Mismatched Mess

of life, love, fashion, & forgetting to update


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Welcome Elliot Rowan: A Birth Story

Of all the words I share, I seem to struggle writing this story. It’s complicated and it’s simple, and the end result was a beautiful baby boy. ️ I finally want to share some of the journey Taylor and I took before we arrived at the birth of our son.

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From the beginning of the second trimester or so I started researching birthing methods and techniques. I wanted to try taking a more natural birth approach with little or no pain relief. I liked the idea of laboring in water, having snacks throughout labor, and doing the bulk of laboring at home. Through my research I discovered hypnobirthing and fell in love with the concept. I began practicing this method months before the due date; training to go deep within myself to relax and breathe into labor contractions, which would hopefully provide a calm birthing experience with or without medicated pain relief.

I was so excited to give this a try, but I also wanted to be realistic. I read and watched every type of birth you could imagine. I wanted to prepare for anything that could happen. From completely drug-free water births, to epidural, to forceps delivery, and emergency C-section. I knew anything could happen and I chose to watch videos of all of these types of births so I didn’t go into my own labor blindly. One birth method I didn’t spend a ton of time on, however, was a scheduled cesarean. That was the last on my list of preferred births and the furthest from my mind.

As my third trimester rolled around I began all the fun little things one might do to help prepare and open the body for birth. I drank red raspberry leaf tea, did squats, and bounced on an exercise ball. I laid in bed every night for 30 minutes practicing hypnobirth techniques and breathing methods. I was ready! Up until this point my pregnancy had been perfect. My biggest complaints had been general discomfort around my stretching body and, of course, always being hungry! I knew that I’d most likely go into labor well after my due date, and even imagined recording a video of me dancing to 90’s music, attempting to get labor started. In my mind, I would share the video online with a caption somewhere along the lines of ‘These hips don’t lie, I’m hurtin’! It’s time to say Baby bye, bye, bye!’ (or something equally cheesy and related to 90’s music.) Even planning for something as silly as that, I was trying to be realistic about my expectations. Yet, when actual reality hit, I still felt unprepared.erw-1
At a routine midwife appointment at 32 weeks pregnant the midwife informed us my baby bump hadn’t grown since 29 weeks. She assured me there was nothing to worry about and scheduled an ultrasound to check the size of our baby to make sure all was well. On the day of the ultrasound we learned Elliot was measuring below the safe size range. The midwife let slip the phrase ‘cesarean’ (pre-term), but made it clear it was probably fine. We were sent to a nearby hospital the same day to have his heartbeat monitored. The heart beat was great, but he was small and his growth would need to be charted for the next few weeks. And he was also breech. But I had known that. I had felt his head in my ribs for months, his legs kicking my left side, his bottom down. That position wasn’t ideal, but I wasn’t worried. It was still early enough in the pregnancy, so I wasn’t concerned. He’d turn.
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His small size started a cycle of several ultrasounds, heart rate monitoring, and many midwife and doctor consultations. After almost an entire routine pregnancy, I had come to really enjoy having just a midwife to look after me, so all these new doctors and medical procedures were really stressful. You’d think that getting to see my sweet boy on the ultrasound almost every week would be amazing. It wasn’t. At this stage in the pregnancy ultrasounds didn’t catch much of an image. It physically hurt me and bothered Elliot to be prodded and poked. And the results on his growth chart just stressed me and Taylor out even more. Suddenly this pregnancy was mostly questions and not enough answers. Emotionally, I started going within myself, just a little bit. The midwives kept saying it was all fine. But I had a feeling that, though Elliot may be great (which WAS great!), this pregnancy had completely flipped from what I had expected.

We monitored Elliot’s growth every couple of weeks, and though he was small, he slowly began to measure above the minimum range. This was a relief! By this time, however, I was well into my last trimester and Elliot was still breech. The midwives reassured me he would most likely turn on his own, but I had already become so familiar with his unchanging position. Was he stuck?

It was hard to pull myself out of the melancholy. I stopped planning my birth experience, I stopped preparing. I was of a singular thought that couldn’t be expressed in words, just worry. I found myself focusing all day on his kicks, and feeling his head shift and startle against my rib cage. At this point the doctors had again brought up the possibility of a c-section. They all assured me he’d flip, he’d turn, it’d be alright. But now I had the thought of surgery bouncing around in my head.

I wish I could describe the emotional exhaustion me and Taylor had already been through. It was weeks of worry about his size (and whispers of c-section), and just as that was resolved, it was weeks of worry about his position. I began researching my options, and then trying them ALL. Taylor and I would go to the gym and instead of doing squats and bouncing on an exercise ball, I did stretches and yoga positions that turned me upside down. When I sat up from these positions, Elliot would squirm madly, just like the articles I had read said he would. My optimism rose–he was moving and I was helping him! At night I’d lay my head on the floor and prop my legs on the bed at a diagonal, convincing myself he would turn.
erw-4So what were my options? First, I could try an  external cephalic version (ECV). A doctor would physically attempt to turn Elliot from the outside. There was a 50% chance of it working. Secondly, I could try having a breech birth. This way, I could attempt having the birth experience I wanted, but there were conditions: I couldn’t be induced, the less pain relief I had the better, and there wasn’t much the midwives or doctors would be able to do except let gravity get the baby out. Thirdly, I could just schedule a c-section. C-sections scared us. Taylor and I made pros and cons list between our options. For the baby, c-section was safest. But we didn’t want to go through that. At its best, it was major surgery that would leave me weak and recovering and could cause issues with later pregnancies. Having a natural breech birth would be better for me, but was more dangerous for the baby, and may even end up in an emergency c-section anyways.

Despite my best efforts of turning him on my own, reality was creeping in: I would eventually have to make a decision. I was the most indecisive I had ever been. How would this breech baby enter the world? I couldn’t choose. I found myself drinking even stronger red raspberry leaf tea and eating loads of pineapple. I didn’t want to make a choice. I just wanted to naturally go into labor and have the choice made for me. I wanted my birth experience! The hypnobirthing, laboring at home, experiencing childbirth. Everyday I hoped I would go into labor.
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Taylor and I decided there would be no harm in trying the ECV procedure. I watched videos of pregnant women casually sitting in a hospital room while a doctor successfully turned their unborn child. It looked painful, but hopeful. On an early evening in January I lay in a hospital bed preparing for my own ECV, but I wasn’t casually sitting up. Much like the upside down positions I had attempted on my own, the bed was at a steep angle; my head was down, legs up. The room was dim, with a bright, sterile beam of light shining on my stomach. I was surrounded on either side with medical professionals. I closed my eyes and began to breathe deeply. I remembered the hypnobirthing techniques I taught myself and used them for the first and last time. I felt the pain of the procedure, but it didn’t hurt. The doctor roughly moved his hands around the shape of my baby, forcing him to move. It’s hard to explain–the doctor was gentle, careful, but I felt Elliot’s distress. He didn’t and couldn’t move. At one point the doctor stopped. I thought he was finished, maybe even successful? Then I quickly realized he was trying again. It had failed. At this point I was emotionally done. I remember a single tear running down my face–I was silently frantic at Elliot’s discomfort. A switch turned on inside me and I knew I would have the c-section. I wouldn’t put Elliot through more discomfort just for my own preferred birth. Looking back, I realize it was probably all in my head. I’m sure Elliot was fine the entire time. But it didn’t matter–I was no longer indecisive and I would do whatever it took to have him safe and happy. When the failed procedure was finished I sat in the hospital bed crying, and tried so hard to focus on Elliot’s heart rate on the monitor. I remember how quiet he was, how still. I remember how violated it felt to have someone try to turn my baby. The doctor was so nice. He wanted the best for us. But I couldn’t help the feelings I felt. I cried the entire way home; Cried at the loss of my birth plan, cried at the pain I felt after putting my body and baby through the ECV, cried with absolute relief that I had finally made my choice. It was a necessary goodbye to what I had expected out of this pregnancy.

Once I made my decision to have the c-section, things moved quickly. Suddenly, I had a date set in stone for the arrival of our baby. My mom was able to book a quick flight to England, I packed and repacked the hospital bag, and then Taylor and I packed and repacked it again. Suddenly, all melancholy was gone. All worry and doubt had lifted. We would be parents soon and all we felt was excitement.
erw-5On an early winter morning my mom, Taylor and I took a cab from a guest house to the hospital. From 7 am to 1 pm we prepared and waited for my turn. I only remember snapshots after that. I remember walking to the surgical table, making jokes with my anaesthesiologist. I remember how it really hit me how real this surgery was when I struggled to stay still for the epidural. Taylor and I were buzzing with nervous energy, or at least I was from the waist up. I felt no pain, no fear, and even some curiosity of what was going on!
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Elliot came quickly and cried immediately. It was a foreign sound, almost like I’d never heard a baby cry before in my life. Suddenly he was there, and we couldn’t believe it! He came swiftly and beautifully and then a midwife was laying him on my chest. The room was organized chaos all around us, but the noise all fell away as I stroked his face. He was here. We made this and he was more beautiful than I could fathom. I remember a single tear falling down my face. My boy, my boy, he was mine, he was ours. Taylor and I spent a beautiful moment in a bubble where only the three of us existed.
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I will never regret my c-section, the choices I made. I remember even thinking it was all a bit fun. I would do it again. Will I? I don’t know. I know I could never compare this birth experience to any other. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was. I arrived at it with joy, but only after scaling a mountain of sorrow and doubt. I cried so much when things weren’t going as planned, but I barely remember those tears. The first of February at 1:55 pm we welcomed Elliot Rowan into our lives. Our world became smaller, our priorities more focused, and our hearts have been expanding ever since.

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Baby Weaver Pregnancy Update!

What a whirlwind this second trimester has been. Every week has been so different. Just in the past couple of days my body and baby have gone through some major changes as it prepares to roll into the third and final trimester. I wanted to give a recap of the last three months before I really begin to prepare for the final stages.

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18 Weeks

 


Where We Left Off
My first update ended at 17 weeks pregnant. That seems so long ago that I’m not even sure I will remember everything from then. You can find that initial pregnancy update by clicking here.

The second trimester–health wise–truly has been mostly smooth sailing. Of course, there were bumps in the journey, but until a couple weeks ago, there hasn’t been too much to worry about. I’ve been very grateful for such an easy journey!

Pregnancy Symptoms
During my first trimester I felt so exhausted that I could barely function. While I have gained back SO much more energy, I never quite felt fully re-energized. We walk everywhere we go, and a simple ten minute walk from our house to the city centre tires me out. Every few weeks I’ll have a list of items I’d like to shop for. I don’t buy a lot, so this is usually just a way for me to get out of the house and roam around for a while. It only takes about an hour and half for me to be too tired to continue, and my back usually starts hurting so much that I end up not even buying anything. Online shopping has definitely become a reality for me.

20 Weeks

Cravings
In my last post I mentioned I was really craving Hot Cheetos, which you can’t find in the UK. Well, you heard my cries and did not fail to deliver! It started when a sweet friend from Ireland told me her parents would be visiting America. They brought me the largest bag of Hot Cheetos I’ve ever seen! I was so grateful for their kindness. Then, unexpectedly a coworker from Texas surprised me with a huge care package of baby products and FIVE bags of Hot Cheetos, along with some sour candy. And just when I had finished those snacks, my mom sent another surprise package full of Hot Cheetos! I couldn’t believe the generosity! But all good things, must come to an end. And sometimes that end must be self-imposed. I finally put myself on a strict no Hot-Cheeto diet as I had completely let my cravings take control!
Snapchat-935998975Another surprising pregnancy craving that popped up during this time has been milk! I don’t like or drink milk normally, but it really seemed like my body needed it. Every morning I will steam milk with vanilla extract and cinnamon, pour it into a blender, and add it to my hot tea. For the longest time, I also made myself tall glasses of cold chocolate milk every single day.

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22 Weeks – 6 Months!

The weirdest pregnancy craving combination came about when Taylor made a huge pot of spaghetti. One day for lunch, I found myself eating leftover spaghetti while drinking chocolate milk and it was the best thing in the world. I ended up doing that for the rest of the week! We haven’t had spaghetti since then (a week’s worth of spaghetti is definitely something we don’t do often), but suddenly that sounds good to me again….I learned other pregnant women also had this same craving combo!

 

The Good, The Bad…
The most prevalent symptom has been the need for chewable indigestion tablets. The brand that has worked best for me is called Gaviscon. There are so many changes and shifts in my organs, that I’ve dealt with a plethora of little aches and pains, including mild heartburn and back pain.

Several weeks ago my back pain was becoming so bad at night, that I just popped two paracetemol pain relief tablets and bundled up with as many pillows as I could. It only took about a week of that before Taylor surprised me with a large pregnancy pillow! It doesn’t work for me every night, but most nights it adds so much extra support and comfort.

The Ugly

Before I change topics, I wanted to briefly touch base on a more recent pregnancy moment. A couple weeks ago I had my first bad week. I think most of us have weeks like this, but I generally keep a very positive attitude, and even when I have bad moments in my day, I can look on the bright side and not let the small negative moments ruin my entire outlook. This particular week, however, was an instant avalanche that I continued to let take over my life. It started on Monday with wearing a wrong outfit. I didn’t see it as a big deal, but my clothes were fitting strangely on me, enough for me to notice. We then had a few non-pregnancy related issues happen that same week. Monday, a trip we wanted to take fell through. Tuesday, our electricity went out in the middle of Taylor cooking dinner. We sat in a cold, dark house for six hours (finally ordering a pizza around 10 pm), while a few people from the electric company came out. I think the last electrician arrived around 1 am.

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The next day our cat started showing symptoms of sickness and we had to make an emergency trip to the vet. (By the way, we are three vet trips in by now, starting week three of dealing with this, and the poor cat’s still sick)

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25 Weeks

As well as these major complications through the week, I found myself struggling to find clothes to wear on Tuesday AND Wednesday. By then, I realized the dilemma—I’m getting too big for my clothes! The emotional feeling is difficult to explain. I wasn’t sad or worried about gaining weight. I still like how my body looks, and I like how I look pregnant. But I had to come to grips with the emotional connection I had to my clothes that I didn’t even know I had! I think my stumbling block is the TYPE of clothes that aren’t fitting. 90% of my daily wardrobe is stretchy. I work from home, and always want to be comfortable, so I wear leggings, t-shirts, stretchy dresses, t-shirt dresses. I don’t deviate from that much, except for my love of oversized sweaters. Ever since the beginning of this pregnancy I felt fully confident that I would be able to wear most of my wardrobe throughout the entirety of my pregnancy and only need to buy a couple maternity pieces. But here I was, 25 weeks pregnant and a men’s t-shirt didn’t look good. And those oversized sweaters? Looked even weirder.

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25 Weeks in Maternity Clothes!

It lowered my mood so much that by Thursday I didn’t even feel like myself. Taylor and I went to my 25 week midwife appointment and I fought back tears the entire way there, as he tried to cheer me up. When we arrived, I realized I had forgotten all of my medical information, which is vital to bringing to the midwife. Before my appointment I was just hiding in the bathroom trying to stop the tears! Everything ended up ok, of course. I couldn’t help but bring up my mood to the midwife and she took it very seriously. She explained that these moods were likely brought on by hormonal changes, and were probably temporary, but she wanted me to keep track of them just in case. Her care and concern instantly helped me feel a little better. I haven’t felt so negatively since then, but I’m glad to have her on my side if anything like that happens again.

Something else that helped me come to grips with my sudden change in size was the surprise box of maternity clothes my mom sent me! That package couldn’t have come at a better time, and now I have a few pieces of maternity clothing that are so comfortable and pretty! It really helped me, emotionally.

What We’ve All Been Waiting For

I have a bit more to talk about, but this is quite long, so maybe I can make a separate post. But there’s probably one obvious thing I haven’t mentioned yet that a blog update definitely needs! Is Baby Weaver a boy or a girl?!

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We have known for quite a while now what the gender was, but we kept the information close as we coordinated with announcements, telling parents, and finding a good day to share the news. The cat’s finally out of the bag! Sharing news with family is a bit more complicated since we live so far away. In fact, I wanted to clarify that because we live in a totally different country from all our family and American friends, we chose to be a bit more public with the pregnancy details than I think we would’ve been otherwise. I don’t think I would want to blog so many details if we lived in America, nor share as much information on Facebook. (Although I still keep it to a minimum on there) Some family, we called with the exciting news. For others I made a sweet little video with donuts. For the rest of the world, we dressed up in 1950’s outfits, complete with martini glasses, cigarettes and a pipe! We announced a couple days before Halloween. We’re thrilled that we’re having a boy!2We’re so happy about having a boy. Our next big hurdle is figuring out a name. We’ve been working for months on this, and unfortunately we’re at a standstill, with a short list of favorite names, but not able to fully commit.

davI’m just a couple days away from the third trimester. Our baby boy has had a huge growth spurt the last couple of days, and has been moving and kicking so differently than before. It’s getting more real! There is so much left to say, but I’ll end it here with a few random photos.

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Baby Weaver Expected February 2018!

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We have been so excited to find out we are expecting our first child in February 2018! Honestly, the news has been hard to believe, but here we are, week by week watching as this journey continues to become more and more real.

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First Trimester
btyMy pregnancy aversions were few, but insane: I didn’t like the smell of coffee (crazy! Coffee is my life!), the smell of alcohol, fresh flowers, floral scents, and fruit. Walking past the large public garden to get into the city centre didn’t smell fresh and outdoorsy–it smelled like floral rot and decay. I had to completely avoid the coffee shop we are regulars in, because the smell of roasted coffee was too pungent! However, the severe exhaustion was my biggest pregnancy symptom. Even when I wasn’t sleeping I was most likely in bed, trying to stay awake enough to work and eat. And if I didn’t eat? I felt nauseous. My morning sickness wasn’t terrible, thank goodness, but I NEEDED to eat anytime I felt hungry, or I would instantly feel weak and nauseous.

Speaking of eating, food has been a big pregnancy symptom, but my preferences would change almost weekly! Early on, I was ravenous. I easily ate three meals and two large snacks everyday. And a lot of that extra food was as much protein as I could eat! Unfortunately, the craving for meat wasn’t healthy. The first weekend I had these cravings (July 4th) Taylor made a delicious holiday meal of barbecue ribs, potato salad, fries, and corn. Over the course of that same weekend, I also requested hot dogs, chicken strips and mac & cheese.

 

toddler-meal.jpgAfter a weekend of giving in to my cravings Taylor had a food request of his own–to add vegetables back into our meals! At this point, I was okay with that. I no longer felt like an adult; my food cravings started with meat, but I felt like I was regressing into even simpler food cravings. At one meal all I wanted was chicken nuggets (with ketchup), raw carrots, pickles and tomatoes. Turns out my huge appetite was slowing down and would become even simpler than what a toddler would want very quickly.

A few weeks of eating six meals a day quite suddenly took a turn. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling very hungry at all, although I was still nauseous if I didn’t eat. I felt full almost all the time. I decided to cut back to three meals a day, but that didn’t seem to do much. It wasn’t until I totally simplified my diet that my body started feeling better. My daily meals were simple: for breakfast I would have oatmeal, lunch I would have soup (yes, in July), and dinner I would eat what Taylor made, but usually just a small portion.

I am so grateful to Taylor for being patient and understanding as I figured out my body. The first trimester was hard on both of us. He took care of most (basically ALL) of the chores and cooking. I would usually feel good enough to do a load of dishes or laundry a day, along with making breakfast every morning, and sometimes I felt ok enough to go to the gym for simple exercises, which equated to maybe 1-2 hours a day where I was being active. Otherwise I was in the bed or on the couch.

The First Ultrasound

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We’ve been slowly navigating our way around the UK medical system. Most pregnancies are dealt with by midwives and it’s totally free. We are in awe of this, and so grateful, but the first trimester didn’t have a ton of appointments. I was expecting a lot more confirmation about this pregnancy than we received at first, simply because of what I knew about US healthcare. It was 6 weeks before we met one of my midwives. She walked us through a lot of paperwork and blood draws, and told us to wait for our ultrasound appointment to come in the mail.

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Before our scan, we had calculated the baby was around 12 weeks. The day of our scan, we were excited and nervous–this would be the first major confirmation there was actually something there! (I know, this is crazy, but even with all the pregnancy symptoms it’s hard not to wonder if you’re making it all up) We were both in awe when we saw this small body on the screen! For me and Taylor, it was an amazing experience. We saw the baby jump and wriggle and could make out all the tiny features. However, to the ultrasound technician, this baby was not cooperating! They couldn’t properly measure everything, especially the nuchal fold at the back of the neck. The tech had me bounce, jump, and cough to try to get the baby to move. After a while, the tech told me to eat some chocolate, walk around the hospital for a bit, and come back to try again. We were grateful we got a second chance that day, but no matter how hard we tried (I even did squats) the baby refused to stretch out properly. Although we got some cute pictures out of the deal, the technician told us the scan was inconclusive and we couldn’t get an official due date. One thing we DID learn from the measurements, is that the baby was measuring way bigger than 12 weeks, more like 13 weeks 6 days. Technically the measurements didn’t count, but we had a feeling I was further along than we originally thought.

 

The Second Trimester

davEven though our first ultrasound couldn’t give us an official due date, I decided to mentally skip ahead from being 12 weeks along to 13 weeks 6 days, meaning just one day after we saw the baby I was suddenly in my second trimester! I wasn’t expecting all my first trimester symptoms to go away immediately, but I’ll make this quick and easy—I feel A LOT better. I get tired and winded easily, and have a few slight food cravings. I also get headaches almost daily. Coffee and alcohol smells normal again! Flowers smell normal, too, but I’m still not enjoying any type of floral scent! All in all, every week is different, but my energy levels have risen and my eating has mostly evened out (No more soup-only diet)

We also got to meet my second midwife. This appointment was more paperwork, but we heard the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler! The midwife talked me through a few simple pregnancy questions, but one of the highlights (aside from hearing the heartbeat, of course!) was being told about the Pregnancy Exemption Certificate. She told me to go to my general practitioner to pick one up so that I would be eligible for free dental work and free prescriptions from now until up to a year after the baby is born.

 

 

The Second Ultrasound

mdeAbout three weeks after the inconclusive first scan, we were scheduled a second scan. When all goes well, most pregnant women only get a 12 week scan and a 20 week scan. However, since they couldn’t measure the baby properly at my first scan, I had to go into a second one. Having an ultrasound at this time is considered less accurate, as far measuring the nuchal fold, but it was still important to try again.  Unfortunately because we weren’t expecting this scan and it was scheduled only a few days before the appointment, Taylor couldn’t go. He had already made plans to attend a conference in Ireland that week. He really didn’t want to miss the scan, but was able to text me during the whole process. As far as measuring goes, the technician had a much easier time. I didn’t have to jump or eat chocolate to try to turn the baby. I saw fingers! The baby had grown so much since the last time and I couldn’t wait to show Taylor. However, I was in for one more surprise–our official due date. February 8th! The same day as my birthday! I was in total shock and completely amused at this! This due date also meant that I skipped ahead four more days and was officially 17 weeks pregnant!

Now…

So, here I am at 17 weeks 6 days. I have my third midwife appointment tomorrow where we will learn about the results of the scan and blood work. She will tell us about any potential risks, and we’ll get to hear the heartbeat again.

However, this time, I definitely don’t need confirmation that something is in there, because I’m starting to feel kicks! Almost daily I can feel small nudges and bumps when I’m laying down. It’s amazing how something so small already feels so real to me. I can’t wait until Taylor can start feeling the kicks as well.

Three weeks from now we will also get to find out if we’re having a boy or girl!

Thankfully I’m not craving TOO much, and what I am craving is actually American food. This is interesting, but also frustrating! My unhealthiest cravings are fast food–but only American fast food! Even from the same restaurant, the taste of food differs greatly because of nutrition and ingredient regulations from country to country. This is actually a good thing for me, because other than the breakfast sandwich I had from McDonald’s last Sunday morning, I haven’t eaten any fast food and maintain a fairly healthy diet (once again, ALL thanks to Taylor for cooking most of the meals!).

However, the strongest cravings that I can’t get out of my head have been Hot Cheetos and sour gummy candy. They don’t sell Hot Cheetos in the UK! Seriously, Taylor and I have bought every kind of spicy chip we can find (probably about 6 attempts, so far) and nothing is spicy or satisfying enough to replace Hot Cheetos! Same goes for sour candy–the gummy candy isn’t sour enough, because I’m craving specific things from America.

Our Plans

davSo this is a big year for us (now until end of 2018, that is). Taylor is on the last leg of his PhD, I’m pregnant, and our visa that we use to live in the UK is almost up. We’re staying optimistic, planning ahead for the things we need to plan ahead for, and focusing on the present where that’s more important. Without getting into too many personal details, we realize we could move anywhere fairly soon (again, after 2018, most likely). Because of that, we decided to have as minimal of baby stuff as possible. We aren’t splashing out on a big nursery update, lots of baby gadgets, or even a lot of clothes and toys. In fact, we’re hoping to make a lot of smart hand-me-down purchases.

redroomSo, our dilemma was: If we weren’t going to spend a lot of money, what SHOULD we invest in? We decided to focus on the first few months with baby–lots of sleeping, feeding and learning to be a family. To me, this equated to having a calm, relaxing bedroom, so we are working on repainting our room, adding a small co-sleeper crib, and making it the main ‘hub’ of baby activity.

However, as I was taking a break from painting the bedroom one day, I sat on the small couch we have in our second bedroom. I looked around and saw a hopeless mess. The couch is a faded purple color, which folds out into a bed for guests. The curtains were bright blue, and the walls were a terrible wallpaper of red and cream. It was just too much work to rip down the wallpaper and make all the repairs needed to make this a nursery, or even a prettier guest room.

But, as I took another look, I had a crazy idea–what if I just painted the red stripe in the wallpaper? It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it set the ball rolling to create a small nursery/guest room! I spent £1 on a small paint roller, and 50 cents on the black and white throw blanket over the couch, but other than that (and the baby stuff, like the Moses basket!) it didn’t cost me anything to paint or decorate this little room. It’s probably not the nursery I would set up for myself, if I had more of a permanent home, but it makes me happy, it’s bright, and features a lot of black cats, in honor of our three legged cat, Sabre. We’re still planning on having the baby in our bedroom for at least the first few months, but for naps, storing clothing and supplies, and also as a contingency plan (what IF the baby sleeps better in a separate room? Who knows what could happen, right?), this tiny room will be there!

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Our New Three-Legged Kitten

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Last December we made a big decision to get our first cat. We’ve had hamsters and a gerbil before, but when we made the decision to move to the UK we thought a pet was out of the question. We are only here for a few short years, and while we are open to staying OR going back to America, our life, admittedly, isn’t stable right now.

So, this decision wasn’t an easy one to make. After a lot of discussing we knew that any pet wouldn’t just be a temporary thing. Whatever happens, wherever we go, our new cat will come with us.

davWe looked at several places in Canterbury, only halfway thinking of actually adopting a pet. I was very apprehensive of making a costly decision when we have an uncertain future. And then we were invited to a party. Our neighbors (who are also members of the church we attend) had just adopted two black kittens from Cats Protection. At the party they invited us to, the kittens were the center of attention, and it was hard to ignore our desires for a cat of our own.

davTaylor eventually found a little black cat by the name of Rufus, also from Cats Protection. He and his litter were found living underneath a caravan, which just so happened to fit the description of our neighbor’s new male kitten. They were brothers. Except, Rufus hadn’t stayed with his litter when they were rescued. He was put into a separate foster home because he only had three paws. Unfortunately, they suspect that a rat or other animal chewed his paw off when he was a newborn before his mother could stop them.

davThis kitten was the last of his litter to be adopted because of his paw. Even we were hesitant to choose him, not because we didn’t want him, but because our unknown future and lack of finances made us wonder if we were the right match. To change our mind, we had to change our perceptions. What does having a three legged cat look like? We began researching other cats with the same issue. We found videos of three and even two legged cats jumping, climbing and running.They were completely capable and we realized we wanted him.

davCats Protection put us through an application and a home inspection before we could even meet him. We passed their inspections, and our friend drove us to the foster parent’s home where we met a rambunctious and spoiled kitten who was more lively and friendly than we ever imagined him to be. We took him home that night. Our lives have brightened so much with this little guy.

His given name was Rufus, which was quite cute. In fact, I’m inclined to believe it’s a great name, considering it’s my grandfather’s name! Needless to say, out of respect, we decided to change it.

It actually took almost a month to decide, but we landed on Sabre. It has a special, funny meaning to us, but of course it can also be correlated to saber tooth tiger, lightsaber, and the sword. We like all these references, but its actual meaning is from our favorite tv show, The Office. Dunder Mifflin Paper Company is bought out by a company called Sabre. We love this show, can watch its episodes over and over again, and can quote about 75% of it. This was a perfect choice for us, short of just straight up calling him Dwight Schrute.

Unfortunately, in the coming months, Sabre will have to undergo a full leg amputation. His leg, of course, is continuing to grow. He has to carry the weight of it at all times, and it’s really sensitive. He’s very protective of it because an accidental hit, even if it’s small, hurts him. Cats Protection has offered to pay for any surgery and aftercare, which we are so grateful for. All our hesitations would have been proven correct, and we wouldn’t have been able to give him a home if not for this financial help.

sdrRight now, Sabre loves sleeping on my desk while I work. Between naps, he’ll bird watch from the window and spy on any cats who have wandered into our garden. In the mornings he prefers to wake Taylor up to feed him and then only really wants to ‘bug’ Taylor afterwards in hopes that he’ll wake up. He likes to follow us around and is almost never too far away. When we leave he sits in the bay window in the living room and watches the passersby on the street. He is even known to greet our neighbors when they wave to him.

We’re so happy we decided to get a pet. Life is never as settled as you’d like, and having him helps put that in perspective. Even though we may move after Taylor graduates, we are 100% set on-and thrilled that-we’re taking Sabre with us.


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Texans Abroad | Rye, England

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Rye, England is the cutest, quirkiest town I’ve seen so far. When Taylor wanted to show me this small part of England last summer, I was continually surprised at the charming views and clever homes.

ryemapAn hour’s train ride there from Canterbury, we ended up in another county, East Sussex. Though now two miles from the coastline, Rye was originally at the head of a bay in The English Channel and was an important Medieval trading port.

Walking up the cobbled stone roads looking at all the historical homes felt like walking through a storybook. Picturesque Medieval and Georgian homes crawling with greenery, each carrying a clever sign to describe itself. I was so intrigued by this quirky feature of the town!

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Walking up Mermaid Street, I was completely amused with the funny signs on doors.

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“The House with Two Doors”

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“House with the Seat”

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Our day was quite filled in this small town as we found our way around to 900 year old church, St Mary,  Ypres Tower, and coffee at a lovely cafe. Home to many authors, illustrators and musicians, even Paul McCartney of The Beatles, apparently, I can certainly see where they gain their inspiration.

 

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The Parish of St. Mary Church, Rye

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Viewing the old bells at St. Mary Church that are still tolled

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Climbed to the top of St. Mary Church and walking out the diagonal door to see the views.

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Black cat of St. Mary Church

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Trying on a replica viking helmet at Rye Castle Museum (Ypres Tower)

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Original torture device in Ypres Tower, which was mostly used as a jail.


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TexansAbroad | Weekend Getaway to York, England

December was filled to the brim with lovely get-togethers, plenty of good cheer, and one big weekend trip to York, England. From Canterbury West train station, heading into London Kings Cross Station, we hopped aboard the third Virgin train we could find. Having been scheduled for a much earlier train, we had our tickets changed twice as we realized the extent of the crowds waiting to begin this cramped four hour journey. Waiting an extra hour and half put us on an empty and comfortable train where our journey could finally commence.map

Long train journeys are best planned out: a good book, some downloaded episodes of a fun TV show, and a packed lunch are our recommendations. Lunch is the most important part. After being crammed into the morning train to London–discovering there is only standing room left, with your backpack constantly hitting the arm of the guy wedged beside you and praying for a breath of fresh air–there is nothing more satisfying than knowing once you are finally out of London, tucked away into a seat, the simplest of pleasures-the sandwich-is waiting for you.

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Yorkshire Museum in the distance

Once we were settled into our hotel and enjoyed a short rest, flicking through channels on the television in hopes of finding a fun British show (we don’t have TV and rely on Netflix and Amazon. We don’t miss it, but the familiar comfort of channel surfing is always fun), we began our walk into the city centre

The first evening, other than a quick enjoyable trip to the Yorkshire Museum, was spent among the hoardes of Christmas market goers. We knew exploring a busy new city in the dark wouldn’t be the most fun, so we instead sauntered our way through the Christmas stalls, stopping for dinner and mulled wine at nearby food stands. Christmas markets are a new experience for us, though the concept is clear: to shop. York was our first big Christmas market: dozens of stalls filled with handmade scarves and wooden statues, soap and ornaments. We aren’t too interested in shopping while on trips, so we mostly made our way around a couple times, listened to some Christmas buskers and found our way back to the hotel.

 

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St. Mary’s Abbey ruins

The next day and a half we were able to experience more of York, taking photos along the way. The best part was stumbling upon the historic cat trail. Business owners would erect statues of cats onto their buildings to scare away birds and mice. There are two trails to follow, put on by two cat stores (one sold glass figurines, including cats and the other store sold cat accessories). We chose to follow the trail map made by the glass figurine store, which turned out to be riddles and clues that led us all across the city in search of cats. We photographed about 23 cats and saw parts of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise explored!

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St. Mary’s Abbey ruins, York, England

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Taylor taking a photo of the first views of the city

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Little Shambles, York. Medieval houses dating back from the 14th century

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Taylor standing under a lopsided building in the Little Shambles

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Walking along the York Roman wall. More narrow than Canterbury wall, but over two miles long!

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Facing It

face

I make eye contact
With the reflection I know.
I face my imperfections,
The aging.
The scars, scratches and subtle features.
There’s a slight wrinkle along my forehead.
Cheeks riddled with scars.
Indentations on either side of my mouth
Formed from two years of a too-long sentence with braces.
The soft, splotchy brown that divides my face in two;
A birth mark starting at the corner of my tear duct
Snaking its way across my cheek and falling down my neck.

I make eye contact
With the reflection I know.
I face my imperfections.
My eyes tell a story
Of tired days and bright adventures.
My mouth slightly curves upward,
Whether I’m smiling or not, no one could tell.
The features of my face show maturity,
But only the kind of wisdom that comes
To a woman in her mid-twenties
When she finally realizes
She knows even less than she thought she did.

I make eye contact
With the reflection I know.
I face my fears, failures and facts of my life.
The facts that were too long left buried
Which I finally find the courage
To dig out and
Find a way to move forward.


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Blackberries

Wild blackberries grow along the wooded path we enjoy walking. A wooded path that runs alongside the River Stour, providing a small escape from the city. This fascinated me.

It reminded me of my childhood. It seems like a dream. Family loaded in a car, traveling to the magical forest of Harleton, Texas where buckets full of blackberries awaited.

The hot summer sun made the days longer. Sweaty, uncomfortable hours that stretched into eternity. Time didn’t matter, until it did; until it was uncomfortable. Juicy blackberries staining our hands and mouths red, thorns pricking our arms and legs, mosquitoes leaving itchy welts along our skin. Foot races between mother and daughter, father and daughter, sister and sister. A memory that seems like a dream, stretched into a timeless, shadowy vortex; swirling fact with fiction.


What is fact? What is fiction?

What can the imagination truly erase, if it’s written on someone else’s memory? Can we control our stories if they all just end up as hazy dream-like substances floating along our subconscious? What will be remembered if we let it all fade away?

The power of remembering is a gift. Even when it’s a curse. Even when you remember guilt or pain. At least you remember. Even when you want to forget…it’s probably better to remember. It’s easier to remember pain. That gives you the power to blame. Blame yourself, blame someone else…blame gives you power to color your memories in pain, even if it wasn’t all painful.

Remembering through ‘love’ might be harder. To color your memories with love, where there was love. To scream and fight and wrestle with the idea that love still exists, even in the moments that are factually, historically painful. And to remind yourself everyday that love still exists when the evidence isn’t in front of you. When it’s not something tangible, anymore, does love grow stronger or weaker? Or does that depend upon the stories you create? And does it grow weaker if you can’t control the story? If it’s written on someone else’s memory, does it grow weaker if they don’t, also, make themselves remember that love exists? The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ comes to mind. Does it? Will it?

Multiple stories. Multiple memories. You can’t know what you’ll easily forget; what will hurt the most to remember. You remember the sun making you tired as a child. You remember blackberry bushes scraping your skin. You can’t know how other people see the same story. You just remember they were there. They were a part of something. It was real. You weren’t alone.