Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby!

Here are some pictures from Margaret's party at the lake. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day. The weather was perfect and Margaret was surrounded by so many people who love and cherish her! My sweet sister-in-law Erin took all of these pictures. She was kind enough to act as photographer for us again :)

A year gone by

My baby girl turned one on the 22nd. I truly can not believe it. All day I kept thinking back to the day I went into labor with her-it seems like many years ago. I promised myself that I would write her birth story as soon as our family of three came home from the hospital. But here it is a year and a few days later and I am finally getting to it. For those of you who don't know this story I will start from the beginning. It was my dream to have a natural child birth. I wanted to have absolutely no interventions. I wanted to feel everything and experience every moment of my beautiful baby's arrival. And boy did I! Unless you have experienced child birth it is very difficult to describe in words the feeling. It is every emotion and feeling I have ever experienced rushing over you at once. You truly feel the power and creativity of our Creator. In the weeks leading up to Margaret's birth I had been taking my dogs on 1-2 mile power walks every afternoon. I was literally trying to stomp the baby out of me. During my pregnancy I gained 55 pounds. I do not recommend this. Although it did lead to some pretty funny situations. Once on one of my walks I kept getting strange looks from neighbors passing me on the street. I got home only to find that my shirt had ridden up over my large belly exposing it for the entire walk. On the evening of September 21st 2009 Jackson arrived home from work around 6pm. I was already 3 days past my due date at this point. I begged him to go for a walk with me. I stomped a few cracks through the pavement in our neighborhood before I began to feel a few very mild contractions. Prior to this I had had a few nights of false labor or early contractions. So I thought maybe that was what I was feeling again. We got home and cooked dinner. By the time we sat down to eat around 8pm I was feeling a lot more crampy and had a feeling this was it. Jackson was still thinking that this was more false labor and that I shouldn't get my hopes up-but I just knew this was it. I couldn't really eat and I definitely could not sleep. So I started packing the last minute things in to our hospital bags. At around 9:30/10pm Jackson and I decided to get in bed. At this point I was having sporadic contractions that were still very mild. They were about 10-8 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds to a minute. I told Jackson to go to bed because I was sure we had a long night ahead of us and I heaved myself out of bed and started pacing the house. I turned on the TV to try and find a movie to distract myself. At about 11pm my contractions were 7 minutes apart and lasting a minute. Still nothing to get worked up about. But I was increasingly getting more and more uncomfortable. I had Ms. Doubtfire on and I wasn't laughing. At midnight I decided to get out my labor meditation CD and get in the tub. This had been my plan all along. I had been taking baths and listening to this CD for weeks before I went into labor. Laying in the tub-belly exposed-practicing my breathing and relaxation. This was the best decision-the tub felt great and it relieved some pressure of the contractions. I had my Timex watch with me and the lights out except for a few candles. (think Knocked Up-Katherine Heigel but a whole lot less glamorous) At this point my contractions are 6 minutes apart and lasting 2 minutes. I was still comfortable and really happy to be in the tub. After awhile I had to use the bathroom. Getting out of the warm tub into the cold air threw my into a huge contraction that was much stronger than the previous ones I had. I sat back down in the tub and decided what to do. Jackson was sleeping still-this had been our plan. I would let him rest until I really needed him so that he would be ready to go when the action happened. I again tried to get out of the tub-the urge to use the bathroom at this point was pretty strong. I sat down on the toilet and when I looked down there was blood everywhere. This completely freaked me out. I ran into the bedroom and woke Jackson up. It was around 2:30am. He got up and was in shock. He really thought that I was having another night of false labor when he last saw me at 9:00pm. We went back into the bathroom and I got back in the tub. I could not decide if I wanted to be in the tub or not. I was just standing in ankle deep water shivering and bleeding. I decided to get out and sent Jackson to call our doula. He woke Cristy up and filled her in on what was happening. She told us that it was pretty normal to be bleeding like this and that happens sometimes when your cervix begins to open up. My contractions were hard to time. But at this point I think they were between 4-5 minutes apart and lasting a minute or two. I got dressed and tried to lay down but the most comfortable place for me was in the bathroom. I would lean on the sink every time I had a contraction and that seemed to help. At 5:00am Cristy arrived at our home. Ahhhh! it was so nice to have an expert there to calm our fears and answer all of our questions. Doulas are the best! Every laboring momma needs one. Cristy kept me moving to speed up my labor and keep everything progressing. I got on the birth ball-which I hated! It opened up my cervix more and made everything intensify. Whoa! Things were really picking up. Hello active labor! We moved to a different position. I laid on our couch on my side and focused on breathing. At this point everything was happening very quickly. I said to Cristy and Jackson "I don't think I can do this" ummm, too late now! No backing out sister. We decided it was time to get to the hospital. My contractions were about a minute or 2 apart. I got up from the couch and had a contraction. All of the sudden I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. Cristy looked at me and said "Do you think you need to push or just go to the bathroom?" I had no clue I just needed to get to the bathroom. I got to the sink and had a contraction. Whoa, now I knew what they were talking about with active labor. I sat down on the toilet and had a contraction. I couldn't go to the bathroom. I just hovered there unable to really sit down because it intensified everything so much. Outside the door I could hear Jackson and Cristy whispering. "OK, Meghan we need to get to the hospital now" Cristy calmly told me. I mustered up the strength to waddle out. It's go time! I got out the front door and down the sidewalk when Bam! I had to lean against our light post and wail because of the intense contraction I was having. I looked up only to see our neighbor jogging by in the early morning light. niiiccee. Jackson helped me into the car and Cristy got in her car and followed us to the hospital. I closed my eyes the entire way. Jackson stayed on two wheels the entire way. Every bump we hit I glared at my sweet patient husband like I could shoot daggers with my eyes. He acted like he didn't notice. smart. We got to the hospital and jumped out of the car. Cristy came and got me while Jackson parked and grabbed my bag. At this point my contractions were coming one after the other. But I was managing to stay on top of them. We got to the labor and delivery check in desk. Thank goodness Cristy had called ahead. But of course I had gone into labor on a Tuesday-the only day my Doctor worked in a completely different city. We checked in and the nurses kept trying to get me in a wheelchair. I refused to sit down I needed to keep moving. Cristy held the nurses off and Jackson and I headed to our room. Stopping pretty much every step to have a contraction. We finally got to our hospital room. There were 4 nurses in there. They did not know what to make of us. They wanted to put the heart rate monitor on me and asked me to get in the bed. Thank goodness for Cristy again. She reminded them of our birth plan. No bed for me and minimal monitoring. So they held the monitor to my belly as I had a contraction. The nurse had to get very creative in her positioning as I was leaning over into Jackson's arms with my head buried in his stomach and Cristy was pressing her hands into my lower back from behind. This was the only thing that made the contractions bearable. Margaret's heart rate was fine. So we continued along with our laboring. At one point Jackson went to get a drink of water and I flipped out. No one was allowed to leave our position. Me bent over at the waist while Jackson held me up and Cristy behind me putting all of her weight into my lower back. And thus, we all stood like this for what felt like eternity. And then all of the sudden I felt the urge to use the bathroom. So the three of us moved into the tiny awkward hospital bathroom and I hovered over the toilet. At this point the contractions were at their peak. All I knew was that I wanted the baby out now! I wanted to give into the urge to push so badly but it wasn't time yet. We moved, as one unit, from the bathroom out into the delivery room. And then, after what seemed like forever, I felt Margaret descend. I will never forget that feeling as long as I live. And then it was pushing time! Cristy guided me as I breathed through contractions so that I would not tear my perineum. I squatted at the foot of the hospital bed. A nurse had run to find the doctor. And then Margaret's head was out as the doctor put on her gloves. I was guided back onto the bed all the while trying to control the urge to push so that the rest of Margaret's body would come out nice and easy. With all of the concentration and coaching from Jackson and Cristy to breathe, I still could not resist the urge to push. And then Margaret was out! One big push and her entire body came rushing out. The nurses rubbed her dry and delivered her to my chest-umbilical cord still attached. She was tiny and pink and perfect. I remember asking if she was definitely a girl. And then I looked at her hands and feet to make sure she had all of her toes and fingers. Weird, the things that occur to you at life's most poignant moments! It was 8:45 am on September 22nd 2009 and the Ratliff's had gone from a family of two to three. It was a beautiful, peaceful, loving birth. I had never been so proud of my husband. I had never felt more love for him than at that moment as well. He had literally held me up the entire time. We had a beautiful baby girl in our arms-the world was perfect!
Sarah Margaret Ratliff
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long

Thursday, September 16, 2010

putting out fires

wow, the last couple of weeks have been, well, let's say interesting. I decided that it would be a great idea to surprise Jackson with a puppy for his birthday. We have all been heartbroken over the loss of our sweet black lab Abby. She was Jackson's dog and Bailey's constant companion. So I felt getting a new lab for us would be an all-around great idea. The first night we brought her home I had a true anxiety attack. I'm not exaggerating. It is a bit embarrassing to admit that I was thrown into an all out panic over a ball of fur that weighs no more than 5 pounds-but it happened. She wouldn't stop crying and peeing. We didn't know what to do with her or ourselves! We decided that Butter, we named her Abby "Butter" Ratliff, would be going back to the breeder in the morning. I have never understood people who bring an animal home and then decide they can't handle it. Didn't you give a decision that big some though? some planning? Well, I quickly turned into one of "those people". In the light of the following morning-after one barking roused baby and two sleep deprived adults started our days-my feelings about giving Butter back had not changed. Jackson left for work around 7:45am and I had already called him by 8:45am reminding him to call the breeder and ask about his return policy. Well, something happened around lunch time. I had some clarity after my second cup of coffee and quickly called Jackson back-any of you who have ever suffered from anxiety are recognizing the symptoms here-and asked if it was too late to keep her. Yes, Butter Ratliff made the cut. She would stay. That was last weeks drama. This week in between wiping up pee, wiping Margaret's runny nose, and somehow managing to wear clothing that covered all of my unmentionable parts-we set our house on fire. Let me rephrase that. We didn't actually start the fire. Our bathroom fan decided to burn up and set our ceiling on fire. It was Wednesday, the first day of the week of Mother's day out. I awoke refreshed and with a bounce in my step. Ahhh, a morning to myself. I made a list of all the things I would do with my 4 hours. I could not wait to get my day started. Jackson left for work around 7:45am like he always does. I was feeding Margaret breakfast and packing her lunch for school when I started hearing this popping noise. I figured it was the cat on my dresser knocking things to the floor. It stopped and I went about my morning routine (ie, feeding baby, dogs, cleaning up animal and tiny human pee and poop etc.) A few minutes later I heard the same popping noise and then smelled burning plastic. I followed the smell and smoke to the bathroom only to find the ceiling engulfed in flames and melted plastic fire balls falling to the floor. I was unusually calm. (funny my anxiety didn't kick in at this appropriate situation) I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a stool and a pitcher of water and began heaving water at the bathroom ceiling. All the while Margaret was happily stuffing her sweet face with banana in the kitchen. I grabbed my phone, called Jackson and all I could get out before my phone died was "the house is on fire!" He was half way to work at this point. I am standing in our hallway covered in ash and water with a dead cell phone and no house phone (who needs one these days, right?!) A few moments go by and Jackson bursts through the front door with the hose from our front yard in his hands. He didn't know which way to go. I had already stopped the flames as far as I could see. So he climbed in the attic to check for further damage and then called the fire department-from his cell phone. The fireman came with 3 trucks, 6 fireman, and sirens blaring. They checked everything out and blew the smoke out of the house in about 20 minutes. Just enough time to get Margaret dressed and to Mother's day out. Only so I could come home and scrub and mop the entire house free of soot. 4 hours of baby free after fire clean-up and I was wishing it was Monday.
Here are some pictures of the latest excitement in our lives.
Meet Butter, the dog who almost wasn't.
because having one bathroom wasn't bad enough.
the reason I can laugh at all of this!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a few more pics...

I had to post a few more pictures from our first day of school photo shoot. Hope you all enjoy!

making sure she approves of the lunch I packed
wait, I'm going to miss Sesame Street?! Must DVR!

let's go Mom!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

1st days for everyone

This week began a lot of firsts for the Ratliffs. Jackson began a new job on Tuesday. After almost 4 great years with Barber Companies he felt it was time to move on. He has started working with Bayer in commercial real estate leasing and development. It seems to be a great fit and just the challenge he needs. Today was Margaret's first day of school! I dropped her off at 9:00am and we both said our goodbyes without a tear. I was impressed with both of our restraint. My stomach has been in knots the last few days just thinking about how the day would go for both of us. But when I picked her up at 1:00pm today I knew it was the right decision. Her teachers gave me a full report on her day. And the comments were right on track. "She is a spit fire!" "Miss Margaret is a busy body! She got into everything." "We love her laugh" From everything they said I could tell that she was in her element. When I walked up to the door she saw me and her face lit up and she pointed right at me. I couldn't have expressed the feeling better myself.

P.S. 5 minutes into the car ride home she crashed.