February 13, 2014

And then we… gave birth.

Welcome London Noelle… you are our little miracle!

This is the blog post where I talk about giving birth to an elephant a baby in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.  But don't get your abayas all twisted up, I'll keep the story PG with only a little blood and poop.  (Her poop!  HER poop! Don't panic!)

There really are no analogies that do the feeling of giving birth justice, the closest I could think of is that 'Chubby Bunny' game I used to play in church youth group.  You know the one where you stick an inhumane amount of marshmallows in your mouth and then attempt to say the words "Chubby Bunny" something like 5 times without gagging?  Yeah that one.  That is what birth is like.  Except during birth, there is a freaking elephant inside your mouth, and instead of saying "Chubby Bunny" 5 times you're displaying your knowledge of the more colorful parts of the English language for the L&D ward staff.

But for realzz female readers and 1 male reader, it feels like an elephant marshmallow is coming out of your mouth and I'm all like, "I can't open my mouth that wide!!!" and the abnormally cheery midwife is all like "Your mouth is designed to do this sweetheart", and I'm all like "WELL MY MOUTH WASN'T DESIGNED TO DO THIS!!!!!!"  Then they tell you to cough (??!?), and I'm all "I can't cough, there is an ELEPHANT IN MY FREAKING MOUTH", and we argue about why I should cough…. but seeing as my mouth is exposed to the whole world and Andrew is looking a bit green, I cough just to make the midwife happy and low and behold a very angry, poop covered baby slides out.

Angry yet cute

It was more or less like that.  (Andrew's Note: It was less like that.)  

Fine, so it wasn't quite that dramatic.  Epidurals make for very pleasant birth experiences, but it really did feel like an elephant, and there was lots of baby poop.  Perhaps we should start back at the beginning.

I went into the big hospital on the large Aramco camp, Dhahran, on the day before the baby's due date for a possible induction due to low fluid levels and placenta calcification.  After a stress test on the baby, they determined that her heartbeat wasn't responding to stimulus like it should.  My explanation that my baby was just "chill 'cause of all the prenatal yoga" didn't convince my doctor.  So we grabbed lunch then headed up to the induction room.  Yes that's right kids, in Saudi Arabia they put all the ladies being induced in a room together separated by curtains.  The first thing the midwife tells me when we enter is "Just ignore the moaning".

Awesome. I'll get right on that.  Good thing these curtains are so dense….

So then they did an internal check* and found out that I was already in labor on my own, contracting consistently and dilated almost 2 cm!  This was great new because it meant that as soon as a hospital room was available, I could get out of the induction room as I didn't have to be induced.  The only thing they did was strip my membranes** which can help the labor progress.  

At this point they told Andrew that he wasn't allowed to hang out with me while I progressed as no males are allowed in the induction room, (even though I wasn't being induced.)  Initially I thought I would be really mad about this but it ended up being fine, the first part of my labor was quite boring.  I did lots of walking and resting.  So Andrew did what any good husband would do and went to the mall which was right down the street (hey, I was buying you Christmas presents!)  6 hours later they checked me again and I was 4 cm!  And because my water had not yet broken, my contractions were not bad at all.  Lots of walking around the L&D ward helped me to feel like I was vaguely in control of my body.  Finally around 9 PM a hospital room opened up, evidently it was a busy night for having babies.  I moved in and told Andrew to head over.
(I got that text on my way to buy the now famous "Baby Night Jacket".  I was halfway through the mall between the jacket store and the car and I really needed a jacket!  The entire way I kept thinking, "This is going to be awful…something's going to happen and she's going to have the baby and I'm going to miss it, and for what?  A stupid jacket???"  I got it quick, panicking the whole time, and made it to the hospital in plenty of time.  It's a great jacket, by the way, the best I've ever owned.  It keeps me warm but not too warm and has nice sleeves.  That's all about the jacket.)  
Once he arrived, they gave me the eipdural.  At the point the pain from the contractions was not bad at all.  I realize I am lucky, not all women feel this good at 5 cm dilated, but my water hadn't broken so that provided lots of cushioning against the contraction pain.  The eipdural was amazing.  I was completely mobile and I could feel everything, but I couldn't feel any pain.  I loved being able to move my legs and torso and feel my legs and torso, just without experiencing pain.  It sounds bizarre and it was bizarre, but I loved it!  At midnight they broke my water and realized that baby girl had decided that it would be fun to poop inside me.  Which meant that when they broke my water… it wasn't just water that came out.  IT WAS HORRIFYING.  It was also not a good thing for baby girl, the midwife told me that things needed to progress quicker rather than slower to be on the safe side for the baby.  They gave me pitocin to speed the process along.  About an hour and a half later the midwife said she needed to use the restroom and Andrew was zonked out next to me attempting to forget the poop water visuals swimming in his head and I started feeling different.  Like an elephant was trying to push its way out of me.  But the midwife had gone to the restroom.  I frantically started pushing the emergency call button on the bed.  The one on the bed didn't work.  Anywhew… the midwife came back and I told her that something felt very different, lots of pressure.  I also told her that the call button was broken, to which she replied by showing me the actual call button, not whatever thing I was pressing.  She did another check and was all "Oh!  It's time to have a baby!"  I had gone from 4 to 10 cm in an hour and a half.  She prepped the area, called the backup midwife in the room, and I began pushing.  6 or so pushes and 1 cough later, London Noelle Redmon slid into our lives; pink, angry and covered in poop.  It was incredible and is the most amazing moment I have ever experienced.  Because of the poop situation they checked her over to make sure there were no complications but she was fine and was snuggled up*** to me almost immediately.   (The midwife asked what her name was and Allison (who was crying) pointed to me (who couldn't talk because I was crying).  She just smiled and went back to cleaning up the baby until I could get it together.)  We named her London because we wanted something unique and beautiful, and Noelle because we wanted something to remind us of how miracles happen at Christmas, and this little IVF baby is our little Christmas miracle!

"Bint" is Arabic for "daughter", so her name was "Daughter of Andrew Redmon" for the time being.
I will now write her actual name in Arabic because I can.
Getting my money's worth from the classes: 
لندن نويل ريدمون 

Andrew and I spent two or so hours with her and then they transferred**** me to the post-pardum ward.  Unfortunately, Aramco has a terrible policy that kicks the husband out of the post-pardum ward unless its visiting hours (4-8 PM weekdays and a bit longer on weekends).  (I went back to Ras Tanura, even back to school to finish out the workday which was very strange.  All the new employees were aghast at me being at work instead of with my wife and newborn daughter :-)  Believe me, I wasn't trying to be a hero…there's just absolutely nothing else to do.)  I knew this ahead of time but it was definitely not fun to have to say goodbye to my husband just a few hours after delivery.  This rule is in place because some people here had a tendency to bring all their extended families into the hospital rooms disrupting other patients and creating problems as you have to share a room.  I still don't understand why they can't allow 'just husbands' into the room though.  Seems a bit drastic.  Regardless, I stayed a day and a half and checked myself out out early, figuring that if I'm not going to get sleep, I might as well not get it at home!

Okay.  That was long, well done if you're still with me here.  And if you're following all the ***** you get a gold star for effort.

London Noelle Redmon
8 lbs 4 oz
Born 12/18/13 at 1:48 AM

So we have a baby.  She is amazing and beautiful and I have to continually tell myself that I should not gnaw on her cheeks, as that would most likely be considered a check on the 'parent fail' side of this list.  London is now 8 weeks old, and what amazes me the most is how much I see her change on a daily basis.  It's like front row seats to a show that is always different.  I hate that Andrew sometimes misses something that happens while he is at work.  But oh my goodness am I especially grateful to him for carrying a job that allows me the privilege of staying home with London.  Every single day with her is different because of how much she changes and learns, it's just amazing!  Are you nauseated yet?  Too much baby-ness?  Tough cookies, I get at least one post about baby right?

Daddy and London

Not only is she a great baby, but she has done really well with the method/schedule we have her on every day, and (drumroll please)...thanks to the schedule...she is now sleeping from about 11 PM-6:30 AM almost nightly, and takes five 1.5-2 hour naps each day!  I absolutely love nursing her and am pumping about an extra 5-8 oz a day and freezing them for use later in the year.  Our freezer has more milk baggies than food.  On that note, we're also SO thankful to our Ras Tanura community for the meals and visits and well wishes - we live in an amazing place with amazing people.  Keep growing, Little Bean, we love you!

*Um… NOBODY (i.e. my female friends) told me how fun those exams were.  Let's stick 4 chopsticks into your mouth to check the status of your tonsils.  Oh not your tonsils??  Further down your esophagus?? OUCH.

** It's when they separate the water bag from the side of the uterus.  Like separating and orange peel from the orange.  Except much much much worse.  And holy OUCH.

*** So I was all 'I want to start nursing my child the minute she gets out'.  What they don't tell you about this little scenario is this, your legs are splayed open for the world to see because your midwife is stitching you up.  Thats right, friking STITCHING YOU UP… and yes… down there!  So the bed is tilted, your legs are in the most awkward position known to exist, there is blood and poop running everywhere, and they hand you your child to start nursing.  For the record, never done this before.  So I latch her on as best I can see in my semi-angled-legs-in-the-air position and was pretty darned proud of myself.  She's sucking like a champ on both sides.  It's only later that I see 2 black bruised welts forming on each side that I realize little lady and myself had missed the target by about a half an inch.  Parent fail #1 of many :)

****I pretty much fainted in the wheelchair on the way to the hospital room.  Something about low iron and blood loss.  They wouldn't give London back to me until things stopped spinning.  The brought me fruit juice and a birthday cake.  #youknowyou'reinaforigncountrywhen

***** Made you look!  (HA!)

Now for more pictures that are cuter than heck:

What??…. You didn't wrap your kid up in pink cheesecloth?

7 weeks and practicing some tummy skills

Hey pretty lady!

October 25, 2013

And then we... went back to York, again.

On the Medieval Walls surrounding York 
Taking a 3rd trimester preggo trip to England sounded like a grand idea back in March when Bean was still the size of a bean.  I'll be fine!  No biggie!  

And in all honesty, it was pretty much... fine.  If you define "fine" as hitting every toilet between Saudi-London-PaddingtonStation-King'sCrossStation-Train ride-York Train Station-and our bed and breakfast. Also, if you define "fine" as convincing a Qatar-y (Qatar-ie?? Overly-inquisitive-man-from-Quatar???) man that I was in fact, "fit to travel" according to my Doctor.  (Andrew's Note: I've never seen so many one-eyebrow-raised skeptical looks given in such a short time.)

Conversation with my Arabic Doctor from earlier in the week:
Doctor Mulhim: Everything looks good, any other questions?
Me:  <sweaty palms... cough.... nervous glance up>  
"Can you lie for me on my airline form and say that I'm not as far along as I am so that I can travel?"
DM:  .... <silence>
DM:  "Sure!  We do this all the time for women!!"  

His lack of reluctance actually made me more nervous.  Visions of delivering early next to seat 32A with Abdullah bin Aziz watching from 31C haunted me.  

AbA:  "Why your wife not covered with abaya?"
Andrew: "She's giving birth."
AbA:  <grumble-grumble>

For the record, this scenario isn't too far off.  A friend of mine gave birth (last month!!) on the side of the road trying to get to the Aramco hospital with a few Arabic men watching.  Her husband caught the baby.  One of the men was yelling from outside the passenger seat.... "Baby is coming! Baby is coming!"  

Not making that story up.  Really.

(**furiously tries to find and read the pages in the baby book on "Accidental Mobile Births"**)

Regardless, we spent last week in York, England during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  It was gloriously chilly, wet and cozy.  I spent more money than anticipated because I felt bad using the loo in a shop without purchasing anything while Andrew canvased the city's best craft beer pubs.  (I don't agree with that, by the way.  If you have to go to the bathroom and there's no sign saying not to, you should be able to use it without having to buy something.  A pack of gum, a Coke, fine....but when you go to the potty in a jewelry store bathroom, it's not OK.)    

Walking the streets of York.
What's in the bag?  Kit Kats- because we can't get them in Saudi.
We LOVE York.  (We love it.)  So much so that this was our third visit.  Lame?  Maybe.  But if you're looking for a walkable city known as the best preserved medieval city in Europe with all sorts of quaint shops and beer galore, this is your spot.  Its relaxing, beautiful and perfect for a low key holiday.  We're about 90% sure we're spending next Christmas here as well.  It's that awesome.   (Not to mention the largest cathedral in Northern Europe, old "snaggleways" (skinny medieval streets) and a pretty busy nightlife since there's a university in the town.  Not that we spent a whole week clubbing)

We always stay at this GREAT little pub/inn/bed&breakfast called The Lamb and Lion Inn.  It is tiny, has great beer, friendly staff, cholesterol filled breakfasts and little "snugs" where you can hide away with a book and a pint.  So much better than staying in a chain hotel!  (It's attached to a gate built in the 1300's.  THE 1300's.  That's the stone thing on the left in the pictures below)
Too busy EATING to get any pics of the inside.
Said 700 year old gate.

Much of our time was spent hanging out in pubs and shopping, and well... eating.  We do a lot of that on our trips.  And before I start getting emails and phone calls about not drinking during pregnancy... chill out.  My rule is one sip.  Let's just say I ate/drank any type of cheese/deli meat/caffeine placed in front of me and all of it WAS DARNED GOOD.

High Tea at Betty's Tea House  
"Doing" wasn't really on our to-do list, especially with being very pregnant.  Eating, however, was.  People who say that British food is bad haven't done their homework.  Just take a look at few items from our Inn's menu when we were eating:


  • Steak & Ale Pie, Creamy Mash, Glazed Carrots, Buttered Cabbage
  • Yorkshire Dales Lamb Rump, Garlic Mash, Pea & Mint
  • Bacon Chop, Grilled Tomato, Runny Duck Egg & Hand Cut Chips
  • Scampi, Tartare Sauce, Garden Peas, Hand Cut Chips
  • Open Fish Pie, Haddock & Mussels, Buttered Spinach, Parmesan
  • Smoked Haddock, Curry Spiced Pea Risotto, Poached Hen's Egg, Hollandaise
  • Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati Rice, Naan Bread, Pickle Tray
  • Beef Cheek Croquette, Pickled Shallot & Watercress Salad, Runny Duck Egg
  • Chip Shop Halloumi, Hand Cut Chips, Yorkshire Caviar (v)
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto, White Onion, Parmesan Crisp (v)


Soooo freaking good.  Soooo not looking at the scale at my next Ob/Gyn appointment.  

Walking along the Medieval Walls.
FYI preggos... lords weren't fond of loos on their walls.
We also walked, or in my case... waddled....the Medieval walls that surround the city as well as attended church and Evensong at York Minster cathedral.  

Okay, so it wasn't snowing at York Minster.  Our B&B is directly to the left of this shot.. BTW.
This picture is to convince our family members that York is a great place to spend Christmas 2014.
Anyone?? Anyone??  (WTG.  Now that you put this here, next year will be the worst December heat wave in England's history and the cathedral will be closed for renovation.) 

But the best moment of the trip is something that happened to Andrew.  I'll let him describe it.

(In the middle of the week, we ended up in a little church cemetery about 30 miles from York to see a particular gravestone or two.  I've always enjoyed genealogy.  You can bet I get extra excited about it every St. Patrick's Day, too.  

John Redmond, leader of the Irish Home Rule Party on the right.  He is said to be a cousin of ours but I'm still trying to fill in the gaps for that link.
My aunt, who has done some pretty extensive research into my Mom's side of the family, gave me some papers several years ago pertaining to my Dad's side of the family that my Dad had given her.  I have looked at them many times over the years, but never bothered to find out exactly where exactly the places are that my relatives lived.  My Dad told me a few weeks ago that his grandmother's Bible mentioned a Yorkshire connection.  I looked back at those papers to check the earliest record - William Raper, born in the late 1500s, is buried in the cemetery at All Saints Church in Pick Hill, North Yorkshire, England - 30 miles from York!! (Thanks, Google Earth!)

We made our way over to Pick Hill by bus and then a taxi, found All Saints Church, and then ran into my great great great great great great great great grandmother, Margaret Raper!  

Yup, that's her!  Look how big the grave is - it's the only one in the whole cemetery that's not just a single vertical stone.  Seems like they had money maybe or were pretty important!

I'm not sure what year she died, but I do know she and my grandfather William Raper were married in 1620.  We didn't find William for some reason...we might have missed it but our taxi driver said sometimes husbands and wives were buried in the same grave, especially if it's a big one like that.  Strange that it didn't have his name on it if that's the case.  We saw some other possible cousins and such, too.  It's INSANE to walk around where your relatives walked around and went to church nearly 400 years ago.)  

Finding various cousins!

Unfortunately, my camera fuzzed out on me while we were there, but I did get a few good pics before we had to leave the church.  So so cool to have that experience.  What a great trip!

Husband and All Saints Church.  Love this!
(My Great x9 grandfather probably walked in these doors just like this some Sunday morning.  Crazy!)

October 6, 2013

And then we... let the dogs design the nursery.

This is Little Lady's new home.  We hope she likes it, we certainly do.

Sometimes we just sit in here... it won't be this quiet or this clean ever again, we're trying to soak it up while it lasts.  (Andrew's note: Before we're soaking up all manner of nasty fluids, that is.)  Here are a few snapshots into this little sanctuary.

If you're interested in where we purchased everything you see here, skip to the bottom.  And if you're interested in seeing these pictures at the highest quality, check out my photography website.  Blogger (this website) tends to degrade pictures and make them a bit fuzzy, my photography website features them at their best!  It's also a great place to see what I've been up to in my free time here in Ras Tanura!



Welcome to Little Lady's room.
Shhh.... her name is still a secret!

Our color theme was turquoise, aqua, white and gray... with a smidge of dachshund.  
And..... NO PINK!
Okay, so maybe more than a smidge of our furry friends.
(That one's cut in half - that counts as less total dachshund, right?)
I love these beautiful bamboo swaddle blankets!
Oh, we went a little crazy with bunting banners.
They criss cross the ceiling and bring all the colors of the room together.
And look in the background!  What's that peeking out??

Little Won Ton's/Chiles!  This mobile is so whimsical!
(Won Tons.  Chile has no part in this room, apart from peeing on the corner of the chair when we're not watching him.)

This is the closest the dachshunds will ever get to the crib.

We went with a gray color scheme for the bedding and crib skirt to help balance the turquoise/white.

So many good books, so little space!
Thanks to my sister Lindsey for her yearly gift to us of some of the best children's books!
(Ok, fine, there's a Chile in the top left corner.  It's all I would allow)

'Cause every bookshelf looks better when under bunting banners.

Okay, sorry.  I just love these bunting banners!  (Stop saying "bunting banners".)

The ottoman is missing the gray slipcover, it should arrive soon!
Check out the adorable dachshund pillow!!!

This little guy was found in a small dachshund-themed shop in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England about 6 years ago.
We also need to fill that picture frame.  

The mobile lazily spins all day.  (Much like Won Ton and Chile)

It's a happy place.

(.........bunting banners........)

Furniture:  (Potter Barn Kids)
Changing Table:
Side Table:
White accent carpet (blanket):  Pottery Barn

Etsy Accents:  (Etsy is a website dedicated to handmade & vintage items)
Dachshund divided picture:
Dachshund pillow:
Dachshund Mobile:
Bunting Banners:

Non-Etsy Accents: (Zara Home, Target, Marshalls & Ikea)
Curtain Panel: (Target)
Hamper: (Zara Home)
Bamboo Blankets: (Aden + Anais)
Trash Can: (IKEA)
Turquoise/Aqua picture frames & aqua toy basket: (Target & Marshalls)
White Lamps: (IKEA)

"Little Bean" picture banner: (Made by Adrienne Gustafson)
This was actually a cake topper from my baby shower that was repurposed!  
Thanks to Adrienne Gustafason, my awesome sister-in-law, for her creativity!!

September 12, 2013

And then we... realized you shouldn't pee or burp on people, or give advice to pregnant women.

About 10 minutes before I was asked to pee on him.
When I was 7, I was asked to pee on my brother by my grandfather.  Given the mechanics of peeing as a girl, I believe the actual request was to pee in a cup and then pour it on my brother, but same difference.

Papa:  Who wants to pee on Chris??**  (As if this is some sort of lottery you just won, congratulations!)
Me:  I look at Lindsey, who's like... 8 months old and barely knows how to use a diaper much less aim for a cup.  
Lindsey:  Looks at all of us like, "why was I born into THIS family?"
Me:  No, Papa.  Lindsey and I don't want to pee on Chris today.  Maybe next week.
Chris:  You're supposed to share, Allison.
Me:  I don't want to share my pee with you.
Chris:  (whinny/nasally voice) Papa!  Allison won't share her pee with me!!!
Papa:  Fine, son.  I'll pee on you.
Granny:  Silently hands Papa a cup while slicing watermelon for lunch

** The kids were asked to do this first before the adults, and Granny wasn't even consulted as to whether her pee made the cut.

Hashtag ideas?
#Jellyfishproblems.  (Andrew's Note: #siblingurine #thereispeeonmywatermelon #dontmakeeyecontact)

Take your pick.  Having 9 months to be pregnant gives the brain lots of time to dig up all these little gems of stories from being a kid and this is just the kick in the butt needed when your pregnancy brain starts tricking you into thinking that having a baby is all about excessively pink outfits, smiles and coos.  Ironically, some of my best horror stores are from the times I was with my grandparents.

Other favorites?
1.  The time 3 year old Chris decided to back our car out of the driveway as G-parents were babysitting.  We call that hands-off parenting mixed with hand-on the steering wheel.
2.  The time when the same G-parents decided to load all 3 of us kids up and take a month long car trip from Texas to Canada, with parts of it driven at 10 mph so that we could "experience what it was like to be on the old west wagon trail".
3.  The time, on the same trip mentioned in #2, when all 3 of us started crying because we just couldn't take it anymore.

Good times.  As a kid, you really have no control over much of anything in your daily life, and pregnancy is just about the same.  I knew gaining weight was a natural part of this pregnancy-gig, but I didn't expect for my chest to compete with my stomach for size.  Most days it's like carrying twins up top and a baby underneath.  Not cool, yo.

Yep.  The belly is NOT winning this race.

There should really be books written about things you're NOT told about pregnancy.  This would be my contribution, oh, and.... this might get weird, fair warning.  So if you don't want to hear about gross bodily changes, scroll down to where I rant about parenting, it's italicized and underlined for your locating ease:

Things you're not told about pregnancy:

1.  Hemorrhoids:  (I had to spell check that 3 times in order to get it right) (Perhaps you could spell check the rest of the blog as well :-D) I didn't even know what hemorrhoids were 6 months ago.  Welcome to pregnancy... let's expand your vocabulary.  [Hint:  DON'T GOOGLE 'HEMORRHOIDS'.]  Every preggo book I own goes on for pages describing the correct way to "use the restroom" to avoid these nasty little buggers.  (Is there a "Squat Pots and You" chapter??)  My mom-friends discuss the best brands of hemorrhoid cream to apply when your turn comes.  I even have several varieties of cream/gels given to me at baby showers... what happened to the cute clothes?!  Writing thank you notes for hemorrhoid cream feels dirty, kids.

"Dear Sylvia, thanks for the hemorrhoid cream, its just swell,  it makes everything feel velvety, it's..."

"Dear Sylvia, thanks so much for coming to the baby shower!  So glad you are my friend! Allison"

2.  Peeing:  Like every freaking hour.  And sometimes, you'll have literally JUST washed your hands and you have to pee again.  What the crap?!  (no pun intended).  Is the pee just being held by the liver as backup-reserves incase there's another jellyfish incident?  (Better keep some around in case I get stung - this is HIGHLY possible from May to August.)  It's exhausting.  My yoga studio here on camp has a restroom located essentially right off the main studio, so while everyone else is silently supta baddha konasana-ing, I'm visiting an all-tiled restroom that makes Carnegie Hall acoustics look dead.  I need a catheter.

Yep, I've even included a diagram.
Note the locations of said bladder and stomach (to be discussed next).
You're welcome.
3.  Burping and other unpleasantness:  Once baby moves in, all other body parts get evicted to smaller spaces.  (Except for the boobs, of course, they get their own villa, make that plural-- villas).  My stomach was ordered north to the region beneath my lungs leaving little space for actual food and air.  Less space means less room for food, and food always get priority these days, so burping is now something I have little to no control over.   They just come up.  At really awkward times.  Like in the middle of talking.  To your lesson student's parents.
I need to wear a sign:
"Hi, I'm pregnant version of Allison and I uncontrollably burp."

4.  Insomnia:  After my nightly 3 AM visit to the loo, I have difficulty sleeping.  Usually, the only way to get back to sleep is to eat something.  But in an attempt to keep the aforementioned chest to a manageable size, I try not to have a bowl of cereal every night.  So I just lay in bed and think about milk, and cereal, and eating cereal and milk.  Sometimes it works like counting sheep and I fall back into blissful sleep with dreams about working in a Kellogg's Factory, and other nights find me stumbling downstairs in the dark to pour cereal and milk into a bowl only to realize after the first bite that I'm actually eating dog food with milk.  (Won Ton's shooting you looks of death from across the room.)

4:30 AM Feeding, this one in bed with actual cereal.
The punk next to me took this shot.
So pregnancy makes you do weird things, like eat "cereal" at 4:30 AM or sniff your husband's face while he sleeping.  (Wait...what??)  For example.... here is a recent conversation between Andrew and me after lunch as I was eating a brownie:

Me:  You took up too much space in the bed last night.
Andrew:  What?  That's ridiculous, I have a sliver of matress exactly my size...mostly because of your new found need for 400 pillows to support anything and everything.
Me:  I could feel your leg... if I stretched out.
Andrew:  We have a King size bed.  Why were you stretching out to feel my leg??  ....   ........     .................       ......  How you doin'???
Me:  Shush.  I like the way your face smells with aftershave.
Andrew:  How are those two things related?
Me:  Sometimes when I can't sleep, you smell good so I stretch out to smell your face.
Andrew:  This feels like a Paranormal Activity moment.
Me:  (Still stuffing my face with the brownie)  Some people count sheep, I sniff my husband's face.  I see no problem with this.
Andrew:  (Grabs my hand and starts dancing with me in the kitchen...But since both of us can't dance, it's more of a feet-glued-to-the-ground-upper-bodies/bellies-swaying kind of dance)
Me:  (Dancing while eating brownie) This is impeding my brownie eating.
Andrew:  Just smell my face, it'll make you feel better.

This is where I rant about parenting:
The other thing that no one prepares you for in pregnancy is other people, be it friends, family or the Pakistani lady at the commissary, hands out advice.  Everybody has advice.  And is EAGER to share it with you.

Having a chest and belly (or in my case, a chest that competes with your belly) is like wearing a sign, "Please, give me advice about how to raise my children!"

Let's just be honest here.  Or more accurately, let me just be frank.  I suck at taking advice.  (um...yes)  I hate listening to other people's advice.  I would much rather do the research myself, make the mistakes myself, than follow someone else's advice.  But can I tell this to people?  Nope.  That, Andrew tells me, (is rude!)  He often says to stop being defensive and just listen, smile and nod... even if I don't agree.  This is hard because it requires not being proud; I suck just about as badly at that as I do at the taking advice thing.
And, realizing that people who read this blog are probably people who have lovingly given me advice over these past few months, let me just say this:  Thank you for your help and ideas.  You mean well and you are MUCH more experienced than I am.

The thing is, we chose to have this science-meets-prayers-pregnancy.  (I can show you the receipts!)  We sort of want to do it our way.  And while I think everyone means well, listening to people tell us the way we should raise our child is a really hard thing to do.  (Pride?  Yes.)  It legitimately bothers me when someone tells me this is the best way to breastfeed your kid, or get them on a sleep schedule or have the perfect hospital delivery.  One day one someone would tell us why this was the best way to do such-and-such, and the next day another person would tell us the complete opposite advice!!  Everyone has a different experience and is convinced that their way is the best way to do things because their way worked for them.  The new parent-to-be in me gets highly confused by all the conflicting advice and frustrated that Andrew and I can't just be left to make our own decisions.  There is SO MUCH PRESSURE as a new parent to do things certain ways.  Just say the words "vaccinations" "crying-it-out" or "formula-feeding" in a room of moms and watch the punches start to fly.  (I'd rather be peed on.  Seriously.)

We are defensive creatures.  Moms and society pressure us to be a certain way.  It's d*&^% hard to make a parenting decision without offending at least half of your friend group.  So where does that leave me?  I am one of the most opinionated people I know, (Heh...I....nevermind.) but after realizing how much I hate hearing advice from other people, I am now trying super hard to not give parenting/mom advice to people around me.  I've read some AMAZING books recently.  And I'm bursting to share what I now think is the best way to get a kid on a sleep schedule, breast-feed them, make them less whiny toddlers, but as hard as it is for me, I am trying to keep my mouth shut around others.
1.  I don't want to be 'that person' to them.
2.  My new discoveries are just that,... MINE.  They work for me.  Not someone else.  They have their own way, and you know what?
That's OKAY.

So here's where we are at the moment.  Devouring this book: (http://www.pameladruckerman.com/books/bringing-up-bebe/) and learning what our parenting philosophy is going to be.  Notice the word.. "our," (this is not me giving advice as to what book you should read, this is me sharing with you what we've decided to use as one of our guides).

Andrew and I have decided we don't want to be the high-maintenance parents.  We won't sterilize the pacifier after it falls on the floor (unless the dogs have been REALLY interested in that piece of floor).  We won't be feeding our kid only certain types of _________ (fill in the blank:  Milk/Cheese/Meat/) from goats (camels) raised in the Andes Mountains (Empty Quarter) by liberated orphans (hospitable Bedouins) whose goal is to raise free-trade goats (camels) that are independent-thinking milk-producers.

If that means NOT picking up the bebe every time it squeaks, that's okay for us.
If that means traveling with a toddler, that's (gulp) okay for us.
If that means, having an epidural at delivery because I flinch when a mosquito bites me, that's okay for us.
If that means vaccinating our kids because we think that's the safest option in this international community in Saudi Arabia where we live, that's okay for us.
And, if that means letting the dachshunds lick little bean's face despite wherever their tongues have been.... that's okay for us.

And you know what?  Those might not be okay for some reading this, but... that's okay too.  Everyone has a different way of doing things, I'm trying to learn to respect and be at peace with that.  Hopefully, I haven't offended everyone that reads this post... probably just the females :)  (Please talk to us again.  Please.)

We are now in our 27th week and grateful to be complication free, minus the hemorrhoids, lack of sleep, peeing and heartburn.  Here are some beautiful pics taken by my good friend, Natalie Hebert (www.natalieheber.net) when we were 22 weeks preggo.





September 2, 2013

And then we.... realized we've lived in Saudi Arabia for a year.

Our last post announcing our pregnancy and IVF adventures elicited so many responses, readers, and reposts that we first just wanted to say... um, thanks!  Thanks for reading and sharing and please forgive the number of times you had to read the word sperm.  Oops... Said it again.  Sorry.  


So how do you follow up your most read blog post of all time?  (Andrew's Note: Most read, blah blah blah.  The most visited post, however, is "All the Kilted Wonder We Can Stand", a magnificent gem of a blog post)  I have no idea how to follow it up--hence the lack of writing recently (I'm intimidated by my own blog), but in our defense, we have been galavanting the globe eating for 3.  So lets start with the spawn.  She's probably why you clicked on this post, so let's get to it.  

She's a girl.  We had "it" checked by 3 different doctors (seriously) just 'cause I'm a control freak, and really wanted to expose my brilliantly white belly to strangers.  And we've come to the realization that we should probably stop calling her 'little bean' as she's grown quite a bit now at 6 months.  'Little-ear-of-corn' just doesn't have the same ring, nor does 'little mid-western-crop-found-in-all-processed-food also fed-to-cattle-instead-of-grass'.  Maybe we'll stick with 'little bean'.  She never stops moving and her current favorite activity is to bounce on my bladder with all 1.7 lbs of her body weight.  However...this post isn't about our pregnancy so I'll save the juicy stuff 
(i.e. 'Ma'am, they don't make bras in your size') for next time.  Get excited.  
And don't stop reading.  Google tells me.

Bow Tie and Bump.
Thanks to www.nataliehebert.com!
We actually announced and posted that last blog entry while I was hospitalized for yet another 1st trimester complication.  I went in at 12 or so weeks with lots of weird pain down below.  (There wasn't a disclaimer on the top of this entry stating to beware of 'female anatomy references' so I can't define various body parts in this post...Use your imagination.  No wait-- don't.).  My wonderful high-risk preggo doctor put me through every machine the hospital owned, but to no avail.  I also peed into so many small plastic containers that I think my urine might be famous.  All of this resulted in preggo doc telling me that it might be early signs of a miscarriage.  Literally JUST as we had just posted that blog post announcing pregnancy.  Not the best moment of the pregnancy.  Lots of crying and throwing of hospital jello.  Then he decides to send in urology to talk with me.  An old, old Middle Eastern doctor ambles in and smiled a big smile that made me want to ditch my IV port and give him a hug.  He says, ....and I need you to hear this with a thick Southern accent because that's a nice way to hear something embarrassing:

"Hoonnnyyyy.... yew naeeedd taaa peeeeee more."  

(Except it was said in a very nice/slightly harsh Arabic accent, but go with the Southern one, it's the way I hear it in my mind.)  Urology doc tells me that my pre-pregnancy peeing frequency needs to quadruple now that 'little mid western crop' is digging in.  

"Evvverrrrryyy hour, sweeethearrrrrt.  Peeeee evvvverrrraaaryyy hour."  

And darned that southern/arabic guy, he was right.  
Pain - stopped.  
Bladder - empty. 
Crisis - averted.  
Face - red.
Jello - wasted.
(She was pretty mad about the Jello, actually)

Pregnancy, evidently, leaves you with little control over much in your life.  (Not having control over things is Allison's FAVORITE.)  It's so similar to the past year in Saudi Arabia that it's almost comical.  Almost.  Adaptation, flexibility and the attitude that "this is an adventure(!?!)" have been key to surviving our first year in Saudi and first 6 months of pregnancy.  However, after 9 months of pregnancy, you get a lifetime's worth of cuteness, responsibility and discussion about your child's poop.  

After a year of living in Saudi, well... here's the take-away as we see it after one year in the Kingdom. 

I've taken the liberty of dividing our impressions after a year into 3 categories:
The Good, The Bad and the What the *&^*??  

You're welcome.

The "Good" i.e.: (Why-Isn't-Every-Job-Like-This?) impressions:

1.  Family Time

I get to see this guy a lot.  So much so that he's probably sick of hearing that I need to go pee, again.  Regardless, he's cute and recently has taken bow tie wearing to new levels of awesomeness.  Ear of corn is one lucky bean.  We are still in awe of the husband-comes-home-for-lunch-everyday thing.  And it's also pretty grand for him to not have a job with night expectations.  Which means he cooks fab-o dinners most nights... while I lounge on the couch, eat bon-bons and grow a human zucchini.    
Someone is emulating his daddy.  (I LOVE THIS PICTUREEEEEE)

I made this one!!!  
2.  Travel
Yeaaaahhh.... It's called the 'Middle' East for a reason, kids.  Thailand is 6 hours away, as is London.  You do the math.  And while Aramco's vacation day policies take a PhD to understand, we have traveled to 8 countries this year alone, leaving us with a dire need for more coffee mug space in our cabinets.  Expat problems?  Yes.  Does this make us want to stay here for many more years than we originally planned?  Yes.

Check check and check.  

London/York!  (Lork.) 

I have no idea where this is.


3. Perks (Also referred to as the "Golden Handcuffs" :-)
Aramco knows that the "Bad Things" list below this one exists.  Sometimes its just darned hard living out of your comfort zone, no matter how adventurous you might consider yourself.  And they make it worth your while, as you put up with some less-than-savory 'adventure'.  (And we're not even talking about something crazy, like you got mugged or shot at or your car was stolen.  Stuff like that never happens.  It's mostly every day differences - a shopping trip sometimes consists of going to 9 different places to get everything you need, actually finding 4 of those things, and getting stuck outside during prayer time twice, and coming home to find that the road to get to your house is closed for maintenance for the next 18 months.)  All that to say, we had started working towards being Dave Ramsey debt-free about 3 years ago and the move to the Middle East put us in the black for good.  This is a VERY GOOD thing and we are really, REALLY grateful.  

4.  Little Papaya
(Andrew says my penchant for referring to our child as various legumes and fruit is confusing. 

4A.  Little-Girl-That-Owns-A-Stroller-More-Expensive-Than-Our-Golf cart:
Obviously we covered the graphic details in the last post. (Ew.) But can I say that probably the best and worst thing that happened to us this year was being told we could never have kids naturally, and then with some help from lots of people, entirely too many needles and prayer, we have a baby girl on the way in December.  I sit here and wonder often if I had not gone thorough what went on the past few months if I would be as grateful for this pregnancy?  Probably not.  But....I can honestly say that I would do it again, and I am thankful to God for providing for us and for putting this obstacle in our lives.  We are grateful for what we have been given and for what this trial has taught us.  

Here she is at 3 days old!   (She looks like you.)
And.. she grew.   Cute little eggplant.  (Knock it off!)

The "Bad" ie: Oh-This-Kind-Of-Sucks moments:

1.  Camp/Night life...............or lack thereof-
When we came back home this summer we had a list of around 42 places we wanted to eat at while in Houston.  We went to 45.  And while you could chalk it up to 'eating for 3', it really was our way of making up for lack of a night life or restaurants.  Imagine spending a year of your life without ever eating out for dinner except for when you go on vaca.  This is what its like to live in Ras Tanura.  This has been a BIG adjustment for Andrew and me.  We are foodies, we loved finding the top foodie places in Houston.  And we like eating.  Mostly that.  Moving to Saudi and pretty much never having anything to do at nights except to hang out with each other, friends, or at home is sometimes mind-numbing.    
This is the nightly Andrew-cooks-WonTon-watches routine.
2.  Cultural adjustments
Getting used to a culture that isn't in a hurry to do anything or do anything efficiently might sound like some kind of special made hell for me and it really has taken a lot to get used to.  For example, today it was so humid and hot that our front door refused to open, so husband kicked it and it cracked.  I called maintenance.  (Who is in no hurry to come fix it.)

Me:  I need someone out here to fix our door, it's stuck and has a huge crack down because husband kicked it repeatedly to make it look worse than it actually is so that you'll come out and fix it sooner.  
(I didn't say that last part...but there was a crack)
Maintenance: Okay madam, so what is the problem?
Me:  ..... my door is stuck and cracked.
Maintenance:  Yes?
Me:  It's cracked.  And stuck.
Maintenance:  Yes.  
Me:  (??!!)
Me:  I need it fixed... please?
Maintenance:  So your door is causing problems?
Me:  Yes.
Maintenance:  Can you describe the exact problem?
Me:  ***planting head into crack of door***
Me:  Yes.  My door won't work.
Maintenance:  Oh, okay madam.  I can schedule maintenance to come out next week at the end of the week.
Me:  Right.
Me:  Um.  I can't get inside my house.  My door is stuck.  Also, it has a huge crack.
Maintenance: So you need an emergency request?
Me:  Yes!!!
Maintenance:  Okay madam, I have scheduled them to come today, Inshah'alla.
("Inshah'alla" means "If God wills it" and is a phrase attached to many promises that frustrates the Western population to no end because there are no definite timelines in any commitments) Back to the story....
Me: What time today?
Maintenance:  Inshah'alla, 45 minutes.  
Me:  No no... no Inshah'alla 45 minutes.  45 minutes exactly.
Maintenance:  Okay madam, 45 minutes Inshah'alla.
Me:  ***sigh***

Not our front door.
This was the day I woke up to a large hole in our front yard with no explanation.
Having been here a few months, this didn't phase me.
3.  It's freaking humid here.
But really.  I thought the heat was going to be our big issue.  It's the humidity.  Andrew describes it as like microwaving a wet pillow and plunging your head in it.  The good news is that it gets better around November through April.  But the rest of the time we keep to our houses like Won Ton to his food bowl.  

Husband and our house... slowly melting in glasses fog.

(4.  This is dumb, but shopping carts without fixed wheels!
The shopping carts here take entirely too much fine wrist control.  They move freely in any direction, which you might think makes them really maneuverable, but actually makes them impossible to control.    Again, #expatproblems.....or maybe #firstworldproblems, I don't know which.)

The 'What the *&^*....???!":
Rather than describe stuff, I'll just post some Instagram gems from the past 12 months.  By the way, you should follow us on Instagram (aredmon1 and andrewtheredmon).  It's a daily snapshot into Saudi-quirks and another way I avoid my guilt from not blogging.  (Don't do it!  It'll make her blog more! :-)

Barbie looks a little different over here.  These ones are a little scandalous, their lips are showing.

What... you don't drive a golf cart to work?
Um... what?  We drive to Bahrain on this road all the time.  

Yep... does your mall have this?  Dubai kids, Dubai.

Those aren't stones.
Just your average student field trips.

George Lucas got inspired for Star Wars by abayas.

Sandstorms make getting to work....problematic.  (Not to mention breathing.)

So, there you have it.  We'll have to go back and read through our first few posts again and correct all the silly things that we thought and impressions we had, but that's kind of the fun of it.  This place keeps you guessing all the time, and your "Goods" can easily turn into "Bads" and then to "What the *&%$s" and then back again!  Time for another year in the desert - I hope it's just as good, but I wouldn't mind it being a little less eventful :-)