Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Walk it out...

So on Saturday we took Phoebe to her first wedding.  She looked adorable in her new dress, but Mama on the other hand had quite the time finding a dress that would fit!  For the last couple weeks  I've felt like I should be able to fit back into my normal clothes.  Sure, I still have a little bit of baby pudge, (which I'm totally ok with. I do realize I had a baby less than 4 weeks ago...) but I was able to wear my normal pants till about 20 weeks into my pregnancy.  I carried my baby high enough and my pants sat low enough that it worked.  So although I still have several pounds of baby weight left to lose, I certainly am smaller than I was at 20 weeks pregnant, which makes me believe that I should be able to wear my pre-pregnancy pants.  But no.  You think you gain all your weight in your belly, but once the belly is gone you realize that you actually put on some weight in your thighs, hips and chest too.  And I don't mean chest as in breasts; I just mean actual chest girth.  The milk fairy has yet to visit my house...

So for the wedding I thought for sure that I would be able to wear most of my empire waist dresses.  I mean they're not tight around the thigh or hip area at all...  Nope, I couldn't zip them up.  They wouldn't fit around my upper body. This did not make for a happy mama, who was already running late.  So now that the weather is starting to cool off a little in the mornings here in Georgia, I decided its time to start a morning walk.  So Sunday morning we broke out the jogging stroller, inserted the infant seat adapter and I went for my first walk.  It was nice and felt good to get out of the house and get some fresh air.  Phoebe slept through the entire thing, but Monday morning she was much more alert during our morning walk.

Phoebe's first wedding

So we have a BOB Ironman jogging stroller and I was very excited to use it for the first time.  (I'm even more excited about jogging with it, but that time is yet to come.)  I had really wanted a good running stroller and did some research and decided I wanted at BOB.  The only problem is that they're a bit pricey and significantly more than we wanted to spend on a stroller.  So I went to good ol' Craig's list for some assistance and was able to find what I wanted for significantly cheaper. We even ended up with a red infant car seat (also off of Craig's list) that looks great with the stroller! A quick plug for Craig's list- it is a great resource for used baby gear.  We were able to get quite a few bigger items off Craig's list for a fraction of the price.  Many items are minimally used by single child families.  A little clean-up and things are good as new!

More pictures...

Sleepy baby

"Auntie" Laura came to visit last week

Phoebe loves her swing!  And we love it too!  The "swing" part comes off and acts as a little seat on its own.  So I'll bring it in the kitchen sometimes when we're eating or bring it upstairs while I'm getting ready in the morning (or afternoon) or folding laundry or whatever

Phoebe likes her tummy time too!  I know a lot of babies, don't love tummy time, but Phoebe doesn't seem to mind.

Look at me lifting up my head!  I'm working on developing my neck muscles!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lactation Cookies

As promised...

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
4 Tbls water
2 Tbls ground flax seed
2 eggs
1 Tbls vanilla
2 c. flour
2-4 Tbls brewers yeast
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 c. oats
1 c. chocolate chips

Mix flaxseed and water.  Let stand 5 minutes
Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar
Add eggs.  Mix
Add flaxseed/water combo and vanilla.  Mix
Add flour, brewers yeast, baking soda, salt.  Mix
Stir in oats and chocolate chips

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes

So they're actually quite good.  At least I like them.  They taste like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  So what makes them "lactation cookies?"  I'm assuming its mainly the brewers yeast and oats.  In addition to my fenugreek etc., I've also been told to take a couple tsp of brewers yeast everyday to help my milk...  I haven't done this.  I have however started eating oatmeal every morning.  (This also supposedly helps.)  I'm not a big oatmeal fan, but with a little sugar and some strawberries, it is tolerable.

While I'm on the subject I've also been told that drinking a beer helps.  What?!?  At least that's what I said the first time I was told this.  I was a bit skeptical.  But then 3 or 4 other people told me to drink a beer to help my milk production over the next few days.  So I had Chris pick up some beer on the way home from work a couple weeks ago.  And you know what?  It helps!  Not really long term, I don't think.  But the nights that I've drank a beer with dinner or before going to bed, I've pumped out more milk over my next few pumping sessions than normal.  At first I thought it was coincidence, but when it happened the next 2 times I drank a beer I had to concede that there is some connection between beer and milk let-down.  Not sure why...maybe something to do with the hops or the yeast??

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Soccer Game

Last night we took Phoebe to her first soccer game.  The RUF crew was rallying at the new KSU stadium in support of the Owl's home opener.  After the game they were showing Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides on the big screen complete with free popcorn- a fun event for college students.  Although we did not stay for the after-party, Phoebe did enjoy watching the Owls beat College of Charleston 1-0.

Chris thinks Phoebe is going to be a soccer player some day.  In fact, before she was even born he bought her a soccer ball to practice with.  Its almost as big as she is right now...  But nonetheless, it is blown up sitting in our living room waiting to be kicked around.  So we're trying to expose her to soccer early and see if she can absorb some of the skill.  Just kidding :)  But it was a good time.

I also got to try out my Moby Wrap for the first time.  I think I'm going to really like it.  I like how it holds her so close to me and frees up my hands for other things.  I will say its probably not the best carrying tool for a Georgia summer though.  I wasn't able to keep her in it for long last night because it was too warm!  We were both sweating with our body heat against each other and the thick layers of cotton.  So she didn't spend much time in the wrap at the game.  But I'm looking forward to using it this fall and hopefully in the house before that.

Phoebe in the Moby Wrap

School Spirit

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family Time

After Phoebe was born my parents stayed with us for about a week and were a big help!  They cooked for us, cleaned for us and played with  her so Chris and I could get a little sleep.  And of course took lots of pictures :)  That's something that I'm still not great at.  Dad got us a great new camera, so I really have no excuse...  I think between pumping, trying to nurse her, warming up breast milk, calling about doctor's appointments and insurance coverage for her, taking a nap, keeping the house semi-clean, washing bottles, and enough laundry done so that I have something to wear, I just don't think about pictures!

Last Thursday my sister-in-law, Catrina, and niece, Caylee, came down to help for a couple days!  It was great to have a little bit of a break with Phoebe.  Classes started at KSU last week so Chris had gone back to work and I was home all day by myself with a newborn, so the break was much needed.  I was able to get a few things done around the house, spend several hours on the phone trying to get her follow-up hearing screen scheduled (that is still not completely worked out..), and go out to the store for an hour!

Caylee walked around saying "bay-bay" all the time, which actually sounded like "phe-be" the way she would say it.  So my smart niece knows my baby's name already :)  If I would take Phoebe up for a nap in her cradle, Caylee would be very concerned and wonder where the "bay-bay" was.

Then last Friday evening my brother-in-law, JP, and Chris' parents came up for the night and stayed through Saturday afternoon.  Chris was out at the Braves game with 25 new students (yay!) so I was glad not to be by myself.  We went out to La Parrilla for Mexican and Phoebe slept the whole time in her car seat.

No trip to or from Mamo and Papo Bowen's is complete without pictures so...

Catrina, JP, Caylee and Phoebe

Mamo, Papo, and Phoebe

The whole family

Phoebe likes when her daddy reads to her :)

And then a few more pictures from Cece and Grandpa's visit

Grandpa loved reading Green Eggs and Ham and then making up his own rhymes

Frog legs

All clean after my bath 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Milk Supply Dilemma- There's Hope

First of all, thank you to everyone who has left me encouraging comments, Facebook messages, text messages, voice mails and more.  Thank you to everyone who has offered sound advice and stories of their own.  Thank you to everyone who has come over to help in very tangible ways.  And of course a big thank you to my husband who has helped so much around the house, put up with my crazy emotions the past couple of weeks, and has supported my decision to work to breastfeed.

On Wednesday we went in for an outpatient lactation consult and I left feeling hopeful and encouraged for the first time in several days.  On Tuesday, after crying for a couple hours when Phoebe would not latch and nurse at the breast I was about ready to quit- I could see myself spiraling down a bad path quickly.  This whole process has been completely and utterly exhausting both physically and emotionally, and I wasn't sure how long I could continue... But Wednesday was a new day with new hope.

At the lactation office the first thing they did was test her suck, weigh her, and then I nursed her.  (Of course she latched on well...)  She only nursed for about 10 minutes before tiring out.  (This is typical for her whenever I could get her to nurse.)  They weighed her again and through some fancy calculation told me she had taken 4ml of breast milk from me.  That is NOTHING.  She needs to be getting approximately 75ml-90ml's each feeding...

Apparently her suck is inconsistent- sometimes she sucks well and sometimes she does not. After a couple hours working with us the conclusion was that she is an ineffective, inefficient nurser who fatigues easily.  So it is what I thought- she is not stimulating my body to produce milk.  However, I have been pumping each feeding since almost the day of birth.  So the lactation specialist could not figure out why my supply was so low even with the pumping.  Well, she tested the suction on my pump and the motor of my pump was shot.  It was old and worn out and not working properly.  (It was a used pump that was given to me by a co-worker.)  Big bummer.  Yet, for me this was somewhat of an encouragement because I could pinpoint WHY my body wasn't producing enough milk.

So we came up with a plan.  (If you haven't noticed, I like plans.  I like plans and I like lists.  They help me organize my life.)  The lactation specialist said that as far as you are behind in your milk supply/production is as long as it takes to catch up.  Phoebe was 2 weeks old, so I was 2 weeks behind.  So I am working hard for the next 2 weeks to do everything I can to increase my milk supply.  If it increases, GREAT!  If not, I will feed my baby formula knowing that I have done everything I can to breastfeed and get breast milk in her.

Since Phoebe is not stimulating me, I will rely on pumping to stimulate my body and increase my milk supply.  I rented a hospital pump and am pumping every hour to two hours during the day.  And pumping every 3 hours (at her feeding time) during the night.  Yes, basically I am a slave to the pump.  When you pump your prolactin levels increase, which is one of the hormones responsible for milk production.  The more you pump, the more prolactin your body makes, the more milk your body makes.  One of my hesitations with pumping so frequently was washing all the pump parts... I hate that.  It is time consuming and unrealistic for me to wash pump parts 13 times/day.  So because breast milk is good for 5 days in the refrigerator, I am storing them in the fridge between pumping sessions and only washing them once/day.  This makes it more manageable for me.  I am of course drinking lots of water and eating well (that's a given).  I am taking Fenugreek seed capsules to help increase my milk supply and my sweet neighbor, Judi, made me lactation cookies to eat.  Yes, that's right lactation cookies.  I will try to post the recipe later.  They're actually pretty tasty.

And then in order to keep her orientation to the breast I am nursing her twice a day with the help of a SNS, or supplemental nursing system.


I hang this from a lamp behind my glider and put formula in the container.  We tape the straw to my breast so that when she is nursing, she is also getting formula.  This encourages her to keep nursing because she is getting something in return for her effort.  I am only doing this twice a day when Chris is home to help me because one it is a little complicated to rig up on my own and two it is still stressful for me to nurse her.  I get anxious about whether she will latch and suck or not.  And I do still get upset sometimes if she does not...

And assuming my milk production increases, we have an appointment with OT to have them take a look at Phoebe's suck and see if they can teach her how to suck correctly so she can properly nurse.

I am also happy to report that Phoebe weighed 6lbs 12oz at the pediatrician on Wednesday afternoon!  That's just 2oz less than her birth weight.  So she is now gaining and we don't have to go back till her 1 month appointment!

So the two weeks have begun!  Cheers!

My first visitors after I came home.  (Justin & Julie, Kristin, and Paul)
Ansley and Joey also come to visit that evening, but I forgot to take a picture!
Sara came to visit me in the hospital, but mommy can't find that picture right now.

Leah and Kyle came over to visit and bring us a warm meal one evening.  I wish I had taken a picture of Phoebe next to their little girl, Emery.  Emery is 5 months old and 2 1/2 times the size of Phoebe.  It would have been an amusing picture

1 week old: August 10th

Uncle Chris came to visit me when I was 1 week old

My first bath.  I didn't like it very much.  I am enjoying bath time more now 

Lil' mohawk

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do I look fat?

Well we went for our 3rd weight check yesterday and...

6lbs 8oz

YAY!  The formula is helping!  I'm still a little sad that we're having to supplement, but it is helping her weight gain.  Once we started supplementing, she was a different baby.  She is now much more alert and awake and we don't have to fight as hard to wake her up to eat.  We will go back to the pediatrician Wednesday afternoon for another weight check.

I am still having to supplement with formula because I am not producing enough milk for her.  But she is back on the breast now- at least a little bit.  I am trying to nurse on one side for 15 minutes for each daytime feeding.  According to the lactation specialist this will help "keep her orientation to the breast" while we are working to increase my milk supply.  It is a challenge.  We are using the nipple shield because she is still having trouble latching, and now I think she is getting a bit lazy as well because she is not sucking as well.  It is so easy for her to feed with the bottle (which we had to give her and I'm glad we did) that it seems like she doesn't want to go back to the breast.

The lactation specialists seem to think that she has a problem sucking, which is why she was not getting enough milk to begin with and why my body is not producing enough milk.  She was not/is not properly stimulating my body.  They are thinking that she might need OT to help her learn how to suck. Tomorrow morning my neighbor, Judi,  is going with me to our first lactation appointment.  They will evaluate her suck, latch, and work with me to get her nursing well.  I still have hope!

Now for a few fun pictures!

Getting ready to go to my first church service

Kate Middleton has nothing on me...

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Phoebe is now 10 days old!  I can't believe it!  There are lots of little things that I will try to catch you up on over the next few days.  However, our current most pressing issue is Phoebe's weight gain and feeding.  She was 6lbs 14oz at birth and weighed 6lbs 5oz when we left the hospital.  It is normal for newborns to lose some of their birth weight- I'm pretty sure they can lose up to 10% before doctor's really start to worry and intervene.  Phoebe had lost 7%.  On Friday the 5th when we were discharged, the hospital pediatrician said I must nurse her AT LEAST every 3 hours and also recommended supplementing with formula.  I really did not want to supplement with formula because I know that breast milk is best for the baby and I also didn't really want to give her a bottle so early.  I had wanted to wait until breastfeeding had been well established.

So we came home over the weekend and were pretty diligent about feeding every 3 hours.  Now, this was A LOT of work for us.  Phoebe had a lot of trouble with nursing at first.  I have flat nipples that she has trouble latching onto.  The lactation department at Northside hospital was a HUGE help!  I cannot praise them enough.  They spent a lot of time working with her and I to come up with a plan to help her nurse.  People had told me that breastfeeding is hard and a lot of work, but I don't think I comprehended at all what that really meant.  It was still much more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  I had to use all sorts of tools and gadgets I had never even heard of, as well as the pump, to try to help her latch.

Soft shells

Hospital Grade Breast Pump

Nipple Shield

So at first nursing took a little over an hour and at least 4 hands.  (So by the time you clean all the parts you have an hour and a half before its time to start the process all over.)  I don't understand how single moms do it.  (Now granted, not everyone has these types of problems.)  By the weekend when we were home from the hospital she seemed to be doing a lot better.  She slowly began to be able to nurse without all the extra tools and I assumed she was getting enough.  I would feed her and then pump after each feeding to help increase my milk supply; this took a little over an hour by the time I woke her up from a deep newborn sleep, I fought to get her latched on, she nursed, and I pumped.  On Monday the 8th we went to the pediatrician and she had lost more weight.  I cried.  We went back on Wednesday the 10th and she had maintained.  That was encouraging and the doctor seemed to think she was headed in the right direction.  She keeps reminding me to eat really well (which I have been.  No one told me how ravenously hungry you are when you are nursing!) and drink LOTS of water (which I also have been.)  She said "the milk's only as good as the cow it comes from".  I'm trying to be a good cow.  Moo.  We will go back to get weighed again on Monday the 15th.  At this point she should be close to her birth weight.  Babies should re-gain all their birth weight by 2 weeks of age, which for Phoebe would be this Wednesday.

Well yesterday plans changed.  I called the lactation department because I was having trouble with sore nipples and also had several questions about pumping, milk supply, latching etc.  We talked through Phoebe's history with nursing and her weight issues.  Again, the lactation specialist was bundles of help.  I'm not sure how she came up with this number (I will ask her today) but she said that in order for Phoebe to re-gain her birth weight by Wednesday she needs to be taking 2oz or 60mls of milk every feeding (every 3 hours). She was very concerned that Phoebe was not getting enough breast milk because she was only having 1 dirty diaper per day.  The rule of thumb is that newborns should have 6-8 wet diapers/day (Phoebe is doing this) and 3-4 dirty diapers/day. (Phoebe is not even close to achieving this.)  So the question is how much milk is Phoebe getting when she is nursing?  Well we don't really know, but on Tuesday there was one feeding where I had pumped enough over the course of the day to have enough for Chris to give her a bottle, so at her midnight feeding I only pumped.  I did not nurse her beforehand.  And do you know how much I got?  ...8mls.  Not even close to 60.  So the lactation specialist explained that she was there to help me breastfeed because that is best, but really recommended that I supplement with formula at least for the next 24 hours because the health of my baby is the most important thing.  I cried again.  A lot.

I was upset because I did not want to supplement with formula, and I really can't explain why.  There is certainly nothing wrong with formula.  It can serve a great purpose.  In fact, right now I am very thankful for it.  I had just really wanted the experience of breastfeeding and did not want her to have so many bottles.  And the more than anything I was upset because I felt like I had failed my baby.  I could not give her what she needed.  The poor baby has been hungry and I have not been a very good cow.  I keep questioning why am I not producing enough milk?  I thought your body was supposed to produce just the right amount for your baby?  Where is the disconnect for me?  Who knows for sure, but I'm wondering if its because she has had so much trouble latching and is therefore not stimulating my body to produce more milk.  If the milk supply is based on baby's demand and baby's demand is weak due to a ineffective latch, then that would explain why the supply is low.

I am feeling much better about it all now.  Certainly not the ideal situation, but of course I will do what is best for my baby.  I realize too, its probably not the last time I will fail my child in some way.  I am sure there is a redemptive lesson in this somewhere, but I haven't fully gotten there yet.

So we came up with a plan.  For the next 24 hours, every 3 hours when I would normally nurse her I will double pump for 15 minutes and feed her whatever I can pump out.  Then I will supplement with formula so that she receives 60mls at each feeding.  So for example if I pump out 20mls, she will get 40mls of formula.  This way we are giving my nipples a rest so that I will have a better chance of successful breastfeeding without the pain, Phoebe is still getting all the health benefits of the breast milk that I do have, and she is also getting the volume she needs with the help of the formula.  So this 24 hours will be up around 1pm today.  I will check back with the lactation specialist and we will re-evaluate the plan from there.  I will probably need to continue to supplement with formula for a little while because I am only pumping out 15-20ml of breast milk.  But hopefully we can work to increase my supply and get her back to nursing in order to make the formula obsolete.

One quick note on the formula.  One of the guys who helps stock the supply rooms at Kennestone hospital started giving me some leftover (unopened) packages of formula several months ago.  Said he saw that I was pregnant and thought I could use some.  Of course I was thankful, even though I had no intention of using it.  I figured I'd donate it eventually.  Well now of course I'm thankful to have it!  I read somewhere that breastfeeding saves $2,000/year in the cost of formula.  (Finances was another large motivator in the decision to breastfeed.)  Chris told Phoebe yesterday that if she gained weight and took to the breast again we'd put $2,000 in a savings account for her...

And now for fun pictures that have nothing to do with cows or feeding!

Leaving the hospital

My first night at home.  Getting ready to go to sleep in my crib

Mamo and Cece

Captivated by Grandpa

I love you Daddy

Sorry this was a bit of a long one...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Delivery day or "D-Day" as we often referred to it with anticipation happened one day early, Wednesday, August 3rd.  It was certainly a bit of a surprise.  As much as I was ready to meet Phoebe and stop anticipating the actual labor I was convinced that I was going to go past my due date (which was August 4th)

On Tuesday when I went to the doctor I was 1cm dilated and 50% effaced, which yes is better than closed, but being the labor and delivery nurse that I am I found it nothing to get excited about.  Lots of people walk around 1, 2, or even 3cms for weeks.  My doctor did strip my membranes, and although I realize that this has "worked" for a lot of people it also has"not worked" for just as many.  So I told my parents it was probably going to be awhile- no need to rush down, and I started brain storming alternative means to stimulate labor so I would not have to be induced the following week.  I was starting to collect names of acupuncturists so that I could make an appointment on Monday or Tuesday the 8th or 9th to see if this could put me into labor.  And yes of course I had been taking the evening primrose oil, and drinking raspberry tea and all these other things they say will stimulate labor or at least get your body ready...  (Yes, I am a fan of alternative forms of medicine and health care.)   I was planning on eating eggplant parmesan at Scalini's on Wednesday night and am a tiny bit sad I didn't eat there Tuesday night so I could get a free onesie and gift card.

So anyhow on Tuesday evening we went to Willy's with one of Chris' RUF students.  I mentioned on the way over that I felt a little bit more "crampy" than usual.  Nothing major, just a little different.  I actually lost my mucus plug at Willy's, but again this can happen up to 2 weeks before you deliver so I was not excited or impressed.  Tuesday evening we came home and I was tired, so I went to bed around 10 or 10:30pm.

The fun began around 12:30am Wednesday morning.  I woke up and could not get comfortable.  I laid in bed till around 1:30, when I decided I need to get up.  So I got up and over the next several hours cleaned the bathroom, did 2 loads of laundry, and baked 2 batches of cookies.  Yes, classic nesting.  Chris woke up at 3:30am and came downstairs asking "what in the world are you doing?!?!"  At this point my contractions were about 9 minutes apart.  Chris laid down on the couch while I finished my cookies and laundry and I decided it was probably going to be a long day so I should lie back down for a little bit too.  I slept till maybe around 5 or 5:30 when I woke Chris up because I was just too uncomfortable to be on my own anymore.  We labored and bit and went for a walk around the funeral home by our house.  At this point Chris was wanting to know how long I thought it was going to be before we needed to go to the hospital.  I had no idea!  I was pretty sure I was in labor at this point and going to have the baby sometime on Wednesday, but it was probably still pretty early in the labor process.  Chris was very concerned that it would be time to go to the hospital during Atlanta rush hour traffic.  He told me if I thought it was going to be before 9am we needed to go "now."

Well we stayed at home through rush hour and Chris was by my side with me being a wonderful encouragement while I labored.  Around 11:30 we headed over to the hospital for the first time… Yes, I said first time.  I wasn’t sure if it was time to go to the hospital or not, but I was hurting pretty bad so I figured I was either pretty far along or I was going to get an epidural, which was not my plan or desire, but I absolutely would have if I needed to.  So Chris got the car packed up and about 10 minutes down the road after I had had a lull in contractions, I decided maybe it was too early and we should go back home.  So back home we headed.  Chris had some lunch and we really weren’t home long before we climbed back into the car to go to the hospital for good. 

Through a series of providential events and phone calls, one of the girls at work who I would have loved to labor me, Kristin Trapp, had an empty room!  And it wasn’t any empty room- it was one of the nicest rooms on the unit!  So they were able to hold that room for me, which again was great because it was VERY busy that day.  In fact, when I checked in at the admission desk there were 6 or 7 pregnant women waiting for a room in the waiting area.   They took me straight back to my room though.

Let me first of all say that Kristin is a FABULOUS nurse!  Really, I could not have asked for a better experience.  I really didn’t know when I got to the hospital if I was really in “good labor.”  I knew I was having contractions every 2-4 minutes, but I was still scared I would only be 2cm.  But I was 6cm/75%/ballotable when I got there around 12:30ish.  Then 7/75/-2  around 2:00ish.  Dr. Sun broke my water around 3:40 and I was 7-8cm/100% and she said the head was lower.  From there things got INTENSE.  The next hour was by far the hardest hour of my life.  I could not have done it without Chris, Kristin, and Cathryn.  (At 3:00 Cathryn Martin took over and became my primary nurse.  She was also WONDERFUL!  Kristin was amazing and stayed until I delivered even though she was off the clock.  THANK YOU!)  Thankfully I transitioned quickly.  I was complete and ready to start pushing by 4:35ish.  From there with the help of my amazing husband, nurses and doctor Phoebe was born at 5:24pm without any medication or epidural for mommy.

Kristin and I (obviously before Phoebe was born)

Getting Checked Out

Mommy holding her baby for the first time

Daddy and his daughter

6lbs 14oz

Cathryn and I (obviously after Phoebe was born...)

My labor and her delivery was certainly a team effort.  Chris played a HUGE roll and I could not have done it without his love, support, and encouragement.