Balderramas Back East – Phase 2: Jim Thorpe, PA

After our wonderful time during Phase 1 of our trip, we set out on Sunday to make the 2+ hour drive to the Poconos Mountains, specifically, Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania, for Phase 2. This phase was the focal point of our trip, as it was the first time my siblings and mother had gathered together in over two years.

My sister found and coordinated a VRBO home just outside of Jim Thorpe that accommodated all 15 of us (7 adults and 9 kids) – a fantastic find. Each adult/couple had their own room and bed, while the five oldest grandchildren slept in a room with two bunks and a twin bed. The three-floor house also featured a nice game room on the basement level with a pool table, foosball table, and shuffleboard. Usually, that would be awesome, but with so many kids under 10, the pool balls became magnets of destruction that quickly had to be hidden.

Of our six-day stay, I spent three of them working remotely, while my family ventured out to explore and enjoy Jim Thorpe and the surrounding area. Rather than give a day-by-day chronology of our trip, I’ll share some highlights of our time together in this house in the woods, reflecting just how quickly the week passed, and what a blur it became.

Decorating the house for my mom’s birthday

The whole basis for this trip was to celebrate my mom’s birthday (as she had one ending in a “0”). On the first night, after my mom and all her grandchildren went to bed, my siblings and I went downstairs to blow up balloons and decorated the main level. We blew up dozens of balloons and balloon words, then snuck onto the main level and found ways to hang them that didn’t involve using any tape. The evening was filled with lots of laughing, creativity, and fun. Everyone woke up to a fun surprise.

An image of the main floor of our vacation rental, with balloons that read "Happy Birthday 70", "Love You Wow", and other balloons draped over the television on the wall.

Riding the Train

We took a trip on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and took in some of the beautiful scenery. The kids absolutely loved the train and being in the open-air car. The ride was the perfect length to keep the attention of 7 kids under 12. It was great seeing the Poconos Mountain countryside, but I’m honestly partial to the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Colorado.

This video of Clara taking in the training experience stole my heart.

Family Photos

On Tuesday evening, we connected with a photographer to get some full family shots, venturing out to this pasture next to a lake (I’m sorry, but I don’t recall which one). The scenery was very majestic and I think we got some great shots. We were also reminded just how challenging it can be to photograph young kids in an unfamiliar setting. Our photographer was extremely patient with the kids, but we definitely had to temper our expectations. I’m anxious to see how they’ll turn out.

Just hanging out at the house

We had tons of fun just all being under one roof. The kids played a ton of Just Dance on the Switch, with most of them not being able to beat Dax, their 4-year-old cousin. Throughout the day we ate and drank well, played lots of games, laughed, relaxed, and just enjoyed having everyone together.

Sadly, the end of the week, and Phase 2, came all too soon, and I had to say farewell to two of my siblings as they ventured home. We all packed up our things and headed out, towards the next phase of our trip: Ocean City, Maryland.

Clara’s Delivery Story

Today (June 29th, at the time) is the big day!  We’re set to begin our birth story and I wanted to take the opportunity to chrono-log our big day where we welcomed our beautiful daughter into this world.

11:30am – Finally got the call and have been admitted for the induction. We got placed in our delivery room,  with a view of I-25. Bethany put on her ballroom gown and we’re hanging out waiting to meet our nurse.
On a tech/distraction front, this room leaves a little to be desired. The TV has a pretty sophisticated menu hooked up, so my chances of plugging in a laptop are pretty slim. The sound only comes out of this handheld speaker next to the bed. I suppose when you’re in the heat of labor they don’t want the room to be blasted with the sounds of Game 7. Right now in her we’re in no mood for TV. We’re a combination of anxious and nervous for what’s next.

12:15pm – Just got our first visit with our nurse. Bethany is hooked up to the monitor now and so far everything is looking good. We’re now waiting for a sizable data sample to be shared with it doctor.

1pm – Things are moving pretty slowly, but I guess that’s expected when you have to cover all bases. Bethany’s been fitted with an IV Port and they’re now running final tests before proceeding with the induction. We thought waiting at home was hard…

1:45 – It’s go time! Bethany has her Pitocin cocktail in her IV and we’re now waiting for the first big contraction to hit. She’s mobile, we’ve taken a lap around the birthing wing and are anxious.

3:30 – Haven’t really felt any change. We’re saddled in and are now watching The Avengers.

6pm – Still playing the waiting game. B’s contractions are starting to pick up. We have dinner on the way and are wondering if we’ll be able to have it before they cut us off on the food.

9:10pm – We just visited with our doctor. There has been some change, but to say that things are moving more slowly than planned would be an understatement. We’re definitely developing our patience. I feel bad for Bethany, as she sometimes has a difficult time getting comfortable. We’re going to see where we’re at later tonight and determine whether we need to take a break. By the way, we were able to get dinner as our last big meal for a while. The food was decent for hospital food, but nothing to write home about. Bethany ate Prime Rib and I had the French Dip.

11:11pm – Things are starting to pick up a bit. Bethany is starting to feel some painful contractions, and we’re dilating further. At this point we’re going to see if Bethany can sleep through a few of these and we can get in a nap before we hit full throttle.

The next sequence of events are approximations, as things kicked into high gear, and I’m not stupid enough to keep a real-time log of labor activities while my wife is enduring contractions. I’m going to try to keep this in present tense, offering my reactions at the time.

11:30pm – Bethany woke me up, as her contractions began to grow painful and were too unbearable to sleep through. We’ve been going through pain mitigation techniques with mixed forms of success.

12:30am – We’re in full-pain labor now. We’re going to spend some time in the tub to see if that helps out.  Nurse Leah, who is working with us tonight has been phenomenal and so patient with us. She hasn’t left our side through the whole thing.

– As the pain gets more intense, Bethany is starting to consider the epidural. The tub has been somewhat helpful, but since we’ve induced labor with Pitocin, the baby heart rate monitor is non-negotiable.  We keep having difficulties with the monitors staying in place and are moving out of the tub. In leading up to labor, we discussed our desire to avoid the epidural if possible, but now with each contraction Bethany is asking for the Epidural.  Right now I’m trying to remind her of our approach and at this point won’t start taking the epidural demands seriously until she starts talking about them between contractions.

– Now we’re between contractions and Bethany has started talking about the epidural. We re-evaluated our options and decided to proceed.  We’ve signed the consent forms and are waiting for the anesthesiologist, who is currently working with another patient but should be a long shortly.

– We’re on a whirlwind now. Things have begun progressing rapidly with dilation, and in no time we have the end in site.  Now we’re approaching the borderline. Bethany has been a champ with the contractions, doing a great job of focusing on her breathing. The doctor has been woken up and is here, that must mean we’re close, right?

– Ok, the anesthesiologist is here, but now we’re approaching a point where Bethany can start pushing soon.  While the epidural will relive pain, at this point it’s going to prolong what has been a pretty fast labor.  Bethany and I look at each other and agree that we’ll go ahead and take the gamble with the shorter labor.

– Bethany’s been a champ at pushing and we’ve seen some real progress. We don’t have a great sense of how much longer we’re going to be, but can feel the continued progress.  With each contraction different things start coming out of our transformer bed: handles and leg platforms to help position during pushing.

– Our doctor has told us that this next contraction is likely going to be the one. Next thing we know the amount of medical staff in the room have doubled and what looks like a caterers table of medical instruments has appeared in the room. The foot of the bed got removed and our doctor gets decked out with the semi-OR garb – all within about a minute.

3:58 -  Doc was right, this was the last contraction. Bethany went to a place I didn’t think she had and pushed and out came our little… baby!

– Is it a girl? All this time we’ve thought we were having a girl, and our doctor moves away the umbilical cord to reveal: girl parts! No repainting of the nursery needed! Our baby girl has been placed on Bethany’s chest.  “Dad, ready to cut the cord?” I look around and it takes me a half-second to realize they’re talking to me. “Dad” hasn’t set in yet.  Snip goes the cord.

5:00am – Clara, the name we’ve chosen for our baby girl is now happily feeding from her Mom. I’ve now taken this opportunity to go nuts with the camera and take a ton of pictures.  I take this opportunity to start making some phone calls and let our families know about their new addition.

5:30am – The nurse performs all of the measurements for Clara and we find out that she weighs 7.31 lbs and is 19.5 inches long. We got to take her footprints, of which we got a set of our own.

6:00am – The delivery room – the room we’ve occupied for the better part of the last day – is no longer needed. I got to wheel Bethany out while she carried Clara over to the room where she’ll spend the first day of her life…

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It’s a girl!

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My wife Bethany and I are so happy to introduce you to our little bundle of joy, my daughter, Clara Marie.  She arrived into this world on Sunday, June 30th at 3:58am, weighing 7lbs 5oz and 19.5” long.  We’re all doing fantastic and I couldn’t be happier. God has given us a  beautiful little girl, and I’m so happy to be taking on the hardest and most regarding job ever: parenthood.

I’m hoping to keep my posting up. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been spending June trying to get in the habit of making regular posts, in hopes I’ll be able to maintain my reflections and ramblings when I’m massively sleep-deprived (like tonight). Stay tuned!

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What’s in a name? [Announcement]

Sorry that I haven’t been posting much over the last few weeks. With the wedding fast approaching, my head’s been ducked down doing quite a bit of wedding preparation. However, I did want to use my blog to make a brief announcement: I have completed a legal name change.

Let’s get all of the jokes out of the way: No, I did not change it to Max Power or anything funny like that. No, I did not "correct the spelling" of my first name.  Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I did.  To pay tribute to my Hispanic cultural ties, I’ve decided to add Balderrama to my name so that my full name is Jeromey James Gaudreau Balderrama.

So yes, my last name is technically now Balderrama and when Bethany and I get married on June 20th, we’ll be introduced as Mr. & Mrs. Balderrama.  However, you’re still welcome to call me Jeromey Gaudreau, Jeromey Gaudreau Balderrama, or Jeromey Balderrama – I’ll respond to all of it!

Update: In my haste of writing this last night, I neglected to mention that Balderrama is actually my mother’s maiden name.  Hopefully this makes a lot more sense now as to where Balderrama comes from.

Back from Roswell

Although I’ve posted since I’ve returned, I wanted to share pictures from a weekend trip to Roswell, NM.  My family and I went down there for my cousin Andrea’s wedding.  While the trip there and back were long ones, it was great to go down there.  I hadn’t been to southern New Mexico since 2003.  Before then, we made trips down to my grandparents home every summer.  While we didn’t go all the way down to Carlsbad (where my grandparents lived before they passed away), Roswell still brought back some memories.

My cousin’s wedding was great as well, congrats to both Andrea and Paul!  I took a ton of pictures while down there and have posted them to Flickr.