Friday, May 30, 2014

Arrival of G And a Surprise….

In the last few weeks leading up to Shiloh's arrival we had the surprise that G…my mom…had decided  to come out and visit us once Shiloh arrived. We had worked on a visa for her earlier in the year but the timing wasn't right and so we left it but to our surprise, my mom had finished up the visa process and would be arriving one week after Shiloh.

The kids were over the moon excited and had a countdown calendar on the fridge to keep track of how many days until Shiloh arrived and then when G would arrive. Before she arrived we made signs for G.

Thursday night G arrived in the Middle East even after some flight delays in the States that thankfully my dad was able to sort out and help get her here only a couple of hours delayed versus the couple of days it was looking like. But since she was getting in later the kids were not able to go with John to pick her up which they were upset about but we hung up the signs they made on the door for her to see when she arrived and they went to bed with the promise of G and a big surprise in the morning. 

John drove to Bahrain to pick up G and although he had a horribly long wait on the causeway going into Bahrain, they arrived home and through customs/passports with no issues. G was able to meet Shiloh and then we were all off to bed knowing we would have two excited kids waking up super early. I had told the kids before they went to bed that they were not to wake up G and when they woke up to come get me to help make breakfast in bed for G and then we would get her. My hope was to stall them as long as possible. Well…G was already up and ready due to jet lag so they didn't have to wait. 

G then gave them their surprise she brought with her……

A giant inflatable slide/pool thing which the kids LOVE! They are having a blast playing with it and it I am sure it will be used often this summer! They played all morning, and then again in the afternoon and then again after dinner…and then asked the next morning to play! They love it! It was great fun watching them play and climb and wear themselves out….a great start to our vacation with G!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Graham: Helicopter Pad Field Trip

Graham's teacher is great about planning field trips for the kids. They have gone to visit the fire station on camp, the ambulance/emergency room, the library and this time it was to the helicopter pad. What was great about this trip was that John had taken the week off to be home with me and Shiloh and so he was able to attend with Graham which made it a fun and special day for Graham to have his daddy with him….and John was excited about seeing the helicopters as well!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shiloh's First Bath

A couple of days after we got home Shiloh had her first bath. I asked the kids if they wanted to be apart of it and got a resounding "yes" so she got her first bath by her siblings! 

Getting Shiloh undressed and ready for her bath

Starting to put water on her

Shiloh eventually found her hands and then used the pacifier to put herself to sleep. She hardly fussed and was the quietest and happiest baby to bathe. She loved her bath and just fell asleep!

Peyton was incredibly worried and bothered by her umbilical cord. She understood the concept about it before we started but seeing it really concerned her that Shiloh was hurt and she was scared of it. The kids had lots of fun bathing their new sister and it was nice that they wanted to be included.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Shiloh: Meeting Her Siblings and Heading Home

Shiloh's first full day was a busy one….she was meeting her siblings! And for mommy, I was going to get up and moving so a busy a day for both of us.

The hospital has a strict visitors policy that includes no children visitors but if you talk with your doctor beforehand and get a special permission form then children can come outside visiting hours. My doctor was incredibly understanding about my need to see the kids and how that was beneficial to my recovery and was happy to oblige. On a side note….about random forms and permissions….we also had to have a form giving us permission to take pictures in the hospital. We had gotten that when we did the tour and had it cover the month of May as a precaution. No one asked whether we had it but of course if we didn't I am sure someone would have said something. 

Since I knew the kids were coming that morning I wanted to make sure to get up for the first time before they arrived so I didn't worry them. So the nurses helped me get up and moving and then I was able to do it unassisted just before they got there. 

And then Peyton and Graham arrived and it was such a wonderful thing to watch them run in to see their new baby sister and the joy and excitement on both of their faces. They had no interest in me but immediately were trying to look at Shiloh and asking to hold her. 

Peyton brought Shiloh one of her loveys that she had when she was younger but never used or got attached to. It was sweet to watch her want to share with her. Peyton very much took on the oldest sister role and was making sure to direct the order of who was to hold her when, how to hold her and the guidelines. Then when she was holding her she was all about checking her out, telling her who was who. As I expected she didn't hold her long, once she was done instructing her about what was happening she was bored and wanted to play a game of Go Fish with me.

My three beautiful blessings!
Now, Graham on the other hand would have held her all day if he could. As I expected his naturing side came out in full force and he was in awe. He kept wanting to hold her, saying she was "adorable," and then quickly became her protective older brother telling us to "watch her head," "take care of my baby," "put her hat on," and so much more. He was so excited and kept telling her "welcome to our family." It was very sweet and he is very much in love with his sister!

After holding her on the couch they came and sat with me and they kept introducing themselves to Shiloh and explaining who was who in the family. They loved that her eyes were open and she was watching them. 

It was a great morning watching them meet their sister and also a little crazy! Nothing like the quiet and peacefulness of the hospital contrasted with two active kids to bring you back to reality :)

The rest of the day was spent cuddling, resting and trying to move around easier. Then around 4:00 PM I was told that they needed the private room and I would have to be moved to a shared room so they packed us up and moved us next door to a room that with a Saudi woman. We had our own separate areas closed off by curtains but it was considerably smaller and a shared bathroom. I had expected to share a room my whole stay so I was alright and thankful for the time I did have alone but I moved right at the start of visiting hours which meant a very steady and full stream of visitors for the woman next to me. When I say visitors it wasn't just one or two coming for a minute and then leaving, it was five or six at a time coming in with desserts, coffee and tea and setting up a mini party. Very festive and a significant gathering! The nurses kept trying to apologize for the noise and also try to enforce their two visitor at a time policy but were not having any luck and I kept trying to tell the nurses that it was fine, they wanted to celebrate with their friend and that as long as they were gone at 8:00 PM then she should enjoy her visitors. I did have a couple of instances where they kept trying to come into my area to see Shiloh. The first time was to bring me some of their tea and desserts and offer congratulations which I was very appreciative of but the second time I had to establish some boundaries and say I needed privacy. Thankfully John arrived shortly later and there was no way they were coming in with him there. It was a very interesting experience to witness the festiveness and large gathering going on and even John said that Friday night when he came up that the hospital parking lot was packed and there were so many people buzzing around visiting. The rest of the night went fine and was able to get some good sleep and then the next day….we were being offered the chance to be discharged early!

I really was hesitant about leaving early in fear of doing too much at home but I felt that being in a shared room I wasn't walking around as much, I was having some difficulty in getting my pain medication properly managed and felt I could have better control of it at home and I was so uncomfortable in the hospital beds that I felt I could rest better at home. We had arrangements for the kids already made for all day Sunday and kept those in place and then John would be gone at work from 9:30-11:30 and then 12:30-2:00 which wasn't too bad for me to be alone. My doctor cleared me and then the pediatrician cleared Shiloh so Saturday afternoon John came to pick me up and take us home.

When Peyton and Graham came home they had complete outfits knitted by my grandma and so I had brought a part of the one of Peyton's for Shiloh to use to carry on the tradition. However when we started getting her dressed she spit up everywhere and all over the outfit so that one was out.

Then I pulled out a cute Gymboree dress and diaper cover I bought her but it was huge so I was worried we had nothing for her to wear until I found some backup PJ's in her bag and a white bow. Not exactly the picture perfect coming home outfit I had been planning but it was clothes for her to wear and we were coming home with a healthy and perfect little girl! How you realize the important things by child number 3!

Leaving the hospital in Saudi was pretty easy, no paper work, no one really checking her ID versus mine (granted she was the only Western baby on the floor), I could chose to walk or not, no stress test for the car seat and it was just very casual. The nurse did walk us out and wish us well and off we went. The drive home was rough. The roads here are bad, the driving is bad and fast and bumpy and that is pretty painful coming home from a c-section. But we made it, got settled at home and then the big kids came home and we were in the midst of the beautiful chaos that is our life now and we couldn't be more thankful for it. So blessed!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Shiloh's Birth Story

On Thursday morning we woke up bright and early to head to the hospital at 5:00 AM. A friend came to be with our kids at our house so we wouldn't have to wake them up and she was there to get them off to school and play dates for the day. We drove the hour to the hospital in pretty much silence. I think it was finally starting to sink in for both of us of what was happening that day and we were pretty tired from getting up early!

Last picture pregnant at 38 weeks and 6 days…longest I have ever been pregnant!
When we got to the hospital we were told that we were actually bumped back a couple of hours so we wouldn't be starting until closer to 9:00 AM so we just waited. Apparently you aren't booked for an actual OR time and they just schedule a certain amount of c-sections for a day and it is first come first serve after that. I was a little shocked that someone beat us there! John went to sign a form saying that he was aware he had to bring them baby home in a car seat (not per Saudi government rules but per company policy) and then we started getting hooked up and ready to go. The nurse I was given was amazing and was so comforting during the whole process. She was assigned to my prep and then to Shiloh post delivery until I was transferred to the postpartum care floor.

Waiting to head back to the OR
We met with my doctor who was really good and not only medically very qualified but was a huge source of comfort, really understanding about any worries I had and made it such a better experience. I had met with three different doctor's and picked her to continue care with and was very thankful for that decision. We headed back to the OR and got ready to meet our little girl. For some reason my anxieties about being in Saudi and having a baby wasn't around the actual surgery but mostly around the spinal (which I would have had anxiety about even if I wasn't in Saudi) and then recovery. Even though I wasn't too worried about the whole surgery for some reason it went so well and exceeded my expectations. I was so impressed with how smoothly things ran, how comforting everyone was to me when I needed it and how quiet it was. John could remember what was going on in the OR with both kids…for Peyton there was a discussion about point and shoot cameras and for Graham the radio was playing Prince, "Purple Rain"…..for Shiloh it was quiet and very little conversation. The spinal went really well and the nurse was so comforting for me. I did laugh to myself when the anesthesiologist assistant was setting up all the monitors and was telling me that everything was going to be alright…"inshallah." Inshallah means if Allah wills and is said often here and in reference to everything. Didn't really bring much comfort and peace and for sure reminded me that we were in Saudi having a baby! We also found it interesting that there were at least six different nationalities in the operating room alone working on me (and then several more different nationalities later during my hospital stay) so it was a very multicultural birth for Shiloh!

And then at 9:57 AM we heard Shiloh cry and she cried loud and made sure it was known she was here! I couldn't get over how loud she was and how strong her cries were but since I hadn't seen her yet it was so comforting to continue to hear her!

Something pretty special that John was able to do this time and not with the others was "cut" the umbilical cord. It was more like he cut to trim the cord but it was still a neat experience for him to be able to have. 

Once she was all checked out they were able to bring her to me to see and touch and allowed me time to look at her. I immediately could tell she looked like Peyton but had Graham's nose for sure! I was also amazed at how small she was. I really thought with me carrying her the longest she would be at least as big as Graham but despite being almost two weeks longer gestation than Peyton, Shiloh was only 5 ounces bigger but she was the longest by 0.5"! A tall, slender little girl!

John then went with Shiloh to watch her being checked out and have some time to bond with her. He was able to hold and cuddle her for an hour.  

One thing that was different here in Saudi was a mandatory two hour recovery room period. I was to stay there for two hours regardless of how I was feeling for observation and then I would be moved and could have Shiloh. I knew this going in and was upset about it when I first found out about it but took the time over the past few months to prepare myself mentally and create positive thought processes for it which was a big help. I was surprised however at how much I enjoyed having a place without the pressure of holding my baby or trying to start breast feed or anything. I could rest, breathe and focus on letting my body recover and get ready to meet my baby. 

But….once the two hours were over I was ready to be moved and they didn't have any beds to move me to on the right floor. I was fine for a little bit but as time continued to pass and I was feeling better and better I was getting upset and broke down in tears. The poor nurses in the recovery room were trying so hard to get someone to move me and really felt my frustration but there wasn't a bed. Finally after another hour someone came to move me and we were moved upstairs. The delay ended up being a blessing because the only room that they had available was the private isolation room and I was put in there instead of a shared room. It was an incredible blessing and answered prayer to have a private room, especially that first night. I got set up in the room, hooked up and vitals done and then was brought Shiloh.

It was such an amazing moment and I couldn't get over how alert she was. She had just had a bath and the nurse said she didn't make it too warm/comforting so that she wouldn't get too sleepy and it worked. Such an answer to prayer that she was alert! After just looking at her and soaking in some cuddles I was able to try and breast feed and she immediately started searching, latched on and was a champ. Another huge answered prayer!

We cuddled more and more and put on her fancy bow hat for some pictures and just soaked up her cuteness!

John was able to spend some more time with us, get me settled and then he had to head home to pick up the kids from friend's houses and get them home and to bed. And then it was just Shiloh and I for the night. 

For the most part everything went really well but it was hard to not have John there to bring Shiloh to me and have to call the nurses for everything but thankfully they were very helpful and it was more just me being emotional about feeling so helpless and I was exhausted. Around 2:00 AM I had a little breakdown, I was absolutely exhausted, Shiloh was constantly wanting to nurse and soothe and the hospital had no pacifiers although I thought they did so I was just nursing non stop and in so much pain. I called the nurse and just said I couldn't do it anymore and they needed to take her away from me and try to soothe her in the nursery. The nurse wanted to check my vitals and do some stuff for me first so she wouldn't have to come back and interrupt me which was great but Shiloh was crying in her bassinet which was breaking my heart and I wanted to soothe her but I was exhausted and emotional and so I started crying…it was hard. Finally, I was finished and the nurse took her away and came back 15 minutes later and said Shiloh was fine and settled in the nursery and to rest and I was able to get a wonderful 3 hours of sleep and felt so much better in the morning! 

One day old and ready to meet her siblings for the first time! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Introducing Shiloh Michelle Acord

Shiloh Michelle Acord

Born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
May 22, 2014 at 9:57 AM 
 6 pounds 12 ounce
 20.5 inches long

Our beautiful little girl arrived on Thursday morning healthy and perfect! Our hearts are so full of thankfulness and praise and love! We will update more with her birth story and all the details but couldn't wait to share pictures and details of her. 

A little background on her name though, we picked the name Shiloh after lots of narrowing down choices and going back and forth and back again on possible names that we could agree on. We had it down to two solid choices and maybe a couple of other possibilities and I asked John to really think about it and make a decision. One morning we sat down at the table, each with our own piece of paper and we then each ranked our top choices out of five possibilities on a piece of paper and compared and Shiloh was at the top of both of ours.

I put Shiloh on my list originally because I liked it and liked the sound of it. John kept asking why I couldn't move past that name (he didn't like it at first) and I had no real answer besides that I just liked it. When we started looking into the meaning of Shiloh and saw not only the reference to the biblical town of Shiloh, but some meanings/translations are of being a place of rest, abundance of peace, tranquility, it all made sense why it was on my heart. The Hebrew meaning of Shiloh is "to have peace." And to me, it is a a reminder and representation of the peace, and tranquility that we have found in Him throughout this pregnancy and this stage of our life.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Three Year Saudi Anniversary

Our three year Saudi Anniversary is here! What a wonderful year this year has been! It is a little crazy how fast it flew by and how it really doesn't seem like it has been a whole year! But what a huge year of growth (personally, in our marriage and in our family) and peace and feeling settled! Year one was rough, year two was better and this year has continued to be easier, more comfortable and a great year for our family!

Here are some of the main highlights and areas that we grew when I think over this year…

We have battled and overcome the challenges being gluten free in the Middle East! We have managed both kids Celiacs diagnosis and have become pros at knowing what we can buy here and where we can find it and can pack a crazy amount of supplies whenever we are home! We have mastered making bread, baked goods, pizzas and so much more. What seemed so overwhelming at first isn't anymore! 

We had a wonderful summer back home in Washington and left feeling rejuvenated as a family! We saw so much progress on our house and while we were in Washington, we had our first family camping trip and went camping in Olympic National Park! So much fun and a wonderful time enjoying time together as a family, having great conversations and planning for the year. I remember last year when I left Washington being very conflicted and struggling with the desire of feeling like I was torn between wanting two lives….one of living overseas and the other of being in Washington….and have found this year to be a time of growth and acceptance that our life here in Saudi is providing that home and future back in the States. It has been much easier for me to accept Saudi as our home, our present and what our life is now (and to live with joy and purpose in that present) and that this is a tremendous blessing to be here which allows us in turn to have the house in Washington, work on it and plan for our future there. I have been able to enjoy the moment and present time. Whether it is in Washington working on the house and enjoying life there or being in Saudi, I have been able to see each life more mixed together and how they are related and not so much opposite or conflicting lives. It has been much easier coming back and forth between the two places and not so much of an adjustment as it was the past couple of years.

I turned 30 and was gifted the trip of a lifetime by John to Nepal with my sister. It was amazing to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Nepal and experiencing the country. It was everything I imagined it to be and more and was such a wonderful time traveling with my sister. I was seven weeks pregnant at the time which was a little nerve wracking but thankfully didn't cause any issues! It was such a wonderful trip of new experiences, reflection and taking in a culture and country that I have been fascinated with for so long. I had a wonderful time in Nepal and am so thankful for that trip and experience.

What has been the biggest change in our lives and the biggest part of this year was the decision to expand our family. And if anything, that is what I will always remember most from this year. The conversations and prayers (starting in January 2013) about expanding our family, the waiting patiently (yes, I did actually wait surprisingly very patiently) and then feeling like this was the right plan for our family after we came back to Saudi from the summer to finally come November when we announced that we were pregnant with baby #3 and then being pregnant overseas, away from family, away from what was normal from the last two pregnancies and this whole experience! I will always remember those key parts but more so, I will remember the beautiful fruit that has come out of this journey. This pregnancy has resulted in me relying on John so much more this time, a time of reflection about our family and goals and it has been a great time of growth in our marriage and our family. This year has been transformational for our family and I don't think that would have happened if we had not been living in Saudi and for that I am so thankful!

We celebrated our first Christmas here (which was also my first Christmas away from family)! We decorated the house for the first time as a family, enjoyed Christmas music and shopping in Bahrain, celebrated Christmas Day in our home in Saudi and enjoyed the fellowship of our friends here over an amazing Christmas dinner. I know when we first moved here I couldn't imagine spending a Christmas here and vowed to never do it but it was a great Christmas. I loved spending the time focused on my family, doing our own thing and it was really calm and peaceful being away from all the crazy Christmas marketing. The kids and I did end up taking a trip home in January to see family and enjoy a break away but it was nice to know that I didn't feel like I had to get away and that I could survive (and enjoy) a Christmas away from family in Saudi!

John was also able to achieve some great professional goals which in turn has made it easier for him to find greater fulfillment professionally. He finished all the paperwork and is registered as a Professional Engineer after taking the test last year and he also studied and just took another API certification test. The biggest change was being recognized by work for his quality of work, and how valuable he is to the company and being granted a request to change departments and roles into something more challenging and in line with future career goals. It is hard to change roles here and it speaks highly of how much they valued his contribution and saw that he could be better utilized somewhere else. He is now listed as a corrosion engineer and is greatly enjoying the work, the people he is working with and the new challenges. We are very thankful for this new direction at work! 

And now we are concluding our third year in Saudi with the upcoming arrival of our baby girl…only a couple more days! We are so excited about our upcoming fourth year living in Saudi! We have made the goal and theme for this year to be a time of adjusting to being a family of five. Our goal and mindset is to be continually conscious of allowing us the time and opportunities to adjust to having a new member of our family and enjoying the little moments and day to day moments of our kids lives and making sure that our travel plans, our decisions on day to day life allow us to continue to grow as a family and to make this year the smoothest we can as we welcome baby girl into our family. Also, as we are coming over the hump of our original commitment of being in Saudi for five years we have some big financial goals personally and for our home renovations that we want to accomplish so the taking it easy/adjusting to baby lines up really well with slowing down and accomplishing all those goals as well. 

I am really excited to see what is in store for us this year. We are truly blessed and thankful for this stage of our life and the blessings we have already seen come out of our time in Saudi so far! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Celebrations

For Mother's Day both of the kids teacher's went above and beyond in recognizing the mom's and made it such a special day!

Peyton's class had a special Mother's Day event and brought us home invitations the week before to a performance. Peyton was so excited about me coming to her school and I was so nervous that for some random reason I would go into labor on my own and miss it. I had tried to prep her in case that was the case and picked a substitute mommy for her but I was still so anxious. The night before I didn't sleep at all because despite having no symptoms or signs of impending labor I was worried I wouldn't make it and she would be devastated. 

Thankfully I didn't go into labor and arrived to find a picture frame that she had painted with a picture of us and a book she wrote and illustrated about their mom. It was very sweet and she was so excited to show me everything.

She had wanted to get all dressed up in her fancy dress for the celebration and was just so happy to have me at her classroom. It was a sweet morning with my little girl!

They had prepared a song that they had been practicing and performed that for all the mom's.

After the performance, we went to play with them in whatever station around the classroom they wanted to. Peyton and I played a memory/guessing game and then colored on some white boards. It was a great morning and I left feeling so loved and thankful for the work that the teachers had put into that morning. 

Graham came home from his school with all kinds of goodies for me and the best part was the big hug, kiss and him yelling, "you are the best mommy," when I picked him up. He also performed the song on his paper that he made for me later was so proud of the medal and wanted me to wear it all day.

The best part of my day by far was getting to experience the kids joy, excitement and pride in the things they made at school and it made me feel so very loved!