About Me

Hi! I'm Abby. My husband, Carl, and I are happily married since October 2007. Our little family of 2 (well, 3 if you count Chief, the dog) added one more in October 2011 when we welcomed Audrey Elizabeth, our first child into the world. Our life was forever changed. And to add to the joy and excitement, we added another daughter, Clara Marie, in May 2014. I wanted to create this blog originally to document all the milestones throughout my pregnancy with Audrey so we could remember that special time in our lives. And now I get to write all about Audrey and Clara and our life with these amazing "Larson Ladies", which is so much more fun!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Clara's Newborn Pictures

Clara Marie
5 days "new"
Photos by Jennifer Marie Photography

Here are just some of our favorites.

Clara's Homecoming

We're going home with Clara to start our "new normal" as a family of 4!

Audrey stayed with Carl and Joyce while we were in the hospital.  So when we got home, they brought Audrey home too.  Our family was under one roof, and all was right in the world.  Seeing Audrey and Clara together is one of my favorite things and the "homecoming" day is one of favorite memories ever.  Ever.

As soon as Audrey walked in the house, she insisted that she wanted to hold Clara.  Be still my heart.

Audrey kept wanting to kiss Clara and couldn't get over her little feet and her little ears.  "Look at her little toes!"  So cute.

Before Clara was born, we would talk to Audrey about how we would sing to baby sister, and we would talk about what songs we would sing.  Everytime we had this conversation, Audrey said she wanted to sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".  So when she was holding Clara, she started singing.

Hugs and kisses!

Clara's First Visitors

Our girls (and Carl and I, too) are so lucky to have so many people who love them!  Here are some pics of Clara's earliest visitors.

Grammy and Gramps were first to arrive first thing on May 5th.

And that afternoon, Grandma and Grandpa Larson came to visit with a very proud Audrey.  Although Joyce was sick with a cold so she didn't get to hold Clara that day.

Audrey was a bit hesitant when she came into the room.  She ran to me and Carl, excited to see us.  But she wasn't too sure about the new addition, Clara.  She kept looking at her out of the corner of her eye.  We distracted her with gifts from Grammy and Gramps.  That got her attention and then after some time, Audrey got more used to Clara and put it together that this was "baby sister" that we have been referring to for the past 9 months.  And believe it or not, I feel like Audrey "got it."  I say that because she looked at me then she looked at Clara and said, "She came out of your tummy!"

Just before they came up to the room, Grandpa Larson took Audrey through the gift shop so she could find a gift to give to Clara.  She was so proud and so excited to give Clara her gift, a cute multi-colored "Socks the Sock Monkey".

What a proud moment for Carl and me, to be able to introduce our sweet Audrey to her baby sister.

Clara Marie Larson has arrived!

Finally!  She's here!  She certainly took her time, but she was well worth the wait.

 Clara Marie Larson was born on May 5th, 2014, at 8:24am.  Feliz CumpleaƱos to our Cinco de Mayo baby!  She weighed 8 lbs 7 oz and measured 20 inches long.  She’s beautiful and healthy and simply perfect and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her join our family.  And now we are a happy family of 4!

Here is her birth story...

I really didn't want to be induced, but my doctor wanted the baby to be born before I was 41 weeks.  She knew it was important to me that I start labor on my own, so we agreed to schedule the induction the evening of Monday, 5/5/14.  Sunday afternoon/night (5/4/14), I started having contractions.  And they were more in my back than any other contractions I'd had previously with this pregnancy.  As the afternoon/night progressed, the contractions got to about 6-7 minutes apart on average.  Something you have to know about me... I was terrified that I wouldn't make it to the hospital in time.  (The hospital is about 45 minutes away, not in rush hour traffic.)  People talk all the time about how quickly the 2nd baby comes AND there was a baby born on the I-88 expressway the day before AND one of my customers delivered one of her babies in April in the bathroom of a Mexican restaurant.  Yeah.  So, I didn't want to take any chances.  The contractions weren't particularly painful to where I couldn't stand it, but they were certainly noticeable and made me pause at some times.  So, Carl and I decided to go to the hospital that evening, Sunday night 5/4/14.  Carl's mom came over to get Audrey and Carl and I packed the car and headed to the hospital.  When we got there and they had a chance to monitor me, they said I was in the very beginning stages of labor, but not active labor yet.  I was only 2 cm dilated and my cervix was still pretty thick.  So, we had a decision to make... do we stay and have them take necessary steps to induce labor or do we go home and come back the next evening to be induced?  And my doc, who knew it was important to me to go into labor on my own, left that decision up to me which I appreciated.  We decided to stay.

The induction was actually a much better experience than I could have ever expected it to be.  First, the staff at Christ hospital is phenomenal.  I was super lucky to get a nurse that I was already familiar with.  Her name is Abby and she did some testing/monitoring on me the morning I had my surgery 10 weeks earlier.  Love her!  She was very honest with me and kept me informed and comfortable with everything that was happening.  And she got us the "deluxe" birthing room.  Seriously... huge and really nice.  It was apparent they had done some remodeling since Audrey was born.

My doc decided to start with a foley balloon and small doses of Pitocin.  It is a balloon that they insert between the amniotic sac and the cervix and then they fill it with saline.  The idea is that it applies pressure to the cervix, "telling" the cervix that I'm in labor and that it needs to dilate.  Once the cervix is dilated to 4cm, the balloon just falls out.  They put the balloon in at around 9pm and it fell out, meaning I was 4cm dilated, shortly after that... around 10pm I think.  They (nurse/resident/my doc) were really pleased with that, as was I.  They increased the Pitocin gradually, and checked me again around 12am (midnight).  I was hoping for 8cm dilated (fat chance, right?) - ha - but was only 5cm dilated.  Abby, the nurse, said that was common to get to 4cm so quickly but then slow down a little bit.  She said my body had to "catch up" with the help of the contractions.

The only sleep I got that night was off-and-on between 10ish and midnight.  Then, at that point, the contractions were very regular and getting more intense.  The toughest part was that I felt like I was going to pee my pants (expression only, since i was only in a gown) every time I would get a contraction.  And they were pumping me with fluids, so I had to pee a lot.  And that's tough when I'm hooked up to all the monitors and have a bum ankle.  So, I decided to ask for the epidural.  I talked with Abby first and got her opinion on if she thought it was too early and if it would slow down my labor.  She assured me it wouldn't and that they were going to keep increasing the Pitocin and would probably have to break my waterbag, so it was a good time to get it.  The anesthesiologist came in not too much longer after that and at about 2:30am he put in my epidural.  I did tell him about my experience with my delivery with Audrey where I pulled the epidural out.  He assured me that he would tape it really good.  (And he did!  I still had tape marks on my back 2 weeks after delivery!)  They also gave me a catheter... thank God.  No more getting up to go to the bathroom.

The next thing they were taking about was breaking my water bag.  They were just waiting for further direction from my doc.  While I was lying in bed after getting the epidural, I was pretty numb but I felt a snap and warm liquid on my legs.  Abby was in my room (I think she had just gotten done giving me some nausea/heart burn meds that I needed after getting the epidural) and she confirmed that it had broken on its own.  Again, I was so pleased with that, and they (nurse/resident/my doc) were as well.  The first question I asked Abby, and I'm not sure why I even thought of this, was if the fluid was clear.  No, it wasn't... it was tinted brownish which means that the baby passed some meconium.  She said that it wouldn't change the delivery plan (i.e. it doesn't automatically mean that I need a c-section).  It just meant that they would have a pediatric team in the room when the baby is delivered and they will focus on sucking out as much fluid from her mouth/lungs before she cries.

At 5:53am, Carl sent our families a text saying I was still 5cm dilated.  Abby's shift ended at 7am and she told me that her goal was to have me deliver before then.  I was hoping for that, too, needless to say.  Around that time, 7am, the resident came in to check me again and I was at 8-9cm!  Yahoo!  So they called my doc to come in and we were getting ready for the delivery.  My doc came into my room a little before 8am I think and after actively pushing with 2 or 3 contractions (seriously only 2 or 3), Clara Marie Larson was born! With lots of dark hair, too!  My doc even let me help pull her out.  Such a cool experience!  And a very easy delivery.  And, they even put her on my chest while they were cutting her cord, which I didn't think they would be able to do because of the meconium.  I was glad about that.  Oh, and she pooped on my when they put her on my chest.  First of many.  :)

First picture!  What a plump baby...
all 8 lbs 7 oz of her!

It all happened pretty quickly once my body was ready, which was good.  Especially when you consider that I pushed for 2 hours with Audrey and she was over a full pound less in weight than Clara.  In fact, Lindsey (Boyer) Graff, my good friend from college, just so happened to be on rotation as a 3rd year med student in labor and delivery at Christ and she was starting a 24-hour shift (can you even imagine?!) at 7am that day.  So she came in to visit shortly after she began her shift.  So good to see her!  She had to leave for a triplets c-section, and when she came out after only 30-ish minutes, she asked how I was doing and they told her I was done and the baby was here already.  She was stunned that it happened so quickly!  She came in shortly after Clara was born and I was pretty teary-eyed.  I just remember her saying "Aw, you make me want to cry!"  I was so relieved that Clara was healthy.  They were certainly happy tears.  It's an overwhelming experience when your baby is born.  I'll never forget looking over and seeing Carl all teary-eyed.  What a proud moment for the both of us!

At that point, we hadn't finalized Clara's name yet.  We were deciding between Catelyn and Clara.  After she was born and cleaned up, they put her on my chest again for skin-to-skin.  And Carl made the decision that she is a "Clara".  So "Clara Marie Larson" she will always be.  And now I can't imagine her being named anything else.  A beautiful name for a beautiful baby.

My view of Clara in her bassinet, as seen while I was lying
in my bed in the postpartum room

Our traditional Illini stocking cap pic

And just for fun, here are my girls side-by-side in their Illini caps:
Left: Audrey / Right: Clara
Speaking of Audrey, here's a little peak at what she was doing the day Clara was born.  Joyce and Audrey both stayed home from school and had a fun day.  They went to the mall and even rode the merry-go-round!
Happy to be a big sister

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

3rd Trimester Update

Well, the bulk of my third trimester was consumed with recovering from a broken ankle and surgery.  So it was not a typical third trimester, to say the least.  I did, however, have some "typical" pregnancy symptoms during the third trimester.  Mainly... heartburn.  Holy moly.  Like to the point of nausea.  Also, just general un-comfortableness and an inability to bend over to put on shoes or pants.  I thought it was my ankle that was holding me back from being mobile.  Then, I was able to "walk" in the boot and discovered it was mainly the pregnancy and my big belly that made me uncomfortable and immobile.  It was quite a revelation!  I was so ready to meet Clara because i just couldn't wait to see and hold this baby.  But I had other, more selfish, reasons for wanting to meet Clara and finally being at the end of this pregnancy.  But, in all, considering all that happened and all I put Clara through this pregnancy, my heartburn and being uncomfortable were just ,minor inconveniences and I really can't complain.  I can't do anything but be thankful that not only my ankle is fixed and I am recovering, but most importantly that Clara is healthy and perfect. Thank God.

Total length of pregnancy:  40 weeks and 5 days
Total weight gain:  48 pounds
Movement:  This girl is a mover... and I knew that early on in this pregnancy.  And then starting with the NST in the hospital the day of my accident, every time I had an NST or I was hooked up to monitors, Clara would go crazy.  She would kick directly at the monitor like she knew exactly where it was on my belly.  My last NST on 5/2/14, a routine NST since I was past my due date, the nurse came in about halfway through and asked how I was feeling.  I smiled and said fine, and she said that what she was seeing on the monitor, she thought I was in active labor.  But she said that the baby's movements can falsely show up as contractions.  That's how much Clara was moving throughout the whole test!  I had an ultrasound that day, too, where we couldn't even see anything in 1 shot because Clara was so big.  And the tech said that she was moving so much more than she would have expected with how big she was and how far along I was.  She's a little acrobat, somersaulting and kicking.  I loved feeling her moving around, and I will never take that for granted.  I was able to feel both of my girls kicking and moving about in my belly before they were born.  Such an incredible feeling.  At 32 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound tech confirmed that Clara was head-up.  Clara must not have known which way was up or down while I was on bedrest!  But don't worry, she flipped (probably more than a few times!) between then and delivery.
Sleep:  The biggest annoyance was how often I had to get up at night to pee.  Seriously.  I would get up at least 2-3 times at night.  And that is not easy when I had to have Carl wheel me to the bathroom in an office chair right after my surgery.  Or when I had to use the walker to hobble (more slowly than I would have liked) to the bathroom.  It wasn't very easy to get comfortable, but I always slept pretty soundly so I'm thankful for that.  And since I was working from home, I was able to sleep in most days until 7am-ish.  Some days, I chose to get an early start on work.  But thankfully I didn't have to commute, so I really did get a lot of sleep during my last trimester.
Doctor's Appointments:  At 32 weeks, I had a checkup and an ultrasound.  The ultrasound was ordered when I was 28-29 weeks along because the tech thought she might have seen fluid around the baby's heart.  At 32 weeks, the high-risk specialist in the practice (Dr. Ambrose) came in (which worried me at first) and took a look for himself.  He said it was simply a shadow from the spine and that the baby looked healthy.  Thank God.  Best news we had heard in several weeks!  That week, we met with Dr. Slugocki who was on call the week of my surgery and looked after me and worked with my surgeon while at the hospital for the surgery.  I was on blood thinners and wanted to make sure I clearly understood the plan for that.  She said that I was to be on blood thinners until I was up and walking in a boot.  What this meant was I had to give myself a shot every night in my stomach.  Not my favorite thing to do, for sure.  In fact, I hated it.  And I'm not scared of needles.  Just hated it.  And to think I grew up wanting to be a doctor.  Anyway, I was to continue on with the Lovenox until I was 36 weeks.  The reasoning was that at 36 weeks, I could feasibly go into labor.  And if that happened, they would need to reverse the blood thinner.  And you can't reverse Lovenox, so at that point they would switch me.  When my 36 week checkup came, Dr. Butler knew I was far away from going into labor and had me continue on with the Lovenox until 37 weeks when I was in the boot.  After my 32 week checkup, everything was very normal with my checkups.  Just routine.  In fact, Dr. Butler told me one week that my pregnancy was going very smoothly and beautifully.  Seriously.  I laughed about that with Carl after that.  Nothing about this pregnancy, in my mind, was smooth or beautiful.  At least not compared to how easy my pregnancy with Audrey was.  But, from Dr. Butler's perspective, it was smooth and beautiful.  Baby was healthy.  I was healthy.  Everything was going according to plan.  She poked fun of me and my knee walker and then even more when I came walking in the office with the old-granny traditional walker.  We laughed about what my delivery would look like in a cast or a boot.  But thank goodness we were able to laugh about it and we had no real issues.  Everything really did go smooth.

34 weeks & 3 days
(check out the sweet knee walker!)
36 weeks & 3 days
(notice the granny walker)
38 weeks
39 weeks & 1 day
39 weeks & 4 days
And just for fun, here is a comparison between pregnancy #1 and pregnancy #2.  Though they're different angles and different seasons (short-sleeve dress vs. sweater), I can still tell that I was showing more out front with Clara than I did with Audrey.  And my belly button had popped with Clara, though it never did during my pregnancy with Audrey.  I look like I'm showing a little bit lower with Clara, too.
Left: Pregnant with Audrey at 35 weeks
Right:  Pregnant with Clara at 36 weeks

Ankle Recovery

Original update after surgery on February 24th, 2014:

9 screws and 1 plate later, they say the ankle's fixed. They were able to do the surgery with just an epidural, which was safest for the baby. And they really closely monitored the baby during the surgery and throughout my hospital stay. So thankful for that. I really was in the best hands. We were discharged Tuesday around 12noon, the day after surgery.  Pain management has been the toughest part of this. Tylenol just wasn't cutting it. They put me on a good schedule of Norco and that did the trick. I sleep really well and it really relaxes me and takes away the pain. Once I got ahead of the pain, I was able to drop down to just 1/2 dosage so that's encouraging for me. Anyway, the pain just means it's healing, right?  No driving or putting any weight on my ankle for 6 weeks. Then, hopefully I'm in a boot and I start walking on it. Probably will be delivering new baby in a boot. Should be interesting.

Update as of May 27th, 2014, a full 3 months after surgery:

Well, it's been a full 3 months after surgery.  I am miles ahead of where I was since my last update after the surgery.  But still not 100%.  To catch up...

I was in a soft cast for 2 weeks.  For those 2 weeks, I spent my days and nights on a hospital bed setup in our family room downstairs.  "Aunt" Shirley had a hospital bed that she allowed us to use.  Cannot thank her enough for that!  Chief went to stay with my parents and everyone just waited on me hand and foot.  I couldn't be luckier and more thankful for the support that I had.  Carl took on everything around the house, including taking care of Audrey and getting her to and from daycare.  Carl's parents picked Audrey up from daycare everyday and even cooked us dinner to send home with Carl every night.  (Joyce continued cooking us dinner up until the baby was born.  She insisted, even though I was more capable and self-sufficient at the end of April.)  They even had our cleaning lady come and really deep clean our house, which it needed badly.  I really don't know what we would have done without our parents taking care of us during that time!

Then on March 11th, after those first 2 weeks, they removed my staples and stitches and gave me a hot pink fiberglass cast.  Another 4 weeks non-weight bearing.  But I was able to convince the doc to let me return to work (from home of course).

Clockwise from top right:  My first look at my leg and ankle; Smaller incision with stitches;
Larger incision with staples; Another look at the staples
I promised Audrey a hot pink cast,
so a hot pink cast is what I got
They got me a "knee walker", which is basically a scooter with handlebars, wheels, and a basket on front.  I just put my leg up and wheel around.  I wasn't able to use it right after surgery, as soon as it was delivered.  Because of the pain and the swelling, I wasn't able to bend my knee to put my leg in the correct position to use the walker.  Took me almost a week and then I was able to use it and there was no turning back. Lifesaver.
It was another 4 weeks of no walking or driving.  Carl would work from home and from the airport on Tuesdays so that he could be available to take me to doctor appointments (OB appointments and Orthopedic appointments).

Next appointment was April 8th when they took off my pink cast and gave me a walking boot.  Very nice.  However, I was a little naive about what I would be able to do with that walking boot.  I wasn't able to fully walk on the boot without a walker until after a week and a half.  I felt like I was learning to walk again during that time.

Just a couple days after I felt comfortable walking in the boot, I went back in for another checkup (on April 22nd).  And would you believe that the doc said no more walking boot, gave me a brace, and told me to wear supportive shoes (gym shoes), and sent me on my way.  He wants to see how much range of motion and strength I can build up just by walking in the brace.

And that brings us to today, May 27th.  I'm wearing the brace and gym shoes, but I am able to walk around without the brace (at least around the house).  My range of motion is much better and my strength is better.  It also helps that I instantly lost about 20-25 pounds when Clara was born.  So much easier to walk after that.  I'm able to go on walks, though they are very short walks.  Yesterday, Memorial Day, I walked farther than I have in a long time.  We went around the block and then walked to the park so Audrey could play at the neighborhood splash pad.  We love summer around here!  So thankful that it's summer and there is no more ice and snow!  I iced my ankle last night, but I feel like it's more sore today.  I go back to the doctor next week, on June 3rd.  I will have been in the brace for 6 weeks.  We'll have x-rays I'm sure to make sure everything still looks okay.  And I am going to ask for physical therapy.  I want to recover as soon as possible.  I don't want this summer to pass me by without being able to go for walks and enjoy the park with the girls on my own.

So that's where we're at.  As I said, light years ahead of where I was, but I've still got a ways to go.