6.03.2016

the fourth trimester

I have had thoughts for weeks about writing about this time in the fourth trimester [yes, I know that tri means three...but just roll with it. It's a thing.]. But now that I sat down to write and the cursor is flashing I don't know exactly what to say.



Maybe I'll start here: Everyone keeps asking, "How are you doing?" or "How are you getting along?" Those are hard questions to answer, because if you've ever been in the fourth trimester you know that the answer to those questions changes moment to moment. But overall the answers would probably be: Okay. and Okay. 

And to me, those okays are pretty positive things.

Overall, despite some pretty crazy moments and a separated pelvis, I still think this transition from two to three has gone better than from zero to one. Notice I said "gone better" and not "been easier". I don't think you can quantify what is easy or hard after having a baby. It is a weird time where offering your bloody body to a newborn every hour and half seems doable but putting on real pants seems impossible and leaving the house seems like it will never happen again. Now which of those things should be easiest? Putting on pants. And which of those things should be hardest? Nursing a newborn every hour and a half. But your mind and your body have gone haywire and you don't know up from down for a few weeks and really every single thing you have to do that day is hard.

 But then you just start doing it. And you keep on doing it.
And pretty soon it's normal and hard things become easier and babies start walking and going to the bathroom by themselves. 

After Blythe I had a hard time recovering from labor. I thought I would never get to stop using a peri bottle. And nursing was nearly a complete disaster. There is no reason I should have continued, but I did because #firsttimemom. On top of all of that, I had to adjust to a human being needing me to sustain life. That's a mind shift, even if you've always wanted to be a mother. And on top of all of THAT, I had made the decision to quit teaching for the time and become a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I gave up a role I loved for a new role I knew I would probably one day love but was definitely not currently loving. And did I mention my body was still bleeding? 

Suffice it to say, nothing could trump that emotional nightmare, so why not have more children? But in all seriousness, I learned so much that first year with Blythe. And I rejoiced when it was time to wean her, and I realized that motherhood snuck up on me after its initial onslaught, but my biggest lesson? My biggest lesson was that I am not what I do. Or what I don't do. When I let Christ truly define my identity and started inviting Him fully into the messy details of my day as a mom, there was still hard stuff, but the hard was faced with a confident Peace. 

 All that to say this:
the transition to three has not rocked me to my core like my transition to one, but it has still been full of hard stuff just the same.

But really full moments of just good too.

Also, I think the idea that I deserve certain things has changed, which means that picking up a nearly petrified and half eaten peanut butter sandwich off the 2-weeks-since-last-vacuumed-living room floor and eating it seems like no big deal. And while showering without someone crying or opening the shower door or putting something in the shower with me sounds lovely, I don't feel like I have somehow earned that or that I deserve it like I once did. I still remember reading something a friend posted after I had Blythe. After she had her first born her mom said these words to her: You brought your daughter into this world.  She owes you nothing. You owe her everything.   


But this fourth trimester?  Let's see. Nan has been our most difficult baby. She's not a bad baby by any means, but our other two were pretty easy. Nan just has more fussy periods and still eats every two hours. Which has been interesting. But overall she's a good egg too.

This has for sure been the hardest transition for Brent and me as a couple. There is just less time where it's just us and quiet and where we have the brain capacity for a conversation. We're realizing this more and trying to be better about the time we do have, and finding ways to create more time, and also trying to give lots of grace and realizing this is just a season too. 

Two weeks ago was my breaking point. I think I just heard lots of women nod their heads and give a knowing smirk. Even if it was 20 years ago, I'm guessing you vaguely remember your breaking point after your children were born. We've just had several months of hard stuff: Blythe got pneumonia and spent a couple of nights in the hospital in March, and then things just got crazier and crazier. Becks had pneumonia. Then I got sick. Then I had a baby. Then I could do so little because the pelvis thing. Then when it seemed the clouds were finally breaking a bit, the older girls spiked super high temperatures. And that's when I broke. My mom came over on the worst day during lunch time. She said she saw that look in my eyes and was immediately taken back to when I was a [very difficult] baby and she would lay me down and literally crawl out of the room. And then I would start crying. And she would lay on the floor and just cry with me. And can I just say this: that all sounds dramatic until you've been there. 

So when she saw that look in my eyes, she tread lightly.  She gave me a hug. Brent saw the look as well, as I'm sure most father's have seen at some point, and he asked how he could help and I just didn't know so I yelled things about unloading the dishwasher then went to the bathroom and cried. It was a crazy day.

But then the clouds really did start to break and some sunlight has been coming in and I think, dare I say it, we are really about done with the fourth trimester and just headed back into life?!

This transition has gone better than zero to one, but it has required so much more physically of me. I am needed in three places at the same time many times a day. Getting children in and out of the car is about like you could imagine it when they all still require buckling assistance and yes, I use snacks to lure them into the vehicle all the time. 

Also, something I wasn't expecting? My older two hitting their "difficult stage" at the same time, while also having a newborn. Blythe breezed through age two. I loved it. Terrible twos? Not a thing. "Oh just wait, she'll be a threenager for sure!" Not really. But age four? The attitude and tantrums have arrived. While at the same time Becks has hit her stride at age two. One minute they are completely fine, and the next they are both screaming and I am poised to call the ambulance because someone only screams like that when an amputation is inevitable. But no. It's just that Becks thought that Blythe's socks were really her socks but they aren't they are my socks...no they're my socks...And then Nan wakes up and it's time to eat.

Twenty minutes later all is well. Because usually twenty minutes is all it takes.

So this fourth trimester? It's been okay. We're okay.  A good okay.

And I think this is why:

/I'm enjoying Nan Louise at this stage more than I have any other infant of mine because I have perspective. I know this is a season. I know she will grow. I know she won't demand I feed her every two hours forever [actually, Blythe still does so....?]. She's already started smiling and, like one of my friend's said, when they start doing that it's like someone has opened a window and there is fresh air to breathe again.


/ Help. Oh my word. I've heard some people say that with each consecutive child the amount of help offered during the fourth trimester diminishes. This was not the case for me at all. The outpouring of help I received was staggering. Obviously our mother's were a HUGE help. The entire first week home one of them stayed the night with us. They swept the floor and kept the dishes reasonable and I don't think my mom set foot in my house for three weeks without doing a load of laundry.  I had someone here around the clock for the first two weeks of Nan's life. The next two weeks I still had a ton of help because moving around was still pretty difficult, plus I wasn't really supposed to be doing too much until the cartilage all healed up in my pelvis. So people took the big girls for me. Or they came and let me sleep. Or they came and held a baby so I could tend to my big girls. Or they came and brought food and sat and talked with me. My elementary best friend's mom showed up one day! I hadn't seen her or talked to her in years. YEARS! And she came with a meal, and cookies, and she stayed and played with my girls and she let me sleep and she did my dishes and folded laundry [even our underwear!] and I realized again how God created us to live in community for a reason. I had a meal train coming from church for almost 6 weeks! A former co-worker and friend gave me an iTunes gift card to get some music to chill out to. Another friend brought a quiche and let me drink my coffee while it was still hot.  And I know, without a doubt, that all of that and all those people made this transition better for me.

[Side note: if someone you love is about to have a baby, or just had a baby, here is my advice: SHOW UP. If you don't like to cook, order them a pizza [or bring them Olive Garden like one of my friends did!], or sweep the kitchen, or fold some underwear.  Bring her her favorite coffee. Every little gesture helps. And if you're about to have a baby, here is my advice: let people help. When someone says, "Hey! Let me know if you need anything." Give them something specific right then-- maybe a meal would be helpful, maybe keeping older children would be helpful. "Could you come and hold the baby so I can take a nap?" Or if they are a great friend, "We are pretty set for meals this week, but I can't even begin to tell you the last time I cleaned my bathroom. Here's the toilet brush." Most people are offering because they really want to help. This time I needed help for a really long time. And that was hard to accept. But I had to ask sometimes.]

/ My expectations were a lot lower. I didn't expect to bounce back within two days. I didn't expect to have head over heels feelings for this baby I was just meeting and knew it would take time to grow. I knew I would be getting less sleep but I also knew my body would acclimate to that new schedule pretty quickly. I knew nursing would suck, but also that in 3-6 weeks even that would get better. I just didn't expect anything to be perfect and wonderful for awhile. :) [However, when people said their body was totally different after their third, I maybe didn't believe them. But now that I'm sitting here and see myself in the reflection of the computer screen, I'll just say this: it's all true.]

So that's it I guess. I have perspective. I've had help. And I lowered my expectations.

 Having a baby is a whirlwind: physically and emotionally. But in the end, after the dust of the fourth trimester settles, it is one of the most beautiful experiences of your life. And in all of this? We get Nan Louise in our family, which is worth every second of hard. And through it all, I've learned in more tangible ways about our God who shows up in our weaknesses and becomes our strength. In my insufficiency He is sustains me; in my weakness, He is strong.

5.07.2016

Spinning Craft Holder: How To


This will have to be brief, but I had a lot of people ask how I made this for the girls. 
And let me tell you, it has been A BIG HIT! For all of us, because their markers aren't finding dark corners of the house to mate and create little spawn markers to hide in even more places for me to step on or pick up all the live long day. 

Also: WORD OF ADVICE: If you are a very type A person this may not be the best project for you to attempt. Brent could hardly stand watching me. It requires a little fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants and a lot of don't-measure-just-wing-it kind of stuff. [I'm just picturing my sister spending about twelve weeks making this...] 

Okay. Here we go. I didn't take the best pictures but I think you'll get the idea. 


What you need:
PVC PIPE - 
 I used 2 inch and 1 1/2 inch
LAZY SUSAN 
 [my mother in law had one she let me use. She also said if you lived in the 70s and didn't have one of these on your table you weren't cool. Okay, those weren't her exact words. You could search garage sales, thrift stores, or buy one on amazon for about 10 bucks. I believe mine is 10 inch diameter]
 LIQUID NAILS
MITER SAW 
SPRAY PAINT
CRAFT PAINT 
ALL THE MARKERS YOU'VE BEEN STEPPING ON AND THROWING AWAY BECAUSE THE LIDS GOT LEFT OFF
 

First step is to cut your PVC. I just guessed a bit-- I wanted my tallest one to be about the height of a marker [if you wanted to keep paint brushes etc you could make it a little taller] After I knew my tallest one I just cut the rest in 1/2 inch increments smaller. A few of my little ones maybe got too small but whatever, it works. 

And when I say "I cut" I mean my dad cut because he has the miter saw. I just stood behind him and told him what to do. :) 

Also, a miter saw cutting PVC pipe sounds like a newborn crying. At least that is what my body thought. Ask me how I know... :/! 

 

Okay. Where was I?
You have your PVC cut. Take some sand paper and sand down the edges. You'd be amazed at how sharp that can get in spots. Once they are all sanded, clean them with soapy water and let them dry [this way you know the paint will stick]

Then get out your husband's caulk gun and some liquid nails. Arrange the pipes however you want them on your lazy susan. 
Okay. This was the hardest step, and you just kind of have to wing it. I recommend gluing your middle pipes together and letting them dry. Once you have that chunk started, start gluing others to it. I glued all the pipes together and then glued the whole piece onto the lazy susan. 
An extra pair of hand here would be fantastic! 
 

Your glue will smoosh out the bottom edges. It's okay. I took a paper towel and wiped it off the best I could around the outside edges that would show, but it wasn't perfect. 

Here is what I'm not good at when it comes to crafts: waiting for things to dry. 
But with this one it is pretty important. 
Wait several hours if you can, or overnight for it to dry. It should be a pretty solid mass. 


Once everything is dry you get to spray paint! 
I used a spray primer first, or you could use a spray that has a paint and primer in one. 
Either way I recommend doing it outside and not in your laundry room with windows open or your house will smell like spray paint fumes for days. [That's good for a newborn, right?]

Again. Be patient. I waited for the first coat of paint to dry overnight, then did another good, heavy coat the next day. I chose white but you could obviously choose any color. A metallic may be cool to try, as it would maybe look like you made it from metal. 


Once the spray paint was dry [or dry-ish, if you're impatient like me], I chose a color I liked for the inside. You wouldn't have to do this step, or you could choose lots of colors. 

This was a little tricky. It was hard to leave clean lines in the bottom of the tubes, as well as around the top. I kept a damp paper towel close by and wiped the edge if I got some on it. The lines aren't perfect. Another reason a perfectionist would struggle. [As you can see in picture below] 



But once it is dry and ready to go, it is so awesome you forget about the imperfections! Trust me! 


Fill with your favorite drawing or craft supplies. I got the girls some of the little pip-squeak markers for the small tubes, and also filled with some crayons etc. 


Voila. 
You're done. Congrats. It really only took me about 2-3 hours total hands on time. Granted my dad cleaned up the mess from the cut pipes. Allow two days though at least so things can dry. 
And maybe don't try to squeeze it in before a second birthday right after you've had a newborn. Just saying. 
But really-- go make one! It is awesome! 



5.05.2016

TWO: Becks Lynae


 


Dear Becks Lynae,

I always sit down to write these letters thinking that I'll know just what to say and just how to say it, but like always I am caught off guard trying to capture your personality. But I am more caught off guard trying to capture the intensity and depth of our love for you. 

Becks you had a big year, what can I say? Last May you were a tiny little bit of nothing, weighing in at about 16/17 pounds. You had a sweet and quiet disposition and you were still crawling. In August most of that changed. All of a sudden you started walking. You never really went through a tumbling, bumbling stage-- you just got up and walked and walked like you'd been doing it all along. And with that walking something else changed: you "discovered yourself" it seems. Your personality just absolutely exploded! Quiet? Nope. Sweet? Most of the time. Quirky and spunky and boisterous and outlandishly funny? Every single day.


You have tried me and tested me in ways that I couldn't have expected. You have pushed limits and stomped your feet and pouted your lips and turned your back and gone toe to toe with my own stubbornness. But you know what's crazy? As exhausting as it's been at times, and as exasperated as you've left me, I've loved you even more for it. As you try me with your still-molding heart, I realize how stubborn my own heart is too. If I want to teach you patience and gentleness and kindness, I must first be patient and gentle and kind. You are helping do a hard work in me.

Your sense of humor is incredible. You love to make people laugh, but you also love when people make you laugh. Blythe can do the simplest thing and you might just fall over from laughing so hard. You laugh with your whole body, and there is nothing we can do but laugh right along side you.



As much as you love being with people, I think you are our little introvert at heart. If there is a lot going on, or we've had a busy day, a lot of times I find you in a corner or in your room just looking at books. It doesn't take long for you to "recharge" in this way before you're ready to roll again, but these quiet moments seem to soothe you.

But you are anything but quiet. You love to squeal and scream and sing LOUDLY. You pick up songs very quickly. Some of your current favorites to sing are "Down to the River", "Reflections" [from Mulan], and "You'll be in my Heart" [Tarzan]. You also sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Winkle Star" and that winkle that you throw in is just about the cutest thing ever.



You talk. A. Lot. You are a little parrot of Blythe, and repeat anything she says, even if you have no idea what she's referring to [though you usually do]. You aren't as easy to understand as Blythe was at your age, but I can usually translate for others if they don't understand something. Even if you don't have the words to describe or express something, you can always get your point across. One day I was reading to you and you didn't want to read anymore-- you grabbed the book, threw it on the ground, and said, "AMEN!"

You love to play and tease your daddy, and when he gets home from work you run to him and say, "Getchyou game!" And he always is happy to oblige and immediately starts getting you! I hear squeals of laughter all over the house.

I really think you're ready to be potty trained. Since January you've been occasionally telling us when you need to go poopy and you'll go on the potty. However, since I was super pregnant and now have your newborn sister, I just haven't had the energy or physicality to be able to pull that trigger. My guess is by the end of the summer you'll be a pro. Though we may have to start sooner as you've figured out how to take your diaper off.


You also moved to a big bed this year, and into a room with Blythe. You two have a blast when you go to bed...almost too much fun. It's been a transition for us all. At first it was a little rough. You WOULD NOT stay in bed. So instead of fighting that battle, we got some plastic fencing and attached it all around your bed with zip-ties. Basically we built a cage for you. And it worked! And I know we'll look back and laugh at it and you'll tell tales about what horrible parents we were for doing it, but it has helped us all and been awesome. I'm not sure you were quite ready to leave the crib, but it had to be vacated for your new sister.

Speaking of your baby sister: this was a big year for you! You became a BIG SISTER! Nan joined our family. You love saying her name: "Baby Nan Louish", and you've proven quite interested and sweet. There have only been a few instances we've had to remind you to be careful-- like when you're about to somersault right into her head! It's only been a few weeks but I can't wait to watch you continue to grow into this role more and more, and to watch your relationship with Nan blossom.


You are still pretty tiny, little lady. At your well check your doctor predicted your height to be a little less than five foot! But man oh man can you pack a punch in that little body. He also observed you interact with Blythe for about thirty seconds at that appointment and made two observations: "She's got a sense of humor!" and "You've got your hands full with that one!" Yes. And yes. But Becks, they are full in the best ways possible.



When I was pregnant with you we started praying over you, and please know we haven't stopped. We still pray that you would grow in patience. Not just practical day-to-day patience, but the kind of patience that is long-suffering; the kind of patience that can sit with others through unanswered prayers and the kind of patience that can wait with joy. And we pray you are devoted to your convictions, to your friends, to your family, to your Jesus. And that you live with integrity; that your character would leave a legacy. And Becks, we pray for your purity-- that you would protect it and that others will see where true purity comes from through you. But mostly Becks we pray that you would know our sweet Jesus as your Savior soon.



Oh Becks, I seriously cannot imagine our family without you. Your blue eyes just kill me each and every day. We can't take you anywhere without people commenting on just how stinkin' adorable you are. Thank you for your fierce love. Thank you for always noticing when I am tired or let out a sigh or put my head in my hands-- thanks for asking why I do that, and if I'm okay in your own, sweet way. Thank you for your excitement over simple things. Thank you for giving the best kisses.



Becks, we've had to discipline you a lot. Sometimes we are an emotional wreck because of it. But your dad and I love you so very much, and we want you to experience true freedom. And we want you to know that, just like your relationship with Christ, real freedom is found when we choose obedience. Real freedom is found when we realize our boundaries are not cages-- they are open to our choices-- but they are there to protect us and give us abundant life we didn't know was possible. So when you want to run in the street by yourself and we get onto you, it's because we love you and know more about safety than you. When you scream and talk back to us and we have to reprimand you, it's because we love you and we want you to see that true love helps us be our best. 


Two is my favorite age, and I cannot wait to spend this year watching you explore and learn new things. You're hands are still dimpled and pudgy and still a little bit baby. But I know as this year wears on they will turn into the hands of a little girl. And I want to hold those hands as long as you'll let me.

We love you deeply and fully. There are times I honestly don't know if I can refrain from kissing your face over and over again. Parenting you is a challenge, but it is also so so so much fun. We are trusting God to write your story, and we are so thankful we get to play this little part of it as your parents.

Happy second birthday, Becks Lynae! There is nothing you can every do that will make us stop loving you.

5.03.2016

Nan's Story

To read Blythe or Becks' birth stories, click the tab at the top of the blog. 
To read all of the letters I wrote to Nan Louise before she was born, click HERE.  


Also: this is a birth story. I tried not to be too detailed, but birth is messy and raw and painful and there are times that, in order to tell the true story, I had to say things like "scrape membranes" and "dilation." Consider that your warning and proceed with caution :)  


I never quite know how to start these birth stories. There is so much crammed in such a short space of time. And in the end there is another human on this earth. How do I put that into words? When I started Becks' story two years ago I said, "How does one describe the moment that moves from painful to sacred when your child is laid on your chest?" 

I guess I'll start by saying that the end of this pregnancy was hard for me. Physically it was very difficult, which was new and frustrating. With Becks I had kidney stones at the end, but otherwise my pregnancies have been pretty good. By the beginning of March though I was really feeling this one. And then in the middle of March we spent two nights in the pediatric wing of the hospital with Blythe.  My mother-in-law had to help me with all her appointments that day because I could hardly walk. Brent put me in a wheelchair to bring me up to her room at one point. There was so much pressure, I was having contractions, and if on my feet for more than five minutes I was in pain. After that ordeal, we came home, Blythe got better and Becks got sick. Then I got sick. And so began my constant need of help from others. I really didn't think I was going to make it to April, let alone the induction date we had set: April 8.

Luckily the antibiotics kicked in quickly for me, but then my body was in this weird place of recovering from a sickness and preparing for labor. I could just feel it shouting at me, "Enough!" On April 4th, Brent and I were getting ready for bed and I started to feel some more significant contractions. After about thirty minutes and deciding they were actually happening, I told him we should go to town just to be safe. My doctor had us pretty amped up about the potential for me to deliver in less than thirty minutes if my water broke on its own, so we wanted to take no chances. My mom came in a flash. I told her I really didn't think it was go-time, but I was feeling enough that I wanted to be closer to the hospital. 

We got to the hospital at around 10:30 and I wanted to felt the need to walk around the parking lot to see if things would pick up. It was the most I had walked in a long time. I was instantly sore. Stepping up over the curb felt like a huge accomplishment [I would later find out why I was in so much pain].  It was a little chilly so we got back in the car for a bit. I felt something crawling up my pant leg and smacked it...only to be stung! It was a honey bee! In my pants! At 11 o'clock at night! When I thought I was maybe in labor! Crazy.

ready for the hospital!
the bee that stung me
Long story short, we eventually checked in and I was at a 3 but nothing was really happening. They said we could stay as long as we wanted, given my history. My doctor was actually on call and told the nurse, "Do NOT let her leave unless you really know she's not in labor." We walked the halls a bit, but I told Brent this wasn't it. As the clocked ticked to 1 a.m. on my sister's birthday, we left and stayed at a friend's house in town just to be safe. In the morning I knew it wasn't going to happen that day. I had an appointment at 2 that afternoon, and by the time we went to the appointment we were pretty tired and we both actually fell asleep in the waiting room. [Funny side note: Brent said it was warm in there, but I felt like it was 100 degrees. I had my pants rolled up. I also asked the other ladies waiting if they cared if I turned off the TV because Disney Junior was just not happening for me in that moment. Hormones, anyone?] My doctor checked me, and said, "I can't even explain how soft everything is. I have no doubt you will go fast." She even drew us a picture so we would understand what she meant. She also told me that baby girl was so far down in the birth canal that she was ready. However, we were only three days from the induction date, and she wanted to stick with that. 

We returned home. We had normal-ish days. My friend brought us Olive Garden [a love language of mine] on Wednesday and helped me with the girls. Thursday we took it easy, Brent's mom and sister came over and brought lunch and helped with girls,  and when Brent got home we popped popcorn and had a snack supper in the living room and watched a movie together. I just sat and stared at them as they watched the movie. When Becks was on her way, I was so nostalgic about Blythe no longer being an only child. I had no doubt I would love my second girl, but I also thought it would take away something from that other relationship. This time? I didn't have those feelings because I knew that having another baby was taking away nothing, but only adding-- exponentially adding to everything. That night we packed a bag for the girls and brought them out to my parent's house for the night, then headed home to an empty house.

The induction was looming. It was such a strange thing. How do you act normal? What do you say? I texted Kali and explained how strange it was to know I would have a baby the next day, and she said, "I know! I remember thinking that morning: Do I shower? What do I eat? Do I wake up the girls and tell them really important things?" Brent and I both took a Tylenol PM and crawled into bed. I wrote my last letter to baby girl, and then still took awhile to fall asleep: Was baby girl actually ready to come? Was I playing God? If she wasn't ready would my labor be long? If she wasn't ready were we prepared for what that may mean? Brent had also contracted a rare disease during my pregnancy [he's fine. really.], that could have implications for our baby, so that was also part of the unknown. There are always those lingering questions, when what is inside will be outside and exposed to the light soon, but with the induction I knew exactly when that would be happening. I thought of something I had read from the author Lysa Terkuerst: Trust Him. Hold tightly to Him. And be brave enough to let God write the story of your child's life. 

So I wrapped my hands around my swollen abdomen. I felt baby girl kick and squirm. I would be meeting her so soon. And in that moment I handed the unknowns, the fears, the anxiety, over to Christ. I audibly whispered, "I trust you, Jesus." And then I went to sleep trying to be brave enough to let God write the story of this little girl's life, even from her very first moments. 

April 8. 7ish a.m. I rolled out of bed knowing that I would meet my daughter most likely within 12 hours. I had texted with Paige the day before and asked her, a dietician, what she would recommend I eat; I wanted something light, not eggs, but something that would stick if I had to miss a meal. She recommended oatmeal and peanut butter for some protein. I added coffee for good measure.


Brent and I threw last minute items in our hospital bag [which we would later discover still had some of Blythe's panties from her hospital stay... Brent mistakenly would grab them for me to wear post-delivery! I mean, Ana and Elsa are cute, but I didn't think they would quite do the trick ;)].  Shortly after 8 a.m. we got in the car with an empty car seat in the back seat and headed to the hospital.

The drive was so strange. Neither of us knew exactly what to say or do or how to act. Normally on the drive I was dealing with super intense contractions which gave us something to focus on. Small talk seemed inappropriate. Talking about the birth didn't exactly pump me up [no matter how many times you do it, let's be honest, you aren't exactly looking forward to labor and delivery]. We talked through what my doctor had said was the plan of action, and I admitted to Brent that I as badly as I wanted to, I hadn't let myself google "stripping of membranes". Before we knew it we were pulling into the maternity ward. Brent shut off the engine. I took a deep breath. He took my hand and he prayed over us, over me, over our baby.  And then we walked through the doors, empty handed, a bit anxious, but excited to fill our arms. 

 

We got checked in quickly and found our room. It was the first one, which we were super excited about, as our previous two trips resulted in rooms at the very end of the hall. Brent helped me into my gown and we looked at each other, looked around the room, and just kept saying, "This is so weird." I looked in the corner and noticed the baby warmer was already set up, and then I glanced at the board which read:  "GOAL: Have a baby." Oh man. It got very real in that moment.  Jesus, give me strength and endurance, I breathed.




Soon nurses were getting things rolling. My main nurse would be Patty, who had a green-handed nursing student with her. She had yet to witness a birth, and was hopeful that I could change that by 4 o'clock before she had to leave for the day. Another nurse, Tara, also came in. She had been my nurse for Becks' delivery and actually remembered us and my super fast progression and our teeny five pound Becks. Patty asked if I minded if the student, Brooklyn, started my IV. She had never started one before, but I said of course because needles don't bother me if it took her a few tries. Then Tara started looking at my veins, and I told her she had actually had a hard time last time, and she looked at Brooklyn, "Do you mind if I do it?" 30 minutes and three tries later, I had an IV hooked up in my super skinny, hard to poke veins. When checked, I was at a three, which I had been at for several weeks.

Patty informed me that Dr. C was stuck in a surgery, but that she would come and "start things" when she was done. We waited. And waited. It was hard to be so pumped up to get to the hospital and then the room and see the warmer and be gearing up to go...only to be delayed. Once when I was coaching softball we got to the ball field, stretched, practiced hitting, played catch, and our pitchers warmed up. And then we were all of a sudden in a downpour and we had to go back to the bus to wait out the storm, meaning we'd have to warm up again before we could play. I felt a little like that. I had warmed up. I was ready. Put me in, Coach! Only for a rain-delay. I was of course updating my sister and she said, "Did you bring cards or something? That's what we always did when we waited for things to progress." Oh. Cards. A game. A movie. Nope. We brought none of that because we had never had time to even consider playing a game during my labors. We walked the halls some, just to do something, and at about 11 I saw my mom walking down the hall. She knew we just kind of wanted to do our thing for the day, but said she couldn't stand not being close. She said she would stay out of our way and headed for the waiting room.


At 11:30 my doctor came in, apologizing for our wait. It was so great to see her, not just because it meant go-time, but because I trust her and seeing her calmed me. She said she wanted to strip my membranes first, and really thought that would get stuff going. She said we could start a super slow, small dose of Pitocin in half an hour or so and she would break my water. I liked that plan because she wasn't going to wait around to get things moving.  I had heard how horrible it was to have the membranes stripped, so I was preparing for the worst. She did her thing and I grimaced a little, but it wasn't a big deal at all. She looked at the nurse and said, "Just so you know, she has a really high pain tolerance." Those last seven words were a gift she gave me, and I carried them with me through the next painful hours.

I had a few contractions right afterward, but then everything pretty much subsided. My body was going to need a little more to get moving. Brent made me laugh at this point because he said, "I didn't want to freak you out, but when they were saying "strip your membranes" I was picturing her coming in here with a chainsaw or something!" After half an hour, at about 12:15, the nurse started a super slow pitocin drip. We would wait a little longer and then my doctor would be back to break my water! We got up and walked the halls a little, just to see if that would help anything.  I updated my mom when we passed the waiting room. Bless her heart for just hanging out and waiting.

Here is where I must interject the big question I got this time: "Were you able to get the epidural?" Since this was all planned, I could have put an order in for one from the get-go, probably. However, our plan was to start without it, and if it felt like I was progressing as quickly as I did with my last two I would just stick it out without one. If things slowed up, or I was in labor for a lot longer, or I couldn't handle the pain, then I would get one. The main reason for this is not because I'm for natural birth, or because I'm holistic, or anything very noble: the reason was if I didn't have the epidural we would be saving $3-4,000 dollars. If you know me, you know I'm pretty frugal. And apparently I have a high pain tolerance, so this was the logic decision. Keep reading to see if I eventually got one...


 Between 1:15 and 1:30, my doctor showed back up, ready to break my water. My water has never broken naturally on its own, but I'd only ever had it broken right before delivery. She told me that baby girl was so far down in birth canal that she needed to wait for me to have a contraction before she would break it because she was worried about poking baby's head. I was having a few contractions at this point due to the stripped membranes and the pitocin, but nothing more than I'd been feeling for the last month. When the contraction came, she broke my water. Brent was worried this would hurt but again, I didn't think it felt like much other than a release of some pressure.

And then my labor started. 

It was just like I remembered, but without any build up, and a little more "crampy." I was worried about the pitocin, but honestly, besides the crampiness it was about the same because all of my labors have been so intense. However, baby girl was so far down that I felt intense pressure-- almost the need to push-- the entire time. My doctor kept popping back in, and my nurse never left the room. She kept checking me every few contractions. They were on high alert!

 


Brent had previously asked if I remembered what labor felt like. I laughed at him. YES! But also no. I think women remember the pain, remember moments, but there is no way you can actually remember the sheer intensity and pain of it all. In that moment, I was hyper-focused. Once again I didn't scream. I got very stoic and quiet. Brent was amazing through all this. He was quiet with me, reassuring me with a gentle hand on my leg or offering me his hand to squeeze. Sometimes I took it, other times I just gripped the blanket or the bed rails. Always though, I stared at the light switch when the contractions came, peaked, and subsided. And while I stared I quoted scriptures:

"The Lord your God is with you... He will rejoice over you with singing; He will quiet you with His love..." [Zeph. 3:17]

"The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still." [Exodus 14:14]

"In quietness and confident trust is your strength." [Isaiah 30:15]

The pain would peak. I would find the light switch. Breathe as deeply and controlled as I could. And I would bathe myself in these words.  

I did this for about 45 minutes or so. I don't have gradual labor. My entire labor is transitional labor pain. My doctor came back in. She checked with the nurse on my progress, and Patty said I was going to go to the bathroom. Dr. C said she was just going to go ahead and get ready, and put on her cap and leg cover-things. I could tell, yet again, that she thought I was going to go super fast. She wasn't going to miss it. After this initial chunk of time, my nurse Patty asked me to go use the restroom. I did not want to get up. I did not want to move. I told Brent I could maybe just try to "go potty" in the bed. I was serious. But I smiled--smiled?! I am seriously such a weird person during labor-- and said I could do it. Patty said something like, "Contractions can't be too bad yet if you're still smiling?!" And that's when Brent said to the nursing student, "She may not be the best for your first observation-- she won't be your typical labor and delivery. She's incredibly tough." And my heart burst for him in that moment, and I thought again of my doctor's gift: She has a really high pain tolerance.


And I thought again of my God who was standing beside me and before me I thought of Lauren Daigle's lyrics: "There is no place that I'll go, You've not already stood."

And I thought of my precious new baby at the end.  

 And with those thoughts I waited for my current contraction to subside, and then I got up and waddled to the bathroom, Brent at my side. I went as quickly as I could, stood, and had another contraction-- the most intense of any. I thought it was maybe because I was standing. However, when I got back in bed I realized it was only the beginning.

I crawled back in bed, and Patty wanted to check my progress. I was at a 6 or 7 at that point. She asked me to turn on my side."It will hurt more, but it will help you dilate faster." Faster? Wasn't progressing from a 3 to a 7 in 45 minutes fast enough?! But since baby girl was so far down, ready to come meet everyone, they wanted me to progress as fast as possible. So I rolled to my side and began to experience the worst labor yet. 

this picture shows how bruised up poor Nan was after delivery

I had a contraction or two, and my doctor popped her head back in the door at about 3:00. "Is it time?" she asked. "The girl next door is ready to push and she is going to take a little bit, so if you're ready I'll call someone else for her." I shook my head. I didn't think it was quite time, but it was so hard to tell since every contraction felt like a "pushing" one. My nurse checked me quickly and told my doctor she had a little more time. And then she told me to roll onto my other side.

And this is how I spent the last 30 minutes of my labor: rolling on one side, having one to two contractions, Patty checking me, and then being told to roll on my other side, having one or two contractions, and Patty checking me. This was the hardest labor I can remember. All I wanted to do was roll back onto my back, but I also really wanted to have this baby so I gritted my teeth and stuck with it because I was dilating very rapidly.  There were little screws on either side of my bed rails, so those became my focal point during this time. At this time I would just stare down that tiny screw, force myself to breathe, squint my face, grip on to the rail, and pray He will quiet you with His love. That was all I could manage of the verses at that point. And sometimes my prayer became a simple Jesus.

Patty wanted to check me while I was having a contraction. Talk about not fun. But I managed, and she said I was at a really good 8. I rolled back to my right side, ready to work through the next contraction while they left to go get my doctor. This was the point that I said to Brent in between contractions, "I just need to know it's almost over." He told me he thought I was. He told me I was doing great. And I clearly remember at this point thinking, "Is saving $4,000 really worth it?"

 
Then Patty and Dr. C came back in the room. Nursing student Brooklyn was on their heels--she wasn't going to miss this! Patty checked me again during a contraction and looked at my doctor, "She's a good nine. I think you could stretch her to a ten." Excuse me? Stretch? Yet at the same time I was thinking, Yes! Let's do this! Dr. C sat down on the foot of the bed and waited quietly for me to have another contraction. I don't know what she did, but all I know was chaos ensued. She quickly stood up and said, "I shouldn't have done that!" as she raced to the table to get the rest of her delivery scrubs on [including what kind of looks like a welding mask. Pause. A huge, shielded face mask is necessary when delivering a baby. Let that sink in a moment]. For a split second I was nervous about what she meant by I shouldn't have done that [the stretching], but then I knew: all too quickly baby girl was coming and coming quickly, and just like in my previous deliveries the stirrups weren't out, the nursery staff wasn't present, the other nurses weren't in the room yet. But there was one major difference this time: my doctor was present and I knew without a doubt that a nurse, or Brent, was not going to have to catch this child!

Everyone got there in a heartbeat and soon the room was full of people and action, but I was listening to three people: Patty on my right, Brent on my left, and Dr. C at my feet. I remember asking, "I can push now?!" I didn't feel as "prepared" for pushing as I had before; I felt the need to push nearly the entire labor, so that moment of knowing you need to push and then getting to push seemed to elude me. All of a sudden I was going to be pushing. 

So I pushed. At one point Brent leaned in near me and said, "BREATHE, KELS!" But in that moment everything is all about pushing. In that moment every fiber of my being is focused on getting my baby girl into this world. In that moment breathing seems so secondary to the hard work I'm doing. I just want to be pushing during the entire contraction so nothing is wasted. But I listened to him and I took a breath as I waited for the next contraction.

I knew it was the moment. Everything was leading to this: the two pink lines the day we buried Grandma Pat, the growing belly, the sonogram that revealed it was a girl, the endless doctor visits, the discomfort and pain of the last month, and the last two hours of anguish. They had all brought me here to this last contraction.  And I pushed with everything I had in me.

And they laid my third beautiful daughter on my chest. 

This had been the most painful labor yet, and I was still reeling from the adrenaline of it all as I looked down at this third daughter of mine. I was certain she was at least 8 pounds-- she looked so big to me [remember: Becks was 5 lbs 12 ounces]. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her head and I noticed a mark-- I thought for sure Dr. C had nicked her when she broke my water, but then I realized it was a freckle or birth mark and it instantly endeared me forever. And then she peed on me and I officially knew she was going to fit right in with her sisters.

 
They say adrenaline is the best drug, and I believe it in these post-delivery moments. I held her tighter and tighter to my chest, and I know there were a thousand things happening around me and nurses buzzing about doing their jobs, but I just held her. I kept looking at Brent, and then at her. All I could do was say, "Hi, baby girl. Hi. Hi." Brent was saying how great I did and how perfect she was. These post-delivery moments are really, truly other-worldly. It's a moment when God has parted the curtain back a crack and we see a little of His mysteries and miracles first hand. The rush of "conquering" delivery couples with the rush of holding a brand new flesh-and-blood person-- who is mine to love and call daughter, and it's truly more than I believe we were made to comprehend.

 
I was having crazy cramps in my hips and couldn't keep my legs in the stirrups, so there were two nurses who just held my legs for me for the next five or ten minutes while Dr. C finished up. I probably won't remember their faces but that act of service to me was beautiful.  I was still staring at my third child, when I realized something was a little off. I looked up at Dr. C and asked her what was going on. She said I was bleeding a little more than she would like, and she was trying to get it stopped. Patty said she was going to give me a shot to help stop the bleeding, and pretty soon she gave it to me right in my thigh. Later I joked with her and said that I was already mad at her for making me labor on my side, and then she shoved a needle in my thigh moments after giving birth. "Yeah, sorry about that," she said, "Usually the patient has had an epidural and that's the best spot." Luckily my bleeding stopped quickly and was never an issue.


At this point the nurses realized we could reveal the secret name, and it's always so fun to say it out loud to people for the first time: Nan Louise, Brent and I almost said in unison. [story behind the name HERE] And then they took our sweet Nan over to the warmer and cleaned her up and measured her and weighed her. She was not the whopping 8 pounder I first thought she was, but rather a healthy 6 pounds and 14 ounces. Our biggest baby. She had a sweet, almost raspy cry that was very strong. I couldn't wait to get her back in my arms. Soon they brought her back to me and I kissed her again and told her Jesus loves her.


The room was slowing down, people were trickling out. Brooklyn, the nursing student, thanked me two or three times in a giddy, sweet voice for letting her be around all morning and witness the delivery. I like to think she'll remember us fifty years into her career. She left. I snapped a picture with Dr. C and thanked her, and she hugged me like I was a dear friend and told me I had done great. She left. And then, after finishing up a couple of things, Patty left. And it was just Brent, Nan, and me. We had done it. She was here. I couldn't really string words together; I was so overcome by the magnitude of it all. Brent was choking back tears. To hold this precious new life on the outside was such a treasure.

with my amazing doctor who has delivered ALL THREE of my babies


I told Brent to go find my mom, and my dad and Paige had joined her during her wait. And so began the joy of sharing Nan with the world. When I told Mom and Dad her name, "Nan" caught in my throat for the first time. In that split second I thought of the wonderful woman we had named her after, and how she wouldn't be visiting our hospital room to hold her great grand daughter-- the first great grandchild she would not get to meet. But then the joy of this new life before me quickly reminded me of the whole and perfect life Grandma Pat is now living, and I knew it was a day for rejoicing.

At some point during the day, our older two girls had been transferred to Brent's parent's so they could hang with their cousins while waiting for "baby sister to come out of mommy's tummy." 

out to eat before coming to meet baby sister


Mom, Brent, and I were hungry. Mom ordered us Olive Garden and we had just settled in to eat when the crew showed up. Nan had just gone to the nursery for her bath, and Blythe was looking all over the room for her. Then she came up to me and promptly asked, "How did the doctor help baby sister come out of your tummy?" And Becks just pranced around saying "Nan Louish". Brent took Blythe with him to the nursery to track down our third girl, and Blythe said she was going to call her Laken [that only lasted a little bit]. And when they pushed her bed back into the room, Blythe was beaming with pride to show her off. The girls got up on my lap and took turns holding her. Blythe wanted to give her her blanket she had picked out and explained to Nan why she had put a cross on the wrapping paper: "Jesus loves you, baby sister. He died on the cross for you." And Becks kept poking Nan and making funny sounds, not quite sure how to handle it all.

first attempt at a family picture...Becks was falling off the bed

 
 
 

 Blythe made me a mother forever. And then Becks made me a new and different kind of mom. And now there is Nan Louise, who has crowded into my heart forever too. She will challenge me and grow me in new ways that the other two have not. And she will love me and bring love out of me in different ways. And I can't wait to learn what that looks like.


Those nights in the hospital are simply some of my favorites. There is absolutely nothing to do but be. To study our new daughter. To take in all her smells and sounds and trace her lips and cheeks. We have always sent our girls to the nursery, and it is so nice to rest completely assured that our new baby is being monitored while we sleep as much as we can. It is probably strange, but when we were talking and praying about having another child, I thought of these still nights-- the nights where my body has just done something so amazing and where our new precious soul is with us. And I ached for that experience again.

 


 
 
 

 

 I really thought we were done having babies. But God knew when Brent and I said "I do" that Nan Louise would make us parents of three. And He stood beside us, He went before us, and He gave us His Spirit of peace to calm our fears. He rejoiced over us with singing. He quieted us with His love. And now Nan is here, our flesh and blood, to pour into and love and guide and some day to let go on her own.

Labor is hard. Always. I joked with Brent that God cursed Eve good in that garden when He said that He would make the pains of childbearing very severe. But He is faithful. And He gives abundantly. So where there are moments of weakness and I-don't-know-if-I-can-do-this, there are bigger moments where God is shouting, "When you are weak, I am strong!" And where there is pain and exhaustion and agony in labor, there is even more life and joy and beauty on the other side.  

when we first got home from the hospital

this tiny, quiet moment made me look at these people God has placed in my life and just be overwhelmed with gratitude
 
 

 Nan Louise, we are so thankful it was you who made us a family of five, and we are so thankful for the ways you will teach us and grow us. Your first cry changed our hearts forever.