On the day that she was born, post script

After I hit "publish post" yesterday, I realized that there were a few important details I neglected to include.

The first one is, I forgot to explain what happened with Lena when I was instructed to stop pushing. My little bear had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. I am so glad I didn't know that at the time. It was scary enough while it was happening and I was in the dark, so to speak, and then hearing it later was also quite frightening. If the two had combined, who knows what I would have done!

If I had continued to push, the cord would have constricted, pulled and strangled my girl. I am just incredibly grateful that Katie was there and knew how to handle the situation. Thankfully, there were no complications or issues as a result. I feel like that experience was enough to strip any fantasies I may have had about ever choosing a home birth. Lena showed no signs of distress throughout labor and we had no way of knowing she was doing such fancy tricks with her life line inside me.  Just as easily as her having no problems and being completely healthy, it absolutely could have gone the other way. Again, we count our blessings.

The second thing is, I didn't mention anything about my recovery. I said at one point that I thought I was tearing in front. The funny thing is that when Katie was examining me after the birth, I asked her how bad I tore. She looked and looked and couldn't find a single one. Not ONE. Not only that, but almost immediately after Lena was born, I was sitting up in bed with my legs crossed. I felt tired and weak, but overall really good. Later that evening, I was able to get up and move around on my own and I even took a shower without assistance. I took the Motrin Katie prescribed to help with the cramping I felt while nursing, but I never took anything stronger, and I hardly needed any at all once I left the hospital. The next day I felt so much better. Not quite as good as new--my stomach ached and my arms and upper back were really sore from all the flexing I did while pushing--but I'd say about on par as I've felt a few days after having the flu.

This was all a night and day difference from how I felt after Addie was born. I had some tearing that required stitches, I was so swollen that I couldn't get my legs closer than about a foot apart, in order to sit up I had to use a lovely inflatable donut for about a week and I needed help to get up and out of bed the entire time I was hospitalized. I needed to do sitz baths three times a day and I was on the hefty Motrin for at least a week.

Lastly, I wanted to say a few words about why I wrote this story the way I did. I wanted to share Lena's birth story, explaining in detail what it was like to go through that experience without any interventions. (I never even had an IV.) Not because I wanted to pump myself up and boast that I was able to do it. In fact, it's for the very opposite reason. So many women have said to me, "Oh, you're so much stronger than I am." or, "Wow, I don't know if I could do that." My response is, I'm not stronger than you and yes, you could do it.

I am not a huge advocate of natural childbirth. When I really think about it, I feel like I chose that route the same way that people who grow up in families that expect them to get a college degree choose to attend University. My mom had no interventions with two of us and minimal assistance with one birth. She always talked about giving birth as something that was natural and didn't say it was easy, but never indicated that it was something only certain women could do. I always grew up thinking that I would try and have my babies the same way.

With Addie, I was induced and very much needed the relief that an epidural gave me. It took the pain away, but it made me feel so sick. The entire time I was pushing, I had a basin on my tummy because I was afraid I was going to vomit. I have never handled anesthesia very well and that case was no different.

When I look at the two experiences side by side and think about what I would choose if I am blessed to have another child, I would absolutely pick the second scenario. If I was a woman who dealt with anesthesia very well and could just erase the pain and feel pretty normal otherwise throughout labor, I would probably choose to have an epidural. Unfortunately, I'm not that lucky. But given the hand I'm dealt, I would rather go through a few hours of very intense pain, then have a complete turn around once it's all over; instead of feel minimal pain, but quite ill and struggle with the aftermath.

Either way you look at it, drugs or no drugs, labor and childbirth suck. The miracle at the end is well worth it, but getting there is no fun. I have no judgement for anyone who chooses pain relief through medical interventions at all. But having said that, I do think that 99% of women I know could absolutely without a doubt handle a natural childbirth if that was what they wanted. I don't think it takes a special kind of woman to do it, I think it just takes making that choice. So if you're on the fence and the only thing holding you back is the fear that you aren't strong enough, trust me--you are. By virtue of being a woman and making it through an entire pregnancy, you are.    

I hope I haven't opened up a can of worms with my words. I just wanted to make sure I clarified my intentions in case there were any questions. The bottom line is that the decisions we make when it comes to how we bring our babies into the world are extremely personal. No one can or should make them for us and we should not be judged for the paths we choose. Whatever best takes us to the end goal: bringing new life into the world, is really all that matters.

Once again, I thank you for taking this journey with me. It was quite a ride, both when it happened and while I relived it all, sharing it here. I think I'm going to take tomorrow off and rest my fingertips a bit. Enjoy the first days of October and I'll see you back here on Monday.

On the day that she was born, part three

And now, the dramatic conclusion... (lol)

I know that physically I have never worked so hard in my life as I did in that final hour of labor. I had my arms wrapped around the side rails of the bed and I was certain I would break them off. Later Curt told me he thought the same thing, and he kept stuffing pillows between me and the rails to keep that from happening. He said that I looked like G.I. Jane--since my belly was underneath me, all he could see was my arms and my back, and every muscle was flexed.

It seemed like after each contraction I asked how much closer I was. It felt like Lena was nearly out, but I didn't know what crowning felt like. I could tell she was moving down more and more and all I wanted was for labor to be over so I could hold my girl and be done with all of the strain on my body. Somehow I thought that Katie would be able to give me an exact timeline, like she could say, "In exactly 7 1/2 minutes, you will push out your baby girl." Of course, no one knew exactly when those final pushes would come, but still I asked over and over.

With Addie's birth, I remember trying to push, but with the epidural I couldn't feel much and I didn't know what to push. I tried and tried and eventually figured out what I needed to do, but it took a long time. Towards the end, I was so exhausted and all I could think of was to pray for strength and help. I called out to every strong woman that had gone before me to come down from heaven, into the room and help me bring out my girl. I told Curt later that the birthing room was filled with angels helping Addie to be born. It was a very spiritual experience that took me totally outside myself, relying completely on divine assistance.

In preparing for Lena's birth, I held onto that experience, did a lot of praying and looked to The Bible for inspiration. I read Mary's Magnificat over and over and thought that I would recall those words in the moments of really bearing down. I planned on that being my mantra, mixed with a little, Out of the depths, I cry unto thee O Lord, but for some reason when it came down to it, none of those words came back to me. This time, I was mentally in a very different place.

With no drugs to provide relief from the pain, I had to go somewhere deep inside myself to get through the agony of giving birth with no interventions. I had to tap into a strength and endurance that I never knew was there. I couldn't rely on my brain to take me where I needed to go, because my thought process would have told me to bail and ask for the relief that I decided long before I didn't want. In letting go of thinking, I went to a primal place of survival. There were a few moments that brought be back to the reality of what was happening, but only for a few seconds. Mostly I was somwhere far away, but at the same time, closer to my true self than I'd ever been before.

There were several times when Katie held the monitor to my lower belly to see how Lena was handling all of the trials of labor. Clearly she was much more calm than her mother, and everything looked great. I know at least once I cried out, "Oh, Lena!" as though she could understand that I wanted her to come out as quickly and painlessly as possible. Whether she could hear me or not, it did help me feel a connection to her and remember that all of this trauma was not happening in vain, but for an incredible reason.

When she finally did start to crown, I knew it because my screames changed. It felt like I was tearing in front. I remember thinking, well there that goes, it's been a good run. But regardless of that realization, I was in my zone. No turning back. I pushed with each contraction and rested in between. As soon as I felt the wave coming, I braced myself against the rails and gave it everything I had. In the end I figured out how to make my body do what it needed to do and I focused all my energy and effort to that one part of me.

I heard voices telling me that I was doing great, that this was her head and she was on her way. Then, the voices changed. Helena's head was out, but something was wrong. Katie told me to stop pushing. When Addie was born, it all happened at once... First her head and then moments later the rest of her body. Why was I being told not to push? Since I was still on all fours with my head down in a stack of pillows, I couldn't see anything.

All I remember hearing was Katie's voice: Stop. Don't push... (then, speaking to Lena) How did you do this?... (and back to me) Don't worry... She's OK... (to everyone in the room) I have to cut the cord NOW...

I kept asking what was wrong, but no one would tell me. Everyone just kept saying, "She's OK. Hang on. Wait. Don't push." After what seemed like an eternity, Katie told me I could push again. With the next contraction, I took a deep breath and felt Helena Marie leave the safety of my body. She was born at 5:30 PM on her due date: Friday, August 20th.

I rolled to my side and reached out to hold my baby girl. Katie put her on my chest and I was so relieved that she was out of me and in my arms. But the relief was clouded by a sudden feeling of fear. Lena wasn't crying. Her head was blue. "Come on, baby. Cry for Mama. Come on, Lena. Cry, baby. Cry." I was pleading with her and gently rocking her against me, desperate for that first wail while Katie was making sure everything was alright down below. Then she took Lena from my arms and I think she said she was going to clear her airway.

Curt sat with his face next to mine, holding me while Katie had our daughter under the lights across the room. It's amazing how fast you can start to bargain with God. In what was only seconds, but felt like hours, I made promises that I would do anything, just make my baby OK. Whatever it took--my soul, my life--anything... Incredible that I would offer up my entire being in exchange for the life of someone I had just met. But I would. I begged... please, God...

Then, we heard it. Any mother will tell you that the best sound she has ever heard in her life is the first cry of her newborn child. There is nothing like it in the entire world. It grips the pit of your stomach and pulls the air out of your chest. It sends tears down your cheeks and lifts gratitude beyond measure up to the heavens. It reminds you why we were put on this earth and fills you with a crazy kind of love that nearly bursts your heart into a million pieces. Lena was crying. She was OK.

Katie brought her back to me and I held her, skin to skin, chest to chest for so very long. Really, I don't think I let anyone else have her for at least thirty minutes. My baby was out and she was in my arms. She was OK and she was mine. (And finally, I was covered--no more naked lady in room 7!)

This is what true love at first sight looks like:

We snuggled up and shared a language of love through tears and cries and being so close. Unlike her big sister, she wanted to nurse almost right away. Oh, there is nothing better.

She was surrounded by love from the moment she arrived.

That day, we were the happiest people on Earth.

Finally I felt safe enough to let her go and have her meet her daddy...

Then came Memere...

And Pepere...

And Papaw...

When it was time for us to move into a regular hospital room, Daddy took Lena off to give her first bath.

Later that night, she got to meet her Aunt Emie.

The next day brought a huge moment that I had been waiting for, almost as much as Lena's arrival itself. Mom & Dad brought Addie to the hospital to meet her baby sister. We worked so hard to prepare her for this transition and we were all so nervous and excited to see this magical introduction.

Immediately Addie climbed into the bed and took off her shoes.

First, she gave me the biggest hug and said, "Hi Mommy! Good to see you!"
(I tell you, I've made it this far along without crying, but that still puts a giant lump in my throat!)

Addie was extremely excited and very proud. Our oldest grew up so much in those quick passing moments. She was finally a big sister.

She took to her new role right away, immediately speaking to Lena in baby talk, making sounds I had never heard before. She kissed her and told her that she loved her. This is what happiness looks like:

We ate cake, sang Happy Birthday and celebrated our newest family member.
Welcome, baby Lena!

Our journey to bring Helena Marie into the world was so much greater than I could ever have imagined. It didn't come without pain or struggle or hard work. It came in spite of all of those things and the most glorious of contentment and peace followed the gush of outrageous emotion we felt just seconds after her birth. I am so grateful for her presence and that God has trusted us with the gift of her life.

Thank you for reading and sharing this adventure with me. Truly, it is only the beginning.

**I have to say one ginormous thank you to my husband, my mom, my nurse and my midwife. You all saw me in my most vulnerable place and you lifted me up through the trenches. I can't say enough how thankful I am that you were the ones there with me in the room, by the shower and next to the bed. I couldn't have done it without you!

And one more thanks to my sister Em, who took care of my oldest babe while I labored in the hospital all day. You made it possible for me to focus on the task at hand and let go of worrying about Addie--I knew she was in the best of hands. Oh, and thanks for helping me edit these photographs. It's only because of you that I look somewhat normal. Many thanks, love!**

On the day that she was born, part two

With a glass of chardonnay and a stale brownie, I'll continue...

Once I made it over to the bed, Katie checked me again and I was about 8 cm dilated, but my water still hadn't broken. In trying to decide if I should have her break it for me, I asked if that would make the pain worse. I believe she said that the contractions were going to be hard from this point on no matter what, but that it would help things move along faster. If that meant all of this would be over sooner, then my answer was, YES!

Then I remember the feeling of warm fluid trickling out of me into the bed, and with the next contraction, it seemed to gush out and fill the space around me. I was laying on my side with my head down, and Curt rubbed my back as I moaned through the pain. It took several contractions for the water to stop coming out. Now that I look back, it makes the little "false alarm" incident seem even more ridiculous.

I don't know how long I went on like that. Every few minutes feeling the wave on its way and breathing through it. Somewhere in there, I definitely entered into the "laborland" I had read so much about in my birthing books. I was in my own head, in my own world, trying to feel my way through one contraction at a time: When will this be over? It's got to be soon. I've got to be close. Not another one. Oh, God! Here we go! Breathe... Breathe... In... Out... Like I'm blowing through a straw... Just a little bit longer. There it goes. OK I made it. Rest. Rest. I've got to be close. She's almost here.

Sometimes I could hear what Katie, the nurse and my mother were saying. Curt was very quiet and just stayed right there with me. He took my direction really well and rubbed my back with the pressure I asked for. Even though I couldn't hear him, I knew he was there and I felt his amazing support. I felt so connected to him during that time, it almost seemed that he was guiding me along my way, as though I was blind and he was telling me how many steps I needed to take.

Somewhere in there I tried different positions to see what would work to actually push Lena out. I spent months imagining what that moment would be like. I thought I would squat and when the moment came, I wanted to reach down and help pull her tiny body up to my chest. We tried moving the bed and the squat bar several different ways, but I never could get the leverage I felt I needed to really brace myself. I had to let that dream go, and in that moment I honestly didn't care.

After a while, I was sure it wouldn't be long before I needed to push and asked that Katie check me again. She said that there was just a little bit of my cervix left on top and if I got on all fours it would probably be gone in a few more contractions. I rolled over, put my face in some pillows and worked through the next twenty minutes or so, growing more and more desperate for my labor to end.

Curt was up by my head, trying to whisper to me. He said something like, "Just think honey, Lena will be out soon and then we can have cake." I believe I responded with, "Shut up!!!" Nice.

All I felt was pain at that point. There was a little bit of relief between the crest of the waves, but I was in a desperate place. When I felt a contraction on its way, I cried out that I didn't want it to come, moaned and yelled through it, then apologized to everyone for being so mean. I thought I was such a wimp.

Then it was time to start pushing. I was still on all fours and so afraid of the pain getting worse if I moved, that I just stayed where I was. Again, in the months preparing for this moment I envisioned a completely different scenario. At one point I thought about asking a photographer to be present for Lena's birth so I could have beautiful photos documenting her arrival. I never got around to it and that is because God knows what He is doing. Really, no one else needed to see what was about to take place. As I have said many times, this was not a serene TLC Birth Story with me calmly pushing my baby out in a room filled with candlelight and music. No, it was something primal and raw off of a Discovery Channel documentary.

There I was, on all fours, with my head stuffed in pillows and my bum up in the air. I heard my mom ask Katie if my position was at all easy for her do deal with. I think she said, "Lord, no!" I really didn't care who I was inconveniencing at that moment and was annoyed that my position was even being discussed. But seeing as I do love Katie and she would be the one coaxing out my child, I quietly scooted over a little so she didn't have to contort around the rail of the bed.

I started to push. Noises came out of my mouth that I never heard before. It sounded like a last chance workout on The Biggest Loser. Not grunting, not screaming, not groaning, not yelling, but a combination of them all, or something in between. Then, I felt like I was pushing out the biggest poo in the universe. As I was crying out, I yelled, "Ooohhhh, I'm poopin' too!" When it was over, I turned my head and whimpered, "Oh, now everyone in the hall knows I pooped." Katie immediately responded, "No, actually they don't. And you aren't pooping. That's your baby." Awesome.

With each contraction, I worked and worked. At one point I was so frustrated and tired and said I didn't want to do it anymore. Do what, exactly? I don't think I knew. I think I meant giving birth in general. I wasn't saying that I wanted drugs, I was just saying that I didn't want to do it, period. I remember thinking, just cut her out. Whether I said it out loud or not, I'm not sure. Katie stepped up and gave me a get it together, sister sort of lecture. I kind of sat up and calmly said, more to myself than anyone else, "No one is going to do this but me." Then I put my head back down, my bum back up and got back to work.

...Alright, so I really didn't anticipate this story turning out to be so lengthy. The farther I go, the more I want to be sure I don't leave anything out. This time I promise, tomorrow will hold the conclusion and all the photos along with it.

On the day that she was born, part one

"I'm not going to tell the story the way it happened. I'm going to tell it the way I remember it."
Finn, Great Expectations

I wanted to write Lena's birth story pretty much from the moment she was born, but for some reason I felt that I needed time for all of the emotions to settle. Now that I really sit down to think about it and record the event, I realize that some of the details have softened in my mind. But whether it's the version I told hours after I held her for the first time or the version I tell today, it's still her birth story. It is my journey of bringing Helena Marie into our lives and it's part of the history of our family: the good, the bad, the hilarious, the scary, the ugly and the beautiful... this is all my truth, and so it is also hers.

When I gave birth to Addie, I was induced due to complications from a PUPPS rash. I checked into the hospital, was given pitocin, tried as long as I could to go without an epidural, cried out our code word (Frankenstein) as I begged for drugs, felt horrible after the epidural, pushed for over an hour and rejoiced when it was all over and we held our firstborn girl.

This time, although it was my second time around, I felt like I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know what a normal labor felt like. I didn't know what regular progression of contractions looked like. I felt like a total amateur. Indeed, I was.

All I knew was how incredibly difficult it was to manage the pain I felt from pitocin induced contractions. It was horrendous. I was very fearful that I would not be able to make it through labor without interventions and experience natural childbirth as Curt and I had intended. I thought I would need the assistance of a doula to help me along. When I found out my first and only choice couldn't take me on, I cried for two hours.

Luckily, my supportive husband, confident mother and incredible midwife all assured me that I could do it on my own. I revisited all of the relaxation techniques I learned years ago in preparing for Addie's arrival and was determined to do my best, although deep down I still wondered if I had it in me.

As I anticipated, towards the end of my pregnancy I became pretty uncomfortable and was desperate for labor to begin. Any time I felt a strong contraction that was tougher than the normal Braxton Hicks, I wondered if this was it. Up until August 20th, it wasn't.

Around 2:30 that morning, the contractions were strong enough that I couldn't sleep through them. I had a few, then drifted back off only to wake up an hour later to more tightening and more pain. Again, I breathed through them and fell back asleep. Finally at 5 AM I decided to get up and move around a bit to see if it would get things going into a pattern. What did I do? I fixed my hair, of course! I don't know why, but it kept me on my feet and it was a quiet activity that wouldn't disturb anyone else. Besides, if I was really going into labor, it would be nice to look somewhat decent, right? (Ha! Again, with the amateur...)

Things did progress and the contractions became more regularly spaced. At 7 AM Curt got up and drew me a bath. I had always envisioned spending most of labor in the bathtub. I had my lavender scented everything, including a candle and bubble bath all ready to go. I put on a sports bra, twisted my curled hair on the top of my head and stepped into the garden tub, ready to calmly coax our baby down and my cervix open.

Around 7:30 Addie woke up and came in to greet me. Without anyone explaining to her what was going on, she started singing Happy Birthday to Lena and blew out my candle. I think it was then that I knew our Helena would be born that day.

My sister and mom came in to check on us and quickly saw that Addie needed to be occupied with something else so she wouldn't be worried that something was wrong. Trying to find a comfortable position in our large tub turned out to be a lot more difficult than I imagined--it just didn't work for me. I got out of the water and found that standing while facing Curt and leaning against chest proved very helpful during those rough 90 seconds. Very quickly, the contractions fell into a rhythm that was more intense and once they reached about four minutes apart, we decided it was time to head to the hospital.

When we arrived, they took my weight and the attending OB asked how many weeks along we were. Curt said that it was our due date and he exclaimed, "Wow, that never happens!" It does now.

I changed into a hospital gown and was hooked up to a monitor, assured that I would only have to lay in bed for twenty minutes or so. That way they could get a good reading of how the baby was doing and determine if I was really in active labor. Um... Hello! Even me, the total novice, knew that this was definitely the real thing. But, it's always great to hear that tiny heartbeat and feel reassured that our little angel is really OK. All signs indicated that Lena was handling labor really well, and about an hour later I asked that I be unhooked so I could move around.
The woman I had hoped to have as a doula sent me a lengthy email with suggestions for pain relief and I remembered that she told me showering could be helpful. I decided to give it a go, stripped down completely and stepped under the water. Oh. My. Goodness. It was remarkable. The same contractions that I had to really focus and breathe to get through while in bed, seemed softer and more like light period cramps in the shower. Dare I say, they were easy.

A few minutes later, my nurse came in and we made introductions while I was standing completely nonchalantly in my birthday suit. I asked her how long I was allowed to stay in the shower and she said, "As long as you want, I guess." Fantastic.

Now, I have to take a moment and say that I do not consider myself to be an exhibitionist in any sense of the word. In fact, I think for the most part I can be pretty modest, or perhaps discreet is a better word. But there is something that seems to happen whenever I walk through the doors of the Frankfort Regional Medical Center that makes me totally uninhibited. Once I am in the "privacy" of our birthing room I simply do not care which hospital staff sees me in whatever state I happen to be in. Whether or not this happens to all laboring women or just me, I do not know. Whatever the case, I find it a fascinating phenomenon and always laugh when I think about it. The naked laboring woman in room 7? Yep, still naked! Oh mercy...

Over the next several hours, I alternated between spending around 20 - 30 minutes in the heaven of the hospital room shower and taking breaks to give my legs some rest. During that time, I tried using a birthing ball and different positions on the hospital bed. Nothing felt as good as having warm water cascading down my body. There was a part of me that thought we may have gone to the hospital too soon and that I missed out on the experience of going through labor at home. All of those worries were literally washed down the drain with the never ending hot water that carried me through my contractions. I truly can't say what a difference it made!

My glorious midwife, Katie came in at 1 PM on the dot to check on me and I was progressing well (I think I was about 5 cm at that point). She hooked me up to the monitors again for a while and we saw that Lena was still in very good shape and showed no signs of distress. We decided not to mess with a good thing and I continued on through the afternoon in my watery haven. There were several comments made about water conservation ("The KY Department of Fish and Wildlife called... The river is going down!") and at one point Curt said he hoped there wasn't some sort of meter attached that would show up on our bill. Well my dears, I'm all about saving the planet, but after delivery if you don't mind.

During this time, Curt and my mom alternated staying with me in the bathroom to make sure I was OK and didn't need assistance. Katie drifted in and out, but mostly stayed around and once things started to get intense at about 3 PM, I don't remember her ever leaving my side. I'm telling you--I love her.

Finally the time came when the contractions were so intense that I could no longer stand up on my own. I even sat in a shower chair, trying everything I could to stay in that little space of respite. (At one point early on I asked Katie if I could just give birth in the shower. Of course she said I could if I wanted to--it was my birth story. Mmmm... love her.) Unfortunately I determined that it was time to say goodbye to the place that got me so very far, dry off and move over to the bed.

...Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, complete with many many pictures.

What Keeps Me Going

Fridays on this space are dedicated to sharing what keeps me going... A moment, a photo, an event or a memory that stands out against whatever might have gone wrong or felt dark in the last seven days.

I'm not going to lie, this week has been a really tough one. Last week was the first one I spent home alone with the girls while Curt went back to work full time. Things went pretty smoothly and I thought to myself-- Yeah, I got this!

Then Monday came and all hell seemed to break loose. Nothing specific at the moment stands out in my mind, but from the looks on our faces when we fell into bed at night, Curt and I have definitely met challenge head on. I can't tell you if we've succeeded or not, but I can say that everyone is still alive. I suppose that in and of itself is a victory at this point. 

So what has kept me going through all the chaos? The fresh food that has been delivered to our home almost daily and the leftovers they have provided. I tell you, if you want to do something nice for someone who has just had a baby, make them a meal and take it to their house with no strings attached. That family will love you forever. 

Because of the kindness and generosity of very dear friends and moms from the group at our parish, I haven't had to prepare a meal in almost two weeks. Instead of worrying about what I will make for dinner each night, I have had the luxury of settling into our evenings as a family of four, yet still enjoy a hot meal. Amazing.

Lasagna and earthy penne pasta with mushrooms, spinach, bacon and cheese, along with homemade garlic bread. Yes, it is just as tasty reheated!

I hardly have the words to describe how helpful this has been and how much it has saved me since Lena was born. Thank you, friends. Your delicious cooking has fed my family's soul and kept us going. I don't know if I could have survived without you!

I would love it if you joined me in sharing what keeps you going! Leave a comment to let me know you're participating and each week, I will include a list of everyone who is playing along.

Today, motherhood is...

Swinging wildly between feeling so in love with my girls that I don't want to be away from them for even a second...

and wondering how fast I can get to Mexico without anyone knowing.

Good thing the first one always wins.

Postpartum dress up and down

Hands down, I think the hardest time dealing with body image surrounding a pregnancy is after it's over. I have my body back, but really I don't. My maternity clothes are too big and my pre-pregnancy clothes are still way too small. I have some things that I bought after I had Addie for that in-between time, but the pickin's are slim.

Really, the deciding factor in what I wear any given day is whether or not Curt is around to give me the time necessary to put something half way decent together. Evidence shown below...

Above left, attire for a baby shower brunch:
Shirt and jewelry: Banana Republic
Pants: Old Navy
Flip flops: J Crew
Above right,
all dressed up for an afternoon at a fall festival
(which was really only about an hour, and in 90 degree heat, but still):
Lisa Leonard necklace (more on that to come)
Shirt: Old Navy maternity nursing tank
Skirt: Old Navy
Flip flops: again with the J Crew

Once the work week began and I was left to fend for myself, this is what happened. Not the most glamorous looks I've ever worn, but hey--I'm keeping it real:

Above left:
DKNY glasses hidden by my camera
Motherhood maternity nursing top and pajama pants
Above right:
Old Navy maternity tank
Bally yoga pants (I think they came from Sam's)
Moby Wrap
I walked into the bathroom, saw myself and laughed.
Then I grabbed the camera.

Welcome to life as a stay-at-home-mother of two.

If you like seeing what other people wear as much as I do, hop on over to The Pleated Poppy to check out some cute and fabulous fashions.

Counting the minutes

Today I find myself once again in survival mode. I don't know if Lena is developing colic or if she's just experiencing some normal tummy trouble. Whatever it is, we are definitely out of the sleep all the time honeymoon phase and into real life.

This is the second day that I've been in pajamas/lounge wear all day long, sweaty from baby soothing, my hair in a crazy mess atop my head and praying to make it through.

I have spent most of my time trying to find positions that keep our tiniest babe comfortable... Swing? No. Bouncy seat? No. Holding in cradle position? No. Putting her tummy to tummy with me while I lay down? Yes. Keeping her mostly upright in the Moby Wrap? Yes.

This has made our day interesting and very taxing on me, as the only positions that keep Lena from crying are the ones that have her completely connected to me. Very sweet, but I'm not getting a break.

It's days like this that I'm unbelievably grateful to have a husband that jumps right in to help from the second he walks in the door. Now all I have to do is wait for him to get home. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Something new

For some reason, I decided it was time to shake things up a bit and totally redesign this space.
Maybe it's because this little love is one month old today...

How did that happen so fast?

At least here, I have the illusion of total control over when and how things change. I'm not sure if I love what I've done just yet, but I'll take some time to settle in and see how it feels. In the meantime I am working on writing Lena's birth story, so I apologize in advance for the short posts this week.
Hopefully it will be worth it!

this moment

Today I am taking a break from my usual "What Keeps Me Going" and instead am jumping on Soulemama's bandwagon of "this moment" Fridays... At least for today.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Total amateur

Yesterday was a day that shifted straight into the crazies by the afternoon--I was left just trying to make it through and had at least three moments as I was trying to soothe my fussy infant while attempting to manage the hyper 5 o'clock hour of my two-year-old when I thought, "Is this really my life?"

Yes, it is my life. And as horrible as yesterday felt, today feels so much better. Thank God. Lena still has some tough times dealing with gas and Addie definitely has her moments, but so far today is not kicking my new-mom-of-two butt. Today doesn't feel like I'm floating in survival mode... yet.

But really, I have to admit that my mood is most lifted by the fact that I am finally able to download pictures from our camera to the computer. Long story short (plus, I don't even understand the story because my computer knowledge is that of... well... let's just say I'm basically one step above Addie in that category), our laptop had some issues and everything had to be wiped and reinstalled. My photo software apparently has been at the bottom of the list.

But today I tried again and TA-DAA!!! It worked!

Now, onto the good stuff. Over Labor Day weekend when my sister Kate was here, we attempted to take some fancy photos of the girls. We put together a makeshift studio in my bedroom where the lighting was just perfect. I took what seemed like hundreds of pictures and only came out with a few that I loved. Hopefully I'll get to do some editing and the list of fabulous photos will grow.

For now, I will leave you with a few of my favorites in their raw form...

Curt was giving me a hard time that I captured Lena's furriness in this picture. While it may not be very lady like, I LOVE her fur. It will fall off any day now and I desperately want to remember it. 
Nothing in this world could make me happier...

I want to kiss her chin forever!

Sleep, sweet angel...
(OK, I touched that one up just a bit.)

I certainly have a LOT to learn about photography, but this is a start. Hopefully I can become closer friends with our camera's instruction manual and the next sets will get better and better.

**Thanks, Aunt Kate for all of your help! None of these would have been possible without you!

Daily funny

Every day it seems that Addie says or does something that is downright hilarious. Sometimes it's a witty little phrase or it could be a story she tells... Whatever it is, those moments lift me up, shift my mood and man, do they make me laugh.

Today at nap time was a classic. I just put her in a pull-up and she was about to pick some books to read before bed. I sat with Lena in the glider and Addie plopped down on the trundle that slides out from under her big girl bed. Within about 30 seconds I heard some familiar grunting sounds coming from my oldest girl. (While Addie is a champ about using the potty for #1, we have yet to master getting there for #2's).

I asked if she was pooping and I got the usual answer, "Yeah... grunt... I poopin'" OK. A few extra moments to rock and snuggle with Lena is never a problem. Then we all heard the lovely noise of a breast milk poo radiating from my tiny baby's little bootie. I swear, those sound more like an old man filling his drawers with diahrrea than an infant squirting out a lil' somthing. Addie asked in between grunts, "Lena tootin'?"

I chuckled and said, "No, Lena's pooping."

Addie replied as thought this was a great coincidence worth celebrating, "Oh... grunt... Addie poopin' too... grunt... Everybody poopin'!"

Oh my goodness, how did I not fall on the floor and laugh my postpartum butt right off? "Yes, honey. Everybody's pooping." Well, thank God not everybody was poopin'. Mommy managed to keep control of her bum, but I darn near did wet my pants.

Belated recipe

The night before the night before I went into labor, I thought I was going into labor and needed something to occupy my time. (Did you follow all that? Good.) Some women start a craft project, some women watch TV, I made stuffed peppers. They were delish!

Our fantastic neighbors gifted us with around 20 mini sweet red peppers and I racked my brain for what to do with them. One day it finally hit me--goat cheese. They needed to be swollen up, stuffed with goat cheese and roasted so the insides would melt away in your mouth.

So that's ecaxtly what I did. I combined the cheese with chopped green onion to fill those lovely peppers. Next, I dipped my red bites of heaven in buttermilk and then Panko mixed with salt, pepper and dried oregano (from our garden). I put them in a 350 degree oven for 30 - 45 minutes, until the outside was golden brown.

Oh. My. Goodness. Crunchy outside, soft and melty inside--the perfect combination of textures. Really, it was heaven--an excellent treat as we waited for Lena to arrive. And it worked! She came out less than 48 hours later. Double score.


Numbers are such a relative thing. When I think about "thirty" most of the time I don't think it's that large of a number. Thirty M&M's--not very many. Thirty cheese puffs--uh, not nearly enough. $30--a sweater from Target (or two if they're on sale), not so bad. But thinking of thirty as my age is entirely different. Thirty suddenly seems like a lot of years.

Yes, today is my thirtieth birthday. Yesterday I went to bed still in my twenties and this morning I woke up in a whole new decade. I am thirty. 30. Wow. I don't say that in a bad way, just in a sort of surprised way. How in the world did thirty years of my life go by already? What is it about hitting this decade in particular that makes it feel like such a milestone?

Maybe it's because when I turned 20 I was still busy making plans for what I would do with my life. Now, I'm right in the midst of living my life. Thank God the naive ideas my twenty-year-old self devised turned out to be less than accurate.

I knew that someday I wanted to get married, but not until I was at least 28. How could I have known that I would meet such a smart, handsome, incredible man who would become my husband when I was just 26?

I knew that someday I wanted to have children, have a family, be a mom. But not until I was at least in my early 30's. Not until I was sure I did all that I wanted to do while I was "still young". How could I have known that my body and my heart would be ready to have my first girl when I was 27?

I knew that I would be a successful career woman who would make a difference in the world. I would never have guessed that I'd somehow have my dream job when I was 25. But how could I have possibly predicted that I would fall so in love with my daughter(s) that I would leave that dream behind to chase something that would fill my soul in ways I could never imagine.

The past decade has brought me so much heartache and self-discovery, so much joy and surprise and peace. Now, at thirty, I can say that I am happy and I feel settled. I have no idea what the next ten years or more will hold, but I think the difference today is that I don't have any intention of making plans.

I don't know how many kids we will end up having. I don't know how long we will stay in this house. I don't know if I'll get to live closer to family one day. But I do know that I feel great where I am right here in this moment. And I have the utmost faith that God will lead me where I'm supposed to be. That feels so much better than clinging to an amature map for my life that would surely take unforeseen turns.

After all, those turns are what make life interesting and oh so fufilling and leave me looking forward to all that is to come. Thirty years of life. So many years, yet so very few. I have so much yet to learn, discover and experience. This time, unlike my twenty-year-old self, I don't feel that I can hardly wait for all that life has to offer. Instead, I am wildly content with sitting back and letting life lead me.

Welcome, 30. It's nice to be here.   

Baby wearing

Even though I just have one picture and it's only a partial shot, this is the best "What I Wore Wednesday" I can think of... This picture was taken by my sister at our Farmer's Market. Me, in a Target maternity t-shirt and military style hat, and a Moby Wrap snuggling my Lena up to my chest ever so perfectly.

In truth, I wear this wrap (with my babe in it) almost every day. Not only does it make for the perfect way to sneak in some sweet baby love while I'm getting things done around the house, but it also covers up the dreaded postpartum belly. Love that!

Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll come up with some cute layering outfits, but no mater what, they will likely be adorned with yards of earthy green jersey knit, complete with a sleeping happy Lena inside. The perfect accessory for fall!

If you like seeing what other people wear as much as I do, hop on over to The Pleated Poppy to check out some cute and fabulous fashions. 

A slow return

When I wrote my last post sharing that our Lena finally came into the world and completed a piece of our family's puzzle, I had no idea how long of a break I would take from this space. I knew I needed time to settle into being a mother of two, but that may take months or even years. I have been overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, the most profound being fear, about what it would look like to stay home alone with a two-year-old and a newborn.

Tears upon tears have flowed at the thought of all my support leaving me and having to figure it out all on my own. Will I be able to give Addie all of the attention she needs? How can I make sure Lena gets all of the snuggles and affection that a new baby needs? Will I ever feel confident leaving the house and taking these girls on outings by myself? How can I continue to do the things that are important to me and my survival as a stay-at-home-mom (like writing this blog)? Will I ever knit again?

So many questions and worries, yet each day and many times, each moment I am filled up with a sort of comfort that only a new baby can give. Her warmth, her smell, her tiny body nestled into my chest... Her big sister showering her with the love that I dreamed and wished and prayed would be there. My, how we're blessed!

In all of this amazing transition, I have to keep reminding myself that as Lena and Addie grow and learn how to be in this world, so too am I. As a new mommy of two, the best thing I can do is sit back, let go and allow them to be my guide. We'll get there. I might not get to post a blog every day and the sweater I started knitting for Lena may one day only grace the body of one of her dolls, but little by little I will discover how to nurture my babes and in turn, nurture myself.

Along the way, I get to drink in the best of the very best--our family. These little lives that just weeks and years ago were a dream to Curt and I.  Nothing in this world could be sweeter.