March 30, 2008

The Breastfeeding Saga Comes to an End

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Days of my life, Family life tagged , at 2:23 PM by Robin

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Sigh….So, I officially weaned James this week.  I had hoped to drag it out for a while longer, maybe even just nurse once a day for a few months, but it was not to be.  I was doing all right, struggling, as you all know, but still breastfeeding him two or three times a day, up until two or three weeks ago.  But then he started teething, and he couldn’t really nurse very well, and I’m afraid that really dried my milk up.  His appetite also increased exponentially about that time (right about when he turned five months), and he wasn’t satisfied even after drinking a full bottle, so we started feeding him solids.  He caught on pretty quick and absolutely loves them–he gets so excited and bounces up and down so much that we can hardly get the spoon in his mouth–and so now we are up to three meals of baby food a day.  Fun, but of course that affected my milk supply even more.  So, I was producing very little milk, but he was extra super-duper hungry all the time, so even though he still acted like he wanted to nurse, rooting and all, if I put him to the breast, it was really only more for a comfort thing than to help him receive any substantial amount of nourishment.  I had become a human pacifier! 

Now, like I said, I would have been happy to let that continue on for as long as he was interested, but then we had another bad outbreak of thrush, and it just got too painful for me.  I thought, I could try to pump some more, and use my medicine until this all clears up again, and keep trying to draw this out, but then I thought, no, I’m ready.  I think that mothers need to be emotionally weaned off of the breastfeeding relationship as much as the babies need to be physically weaned.  So, a little at a time, I have become better able to deal with the end of that part of my motherhood.  I’m a little more sad, since I don’t plan on having any more children, that this is how it worked out, that I didn’t get to hang on to that part of mothering a little longer.  But I think I knew this is how it would happen from the first day that the doctor told me that James was losing weight and I needed to supplement him with formula.  I cried the first time I mixed up a bottle of formula for him, but now, really, I’m okay with it.  I have to say that I was able to breastfeed him for far longer than I ever thought I might.  You all know the struggle I went through to do so. I thought for sure that I was going to have to just give up and wean him at least ten or twelve times over the last few months.  My milk would be low, and I was convinced it would be gone soon, but then I just told myself to wait one or two more days, and it would bounce back and be okay.  I remember thinking my goal was to make it to two months, then to three months, and to my surprise, I did!  And at that point, I felt safe enough to make my ultimate goal to breastfeed him until he started eating solids, or to six months, whichever came first.  Well, I made that goal, if just barely, and so I am content.  I think somehow his eating real food somehow assuages my guilt about all the important nutrients in breastmilk that he will be missing out on.  It’s probably more psychological than anything, but it’s helped me move on.

Yes, I’m sad, but I will admit, I’m also relieved.  It’s been a tough five months!  The only other time I can remember feeling as high of stress levels as I have felt during this time was during finals week at BYU, when I’d have five tests and three 15-page papers and a presentation of some sort due all at the same time.  I’m fairly certain that my high stress levels have contributed in some sort of way to my not being able to lose any of this baby weight.  I think they’ve actually shown that to have an effect.  Plus, I’ve always had a hard time losing weight while I was breastfeeding.  So, maybe there’s a positive side to this after all! 

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March 9, 2008

“Momnesia”

Posted in Babies, Days of my life, Family life, Just thinking... at 4:27 PM by Robin

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Have you ever felt that since you had your baby, your mental abilities have slipped?  Have you gone through your day in a kind of fog, barely aware of anything going on in the world around you except for your newborn? All of a sudden, you can barely remember what day of the week it is, much less what activities you have planned for that day.  I’m telling you, I can barely keep track of the kids homework and who has library day on which day anymore.  Well, after watching the Today show a couple of days ago, I feel a little better, because it’s not just me!  Apparently some new research has come to the defense of new moms, showing that most of us struggle with this “Momnesia”, thanks to some real alterations in our brain chemistry after childbirth.  It is actually normal to become completely forgetful in the early months of your child’s life. Here’s the transcript of that bit on the Today show: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23501326/ and another article in USA Today about the same thing: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-03-03-momnesia_N.htm 

I’m serious, my stress levels have been through the roof for the past five months, just trying to keep track of what’s going on.  And it’s not like there’s really all that much to keep track of, it’s just that my ability to retain any information has completely disappeared.  Andrew would tell me things, like that he’s going out of town for a business trip, and I would completely space it until he said, “Well, I guess I’d better pack for my trip tomorrow.”  And I’d be like, “What?  What trip?  Where are you going?”

So what is the cure for Momnesia, you may ask?  Apparently, no medicatioin is necessary.  All you need is a pencil.  Those of us suffering from Momnesia simply have to remember to write everything down.  I finally bought a huge calendar, called “The Who Goes Where When (but not Why)” calendar, and after writing down EVERYTHING on it, with the addition of some included Sandra Boynton stickers (I love her!), I’m finally feeling a little more with it. 

Apparently cardiovascular exercise is also supposed to help your memory, and I really haven’t been getting enough of that lately.  But I plan to, as soon as the weather gets in the 50’s.  That’s about the chilliest level I can comfortably handle.  I’ve been wanting to get a really good double stroller, because I would like to make a daily walk part of our routine, but quite frankly, Lily slows me down too much.  Whether she’s walking or trying to ride a scooter or tricycle, I just can’t go fast enough to get up my heart rate when I have to wait for her.  Is a double stroller (I was thinking maybe the jogging kind) worth the money, or are there other ways to get exercise with a preschooler and a baby in tow?  Ideas anyone?

January 27, 2008

I have totally cute kids!

Posted in Babies, Family life at 4:43 PM by Robin

Remember this?

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This stylish haircut was performed by Lily herself the day after Christmas 2006.  It has taken over a year for her to grow it out.  Finally she is looking “normal”.  She’s also apparently very photogenic, as these adorable pictures from her portrait session at Target attest:

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Not to be outdone, James put on a great show as well, despite the fact that he refused to smile more than once for the whole session:
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We had a lot of other cute shots as well, but that’s just too many to put up here.  And of course, we didn’t get prints of all of them, we just payed an extra $5 to have the session emailed to us.  They’re too low resolution to actually print out, but at least we can share more of them with you this way.

January 24, 2008

The answer

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Days of my life, Just thinking... tagged , , at 7:13 PM by Robin

A galactagogue is an agent used to increase the secretion of breast milk.  I found this word as I was looking up information on fenugreek, an herb often recommended for women with low milk supply.  My visiting teacher recommended it to me.  In addition to the funny-sounding name, this herb also has the interesting property of imitating the smell of maple syrup.  It actually is used as maple flavoring in artificially flavored maple syrup.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Apparently, if you are taking enough of this herb to have an effect on your milk supply, YOU will start to smell like maple syrup.  butterworth.jpg Especially in your bodily fluids, like sweat.  So I go to the gym and come home smelling like I’ve bathed in eau de Mrs. Butterworth.  Oh well, I suppose there are worse things you could smell like.  But it really doesn’t help to smell like maple syrup when you’re supposed to be on a diet.  And it does seem to be helping a bit with my milk, so I’ll take some strange side effects in order to promote the higher objective of feeding my baby.

January 2, 2008

Happy New (looking) Blog!

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Days of my life, Family life at 2:41 PM by Robin

I’m a person who needs variety.  I have to mix things up every once in a while.  Therefore, I am test-driving a new theme for my blog.  Partly because I think the autumnal picture on top of the other theme seems a little out of date, and I don’t know how to change it.  So, what do you think?  Yes or no on this one?  I can make it blue or purple or green or gray, which is kind of fun. 

So, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  Fun as it is, I know we all breathe a certain sigh of relief when it’s over and things can get back to normal.  Of course, my kids are off track for another three weeks, so I guess it’s not entirely normal, but at least our schedule will be more regular.  Yes, I know I said I like variety, but with kids and especially an infant, it’s a lot easier if things can stick to a daily routine.  If I can stay on a regular schedule, my milk supply seems to be in pretty good shape, and if my supply is good, then James stays awake to eat (although he’s still incredibly slow), and everything seems to go well.  If we’re running all over the place, he ends up getting bottles and if I don’t have time to pump, my supply gets messed up, and we have to start the whole feeding routine again for a day or two until it’s back to normal.  It only takes one day to mess it up, but usually two to get it back.  Dumb, huh?  Anyway, the gentian violet seems to work pretty good on the thrush.  We did it for four days, and then stopped because it seemed to be OK, and I also didn’t want to have to keep taking him to all these holiday parties and explain to all my relatives why is mouth was all purple.  Then we noticed yesterday that it seems to still have a little bit left, so we’re going to do it for a few more days to make sure that we kill all the little suckers off. 

James is of course absolutely adorable right now.  I never seem to know where the camera and cord are these days, but when I get around to finding them, I’ll post some cute pictures.  He’s started laughing, that silly, short baby laugh, which sounds like “Heh!” and then the occasional “kkkcchhh” in the back of his throat, almost like he’s strangling or something.  It’s kind of hard to describe, but if you’ve heard a baby laugh, I think you know what I mean.  And–it is almost certain that his eyes will be brown!  Yesterday he wore a brown outfit and it made his eyes look completely dark brown, just like Andrew’s.  I’m so happy to have proof that Andrew’s genes are involved in our children’s DNA!

The other big news at our house is that we got an XBOX for Christmas.  We’ve barely been able to pry Parley off of it for the past few days.  Now, this is not the new XBOX 360, but a used classic XBOX that we bought off of craigslist.  We may be a little technologically behind, but all the old games are new to us, so we don’t care!  Plus you can get other games for like $5 or less, so we should be able to keep the variety going for some time.

Well, I’d better go return to my mothering.  Darn kids, gotta eat and all.  So, hopefully I’ll be back sooner than two weeks from now.  I need to do the good ol’ New Years Resolutions blog.   

December 20, 2007

Muddling along

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding tagged , , , at 5:25 PM by Robin

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting very often lately.  This is because in addition to James’ breastfeeding difficulties, he has started cluster feeding lately.  This means that if he is awake, he wants to eat.  This can go on for like three hours in a row.  He might fall asleep for five minutes, but he wakes up fairly quickly and wants to eat again within minutes.  The other day I gave him six full ounces of expressed milk, which is a huge meal for a two month old, and fifteen minutes later, he was hungry again.  Fortunately, the cluster feeding balances out his sleep schedule.  babyasleep.jpgHe has actually slept through the night three or four times this week–for like eight hours!  Can you believe that?  I never had a baby sleep that long at this age.  But the pediatrician said that it’s OK, and that some babies even go ten hours at two or three months. 

baby_scale.jpgAs of his two month appointment last week, he weighed 11 lbs 8 oz, which puts him right on the 50th percentile for weight.  However, like his big brother Parley, he’s in the 90th percentile for height.  I’m afraid this means that we’re in for another couple of years of pants being two or three inches too short–not too bad in the summer, but it sure looks silly in the winter!

Some bad news…we’ve come down with a bad case of thrush. Never had this before either.  Both of us have been on antibiotics, but they don’t seem to be working very well.  I just bought a bottle of gentian violet, a treatment which I understand is very gentian.jpgmessy but quick and effective.  Any experience with this, anyone?

And last, but definitely not least, we are still having pretty bad breastfeeding issues.  James has a very shallow latch–he is only sucking on the nipple–and can’t manage to get enough milk to satisfy himself or maintain my milk supply.  Plus, it hurts like crazy!  I have been pumping several times a day to have enough milk to keep him fed, but I am still giving him two or three feedings of formula a day, way too many to my liking.  I am really afraid that he will just give up on the breast entirely.  But I think that I will keep going as long as he is game.  I’m calling a lactation consultant to see if she can help.  I probably should have done this several weeks ago, but I thought that I could just muddle through on my own.  However, things have been going more downhill than I expected, and I if I don’t get this latching on problem fixed, I don’t know if I’ll make it past three months without weaning.

I know it seems a lot easier just to give up and switch to bottle feeding, but I’m resisting for two reasons.  The first is that I remember how great breastfeeding can be–so convenient, easy, emotionally satisfying–and I keep thinking that if I can just fix this problem, I can get back to that state of maternal bliss.  The second is that in reading a lot of breastfeeding self-help books, I’ve become more aware of how breastmilk affects a growing child’s health–everything from their immune system and number of ear infections to their intelligence level and jaw development.  Now, I know we can’t really tell the full extent of the effects of breastfeeding, but I’m operating on the principle that I don’t want to get several years down the line and have some health issue happen with James and start wondering if it wouldn’t have happened if I had endured and breastfed him for longer.  There’s nothing worse than “what if?”.  So, I’ll just keep muddling along,  attempting to give him as much breastmilk as I can.  I’ll keep y’all updated on the lactation consultant thing, and in case I don’t make it back here before then, Merry Christmas! 

November 28, 2007

Darned if you do, darned if you don’t

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Days of my life, Deep thoughts, Family life tagged , , , , at 2:31 PM by Robin

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I have exclusively breastfed two of my four babies (Parley and Lily) until they were 12-13 months old.  Brianna, my second, was exclusively breastfed until she was about five or six months old, then I started supplementing with formula and she ended up completely weaning herself at eight months.  As you all know, James, my fourth, has not been a very strong nurser, and I’ve kind of resigned myself to the idea that he may very well wean himself quite early.  But you know what, I’ve come to terms with that.  Having done it both ways, I’m glad to have had the experience, and I truly believe that breastmilk is the best food for babies.  However, I’m also confident that my child can grow to be an intelligent, healthy human being if he is fed formula as well, and I am grateful that we have the option of using formula if needed.It really amazes me the amount of controversy surrounding how we feed our children.  Like I said, I do believe that breast is best, however, I do not believe that we should be shouting, “Breastmilk or nothing!”  I recently read a blog in which the mother related her birth story and talked about how, due to her ignorance and inexperience as she was struggling with learning how to breastfeed, her baby was given formula for one or two days in the hospital.  She went on to say how incredibly guilty she felt for that mistake.  She acted almost as giving the baby formula was tantamount to feeding it poison!

Then we’ve got the whole conspiracy theory regarding the makers of formula and how they are all out there to subvert breastfeeding and persuade mothers to switch to formula as soon as possible.  Now, I agree that people want to sell their product, but I really don’t think we should look at formula manufacturers as the source of all evil.

There are so many different experiences with breastfeeding.  My mother breastfed all of her children, and at the time, she says that she was something of an anomaly.  She had to search out a La Leche league consultant to find out how to do it, and most people were quite shocked to hear that she did.  I, on the other hand, never expected to do anything else, since it is so highly recommended these days.  I had hardly any problems with it with my first three, and couldn’t understand why anyone would choose not to do it.  Everyone I knew breastfed, and I hardly ever saw anyone I knew feeding their child with a bottle.  Now that I have had problems with breastfeeding with James and have started supplementing, it seems like all the formula feeding moms have come out of the woodwork and I’m finding out I’m not alone in my struggles.  Still, there is the guilt.  It’s really amazing how struggling with breastfeeding makes you feel like a failure as a mother.  Especially if it’s sometimes a matter of convenience over ability, like when I think that I could nurse right now, but it’s just so much faster and easier to take a bottle along.  We sometimes think we should sacrifice everything–time, comfort, etc–even to the point of pain, in order to continue to breastfeed.  And seriously, I wonder, is it worth it?  When everything is going well with breastfeeding, I know there is nothing better.  But if it’s not–why should we feel guilty for using formula?  Isn’t there something to say for our own comfort and peace of mind as mothers?  With three other children, I simply don’t have the time, energy or patience to give up everything in order to feed my fourth child around the clock.  Does that make me a bad mother?  Although I still occasionally feel like it does, I know that it does not.  It just means that I am a realist.  My baby will be fine.  It might cost a little more at the grocery store for the next year or so, but that’s probably the extent of the downside.

It’s amazing how emotionally charged this issue is.  I guess my main thought is that I hope that we all can refrain from judging others who choose to feed their babies in a different way than we have chosen.  We are all simply mothers trying to do what’s best for our children while balancing all of our other responsibilites in life. 

November 9, 2007

Maybe I spoke too soon…

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Family life tagged , , at 4:55 PM by Robin

First of all, before I forget, I am going to post Halloween pictures.

Parley was fairly content to be a mysterious ghost or phantom or something:

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Brianna was an adorable tiger/cat of some kind:

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And Lily was the cutest three year old pirate you’ve ever seen (unfortunately we forgot to get a solo shot of her–this is the girls with their cousin Topher):

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So, anyway, better late than never.

In other news…

I guess we haven’t completely resolved the problem with James.  I took him in for a weight check on Wednesday, and he had only gained half an ounce.  I guess they’re supposed to put on 1/2-1 oz. a day at this age, and so he should have been past his birth weight by now.  I had gotten overconfident in my milk supply so I had stopped supplementing with the bottle (I’m just so worried that he’s going to get lazy and give up on the breast), so maybe that had something to do with it.  In all other respects, he looks fine–no sign of dehydration, lots of good diapers, good level of alertness, etc.  They had me do some blood tests, which all came back with no problems.  They think maybe my milk is just not high enough in calories–I’m producing skim, and I guess he needs whole!  I think the problem still comes back to the fact that James still falls asleep halfway through a feeding, and I’m sure that means that he’s missing out on the creamy “hindmilk” that lets down later on in the feeding.  So, we’ll give it a few more days, take him in on Monday, and see if he’s doing any better.  If not, there’s got to be some other problem, and we’ll have to start doing all sorts of tests to figure out what it is.  So, keep us in your prayers–hopefully there’s not anything really serious wrong, but at this point we just don’t know.

November 1, 2007

3 big kids+1 newborn=1 frazzled mama

Posted in Babies, Breastfeeding, Days of my life, Family life tagged , , , , at 12:36 PM by Robin

Every time you add another child into your family, you inevitably find yourself asking other people who have that same number of children the question, “How was the transition from three to four kids?  Was it harder or easier than the transition from two to three?”  And just as inevitably, you will find that every person you ask has a different answer.  I suppose it all depends on your individual situation, your personality, your kids’ ages and personalities, etc.  Well, now that I am currently in the midst of said transition, I can testify that, according to my experience, four is definitely harder than three.  It really didn’t seem this hard when Lily came along.  I think my kids are just at a difficult time anyway, difficult as in needing a lot of supervision and interaction.  Sure, they’re big enough to feed or dress themselves, but that doesn’t mean that they will do it all fast enough to get to school on time if left on their own. 

I think it was my sister-in-law Liz who said that the hardest part about having a fourth child with older children is that all the regular stuff in life continues to go on–you still have to get homework done, or get someone off to scouts or keep the kids from killing each other because someone went into someone else’s room without permission. All that stuff was going on before the baby showed up.  Now, however, I find myself with a very rigorous baby-feeding schedule, which means I’m sitting on my butt an awful lot of the day. First, I have to nurse James for 20-30 minutes.  He usually falls asleep halfway through, so I have to burp or change him or switch sides or something to wake him up three or four times.  Then, I’m supposed to give him 1-2 oz. of formula to make up for milk he’s missing out on by falling asleep.  Then, I have to pump for another 10-15 minutes in order to maintain and increase my milk supply.  All in all, each feeding session ends up taking 45 minutes to an hour, and then I have to do it all again in another hour or two.  If you add up the amount of time I am putting into just feeding this baby–remember, this is not counting the time doing anything else with him, such as rocking to sleep, changing, playing, or general interaction–you are looking at about eight hours a day.  That’s a full-time job!  I should be getting benefits!

Suffice it to say that this situation leaves me with very little time or patience for dealing with the older kids’ problems.  Add to that my permanent position on the couch or rocking chair, and I’m afraid I’m turning into something of a “yelling mom.” (Because, you know, I never yelled at all before. Raise my voice in anger at my kids?  Who, me?) Yesterday, I was trying to correct Parley, who was reluctantly practicing the piano in the front room, while I was nursing on the sofa in the back family room.  That didn’t work too well.  I also hate it when the kids are fighting upstairs or, equally as disturbing, being suspiciously quiet.  So, I yell.  I don’t like it, especially since it’s not a very effective way or parenting, but until I can be in two places at the same time, or can regain my patience levels, it’s what I end up resorting to.  I guess I’m just not handling the double stress of worrying about James and dealing with my olders kids’ attitude problems at the same time.  Any parenting advice in this area from those of you with experience would be appreciated, since I really don’t want to end up sounding like the mom on Malcolm in the Middle.

By the way, James is doing much better with the supplementation. He gained seven ounces back over the weekend.  I’ll have to take him in again next week to make sure he’s back up to birthweight.  Once I got over my initial panic, which I’m sure was heightened by postpartum hormones and lack of sleep, I realized that all really was not lost in the breasfeeding department.  It’s just going to be a lot more work for a little while than I got away with for my other kids.  Like I said, we’ve been really lucky in avoiding problems up until now, and I am just reproving myself for many of the judgmental thoughts I’ve had in the past about others who have given up on breastfeeding.  If this were my first baby, I probably would be tempted to just give it up as well.  However, I’m pretty sure that if I can just get through the next few weeks, it will get easier.  The main thing that I’m worried about now is that James will get too lazy and decide that he likes the bottle better than the breast and wean himself.  But you know, if that happens, it happens, and I’ll deal with it then.  Once again, it would not be the end of the world.  So, I’m trying not to worry about it, and hoping that all will work out.  In the meantime, though, I’m hanging onto those formula samples.

October 28, 2007

Don’t ever assume you’ve got it all figured out

Posted in Babies, Family life tagged , , , at 12:21 PM by Robin

I think was a little arrogant coming into this whole fourth child business.  I was not anticipating any problems at all.  Oh, of course, there’s always the niggling little worries at the back of your mind about whether your child will be born with a birth defect or disease, or that some terrible thing will happen to you or the baby during the delivery, but except for that, I was very confident in my parenting skills and my ability to handle a newborn.  I could change a diaper blindfolded, I recognized all the normal newborn quirks that kind of scare new parents (rashes, swollen boobs, umbilical cord stuff), I had no fear of bathing or burping or spitting up.  I was as prepared as prepared could be.  Or so I thought.

Then I took James in for his two-week appointment, and it turns out that despite an intial recovery after the whole jaundice issue, he was continuing to lose weight.  Born at 8 lbs 14 oz, he had lost 11 oz. and now was down to 8 lbs. 3 oz.  The doctor was very concerned, and told me I needed to start supplementing him with a bottle after every feeding.  I also need to contact a lactation consultant and figure out how to increase my milk supply.

Now, like I said, after three other kids, I considered myself experienced at breastfeeding, and I know how it all works.  It’s all a matter of supply and demand–the more the baby sucks, the more milk you make.  The problem is, James is not sucking.  Because he was so sleepy the first couple of weeks, he never really got my milk used to letting down very well.  I still am producing some milk, and I can feel it letting down, but it’s more of a trickle than a gush.  Hopefully, a pump will re-establish my supply, and once he’s getting more milk when he nurses, now that he’s more awake, his sucking will get stronger.

Anyway, what’s amazing to me here is the emotional struggle I’m going through.  I know it’s not my fault.  I’m not “broken”–my body is perfectly capable of producing enough milk for my child. So I don’t feel guilty or anything.  I just feel kind of ambushed, blindsided–taken by surprise.  Something that I expected to come so easily has become a huge struggle.  I was so convinced that I wouldn’t have any problem breastfeeding that I’ve been giving away all the formula samples and coupons they send you the minute I got them.  But this morning, when I got up to nurse James, he was so hungry I could hear his little tummy growling.  But when I went to nurse him, there was nothing there.  I barely had a trickle out of either side.  And I just broke down sobbing.  I knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he had to be bottle fed, but I just couldn’t stand the idea of losing all those months of breastfeeding my last baby.  I could handle an early weaning–after six months, maybe.  But not ever really getting it going at all?  It seemed devastating to me.  It still does!  I don’t want to miss out on that special time–it can be inconvenient at times, but there’s nothing quite like it, nothing so intimate and close.  To me, it’s just such an essential part of getting to know your baby and creating that special bond that only a mother has.  

So, we’ll get a pump.   We’ll pray that we can overcome this.  My head knows that of all the issues we might have to deal with, this is not the worst thing that could happen to us.  But I’m still worried and anxious and scared.  I guess maybe we were due for some complications, since we never really had any problems before.  In the end, despite the emotional challenge it might be, what really matters is that we have a healthy baby.  As long as we have that blessing, I can get through the rest.