Monday, May 29, 2017

Russo Grandparents Come to Visit!

I'm sitting on our balcony eating lunch, while Mike is running errands and Finn is napping and I'm pretending that my parents aren't on a flight back to the United States. 😢😢😢

I had been counting down the days to my parents visit ever since Finn was born.  Scratch that, ever since they booked the tickets. As excited as I was, I know they were infinitely more excited to meet their first grandchild.
We're all excited to see Nana and Grandpa!

We greeted them at the airport Sunday morning and headed back to our apartment to drop off their bags before heading to a breakfast food festival.  We find that the best thing for guests coming straight from the East Coast to do is to get out and do something for a few hours to beat the jet lag.  It was delicious!! I got a breakfast burrito that I devoured in seconds and Mike had biscuits and gravy that he said might be the best he's ever had.  After breakfast, we came back and everyone napped a little bit and we ended the night with a little barbecue which was delicious.

Nana giving Finn a bottle in preparation for our big outing to the breakfast market

The rest of the week was pretty laid back.  My parents' goal for this trip was mainly to help out and that they did! By this point, Mike and I are pretty capable and have kind of figured out a routine, but it was SO nice to have extra hands to help out.  I had people making me dinner every night.  I got to take a shower that didn't end when Finn started crying. I got to nap anytime I wanted. And maybe most exciting was that Mike and I got to go out just the two of us.  It was everything I dreamed of and more.

It's amazing how much time you can spend just watching a little guy hang out on a play mat or sleep in a swing.  We FaceTimed with both of my brothers and when they asked what we did, we didn't have many answers except "watch Finn" or "take Finn for a walk."  Luckily, my parents had already been to Berlin last fall, so they didn't need to do a lot of sight seeing.  The main attraction was definitely Finnegan. 

My dad has been learning to play the violin, so he couldn't resist bringing his violin to play a few lullabies for Finny.

We did run a few errands, like taking Finn to get his passport picture taken! Cutest passport picture ever!  While I'm sure it doesn't feel like they did that much, it's so nice to have someone to push the stroller, soothe a crying baby, and just do all of the other stuff (clean the kitchen, cook dinner, take out the trash, etc) that is hard when you have a six week old.

Getting your passport picture is exhausting

Finn celebrated his six week birthday with Nana and Grandpa and ever since then has been sleeping for longer amounts of time.  We've even had a few four hour stretches.  Fingers crossed the trend continues!

We did venture out for dinner a few nights.  Pizza on Friday nights is the norm, so we had pizza at the Italian restaurant at the end of the block.  It was the perfect night to sit outside!

And we spent Sunday afternoon doing a (very hot) boat tour on the Spree.  It was a great way to see the city from a different perspective and learn a few new facts.  Finn slept through his first boat tour, but I would expect nothing less.

We ended the week with burgers on the grill at home.  My parents were able to get in some last minute Finnegan snuggles, which was high priority.

Finn cracks me up in this one.  He looks like a little muscle man.

"Hey Nana! Don't leave! I love you!"

We headed to the airport this morning and bid a tearful goodbye.  It's never easy to say goodbye, but I think this time was extra hard. So tonight, as I finish the bottle of wine my mom and I cracked open last night and eye the ice cream my dad bought, I just keep reminding myself we have less than ten weeks left until our next reunion.  

Finn says "Wait! Where did Nana and Grandpa go? I like them!"

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.