Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful day, spending time with those you love, remembering our Savior's birth and His gift to us, and making fond memories.

I decided to share some of my memories.

Christmas 2005

This was the last Christmas that my family spent together with my parents having no grandchildren and no children-in-law. We spent the beginning of Christmas break helping my parents move into their new house. I was already dating Jeff, and things were looking serious. In fact, during Christmas break, Jeff met my family in Indiana, and I went down to Cincinnati and met his family. Actual Christmas day was spent with just the six Bolings in Michigan.

Christmas 2006

This was my first married Christmas. It was also spent in Michigan with all of my family as well as some Roses, because just three days after Christmas, my sister got married in Illinois! A new brother-in-law was a pretty great present!

Christmas 2007

This Christmas was spent with Jeff's family on a Caribbean cruise. Due to church missionary service, it was the first Christmas in six years that Laurie and Daryl had all of their sons together. (Jeff obviously missed the memo about wearing a black suit.) Spending Christmas on the beach reminded me of my Brazil Christmases! It was really wonderful to have all of the Colletts together with no distractions other than enjoying tropical paradises together. (And I am ashamed to admit that this is a scan of a professional print. I don't know how you go about compensating the photographer for the picture this many years later.)

Christmas 2008

The Boling family grew a lot since we last spent Christmas together! By now, all of Vickie and Phil's children were married. Amy (and Devin) and Peter (and Mindee) had their first children, and Dan's wife Rachel and I were both pregnant with our firsts. We all gathered together in Indiana, this time at Pete and Mindee's lovely home. We were lucky enough to have Jeannie with us (Rachel's twin sister). Jeannie has been adopted by all of the Boling grandchildren as an aunt. We always love having her join us.

Christmas 2009

This was our first Christmas as parents. It was spent in Cincinnati with Jeff's family, and by this Christmas we were done with school and living with Jeff's parents. Jeff had just started his first post-college job the month prior. From here on out, I failed at getting pictures of the large family groups and seem to only get pictures of my growing family.

Christmas 2010

I did not get a picture of everyone who spent this Christmas together, but we were able to spend it with both my family and Jeff's family. The week leading up to Christmas found us up at Wisconsin Dells with my parents, my maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother, my sister and my sister's family. (Sadly neither of my brothers and their families could come due to work obligations.) It was a wonderful week, though, with lots of snow and fun winter activities at the resort.

Then the week right after Christmas found us back in Cincinnati celebrating with all of Jeff's family. All of the brothers were there, as well as Jason's wife Amy and Ryan's then-girlfriend-now-wife Cyanne.

You may be able to notice in the family picture with Jill, Jeff, and I, but I am pregnant with Danny this Christmas. Little did I know then that he was planning on coming only two short weeks later!

Christmas 2011

This Christmas was spent in Cincinnati with Jeff's family. It was Danny's first Christmas. Fun activities included having my mother come down and visit, as well as having Laurie take the children and me to the Newport Aquarium. Shortly after Christmas, Jeff, the children, and I drove out to Virginia to spend time with our good friends, the Bellows, and see how the DC area celebrated Christmas and the New Year. We had no idea then that just fourteen months later would find us moving there!

Christmas 2012

This one is a bit blurry, but perhaps I'll get a better picture on actual Christmas day. For the third Christmas now, I find myself pregnant on Christmas. We will be in Cincinnati again this year. Before the life altering decision to uproot our family and move to Virginia, we had talked about going up to Michigan to spend it with my family, but now there is just too much to be done. (We are planning on listing our home in the middle of January, Alice is due in February, and Jeff begins his new job in March.) My dad is driving down tomorrow and will spend a week helping us, so I will get to see him at least. And I'm sure I'll see my mom after the baby comes.

Here is another picture of the beautiful Christmas dresses that my mother-in-law Laurie made for me and Jill. (You can't see it, but Jill's has a big bow in the back made from the same gold fabric as my top and our ruffles. Her dress is also lined with taffeta (tulle? something fluffy . . .) under the skirt. Laurie is very talented! Jill LOVES her dress.

And Laurie did purchase the rights to these next photos, so I can include them without feeling guilty! The first one is from 2009. Enjoy. :)

And here is my annual recap of the year!

The biggest surprise of 2012 was the unexpected job offer Jeff received in October. He begins his new job in March as a contractor for the Department of State, specifically in Overseas Building Operations.

The greatest joy of 2012 is Mimi’s current pregnancy. We expect to welcome Alice Grace Collett into our family sometime near the end of February. Jill is very excited to have a little sister; it’s hard to determine whether Danny is excited or not.

Sometime between or around those two major life events, we will move from our beloved Cincinnati to somewhere in Virginia, near Washington DC.

Highlights of the year were two family reunions: The Colletts gathered in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the Bolings gathered in Boyne City, Michigan. Both were fun resort towns surrounded by beautiful scenery and full of activities for us all to do.

Memorable events this year for Jill (3½) and Daniel (1¾) were most likely their swimming and gymnastics lessons. Jill loves Minnie Mouse, playing mommy, and building couch forts. Danny loves Mickey Mouse, making noise, and throwing toys. They’re both a delight—and occasionally a frustration—as only toddlers and preschoolers can be.

Merry Christmas from the Colletts!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birth Fantasies

So . . . a lot of the birthing books I read mentioned creating birth plans for what you want to have happen during the birth.

(Interestingly, before my recent birthing journey I thought birth plans were a bad idea, because I thought it would make me seem like a bad patient who wanted to fight the system. Now I realize that I'm not in the hospital because I'm sick, so why shouldn't I have some say? I'm the one paying them. Technically, they're working for me. I'll accept their advice the way I would any other professional I hire, but until my labor turns into a life or death situation, why shouldn't I have what I've decided I wanted after taking their advice into consideration?)

Well, that ended up being a long parenthetical statement.

And then I thought birthing plans might be bad, because I read someone saying how women who had their birth plans written and had their hearts set on them but ended up not getting them are more likely to be disappointed later, or have trouble getting over it, or possibly become depressed.

Obviously I don't want to increase my chance for depression.

But as I continued to think about it and continued to read all of these experts recommending them, I came across one author who wrote, essentially, "what's the big deal about being disappointed?" The thought was "is disappointment really so horrible that you should avoid even thinking about what you would like to have?" I didn't think so; I decided that I am strong enough to overcome disappointment.

My encounter with pre-eclampsia with my first pregnancy gave me a strong dose of respect for obstetricians. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is getting the baby out, and my body was not anywhere near going into labor on its own. I am convinced that modern medicine and interventions saved my life at that point. Could I have prevented having pre-eclampsia? Possibly, but I had no way to know I was going to have it, and once I had it, there was no cure (other than having the baby born). So obviously I am very grateful that I am alive and that Jill is alive and subsequently that Danny is alive since I was alive to have him and that soon Alice will be born. Thank you, doctor and medical staff.

That experience has given me the perspective that should another scenario occur, then I am completely fine with throwing my birth plan out the window and allow the doctor and nurses to save my life or my baby's life. In fact, I'm more than fine with it—I'm ecstatic that it's possible. What are the possible scenarios, you may wonder. They are complications like my water breaking at 33 weeks, placenta previa, triplets (wouldn't that be a surprise?!), actively laboring for over 36 hours (or however long) to the point of exhaustion and inability to push, pre-eclampsia again, fetal bradycardia, umbilical cord compression/prolapse, footling or kneeling breech (but not automatically for a frank or complete breech). Bottom line: I recognize that there are possibilities that would decimate the importance of my birth plan. And I can handle that. When true emergencies arise, I will do what I have to do, or rather I will allow to have done to me what needs to be done.

The flip side of that, of course, is that in a low-risk, unmedicated birth, the mother should have lots of options. I've have read many articles, interviewed many doctors, and read (some—obviously not all) ACOG guidelines, and I am now aware that a lot of what I assumed was sacrosanct is actually opinion. One OB in good standing will allow a woman 24 hours to wait for her labor to begin spontaneously after her membranes rupture. Some OBs in good standing immediately begin augmenting her labor with Pitocin. Those are their opinions, their preferences, coming in to play. And since it is my body, and my baby, and I will be the one living with the consequences, I think that my opinions and preferences should come into play as well. That's why I interviewed so many practitioners before I found my ideal providers. I discovered that a lot of the "rules" were actually just preferences and that there are a lot of studies proving and disproving both.

So all of this got me thinking about a birth plan. I think one of my favorite aspects of a birth plan is that Jeff won't have to remember everything, and I won't have to be bothered with decision making. I'll make all of the decisions that I can think of ahead of time, share them with Jeff, and write them down. Then when we're in the moment, Jeff can either remember what my (and, in some cases, our) decision was or he can refer to my birth plan. Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

Well, one book introduced me to the idea of a birth fantasy. If a birth plan is pretty nice, then a birth fantasy is like the most awesome ever!!

It is the process of writing down your complete fantasy no matter how far fetched or even impossible it is (like having a relative present who is already deceased or being in a completely different country). Then after going through that process, review what you've written and then determine what those desires really mean and translate as many as possible into realistic possibilities to put in your birth plan.

Creating the birth fantasy is a pretty fun writing and psychological exercise.

So, without further ado, I present my fantasy!

Early labor will last a while, giving me a nice slow warm up and time to realize that birth was going to happen in the near future. I would have certain loved ones with me: Jeff, Jill, Danny, my mom, my sister, my dad, a few other family members and some best girl friends. We'd be in some forested area with hills and very comfortable weather with warm sunshine but not hot enough to be sweaty. I would spend my early labor walking through the gorgeous forest with people I loved. Marveling at waterfalls, admiring rock formations, gasping over beautiful vistas, enjoying a delicious outdoor picnic. It would all be a great distraction from the contractions/surges that are slowly gaining in intensity.

Someplace like this would be perfectly acceptable.
(This is a picture I took during my summer in Maine.)

As I ramp up to active labor, I am magically teleported to a sandy beach. Fewer people are with me now, but I still have my core family group. Jill and Danny are playing in the sand being lovingly cared for by their amazing father and my amazing father. My sister, mother, and I are standing in the warm ocean water with the sun shining brightly down on us. We dance in the waves like silly little girls. As the contractions/surges increase in intensity, my mom and sister stand on either side of me, supporting me, as we allow the waves to pound our bodies on the outside while my muscles are working steadily constricting and relaxing to slowly move sweet Alice down. If it gets too hard to stand, then I may sit on the sand near the edge of the waves, slightly reclined, and continuing to allow the waves to roll over me.

A place like this would be acceptable, except in my fantasy, there wouldn't be strangers there.
(This is a picture from our Myrtle Beach vacation.)

As I reach transition, I am now in my fabulous birthing center in their fantastic birthing tub. Jeff is in the tub, too, and I am leaning on him in whatever position feels most comfortable (perhaps squatting, dangling, or semi reclining). My doula, nurse, and obstetrician are also present, as well as my mother and sister. Jeff is providing me with the physical support I will desperately need, and the others are providing the verbal support to get me through this—the toughest part of labor. I will remain completely relaxed. A vanilla candle (or flameless scent maker) will fill the room with one of my favorite aromas. My children will be present and excited to be some of the first to see Alice. I will gently breathe my baby out as I allow my muscles to do what they know how to do. I will immediately hold Alice, and Jeff will immediately hold me and Alice as we wait for her umbilical cord to stop pulsating and then cut the final physical tie connecting her to me. I'll climb into my comfortable queen-sized bed with my husband and children around me as Alice and I figure out nursing and eventually my placenta will be delivered.

And then . . . *drum roll please* a unicorn will appear. Along with the unicorn, my in-laws, siblings, and Jeff's siblings will come and see our new baby. My parents or Jeff's parents (or both) will take Jill and Danny away, so Alice and I can rest.

Doesn't that sound fantastic?

So now I get to turn that into a plausible reality.

I will labor at home with my children as long as feasible. I will dance with my children. I will let them help me bake a birthday cake for us to celebrate Alice's actual birth day. I will read to them. I may call my mother-in-law or a friend to come over to talk to me and distract me. (If this begins at night, I will just try to sleep as much as possible. If I can't sleep, I might watch Sense and Sensibility and Hello, Dolly! When it seems like I'm done with early labor, I will meet up with my doula at some point, and she, Jeff, and I will drive up to the birthing center. If it is during the day, then my kids will come, too. If it is during the night, then I'll let them come the next morning when they wake up.

At the birthing center, I'll stay relaxed and try all the techniques they throw at me. I'll utilize the squatting bar, the shower, the birthing balls, walking the halls, counter-pressure, massage, dancing, singing, and eventually the birthing tub. If my children seem happy and fine, then they'll stay. If seeing me like this is freaking them out, then they'll leave. I don't need them there if they aren't enjoying it.

I imagine the actual birth will happen pretty close to how I described it in my fantasy, minus the unicorn and relatives who live too far away to be there. But it will include freshly baked bread!

So there you have it: my fantasy and my loosely outlined plan.

Note: The birth plan I am actually going to use is more detailed in case I end up in the labor & delivery department instead of the birthing center. If you are curious what I deemed important enough to write out, just say so, and I'll eventually e-mail you a copy. It is still a work in progress right now as I research and learn about different options and procedures, and it includes more details on what I want to have happen to Alice after she is born.

So there you have it! My fantasy and plan. Won't it be interesting to see what really happens?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Life is better with people who love you

So about two weeks ago, I was going through this intense amount of stress stemming from move, house, and baby woes. I was pretty much just falling apart. Crying. Worrying about irrational things. Stressing over things I can't control. Overwhelmed by everything that needed to get done in time. I was not a very fun person to be around (or be, for that matter).

Jeff and a friend gave me a blessing of comfort, and immediately thereafter I had two thoughts. The first was that I needed to write down everything in my life that was causing me stress, worry, or guilt and then release it. Just let it go. Send it off (to my sister, mother, father, and husband), and then just let it go. The second was that I needed to ask for help, that I did not need to do everything alone.

So that is what I did. I e-mailed the family members I listed above a very long list. I hadn't looked at it since sending it, but I was curious for the sake of this post as to how long it was, so I looked at it to count them. I had twenty-three bullet points. That's a lot of guilt, worry, and stress—in my opinion at least. And some of them were completely contradictory, so I couldn't win either way. Like worrying that my baby will come early with complications (like Jill) or premature (like Danny), but then also worrying that if I make it to 40 weeks, my baby will be too big and hurt me. See? Completely ridiculous. And counter productive. And don't worry, my doula and my obstetrician both have made me feel completely not worried about either of those anymore. I just gave it as an example to see what kind of craziness I was up to. Worried about something and its opposite happening.

I received some great responses from my family. Here are some of my favorite excerpts, because this post is about how blessed I feel to be in my family and to have the friends I have.

"You are a better person, wife, and mom than you give yourself credit for."

"Loving where you live is a blessing, and you may not always be so fortunate. You spent money on a home and gained many good memories. What else is the purpose of money but to be spent so you and your family can be happy and healthy? There are no guarantees in real estate." "Don't think of the money 'lost' on the house as lost. It is just an expense, a 'cost of living.' Let it go and don't dwell on it."

"Ask for help with the cleaning. Don't clean 'beyond' clean. Stop at good enough."

"About hurting Alice . . . have faith, calm down, and only do as much as a pregnant woman should be doing. You ARE pregnant. So act like it."

"You are not Superwoman. You are Mimi. You are human. You are pregnant with 2 small children. You are moving to a large metropolitan area. Your husband is starting a new job. This is not a job for Superwoman. This is a job for Mimi. Mimi—Wife of Jeff and Mom of Jill, Danny, and Alice. You've got all the love you need to be who you are. But, really, settle down and be a pregnant woman. Alice is your top priority. EVERYTHING else someone else can do."

"I am not surprised that you are finding the going so tough; I was told a long time ago that moving is as stressful as dealing with a death and my experience has found that to be surprisingly truthful."

"Seriously, girlfriend, I want you to get a bowl of ice cream and sit down, right now. Just kidding, you don't have to do that. Unless you want to, and you have ice cream."

"You should be doing as much as you feel like you can do. Listen to your body. When it is too much, call your RS president, or your VT, or your mother-in-law, and say, 'Come help me, now. Please.' And they will be blessed immeasurably for giving you service, and you will be blessed for providing someone with the opportunity to lift another. Be a General Conference talk, Meems. How often do you get to live one of those?"

"Houses always have problems; people know that. There is no such thing as a 'perfect, problem-free' house.  Anyone who says differently is lying to themselves or to you. Caveat emptor, and all that. You can't control what will happen in the house in the future, no matter how hard you try to make it perfect now. So, obviously you should make it as nice as you can, but there is only so much you can do, and let the rest go."

"If anyone can sell belongings, it is you and Jeff, Craigslist masters. There should be an official title for that."

"I don't know what your moving situation will end up being, obviously you don't either, so I don't know what to tell you on that one, but I do know that it will work out. LIfe works out. Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it is messy, but it works out. And you'll be fine because you are a tough woman, no matter what you think about yourself right now."

"You could make a cave look nice, Meems. You'll be fine."

"I love you, and I hope my responses didn't make you feel more stressed, or upset. I just want you to know that I know that you can do all these things, that everything in your life that you have gone through before has prepared you for dealing with this situation right now, and that you will rise to the occasion."

"You are so strong."

I think it's pretty obvious how awesome and supportive my family members are. I think the point that really hit me, and that they both made in different ways, is that I don't have to be Superwoman; I just have to be me, and I can do this, and I should ask for help. I loved my sister's line line about being a General Conference talk.

So, I followed through with their advice and the second prompting that I had received, and I asked for help.

It is kind of amazing how wonderful my friends have been. Not that it is surprising, because I obviously think my friends are amazing, but it has just really touched me. Their help has made this transition a lot easier and a lot harder. Easier, because they're helping me. And harder, because it makes me not want to leave them!

I listed the areas in which I felt I needed help. I needed childcare, so that I could get things done without my kids undoing everything I had done or just watching hours upon hours of television every day. I needed help packing and lifting, and I needed help cleaning. I sometimes wonder if my pre-eclampsia with Jill was caused in part by the fact that we were moving, and I was doing a lot. And I sometimes wonder if Daniel's premature arrival was caused in part by the fact that I don't rest as much as I should. Maybe I exercise too much. Pick up too many heavy things. And just really never stop going. Anyway, so I took my mom's advice about how only I can carry and deliver Alice. Everything else on my long to-do checklist can be done by someone else, but only I can have my daughter.

I e-mailed my friends about watching my kids, and the response was overwhelming. (Now I'm crying out of gratitude for my friends rather than crying because I'm drowning in stress and worry.) Nine different friends and my mother-in-law are all taking turns watching my kids this month and next, for two to three hours at a time, once a day, so I can have a block of time where I don't have to feel like I am neglecting them by working on the house. And, as any mother with a 3 year old and a 1 year old can attest to, I am much more productive without them.

I e-mailed another group of friends about helping me pack, lift, and clean. I gave them a list of days and asked them to choose one day they could help me. Many of them choose multiple days, and one friend even wrote every single day on her calendar!

My father is going to use an entire week of his vacation to come down here and help me with my small things and Jeff with his big projects of home improvement.

I have created 56 craigslist postings (1. because I expect to lose about 600 square feet when we move into our new house, so I want fewer possessions, and 2. just to have more money for the closing costs, actual move, and baby—those are a lot of costs all at once). I have been selling some items to strangers, but I have been surprised and overwhelmed—in a good way—by friends who have taken the time to look up my postings and offer to buy my items from me. Even friends far away who offer to pay for the shipping, too. It makes me feel a bit guilty for not just giving these things to them, but it also makes me feel really loved that they are helping me out in this way. Jeff will have a higher salary in Virginia, but I am still completely unsure as to what to expect with the cost of living difference. Milk for over $4 a gallon?! I'll miss you, Midwest.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law are welcoming us into their home, so we can put our house on the market empty and so I don't have to deal with the stress of showing a house that has two toddlers in it.

The parents of some of our best friends have offered to let us stay in their home in Virginia for a short while in between our leaving here and finding a place to live there. (Other friends have made similar offers, as well.)

And many friends have given me the names and contact information of people they know who live in the DC area, and those friends and strangers have provided invaluable advice.

All in all, it just really makes a girl feel like she can never repay everyone, and it is so beautiful to know that they aren't doing it to be paid. They just love me and my kids. And I love them.

Thank you.

And because I felt like every post needs some pictures, here are a few.

An apple pie that Jeff, Jill, and Danny helped me make for Thanksgiving. Delicious.

We got to spend time with my brother Peter's family and meet his new son, Boston McKay Boling.

Danny at gymnastics: He loves having a place to run and jump freely.

Jill at gymnastics: She is really starting to impress me on the beam and bars (for her age).