Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy – Z3’

December 13, 2017

Mery and Done! (Almost)

The stars have aligned and I’ve been able clear out my Christmas task list in a major way.

Christmas cards can take weeks to do, since I like to do everything from take the photo to designing the actual card. This year I didn’t even have a design concept I was happy with. I have been mulling over just using past photos of the kids, and maybe even an old card layout when an idea struck me Saturday night as I was going to bed. I told Domingo my plan Sunday morning and we were able to do a mini photo shoot with the kids that afternoon. That evening I managed to design the cards in what felt like a lightening fast two hours. Check it out, I think it’s one of my best.

I opted to use Shutterfly’s addressing service for the Christmas Cards again. It’s not as nice as hand addressing them, but I figure most of our friends and family won’t mind. I have a better excuse for not hand addressing the cards this year since I’m roughly the size of a beached whale with an energy level that ranges from almost non-existent to flat-lining. At least they’re done early enough so recipients should receive their cards before the holidays. Last year a few cards didn’t arrive until the day after Christmas.

Santa needs to find one more present and a few stocking stuffers, but all non-Santa presents have been ordered and sent. All presents that I have received from out of town friends and family have been wrapped and are under the now trimmed tree. I know a few more presents are on their way, but nothing that will require too much energy to wrap.

The house could use still use some tidying up (when does it not?). That only leaves taking the kids to see Santa which we’re planning on doing this weekend, and getting a nice family photo by the tree. I won’t stress it if the family photo happens after Christmas again. For that matter, we can always do decorating cookies or gingerbread houses after the holidays again too. The kids will be home for two weeks, starting Christmas day, anyway and it’s a nice way to prolong the season.

Now I just need to finish getting ready for the baby. Putting the car seat in the car and assembling the crib would be a good idea to do before hitting 37-weeks/term on Friday. Tidying up the nursery would be nice too. Baby clothes are sorted up to 12 months, the rest are sitting in piles on the floor of the nursery waiting to be put away. The clothes are washed, but some of them could use a heavy dose of fabric softener.

The biggest sense of relief this past week came in the form of two offers to watch the girls should Z3 decide to make an early arrival. Z3 is head down and very low. My doctor was initially pretty sure I’d need to be induced again, but seemed much less convinced when she checked on Z3’s position. I have been feeling what might be off and on again contractions. Could be braxton hicks. Could be somersaults. I know it sounds weird or a 3rd time mom to not be sure, but I had made next to no progress before either induction. I am not entirely sure what it feels like when things start to kick off on their own!

December 6, 2017

First Time Charm

My best photo shoot is usually my third. Unless it’s something I’m shooting on a regular basis, I usually take a few iterations to figure out the best settings to lessen the chances of unintentional blur (both depth of field related, camera shake and motion). So when I decided to try a modified low key maternity photo in front of the Christmas tree, I was pretty stoked to get this on my first attempt.


ISO 5000
F/36 (to produce the star light effect)
2 Second Shutter Speed

It was a difficult shot. I’m kneeling so my bump is against to the widest part of the tree (you can see the floor in the background to the right.) I had troubles sitting still for so long, and ended up leaning against Alexis’ training potty so I could hold my position better. Even still there’s a bit of noise, but it’s not horrible. Given the difficulty of the shot, I think the end result was rather impressive. I was using normal noise reduction, and could experiment with pushing it to the max. If I used a star filter (something I didn’t yet own) I could create the stars with a wider aperture and not rely on such a high ISO setting or long shutter speed. If this is what I got when I didn’t quite know what I was doing, imagine what I could get with a little work!

All other attempts have been flops.

The stars created with a small aperture are small and dense with 14 rays that don’t stretch very far from the point light. The star filter set I purchased produce a maximum 10 rays. I was hoping there wouldn’t be much of a difference between 10 and 14 rays, but the 10 rays looked mighty thin compared to the 14 rays. Adding insult to injury, the greater the difference in contrast between point light to the rest of the photo, the longer the rays. The end result? Long streaks of light that didn’t really look like stars stretching across most of the photo. The darker the photo, like these low key setups, the worse the filter stars looked.


With star filter

Results with increased noise reduction were ok, but not remarkably better.

Sadly for me and my perfectionist tendencies, the further along I get in this pregnancy the less energy I have to try for better photos. I’m also getting impatient with the still yet untrimmed tree (I worry the ornaments will detract from the photo) so I decided to declare this photo attempt done after five tries. I did take a back up shot with an increased the aperture (bye bye pretty point light stars) which at least doesn’t suffer from noise or blur. I’m convinced that somewhere out there is a program that can add stars to point lights after the fact. If it doesn’t exist now, I’m sure it will at some point.

In the mean time, I ran my best photo (above) through every single photo manipulation app on my phone. Here are my two favorite results.

The first is from an app called Camera+ using the faded filter. I love the nearly black and white look with the stars supplying little bursts of color. The color tone is a nice touch as well.

Next up is Prism with the Curly Hair style. It’s another mostly black and white image, this one looks almost like a drawing.

Tomorrow while the kids are at school I plan to trim the tree while blasting Christmas music. My goal: be done with my to-do list early enough that I can relax the week leading up to Christmas and get plenty of sleep before the chaos that is Christmas morning. I did it before, I can do it again!

November 10, 2017

Low Key Maternity Photography

How can I possibly be 32 weeks already? It suddenly dawned on me that despite approaching the midway point in the third trimester, the only “bump” photos I have are a handful of bathroom selfies at 8 weeks when I couldn’t believe I was already showing. I needed to fix that, and I waned to challenge myself to try at something different.

Low key photos are low light, mostly dark photos that emphasize shadow and shape. I tried to do low-key bump portraits while pregnant with Alexis, but couldn’t master the light. I’ve experimented with dark background, spotlight photos before using a desk/craft light, but the craft light wasn’t strong enough to take photos of a larger subject (like my bump.)

This time around I decided to get a long, skinny adjustable craft light since I can almost always use more high quality desk lamps. I settled on TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp since it allowed me to adjust both brightness & color temperature. As an added bonus, TaoTronics had a newer model so the one I purchased was on the cheaper side. As long as it’s a bright white light and the right narrow shape, any lamp will do. To further control the light I cut up the Amazon box it shipped in and made cardboard flaps. I taped a flap to each side of the lamp, to focus the light so it wouldn’t illuminate the wall behind me.

As a general rule of thumb the darker the photo, the more visible the ISO noise. To make this photo work I had to shot at a very low ISO setting, which means a longer exposure time. Unfortunately, unlike my previous spotlight attempts I needed to shot with the room dark. The larger the subject, the further back the craft light needs to be. The further back the craft light, the less bright the light is when it reaches the subject. I shot the above photo ISO 100, f/5, 1/13 a second. Normally I’m comfortable shooting at ISO 1000, but it was just too much noise.
The above photo is pushing the boundaries of what my 5 year old camera can do.

If you want to attempt a similar photo, here are my tips:
– Where light color, possibly skin toned clothes. I tried this in a dark sweater and everything other than my hands all but disappeared.
– Use a Lower ISO settings to avoid noise. I know I said that before, but this is one instance where a little noise can really ruin your photo.
– Adjust the cardboard flaps (you can use masking tape at the tops and the bottoms) to control how narrow or wide the light beam is.

September 28, 2017

Differences in Pregnancies

This pregnancy has been so amazingly different from my other two. I’ve had virtually no migraines, when that was a pretty common system with both my first two. Instead I’ve had way more morning sickness. It’s part of the reason most everyone around me guessed Z3 was a boy (spoiler, she’s a girl). My Mother in law was convinced I was carrying differently and that must be because Z3 was a boy. Alexis’ former daycare teacher was sure it was a boy because I looked like I had lost weight. I hadn’t, but I appreciate the complement.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of how all my pregnancies differ.

Morning Sickness
1st/Zippy: No real morning sickness or food aversions to speak of. I did find myself loving sun dried tomatoes which normally I pass on.
2nd/Ziggy: Can’t eat black beans, pinto beans are the same. This is note worthy since my go-to lunch while working at Google was a burrito so I had to skip on black bean days. All else remains the same.
3rd/Z3: Food is the DEVIL. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what I can eat. It was if some invisible force was rolling the dice each and every time I tried to eat. Something I could eat yesterday would turn my stomach today. Sometimes even bread was on my no-can-do list. I could eat the flesh of a plum, but the skin makes my stomach turn. Morning sickness finally started going away around 20 weeks.

Diet (At least initally)
1st/Zippy: Cried on a five hour flight because I was hungry and all they had to eat was ham and cheese sandwhiches and that’s on the no-no list when pregnant.
2nd/Ziggy: Stuck to the no-no list reasonably well.
3rd/Z3: Forgot delimeat was a no-no item and lived off of ham & cheese sandwhiches for a week before remembering.

Prenatals
1st/Zippy: 3 months before we started trying, during the trying to conceive journey and every day pregnant.
2nd/Ziggy: Took a few off an on when we started trying to conceive. Was a lot more diligent about it after we got our pregnancy test, but I know I missed a few days here and there.
3rd/Z3: Pretty sure I last took one in the 1st trimester. At least I’m eating a lot healthier over all (now) and the carbs I was eating back then were heavily fortified with folic acid.

Migraines
1st/Zippy: Started around 10 weeks with one that lasted four days. Got worse in the second trimester and stayed bad mostly through the third.
2nd/Ziggy: I had 3-4 a week, not sure when they started. Magnesium supplements helped.
3rd/Z3: I’ve had 2 or 3 total since becoming pregnant the third time. I’ve only needed to take medication for it once.

Gestational Diabetes
1st/Zippy: Nope!
2nd/Ziggy: Nope!
3rd/Z3: Partially failed the diabetes test. I’m on the diet (hence the eating a lot healthier now) but am not technically diabetic.

Weight Gain
1st/Zippy: 10 lbs (lost a lot thanks to those pesky migraines)
2nd/Ziggy: 16 lbs
3rd/Z3: So far (28 weeks) 7lbs, but that’s including weight loss from the gestational diabetes diet.

Energy Levels
1st/Zippy: I felt pretty normal, assembled her crib at 37 weeks pregnant mostly by myself.
2nd/Ziggy: Got stuck under my desk trying to plug an Ethernet cable back in around 27 weeks.
3rd/Z3: By 20 weeks walking upstairs was too much effort, I think I’ll nap on the couch.

Sleeping
1st/Zippy: Boppy please!
2nd/Ziggy: Ugh, no boppy!
3rd/Z3: Random pillow between the knees to spare my hips.

Kids’ reactions to future pregnancies
2nd/Ziggy: Nicole would tell everyone she had a baby in her tummy too.
3rd/Z3: Both Nicole and Alexis would say they have a baby in their tummies too until I had to go on the gestational diabetes diet. Once Nicole learned I couldn’t have candy she quite adamantly determined she did NOT have a baby in her tummy.

August 23, 2017

Baby Gear, Round 3!

It’s time to start thinking about baby gear! Z3 will be here before we know it.

A New Baby Monitor System. I loved our old monitor, really I did, but it’s showing it’s age and barely functional at this point. The parent console often loses signal and sometimes can’t process the image feed. We’re left with a ghostly white image that lingers on the screen. I’ve gotten used to enough that I can guess what’s going on in the room. Usually. If that’s not enough of a draw back, the night time vision of one of the cameras is about half power, and whenever the parent console is connected to that monitor it picks up an intermittent buzzing that keeps me awake. Since the girls are in the shared big girl room, we’ve just been using the working camera.

A new high chair. I hated our old one. We were going to pitch it and replace it before Alexis was born, but my frugal tendencies took over and saved it from the dumpster. The padding is now ripped, so I think I can finally give myself permission to part with it.

A crib. The old one is ok, but between the teeth marks, and the non standard screws I can make a case why it should be replaced.

A bottle warmer. These things always seem to get so gross. Looks like each kid will be getting her own.

Another rocking chair. One can never have too many rocking chairs. The first one we purchased is downstairs in our living room. We purchased a second one that is currently in the nursery, but that’s in the middle of the house. I’m thinking about getting a third one for the master bedroom since Z3 will probably sleep in there for a few months (I know, it’s a total splurge.)

I’m kind of amazed that the jumperoo is still in good shape, and Alexis’ activity gym given how Nicole destroyed hers. It sometimes feels like those are the only two things that survived. The rock n’ play is doing okay, but the fabric just isn’t as nice as it once was. Alexis’ changing pad is also in ok shape. We recently purchased a new crib mattress before moving Alexis to a twin size, so at least we’re good there.

August 15, 2017

Girl!

I am over the moon. Three girls was exactly the family I’ve been hoping for and envisioning.

I know I’m not supposed to have a gender preference. Or maybe I’m supposed to have a preference for the other gender I don’t have? Everyone around me seems to think I’ve been hoping for a boy, and were rooting for a boy on my behalf. Truth is, I’ve had my heart set on a third daughter since before she was conceived. With Alexis (Ziggy) I only developed a strong preference for a girl a week before the anatomy scan. With Nicole (Zippy) I was sure she was going to be a boy and I never really had a chance to hope for one gender or the other.

Nicole is super excited she’s having another sister. I told Alexis and she corrected me saying “it’s a boy!” I guess we’ll have to wait and see what she thinks when Z3 gets here!

Our anatomy scan went well. I’m oddly not feeling much movement this time around. The technician was surprised when I said that since Z3 isn’t in a bad position for movement. Maybe it’s just that I’m so distracted charging after my first two that I’m just not noticing the movement as much? She was quite the little active bean for the technician, quick to prove she was alive and healthy.

The technician wasn’t able to get one of the photos she was after. The hospital is trying something new where the perinatologist is on hand, so there’s no longer a need for second appointment when these situations arise. (With Nicole I had to go back in at a later date when the same thing happened.) Our technician explained the new approach up front to alleviate any concerns should they need to summon the perinatologist. I’d like to think as a third time mom I’m a little less prone to worrying, but we all know that isn’t true. Neither the perinatologist nor the technician were able to capture the structure they wanted in a single ultrasound image, but both were confident that they saw said structure and everything was developing normally so they sent us on our way.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to regular readers that I’m frugal to borderline cheap. Buying pregnancy tests in bulk, and saving the extras are well within my normal frugal tendencies. So when Domingo and I decided to start trying for a third child, I planned to use those left over pregnancy tests I had saved. We had succeeded in conceiving Alexis much sooner than I anticipated, so I had quite a few left over. The only problem? They had expired in April of 2015 and it was nearing the end of 2016.

I did some research online and the general consensus was that an expired pregnancy test was fine to use. The older the test, the more likely it had lost some sensitivity to hCG, the human pregnancy hormone. An expired test is therefore more likely to give a false negative reading. Since are few conditions where one would have hCG in their system and not be pregnant, a false positive is unlikely in general. Therefore, I concluded, the primary risk of using an expired test is that I might have to wait a little longer to find out the good news. If I was pregnant, hCG would slowly increase in my system and eventually be enough for the expired test to pick up. What’s a few extra days wait?

If only that was my experience. Instead I was treated to a new kind of false positive I had never heard of before, the disappearing false positive.

To back track a little, the main form of false positive is an evaporation (evap) line which happens when the test strip dries in such a way that the second line is visible. A tall tell sign of an evap line is the line is grey, and appears after the testing time window, when the test is dry. Generally speaking, a line within the testing window should be considered positive.

The second month we tried, the second line indicating a positive appeared at the 4 minute 30 second mark. It was a full thirty seconds within the time window. Hurray, pregnant!

I’m the kind of obsessive person who likes to go back and look at the positive test throughout the day, take pictures of it, etc. I do the same with negative tests too, minus the pictures of course. Two hours later I could only see the second line while holding the strip under a bright lamp and holding it at just the right angle. A little while later I couldn’t even see it then. I wondered if my eyes were playing tricks on me. I tried not to let my mind dwell on the second line that was no longer there. If I was pregnant, I rationalized, I’d get another positive test in the next day or two. I tested the next day, and the next, and the next. Negative across the board.

Two months later the same thing happened. This time the second line was more pronounced, and appeared at the two minute mark. It didn’t fade away into nothingness until 6 hours later. This time I was a little more mentally prepared for the possibility that I might not be pregnant.

After doing some digging online I found a line that disappeared within 24 hours is exceedingly rare, the result of a faulty test and should be considered as a negative. My frugal tendencies had lead to unnecessary heartache.

With my first, I was worried about potter’s syndrome. With my second, I was worried about spina bifida. This time around there hasn’t been something specific I’ve been worried about, just a general feeling of dread that something would go wrong. During the drive in to my doctor’s appointment on the 11th I was going over what-if scenarios in my head. What if there’s no heart beat? Would I tell everyone about the pregnancy? It was after my NT screen and would be considered a second trimester loss, but the pregnancy wasn’t public knowledge yet.

At this early stage appointments are mostly just checking vitals, chit chatting and listening to the heartbeat. My doctor had my lie back on the table, squirted the jelly on belly and… nothing. No rapid swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. Oh god, this is it. I thought. She kept moving the wand around, but we couldn’t hear anything.

“Don’t panic,” she told me. “I can hear the heart beat, I just can’t get it on the Doppler.”

“I think I felt her move a few minutes ago,” I lied. She would have to be superwoman to have the kind of hearing to hear a heartbeat not on the Doppler. I was sure she was just trying to reassure me.

“Wait right here,” it was a silly request, I was covered in gel with my stomach exposed, “let me get the ultrasound machine so you don’t have to worry.” I could feel the tears forming in the corner in my eyes. I have heard of these kinds of appointments before. They never end well.

As soon as the wand was on my belly I scaned the screen for a flicker of a heart beat. For a brief moment, Z3 was still on the screen. My breath caught in my throat. And then, she hiccuped. The slight movement was enough to bring the heart into view, complete with the flickering. I have never been so relieved in my life. My doctor turned on the sound and we listened to the Swoosh Swoosh Swoosh.

“She was hiding pretty far back there,” my doctor told me.

I kept saying I wasn’t worried, but I’m sure my doctor saw right threw me. “Let’s take a quick look” she said, moving the wand over to show Z3’s various body parts.

We had just been discussing early prenatal testing. I opted out of the blood test which would have revealed the gender, despite desperately wanting to know. My insurance would only cover one type of prenatal testing and I had choosen the NT scan with ultrasound to confirm no abnormalities were present. Since we had the ultrasound out already, my doctor was willing to take a quick peak. I thought I saw girl anatomy, but my doctor thinks the line could have been the umbilical cord. Even if we didn’t get an early guess at gender, I appreciate the chance to look.

So far every pregnancy for me has had one big scare. With my first, we needed a second anatomy scan to verify her brain was developing normally. With the second, there were concerns I might have been worried about leaking fluid only a few weeks into viability. Z3 was just getting the scare over with early.

July 12, 2017

Another Kind of Five

Nicole’s fifth birthday wasn’t the only reason to celebrate the number 5! We’re well on our way to being a family of FIVE.

I feel like I’ve been holding on to this secret forever. When we were pregnant with Alexis, I was comfortable spilling the beans early. One of Nicole’s teachers asked me when we were going to have another and I blurted out “November” only a few days after the positive pregnancy test. We knew if something went wrong we would keep trying for a second. Nicole was too young to pay attention to just how long I was pregnant, so whether mommy was pregnant for 9 months, or 15 months, Nicole would be getting a little brother or sister eventually.

This time around things were much less certain. Given our ages, and the desired age gaps between the kids, it didn’t make sense to keep trying indefinitely. Telling the girls early meant we might need to untell them should something go wrong. I wasn’t comfortable with that, and I couldn’t risk telling other people for fear the information might reach their ears.

I’m kind of surprised no one guessed. I feel like I was showing at 8 weeks, and I’ve had all the typical first trimester pregnancy symptoms of fatigue and morning sickness. Maybe everyone around us was just being polite.

We told the girls two a week ago, so they’d know before my parents visited. I took a video of us breaking the news. After I told them there is a baby in Mommy’s tummy Nicole asks excitedly “for real?” and Alexis jumps up and rushes to me saying “let me see!” She’s actually asking to see herself on the phone I’m holding (she loves watching herself on videos) but it totally looks like she’s asking to see the baby in my tummy. Adorable, if not a little misleading.

We’ve tentatively taken to calling this baby Z3. I wanted another zi–y name to match Ziggy and Zippy, but the only thing I could think of was Zitty. Future child would have despised that nickname. So Z3 it is!