, when we got the okay to go home on Thursday, I felt like I was being set free!

Little did I know how tough the days ahead would be. Don't get me wrong, it was really nice to sleep in my own bed, not eat hospital food and not have to say goodbye to Mike at the end of the day, but being home brought a whole new set of challenges, from exhaustion to raging hormones. I think I had talked to so many people who had described those first few days at home as pure bliss because they were finally with their baby that I negated to remember that babies don't sleep for long intervals, so their parents don't either.  On top of that, my hormones were still trying to balance out and my body was recovering from hard work.  Therefore, I'd hardly describe those first few days as "pure bliss," but luckily we persevered and are all feeling better.

The first night was rough. We quickly learned Finn doesn't like to sleep in his bassinet. Now that I look back at the hospital stay, it was an issue there too, but we all chalked it up to his jaundice and not feeling great.  Instead, he'd much prefer to sleep while being held.  After every feeding, I'd try and put him in his bassinet, only to have him scream.  I finally gave in and put him in his swing, which he accepted and fell asleep, but by that point, precious sleep had been lost by all.  I'm pretty sure when Mike's alarm went off the next morning for his 8am class, he muttered something along the lines of "You have GOT to be kidding me," but a much less kid-friendly version.
From the first night at home when the only place he would sleep is in the swing...or in my arms.

Michelle our midwife came on Friday to check on us and see how the first night went and reassured us that we were all doing great and that the bassinet struggle was pretty normal and we'd just have to keep trying.  I'm pretty sure she dropped a few notches on my list of favorite people after telling us that! :) Over the next few days, Finn learned to sleep in his bassinet, but seemed to only like to do it after midnight, so we were playing musical beds between the swing and the bassinet.  We also broke down and gave him a pacifier at two weeks old, despite Michelle's recommendation that we wait until a month, but man was it a lifesaver.  He finally fell asleep in his bassinet and we were able to all enjoy the peace and quiet! Insert all the praise hand emojis!

 I also had some major hormone swings, which coupled with sheer exhaustion, had me crying saying "I just want to feel normal."  I had been told that the hormone swings were normal, but I had never experienced anything like that.  It was emotional, to say the least. Fortunately, Mike is incredible and just put me in bed to take a nap while he hung out with Finn.

Luckily, there were lots of good moments to help balance out the tough times. Slowly but surely, we figured out what worked when it came to sleep.  I'm still waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse, but Finn is sleeping in his bassinet now and seems to kind of figured out nights and days, which helps immensely. His feedings have also shortened, which Michelle assured us was normal, so I'm getting more sleep in between feedings now, which has helped me feel more like a human being.  Oh and the hormone swings seemed to have subsided.  All of the praise hands!

Sleeping in the bassinet.  You can't see the smiling parents behind the camera.

We gave Finn his first bath, which was met with mixed reviews.  He seemed to like the warm water, until we put a wash cloth on his head and face, and man did he look cute all wrapped up in a froggy towel.  Is it just me or are naked babies the cutest thing?

Michelle has come a few more times to check up on us and make sure we're all recovering well.  Luckily, Finn is gaining weight at a rapid rate and I seem to be making a wonderful recovery.  While having a midwife is totally unnecessary, it's been so nice to have Michelle come and reassure us that everything is normal and we're all doing well.

He's going to hate me later on for posting this double chin picture, but I couldn't help it.
He's just so cute...double chin and all!

Sleeping in his bassinet with some crazy hat hair!

We're figuring out our routine here as our little guy seems to be spending more and more time awake.  Mike and I can't help but laugh because all of his facial expressions are so serious.  He always looks very suspicious, like he's not sure what's going on and needs to check everything out. His chest snuggles are the best and neither Mike nor I ever want to give them up. Mike and I are still pretty exhausted, but Finn seems to be figuring out his nights and days and has decided that sleeping in his bassinet is okay. 

I think it's so important for me to document both the highs and the lows on this blog.  It's so easy to paint this pretty picture of baby snuggles and fun memories, but there are always two sides to every story.  We're so in love with our little guy and wouldn't have it any other way, but man, is it hard sometimes.  He truly is our biggest adventure.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Saturday Sit Down

Just dropping in to say that Erica over at Whimsical September is featuring my blog today as part as her Saturday Sit-Down series!  Erica is an Army wife with two little girls and blogs about everything from strollers to Army life.   I'm so excited to be featured on her blog today! Go check it out!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Finn's First Few Days

Did you make it through the novella that is Finn's birth story?  Major applause if you did. It's a long one.

Friday, Finn's birth day, was a blur of pure bliss and exhaustion.  We all took naps and Mike and I relished in the moment, trying to soak up and remember every movement and grunt that Finn made.I passed the post-epidural "can-you-walk-to-the-bathroom?" test and was allowed to get out of bed on my own.  I still didn't feel strong enough to shower though, which was a bummer because I was looking and feeling rough.  Mike eventually went home and Finn and I spent the night sleeping. He woke up every two to three hours, but for the most part, he slept and ate well.  He was pretty sleepy, which the nurses reassured us was normal for the first day.  Birth is exhausting for a newborn (and his parents!).

Saturday morning, Mike returned to the hospital and I was finally feeling strong enough to shower.  I had heard wonderful things about the first post-labor shower and it was everything everyone says it is. Absolutely incredible. Add in the nap I took afterwards and I was feeling like a whole new woman. Mike and I spent the day soaking up lots of newborn snuggles, I became more comfortable with nursing, and Finn started to wake up (as much as a newborn does).

Saturday evening, the nurses came around and did their evening checkup and noticed that Finn's bilirubin level was high (around a 10).  Nothing too concerning, but definitely worth keeping an eye on and check the following day. On Sunday (Easter!), they checked his bilirubin level again and had risen to a 14.  They still weren't too concerned because they said at this point, it should be below a 18, but they still didn't want us to leave since it had risen.  By Monday, it had risen again to a 17 and they let us know that he would probably need to have the light therapy because it didn't seem to want to go down by itself.

I wish I had advocated a little more and asked if we could start the light therapy then because on Tuesday, his bilirubin levels had risen to 21.  Mike walked into our room that morning to see them setting up the incubator and me close to tears. The only good thing about this whole situation was that, since our room didn't have the oxygen hookup for the incubator, we got upgraded to a huge room!

At this point, I had been cleared medically to go home, but since Finn still needed to stay, I had to stay because Finn wasn't allowed to stay without me.  The hospital is pretty small and they don't have a NICU or even a nursery.  All of the babies stay in the room with their moms and the nurses come in once at night and once during the day to check on them (unless they require more attention like our guy).  If there was a true need for a newborn to have extra attention, they would be moved to the children's hospital or at least another hospital that had a NICU.  Luckily, we didn't have that need.

Once the incubator was all set up, Finn began his 18 hour stay in the sauna.  We were able to open the side and put our hands in, but they really discouraged us from taking him out unless we needed to change his diaper because every minute out of the incubator had to be added on at the end (We ended up learning how to change his diaper in the incubator so he only needed an extra fifteen minutes added on.  If we're anything, we're efficient!).

Soaking up some rays in the sauna

It's hard to see, but he got to wear a sweet mask.  If he had to stay any longer, Mike and I were debating decorating it to look more super hero-esque.

After 18 hours in the incubator, Finn came out and then the waiting began.  They measured his bilirubin levels after 4 hours out and they were at a 12! Hallelujah!! I pumped and bottle fed him while he was in the sauna and ended up needing to supplement with a little bit of formula.  I had always said that I wanted to breast feed, but that I would do whatever was best and worked for Finn, so we supplemented with formula and bottle fed for a few days.  Luckily, it didn't seem to cause any issues with breast feeding and I was able to go back to exclusively breast feeding once we got home.

We still had to wait 24 hours and get measured again, but all day, the nurses and pediatrician kept saying they thought we'd be going home the next day (Thursday).  That afternoon, the pediatrician came and did the checkup she needed to do in order for us to leave, which was a good sign that we'd be leaving the next day. We spent the day snuggling with our favorite guy.  We could definitely tell that he was feeling better because he was looking around the room and staying awake for longer.   

Mike went home on Wednesday night, hopeful that he'd be coming back for the last time on Thursday.  Sure enough, at 8:00am on Thursday, they measured his bilirubin levels at a 14 (anything under 20 would be an okay) and cleared us to go home.  I called Mike with the good news and he headed over, anxious to bring us home.  

All dressed and ready to go home.  Also, this is the only picture where I think he looks like a Russo.  Usually, I think he's all Mike. 

We thanked the nurses and asked what we needed to do before heading home.  We figured there would be some paper work we needed to fill out or a car seat check* that needed to be done.  Nope! They waved goodbye and we thanked them once again for all of their help and care before we headed out.  Welcome to Germany!  And so, with the snow falling outside (!!!!) on April 20th, 2017, we loaded up the car and headed home, over a week after our arrival.

Can't you tell Finn is excited to be heading home?

Just hanging out checking their social media accounts. 

We made it home and the real adventure begin!!

*Since we live in the city, we had heard that car seat checks aren't really a thing since a lot of people don't own a car.  In fact, as we were leaving, we saw a family waiting for the bus with their newborn.  I never really thought about it, but it would be silly to buy a car seat if you don't own a car.

**I think about how emotional having Finn in incubator was and then I remember there are so many babies who are born with much more severe health issues and that we are truly blessed that this was something so minor.  Jimmy Kimmel's son being one of them (interesting fact: his son had the same heart defect my brother did! Modern medicine is an amazing thing).   We are so thankful that this was a minor issue in the grand scheme of things and are so thankful that the nurses and doctors took care of our little guy so well. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Finn's Birth Story

One of my favorite things to do while pregnant was read and listen to birth stories. There are a TON on the internet, all unique and special in their own way.  I loved The Birth Hour podcast, which has tons of women telling their birth stories. I think I went into labor feeling much more prepared and confident because I had heard so many different scenarios and situations that I knew what to expect.  So, while this is definitely out of my comfort zone, here's Finn's birth story.  Brace yourself, it's a long one. 

The week leading up was pretty uneventful.  On Monday, I saw the substitute doctor (my normal doctor was on spring break) and she confirmed that there were no signs that our guy was coming any time soon.  Despite the fact that I had been feeling very impatient, I walked away from the appointment feeling a sense of peace that it could be a few more weeks before Finn decided to make an appearance.  Isn't that how it always is?

Fast forward to Wednesday, April 12th.  We were planning on going to the Spy Museum but were also waiting for packages to be delivered (in Germany, they won't leave packages at your door.  They'll give them to neighbors who are home at the time, so we usually try and be home if we are expecting something, just so we don't have to hassle our neighbors).  Ultimately, we decided to stay home and wait for the packages and I honestly think someone was looking out for us.  I went to the bathroom around 3:00, came out, felt funny and went back and all of a sudden, there was a huge gush (like the movies!).  Can you imagine if we had decided to go to the Spy Museum? Cue all of the awkwardness. I'm just picturing a very awkward metro ride back home....

I had been imagining what this moment would look like throughout my pregnancy and it was equally as stunning as I imagined. I yelled for Mike and said "I think my water just broke."  We both agreed and began getting ready for the hospital since the hospital policy was to come as soon as your water broke, regardless of how your contractions were (mine were non-existent).  I called my mom, Mike finished packing some last minute things, and then we called the midwife, Michelle who confirmed that my water had most likely broken and called the hospital to let them know we were on the way. Surprisingly, I was pretty calm.  Mike says I was acting nervous, but I think I was more excited than anything, thinking that we would get to meet our little guy soon.  Wishful thinking....

One last picture before heading to the hospital.  Excuse the outfit, we were obviously scrambling....
This is our "We're excited! We're heading to the hospital!" selfie
We arrived at the hospital and a midwife checked and confirmed that my water had indeed broken, which meant that I wasn't leaving.  We got checked into a room and, since I wasn't having contractions and wasn't dilating, I was encouraged to walk.  So for the rest of the evening, we walked. They checked my heart rate and the baby's heart rate around midnight and confirmed that everything was okay, but that it was probably going to be a while.  All along, we had planned on Mike staying the night with me on the (very small) couch in my room, but we were told that Mike wasn't allowed to stay, which brought about many tears from me. Since we weren't sure when things would start, having him leave was nerve wracking, but ended up being a good thing since he was able to get a full night of good sleep.

Mike returned around 8:00 am and around 10:30, we met with the doctor to do an ultrasound to make sure everything was still okay, which it was.  She told us that we had 24 hours since my water broke to get things started before they would have to take matters into their hands.  We both really wanted to avoid a Cesarean,which we knew was more likely with the more interventions put in place and the more time that passed, so we followed her advice to get walking. She also said that they would try a low dose of some medicine (like Pitocin) to get my contractions going after lunch.  If my body reacted well to the low dose, they would increase it a few hours later to really get the party started. So, around 12:30, I was hooked up to the heart rate monitor again and took the medicine. About halfway through, baby's heart rate dropped and in flew three midwives and the doctor.  I have to say, that was scary.  I had no idea what was going on and all of a sudden there were a lot of people telling me to sit up and change positions.  Luckily, that only happened once and they said that was pretty common. I stayed on the monitor for an extra half an hour to make sure it didn't happen again and after what seemed like forever, we were cleared to get up and moving. We walked around outside for a while, ate dinner and then around 6:00 pm got hooked back up to the heart rate machine and took a stronger dose of medicine.  This is when the fun really began.

I began feeling mild contractions when hooked up to the heart rate monitor and knew that this was the start. Luckily, everything went smoothly this time with his heart rate and we were told to keep walking.  At this point, we had exhausted the grounds of the hospital, so we walked to a shopping center nearby.   While walking, I was timing the contractions and they were about five minutes apart and lasting for a minute. They were strong enough that I couldn't ignore them, but still not as strong as I imagined they'd be or that I couldn't talk through them.

We headed back to the hospital after walking for an hour and Mike encouraged me to sit on one of the big bouncy birthing balls.  This really helped get the contractions going, to the point where I didn't want to sit on the ball anymore.  It was a love/hate relationship, knowing that it was bringing painful contractions while helping speed up this labor process. At 10:30pm, the night nurse (this was the third shift of nurses we had been present for!) came in and wanted to monitor the heart rate and contractions. Having to lie on my side for 30 minutes was painful and at one point, I vomited from the pain.  I also started shaking, which was kind of scary, but the nurse reassured me it was all normal and a sign that my body was progressing. I was about 5 cm dilated, so things were moving along.

After getting sick, the nurse asked if I wanted to get in a warm bath to see if this would help relieve some of the pain.  I quickly agreed since the contractions were intensifying and I'm glad I did because the warm bath provided a huge reprieve for a little while.  After about a half an hour, the contractions became pretty intense and left me clinging to the tub and to Mike for dear life (I'm pretty sure this is when he took off his wedding ring for the sake of his fingers).  After an hour or so, I began to feel the urge to push during each contraction, but the nurse said I was still only 5 or 6 cm dilated, so I needed to fight through this.

This is when I knew that I wanted and needed the epidural.  I had always planned on having an epidural unless things progressed too quickly (ha! wishful thinking!), but also knew that I wanted to make it until I was at least 5-6cm dilated because sometimes the epidural could slow down contractions.  I'm glad that I called for the epidural when I did because it took a couple of hours for the doctor to come and administer it and those were a long couple of hours. I got out of the tub because it really wasn't doing anything anymore and my short body was having a hard time staying above water and comfortable during each contraction.

Around 3:30am or so, the doctor came and gave me the epidural and man oh man was that incredible.   Pure bliss. I felt like a whole new person.  Before the epidural, I felt like I couldn't even open my eyes or really even relax between contractions. Once the epidural was administered though, I was able to rest and actually take in my surroundings.  Since I was only 6cm dilated at this point, the nurse told us they would give me some more medicine to get things moving, but that it was time to rest.  Mike went back into our room to sleep and I slept in our labor and delivery room with the understanding that one push of the button would bring Mike back. I think I got about 45 minutes of rest before I paged the nurses to get Mike because I was once again having the urge to push (but not the pain of the contractions....God bless the epidural!). They also realized that they were having a hard time getting a good reading of the baby's heart rate.  The monitor said it was really low, but they weren't sure if that was the baby's or mine because of the way the monitor was positioned, so they decided to insert an EKG.  After all was said and done, everyone agreed that the original reading must have been my heart rate because baby's looked great.

After getting all of that figured out (about 6am), the nurse went to get Mike who had woken up just in time to listen to the Caps win the first game of the playoffs in overtime! C-A-P-S! Caps! Caps! Caps!  Priorities, amirite? Ha!  Mike came back in the room and they measured me at 8cm dilated.  Still not all the way there, but progress. Considering I had been at 5cm for what seemed like for-ev-er, an 8 was pretty exciting.

The next hour is kind of a blur. The midwives switched shifts and our midwife (Michelle) who was going to come help us at home after the birth was assigned to me (!!!) as well as another great midwife. Side note: When we called Michelle on Wednesday to let her know my water had broken, she said she wasn't working until Friday morning and jokingly said something about us hopefully delivering before then.  Guess the jokes on us! Another side note: Around this time, Mike made a joke that I had been at the hospital for a full 40 hours, so I had worked a full work week.  For some reason, I found this really funny.

Anyways,  Mike and I both agreed that these two midwives were our favorite and we're so glad that it worked out that they were there for the actual delivery. Around 7:30am, I was given the cue that in fact, I was FINALLY 10 cm dilated and could actually push. After hourssssss of resisting the urge to push, those words were music to my ears.  At one point, Michelle asked if I wanted to reach down and feel his head.  I said no at first because I think I was just so focused on pushing that I didn't want to mess that up.  After another push though, I agreed and Mike said my face lit up when I felt his head.  Definite motivation to keep pushing! A few more pushes and at 8:15am, we met our baby boy!  Mike said, once again, my face lit up when they held him up and I remember just feeling this intense sense of disbelief and joy that the baby I had carried for nine months was actually here.

After 41 hours of labor, Finnegan Michael Hogan was born, weighing 3200g/7.05lbs and measuring 53cm/20 inches long. Mike cut the umbilical cord and the midwives took him to be cleaned up and measured before he was placed on my chest for some skin to skin time and, eventually some breast feeding.   Pure joy.

 At one point, the room started getting blurry and they realized that I had lost a lot of blood.  Mike began talking to me about burritos and Mexican food to keep my attention while the midwives helped get my body back to normal.  I'm still taking iron supplements to help recover, which isn't surprising considering the bed I delivered in looked like a war zone!  

After about an hour, they gave him to Mike to do skin to skin time.  Watching the two of them together was the first time I cried through this whole process.  Mike was absolutely incredible throughout the whole labor and he made the labor a million times easier.  Having him breathe a short breath in and a long breath out with every contraction helped me focus on breathing instead of the contraction, which made the entire labor bearable.  I knew that I would want him there for the labor, but I could have never predicted how amazing he was.  And watching him as a dad?  Absolutely mind blowing.  I didn't think I could love him more...and then he became a dad. 

We spent the rest of the day soaking up lots of newborn snuggles, taking a much needed (long) nap, and enjoying being a family of three!

Baby's first selfie!

I was telling one of my friends about labor and delivery and how impressed I was with my body.  I like to think I'm a pretty humble and self-aware person, knowing my strengths and weaknesses. After giving birth, I felt so proud of my body for the intense amount of work it did and how natural labor came.  I don't think I've ever felt that way about anything I've ever done before and it's a feeling I hope I remember.  The human body is an amazing thing and, as I progress through my recovery, I'm always finding new things to be amazed at.

So, 41 hours and a beautiful baby boy later, we closed the chapter of our lives as Hogans party of two and welcomed this new chapter as a family of three with open arms.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Baby Shower in a Box!

The week before Finn's arrival, we FINALLY received our baby shower in a box! I say finally because that box took quite the trip around the world. My friend Anna, also known as hostess with the mostest, came up with this idea, organized the shower and mailed off the box in mid-FEBRUARY.  I know we live in Germany, but it normally takes about ten days to two weeks for things from the East Coast to arrive. Instead, this box went to Amman, Jordan, Baghdad and then back to the United States before arriving in Berlin two months after it left Pensacola.  Quite the traveler!

Anyways, we had a blast at our shower, even though everyone was around the world.  I didn't know much about the contents of the box, but kept hearing bits and pieces about it from various friends and family members, all of whom were having a blast completing their tasks at hand. Anna literally thought of a way to bring every part of a normal baby shower to us, even if our friends and family weren't there.

Around Christmas, I sent Anna a list of guests that I would like to invite and their addresses and around the new year, she sent out a package of activities to each guest.  Each package included
  • an invitation to the shower
  • a wooden shape for decorating
  • a paper onesie with well wishes for the baby on it
  • a card where they could guess the birth date, baby's weight, and height
  • two newborn diapers where guests wrote messages for us to read during late night feedings
  • instructions on how to participate in the shower
Guests were given a deadline to complete their activities and mail it back to Anna.  Then, once Anna received all of the packages, she packaged them all up with a few extra things for me, including decorations for our apartment and instructions on what to do. 

Then, when the package arrived, it was shower time! Anna had created a Facebook event and I invited all of the guests to join the group.  Since we hadn't told anyone the name, I had asked for name guesses earlier in the week.  Reading them was hilarious because some were so outrageous, but others might be added to our list if we have another baby boy.  Anyways, we also set a date and time for the event and then when the time came, I logged on to Facebook Live and started the shower. 

Mike joined me and was a big help! I don't think he was too interested in it at first, but got into it as we started reading people's responses.   It was so amusing reading everyone's responses.  The late night diaper messages were hilarious, the well wishes were endearing and Mike had fun filling in a calendar for people's due date, height and weight guesses.  There were lots of inside jokes and pop culture references, as well as many loving and thoughtful wishes, all of which made us smile and laugh.  I had already opened the gifts that people sent us since our due date was quickly approaching, so I gave our viewers a little tour of our house with all of the various baby items scattered about.

Once we come out of the newborn fog and I'm not nursing around the clock, we are going to hang up his alphabet over our nursing station. 

I'm going to use some ribbon to tie these all together as a little keepsake for Finn to read once he gets older.

We ended with many thanks to all of our friends and family for helping shower our little guy with so much love! While we would have loved to celebrate in person with everyone, the combination of us living abroad and our friends and family living all over the world, that was nearly impossible.  This was the perfect solution!!

Luckily for you, Anna has an Etsy shop where she sells her Baby Shower in Box kits, as well as kits for bridal showers and birthday parties.  I know I'm a little biased, but this is such a great idea for military friends, family who lives far away, and anyone who has friends or family far and wide!  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tips for Moving and Living Abroad

As we come out of the newborn fog (if that's possible), I've got a few posts scheduled to post about random things.  Then, once we've found a routine, hopefully I'll be able to work in blogging as well. 

We got official orders to Groton, CT the other day for Mike's department head school, which means in between naps and feeding, there's been lots of logistical talk about moving back to the United States.  It made me think about our move(s) abroad and what I wish I would have known beforehand.  I've talked to a few people who are moving abroad about what to expect and how to prepare as they move abroad from the United States and figured it would make a good blog post. Moving abroad comes with a mix of emotions, both good and bad.  On top of that, trying to navigate the logistics of moving to a new country can be daunting.  It's well worth the emotional and logistic setbacks, though! We love it so much, though that we decided to have our first baby here!  Here are some things that have worked well for us. 

1. We still shop at the commissary and have our visitors bring us stuff from home.  Ha! Moving abroad is tough and it's worth having food that you know how to cook to help ease that transition.  I would imagine this to be especially true with kids. Some things we always buy at the commissary are shredded cheese (especially cheddar and mexican flavored cheese), Italian sausage, black beans, peanut butter and ethnic food (like soy sauce and taco seasoning). That being said, we do our weekly shopping at the grocery store and really enjoy shopping at the local markets here and in Turkey.  We've only done two commissary runs since being here and will probably only do one more before we leave. It's not essential, but like I said, food is such a comfort (especially when you're pregnant!) that it definitely helps ease the transition.

2. Germany is huge on paying in cash.  It's strange.  Lots of local places won't take cash for smaller bills, so make sure to always have cash on hand. Even if they do take credit cards, a lot of them will only take a German credit card. Turkey was the complete opposite! Every restaurant and cafe had a card reader.  Because almost all of their cards are chip and pin, they always bring the card reader to the table.  It's strange and unnerving for the wait staff to take your card away from the table. 

3. That being said, we got the Chase Sapphire Reward credit card when we moved abroad because it has no international fees and has 5x points on things like restaurants and hotels.  It's great for traveling abroad.  In fact, last spring, we had planned to book my entire flight home and back to Europe on points we'd accrued from this card.  Mike is definitely more into the points and rewards thing, but it's definitely benefited us to have it and use it abroad. They just released a new Chase card, the Sapphire Reserve, which has more perks, so I recommend getting that if you can. 

4. The stereotype of Germans always being so rude and mean isn't actually true.  It definitely took some getting used to their personality, which is definitely not as warm and welcoming as Americans, but they are actually really friendly, in their own German way.  I was really off-put by it at first, but now have realized they're just more blunt and "get to the point" than Americans who like small talk! 

5.There is German Amazon ( and it is a lifesaver! We use it all the time because we are never sure where to get random things.  They don't have stores like Target, so all of the random things you would normally run to Target for (like pillows or a coat hanger), we end up ordering on Amazon.   Plus, a year of Amazon Prime is 49 euros, plus you can get a lot of American shows on their Prime that you can't get on regular Prime.  We pay for both American Prime and German Prime so that we get free shipping to our house, as well as our DPO box (a lifesaver!) and it's totally worth it.  Did that make sense? All you need to know is the there is Amazon here and it's a lifesaver.

6. This only applies to military, but I think it's maybe the most important thing when planning your move abroad.  When you move outside of the continental US, you get an "express shipment." I think they say it takes about 45 days to get to you, so it's not super fast, but we moved out of our DC apartment a month before we were set to move, so it got to us not that long after we moved overseas. For us (one active duty member + one dependent), we got 1000 lbs in our express shipment. We made the mistake of only packing the bare essentials! Pack 1000 lbs worth of stuff.  It's totally worth it. I would recommend basically sending all of your kitchen stuff first, plus a few extra things like an air mattress to sleep on and towels and sheets. I wish I had sent more of my kitchen because then I could have cooked when we moved in to our apartment instead of always having to eat out until the rest of our stuff came.  You also get to check four bags per ticket on the airline for free, so use that to your advantage. When we move back to the states, we're planning to use one of our checked bags for the pack n play so our little guy will have somewhere to sleep right when we get there. You can also gate check strollers, so don't use that as one of your checked bags. That's essentially free! I've never done it before, so all I know is what I've read online, but I've already started thinking about it because it's overwhelming. 

8. You can still communicate with friends/family back home. One thing that was really important to me when we moved abroad was that I would still be able to text and call home. At the time, I had an iPhone and so did she, which was great because we could still FaceTime and text via iMessage. I ended up losing my phone and the replacement was an Android, so that no longer worked.  I got Project Fi, which gave me a US number and allows me to call and text back to the United States without additional charges. I now also use an app called WhatsApp which allows us to video chat and text back and forth with anyone who has the app.  Both people have to have the app, so that's kind of a pain, but it's free.  It's so popular over here that most people use it to text their friends, even if they are in Germany.  It's been great for staying in touch with other Olmsted Scholars and Mike's sister who all live abroad.  Mike and I also have Skype Premium, which gives us an American phone number, which is nice for calling things like our bank or our health insurance back in the States.

Moving abroad is tough, both emotionally and logistically.  There is so much you don't think about before you move and then it's a million times more difficult to figure out in a new country.  The more prepared you are logistically, the easier emotionally it will be.  Every move and every country is different, but hopefully these tips and tricks will help anyone moving abroad get settled a little faster.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Family Resemblance

We've been wondering who Finn would look like throughout the whole pregnancy.  Most people say he looks like Mike (as an adult), which I agree with, but there are a couple of pictures and moments where I can see some Russo in him.  Also, if you look at my brother Andrew's baby picture, they look pretty similar!
Baby Mike

Baby Sarah
All grown up

Baby Finnegan

Who do you think he looks like?