Thursday, December 11, 2014

Downhill

I make an effort not to blog while Ben is away. I do this because, although I can handle being apart, I don't enjoy looking back on it. Plus, all my stalkers might be waiting for the opportune moment to steal my baby. I am writing again because we are finally on the downhill. Ben's currently in Kenya and has been there the past six weeks. Yes, SIX LONG WEEKS, and it totally sucks. Gwen has kept me really happy, busy, distracted, and tired; but she is also a constant reminder of how much I like the guy. I am careful not to share too much about my off-the-grid husband, but we were so lucky to have his company the whole month of October, I just had to add a few pictures of my favorite people before he comes back next week!

First Bath
Watched all the Duck games sitting like this with her daddy
She took my side of the bed... not mad about it
First adventure
I am that creepy wife/mother, Ben doesn't know about this picture
Gwenjamin 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stevens in ATL

Gwen's blessing turned into a week-long event with Stevens flying in from Bend and Detroit...we did our best to show them all the fun things Georgia has to offer.

Back to the tree where Ben proposed at Piedmont 

Piedmont Park


Blue Ridge Mountains
The Georgia Aquarium
Jade loved all the "ish"
I love this photo, sneaky shot of the whole family
Gwen and Grandpa
Jade also loved our "puppy" Sampson
Little does Jade know that a baby brother will be entering her life soon. The way she treated Gwen was a good indicator she'll be a great big sister.
The only picture I got on Halloween
The World of Coke in ATL

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gwen's Name and Blessing Day





Gwen was blessed on November 2 and it was one of the best days of my life. Ben gave a beautiful, heartfelt blessing. I loved how it was centered on her happiness. Looking back on pictures of the day I realize this is all I have ever wanted, a family. I don't know how big mine and Ben's family will be, but our extended family continues to grow each year and it is the best! I'm grateful events like Gwen's blessing bringing us all together to celebrate the love and joy that comes with family.

A bit on Gwen's name -- Gwenyth Nyali Stevens. During the pregnancy we didn't know we were having a girl. I would half-heartedly say, I like the name Gwen because it is the girl version of Ben, meanwhile Ben had another name in mind we both really liked. When she arrived we looked at her and realized Ben's name choice did NOT fit her well. Nyali (nee-ahl-ee) is the area we live in Kenya. I think it's pretty and she'll spend the rest of her life trying to explain the significance and how to pronounce it. Our bad! We may have been one of those couples, on accident, that has a weird spelling of Gwenyth. Another, our bad! In my mind her name is Gwen, named after her dad, and when she gets older she can choose to go by Gwenyth -- just giving our baby girl options as becomes more distinguished, ha! Plus, in the future when I call her Gwenyth she'll know I mean business.

Family photo
3 generations
This picture is about JADE. Oh how I love her.
Stevens, but we are missing quite a few
Conner and Evan -- HURRY BACK from your missions! I miss you

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Denial & Delivery of Gwenyth Nyali Stevens



Birth Plan: Ben, Dr. Cook or Ralsten, Oct 9th
Reality: Saturday, September 27th

I got up at 6:00 am took a bath and laid there feeling blah. Rewind a week and a half earlier I had my first panic attack in the pregnancy. The doctor said I was dilated to 1 cm and I started envisioning going into labor without Ben. My family was in Montreal so I spent the day talking to my MIL, SIL and Ben. Steering clear of the internet I was reassured by everyone that 1cm was no big deal. Still, I was concerned and resolutely put myself on bed-rest aka telling my parents I won't walk anywhere until Ben gets to Georgia. Fast forward to Saturday the 27th and I was laying in the bath thinking this can't be labor. The day was pretty normal, made phone calls to family, went to Collins soccer game, had lunch at Outback. I knew something was off late in the afternoon when I snapped at my family, explaining I was tired and wanted to go home. When we got home everyone took a nap and I Skyped Ben. I told him I was having Braxton Hicks and felt fine, just uncomfortable. We talked as usual, said good night (Kenya time) and I after hanging up I texted him keep your phone on just in case.

A few hours later my mom and I were deciding if we should go to the Women's Broadcast. I was looking forward to going since I hadn't seen conference or been to a stake event in over a year, but I sorely decided to stay home. Contractions were coming on strong and my dad was applying counter-pressure on my back and feet. My dad told me to call the doctor and I pleaded I am not in labor, this baby can't come without Ben. It didn't help that my mom was exclaiming it is too early and the hospital can give me drugs to stop labor. Finally my dad exercised martial law and sternly put us in our place. I've done this 4x, you two are being stupid. Tasha is in labor we need to go to the hospital.

My dad and I got in the truck and headed to the hospital. I didn't want to call anyone because I obviously knew this was false labor, no need to sound the baby alarm. At the hospital I tried walking up to the maternity wing, but for liability's sake they wheelchaired me up there. I don't blame the nurses for taking their time cause I wasn't crying or screaming and wanted to do everything myself. Once the nurse strapped everything onto my stomach and saw the charts, she immediately checked me and said I wasn't going anywhere. Things were progressing quickly and I was at a 6. A six! It is amazing how far along you can get while in complete denial. We called my mom and tried getting a hold of Ben as they moved me into the delivery room. Everything sped up at this point. Trying and failing to get a hold of Ben, texting family, and then the doctor walked in... Natasha you are past the transitional stage 7-8 cm, I know you can do this without an epidural and I strongly recommend proceeding naturally. HOLD UP. I am dealing with Dr. Cook here. I choose this hospital and practitioner because he was pro-epidural. Dr. Cook was telling me I am past the point of any crutch to help me with this process. No Ben. No drugs. And baby is coming. I started crying, denial wore off and I was overwhelmed with fear. I was so scared to do this without Ben. I mean, I've never done this before, don't know what to expect. Ben was my rock throughout the pregnancy and to think of giving birth without him was petrifying. Dr. Cook then said I could have one dose of the epidural, no catheter and it will wear off before the babe is out. I didn't care I needed it. Not for the pain, but mentally I needed it to muster up the courage to proceed without panicking. We rang the anesthesiologist and continued to try and get ahold of Ben. Thank goodness Jason Fairbourne has insomnia because I exclaimed, call Jason! He'll be awake and alert Ben, which he did. Everything started to come together at this point. I got one dose of the epidural, Ben on Skype, and Dr. Cook started to work his magic. If I couldn't have Ben I was grateful to have Dr. Cook, he runs things like a mid-wife. Stayed throughout the whole labor and pushing, patiently coaching me, performing perineal massage in between contractions -- it made the 90 minutes of pushing fly by. My worst fear was to deliver by myself, but man did I have support. Great doctor, my dad was holding the the iPad with Ben on Skype, my mom was acting like a cheerleader jumping up and down, and I had Ben's floating head by my side smiling and encouraging me that I could do this. Towards the end I was getting tired. I had to yell Pause! and I will never forget the look the doctor and my family gave me when I paused and said I needed to catch my breath. The last few pushes I was so weak, with a stupid oxygen mask feeling like it was cutting off air, instead of administering it, my dad hoisted me up and lift my back and shoulders towards my knees and the sweet babe entered the world. We were so excited to find out the gender, a girl! A GIRL! They plopped her on my lap and I really didn't know what to do at that point, I was exhausted and in shock. There she was, mine and Ben's baby girl. The first thing she did was sneeze and made us all laugh. It was quite the emotional journey and we grow to love her more each day.

1:01 am Sunday, September 28 Gwenyth Nyali Stevens 6 lbs 2 oz.

Ben's view on Skype - screenshot
Time to go home...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Being Pregnant in Kenya + Maternity Photos












I've been in Georgia for about 2 weeks and I find myself talking about Kenya all the time. These conversations have motivated me to jot down a few things I want to remember about being pregnant in Kenya...

Doctors
Only a handful of people know I waited until I was 5 months pregnant to see a doctor. I don't know if I was scared or overconfident, it just didn't seem necessary. Those first couple months I really depended on my mom, MIL, and Nat Fairbourne. Between the three of them they've experienced 15 pregnancies, 14 healthy children, mostly natural births, epidurals, and 1 c-section; they were experts in my book. My first appointment with Dr. Mahesh Chudasana reminded me that doctors know their stuff. Within 30 seconds of examining my belly he asked if I was experiencing heartburn and gas. Then it dawned on me, umm duh! the burning sensation I had been feeling all day, every day was heartburn. Yes! My chest and throat are killing me, and the gas is killing Ben! I was shocked he could tell what was "wrong" with me in less than a minute. The medical care and doctors were excellent. I also appreciate the lack of bureaucracy. Every time I called my doctor, he answered; I never dealt with a nurse or waited on hold. I bet he loves all the phone calls he gets from moms-to-be.

Food
There's a reason why you don't see Kenyan restaurants in the USA. The cuisine isn't primo. The lack of choices provoked some serious cravings and emotions towards food. The average small restaurant has the same 6 things on the menu, and if you're lucky variety is added with samosas and chips. The positive side to this, it forced me to take advantage of Kenya's abundant produce and I whipped up the most random meals to satisfy all my cravings. 

Bathrooms
A telltale sign you are in a developing country is, no public restrooms. Which is why I see men and children relieving themselves on the side of the road. Asking for a restroom is like saying where is the nearest movie theater? People just shake their head "No restroom. Pole sana." or you walk a mile to a hole in the ground.  The picture speaks for itself. Anyone who has been pregnant knows, you frequent the restroom over 10x a day. Going into town was a real gamble.



Mosquitos
WORST thing about being pregnant, these flying insects loved me. I constantly had bites. When I left Kenya I had 6 on my face, 2 on my stomach, and 4 on my shoulder and arms. Some weeks Ben and I will go without a bite, but once one snuck into our apartment it always took us a while to hunt and kill it. I don't know why it took us ELEVEN months to put up a mosquito net but we couldn't take the bites and buzzing around our face anymore.

Baby Attitude
After being in the USA for a week I started to appreciate Kenyan's attitude towards babies and pregnancies. Maybe I am sensitive but I think (in the States) people assume talking about a person's body is a compliment. I love what Kenyans used to say "How's the baby?" "You're carrying that baby well" or "It looks healthy" or "Congratulations" or some people would bless me that I was having twins, even after I'd explain the ultrasound showed one baby. I was never asked about my weight, birth plan or parties. It was all about the health and wellness of the baby, not the woman. This may be a transitional observation but no wonder why women struggle with their bodies here in the USA. Blame it on the media, celebrities, or whatever. But I think from here on out I will try and comment on pregnancy the Kenyan way. It's better to feel good than look good. This attitude acknowledges in pregnancy you do NOT have full control over your body and its a blessing no matter what, especially if you are healthy.

Greetings
One of the most endearing parts of the culture really got to me. It is customary to greet everyone. You could be in the middle of a conversation or carrying a box of things and people will still expect you to greet them. Let me explain the process. Starts with a handshake, 2-10 second handhold, then the greeting starts. "Jambo," "Habari gani?" and the introduction goes on and on and on. I struggle with the hand hold. If people pick their nose half as much as I do, I definitely do not want to hold anyone's hand. Most of the time people are arriving from somewhere (including me!) which means our hands are moist and sweaty (I add the cringe worthy term moist because that is the sensation). I'd wince and think this is how disease spreads! At church, I go to the extremes of folding my arms or putting my hands on my hips and people will take my hand off my hip, just to greet me. One Sunday, I was sick with a cold, so I tried to warn everyone and the responses varied from offended - "Why don't you greet me?" or "Shaking my hand is a blessing." Looking back I should be thanking my lucky stars I didn't get sick. When I go back to Kenya I'll have to suck it up and sanitize because that is the culture I live in.

And this is why you always set up a tripod and never ask a stranger to take your picture (out of focus). I am so grateful Ben was willing to wake up at 6:00 am to take pictures of us and this bump. My pregnancy has been an awesome experience and I think Ben did an lovely job capturing everything. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How Pregnancy Prepares Husbands for Children

Pregnancy turns you into a child and husbands know just how to handle it...
  1. Encourages snack time
  2. Knows when to put you down for a nap and bedtime 
  3. Doesn't lose patience with irrational questions, ideas and fears
  4. Packs water bottles for when you are on the go
  5. Comes up with the best nicknames - ratatoots, fatty-bo-batty, big belly geel
  6. Patiently waits for you as you try and keep up - waddle, waddle...
  7. Helps you get ready in the morning - can't bend down!
  8. Knows how to handle a tantrum - enough said. 
  9. Doesn't mind eating the same meals every week - mac n cheese, stroganoff,  pizza, and chicken fingers
  10. Institutes a rewards system for eating vegetables - due to wife's low hemoglobin
  11. Patient with fickleness - I want pizza, no a milkshake, I'm not hungry 
  12. Pushes you to try your hardest - won't carry wife upstairs
*Post NOT inspired by Ben, he carries me everywhere.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zanzibar - The Spice Island

This is what Zanzibar is all about – beaches and spices. We went to Nungwi on the north coast and beached around the whole time. Normally, we’d feel guilty about lounging in a new place, but not this trip. I’d like to blame it on the being tired, but we both revelled in the pregnancy excuse. 

On the way down to Paje we visited a spice shamba (farm) and a local guy explained the uses of all the spices and fruits. We’ve noticed something funny about the different uses of foods and spices in various cultures, it always comes down to sex. This gets her in the mood, this makes you cold, this make you hot. And of course they added a few things about pregnancy, not because I was pregnant or anything. We found this funny because Haiti has similar fruits but contradictory uses. Plenty of spices like cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves, and more have medicinal uses; but these made up stories are pretty entertaining. I am glad Ben organized visiting a shamba because it's something Mombasa doesn't offer. Also, it helped that the smells and fruits were delicious, I could not stop munching. This pregnancy I'm extra sensitive to the smells of gasoline and exhaust so anything plant-like was glorious.

Zanzibar Dhow
Turmeric 
Rambutan - my new favorite fruit
Another one? Don't mind if I do. 
Lipstick fruit - these names are official
I'm convinced! I need a cinnamon tree. You can use the root, bark, leaves, and it smells amazing. 
Spices, snacks, and snacking
Rode bikes to meet up with Kevin in Paje. Our evening went until 10 pm. I will never forget that bike ride back to our hostel, no lights, semi- flat tires, and a huge baby bump.