Friday, January 27, 2012

Just Another Ordinary Morning

"Who spilled apple juice on the kitchen floor???" I hear Linnea say.  She begins to grab for some towels to wipe it up.

It is suggested that it was maybe Ruby.
We tried to figure out how that happened...Ruby doesn't usually take anything out of the fridge and she had finished her breakfast and juice much earlier.

But wait--as I was coming to the kitchen, I recall seeing Ruby in her room changing her clothes.

Super-sleuth that I am, I started putting two and two together.

"Linnea?  Wait...I, uh, don't think that's apple juice..."

Yes.  Ruby had pottied on the floor.

At least no one had slipped in it.

No wonder people envy my cute little life.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Elijah Had an Idea...

Elijah was loving on Elizabeth, making silly noises for her and watching her smile at him,
when he turned to me and asked, 
"Mom?  Next time could we just buy a baby?  That way we wouldn't have to wait so long for it to come out of your tummy."

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Changed?

One might think that having a new baby is old hat around here.
To a degree, that's true--we're pretty used to welcoming a new one.
But on the other hand, a new baby is still just that--new.
It's always an adjustment when a new baby joins our family.

So let's see...what has changed since Elizabeth's birth?

  • I've brought my dryer out of retirement.  It was necessary.  For the first couple weeks, I used it regularly. Now the old gal is in semi-retirement; I hang up about 75% of the laundry, condensing loads to only run the dryer for what's left.  
  • I sleep late.  I don't care.  If I've been up several times through the night with the baby, I will sleep in.  Linnea and Andrew are able to handle things while I get through the shower and get the baby fed and dressed for the day.
  • Elizabeth is finally getting her days/nights straightened out.  The first three weeks were absolutely AWFUL.  She was up ALL night.  I was a wreck--an absolute WRECK.  I had not slept for about the last three weeks of my pregnancy with her, so that made six weeks of no sleep.  I'm feeling much more human and much less desperate.
  • We've eaten more macaroni and cheese than we have, well, since Ivy's birth.  You do whatcha gotta do.
  • We're back to baby-gear-all-over-the-place.  The boppy pillow, the bouncy seat, the bassinet, the carseat, the baby bathtub, blankets, burp rags and pacifiers.

Some things, though, never change.
  • the children LOVE the new baby.  Elijah loves to "pet" her hair and it's difficult for anyone else to get a chance to hold her because Elijah, Christopher, and Ruby are constantly wanting to!  
  • I LOVE my new baby.  :)  It continues to amaze what a miracle life is.  That she once grew within me and is completely dependent on me for her survival is an awesome thing.  I hope I never take that for granted.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love Mulitiplied

I've heard people express their sympathies to the baby of a large family,
supposing that the poor thing must not get any attention--is hardly held or talked to.
Poor baby could hardly compete in such a large crowd.

It has been my experience that
nothing could be farther than the truth.

Elizabeth could probably count on one hand (if she could count, that is) the number of minutes she's been left "un-attended."  
In fact, I feel bad for my older kids who, when they were babies, had to wait until Mama could come to them like if I was in the shower or making supper.

Elizabeth always has someone to hold her.
If she happens to be sleeping in her little bassinet (and not in someone's arms), she needs only to sound the slightest little whimper and--no kidding--you had better stand aside because one of the kids will be literally running to her rescue.

Poor baby?
I think not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eating a Not-so-tasty Helping of Crow

During the last days of my pregnancy with Elizabeth, I was pretty outspoken with all my non-interventionist birth "theology".

  • Babies come on their own if left alone.
  • Too much fear is propagated when a mother is "overdue".
  • Breaking water is a risky intervention.
  • Cutting the cord too soon causes problems for baby by forcing them to breathe on their own immediately rather than transitioning more slowly.
  • Having cut the cord too soon, babies often need oxygen because they turn blue because they weren't ready to breathe on their own.  Pure oxygen, however, basically fries their brand-new lungs, often causing respiratory issues that affect them for years to come.
  • Babies transition best when right next to mom, the one-and-only they've ever known.
  • I don't need a doctor to tell me how to have a healthy pregnancy.
In this post, and perhaps in others, I somewhat vilified obstetricians and made it sound like having a midwife will assure you of having a great delivery.

Guess what?
I was wrong.

And now, I must eat some crow.

If I heard it once, I bet I heard it fifteen times when having Elizabeth:  "It's hospital policy."

Even though I had a midwife, hospital policy seemed to over-ride everything.
Even though I had a midwife, there was intense pressure to deliver once I reached 40 weeks.
Even though I had a midwife, I had a drug-free induction by sweeping the membranes.
Even though I had a midwife, an amniotomy was done to help Elizabeth come sooner.
Even though I had a midwife, she did a few routine things that are typically associated with an obstetrician, like cutting the cord immediately.  To be fair, that maybe had something to do with the hostile nurses that were there.  I don't know.  Also, applying traction on the cord while waiting for the placenta to be delivered is something that surprised (shocked?) both me and my doula Megan.
Even though I delivered with a midwife, my baby was kept away from me and given oxygen to help her breathe after her cord was, in my opinion, cut too soon.

When this all became clear to me, I likened it to my feelings about home education.  One might think that because I don't use the public school for our children's educations, that I don't like teachers.  Far be it!  There are many caring, committed, concerned and even Christian men and women who are public school teachers.  I don't have anything "against" them--it's the system I have a problem with.

As far as the midwife vs. obstetrician goes, I know that there are many ob's who would gladly listen to the wishes of the parents and would be happy to help babies be born with no "routine" intervention.
However, because of hospital policy, aka "the system", they know they must be more concerned with CYA* medical practices.
*CYA=Cover Your uhhhh, rear end

It becomes so much more about the liability and litigation.
It's disgusting.

And so, I apologize.
I'm sorry if I made it sound like midwives are the best and obstetricians are the worst.

Even though there are many ob's who believe pregnancy, labor and birth are just catastrophes waiting to happen, I believe that there are many ob's who are even less-interventionist than some midwives (referred to with tongue-in-cheek as "med-wives").

In the end, what it really comes down to is finding a care provider that you trust.
And I have--I've trusted the doctors that I've gone to with my first 8 pregnancies.
I trusted my midwife.

The hospital?

It leaves women with very few options.
That is so disappointing to me because if you're only choice is to deliver in a hospital, hospital policy will determine much of what happens unless you have done some extensive homework and are prepared to "sign-off" on what you don't want done to you or your child.

Many things are presented as "law" or "required" that just plain aren't--are not law and are not required.  Strongly recommended, perhaps, but not required.

Regarding Elizabeth's birth specifically, it's not so much about me not getting what I wanted, but about getting so much of what I didn't want.

All of that wasn't because I had a midwife and not an ob--it was very much about where the baby was born.  Hospital policy...

I don't know if this makes any sense to any of you, but I just needed to get that off my chest.
edited to add:
Ironically, I came across this post tonight.
Pretty much my thoughts exactly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Wild Child

I'm Blessed: By Mommy Friends

It's been some time since I joined in on Gretchen's 

Today, I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have the friends that I do.

Friends of ours from Wisconsin came to visit us on Saturday.
While I sat visiting with my friend Laurie,
I became acutely aware of how many of my sentences began with "my friend Gretchen"
or "my friend Theresa" or "my friend Megan" or "my friend Monica" (who has no blog!!)
and how much they have influenced my life.
 In all my yammering away to Laurie, I referenced several times my homeschool mom's meeting that I had just attended a couple evenings before.
I am so blessed by the ladies who serve on the board with me and by the ladies that come to our meetings--
I left the meeting last time so refreshed, thinking where else can I sit and laugh (or cry) about stuff like this--all while nursing a baby?
We talk about our struggles and successes with homeschooling and being a wife and mother.
Knowing that these ladies have a relationship with the Lord makes it that much sweeter.

Of course as busy mommies, we rarely have time to get together,
but my friends who brought meals when Elizabeth was born (and even BEFORE!)
blessed me beyond measure.

One of Satan's tools is to alienate--
he uses this on me often.
On my worst days, I'm convinced I'm all alone.

But I DO have friends--another Megan, Lisa, Diane, Karen, Sally, Denise, Sara, two Angies, Carrie--many more than I could possibly mention or link to here!  (I know I'm  leaving some out--if you're my friend and your name isn't listed here, please know I appreciate you, too!)
My aunts and my cousin are wonderful life-long friends to me.
I love them, and they are an incredible blessing to me.
They have reached out to me, some have prayed for me, and all have encouraged me.

I love that we are not all the same--
some of my friends have 1 or 2 kids, some have more.
Some of my friends work outside the home, some do not.
Some are older than me, some younger, and some my age.
We can be different and still be friends!
(Isn't this what we teach our kids??)

I'm so thankful for friends!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

On Writing

I write a lot of posts that you never see.
It's not that they are too private or too bold.
It's not that I write them and then change my mind about publishing them.

It's because I write them when I'm in the shower.
I write them when I drive.
I write them when I'm feeding the baby, when I'm giving the kids a bath, and when I'm falling asleep at night.

They are all grammatically correct, insightful, and oh-so-witty.
The trouble is, they are all written in my head.

And when I come to the computer thinking I'll remember what it was that I had "written"--they're gone.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

To Answer Your Questions

In Elizabeth's Birth Story Part 2, The Mom asked some questions.

Who announced her gender? And did you already have a girl name picked out?

I answer.

Jen, my midwife, said something like "Baby's here!" and held her in such a way for Dennis to announce the gender.  He was busy looking at me.
This picture, though the angle is straight-on, is what he was doing.  I like this one.

Finally, Jen was like, "If you don't tell her what it is, I WILL!!"
She was so excited.

He told me we had a girl and I was so surprised.  I was so convinced she was a boy.  SO convinced.

However, we did have a girl name picked out.  We had two, actually.  The middle name would have remained the same with either first name.  I won't tell you what else we had picked out, because I'm kind of freakishly private about baby's names before they are born.

Our boy name and the other girl name remains on our "list" which is kept only in my head.  :-)

Now you know.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Elizabeth's Birth Story Part 3

If you haven't already, you may (or may not) want to read Part 1 and Part 2 before you begin this third installment of Elizabeth's birth story. :-) 

Labor and delivery with Elizabeth is really the most un-eventful part of her arrival.  Had that been the end of the story, so to speak, I think my whole outlook would have been quite different.  I think I would have had much more of a "ahhhhh, she's finally here!" satisfaction that perhaps would have helped to dissipate some of the disappointment about having to deliver in a hospital rather than at home.

However, once she was out, it got worse.

Even though I had asked to delay cutting her cord until it had stopped pulsing, it was cut right away.  I'm not sure how or why that happened, if my MW just got caught up in the moment or what.  But before I could even say anything, it was done.
Elizabeth quickly turned very dusky.  She was on me and the nurse, my MW, and I were all rubbing on her to pink her up but it became obvious that she needed some help over at the warmer from some oxygen.

I believe that had she not been forced to breathe on her own so quickly (letting the umbilical cord do it's job awhile longer), she would not have had the trouble transitioning that she did.  She would then have been able to be close to me and make the switch from "inside" to "outside" more comfortably.
Of course, I could be wrong.  What do I know--I'm just the mom.

She was then moved quickly over the warmer and to receive some oxygen.
Here's where the "fun" began.

The pediatrician on-call was quickly summoned to the room to check on her.  I've been told that he is very pathology-minded.  What I mean by that is that he is more of the mindset that if it could possibly go wrong, we need to rule out every possibility.  Tests, panic, scare-tactics, more tests, more grave concern.
She was a bit shaky--many post-date babies are.
Many can quickly regulate their blood sugar simply being put to the breast as quickly as possible.  I have experienced this with a couple of my other children.  The nurse and doctor that I had at that time explained it to me and baby was feeding at less than five minutes old.
At this new hospital I was at, they wouldn't let me feed her.  They wanted to run some tests on her first.  I asked for her and was completely ignored.  Had it been just me there, I would have convinced myself that they surely just had not heard me.  When I asked again to just hold her, I got the same response.  The two nurses over near the warmer wouldn't even turn around.  Complete stonewall.  I looked at Dennis and at Megan incredulously--they looked at me the same way. (My MW had to leave to get home to her kids right after E was born because her sitter had to go home.)  Then I knew that there was no way those nurses had not heard me, they were ignoring me--and I think I know why.

As soon as Elizabeth had been whisked to the warmer, the barrage of questions began.
"What is your GBS status?"
I answered that I had not had that test.
She gaped at me and said, "You didn't have the test."
I said no; she stared at me still and then said flatly, "Okay."

This heightened their concern to a new level (what GBS has to do with blood sugar, I'm not sure.)
"Did she have a fever during delivery?  What was her temp?  Does anyone know mom's temp?  Anyone?"
The questions were flying fast and furious.
I responded from across the room that my temperature had been 96.8.  This settled them down a bit.

They asked what the results of my glucose screen had been; I told them I had not done that, either.
No 20 week ultrasound, either.

As far as they were concerned, I was batting ZERO.
I was scoring no points with them at all!  They seemed to have convinced themselves that I was an irresponsible mother for not having tested for everything imaginable.

(disclaimer:  if you do those tests, obviously that's quite up to you.  I choose not to do much of that, and that is quite up to me.  I promise I do not make decisions thoughtlessly.)

Back to asking for my baby...Dennis then said, in his big Dad's voice, "She'd really like to hold the baby." The nurse finally turned in a I-guess-we-can't-keep-acting-like-we-don't-here-them sort of way and said that I could hold her, but not feed her until lab came up.
The nurse that was near me was, at this same time, making her way over to Elizabeth, saying "I think we'll let Baby come to Mommy now..." and it was obvious that she was lower on the totem-pole than the other two ladies, because it was said in an asking permission sort of way.
It's hard to type out all the nuances of the whole situation--I hope this is making a modicum of sense.
I could tell she felt bad because I was sitting there crying, so disappointed, shaking my head and whispering, "I didn't want all this...I didn't want all this..." to Dennis and Megan, and to myself, too, I guess.

Elizabeth had just been laying there in the warmer--the nurses had stopped with oxygen for several minutes and she was just laying there crying.  Had they still been "working on her" I wouldn't have intervened, but she was just laying there, all alone.  It was, quite obviously, the farthest she and I had been away from one another in her whole life.  I wanted her near, and she wanted to be near me.  She quieted as soon as she was in my arms.
She rooted around, obviously hungry, and I still don't know why I didn't say to heck with you, Mean Nurse Lady and just feed my baby.  It's the non-confrontational part of my personality, I guess.
But I didn't, I just held her close and tried to put a smile on my face.  And I did--put a smile on my face.

We waited until the lab lady came, who looked amazingly like Estelle Getty who played Sophia on The Golden Girls.
She needed to do a heel-stick to check E's glucose levels.  It was brought up that we had to wait for her to come before I could feed the baby and she said, "What?  We never do a glucose test without a first feeding on board."

She then assumed, taking in my youthful appearance (HA!!!), that this was my first baby.  I said, "No, she's my ninth."
This stopped her in her tracks.
She looked up at us over her Estelle Getty glasses and said, "You're not trying to keep up with that Duggar family, are you?" (except she pronounced it Doo-gar.)
Dennis said, "What if we are?"
(We're not--it's not a competitive sport, you know.)

She just laughed and finished her work.

She left and I was finally able to just feed and snuggle my new baby.

Megan, Dennis and I then re-hashed everything that had just taken place.
I needed to sort it all out in my mind, 1) because it had gone fast  2) so much happened that I hadn't wanted  and 3) it was a lot to take in.

Megan went home and I took a quick bath and then we were moved over to a postpartum room.  Elizabeth just stayed close to me all through the night until very early in the morning, I did let them take her to the nursery for a thorough bath and such and I slept while she was gone for a bit.

In the morning, Jen (my midwife) stopped by before going over to her clinic.  We were able to talk about what had happened the night before.
She said, "Remember when you first came to see me how I said this was a very midwife and mother friendly hospital?  Yeah, well, of ALL the nurses you could have gotten, you ended up with the two who are the most hostile to midwifery.  You could have had 12 other ones and had no problem!  When I walked into your room last night, I was like, 'ooooooooooohhhhh no.' "

I don't know what we will do if the Lord grants a next time, because she told us that morning she was moving away.  I don't know if we'll "follow" her to her new location or not.  There is talk of a birthing center coming to our area; maybe that will be an option for us.
I won't be going back to the hospital where Elizabeth was born.

We left the hospital that afternoon amid much surprise that we were leaving "so early"--less than 24 hours after birth.  She was born just after eight the night before, and we started the process of leaving at about 2:00 the next afternoon.  Of course, that process takes quite awhile so it was more like 4 before we were out the door.
I felt good and we had so much at home that needed us, too, so it was a good choice.

My postpartum issues that I have struggled with in past pregnancies have been much better.  I credit taking B vitamins for this and am so thankful to another mommy friend who suggested that to me.

Even though Elizabeth was COMPLETELY turned around for a good three weeks, this past week she has slept much better at night which has been wonderful.
She turned one month old yesterday.
I say this every time, but it seems as if she was just born yesterday and yet has been with us forever.

I have another post coming up in which I will explain how I will have to eat some of my own outspoken words.  That's going to be a fun one for me to write...or not.  But I will write it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Elizabeth's Birth Story Part 2

As I was saying in Part 1, I had decided that I'd better get to work.

I had been so excited at the option of a water birth, I had stayed up late into the nights preceding her birth reading about birthing in water, and yet somehow had never expressed this to Dennis, Megan, or Jen.
By the time I asked about possibly getting into the tub there, Jen (the midwife) felt that the baby would be here before the tub filled.
Instead of getting excited about the proximity of meeting my child, I was disappointed again!  It seemed to be a recurring theme...
I had been in lighter spirits for a time during my labor with when the nurses cleared the room and left us alone, Dennis bumped into the sterile table, knocking over the contents.  I told him it reminded me of something Don Knots would have done.
Most of the contractions I had I handled by "hanging" from Dennis' neck and swaying from side to side.  As he had a migraine, he said the pressure of my hands gripping the back of his neck actually felt good for him.  It was a win-win.
I also found that sitting on the birth ball was very helpful--I had done this with both Ruby and Ivy, too.

After some minutes, it was suggested that I try using the birth stool, which I had never done.  I thought I could give it a try, and did, but did not like it.  I wonder if perhaps they are not the best for plus-size women?  It's just my theory.  I did labor for a time upon it, but right before the baby was born, Jen could see I was not impressed using it and asked if I would prefer to birth the baby in the bed.  As I'd delivered all the others that way, I said yes, and that's what we did.

It only took a couple pushes and she was here!

I had completely convinced myself that the baby was a boy so that's pretty much what I said over and over again:  I thought it was going to be a boy...

We had seen the midwife at 3pm, swept membranes at 4, labor began mildly at 6:15.  At 7:45, Jen checked and I was at 9cm with no consistent contraction pattern. She said the only thing holding this baby back was a big bag of water.  After some discussion, I agreed for her to break the water. Things moved quickly then and she was born at 8:16 pm.  Not a bad schedule.  (The overdue part wasn't a fun part of the schedule, but the quickness of labor was a plus!)

There is some more to the story I'd like to write about, so I guess there will be a part 3.

And if you're thinking, that took her a whole week to write that?!?! , the answer is:
Yes it did.
My mind has been on a bit of a grammatical sabbatical lately.
(Ha, ha!  I crack me up.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Elizabeth's Birth Story Part 1

This post is a tough one for me to write.
I was hoping to have some great experience to talk about, but I don't really.
(Many of the following details will be of interest to few people but myself,
but I write them here to be a sort of record for me and for Elizabeth, too.)

To start with, I was a bit overdue.
Even though I told myself (and others) over and over again that I wasn't too concerned at being overdue, the truth is, all the "what-ifs" were starting to niggle in the back of my mind .
These "what-ifs" plague me all throughout each pregnancy,
but seemed to intensify the last several weeks this time.
It was hard to stay focused on just preparing to have my baby when I was reminded at every turn just how overdue I was and all the risks, etc.

I was worried, and yet I wasn't.
Makes sense, right?

And so...
I called my midwife per our agreement when Monday arrived and my baby remained INside.
I had had a non-stress test the Monday before and that is what was recommended for this day as well.
When I called my midwife she said it was funny that I was calling because she had just gotten off the phone with the hospital who had called her wondering what the scoop was on me--her "42 week-er" who had not delivered at their hospital yet.

Jen (my MW) said to come down anytime between 1 and 3.
I was agitated and distracted and I was irritated with my husband (don't even remember why) that day.
I waited for him to finish trying to fix the skid loader and then we set off on the 45 minute drive to the clinic.
I did bring along the camera and my bag, "just in case" we stayed.
Afterward, in talking with a friend whose baby was 2 weeks overdue, she recalled how she had pretty much convinced herself that her baby was never really going to be born--that she would just stay pregnant forever.  It put words to just how I'd been feeling!  That was my thought process that day--I knew we were going to an appointment, that there was a (seemingly remote) possibility that the baby could be born, but it was really more likely that I'd just be pregnant forever.  It was as if I couldn't entertain the thought that I'd be having a baby that day because it would get my hopes up again and I didn't have the emotional stamina to be let down again.

We checked in at the desk after a conversation-less drive.
(I was a really charming lady that day--delightful, in fact.)
While seated in the waiting room, I said to Dennis,
"I am NOT stepping on that scale."
Moments later, the unsuspecting nurse called us back.
She stopped expectantly at the scale, waiting for me to step up on it.
I said, "I don't want to."
She nervously giggled and...waited.
Dennis said, "She just told me in the waiting room that she didn't want to be weighed today."
She nervously giggled again and...waited.

Though I didn't say it out loud (that I know of) my body language probably conveyed a great big
I stepped on the horrible scale and watched her ratchet the number increasingly to the right.
And then,
I burst out crying.
I shoved my big feet back into my slippers (I hadn't fit into my shoes for many weeks)
and tried to find my way to the exam room through the tears that were blurring my eyes and running down my cheeks;
the same tears that were bewildering the poor nurse
and leaving my husband feeling quite helpless to know what to do with me.

Once in the room, I sat there, looking at my feet and wiping at my tears, while the nurse took my blood pressure and ventured her first words since my emotional otburst:
"You're just ready to done...aren't you."


Hooked to the monitor and waiting for Jen to come in,
I felt like such a patient.
I just wanted to be a pregnant mama.
It was very difficult for me to come to terms with the point at which I had arrived--
needing some extra monitoring...intervention.
I felt so defeated.

When Jen came in, we discussed some options.
With more crying from me, we eventually decided to do a sweep of the membranes.
She then advised us not to leave town, to walk around the mall for a bit because she felt things could happen fairly quickly.
This was at about 4:00; she said to wait around and call her at about 6:00 to touch base and see how things were going.

I did have some things I needed at the fabric store in the mall, so we went there.
Dennis was SO EXCITED to trail along with me!
Except he wasn't.
He had a migraine and was bored out of his mind.
I told him to just go wait in the car and I would call him if I needed him.

I wandered around the store, called my mom to give her an update,
she offered to go get the younger kids and take them to their house for the night.
I was getting discouraged that contractions hadn't really started up,
and so I checked out at the register and began to walk to the car.
Dennis had decided to wait inside the mall,
and as I walked to him and we began to walk to the car
I had some strong contractions.

He was on the phone and I was irritated about that so I didn't really say anything to him.
(Just being honest...)
We had already decided to have supper at Subway
so we made our way over there.
I waited and waited--STARVING away to practically nothing--
(a lot had changed since my weigh-in?)
while he finished his conversation in the Subway parking lot before going in to get our sandwiches.
I decided to call my friend and doula, Megan,
and talk things over with her.
While we spoke, I had some more contractions and then decided to call Jen.

Dennis came back with the sandwiches before I had a chance to call her
so we ate in relative silence, me not drinking the pop he had not bought me, but I wasn't bitter.
I wish I would have been in a better mood, but I was still having a hard time coming to terms with having to have a hospital birth instead of the homebirth I had my mind and heart so set upon.

We made our way over to the hospital parking lot while I spoke to Jen on the phone.
Knowing it can take quite some time to get checked in to the hospital,
even when you've sent them all the pre-registration papers,
we went in.

This was a new hospital for us, so I didn't even know exactly where we were supposed to go.
Getting checked in, answering all the questions,
ie, do you wear dentures, do you have tuberculosis, do you feel safe, are you wearing jewelry, are you having a contraction now?  How about now?  Now?
and all I could think was
"I didn't want this.  I don't want to be here."
People I didn't know, a strange much of what I didn't want.

Finally, knowing that train of thought was getting me nowhere,
I decided that birthing this baby was what I had to do.

This story is getting rather long, though, so I'll divide it into more than one post.
And in case I forget, do remind me to tell you about Elizabeth's "day before."

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