Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Welcome to the Hive: Alice Jane’s Bumblebee Nursery

Did you hear the buzz? We’re bringing home a baby bumblebee! Well, we brought our little queen bee back to the hive six months ago. We think she’s the bee’s knees, she’s bee-loved, and sweeter than bee vomit (honey)…okay I’m stopping.

I really love bees. In my team design class in college, which was the culmination of my civil engineering studies, we were to design an industrial complex with a recycling business capable of generating 20 megawatts of energy with a sustainable residential zone catering to employees and families of on-site industries. We were to propose and research five related industries and design the structural, geotechnical, environmental, and transportational aspects of the complex. I was quick to suggest an entomological enterprise, which integrated with our proposed greenhouse facility. Bees and butterflies provide a vital link in pollination and you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that an estimated 1/3 of honeybees have recently vanished. As Einstein (may or may not have) said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

It is a dream of mine to someday have a hive in our backyard. It took great restraint not to invest in this amazing Flow Hive kickstarter campaign. I have even researched beekeeping classes in Illinois. For fellow Pushing Daisies fans (and if you’re not, you should be)…Chuck Charles is my spirit animal! THEN I came across this absolutely stunning room reveal on Pinterest, featuring an ombre hexagon wall in a citrus color palette, and it clicked! I knew that if we had a baby girl, I wanted to do a bumblebee themed nursery, heavy on the geometrics (another obsession of mine)!

We were moving the bed from our guest room into the basement and converting it into Alice’s nursery. The room already had these great olive green geometric floor to ceiling curtains my mom made to coordinate with the guest bedding and I didn’t really want to replace them. All bee themed nursery décor I found online was “blah” yellow and black, babyish, yuck…not what I was going for, so I knew I would be going custom. My next “ah-ha” moment came when I discovered the Sweet as Honey by Bonnie Christine fabric collection in the Autumn Harvest Palette. I could not have personally designed something better aligned with my vision! I quickly identified the “Orchard Blossom in Autumn” as the primary fabric I would use to make the crib sheets and changing table cover. I chose my four other favorite fabrics for a 4-tiered ruffled crib skirt, purchased some extra “Bee Sweet in Sunset” for a Boppy cover, and ordered a fat quarter bundle to assemble a small quilt, backed with gray minky.

We decided to create our own ombre hexagon wall behind the crib, although ours would not include the wooden hexagon grid like our inspiration wall. We measured the wall and I laid it out in AutoCAD to determine the optimum size and spacing for the hexies (how else would you do it??). Then I brought it into Photoshop and used the dropper tool to identify five colors from a jpeg image of my Orchard Blossom swatch that I would use in the corner of the wall. We took a trip to Home Depot with a print of this template, the Orchard Blossom swatch, and a swatch of the curtain fabric. In addition to the five hexagon colors, we pulled Behr’s White Clay, which we’ve used as the primary neutral color throughout our home, to paint the entire nursery and use as a background to the grid.

I made a hexagon template out of foam board and set about the painstaking task of taping off the grid. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took about two hours. After seeing it taped, I wound up altering my original design, just slightly.

We purchased sample sizes of each of the four accent colors, and started with the red since it was the only color to be used on a single row. The inside corner hexagon was easy because we just opened the jar and applied the paint. From then on, we poured the paint into a separate cup and mixed white paint to achieve the next desired color. This process wasn’t very precise and we quickly discovered we needed a lot more white paint than the sample size we had originally purchased. We used leftover gray paint from Malcolm’s nursery for the two gray rows, but it was a little too light once it was on the wall. Fortunately, we had some black paint leftover from another project and mixed black into the gray to achieve the two darkest shades.

The next big painting projects in the room were the crib and changing table. Malcolm’s changing table functions as his dresser, and we planned to leave the Restoration Hardware dresser from the guest room in the nursery to use for Alice, so we decided to purchase an inexpensive changing table from Ikea. We decided to transition Malcolm to full size bed and repurpose his crib in Alice’s nursery, but I didn’t think the pure white would look right with the existing furniture and color scheme. We decided to paint both the green color from the hexagon accent wall, which is Behr’s California Dreaming. I also found cute grey linen striped totes at Target that we use for storage under the changing table and end table.

I used the following internet tutorials/patterns for the bedding:

I used Lori Holt’s Hexie Half Ruler set to make the hexagon quilt. I modified the pattern slightly to suit my needs. I do not have a quilting machine, so I used a stitch in the ditch approach with my sewing machine to quilt two inner hexagons into each of the large hexies. Malcolm had hernia surgery in November before Alice was born, and I hand stitched the minky quilt binding while we were waiting in the hospital.

My last craft project in the room was the lampshade. I purchased this chartreuse rosette shade at Anthropologie several years ago to match the guest room bedding. I wanted to repurpose the same shade on this silver geometric table lamp from the Land of Nod, but it was not the right type of fitting. I wound up purchasing a simple white shade from the Land of Nod, removing the fabric from the Anthropologie shade, cutting away about three inches of fabric from the circumference, re-stitching it, and gluing it on the white shade.

We also purchased the grey honeycomb wall shelves from the Land of Nod. The glider and ottoman are from the same store, but we already had them in Malcolm’s room, we just moved them into Alice’s nursery to make room for his full size bed.

The three prints above the dresser, the felted wool mobile, and cast iron bee wall hooks were all Etsy finds. I was particularly fond of the monocled hedgehog and bee since I felt like the hedgehog gave a subtle nod to Alice in Wonderland! 

The Pottery Barn Kids Sweet Flower Rug in Crème was a gift to Alice from my Grandmother, and I feel like the neutral pop really tied the room together (any Big Lebowski fans?). 

This time I forwent making my own closet dividers (see Malcolm’s Dinosaur Nursery) with these pre-made ones I found on Etsy.

I think that hit all the highlights, but I’m happy to answer any questions! As with Malcolm’s room, we’re hoping we chose elements that can grow with her. Thanks for checking it out!

Ode to a VBAC

Half a year later and I am finally sitting down to write out Alice’s birth story before I completely lose all of the details. You don’t even want to know how little “progress” I’ve made on her baby book. Malcolm’s first year+ of life is beautifully documented in not one, but two Ruby Love Design baby books because I ran out of room to add pages to the first album. Jordan and I each wrote a personal letter to him for each month of pregnancy, we solicited relatives for similar notes to him, and included a “1st” card for each major holiday. By the time I get around to filling out Alice’s “Letter to Our Unborn Child” page, it will either be a blatant lie or, more likely, I’ll just fess up and try to make up for it with lots of sweet things about what a wonderful child she is, which won’t be hard to do! If she develops second child syndrome, it will be entirely my fault! In an effort to make up for it, I will go back a little further in her story.

My sister, Sarah, and I are 17 months apart and, with the exception of a few brief bumpy moments as teenagers (sharing a room can be rough), we have always been best friends! In part, I’ve attributed that closeness to our proximity in age, and I knew I wanted my own children to grow up as true contemporaries. All this to say, by the time we found out we were expecting Alice on June 6, 2014, we’d been actively trying for another baby for seven months, which is coincidentally the same amount of time we tried for our first baby! I think Jordan actually suspected I was pregnant before I dared to hope. After several nights of losing sleep needing to answer nature’s call, I snuck down early in the morning and took a home pregnancy test. A few months prior, I’d had my mom embroider a onesie I hoped to put on Malcolm to announce a sibling to his daddy, which said “I (mustache) You to Call Me Big Brother.” Before Jordan left for work, I dressed Malcolm in his announcement outfit and let him share the news!

The first two months of pregnancy went rather quickly as I was in three weddings! The first wedding was less than two weeks after we found out, so I wasn’t showing at all, but I was so bloated I cringe a bit at pictures of myself that day (although, the bride looked lovely and that’s what counts)! By the time the next two weddings rolled around, my bridesmaid’s dresses were a bit of a squeeze. Just look at this photo from Sarah’s wedding – yikes – Alice was definitely showing herself!

Interestingly, early in my pregnancy with each of my children I had a very vivid dream revealing their gender. It was only later I remembered that in my dream of Malcolm, he’d also been born breech! I wasn’t the least bit surprised at my 20-week ultrasound when the tech said I was expecting a little girl! I’d been telling myself and others that I was hoping for a boy, mostly out of practicality, I know how much I love my first little boy and we already have all the “boy” stuff, but once it was official, I was truly thrilled to have one of each. Growing up with only sisters, when I was a child fantasizing about being a mom, I always pictured myself with a little girl, and now that dream was becoming a reality! Jordan and I are fairly certain that our family planning stops at two children, so we decided to go ahead and use both of my favorite girl names: Alice Jane. Alice has been my top contender since sometime in high school and also happens to be a family name on Jordan’s side. Jane is not only one of my favorite names, but also honors a very close, generous family friend who has been like an aunt and confidant to me.

Alice’s estimated due date was February 11th. Malcolm had been due on May 11, 2013, but made his debut eight days “early” on the 3rd. Although, with Malcolm, they had adjusted my due date from May 1st based on my LMP to the 11th based on the first ultrasound, so in my mind, he came right on schedule. Given that history, I presumed that Alice would come right around her due date as well. At my 38-week appointment on January 28th, the doctor told me that my cervix was completely softened. This shocked me since the day before I went into labor with Malcolm I was still completely hard and closed. I was also a bit panicked because my mom wasn’t scheduled to come until February 8th, so I was nervous I would go into labor and have no one to stay with Malcolm. Sarah wound up flying in “just in case” and my mom moved her ticket up one week, so naturally…Alice came six days AFTER her due date.

My mom and I created several sewing projects for ourselves to keep our minds occupied, but I still felt like the “watched pot.” I’d tried every method of naturally inducing labor that I could find on Google, and the only one that seemed to do anything was pumping, but even then the contractions weren’t sustained. At my non-stress test (“NST”) on February 16th, the doctor stripped my membranes (ouch!), which must have done the trick because (spoiler alert) Alice was born the next day! The doctor wasn’t seeing the results they were hoping for at my NST in the OB’s office, so we were admitted to the hospital to continue it there. After a few hours, they were satisfied and we were sent home.

The next morning around 5:30 a.m. I awoke with consistent contractions and we began timing. By 8:30, they’d been five minutes apart for an hour, so we called the doctor and headed to the hospital, where we arrived around 9:00 a.m. A quick refresher on my labor with Malcolm: He was a footling breech and I went into spontaneous labor three days before my scheduled c-section. By the time we arrived at the hospital, my contractions were one minute in duration and two and a half minutes apart and his foot was presenting. The OR was already occupied, so I was wheeled into an alternate operating room, my water broke on the table and my doctor made it just in the nick of time to perform an emergency c-section, where I was under general anesthesia due to the lack of time for an epidural or spinal block. He was born at 7:44 p.m., only 44 minutes after pulling up to the hospital and less than five hours after my first noticeable contraction.

My experience with Alice could not have been more different. I had discussed a vaginal birth after cesarean (“VBAC”) with my doctor and researched the Bradley Method for natural labor. When I arrived at the hospital, I was only at 2 cm despite the frequency of the contractions, so we spent most of the day lying in silence while I visualized and focused on breathing and relaxing through my contractions. When the nurses changed shift later in the day, the nurse who came in said she had trained with a Jamaican midwife and gave me some great tips for walking and swaying through contractions and helped Jordan find the best spots to put counter-pressure on my hips and back. When we were walking the hall about two hours before Alice was born, we heard another laboring woman screaming at the top of her lungs and my nurse said, “Don’t worry Emily, that has nothing to do with you. You can do this!”

The nurse had told me to let her know if my water broke or if I started to feel pressure. By this time, it was close to 5:00 p.m. and I hadn’t had an internal check since my arrival. Walking helped cope with the contractions, but I’d been laboring all day and I didn’t feel an increase in pressure, so I was starting to worry that I wasn’t progressing. The pain, uncertainty, and hormones suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks and I came to the point where I didn’t think I could do it anymore. Remembering back to my reading, EVERY natural labor book out there warns of this moment and reassures that this means you’re almost done, but when you’re going through it, it sure doesn’t feel like it!

I started talking with Jordan about the possibility of having the epidural after all. This was a really emotional decision for me because I’d been so determined to do it on my own, but I just felt exhausted, defeated, and desperate. My mom had three successful natural deliveries, so I called her to talk through it. She was so encouraging and assured me that if I needed the epidural that didn’t mean that I was a failure. Jordan was also so wonderful! He gently reminded me of my goals (I think he didn’t want to see me disappointed in myself), but also offered support if I changed my mind. I asked him to call in the nurse, who told me that the anesthesiologist was currently in the OR with an emergency c-section, but he could come start an epidural for me in about 30 minutes. Then, something amazing happened! Literally, the next contraction, before the nurse had even left the room, I felt incredible pressure like I needed to push!

The nurse had me lie back down on the bed to check me and I was at 7 cm and had my bloody show. She told me I probably only had an hour to go, and this new information completely changed my attitude, giving me renewed purpose. I am now so grateful that the anesthesiologist wasn’t immediately available, so that I was able to achieve my original goal. My bag still hadn’t broken, and it coming through was the enormous pressure I was feeling, and it was such a relief when it finally burst! They called in the doctor and I got into position. The doctor encouraged me to push hard to speed things up and the idea that the harder I pushed the less I would have to, really spoke to me, although in hindsight I’m not sure this was the best approach as I tore pretty badly. I only had to push through about five contractions before our little girl arrived at 6:00 p.m. on (Fat) Tuesday, February 17, 2014, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long.

They immediately put her on my chest, which was something I didn’t get to experience with Malcolm. She had quite a lot of dark hair, dark eyes, and kept sticking out her tongue, ready to nurse right away. Although Malcolm breastfed for 15 months, he was tongue-tied, which presented some latching issues in the beginning. Alice made it abundantly clear that she was not tongue-tied and latched on with ease! Jordan reminded the doctor of our request for delayed cord clamping (which you can read about here), so she waited a few minutes until it stopped pulsing to clamp the cord and have Jordan cut it (also something he didn’t get to do with Malcolm).

Neither of us had any complications, so it was pretty smooth sailing. I was able to shower the next day and take a few pictures with our beautiful daughter. The hospital served us a celebratory dinner that night, and we were discharged the afternoon of February 19th. Alice wore the same pale pink Feltman smocked dress that I wore home from the hospital in 1986. It was chilly out, so she also donned a fuzzy cap knitted by my youngest sister, Molly. As you can see in this photo, Molly had made Malcolm a similar one:

I am on top in this photo and Alice is on bottom, wearing the same coming home dress:

Malcolm had been such a smiley baby right away that, at first, Alice seemed so serious, but now we think she’s even more smiley than he was! I have been really fortunate that both of my children have been great sleepers, and Alice is really content so long as someone is talking to her and if all else fails she LOVES to go outside. She and Malcolm look so different to me. He definitely favors the Fletcher side of the family with fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes, and Alice is colored more like her daddy, with olive skin tones, dark hair, and dark, dark brown eyes! Even their voices are different. Malcolm has been a somewhat reluctant talker and Alice is constantly vocalizing (loudly) already! I always knew that I wanted a baby girl, and once again, the Lord knew exactly what I needed even more than I did. We thank Him each and every day for these precious gifts and it is our greatest prayer that our children will have friendship with Him and live to serve His Kingdom and others!