Tag Archives: family photo

Ladybug is HOME!

On August 13, 2015, Ladybug spent her first night with her new family. And on August 23, 2015, Ladybug spent her first night in her new home in her new country.

She is home!

DSC_4626

We saw her again for the first time since March on August 3, and I haven’t spent a day away from her since then. The past 9 weeks have been just oh so much. So much joy and so much pain. So much of every imaginable emotion.

DSC_4645

DSC_4657

DSC_4714

DSC_4748

DSC_4750

DSC_4752

Welcome home, sweet girl. Daddy, Mommy, and your sisters are so glad you’re here.

The Birth Story of Bumblebee

To me, her mother, Bumblebee’s story is one of great depth. God used my sweet, second daughter to show me His goodness in a powerful way. Not only my pregnancy with her safely growing and growing each day, but also in the way He provided for us during my labor and her birth.

I’m writing her story for me. And for her. I don’t want to forget any detail. That said, if you aren’t into details, then feel free to skip over. I know it’s long.

To aptly share Bumblebee’s story, I have to start somewhere before November 29, 2013. Chris graduated pharmacy school the day I turned 13 weeks pregnant with Bumblebee, and we spent the summer waiting on God to open doors. We were anticipating a move, a new job, and hoping for plenty of time to prepare for baby. As it turns out, waiting took a while, with Chris starting his job August 28 and our closing on our house September 30, eight-and-a-half weeks before Bumblebee’s arrival.

Chris's graduation from pharmacy school. Week 13

Chris’s graduation from pharmacy school. Week 13

My first belly photo at our new home. Week 32.

My first belly photo at our new home. Week 32.

I received my prenatal care at Mountain Midwifery Center in Englewood. I couldn’t have been happier with the compassionate and competent midwives and nurses there. I certainly intended for baby Bumblebee to be born at MMC; but as it turned out, our move also took us a little further from Denver than we had anticipated. I vacillated between peace and concern over anticipating making a 2.5 hour drive to the birth center. There were so many variables! Would Chris be at work or not? Would Poppy be in the car with us or not? Would I “know” it was time before labor began to intensify or not? Would we make it to the birth center or not?

At every appointment with my midwives from about halfway through my pregnancy on, the topic of our drive and the distance came up. Usually because I brought it up – either with a new question or “what if?” – or even just to have their reassurance. Because they had been the only birth center in the state for quite some time, they’ve been used to women traveling from distances that might make another provider uneasy. They also shared that it never seemed to be the mamas who had a long way to travel who delivered in the car. It was the women who lived close enough to think they had time to make “one more stop” or squeeze in “one more errand” or spend just a little bit more time at home before driving to MMC. Another thing I learned that was so helpful was that rapid childbirth happens when things are going well, delivery wise. The protocol for all MMC women is to be educated on rapid childbirth. So, if baby were to come in the car, we had a plan and knew what steps to take – and what not to worry about.

Totally not glowing while I was painting in our new home.

Totally not glowing while I was painting in our new home.

The midwives never ceased to be supportive and encouraging. I was able to draw on their strength, and yet, I don’t know how many times I tried to let God know what the perfect scenario would be for Bumblebee’s birth. I was constantly up and down between praying, “God, you love me and know what this baby and I need” and “Hey God, you know that my parents will be here this weekend? That would be so convenient!” I had prayed against prodromal labor, too, because I didn’t want the added confusion or variable of needing to discern pre-labor signs from early labor signs. And yet, I did have a great deal of braxton hicks contractions and prodromal labor for many weeks.

There were a few nights that I was so sure we would be making the drive to Denver, and yet the contractions always fizzled out. Also, it seemed any time I spend a good amount of time in the car, I experienced regular braxton hicks.

All of this was enough to make me spin. Add in that Poppy came 8 days early, and the few weeks before my due date I was a little bit of a mess. There seemed to be much to deal with, and I know that any pregnant woman waiting for labor can empathize. Those last weeks can be rough emotionally! I also was still trying to set up our home, hosting an early Thanksgiving, painting bedrooms, and so on and so on.

My final belly photo with baby Bumblebee. Week 39.

My final belly photo with baby Bumblebee. Week 39.

On November 25, I had my 39 week appointment with Midwife Gina. Bumblebee measured spot on, but baby’s heart rate had decreased from the usual 150s to 130. I remembered that when I was pregnant with Poppy and friends and family were guessing her gender and birth date, one friend had shared that because Poppy’s heart rate dipped, she felt baby would come soon. I definitely had that in the back of my (hopeful) mind! Otherwise, the appointment was uneventful.

My mom arrived the next day, a Tuesday, and planned to stay at least through Friday as Thanksgiving was Thursday. The day she arrived was pretty good. My emotions felt a little more even, and I experienced less frequent but consistently intense contractions. That night, I awoke because of some strong contractions. The following two days were more of the same. We celebrated Thanksgiving quietly – Chris, Poppy, my parents, and me. My dad left that evening, and the rest of us went to bed, definitely in a state of anticipation and planning and wondering.

Around 1:30 in the morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving (my due date), I awoke to a contraction that forced me to rock on hands and knees until it passed. The contractions remained somewhat time-able and intense for about an hour. I went ahead and showered to relax some, and then I returned to bed. I then had one of the most amazing contractions where I could completely feel the contraction start at the top. Bumblebee squirmed into place, and the intensity and contraction dropped low. It was so amazing to feel my body and baby working together in that way.

First round of contractions.

First round of contractions.

I continued to have similar contractions as I dozed off and on until about 6:00 in the morning. I wasn’t really sure what to think because the night had started out on a familiar note, mirroring somewhat the way labor began with Poppy. But, with Poppy, we were calling my OB by 6:00 in the morning. Additionally, once the rest of the house started to wake up, I became quite distracted and the contractions appeared to decrease in intensity and become more irregular. However, even though I was beginning to think that I wasn’t in early labor yet, I decided it would be wise to call the midwife on call before Chris left for work. I didn’t want to lose any precious time should the midwife decide I needed to come in.

Well, Gina happened to be the midwife on call; and after hearing how my night went and knowing my distance from MMC, she advised me to come in. She expected me around 11:00 AM. Chris and I loaded up quickly, me feeling somewhat silly and reserved yet excited. We left my mom and Poppy at the house with instructions to follow along at their own pace. No hurry. I even suggested that maybe my mom feed Poppy a little bit of an early lunch so that Poppy girl would nap on the drive to Denver. That’s just what she planned to do. We left about 8:45-8:50 AM.

I hadn’t had a contraction since I called in at 8:30, and I had a huge and stressful break in contractions until 9:20. It flat out drove me crazy. I was convinced that I had a false alarm. Thankfully, I was finally able to doze off since I had been up most of the night. That’s all it took for me to relax and get my mind out of the way so my body and baby could resume their dance. Contractions resumed, and we made a pit stop halfway through our drive at 10:00 AM. I had a very strong – I love how each contraction seems super strong until you have the next one 🙂 – contraction while we were stopped, as well as some show when I went to the bathroom. I was elated because I felt justified in our making the drive when we did. I still didn’t know if I felt like Bumblebee would arrive that day, but I knew we were getting pretty close!

We arrived to MMC, somewhat sheepishly, at 11:50. Nurse Susan took us back to the blue room as our presumed room-of-choice – the log room – was occupied by new parents and their baby girl when we arrived. Bumblebee’s heart rate was at 120. I had more show in the bathroom. Chris and I lay together on the bed and rested, waiting for Gina to come check my progress. I prayed like crazy that I was further dilated than a 1 or a 2. A 3 would’ve felt somewhat acceptable to me, but I was really hoping for at least a 4. A 4 it was, along with 70% effacement. Bumblebee was at station -2, but Gina reassured me that the station wasn’t as telling for second-time mamas. Baby squirmed during the exam, and I continued to have some normal-ish contractions.

Walking toward the entrance of Mountain Midwifery Center. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Walking toward the entrance of Mountain Midwifery Center. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Gina let us know that even though I was definitely not in active labor, we weren’t leaving Denver without our baby and advised us to go have lunch. After lunch, she suggested finding some place to just go take a walk and relax. So, that’s what we planned to do. We were given instructions to know follow protocol as if we were local – so as a second-time mama, I was to call back to MMC when I was experiencing contractions on a 6-1-1 scale (every six minutes, lasting for at least 1 minute, continuing on for at least an hour). We left the birth center at 12:45, nearly an hour after arriving.

I was definitely not in active labor if I could leisurely grab this photo of my stats upon checking in.

I was definitely not in active labor if I could leisurely grab this photo of my stats upon checking in.

Chris just resting while we waited for the midwife.

Chris just resting while we waited for the midwife.

When we left that house that morning, we had debated about when we should call our friend and birth photographer. She also had quite the drive, but I didn’t want to interrupt her day-after-Thanksgiving plans with her family unnecessarily. As it turned out, she wasn’t far behind us. She and her boyfriend (now fiance!) met us in the parking lot. We couldn’t make any promises as to what would happen when, but they agreed to hang out “on call” and hope that things started picking up soon. We parted ways then.

Chris and I decided to eat at Red Robin. I love their crispy chicken tender salad and, while I was hungry, I was hesitant to eat too heavily and was definitely experiencing some aversions. And Chris is my burger guy – so it was perfect! We made the 15 minute or so drive back over to the edge of Aurora where we used to live when Poppy was born. It was so surreal to be going out to lunch at a time like that, but it really did seem like the best option!

I continued to have the same type of mild contractions while we ordered and waited for our food. When it came, I was able to start eating, but about halfway through, I experienced a contraction that had me climbing the booth to try to find a comfortable position. I ended up with my legs tucked under me, bracing myself, and breathing through it, very glad that the lunch crowd on Black Friday was relatively light. I definitely didn’t want an audience! After the contraction subsided, my anticipation soared! I tried to eat a bit more but experienced 2 more similar contractions 6 or so minutes apart each.

I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to labor comfortably at Red Robin and asked Chris to box the rest of my salad and get us ready to leave while I excused myself to the bathroom for a moment. If the previous three contractions felt like active labor, then what I experienced in the bathroom – contractions over a minute long coming every 2-3 minutes – sure felt like the start of transition!

I barely made it out of the restaurant and into the car, telling Chris quite determinedly that we were going straight back to MMC and I didn’t care that we hadn’t met the 6-1-1 rule yet. I labored on hands and knees in the back seat of the car, using my pillows and door handle to try to stabilize against the stop and go of the traffic. Chris called the birth center again to let them know we were on our way back. We’d been gone less than 2 hours at that point. He told me later they seemed willing if not hesitant that I should be returning so soon.

I hated that car ride. After all my stressing about laboring in the car, I realized after those twenty minutes or so that I was completely justified. Ha! Laboring in the car is no joke.

Arriving at the birth center this time went completely differently. We got straight to business with very little chit chat as Susan quickly helped me to the bed and immediately began hip compressions as I labored hands and knees with my face into the pillow. She was such great support. When I started to tense up, breathe too shallowly, or whine, she reminded me to breathe, told me what a good job I was doing, and encourage me to make low sounds and moan rather than whine through the contraction.

Susan doing her thing. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Susan doing her thing. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

At one point, she let me know she was checking my purple line. Now, I’d read about this and the part of me that wasn’t completely off in labor land was pretty excited and intrigued. Purportedly, the purple line is a non-invasive way to check the progress of labor. She said something along the lines of, “Well if the midwives’ tale holds true, I’d say you’re completely dilated!” I was equally relieved and deflated. Relieved because labor was intense enough that I didn’t feel like I could handle hours and hours more. Deflated because referring to it as a midwives’ tale was enough of a lack of confidence that I wondered it if could be trusted.

The hip compressions were simply amazing. Chris and Susan both helped support me in that way. Later, I asked Chris how often it was him doing the squeezing and how often it was Susan. He chuckled and let me know that every time I hollered for harder squeezes, it was him that was supporting me!

Maybe after 10-15 minutes, they asked if I would like to get into the tub. At that point, I was hesitant to move. Getting stuck in a contraction out of my comfort position would’ve been rough, I was sure. But, I desperately wanted to get in the tub. I really wanted it to be the miracle worker that I’d so often read about in other birth stories. Thankfully, Chris knew my desire to be in the tub, so he gently encouraged me.

Oh. My. Goodness! I’m so grateful he knew what I wanted and was able to help me along. That tub was absolutely amazing. I was scared it was going to be too cold/not hot enough, but it was blissful. I sank down on my knees with my arms draped over the side. The water was perfect and helped me to relax so very much. The bottom of the tub was slick enough that I was able to move my knees in and out to find the right position. I felt like I received a wonderful little break after getting into the tub. It may have only been a minute or two longer, but it was long enough for my head to clear a bit. It was also long enough for me to dread the next contraction… there’s definitely a benefit to labor land and just rolling with it and not over-thinking things! Later I asked if the break was due to the tub relaxing me or if I was experiencing something else I’d often read about – the little break that many mamas enjoy between the transition and pushing phases of labor. The ladies suspected it was a little bit of both.

Susan and Gina had been asking me for the last several minutes if I needed to push yet, but I hadn’t. Until it hit, and I knew I needed to. Chris sat in front of me, and I held his hand – or destroyed it rather. He had to ask me to lighten up at some while I was pushing, to which I wasn’t very receptive. I pushed big, long pushes. Apparently Gina suggested I slow down, but I was louder than she was! Chris told me later that Gina kept checking me and baby with the flashlight. I think she listened to Bumblebee’s heart rate a few times, too.

I felt her coming, and pushing on my knees was absolutely wonderful. SO much better than pushing from my back as I had with Poppy. In a rush of activity, baby was born, Gina told me to lean forward and grab my baby, and I lifted Bumblebee up out of the water and to my chest. Twenty-six minutes after returning to the birth center.

Elsie Jolie, minutes old. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Bumblebee, minutes old. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Pure bliss. I am pretty sure they had to tell me to check her gender. I was able to announce she was a girl! I kept repeating “sweet baby” and “you ARE a girl!” Poppy had been convinced, and her certainty slowly won Chris and me over, as well. A girl!

They helped me up out of the water and over to the bed. Chris crawled in beside us, and we soaked up those first precious moments. Bumblebee and I stayed skin-to-skin, and the whole atmosphere was so peaceful and joyful. No rushing around. No distractions. Gina monitored me as we waited for me to deliver Bumblebee’s placenta. It didn’t take too long in actuality, but it felt like it took longer than it did with Poppy. I’m not sure if that was simply my perception because of the slower-feeling pace in general, or if that was the result of an unmedicated after-birth experience. Gina examined it closely and explained how our sweet babe was nourished for the first chapter of her little life. She then checked the caul to find the break; it took some time to find! Bumblebee didn’t break my waters until I was pushing her out.

So much emotion for one photo! Photo by www.renetate.com.

So much emotion for one photo! Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Peeking at Mommy. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Peeking at Mommy. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

I don’t remember the specific order of things anymore, but within the first 30 minutes or so of Bumblebee’s life, her Grammy and her big sister arrived to meet her! It was so sweet to see my mama walk in with my first-born. Poppy’s was a look of overwhelmed observation, and my mama’s a look of pure joy and excitement! Poppy was so thrilled to learn that she had a baby sister, and she kept telling us that she had been right all along in guessing Bumblebee’s gender.

Retrospectively, there’s a funny story here. Apparently Chris had already texted my mama, “Baby’s here” while she was still driving. But, he forgot he did that! So, when they arrived, and he went to meet them to bring them back, he played it cool, thinking he was going to let them be surprised. 🙂 My mama still chuckles about that.

Big sister just taking it all in. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Big sister just taking it all in. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

My sweet mama so happy to meet her youngest grand baby. Photo by www.renetate.com.

My sweet mama so happy to meet her youngest grand baby. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

One of our first family photos as a family of four. Photo by www.renetate.com.

One of our first family photos as a family of four. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Me and my girls. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Me and my girls. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Our friend and photographer also arrived, bummed to have missed the birth but quick to capture all of those sweet moments we had together. I tried to be patient enough to let Bumblebee complete the breast-crawl, but after some time, I went ahead and latched her on so we could begin breastfeeding. Susan brought in a wonderful little tray of food – cheese, crackers, and apples – as well as some electrolyte drink. I couldn’t believe how wonderful I felt! I feel so blessed to have had two beautiful and perfect births.

After some time, Susan helped me to the bathroom so I could soak in an herbal bath for a while. It was during that time that Chris held Bumblebee for the first time. He cut her cord, and they weighed and measured her. Gina gave her a full exam. It felt like an eternity away from my baby, so I asked to get out of the tub. I got dressed in fresh clothes, and my mom, husband, daughters, and I relaxed in the family room as Bumblebee and I were monitored and checked every 15 minutes or so.

I love the clock included in this shot! Photo by www.renetate.com.

I love the clock included in this shot! Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Susan and Chris taking care of Elsie. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Susan and Chris taking care of Bumblebee. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Daddy and Elsie. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Daddy and Bumblebee. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Kisses from Daddy. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Kisses from Daddy. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Chris holding his new baby daughter. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Chris holding his new baby daughter. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

The first glimpse of Elsie that our friends and family saw. This was the photo I messaged to everyone.

The first glimpse of Bumblebee that our friends and family saw. This was the photo I messaged to everyone.

Waiting to be discharged.

Waiting to be discharged.

My mama's first time to hold Elsie, while we were waiting to be discharged.

My mama’s first time to hold Bumblebee, while we were waiting to be discharged.

Four hours after her birth, we were discharged from the birth center. It was around 7:00 when we walked out the doors and made our short drive to a Denver Tech Center area hotel for our first night. After we were settled into our room, Chris ran to get us all some food. He came back with some yummy sub sandwiches. We filled our tummies and then started to turn in for the night. Chris, Bumblebee, and I slept in one room while Poppy had a sleepover with her Grammy. Bumblebee slept great that night! She gave us about a 5 hour stretch which was so rejuvenating.

New sisters <3 Noelle's first time holding Elsie, at the hotel.

New sisters. Poppy’s first time holding Bumblebee, at the hotel.

My girls on Elsie's first morning.

My girls on Bumblebee’s first morning.

The next morning, we got ready for Bumblebee’s and my 24 hour appointment back at the birth center. Molly was the midwife who checked us over and then sent us on our way! We loaded up into our cars and head out of town after a quick stop at Chipotle (Bumblebee and I hung out in the car while the others ate 🙂 ) We then began the long drive home. I slept some, sitting in back with Bumblebee while Chris drove us safely home. I don’t think Bumblebee really stirred once.

Elsie and Mommy time while the others got some grub. (Yes, it's a selfie. No, I don't care. ;) )

Bumblebee and Mommy time while the others got some grub. (Yes, it’s a selfie. No, I don’t care. 😉 )

So tiny looking in her car seat!

So tiny looking in her car seat!

My awesome daddy was at our house waiting for us when we returned home. It was so special to introduce him to his new granddaughter!

My daddy meeting Elsie.

My daddy meeting Bumblebee.

That grin is worth a million!

That grin is worth a million!

The entire experience was such a blessing from the Lord. Every time I tried to make a suggestion about how birth should go this time, never once did I imagine essentially skipping active labor. He was so good to know exactly what we needed, and when. Birthing Bumblebee strengthened my faith.

Elsie. Photo by www.renetate.com.

Bumblebee. Photo by http://www.renetate.com.

Bumblebee was born in the water Friday, November 29, 2013, at 3:06 PM. She weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces and was 20.25 inches long. 

Consider this a stone of remembrance. God is good.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Our family picture the day we moved out of our Denver apartment a year ago!

Our family picture the day we moved out of our first apartment a year ago!

I’m going to start celebrating now. Why not?

If you know Chris and me personally, you almost definitely know that the past year has brought a unique rhythm to our lives.

We’ve spent a large majority of the past year apart. Chris will be graduating in May with his PharmD and has spent the last 9 months completing his intern rotations. This means that every six weeks, he has had to move to a new pharmacy in a new city to live and work apart from Poppy and me. So, aside from rotation five that started just before Thanksgiving and ended after the Christmas holidays, we’ve only had weekends together.

Now, trust me – I know this is nothing to complain about compared to what many families endure (yep, I’m talking about you, highly-respected and oft-prayed-for military families), but it’s still been difficult to spend so much time apart.

I’m generally a planner, and I love making lists. So, long before that first rotation started, I had a rough draft of a plan in mind about how we could keep in touch – ways that I could bless and encourage Chris from afar and maintain our family relationships among the three of us.

*****

FaceTime aka “Phone Daddy”

The same could be achieved through Skype or any other video chat, but we chose to invest in iPhones before this year apart started so that we’d have easier and near-constant access to communicating with one another.

FaceTime with Daddy

FaceTime with Daddy

Especially for Poppy, the ability to see Chris each night and have him pray with us before bedtime, or the chance to “invite” him to a dance party we girls are having, or to even show him something here around the house has been invaluable.

We got better at this as the year went on, but we now have Daddy pray for Poppy every night before bed. It’s a wonderful way to include him in some of our day-to-day routines and keep the two of them on one another’s mind.

Texting

Chris and I have always been very accustomed to communicating via text, and so it was easy to maintain that. Some balk at texting, but it’s a true lifeline for us! There’s something nice about being able to send anything to him at any time and not having to try to remember every detail throughout the day until we’re able to talk on the phone.

I also send a fair amount of photos and videos. Whether it’s a funny meme I saw that I want to share or the latest video of Poppy’s hiccups (um, yeah :)), it makes me feel connected to him to share even the small, silly, random, and often pointless stuff with him.

The exact type of moment I don't want Chris to miss out on.

The exact type of moment I don’t want Chris to miss out on.

Daily Letters

I have written Chris a letter to read for every night he has to go to sleep without me. I’ve actually written more than that (usually for any day that we don’t see him when he awakes and goes to sleep), but Chris reads them consistently before he goes to bed.

This idea is not my own. In fact, my mama used to write me letters when I was young. I remember how awesome it was to have a piece of her each day, even though we were apart. Sometimes she wrote gentle reminders about minding my manners, playing nicely with my brother, etc. Sometimes she would write backwards so I had to read the message using a mirror. There are lots of fond memories from those days, and I know I have at least some of the letters saved (somewhere!).

For Chris, I try to always write letters that build him up. He is encountering new challenges and faces each day, and regardless of whether or not I’m there when he walks in the door at night, I still want to be his biggest cheerleader. Words of affirmation are important to him – it’s one of his love languages (thankfully I have a lot of words!)

I also share verses, dreams, prayers, and even some (often lame ;)) chemistry or pharmacy jokes. Many a time, Poppy has drawn in a letter for Daddy, and we’ve also traced her hands and feet for him several times. Weeks I’ve been pregnant over the past year, I’ve shared with him baby’s current development on the weekly “change day.” They’re short letters, but I’d like to think they pack a punch. And, I’m happy that I’ve been able to consistently get them written for him! He has saved each one. ❤

Care Packages

Originally, I thought it would be fun to mail him some care packages throughout his year, but honestly, I haven’t done it! I do believe I mailed him a card and gift card once, but never a big package. I have, however, hand-delivered a care package and also sent him away many weeks with some kind of goodie. I loved care packages in college, so I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes I just felt like he wasn’t actually gone long enough for it to have the same effect for him now as it did for us in undergrad.

“The Super Daddy”

Bet you've never seen Chris in tights before, huh?

Bet you’ve never seen Chris in tights before, huh?

Poppy and I ordered Chris an awesome book his first Father’s Day. I had seen a recommendation for it on an online forum, and I fell in love with the concept. I simply emailed a good photo of Chris – good as in one where he’s looking straight at the camera, etc (all photos of Chris are good ;)) – and this company inserts his face into a book! The book is called The Super Daddy, and it was done by a company called Flatten Me. (Google them… pretty cool!)

I have to admit that I had the book put up for the longest time. Poppy was at the stage where the pages wouldn’t have been safe with her! She’s growing up and learning how to treat things more carefully, though, and so I was happy to pull this book off the shelf to read to her! We must have read it a dozen times in the first few days. She loved it! And, it made me feel good about keeping Daddy on her thoughts and seeing his face.

Mid-Week Visits

In many ways, it has been our mid-week visits that have been most special. They truly are “splurge” visits, and I recognize how truly blessed we are that we can have such visits. I am in the most wonderful situation right now, cocooned by family, where I can come and go as needed. And, though Chris can’t be with us during the week, he still has evening time that we can spend time together.

"Hotels are fun, Daddy!"

“Hotels are fun, Daddy!”

Many times, we have had to stay in a hotel for the night due to his student housing accommodations, but other times we’ve have been able to stay with the friends or family members that Chris has been able to stay with! Double blessing!

Making a Few Lists

One thing that I didn’t plan to do but that has come in very handy from time to time is making a list of things we need to discuss. Texting is great for staying in contact but not usually the best for making big decisions or recounting lengthy stories. At the beginning of the year, I was struggling to remember everything on the weekend that would have cropped up over the past week that I needed to talk to Chris about.

I literally made a note in my phone titled, “Things to Tell Chris.” Now, whenever something comes to mind, I write it down there and feel confident that we’ll address it when we have time!

Additionally, as a list-maker, I feel better about thinking ahead to the weekend and giving Chris as good a head’s up as possible about what to expect. He’s transitioning from one routine and schedule to another every few days, and I want to respect his time. I don’t want to have his whole weekend planned out of have so many things on my to-do list that we don’t get good time together. So, I plan ahead as best I can!

A Surprise Visit!

I only managed to pull this off once, but it was awesome! I arranged for my parents to keep Poppy overnight so I could drive to have a date night with Chris! It was awesome to surprise him in this way. Frankly, this was the biggest surprise for him I’d probably ever pulled off in our marriage, so it was a big deal!

The best self-portrait we could get on our date night.

The best self-portrait we could get on our date night.

Guarding Our Time Together

Ultimately, throughout our year, I’ve tried to always put Chris first. I want him to know that our marriage is more important to me than a girls’ night or a weekend away, etc. I have tried to make careful decisions that help us make the most of the time that we do have together instead of scheduling him out of the picture. I think I had to be more intentional about this at the beginning when I was still adjusting to my new living arrangement and was overwhelmed with opportunities to get involved in the community. Otherwise, this has been kind of a no-brainer.

*****

I know many of you have prayed for us throughout our year and helped us out in various ways. We really thank you for the support!

What methods do you use to stay close to far-away loved ones?

Adoption and Us

CKJ

Our early days…

Adoption runs deeply in both Chris’s and my families. Various friends and family members either were adopted or did adopt. Because of this and because of our desire to care for children through the blessing of adoption, we always assumed we would adopt one day. We had no idea when “one day” would come, but I subconsciously assumed it wouldn’t come for quite some time.

After losing Basil, I started to wonder if my assumption was wrong.

Two (and then three) miscarriages in less than a year turned everything upside down. We had wrongly assumed that adoption wouldn’t have a place in our early years as a family simply because we thought we’d have our hands and days full of biological blessings.

I started reading and learning so much, and I started seriously following Reece’s Rainbow in July after losing Basil in June. It has brought me so much joy to watch from afar the sons and daughters who are finding their way home. Praying over these children has been a blessing to me.

It’s easy from the outside looking in to think that we’re hoping to adopt because of our miscarriages. But, honestly, that feels so incomplete to me. First of all, adoption is something, as I mentioned, that has always been near and dear to our hearts. Secondly, adoption is important to our theology. As followers of Christ, we have been adopted into God’s family forevermore. And finally, adoption is just a separate decision for us than that of conceiving a biological child. Quite simply, there are children who need a family; and we are a family with more love to give. Adoption is not a back-up plan for us.

So where does that leave us now? We’re waiting. We’re waiting for God to throw open the door and pave the way for us. There are a few large logistical doors that time alone will open, but we’re prayerfully and humbly hoping to begin the adoption process in 2013.

We hope you’ll be along for the journey.

CKNJ

Us today

Have you ever considered adoption? Does adoption tell a story in your life? Leave a comment!

Poppyseed’s Birth Story

Happy 2nd Birthday sweet girl! In honor of your special day, I share the beginning of your story…

Oh childbirth. What an amazing rite of passage.

This is our story, Poppy’s and mine. This IS a birth story, so consider yourself forewarned.

If you’re a guy or otherwise not interested in the nitty gritty, here’s the basic version:

I was pregnant for several months. One day, contractions started, and Chris and I went to the hospital where, after a few hours, Poppy was born. She was healthy; I was healthy. All was well.

And, if that’s not enough for you, here’s the rest of the story (written shortly after birth with a few current updates and thoughts)…

I feel so blessed to have the birth story that I do with Poppy. After having such a wonderful pregnancy, I was sure my luck was going to wear out when it came to labor and delivery.

I had my first internal exam at 37w5d, and Dr. Andrews said I was 80% effaced and 1 cm dilated. She said that was a great place to be at my gestation. That was also when I felt confident to say that I had indeed been feeling some very minor Braxton hick’s contractions. Early on in my 38th week, I had one night where I was woken up every two hours with a BH contraction. They weren’t too painful at all, but they woke me up. They didn’t continue through the next day, at least not with any regularity. I didn’t really feel any different, though I was getting weary with work that week. I was looking forward to my Thursday (38w5d) appointment so I could leave work early. At that appointment, Dr. Andrews walked in and asked, “Is tonight your night?” She was very lighthearted and reported that I was 2 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and would not be pregnant by Valentine’s Day (more than two weeks away!). However, she also let us know that she was on call all weekend should we need her.

Pregnant

My last belly photo (38 weeks) before Poppy made her arrival!

We left the appointment feeling great; and while we were out, we decided to wash the car. I vacuumed it out, too, and then we went home for our normal evening together. I had no inclination about anything, feeling no different at all. I had some spotting and cramping, but I assumed it was from the internal exam, which is what had happened the previous week, too. We went to bed, probably between 9:00-10:00 PM, and I was awoken around 11:30 PM with what I thought was a BH contraction. I fell back asleep, only to be awoken again about an hour later. I can’t remember if I told Chris about the first contraction, but I’m pretty sure he woke up with me for the one around midnight. Then, I had a third contraction a little after 1:00 AM on January 28. From then on, the contractions came at 1:30 ish, 1:50 ish, and 2:25. When my next one came at 2:40 AM, we decided to start timing them. The one at 2:40 AM lasted 1:26. They then came as follows:

2:51 AM – 1:16 || 3:01 AM – 1:28 || 3:20 AM – 1:20 || 3:27 AM – 1:20 || 3:37 AM – 2:08 || 3:45 AM –1:00 || 3:52 AM – 1:21 || 3:59 AM – 1:02 || 4:07 AM – 1:15 || 4:14 AM – 1:08 || 4:21 AM – 0:58 || 4:27 AM – 0:40 || 4:31 AM – 0:40 || 4:34 AM – 1:25 || 4:40 AM – 1:06 || 4:46 AM – 1:40 || 4:54 AM – 0:40 || 5:05 AM – 1:00 || 5:10 AM – 1:08 || 5:17 AM – 1:08 || 5:24 AM – 1:13 || 5:30 AM – 0:48 || 5:34 AM – 0:33 || 5:39 AM – 1:22 || 5:46 AM – 1:35 || 5:51 AM – 0:32 || 5:56 AM – 1:41 || 6:01 AM – 1:19 || 6:07 AM – 1:20 || 6:11 AM – 1:11

And my next one came at 6:15 AM, but we were no longer tracking them since we had arrived at the hospital by then.

But, to back up and fill in the gaps: after the three contractions in the 1:00 AM hour, we decided it was pointless to try to go back to sleep. We found the information from the doctor’s office to try to refresh our memories on what we were to do once I was in labor. Then, we just killed time. Chris finished packing the hospital bag; we watched an episode of The Office on Hulu.com; Chris set up the baby bed; I took a shower to get more comfortable, etc.

Around 4:00 AM, I logged on to my work email to let my boss know that I wouldn’t be at work that morning. I remember writing him that I didn’t know if I would be at the hospital or not but that I definitely wasn’t going to make it to work by 8:00 AM. I also set my out-of-office assistant, just in case. Most of the time, I breathed and labored through contractions standing up but bent over onto something (the desk, table, bed, etc.) swaying my hips. Mostly it was very effective, and I felt really good about my pain tolerance.

It was finally around 5:45 AM that we called the doctor’s office to speak to the answering service. I let the lady know that I thought I was in labor, and she said she would let the doctor know. Dr. Andrews called me back at 6:00 AM, and I was so embarrassed to have to breathe through a contraction with her on the phone. She told me to head to the hospital and that she would let them know I was coming. Chris loaded the car while I continued to labor, and we left the house at 6:30 AM. By then, I was becoming quite tired after having been up all night. We were at the hospital probably only 10 minutes later or so.

I don’t really think I had a “this is it” moment. Maybe because I was hesitant to get my hopes up if it wasn’t the real thing; maybe I was just too tired; or maybe I was relaxed enough to just let everything happen without over-thinking it (if you know me at all, you know this last option would be miraculous if true!).

When I got to the hospital, triage had me change into a gown and get into bed to monitor baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. Writing that sentence was so easy. However, this was part of the hardest part! I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I didn’t want to lie in bed; I didn’t want any monitors on me; and I had to stop while changing clothes a few times for contractions to pass!

It didn’t take them long before they assured me that I would be staying at the hospital (dilated to a 3) and let me walk into my labor and delivery room. Soon after, the doctor came to check on me. She asked if I was getting an epidural, and I said that I was hoping to avoid it. I loved that no one second-guessed me. If they had, I may have buckled. Dr. Andrews really soothed me and helped me to relax, looking me straight in the eyes and telling me to breath and relax my shoulders. She checked me and determined I was already almost 7 cm dilated. Then, she left, and I continued laboring.

I was in a lot of pain as they hooked me up to the fetal heart rate and contraction monitors because I had to lie down on my back. It hurt my back, and it was so hard to work through the contractions in that position. I began to doubt my ability to go medication-free when my movement was constricted. I was also so tired and weak feeling (note to self and others – eat and drink when you can, even if you don’t think you need to!). The nurse and student nurse had some trouble putting in my saline lock IV. I was pretty dehydrated, so my veins weren’t very “plump.” It hurt quite a bit – the IV was a welcome distraction from the contractions and vice versa!

Our plan was to call our parents once we knew we would be staying at the hospital, but we had no cell service in the labor and delivery room. So, I think it was about 9:30 AM before I gave Chris the go-ahead to go get our bags from the car and call our parents. I was a little hesitant about letting him leave me, but it worked out well. I sat completely upright in bed, bracing on the bedrails and breathing through each contraction. I think it was then that I really started to relax. I think I just moved into a routine, and I was pretty focused (and pretty tired). I didn’t do much but try to stay relaxed and breath (hee hee hee ho). I surprised myself by wanting to stay in bed, but I think I just felt too alone and exposed to get up without Chris there with me.

Thankfully Chris got back in short order, and it wasn’t long before the contractions began to get worse. Chris tried to sooth me by touching me or rubbing my back, but it didn’t feel good to me. I think that it distracted me from staying focused. The nurse asked if I wanted to get out of bed and try the birthing ball. I really didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want to lose out on my chance to labor in all different ways. I think I got out of bed too late for the birthing ball, though. It hurt too much to sit on it.

I could tell that the contractions were getting harder because I could no longer maintain my previous breathing pattern (looking back, I am pretty sure I was in transition then). I switched to quicker one in and one out breaths, trying to focus on not breathing too quickly. Because sitting didn’t work, I called Chris to me, and I lay on his shoulder, and we swayed back and forth. Moving my hips felt so good, but it had to be precisely one way. Chris tried to widen his stance to hold me up better, but that brought him down too low, and I couldn’t handle it. He also tried to move only his hips instead of completely swaying with me. That didn’t work either. So, Chris worked quite hard! It was during this standing and swaying that I felt the urge to push.

At first I thought, oh wow! We must be close. Because of stories I had heard from other women, I figured that when I told the nurse that I wanted to push, she would tell me to wait, call the doctor, get me back in bed, etc. But instead, she nonchalantly said, “Okay. Do what you feel like you have to do.” So I began bearing down through the contractions, and Chris basically had to hold me up. It didn’t necessarily feel good to push, but it did feel like a relief.

In retrospect, it was finally at this point that the nurse thinks my water broke. It didn’t occur to me until well after Poppy had arrived that I didn’t even know when or if it had broken. There was definitely no gushing for me, and all those days spent sitting on a towel-lined trash bag in my car became laughable.

After my water broke, I really thought I needed to use the restroom. Because the nurse didn’t seem to think I was as close to delivering as I thought I was, I decided it was safe to sit on the toilet (it felt good – relieved some pressure). But when the nurse saw I was on the toilet, she hurried in and checked me internally. That’s when she started to “panic” a bit, and hurried me into bed while calling for the student nurse to get the doctor over to my room. It didn’t seem like much time before the doctor was there, and Chris said she came in out of breath! They got me into position and asked me to push so they could see what was happening.

Then, everything kind of blurred together. At some point, the room filled with people, and they told me to push. I just closed my eyes and pushed as hard as I could, holding on to my legs. I think it was the second contraction that they encouraged me to push harder and longer, and I think that was when she crowned. One nurse told me to open my eyes and look at baby’s head, but I refused. For one, I didn’t really want to; and for two, I couldn’t imagine spending any extra effort – I wanted to stay focused! It was then no time at all before she was out and a nurse told me to open my eyes and look at my baby!

First look

I will treasure this photo forever! Chris was johnny-on-the-spot with the camera and captured this even before she began to pink up!

The first thing I noticed was baby’s big blue hands. Then, they announced that she was a girl! Poppy was here! I looked up at Chris and said something like, “of course!” So many people thought we were having a boy. They laid her right on my tummy, and she was beautiful.

She was born at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2011. Six pounds and one ounce. Nineteen and three-quarters inches long. God’s precious gift to us!

I had a weird experience though – I think I thought I would recognize her, and I didn’t (obviously). It kind of threw me for a loop but made me quickly remember that she is a brand new human being! I had never seen her before – no one had!

“For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:13-18

I was hooked up to pitocin so I would continue contracting, and it wasn’t long before it was all over. Poppy lay with me for a long time. One nurse tried to take her from me, and I asked if I could keep her because by that time Dr. Andrews had informed me that I had a second-degree tear and needed to be stitched up. The needles hurt, and I felt some tugging, but the stitches were a non-issue.

Our first family photo!

Our first family photo!

We actually spent a fair amount of time in the delivery room after Poppy was born. Daddy gave her her first bath, and I ate the best food of my life. Seriously, I was so hungry that they probably could have fed me spam, and I would have loved it. Instead, I got this really tasty pasta and veggie dish. Poor Chris was a champ at letting me fill up first, even though he was also hungry!

Poppy wasn’t warming up very easily and it took us a while to realize that was because I wasn’t warm at all! (I definitely went through the post-delivery shakes that you hear about). Thankfully, she didn’t have to spend too much time under the warmer before we were good to go. We settled in to our mother/baby room, and looked forward to some privacy and getting to know this sweet new baby!

Reflecting on my first-time, hospital, medication-free birth leaves me feeling so blessed. Though there are so many horror stories out there about unnecessary inductions and interventions, I had a really great experience, and there is very little that I would change. Actually, there are only two three four things I would change: first, I would have liked to avoid the IV. It wasn’t a huge deal to have it, and they did end up giving me some fluids because I was dehydrated, but I believe that there are other ways to achieve the same results. Secondly, I really am bothered that they gave me Pitocin after she was born. This was not something I knew to discuss with Dr. Andrews before-hand, and she never brought it up. I think it was completely unnecessary and seemed to be something they just did. Some women absolutely need extra care if there are big risks of hemorrhaging, but I don’t believe I was one of them. Third, I wish I had been able to push following my own timeline and not be told when to push. I believe this is why I tore. And finally, I think it’s obvious that lying down to deliver a baby is a little counterproductive. It’s definitely one of those “this is just how it’s done” decisions that is super convenient for the doctor and not so convenient for the mama. Oh well.

I want to emphasize though how extremely blessed we are. Poppy was born healthy, and I absolutely know that is nothing to take for granted. I had a good team supporting me, and I am pretty much thrilled with the end result.

Noelle Irene

Sweet baby

Consider this a stone of remembrance. God is good.