Saturday, January 17, 2015

Olivia's Birth Story

Maybe it's just because I'm preparing for the birth of my third child, but having babies has been on my mind a lot lately.  :)  It occurred to me that I had never written Olivia's birth story down anywhere, so I thought I'd share it here - for all you birth junkies out there.  haha  *Disclaimer*  This is a long post, and while not graphic, I am sharing the real life details of Olivia's birth, so read on with caution!  :)

I'd been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, and at my last appointment my doctor had said I was dilated to 2 centimeters, and 90% effaced.  Since this was my first baby, she still wasn't convinced that labor would start soon.  In fact, since my Mom had been 10 days overdue with me, the doctor had informed me that late babies tend to be hereditary, and that there was a good possibly I would go late with this one too.  Since my official due date was March 12, we were hoping for a special "late" baby that would come on my Dad's birthday - March 16th.

Fast forward a few days ahead, to March 10th (my niece's birthday), and I had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions all day - but still nothing really unusual.  Nate and I decided to go to dinner that night, and on the way there, I called my niece.  After birthday wishes, she handed the phone to my sister, who joked "Am I going to get a phone call later tonight?" since she was planning to attend the birth (and lived 5 hours away).  I laughed, and assured her that this wasn't the beginning of labor.

After dinner, I thought I had an upset stomach from something I ate, and continued to ignore the more frequent, but still painless contractions.  Finally, around 9 pm, they started getting more "serious" and Nate decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to start timing them.  "Just in case".  I had expected labor to feel so different - and painful.  This felt more like stomach pains.  I commented to Nate that I would feel better if we packed a bag (since we'd put that off with the false assumption that we had "plenty of time") for the hospital.

Nate suggested that I call my Mom, and let her know what was going on, since I'd wanted to have her present at the birth.  By this point it was getting late, and I knew she'd already be in bed - with a workday before her the next day.  I really wasn't convinced that this was labor, and I didn't want to be one of "those" moms who ended up in the hospital only to be sent home later.  I commented that we should wait a little longer, until we were sure.  After all, it was going to be a three and a half hour drive for her, and I didn't want it to be in vain.  "Well, would you be more sad if you called her for a false alarm, or because you waited too long to call, and she missed the birth?" my wise husband admonished me . . .

I decided to take a shower, since my lower back was bothering me, and I thought standing under the warm water would help.  By this point, Nate was following me around the house (in between throwing stuff, literally - into a suitcase) timing the contractions.  They were coming every 5 minutes, and getting more and more intense.  At around 11:30, I called the hospital with the "I think I might be in labor, but I'm not sure" speech.  The kind nurse was so helpful on the phone, and encouraged me to stay at home as long as I was comfortable.  She said that as long as I could still talk through contractions, it was probably okay for me to wait to come in, since this was my first.  Also, we live 5 minutes from the hospital, and we weren't anticipating much traffic at that time of night if we needed to make a dash for it.  ;)

At midnight, I called my Mom, and apologized profusely for waking her.  "I think I'm in labor, but we're still at home".  We had plenty of time, right?  This was my first baby, after all - I really wasn't feeling in a hurry.  Thankfully, she already had her bag packed, and in the car.  All she had to do was get dressed, and she was on her way.  I also called my sister, much to her amusement.  We had finished packing, and then I started, um, cleaning.  Haha!  I figured if we had called my Mom and Sister, even if this was a false alarm, they'll still be staying with us for a few days, and I wanted my bathroom to be clean!  By this point, it was taking effort to breathe through the contractions, and Nate was getting awfully nervous.  I remember leaning over the bathroom sink, encouraging him, "I can still talk!  It's okay, Honey!"  Looking back, this seems ridiculous, but I wanted to put a little make up on before we left for the hospital, because if this was true labor, I wanted to feel pretty.  So silly.

By the time I had cleaned, and put a little make-up on, my contractions were coming every two minutes, and Nate was really *strongly* suggesting that we head over to the hospital.  I finally agreed that yes, that sounded like a pretty good idea.  Unfortunately, by this point I was also starting to feel pretty nauseous, and the car ride to the hospital, short though it was, was pretty unpleasant.  By the time we got there, I had to lean on Nate for support and breathe through another contraction before we even entered the hospital.  It was close to 2 in the morning, and as it was in the wee hours of a Friday morning, both of us had been up since the weekday morning before - so we were running on sheer adrenaline.

By the time I had been checked in and settled into a room, they informed me that I was 6 cm dilated.  I was relieved that I really was in labor (I obviously wasn't thinking clearly anymore, haha!) and that I had labored so far on my own at home.  Things kept rolling along at a good clip, and soon I was in "transition."  The nurse had observed that I had a LOT of amniotic fluid, and that each time she checked me, my bag of waters would probably break.  It never did, so she offered to go ahead and do it to get me closer to pushing.  By that point, I wanted to do anything that would get the delivery there sooner!  Nate had been calling/texting my Mom updates the whole time, and she was starting to panic that she would miss it!  By the time she arrived, I was 8 1/2 cm dilated, and as she had never been to the hospital, she had actually parked near the ER entrance, and had to run, with all her heavy camera gear, across the hospital campus to the Labor and Delivery building for fear of missing the birth.  My Mom is a trooper!

Nate was the perfect coach through the whole thing.  He never left my side, even to use the bathroom.  We had taken one of those "labor prep" classes, so he knew all sorts of different massage techniques, and then I didn't even want to be touched.  We had prepared some music to listen to during the birth, but then when it came to it, I decided I wanted absolute quiet.  I had always known I wanted to at least attempt labor with no pain meds, but I underestimated the amount of concentration I would need to focus on getting through the contractions without them.

Also, I think I was far too worried about my surroundings.  I was too afraid of what the nurse would think of me if I groaned, etc.  Speaking of nurses, ours were absolutely amazing.  We were assigned one labor/delivery nurse for the duration of her shift, and she was incredible.  She was cheerful, encouraging, and pretty much stayed out of the way unless I asked for her, or something needed to be checked, etc.  She informed us that she used to be a truck driver (I know, right?) and she'd seen pretty much everything.  She kept reassuring me that she was so thankful for a nice, normal couple!  ha!  I couldn't have asked for a better nurse.  She really was more like a doula.

Finally around 6:30, I was dilated enough that they told me I could start pushing.  This part, for me, was the worst.  By this point, I was just so exhausted, and my pushing wasn't very effective.  Again, first time, and I had no idea what I was doing.  Also, I know that for a lot of Mamas, pushing actually makes them feel better.  For me, with every push, it increased the pressure, and therefore pain.  I was never one of those Moms who felt the "urge" to push.  My sister finally arrived around this point too, and the poor thing had the same parking/running snafu that my Mom did!  The only difference was, she was 6 months pregnant herself!  I think she came into the room while I was in the middle of a contraction/pushing, and she was a little bit terrified.  ;)

The nurses changed shifts at 7 am, but ours was kind enough to come back in, because she knew I was so close, and had been with me all night.  She said she wanted to see the baby!  Also, my doctor was part of a large practice, so when you are admitted to the hospital, you usually just have whoever is on call.  God in his kindness that night had arranged for MY doctor to be there!  It just so happened that her shift ended at 7 am also.  Do you know, she was so awesome that she actually stayed late, to be there for the delivery?  :)

Finally, I got to that point where I felt like a total failure - my pushing wasn't very effective, I was exhausted, and so discouraged; in spite of the fact that Nate, my Mom, and the nurses were so encouraging!  I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore . . . and four minutes later:

My beautiful, perfect, sweet and sassy Olivia Grace was finally here!

She was so tiny, and so absolutely perfect.  And do you know, I felt AMAZING.  I just didn't want to let go.  It was so different from any feeling I'd ever had before.

They put her on my chest, and Nate and I prayed over her, and thanked God for giving her to us.

At last, she was finally here.  All those months of waiting and anticipation, of praying that her heart would beat strong, and her bones would be straight, and now here she was: in my arms.

They left her on my chest for a long time, and also helped me to try to nurse her right away.  Have I mentioned how amazing the staff were?  At last, it was time for her to get her big "welcome to the world" once over.

Daddy stayed with her the entire time.  She didn't have any trouble letting everyone in the room know she was NOT pleased with being poked and carted around!

When Nate stood by the incubator and talked to her, stroking her hair, she stopped crying.  I couldn't stop, though.  ;)

Much as they might try, no one can ever describe for you, or prepare you for what happens to your heart when you become a mother.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment when you look into the eyes of the perfect miracle that is your child.

Though I'm writing this nearly four years later (how has it been that long already?!?), the emotions are still fresh.  The memories vivid.

God has taught me to hold my children loosely.  He holds their hearts, and their lives, and I have the privilege of stewarding them for a time.  Yet - there is not a day that goes by that I don't thank him for this precious gift.  This awesome responsibility of shepherding little souls, and watching his beautiful creations grow.

There is something so profound about labor and delivery: sacrificing my comfort, and my body - being willing to lay down my life for another - and knowing that God is using me as a vessel, however weak and frail, to bring forth new life.  Birthing Olivia was not an easy road, but I am so thankful for the privilege I had to travel it.

All photos are by Today Everlasting Photography

Thursday, January 15, 2015

50 Reasons . . .

My amazing Mom recently turned 50!  I am so blessed that she is my Mom, and that I can call her one of my closest friends.  To her, turning fifty was just another day - another gift of life, and one more chance to steward all that God has given her.  Although she didn't ask for a lot of fanfare, I thought I'd commemorate the occasion by sharing fifty reasons I'm incredibly thankful for her.  :)  So here they are, in no particular order:

1. She's one of the most generous people I know.  She continually goes out of her way to give to others, with both her time, and resources.

2. She knows what true beauty looks like.  She isn't consumed by trends, or being stylish, even though she happens to be both of those things!

3.  She has a tender heart.  She cries for sappy commercials, and she can't even stand the thought of one of God's creatures being in suffering.

4.  She loves all things furry.  Seriously, I grew up with a Mom who just couldn't say no to feeding all the neighborhood strays, or rescuing various ailing wild animals.  I've lost track of how many of those stray cats ended up as pets, or how many of those baby birds we delivered to the local wildlife rehabilitation center.  :)

5.  She's a good seamstress.  I have so many treasured dresses, and other made-with-love items that I saved just in case I had a daughter of my own someday.  Christmas/Easter dresses were not just garments, they were major events in our home!

6.  She loves people.  All people.  All shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds.  I am blessed to watch her model the love of Christ on a regular basis!

7.  She has a passion for young people.  Many of my peers can attest to this one!  She was the youth director of my home church for many a year, but even beyond that, she really loves being with, and discipling that sometimes hard to love group of people known as "teenagers".  :)

8.  She knows what really matters.  She has an unwavering trust in the sovereign goodness of God, and she knows that His purposes for her are good, no matter the circumstances.

9.  She has a fierce love for her family.  I don't need to elaborate on that one.

10.  She's intelligent.  If she doesn't know the answer, she's not afraid to keep looking until she finds it.

11.  She is a rock-solid support for my Dad.  You know the saying: "Behind every great man is a great wife" ?  They wrote that about my Mom.  :)

12.  She's intuitive.  Mom is one of those people that picks up on the little details, and just takes care of them without being asked.  She's also amazingly perceptive about people!

13.  She's an awesome DIY-er.  She's fearless when it comes to remodeling projects, building props for her photography, and landscaping.

14.  She is a faithful friend.  Not just a "skin deep" friend, but one who will tell you like it is, keep you accountable, and love you through any storm.

15.  She is so much fun to be with!

16.  She is a great cook!  I was blessed with a Mom who cooked a wide variety of foods growing up, and as a result I love all kinds of different things as an adult!  I remember regularly requesting her famous meatloaf for my birthday dinners.  :)

17.  She is an awesome Grandma (although she goes by the endearment "MaLea").  She spoils her grandchildren - but beyond that, she strives to model Christ for them . . . a priceless gift to this Mama!

18.  She is talented.  This lady has a gift for photography!  She has captured the lives of all (3!) of my children, and I am always amazed by the details that she has frozen in time - their silly smiles, sassy grins, and all of the ways they have changed and grown (even in utero!).  I cherish those precious photos!

19.  She perseveres.  I have seen her face many trials, and she never wavers.

20.  She is trustworthy.  Growing up, I knew I could confide in her, and while I would sometimes have to face the consequences of bad choices, I knew that she would never hold it over my head, or use it against me.

21.  She's not afraid of an adventure.  Mom has sometimes been on more adventures than she would like, but she always takes things in stride, makes the best of a bad situation, and moves on.  She remembers to tell the (most of the time hilarious) tale later!

22.  She is eternity-focused.  All of her efforts, in daily living, relationships, and ministry have an eternal perspective.  This is definitively a special gift God has given her!

23.  She's a good steward.  She takes better care of other's things than her own, and makes an effort to use her God given resources in a way that honors him.

24.  She is kind.  She is always sensitive to the needs of others, and doesn't judge their hearts according to the situation, but genuinely tries to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

25.  She is a problem solver!  She doesn't give up easily - but keeps looking in new places for a solution.

26.  She cares for the suffering.  She lovingly stayed by my grandfather's bedside at the end of his life, and did what she could to alleviate his pain, and the grief of my grandmother.

27.  She forgives.  Even when it hurts.  Even when there doesn't seem to be any justice in it.  She does it, because she knows that she herself has been Forgiven.

28.  She is thoughtful.  Planting flowers for elderly friends.  Sending notes, or texts.  Shoveling other's driveways.  Running errands, doing favors, the list goes on . . .

29.  She has a special place in her heart for the broken and downtrodden.  She is a voice for those who have no voice.

30.  She blooms where she is planted.  She is a warm weather loving, sink her feet into the sand, beach babe, California girl through and through, and yet she has been content to stay and thrive in cold, flat Illinois.  ;)

31.  She has a way with little kids.  Maybe it's her gift - or because she loves babies, or because she was a daycare provider for twenty something years . . . but she knows children!  She can figure out their outs and ins, and all without even a degree in child-rearing-awesomeness!

32.  She was, and is, the best Mom.  I aspire to be like her, daily.  My sister and I are deeply indebted to her, and filled with gratitude for the part she played in shaping us into women.

33.  She is realistic.  I am somewhat of a dreamer, and sometimes I get big ideas that aren't very practical.  She is good at bringing me back to earth.  ;)

34.  She is also an encourager.  There have been moments where I would have given up if not for her steady stream of encouragement!

35.  She is a scholar.  My Mom is so smart!  She has a love of learning that was contagious growing up.  I once took a night class with her in college - I squeaked by with a C, and Mom Aced the class!  That was also the last class I took with her.  *ahem*  haha

36.  She is wise.  Knowledge and wisdom are two different things, and my Mom is one of the few who possesses both, about a lot of things.

37.  She is so good at planning surprises!  And keeping them a surprise.  ;)  She knew about Nate's plans to propose weeks in advance, and even collaborated with him, all while keeping it from me!  It wasn't the first time, nor the last, since she's planned (or helped to plan) something special out of love for me.

38.  She is a faithful, loving wife.  This has been such a blessing to me and my family.  No matter how easy or difficult her marriage has been (she will tell you she's one of the fortunate ones who has always been incredibly blessed by her husband), she has remained steadfast.

39.  She is a woman of prayer.

40.  Her identity is in Christ.  She knows that she is no more, and no less, than a daughter of the King.  It shows in the way she lives her life.

41.  She loves being with her family, but has given us the gift of "space".  Being together is priceless to her, but she understands that my sister and I are part of two worlds now, and she doesn't expect it, or make us feel guilty for being absent.

42.   She is patient.

43.  She is diligent in her work.  She taught me that doing something halfway is not worth doing at all.

44.  She is a good teacher.  She seeks out unconventional ways to explain things that might not otherwise make sense, and she teaches by example.

45.  She has a servant's heart.  She is never above any task, no matter how big.  She is always willing to go the extra mile!

46.  She loves God's Word.

47.  She is a good sport.  Shortly after we were married (I think it was an April Fool's prank) we called her to tell her we were pregnant (we weren't).  Initially she was upset that we would play such a mean trick on her emotions, but she quickly forgave us (see #27!).  haha

48.  She prepared me well for my life as a wife and mother.  While it hurt for her to let go, she has done well at giving me my wings and helping me to fly.  Even when that meant being the mother of a young bride (and later a Mommy) that lived three and a half hours away!

49.  "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." - Proverbs 31:25
Even now, while living in a time of such uncertainty (where, and when, and if my Dad will find work, what will happen with her business, etc.) she is fearless about the future, because she knows that her security comes from her Maker.

50.  She loves Jesus.  Always.  With every fiber of her being.  It's contagious!

I could actually write an even longer list, because my Mom is just that amazing.  Not that I'm trying to paint a picture of a perfect woman - (they don't exist), but I think you would agree that I am incredibly blessed to have this one as my Mom.  The people that know her love her for being these things, and not a superficial, "love-you-for-as-long-as-it-benefits-me" kind of person.

If I said these things out loud, in front of her, she would probably be begging me to stop out of embarrassment before I even got halfway through the list.  She's not the kind of person to seek accolades.  Her fiftieth was the same way!  No big parties, no big gifts.  Just being thankful to be alive, for yet another morning.  And seeking to glorify God with her life, for another day.

I am so thankful to learn from you, Mom, and to be fortunate enough to be called your daughter.  I love you so much!  Happy FIFTIETH Birthday!!  <3 <3 <3

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christmas Joy

Our Christmas season was a whirlwind this year, but it was very, very special.  This was the first year that the meaning of Advent ("coming") started to make sense for Olivia.  She was asking lots of questions about why we did certain things, and why other things were important.  It made the season so much more purposeful as we tried to really make family traditions and other activities point to that sacred, sweet moment more than 2,000 years ago, when mankind received at long last the Good News that our Savior was born!

We had so much fun!  We had daily Advent readings out of her "Jesus Storybook Bible" after dinner together each night, and hung a special ornament on our tree each day that had a prophecy about the coming Messiah on one side, and the fulfillment of that prophecy on the other side.  This was also our first time having a live tree, and I don't know if we can ever go back!  My heart was so full this Christmas, and I have cherished every memory we made.

Nate had even rigged up our TV to look like a fireplace!  Complete with all the fun, crackling noises.  :)

We all met at the top of the stairs Christmas morning (after my kids slept in until 8:30!!) . . .

The kids' reactions are just priceless.  <3

I love the wonder on their sweet, sleepy faces.

Then it was time to open stockings!

Levi opened his first candy cane, and had no idea what to do with it.  :)  There were some matchbox cars in there too, though!

One of his favorite things of the morning was this book (that didn't quite "fit", but was "in" his stocking) that made a whole bunch of different truck sounds.  He was so impressed!

Even Daddy had something in his stocking!

This is his early morning "I'm excited!" face:

Then it was time for one of my favorite traditions (that my family has held since I was a little girl) where we read the Christmas story together before opening gifts.

Levi was listening, but he didn't quite want to sit on Daddy's lap.  It was too soon to part with his new loved book.  ;)

I just love these three so much . . . 

This was the best part of Christmas for me.

I hope you were able to make some meaningful memories with your family as well this season!  I know Christmas isn't an easy time of year for everyone, but I am thankful that the Lord saw fit to bless us with such a special time this year.