Small Elephant, On Location (with Baby News!)

I’ll give you three guesses where I am.

NO, not at the zoo. I only go to the zoo when it is cool outside.

No, unfortunately not at Anthropologie with a stash of birthday cash. That won’t happen until December.

Seriously? At church? It’s a Thursday. We don’t live there, you know.

Okay, I’ll tell you, although if you follow me on facebook (which you really SHOULD – that’s where most of the fun happens!) you already know…

I’m at the hospital.

Finally.

And although my back is kind of tight and sore from the epidural site and my stomach is kinda crampy and my eyes are oh so sleepy, I am one happy Mama, for several reasons…

1. I just ate my traditional celebratory post-labor McDonald’s Sausage McGriddle, and since this is my 4th time to give birth, my husband bought me a super-special bonus prize of Cinnamon Melts. The food of the heavens, I am sure.

2. I am so relaxed, sitting with my feet up in a very quiet and peaceful hospital room with Mr. Gore. This is as close to a private vacation as we’ve gotten since the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010! I’m clean, I’m groomed, I have a bag of Redvines close at hand, and people keep bringing me food and pills and giving me free band-aids and stuff. I will gladly stay as long as they let me.

3. It no longer feels like there is a sizeable human camping out in my mid-section. Because there’s not!

4. I’m hearing all kinds of accolades about how I was “made” for having babies…which I know really means that I am a hoss with great birthing hips. But I’m cool with that.

5. I only look 5 months pregnant now! Woot woot!

6. Oh! And this little guy might have a little something to do with this morning’s joy…

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Our entire family is rejoicing at the birth of our new baby, Shepherd Sullivan. Especially Gideon and Granddaddy, who whooped and hollered when they walked into the room and found it was a BOY!

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Baby Shepherd is a 9 lb. 8 oz. (that’s right…NINE pounds, EIGHT ounces) red-haired lad with long, monkey toes and a barrel chest, and though we’ve only been together (in the flesh) for less than a day, he already seems quite fond of us. And we are certainly fond of him!

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I have so many stories to tell, so many pictures to share, and then a series on Small Elephant’s 4th pregnancy experience that is sure to entertain you, but for now, I’ll leave you with this… God is so good. We praise Him for babies, for new life, for family, for His faithful and steadfast love, for modern medicine, for epidurals, for brand-new chapters and seasons, for strapping infant boys, for quiet moments of rest…

and definitely for Sausage McGriddles.

~

A special thanks to all of you who have been so sweet and supportive during this pregnancy, and who have covered the Gore family with your prayers. It meant the world to me!

Do Not Forsake: my wrestling match with Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~

“I don’t know…” I said, “I’m just so tired of talking about it. I don’t want to answer any more questions. I don’t want to talk about how my belly has dropped or that yes, I’m “still here”, you know?…”

My husband just looked at me.

I squirmed.

I knew exactly what he was thinking and, as usual, it was conveniently lining up with what the Spirit was already telling my heart.

It was late Saturday night and we were discussing what I should do come morning. Nearly one full week past my due date, I knew that no one would expect me to be at church, and would even be surprised if I made an appearance, but I was feeling so torn about it.

“If you don’t feel well, that’s one thing,” my husband encouraged me, “and even if you just want to stay home and rest, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t not come because of what you just said…that’s not you.”

I knew he was right. Even as the words left my mouth, I was uncomfortable with them, as they went against everything we say we believe and have worked toward in our church.

You see, the last couple of years in our congregation have centered on learning to become a family. Loving each other as true brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Being transparent and real with one another. Assuming the best of each other. Bearing one another’s burdens…

And if I truly examined my heart, I was lying about why I didn’t want to come to church the next morning, because, honestly, if I showed up and no one mentioned my pregnancy or how I was feeling, I might have returned home confused and hurt, feeling like no one cared. I love those people. And I love their concern for me.

The truth of my resistance was simple to diagnose:

I wanted to bear my burden alone.

I didn’t want to humble myself and accept sympathy.

I didn’t want to appear weak or tired or haggard or needy.

In other words, I just wanted to disappear from among “my family” for a bit until I could return to them in better form…sitting up straighter, feeling more like myself, victorious over this pregnancy….you know, normal. Healthy. Whole.

I didn’t want them to see me defeated.

So now I was really torn about going to church, because this had just turned from a simple question of “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” into a very personal spiritual battle that I didn’t want to deal with; I didn’t want the Spirit to be teaching me anything. I was a week past my due date! Wah!!

But deciding we were borrowing trouble by worrying too much about it – after all, my water could have broken in the next 20 minutes and all of this discussing would be a moot point – we decided to just wait until morning and see what happened.

The next day, Mr. Gore decided to let me sleep until I woke up; by the time I joined the land of the living, there was only enough time to fix Rebekah’s hair and send my family off to Sunday School, tentatively planning to join them for worship.

On their way out the door, my husband continued to gently encourage me to attend if my body was feeling comfortable, reminding me that I could retreat to his office and rest on his recliner at any point during the service or the post-service potluck.

But, shutting the door behind them, I still didn’t know what to do…

it was so quiet in my house.

So safe.

So comfortable (I was wearing my muumuu).

And no one could see how big I was, or how tired, or how mentally fatigued or how weak; I was alone, and a part of me really liked that, even as my heart yearned to see the dear faces I had been missing over the past two weeks.

But I really needed to make a decision, spit-spot!

And in the end, it wasn’t my stamina that got me dressed and ready and out the door in time to make it downhill to hear the preaching. It wasn’t a supernatural burst of energy or resolve. It wasn’t even a spiritual change of heart or mind…

It was the truth of scripture and the example of my husband.

You see, during the 9 months that I have been growing our 4th child, he has been dealing with his own set of problems; a year and a half ago, he had a non-invasive surgical procedure done on a herniated disc, one that would potentially put a stop to his chronic back and leg pain without resorting to major back surgery.

Sadly, while it gave him relief for almost a year, he blew the disc out again early this year, and it has been undeniable that a fusion was in his future, the sooner the better, not only to put a stop to his pain, but to keep his nerve from becoming permanently damaged.

But I was pregnant.

And we have three little children.

And a two-story house.

And in a huge act of sacrificial love, he chose to put off surgery until I could have a full month to recover from having our baby…

Which meant that he had an extremely long year ahead. Pain management has been key, but even on medication, he has been either persistently uncomfortable or downright hurting. Sitting for long periods is unbearable for him, meaning he needs to be on his feet or lying down on the floor. His “office” became the couch in our church’s foyer where he laid with his laptop and a pile of books nearby, and most of his meals in 2013 have been eaten at his family’s feet…

and while God has been so gracious to allow him to comfortably stand and preach every Sunday morning, he comes home pretty sore in the afternoon and desperately in need of rest.

If anyone should feel the right to stay home on Sunday night while our other pastor teaches, it is him.

And if anyone should feel free to cut out early after that teaching and skip our weekly fellowship meal, it is him.

But I’ve watched him.

All year.

He wakes up from his Sunday nap, he takes his pills, and he goes to the one place that he knows he needs more than anything else.

To his church.

His body.

His family.

And he does the most unheard-of thing I have ever witnessed in my 31 years of church life.

He gets the pillow out of his office….

and he lays down in the floor at the back of the sanctuary to hear the Bible lesson.

People walk past and he talks to them, waving, smiling, never blushing, never acting as if it is out-of-the-ordinary that he is laid out on the floor in a house of God.

You know why?

Because when he says he loves his church family, he means it. And when he says that there is no better place for him to be than among the brethren, he truly believes it. And when he expounds Hebrews 10 from the pulpit and teaches us that one of the greatest and most powerful tools for our growth and encouragement is to spend time with each other, he then lives it out for his flock to see.

And as I considered his example on Sunday morning, I started to realize what I would be missing if I stayed home in my muumuu…

Getting my act together and making it to church wasn’t about a legalistic check-mark to prove how godly I was; this was a chance for me to have faith in the word of God and to seek His way rather than my own. And as much as I didn’t want to put real clothes on and face my own vulnerability by making a public appearance, it was undeniable that the Spirit was wooing me to come.

Take up thy pregnant girth and follow Me.

And so I took my bath. I got ready. I made some biscuits for the potluck.

And right as the preaching began, I waddled into my home-away-from-home.

The minute I entered into that familiar room filled with familiar faces, I knew that God had been good to pursue me in this. I needed this time with my family. I needed their love and concern. I needed to hear the Word expounded.

I needed to trust in what the Bible says is good for me and not what I felt like I needed.

And as unimportant and gross and exhausted as I felt that Sunday morning, my church needed me, too. To see that I was okay. To use their gifts to minister to me. To be encouraged by my gifts. Such is the beauty of the body and every single one of its members. There is no doubt that I would have enjoyed my Sunday morning at home, but I was richly blessed by joining my local congregation to worship the God who made us a family in the first place. I might have gone home tired, but I was refreshed.

Again, attending church every Sunday isn’t some sort of mystical bullet on a spiritual to-do list that will earn you points in heaven….

but we should never underestimate how important each opportunity to “stir one another up” is and take advantage of those opportunities, whether it is easy and we are excited about it or whether it is difficult and as inconvenient as getting a pregnant lady out of her muumuu.

We don’t need to wait until we are healthy and well…sinless…perfect and put-together…strong. We need to go now, just as we are…

just like the guy who lays in the back of our sanctuary every Sunday night.

Let not conscience let you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream, all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him. I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms, in the arms of my dear Savior, oh there are ten thousand charms.

This Flower is…I Don’t Know. Delusional?

I watched Pollyanna countless times as a child, and so after my last ranting-and-raving post, I thought it would be a good time to play “The Glad Game.” 

~

So here I am, four days past my due date.

And in the interest of “keeping my sunny-side-up” here’s what I’m trying to think, stream-of-consciousness style:

  • I’ve spent a lot of time moaning and groaning over my discomfort and I’ve spent a lot of time fearing what’s ahead, but if I stop for a minute and consider the fact that, no matter what this next week looks like, I have MADE it through NINE months of pregnancy (a.k.a. intense personal trials), I feel pretty much like a boss. Way to go, Mrs. Gore!
  • I’m not sure why this has always been a bragging point for me, but my cavernous belly button has never popped, and this continues to be true, even four days past my due date. My belly button is a boss, too. Way to go, naval cave!
  • Sure, I may be pacing through my dark house in the middle of every night with pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, but I’ve got plenty to be thankful for. No swelling. No cankles. No sciatica. No back pain. No blurred vision. No headaches. And only the slightest bit of mania. Three cheers for a blessed lack of symptoms!
  • In these concentrated months of pregnancy-inspired poor parenting, I’ve learned a few things: if your kids don’t wear clothes all day, you don’t have to do a bunch of laundry. If your kids eat cereal for every meal, they won’t eat up the food budget. If your kids watch TV all day, they’ll be quiet. If your kids don’t get to do awesome homeschool crafts and activities all day, they’ll truly appreciate VBS. And if you sleep in long enough in the morning, your kids will eventually feed themselves and your baby will learn to take off her full-of-peepee diapers by herself and throw them in the trash. Parenting is much easier than we make it when we are overachieving and un-impregnanted. Here, here, for life-lessons!
  • Likewise, my children have learned a lot through my pregnancy. You know all those arguments against homeschooling that say your kids will grow up in an unsocialized bubble? Not with me in the house. I’ve exposed them to every personality in the book. They’ve seen gluttony. They’ve seen sickness. They’ve seen hysterical. They’ve seen depressed. They know what it is like to live with a mental patient. Let’s hear it for gritty home education!
  • On a serious note, I was talking to a pregnant friend on Facebook and she mentioned that, in her current state, it is difficult to differentiate between being unappreciated and overly-sensitive. I concur, as the minute I see the positive sign on that pregnancy test, my sense of entitlement skyrockets and I feel like the world, or at least my family, and especially my husband, owes me a huge favor. Thus our conversation led me to really examine myself this week (ick…”examine” is not a word I really like to hear right now…) and I’ve been reminded that, regardless of the fact that I am something of a ticking-time-bomb who shuffles about the house just waiting for something…anything!!…to happen, and in spite of the reality that there is a hopefully-less-than-ten-pound human balancing on my bladder day and night, I must strive to glorify God in my thoughts and my actions. Pulling the pregnancy card doesn’t nullify my calling as a follower of Jesus. Sigh. Hooray for sanctification?…
  • Being off my feet has allowed me special times with each of my kids. Whether it is cuddling up with Baby Betsie on the bed, or being tended to by Miss Sunday, or reading books with Gideon, I have had time to study each of them this week, and to appreciate their uniquity. PLUS I just made up that awesome word, there. Rousing applause for one-on-one time and never-before-used vocabulary words!
  • I didn’t get ANY stretch marks from this pregnancy until TWO days ago. Ummm…yay? That’s…awesome.
  • And finally, despite all the discomfort associated with today and the anxiety associated with what lies ahead, there is something blossoming right alongside my stomach…an ever-growing anticipation to meet the little booger that lives in there! Whoop-whoop for BABIES!!!
  • (and for pregnancies being overrrrr…).

And there you have it! A sort-of-true look into the trying-to-be-optimistic mind of a ranting-and-raving past-due pregnant woman who is super GLAD (like, Pollyanna glad) her mom replaced those pathetic flowers in her kitchen…

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p.s. Keep those prayers comin’. Especially for Mr. Gore.

This Flower is Wiltin’…

So here I am, one day past my due date.

And in the interest of “keeping it real” here’s what I’m thinking, stream-of-consciousness style:

  • My belly is full, thanks to a home-cooked meal by my Mom. I didn’t realize until I ingested at least 8 lbs. of her roast beef, rice, potatoes and green beans that we have definitely been “getting by” in the meal department. Quesadillas, sandwiches, omelets, sandwiches, pizza, cereal, and sandwiches will leave your stomach AND your soul starving after a couple of weeks. Thank God for country cooking.
  • p.s. After I swallowed my second plate, I worried that I might go into labor and then have to have an emergency c-section…I don’t know how all that works, but I pictured the hospital staff seeing exactly how much food I ate on this night, and I blushed to the roots of my hair. For shame!
  • Fact: Due dates are of the devil and are only fun if you go into labor well before hand.
  • Speaking of hands, I have pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel. Because it’s not enough to experience things like incontinence and the sensation of a small human living in your stomach. You really should have painfully tingling fingers that wake you in the middle of the night, too. Every night.
  • I’m not bitter, really.
  • I need a belly harness.
  • I need a construction crane to get me out of my bathtub every morning.
  • Talking to my big brother tonight about my guilty conscience concerning my parenting as of late, we decided that I should not feel guilty because my kids have probably never had this much fun, watching endless television and eating potato chips for breakfast.
  • If it ever seems like I have it all together, let me break the news here: I am 100% totally and completely in-over-my-head. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this baby and I simply cannot process the fact that homeschool is supposed to start NEXT TUESDAY. I wrote it in all caps hoping it would help me process it. Didn’t help.
  • As I get closer to delivery, vague memories of what lies ahead are starting to surface, causing me to sort of want to hyperventilate. I’m looking at you, breastpump.
  • I wish I had never written a blog series about “How to Fashionably Survive at the Hospital” because I am almost certain I set myself up for failure this go-round. Here’s my prediction: I’m going to arrive at the hospital in my Wal-mart muumuu, I’m going to forget my make-up bag, and you know all those dreaded whispers about what can happen on the delivery table?…God, help me.
  • The ceiling fan is drying out my contacts and I find myself wanting to blame that, too, on pregnancy. Maybe I am bitter…

And there you have it! A true glimpse into the ranting and raving mind of a past-due pregnant woman who looks and feels a lot like the roses in her kitchen…

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If you decide to say a prayer for me today, say two for my husband. :)

A Small Update from Small Elephant

Sometimes I forget that I’m pregnant.

And then I walk in front of my vanity mirror. (Seriously, Kate Middleton is 8 months pregnant and it looks like she swallowed a little kids’ basketball. I am 6 months pregnant and it looks like I swallowed Kate Middleton).

Or I open up the refrigerator to retrieve a carton of eggs, marvel over how light it is, and then open it to realize that it contains exactly one dozen cracked-open-and-used-up eggs; I have no recollection of either using them or putting them back in the refrigerator instead of the trashcan where they belong (Momnesia).

Or a spilled drink in the living room leads to a massive hormonal breakdown wherein I lament the loss of “my happy heart”. When my husband reminds me of how happy I felt all weekend, I wail that “it only lasted for…TWO DAYS!!!!” (Which really is quite sad and cry-worthy).

And with these glaring reminders, I remember…

I’m so pregnant.

I keep trying to function as if I am not.

But I am.

Really and truly and undeniably pregnant.

Which explains a lot. The crying. The impatience. The fuzzy brain. My giant, poofy, out-of-control hair. The nearly 80 rough drafts in my blog’s system, waiting to be completed. The unfinished books I am…or was…writing…

On Monday, I shared the following update on facebook:

“I was just working on a blog post yesterday about the peace and contentment that blanketed my spirit all weekend…
and then today I’m like ‘EVERYBODY PIPE DOWN AND LET ME EAT MY ICE CREAM!!!!!’

Pregnancy hormones. I need to start writing my posts in one sitting before the voice and tone in my head changes drastically…I have no idea now how to finish yesterday’s post.”

Which is just so true. It is exceedingly difficult to be a writer…or a blogger…or even a person…when you are a different shade of crazy for every day of the week. The sentimental and tender-hearted sap that you were on Saturday is a raging and frustrated maniac on Monday, and trying to find the girl that you were a week ago is as difficult as finding a carton of eggs in your refrigerator that actually has eggs in it.

Lord, have mercy.

So if my blog seems a bit…erratic…lately, that’s because it is.

I’ll be all lovey-dovey about Mr. Gore one day, and then the next day I’m on a cleaning rampage and am decluttering like Martha Stewart is coming over for supper, and then the next day I’m making promises to revisit the mischievous adventures of Betsie Fair, and then the next day I sit down to write a follow-up post to any of the above series and I go “blink, blink. Who am I? What have I been writing about this week, again? Did I mention something about a June bride series? Did we really have a tea party at my house on Saturday? And where are my eggs, for crying out loud?!…

But the good news is, I know from experience that, Lord willing, these things will pass, and one fair day I’ll realize out of the blue that…

Sigh.

I’m nice again.

I’m on top of things.

My happy heart is back.

My blog makes sense (sort of).

I don’t look like I swallowed a princess.

I no longer want to rip my quilt in half when the kids are being loud…

Mrs. Gore is back!

Until then, I promise to hang in there, and even to keep blogging, if you promise to hang with me and have zero expectations for me to follow through on anything I tell you I am going to do.

Promise?

Pinky promise?

Me, too.

Now seriously. Where are my eggs?

~

Coming up next at Mrs. Gore’s Diary…I have no idea!

The Weekend Confinement of Small Elephant

We had a bit of a scare on Friday morning.

I’ll spare you the specific details, but all of a sudden, our morning plans of a jaunt to the local library were exchanged for several nervous hours at the walk-in clinic of our doctor’s office.

And as I’ve discovered with most pregnancy situations, the symptoms I was experiencing could be perfectly normal…or dismally grave. As much as I love and employ the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, the thesis of its contents sometimes seems to be that “every pregnancy and every facet of every pregnancy is different…you never know…check with your doctor….you could be fine…or you could be dying.”

But once in an exam room, after finally locating our little peanut on the ultrasound screen, we all (including the doctor, I think) heaved a great sigh of relief to see that little heartbeat flickering just as it should be, and after giving us the best report we could have hoped for, I was sent home to “take it easy” and wait things out over the weekend.

It is now Saturday afternoon, and I am happy to report that, for now, all seems to be well, and that scary situation that took place on Friday morning has happened no more.

Am I “out of the woods”?

Well…no.

And not because I am necessarily still afraid I might be miscarrying, but because I became painfully (and yet happily) aware of a reality yesterday morning that I had failed to understand before: Friday was no different than any other day. Just because I was faced with the slight possibility of losing my baby did not change the fact that, if God wants me to have this baby, I’m going to have this baby. I might have been excruciatingly aware of the delicate balance between life and death, afraid to move or breathe for fear of upsetting it, but nothing had really changed from the hundreds of days before this one.

Such is the unseen truth that surrounds our comings and goings every day of our life. We are never “out of the woods” when it comes to possible sicknesses, losses, death…but then again, we are ever and always held fast in the palm of God’s hand. As the great missionary John Paton put it, “Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done.” If we really believe what the Bible says, we, too, must adopt the theology that we (and our children) are immortal until our work is done.

This brought me great comfort, and I realized that my fears that day were not based on whether or not God was in control, but on what He was going to ask of me, and although I was still discouraged by my erratically beating heart and my nerve-clenched stomach in the face of the unknown, I was so happy to note the spiritual growth that has taken place in my life since my last traumatic experience…

for it wasn’t too very long ago that I frequently displayed (by my fears and anxieties and my panicked speech) that I didn’t really believe God was in control at’all.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the day was saturated with obvious grace. On our long drive to the clinic, Mr. Gore and I prayed together. Comically, our routine (per my request) is for me to pray first and then for him to follow and “clean it up”.  But as I prayed, I began to note the seeming coincidences that were lining our day…

1. My Mom had been planning on taking the kids and me to the library at 9:00, so she was at our house early, dressed, and inexplicably armed with a bag of paperwork that she needed to work on. Mr. Gore met her at the sidewalk to explain our situation, and 20 minutes later, we were on our way, hearts at rest knowing our kids would be in good hands regardless of what our day held.

2. Our servant-hearted friend, Kodi, on hearing that I’ve been having nightly bouts of “morning sickness” starting at about 5:00 p.m., kindly offered to take our kids one night this week and make us supper. We had originally scheduled for Tuesday, but when something came up, we switched to Friday. Again, our hearts were at rest as we drove to the doctor, knowing that our kids would have a fun evening at Kodi’s house, and that our supper would be taken care of.

3. And then we could have gone on and on about how God was obviously taking care of us: Mr. Gore was not out of town. Mr. Gore has a flexible job that allows him to take me to the doctor should the need arise. This happened on the morning of a Friday, giving us the freedom to make it to the doctor rather than being anxious all weekend…

I could continue, but the conclusion of our prayer was this: your kindness and grace in caring for us so fully, God, gives us faith that you will continue to care for us. We so badly want to have this baby, but we trust your Word and we can tell that you love us, and so we know you will only do what is best. We’ve been learning in church how grace and peace are often coupled together, because when we contemplate the great grace of God and focus on what He has done and is doing, our hearts will be at peace concerning the future. I am an extremely weak vessel, and so “tremulous” was still the state of my being as we sat in that exam room, but at the heart of me, the truth was ringing that God would be faithful to us, no matter what. I share these things as a memorial for my family and for my own forgetful heart. May we never forget how good He has been.

Well, as I said, things are looking extremely optimistic, and in the meantime, I have been perched ever-so-elegantly in my king-sized bed, sometimes laying on my left side, sometimes laying on my right side, sometimes sitting cross-legged on my bum, but always with several sources of entertainment nearby, along with a variety of tempting foods and beverages. My Mom has been my faithful nurse, laundress, nanny, housekeeper and cook, my friends have blessed me with childcare and yummy foods, my church has encouraged me to tears with tender sentiments and prayers, and I am feeling incredibly blessed, regardless of the fact that Friday was one of the scariest days of my life.

And, as ever, I have found in my little family a sweet source of encouragement and entertainment to get me through the weekend.

My firstborn crept into bed yesterday afternoon before going to Kodi’s house and asked me if I was feeling okay. When I asked him to pray for me, he took both of my hands in his and said, so solemnly, “Dear God, please make it easy for Mama to have her baby. And if you don’t make it easy, we’ll just come back and ask you again to make it easy.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks by the time he finished his sweet and tender prayer, but he has grown so accustomed to seeing this evidence of my sentimental heart that he doesn’t even mention it anymore.

Miss Sunday has, not surprisingly, been less tender in her ministrations, and, donning her nurse pinafore and armed with her trusty doctor’s bag, shoved mini marshmallow “pills” into my mouth and barked at anyone who came near her “patient”. Still yet, if I am ever forced to go out into battle, I want that girl at my side.

And sweet Baby Betsie toddles in every so often and brightens my room with her nonsensical chatter and her frequent hugs and kisses.

I mustn’t paint too idyllic a picture, however, and will confess that when all three are here at the same time, I feel the urge to flee from my “sickbed”.

I would never envy the life of an invalid, but for this weekend at least, there has been a silver lining in my unexpected confinement: being loved, knowing God better, resting my body and my mind…

and I’ll confess, having hot food delivered straight into my hands whenever I want it is pretty near to heaven, especially for a ravenous pregnant woman.

But most of all, I am praising God that, for today, my little baby #4 is still with us, enjoying the sweet blessings of love and home and family.

~

Want to read more on the extraordinary life of John Paton? Click here.

The Return of Small Elephant

I have an alter-ego, like Beyonce.

We’re awesome like that.

Hers is named ‘Sasha Fierce’ and she supposedly comes out on stage and helps Beyonce to be brave and strong and…well, fierce.

Mine is named ‘Small Elephant’.

Small Elephant is neither brave, nor strong, and certainly not fierce. And she only emerges every two years or so when I am looking, feeling and acting, well…like a small elephant.

You know, when I’m pregnant.

I first became acquainted with her when I was pregnant with my first child. It was Christmastime and my Mom and I had planned a beautiful Christmas tea for my 3-year old niece, Abigail. It was sparkly and glittery and dainty and pink and there were petite-fours and red slushy punch…and I was so excited.

I decided to dress for the occasion, wearing a fancy black maternity dress and even did my hair up in a pretty bun.

But when I went to look in the mirror at the finished product, I almost burst into tears. Because no matter how hard I had tried to look delicate and fancy for our tea, I was still twice my normal size and had the look in my eyes of a sad and scared deer-in-the-headlights. In my painfully self-conscious mind, I looked exactly like one of those little cartoon elephant ballerinas who prance around in a pink tutu; she might be wearing a tutu, but she is still unmistakably what?…

An elephant.

The image stuck with me, and although I have grown up a lot since that day 6 years ago, I still like to refer to the pregnant version of myself as “Small Elephant”.

Because, while I initially wasn’t a huge fan of this roly-poly caricature of myself, I have grown to love her. She’s funny. She’s a basketcase. She’s transparent. She has super-hero-sized taste buds and emotions. She is me…but on steroids, and she is totally out of control. And she walks around with powdered donuts in her robe pocket.

Seriously…what’s not to love? (Don’t ask my husband that question).

And so it is with gladness that I lunge back into the realm of Small Elephant, and, as tumultuous as our time together usually  is, I look forward to sharing her adventures with you over the next year. Until then, here are some of her (our?) stories from her (our…) last visit.

This is already getting weird.

~

(Warning: the following posts were written before I knew that blog posts should be under 1000 words. My bad…)

I Am Resolved

Small Elephant Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel (literally).

Small Elephant Goes to the Theatre

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 3

OH my GOODNESS! You finally had your baby, you poor little baby-making machine. I do hope your labor was not too…laborious. And please, let me be the first to congratulate you. Congratulations.

Now, I wish so badly I could tell you the hardest part is over, but…

Maybe I just won’t say anything. Everything is going to be fine, trust me. Just…hang in there.

And since I have taken it upon myself to prepare you for your entire hospital stay, here is some more spectacular (and absolutely free) advice to help you through the next couple of days. Fashionably, of course.

~ The Recovery Phase ~

*After you get to hold your sweet baby for a bit (and perhaps try to feed it – more on that later!), they will whisk the little one off to the hospital nursery. You will reunite later in your recovery room. And while baby is being all spiffied up and tested, they’ll attempt to spiffy you up, too. Key word: attempt. Most of the nurses and your doctor will leave and you’ll be left with one nurse who will tend very faithfully to you. Be nice to her!

*I warned you about the epidural duct-tape removal, didn’t I? Well, the time has arrived. Enjoy!

*Here comes the most vulnerable part of this entire experience, right up there with the leg holsters, in my opinion…your nurse will accompany you to the bathroom. If you had an epidural, your legs are going to be prettttty numb. You will still feel like a spry young woman on the inside, but your body will force you to walk like a very elderly lady, clinging to the arm of a nurse who might very well be much older than you. Nothin’ you can do about it. Nothin’ fashionable about it. But, like I said before, this is what goes on in the inner recesses of the hospital. That lady that’s holding you up? She’s done this a million times. So just chat with her while you tinkle. Carpe Diem!

*Very soon, you get to eat! Choose this meal wisely, because it is going to taste so good. You’re starving and so proud of yourself and so this truly is a feast worth remembering. I’ve had all my babies very early in the morning; therefore, I always treat myself to a Sausage McGriddle and a cup of my favorite coffee from McDonald’s. The height of fashion, I assure you. (p.s. Tell your husband that Mrs. Gore insists that he go and fetch you whatever vittles your heart desires right this minute! Go, man! Shoo! Spit-spot!).

*Now this is going to get a bit dicey, because I’m not God or Santa and so I don’t know when you had your baby. At midnight? At 8 o’clock in the morning? I dunno. But my general rule is, get cleaned up as soon as possible. A refreshing shower, a fresh coat of paint, tidy up your hair and put on some comfy clothes…you’ll feel like a hundred bucks. (Sorry, lass…you won’t feel like a million bucks for quite some time). Visitors might be popping in. Don’t let them catch you looking like a Mrs. Bungle.

*It is important that you listen to me very closely right now: Don’t. freak. out. You’re going to be all sorts of antsy about breastfeeding and getting some privacy and getting home as quickly as possible. Stop. Don’t. Think, you hormonal momnesiac crazy person! You and your baby have round-the-clock care here. You get to eat in bed. Someone comes in once a day to clean your room. Take away the beeping monitors and the constant checking of your vitals and you might very well be in a fancy hotel with all sorts of amenities.

*Seriously, though, take advantage of the advantages during your very short stay. Cause you’re going to get home and go “OH my gosh…I wanna go back to the hospital!!!”

*Every woman who has a baby gets this huge bag of free products in recovery. They are all so foreign and weird…and disgusting…but they house some crazy cool recovery items: 1) Humongous, giant you-know-whats that I told you about in Phase 1. Double up on those at first, by the way. Yay! 2) Weird, stretchy mesh one-size-fits-all unmentionables – I think they are created especially for those giant you-know whats. Double yay! 3) Disposable paper-ish mats to protect your bedding – take a couple of these home, I always say. 4) A plastic bottle with a squirt-top lid. This little buddy is pretty important, so keep up with it – your nurse will tell you what to do with it. More key words: warm water.

*I mentioned the constant checking of your vitals. I should warn you…they are going to be constantly checking your vitals. Or at least it feels like it. I’m not sure, but I think this must be done every 3 hours for 24 hours. Or wait…that’s the breastfeeding schedule…no, the breastfeeding schedule is every 3 hours for the next 365 days…ugh, I don’t know. But its a lot, believe me, and is especially frustrating when you are trying to sleep.

*Which brings me to my next point: that first night of sleep is pretty miserable. Your brain is going berzerko, the bed and the room is unfamiliar, your body feels like shoo-shoo, there are random lights on and even randomer machines beeping and the most randomest people coming into your room to take your temperature and blood pressure…it is highly likely that you are going to feel like you’re going insane. And so I learned something on my second go-round: when they offer you a sleeping pill before bed, take it! Its just one or two nights…you won’t get addicted. (Where’s my Lunesta?!?)

*On a similar note, I have a confession to make. For just those two itty-bitty nights at the hospital, I send my baby to the hospital nursery, after a late night feeding. Then I take the offered sleeping pill, I turn off all the lights and I go to sleep. Three or four hours later, a nurse wakes me up to feed the baby and then I send it right back to the nursery to sleep the rest of the night. This is a great opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest before you go home. Believe me, the first night you’re home, you and your baby will have plenty of bonding time. Plenty. Puh-lenty. And every night after that for the next 18 years, I’ve been told…

*Continuing on, once the baby is brought in for its first feeding of the morning, preferably around 7:00, go ahead and wake up for the day. If you go back to sleep after that feeding, you’re going to wake up with hospital bed-head to a steady stream of visitors, whether in the form of nurses or family or clergy or lactation consultants or hospital photographers or staff or your doctor or a group of visiting interns…so just trust me. Get up, take a nice, hot shower, wash your hair, dry and style it, put on your make-up and real-people clothes, tidy up your room, and be sitting up in bed like the fair flower of motherhood that you are when the first guest arrives on the scene. They’ll be shocked. And you will have the pleasure of demurely laughing off their praises. Like, “Who me? Oh I always look like this the day after I’ve had a baby…”

*Again, not all of us are geniuses, Ms. Smartypants. So if you are like me and you’re not a science major and you’ve never been in the hospital before, “bm” stands for “bowel movement” and the powers-that-be really want you to have one at the hospital. Good luck with that, and be sure to let your nurse know when or if it happens.

*Excuse me while I take a deep breath of preparation. Okay…breastfeeding. Beautiful…natural…good-for-the-baby…blah, blah, blah. It hurts. But soon, it won’t. So when you are gritting your teeth in pain and tears are popping out of your eyes and your brain is screaming “What is happening to me?! I want my Mommmmyyyy!!!”, know deep in your heart (because Mrs. Gore told you) that in a few days, this will be much, much easier. It is just part of the process. My condolences.

*Another word on breastfeeding…there are these ladies who walk around the women’s hospital who are “professional lactation consultants”. They do a great service to new mothers who are trying to tackle the mysteries of a very new and overwhelming process, but to spare you a great surprise, I’ll tell you now: they are very “hands-on.” And you might feel that they are a bit pushy, but truly, they’re just trying to help you. Do as I say and not as I do: relax and accept their help and insight.

*Another another word on breastfeeding, not to be confused with my advice on taking advantage of hospital amenities: Don’t. freak. out. Nursing a baby is one of the most natural things on earth, but it initially feels like the most unnatural thing. Not only do you have to figure the whole system out, you two have got to get to know one another. Add to that the many surprising side-effects of nursing (this would be a good time to read What to Expect’s chapter on breastfeeding: they spell it all out) and it is kind of difficult not to freak out. Just remember this: you live in America. Your baby is not going to starve to death. Calm…DOWN. (Not to be confused with “let-down”).

*Now that I think of it, “don’t freak out” needs to be applied across the board. So take a nice, deep breath and listen to me: Its okay if your baby is not a breastfeeding prodigy. Its okay if your baby doesn’t burp after every feeding. Its okay that you don’t know what you are doing. Its okay that it hurts to walk. Its okay that your last visitor touched your baby’s hands and germified it. Its okay that your baby’s poop looks like tar. And that weird belly button clamp? Its okay. Everything is going to be okay. Not now, maybe, but much, much sooner than you think. I promise.

*Oh! This is the day you get to read the new issue of In Style magazine that I told you to pack. See all those pretty clothes? You’ll get to wear them soon. If you can walk, I give you permission to do a little happy dance. If you can’t walk, call your nurse immediately.

*This is an order: enjoy your husband during your hospital stay. No bickering allowed. No ingratitude allowed. You two will be entering the trenches of parenthood the minute you go home. Pray together. Laugh together. Eat together. Tell him how much you love him – you might not get the chance to tell him again until the next time you get pregnant.

*If you stay at the hospital for a second day, repeat my advice for the first day. Wake up, shower, and get pretty before visiting hours. This is most likely the day you will be taking your baby home. There will be lots of pictures. I repeat, there will be lots of pictures.

*Again, I don’t know your particular situation or how long you’ll be at the hospital, but when it does come time to gather up your things, throw away as much stuff as you can. You’ll have lots of unneeded papers and pamphlets and half-eaten bags of candy – toss them now. You won’t have the time or the inclination to do so when you get home.

*On the other hand, start gathering up as much free stuff as possible. Hospital receiving blankets are unrivaled. They are huge and perfect and are yours for the taking. Oh, and don’t forget your big bag of gross recovery stuff.

*The checking-out process can take a really long time. Prepare by tidying up your room and piling all your bags neatly up in the corner. Send your husband to fetch the carseat (he can take a load of stuff on his way). Change the baby into its going-home outfit. Be prepared to sign lots of papers and listen to lots of instruction. You’ll be given a few prescriptions that will need to be filled on the way home. And I think they’ll give you a shot or two. I’m telling you, the fun here at the hospital never ends!

*When it is time to leave, you’ll be given permission to fasten baby into its carseat. One of my first nurses taught me the following: to keep your little darling from looking like the tiny, frail, little waif that it is, roll up two of those receiving blankets you just helped yourself to and place them on either side of your baby after he or she is buckled in, as snugly against its side and under its arms and shoulders as possible. They will lodge your baby more firmly in place and will make the ride home much more comfortable for both of you. (I suppose there is some fancy thingamajig at Babies R Us that will do this for you, made of lambskin or something luxurious and is FDA or DHS or CIA approved, but…this is free! And you won’t have to find a place for it in a month when you no longer need it).

*Here comes your wheelchair one last time! After taking your seat, the carseat will be placed on your lap. Which means that your husband will have absolutely no help carrying all the things you both brought. You should warn him ahead of time so he can make as many trips as needed before you check out.

*I’m not bragging, but on my last wheelchair ride, my nurse said, and I quote: “Your hair looks amazing! We don’t see a lot of fixed hair around here.” Ahem. Case closed. This is why I have the authority to write this article.

*You have exited those sliding doors for what I pray is the last time until your next hospital laycation. Stand up, turn around and wave good-bye to one of the most life-changing and monumental events you will ever experience. There are plenty more on the way –  this is just the beginning, Mama!

*When it does come time to take a picture of you loading into the car with baby, or bringing baby down the sidewalk to your house, don’t forget to hold the carseat (or just the baby) in the region of your tummy. Everyone will think you look great with your slender neck and wrists and legs sticking out from behind the carseat. What they won’t know is that underneath that carseat is a stomach the size of a…carseat.

*This is not a tip, but a sentiment: I am so happy for you. You made it through the hospital stay! The world will look completely different to you on the way home, and your life will never be the same, in the very best way. God bless you and your new bundle of joy.

Lord have mercy! I am almost certain that I have left many tips out, but we’re on a deadline here: my sweetest little pregnant friend will be induced on Friday! So if anyone has any more advice to give her, please do so below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

thank God for bulky car-seats, also known as stomach-hiders…

“Mrs. Gore’s tips for Bringing Home Baby”…coming up soon!

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 2

Well, congratulations, young mother-to-be ~ You made it through the packing phase and you’ve arrived at the hospital. Your day is finally here, and I would love to do my best to help you through it in as peaceful and dignified a manner as possible…

I obviously have no idea what your circumstances are…your water might have just broken, you might have to be induced, you might be scheduled for a c-section, or you could just be having good ol’ normal contractions; each scenario calls for different tips, I suppose, but I will attempt to give good general advice that will help one and all of my pregnant countrywomen*. Let us begin.

The delivery phase…

*Two weeks before your due date, you are what they call “full-term,” meaning you could safely go into labor any minute, or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day OR on your due date…or any day after that for the next two weeks. After that I suppose they have mercy on you and induce your labor. Now listen closely: IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you shower and shave every day once you reach “full-term”. It is also very important that you put on make-up every morning and that your hair is presentable; these are the most imperative steps to fashionably surviving at the hospital. If your hair is oily when you go to the hospital, it will be at least 12 hours oilier before you get to wash it. If your legs are prickly, you will poke a lot of innocent people before you get to shave. If your make-up is nonexistent, you will look like the worst version of yourself when you hold your baby for this first time…this is unacceptable.

*I’m just going to blurt this out quickly, in license plate fashion: do ur best 2 have a BM b4 u go 2 the hospital. You know what I’m sayin’?

*In the car on the way to the hospital, freshen up your make-up a bit. It is always my goal to still have on eye-shadow by the time I have finished labor. So far, I’m three for three.

*When you get out of the car, take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, hold your head high and smile. This is it, little Mama. You are about to walk into a very new situation that brings out the ugly and whiny and unfashionable side of many a woman. But not you…you’re going to make friends with your nurses and doctors, you’re going to be brave and strong and kind and you’re going to show the grace of God to everyone you meet. And you’re going to make your husband and your Mama so proud. There’s only room for one baby in this situation, and that’s the one in your stomach.

*Don’t waddle into the hospital. Be a woman! Walk like a woman, one who is completely unaffected by the giant blob that is her belly. Don’t let the baby rule you. You rule the baby. You rule!

*Regardless of what lies ahead for you (inducement, c-section, spontaneous labor), you’re about to have to rid yourself of your clothes. It is the next step after checking in and signing a few papers. You’ll be taken to a room and you’ll be handed a hospital gown. Now…I’ve had three babies so far and a seeming gazillion doctor’s appointments in the process and I still have to ask which way the blasted thing goes on. Since it is fresh on my mind, I’ll tell you – the ties go in the back. The only thing you’ll have on besides that lovely gown should be a ponytail holder on your wrist for when your prettily-groomed locks start to drive you insane. And the nurses should offer you a bag for your clothes – if they don’t, ask for one. Then your husband won’t drop your undergarments on the floor when he picks up your clothes later on.

*Just a gentle word of advice: don’t be afraid. Something crazy happens when you enter the inner recesses of a hospital; some say you lose your dignity there, but really, it all-of-a-sudden becomes no big deal for all those folks to see…you. Just keep in mind that this is what they do, all day, every day. It’s not so embarrassing, after all. Mortifying, yes. Embarrassing? Nah.

*That i.v. cartridge they just taped to your arm? It has a needle underneath it and it will be in your arm for awhile. I just thought you should know (nobody told me, okay? Not all of us are geniuses).

*You are probably also hooked up to the “contraction machine” and have a “baby’s heartbeat machine” (not all of us are wordsmiths, either) wrapped around your belly. When you have to go to the ladies room, simply unplug the cords to the contraction machine, drape them around your neck like a fancy scarf, unfasten your “blood-pressure-taker cuff” and rise from your hospital bed. You and your “i.v. tower on wheels” can go to the bathroom as many times as you need to, unless you get an epidural (in which case your business will be handled via catheter, which is frankly awesome).

*And now the fun really begins. You’ll hear lots of talk about “dilation” and “centimeters” and “efacement”…none of the above should be posted on facebook or any other social media outlet. The only updates the general public really want to hear are “”We’re about to have the baby!” or “We’re having the baby!” or “We had the baby!” Which leads me to my next tip…

*What happens at the hospital stays at the hospital (unless you have a blog?). You’re going to walk through the most vulnerable and…organic…experience of your life over the next couple of days, and will find yourself freely discussing things with your nurses and your husband and your doctor that you previously would never have talked about out loud. Thus when the first visitor comes to see your baby, you might be tempted to tell them the entire nitty-gritty of what happened last night, a play-by-play of your most exciting experience. One word: Filter.

*You are in charge of what happens at the hospital. If you are unsure about something, ask questions first. If you don’t feel right about something, discuss it with your doctor. No matter what anyone has told you, you’re not as dumb as you look.

*For some reason – most likely due to the exposure of your backside – once you don a hospital gown, the hospital doesn’t let you walk anymore. You will now be toted around in a wheelchair while your husband walks behind you like a goober carrying the mountain of stuff I told you to pack. Sit in the chair, adjust your gown and then extend your legs so the nurse can put down the foot rests. Put your feet on the rests and inconspicuously tuck your elbows in. Your nurse may be gifted at drawing blood…but she may also be a really bad driver.

*Of course your hospital may be different than mine, but you will probably be settled into a delivery room by now. Unless this is also your recovery room, hold off on bringing all your luggage in just yet. All you need here is your husband or birthing coach, your pony-tail holder and some forms of entertainment and/or comfort. Movies, books, music, cards, knitting, Play-doh…and don’t forget your camera! You wouldn’t want to miss having a picture of yourself with the swollen hands of a linebacker holding your screaming fresh out o’ the oven ooey gooey baby. Seriously.

*Don’t loudly crunch on your ice chips like a hillbilly, even if you are miserable.

*Now this is my own special trick, a happy accident, if you will. If the pain from your contractions becomes suddenly great and your epidural is not yet available, ask for a little drug called Stadol. Your nurse will inject some into your i.v. and in three seconds you will be in Neverland. It makes for some delivery room hilarity, and if you’re lucky like I was, will grant you some much-needed sleep before active labor begins. You can thank me when your Stadol wears off and you are no longer singing loudly like a drunken sea wench.

*If you have to berate your husband when the hard and heavy contractions come, do so quietly, hissing through your smiling teeth. Compare it to kicking him under the table at a restaurant. To anyone watching, you will look collected and brave, all while you are saying to the man who got you in this position “I hate you, you toad.”

*In all seriousness, grit your teeth, grin and bear it. You’ll get compliments like “your pain threshold is extremely high!” and “I can’t believe how tough you are.” Which will make you feel like a rockstar or a pioneer woman. (However, your husband might look at you strangely, like, “…but…why did you cry when you got that papercut last week?” Hiss at him again if he does).

*Epidurals are our friends. That said, I did just watch Anna Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting do a natural, at-home birth and it was beautiful and brought me to tears. So…whatever floats your boat.

*If you do get an epidural, here is the run-down: You need to ask for your epidural about 30 minutes before you really need it – it takes awhile for the anesthesiologist to gather all the paperwork and make it to your room. Once they arrive, your husband will have to leave the room. You will sit on your bed with your legs hanging over the side. You will arch your back and try to hold very, very still. There will be lots of fiddling around back there, then the big needle, and then you’re done. In my opinion, the worst part about an epidural is that they use something akin to duct tape to hold it in place. After you’ve had your baby and are prepping for recovery, they rip that tape off in one fell swoop. Ouch. But really…we’re avoiding the curse of pain-in-childbirth here…what’s a little duct tape?

*Now its just a waiting game. Nurses and doctors will periodically check your *rhymes-with-mervix* and tell you things like “you’re doing great” and “you’re progressing” and “we’re almost there!”…

*And then, they’ll check you again and you’ll expect to hear another encouraging word, but this time, they’ll nod and raise their eyebrows and spring into action. It is time to push! Your quiet room will come alive out of nowhere – your doctor will be there with several nurses, some prepping the little incubator where your baby will be cleaned up, some surrounding you and propping your legs up in those lovely lady-like contraptions (not very fashionable, but you can’t very well have a baby with your ankles crossed). Your nurses will keep track of your contractions and will tell you when to take a deep breath and prepare to push. No worries – you will be gently coached through this entire process and you’re going to do great!

*A note on pushing. If you have an epidural, it is really difficult to figure out where to push because you can’t feel anything. But don’t worry…you’ll get it figured out. Just maybe not on the first or second try.

*When you are told to push, really focus on that one thing. Don’t be self-conscious or think about what you look like or if you’re doing it wrong…just zone in and work on pushing that sweet little baby out. You’ll bear down for about ten seconds at a time and then will be given a break in between contractions.

*Now for one second, throw fashion to the wind, because when that blessed final push takes place and your baby lands in your doctor’s hands, you’re going to want to make a fool out of yourself…and that is perfectly alright. It is a moment of extreme physical and emotional relief, and if I remember correctly, I make some sort of involuntary yelp everytime.

*Wait patiently while the staff cleans up your baby, measures and weighs him/her…and I’ll warn you now, you’re probably going to think they’re being too rough with the little darling, flopping him/her about, scrubbing them down, all while your baby is squalling at the top of its lungs. But in no time at all, they’ll have that little bundle all wrapped up and will place it in your waiting arms. Enjoy this moment. Whether you remembered your camera or not, you’ll never forget it.

* And this may seem like small stuff compared to what we’ve just discussed, but I just have to interrupt. Don’t take your favorite blanket to the hospital. You might lose it in the delivery room and be very, very sad forever.

Golly, that was exerting. And exciting! I am sure that I left a lot of useful information out, but I hope this helps give you first-timers a sneak peek at what is ahead.

Any other words of delivery advice from our experienced deliverers? Did I forget anything? Leave your comments below. And stay tuned, pregnant ladies…phase 3 will be posted in the days and weeks to come!

*It should be noted that Mrs. Gore is not a doctor or a nurse or an expert or intelligent. Her advice should always be heeded at your own risk.

Gid and Rebekah meet Baby Betsie for the first time.

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 1

First-time Mommies-to-be, you’re going to want to print this one out…

I wouldn’t yet compare myself to Michelle Duggar when it comes to birthin’ babies, but after popping out an infant once every two years since 2007, this ain’t my first rodeo. (I’ve been wanting to say that for a long time…it wasn’t as gratifying as I thought it would be).

And so, young mothers, I thought it important to share with you the knowledge I have gleaned about how to survive – and thrive! – during your hospital (I’m about to make up yet another “vacation” word!) lay-cation, separated into 3 easy-to-follow phases. Today we will review Phase 1, “the packing phase,” which will include the literal packing of your suitcase, as well as tips for how to arrive at the hospital in an organized and peaceful state of mind. Let us begin.

~

The packing phase…

* Don’t be a dummy about this. To fashionably survive at the hospital takes some major preparation, and since you don’t really know when or where you will go into labor, you need to start planning and packing well before your due date.

* Purchase a sweet new nightgown (at a real people store, not a maternity one) – with buttons in the front if you’re planning to nurse – and hang it in your closet. Every time a lady has a baby she deserves to come home to a clean, fresh, pretty nightgown. Do not take it to the hospital. I did this on my first go-round and was surprised that my hospital room was more like a busy dorm room than a private hotel room. Believe me, you won’t feel comfortable hanging out with your doctor and your relatives in your lacy little gown and robe. Pants are a much better choice, especially when you are awkwardly and painfully crawling in and out of your hospital bed.

* Find a nice compact suitcase on wheels and start filling it with the following, about a month before your due date:

  • 3 or 4 new magazines that you haven’t peeked at, at least 2 of them of the fashion sort. It is so nice after having a baby to open up an issue and, saying good-bye to those final dreary months of pregnancy and your too-short maternity shirts, dare to dream of a new body, a new haircut, a fresh make-up palette, a real pair of pants! It is one of my traditions to read In Style the day after I have a baby…
  • a good book that you’ve never read before – it’s wise to have a good distraction on hand should you have a scheduled delivery, as a “schedule” at a hospital is tentative indeed (and for good reason – emergencies always trump plain ol’ inducements, and rightly so). If you are not a reader, bring a portable DVD player and some favorite movies or playing cards or your I-pod…you get the drift.
  • you’re going to have to read between the lines on this one because there are some things I just can’t talk about and some words I just cannot bring myself to say. So…buy a package of your favorite brand of lady products, the one kind…you know the long, flat kind, not the other…pointy…kind. They need to be for the heaviest you-know-what imaginable. Buy some for the house, too. And the car. (Just kidding, it’s not that bad. It’s worse. Just kidding. No, I’m not. Just…you’ll be okay.)
  • Travel-size bottles and packages of all your favorite toiletries. Buy as much of your bedtime and morning routine products as possible ahead of time and have them packed in your suitcase, along with a list of what you will need to throw in at the last minute, i.e. glasses, curling iron, etc. The benefits of doing this ensure that you will not pack in haste and wind up at the hospital without your favorite moisturizer, plus you can just dispose of all those travel-size products before you leave the hospital and not worry about unpacking a million things when you get home. Everything will be where you left it in your bathroom and you can head straight to your shower without rifling through your suitcase first.
  • A bottle of HPA Lanolin and a few nursing pads. I didn’t know the need for things like this existed, but a sweet lady brought me a care package to the hospital that included both. Trust me, you’ll need them.
  • A pair of slippers, a pair of flip flops (for the shower), and two or three pairs of socks. Clean or not, it feels gross to walk barefoot on hospital tile floors.
  • Packages of your favorite gum and candy, as well as your husband’s.
  • Cash for the vending machine…if you’re lucky like I was, your local hospital vending machine might just surprise you with the first package of Hostess Dunkin’ Sticks that you’ve seen for YEARS, at just $1 a package. So you’re going to need at least $6.
  • A coming home outfit for baby. This will be a keepsake outfit, so choose wisely…
  • A blanket for baby. This should also be a keepsake. I’m of the mind that each baby should have at least one special blanket that was not handed down from brother or sister.
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It really does answer all of your questions, and you’re going to have lots of them, even after reading this most-helpful blog post.

*As your time gets closer, days before your due date, start packing or setting aside the following:

  • 2 sets of your favorite comfortable lounging clothes, something you will be comfortable sleeping in and entertaining visitors in, with a very comfortable waistband. Key word: comfortable. But not shabby, or else this post would be titled “Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay.”
  • Several sets of undergarments.
  • A decent going home outfit. Keep comfort in mind here, too – your body is going to be a little out of whack – but also know that you might find yourself in several photographs on this day. You’ll regret it if you dress like a cotton headed ninny muggins.
  • Camera, camera charger, video camera, video camera charger, uploading cord and laptop. Because people want to see pictures of the baby the minute it lands in the doctor’s hands, and you really shouldn’t keep your public waiting. Or you might have one of those new-fangled telephones that can take pictures and send them to the “internets”. So take that thing and whatever you need to make it work.
  • A carseat. You can’t leave the hospital without it.

*And on your way out the door, don’t forget:

  • Your own pillows, if you are particular about things like that. I take 3 feather pillows – two for me, one for Mr. Gore. He always protests until he sees the plastic couch that will be his home for 2 nights, and then, he says “Thank you, Mrs. Gore.” Well…in my head he does.
  • The last of your toiletries…make-up, corrective vision stuff, toothbrush, razor…whatever you need to make the hospital feel like home and to ensure that you look semi-dazzlingly beautiful in all your pictures.

*Oh, and one last thing – if you have other children at home, pack the following for them in your hospital suitcase (aside from the separate bags you’ve packed for them to take to Grandmother’s house):

  • A box of animal cookies for each child, and other packages of treats like raisins or fruit snacks. It will give them something to sit down with for a bit when they come to visit you and see their new sibling, and they’ll see that Mama is still caring for them, even as a hospital patient. When children come to a hospital room, the room shrinks fast. They will most certainly need a distraction, and nothing works better than food.
  • A couple of movies, just in case they are stuck in the waiting room with their grandparents while you are having the baby. You can lend them the portable DVD player that you packed for yourself.

*You will also need to make sure your husband packs his bag. It doesn’t really matter as much what he brings…like your wedding day, no one really will notice he is even there. But he will need day clothes and something comfortable and modest to sleep in. He also will need books, magazines and the like. It’s your job to tell him this or else he’ll be bored in your room and talk to you, interrupting your perusal of In Style.

*That’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? And it’s very important that you pack it well, in as small a suitcase as possible. The nurses don’t want to be tripping over your bags and you will not enjoy carrying armfuls of stuff or having your husband go back and forth to the car, which could possibly be 1/2 mile away from your hospital room.

And other random pre-hospital preparations…

* Birthing classes are profitable with pregnancy #1, plus they are so hilarious and awkward. You should go.

*Take advantage of the supernatural nesting phase by cleaning and organizing every last corner of your house. You will not have the time or the energy when you get back home, and frankly, you won’t really care anymore about the junk in your filing cabinet or the dust behind your entertainment armoire. This is a once-a-pregnancy opportunity – don’t miss it!

*Pray for your child. When you feel worrisome about what is ahead or have a sudden urge to panic, place your thoughts instead on your sweet baby and lift him/her up to God. Your health and the health of your baby is very important and prayer-worthy, but bundled up in that tiny little baby’s body is an eternal soul that, more than anything, needs the grace and mercy of God – this should always be the focus of your prayers. Nothing is more urgent or important.

*As tempting as it is to focus on yourself and your aches and your pains and your discomfort and your looming monumental delivery, take some time to focus on your husband. The world tends to revolve around a pregnant woman, and it is easy to become entitled. But your husband still has needs…needs that are doubly hard to meet when you bring home an infant! Putting yourself aside and heaping love on him will honor God and will do wonders for the atmosphere of your home…aaaand it might just ensure that your happy man will bring you flowers at the hospital, along with dessert for every meal. I’m just sayin’…

*Pre-register at your hospital, if possible. Then you won’t have to fill out pages of paperwork when you come in to have the baby.

*Eat. Eat all you want. A whole watermelon…6 slices of bacon…a sandwich and chips at midnight…these last months of pregnancy are your last hoorah! Enjoy it. But don’t tell your doctor I said so.

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Holy smokes! I’m exhausted now….so how about we all go take a nap? Which is the last (and mega-important) step to fashionably surviving at the hospital. Get your sleep, Mama. You don’t want to arrive at the hospital on the wrong side of the bed!

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Any other words of packing advice from our experienced hospital laycationers? Did I forget anything? Leave your comments below. And stay tuned, pregnant ladies…phases 2 and 3 will be posted in the days and weeks to come!

I delivered a baby; Mr. Gore delivered flowers, Dr. Pepper and key lime pie.