So - where to begin? The story of Erin Abbe McCarthy began when her mom and I were wondering when to have kids. We had been married about two years and it was the fall of 2005. We had traveled a decent amount up until that time, but we both agreed we needed one more big trip before settling down. Sure enough, Angie won a sales incentive trip with her employer that year, and we were heading to Auckland, New Zealand followed by Tahiti in April 2006. Trips don't get much bigger or exotic (see the Tahitian sunset below) than that, so we knew this was the sign we were looking for.
By the time of Angie's family reunion in July 2006 and the picture below, Angie was probably already pregnant, but we didn't know it at the time. Enjoying our boat ride at sunset on a lake in Madison, Wisconsin with the wild and crazy Lantz family, little did we know we were about to start a magical journey into parenthood.
By the time of Angie's half-marathon trail run in early September, she was already over 2 months pregnant! This is Angie and Erin's first mother-daughter race, and this event belongs in the baby book because Erin successfully completed the race in Angie's belly without making things too difficult for her. As we would find out later, Erin is a pretty tiny yet tough little girl. Angie's trail run pals Kristy and Erica also successfully completed the race and cheered the mother-daughter duo at the finish line.
What would a pregnancy be without a baby shower? Check out the delicious cake my Aunt Joanne brought - the baker actually duplicated the shower invite in the frosting design. As you can see, lots of silly games were played (note Gingie Winkler trying to guess Angie's waist size) and plenty of lovely little girl's outfits were given to the baby-to-be (Angie shows her sister Sherry a "Give Peas a Chance" bib given by my cousin's children, Ryan and Danya). Angie's baby shower pals in the last picture include (from left) Aniela, Michelina, Angie, Kristy, Sonya and Michelina's daughter Marina in the foreground.
So did she get big towards the end? You bet - but never anywhere besides the belly - and best seen from the side profile angle. Angie would often fool the camera when looking straight on - it was tough to tell she was even pregnant until she turned to the side!
So what does the first-time expecting couple do at the last possible moment they can? That's right - they fly to the Bahamas in the middle of a February snow and ice storm that almost kept them in Washington D.C. I know, I know - New Zealand and Tahiti were supposed to be the last big trip, but this was different. This was the last chance to sit on a beach together - just the two of us - before there were three of us. Angie's criteria for the last-chance getaway were clear: it has to be somewhere warm and sunny with a beach, and it has to be accessible via non-stop flight of less than 3 hours duration. That narrows the list down, but we have no regrets with our trip to Sandals Grand Bahamian near Nassau. We met a great couple named Tammy and Chuck from Minnesota who made the trip that much more fun (they were escaping their three kids).
So that left us ready for the big event. We first thought she'd be an IRS baby (due April 17th), then we thought she could be due later, and then we got a very surprising update from Angie's doctors when they said she was breach and needed to come out via C-section sooner rather than later (the first week of April). The date was originally going to be Good Friday, April 6th, but doctors rescheduled to Thursday the 5th. I actually wrote up and submitted three different leave requests at my new job before I found out the real date two days before the event.
It's strange to be planning for a birth in the normal way only to have the plan changed to a C-section. It certainly took the mystery out of it. We now not only knew the day, but the exact time as well. It was like going to a doctor's appointment. We took our time getting ready and packing and then we were off to the hospital to have a baby at 3:00PM - very strange!
Angie got prepped in the anesthesia room and I hung out with her as she waited for her epidural to kick in. Then she was wheeled into the Operating Room to get prepped for surgery. I couldn't go with her right away, and I killed the time by suiting up in scrubs and waiting in the hallway. When I finally went in, they had a seat for me near Angie's head (purposefully keeping the husband away from where the work was getting done). Then they pulled up a makeshift curtain so we definitely couldn't see what was going on.
I just sat there keeping Angie company until after a short time (maybe 10 minutes or so), someone said "Daddy you may want to get your camera ready". I pulled out my camera just in time to take a picture of a little newborn baby being lifted up over the curtain by one of the doctors. Then I heard someone say, "Time - 16:20; she's a cute little girl". Angie was instantly emotional saying, "Oh my God - she's beautiful", as tears streamed down her face. I was actually pretty stunned and numb - not really knowing how I should feel yet. The nurses directed me to come with them over to a bassinet/incubator cart where they started cleaning up our baby girl. She was already starting to cry at a decent volume and I just looked at her dumbstruck. Again, a nurse had to prompt me to start snapping pictures as they dressed her in a little white shirt and a pink hat. I could hear Angie behind me saying something, and I turned to tell her how beautiful our baby girl was, and that's when I saw why they keep husbands away from the other end of a C section. Man - all I can say about what I saw when I turned around is that they were putting Angie back together again.
Here are some of our hospital pictures - including the moment of birth, and early visitors including Angie's mom and dad (George had just had eye surgery that same day), and my Aunt Joanne holding Erin in the picture with my cousin Denise's daughter Danya.
We spent Thursday the 5th through Easter Sunday in iNova Fairfax Hospital. Then we brought our little bunny home on Easter Sunday (see below). She slept quietly in her basket next to the dining room table while we ate Easter dinner with Angie's parents.
One of our first visitors once we got home was Angie's cousin Jeff and his son Jake. Erin had to wear preemie clothes, even though she was not a preemie, due to her tiny size. She's absolutely swimming in the white preemie outfit below.
Erin at 1 month - my parents and my sister with her son Connor came to VA to meet Erin for the first time on Cinco de Mayo. We were joined by my Aunt Joanne and Uncle Jack for a nice mini-family reunion in the kitchen.
Here are the posed monthly snapshots of Erin. Note the drastic progression as she goes from a tiny baby girl who won't smile to a slightly older tiny baby girl who won't smile.
These are all Erin in the 1 to 3 month range. You can see her folding her hands in prayer in one shot and meeting her cousins (Angie's sister Sherry's boys: Sean, Kyle and Brendan) for the first time in other shots. My brother John also visited to meet Erin for the first time. Towards the end of the series of pictures you'll see Angie at her laptop with baby girl in her lap getting some work in over the weekend.
Here are some shots of Erin visiting Angie's family reunion in Illinois and meeting the Lantz family in its entirety for the first time. Notice the picture of Erin, Angie, Linda and Linda's mom Ruth - 4 generations in one picture!
Out for a Stroll (September 2007)
And our favorite pictures of all (so far) happened when Erin was 5 months old and we took her for a stroll in the neighborhood. We captured some of her best smiles on camera.
Dad's 70th Birthday - Roadtrip to Scituate, MA (October 2007)
In October we packed up the family car for a 500 mile drive to Scituate for my Dad's 70th birthday. It was helpful to visit old college pal Ger Graceffo at the halfway point. His daughter Isabelle sat on Ger's lap for a picture with Erin.
We also squeezed in a visit to the Devlins in Milton where we spent some time watching the Red Sox clinch the ALCS against the Indians. Notice Aidan Devlin's Red Sox PJs as he poses for a picture with Erin. The Renauds also stopped by for a quick hello - Mike was definitely dressed for the postseason.
Sunday was the big day for my dad's 70th birthday. My mom hosted the event at the Scituate Country Club and many of our friends and relatives were there for the event. Many of them met Erin for the first time.
The trip to Scituate also gave us time to see my grandmother Irene. It was her first time meeting Erin too.
The weather on that trip was perfect - sunny and warm - just what you need for spending time outdoors - both in Scituate and in Boston.
Which brings us to our trip back to Virginia. We were lucky enough to break up the trip again - this time with the Thomases in New Jersey - the perfect halfway spot. Tim Thomas and I watched the Red Sox in the World Series and B.C. as they beat Virginia Tech in the last minutes of the game. Cheryl and Angie watched The Office in the basement. Erin got to spend some time with Maya and Connor.
Back to Scituate for Thanksgiving (November, 2007)
One month later we returned to Strawberry Lane for the first family Thanksgiving in Scituate in many years. The last time we had everyone under the same roof in Scituate for turkey day was probably in the early 1990s.
Erin's Baptism (January 20th, 2008)
OK - so we weren't so prompt in getting our daughter baptized - I think most people do this within three months or so - we waited until she was 9 months old. It's really too bad because you can see from the next picture that Erin was already praying at 1 month old!
But hey - that just means she was good and ready by the time she got dunked in the holy water. And at least we did it before she was old enough to drive herself to the church for the occasion. Here are some photos from that day.
St. Patty's Day 2008
St. Patrick's Day was pretty funny this
year in terms of perspective. I stayed home from work to be with Erin (ear
infection/high temp - more on that later) and I worked a little and painted our
living room a little during breaks from feedings, diaper changes, and overall
soothing. At one point I reflected back to a St. Patty's Day in Boston -
probably 2000 or so - when I went out for the day with my friend Mike Bruns just
to mark the distinct difference in my life now. Mike was finishing up at Harvard
MBA school and he probably hadn't been in Boston for March 17th before. He just
said he wanted the Boston St. Patty's Day experience. So I was in between
consulting assignments and decided to make the day of it - we started at the
Black Rose at 11AM. It was during Lent, so I wasn't drinking, but two or three
Irish pubs later, I decided that the Pope had given special dispensation and I
partook in the fun. We had a ball in an authentic St. Patrick's Day bar crawl
throughout Faneuil Hall and beyond. Mike actually called me later in the day to
see if I remembered that - we both had a good laugh over the difference a few
years can make in your life - he was on his way home to watch his three girls!
So I said enough is enough and I packed up the three of us and drove to
McDonald's for a shamrock shake - at least I preserved that family tradition.
Anyway - here's Erin that day with Angie. With a name like Erin McCarthy, you
better believe we dressed her in green:
Erin's Health (Fall/Winter/Spring 2007/2008)
Our poor little girl had a rough fall/winter/spring health wise. It could have been worse, of course, and we're grateful that all in all, she's a pretty healthy baby. But there were so many ear infections and high temperatures that is seemed like two weeks in a row of good health were rare. She had about 7 or 8 ear infections during that time, and they lasted about 2 weeks each - that's a lot of working at home and days off for the new parents. It really takes an understanding employer and great teammates to make it possible - both at work and at home. That's right - especially at home. You can't be arguing over who needs to go into work more and who has the more important job when you both have the same pressures. We've been pretty good so far in sharing the hit with sick days to watch Erin. But sometimes it gets tricky. It seemed like I caught half of the bugs Erin caught, and when both daddy and baby are sick, mommy has no choice but to take care of both of us! I think I caught the flu two or three times during this period - and I hadn't been sick with the flu since high school and I've been out of high school for 20 years!
Oh well - I digress. The real story is our decision to have tubes put in both of Erin's ears. Despite advice to the contrary from our pediatrician, we've decided to go through with it after consulting with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. The ENT told us that 5+ ear infections within one year is unacceptable for proper hearing and speech development. He said we could change one of two things: 1.) get her out of any daycare situation with 5 or more kids in the same room; and/or, 2.) get the tubes installed in her ears. We know we don't have a better answer than our current daycare situation with KinderCare, so we knew tubes were the answer. Her big day is Friday, May 23rd. We know it's routine and lots of kids get them these days, but we're still a little nervous to be bringing our 13 month old daughter into surgery in two days.
The reason I bring all this up, of course, is to share a picture of Erin and Angie in the emergency room at iNova Fairfax hospital. I brought her in to see the pediatrician for a routine ear infection/high temperature, and the doctor said "Pop, get your stuff together - you're going to the emergency room". Erin's white blood cell count got way too high for the doc's liking, so he called ahead to the ER to line up a more detailed test. Erin turned out fine, and as you can see by the picture, she even found time to smile and enjoy the experience.
Weekend Escape to Warm Springs, VA (5/16/08)
So you week after week goes by and I start to get the itch for a road trip - must be the traveler in me. If enough time goes by between trips, I will convince myself that it isn't that hard to travel with a baby. So I picked a remote corner of western Virginia to take Erin and Angie as a birthday present for Angie. It turned out to be a long 5 hour drive with a cranky baby with two ear infections - I didn't think about the elevation bugging her ears until I noticed the perfect timing of the shrill screams when we were cresting 3,000 foot mountains. Oh well - I'll remember that for next time. We stayed at a quaint inn called the Inn at Gristmill Square in Warm Springs, VA. We had a fun time hiking and walking around the exclusive resort down the street - the Homestead. It was founded in 1766 and Thomas Jefferson vacationed there - very nice and very expensive. Angie had a deep tissue massage there and said it was top notch. Anyway - our inn had a nice restaurant, The Waterwheel, and here are a couple of pictures from our dinner there: