Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Avery's Birthday Party

Playing blog catch-up finally, so you'll see a bunch of posts that happened pre-Jack. Avery's birthday was three days before my due date, so we had a tiny little party for her a few weeks before her actual birthday just in case I was in the hospital then. She requested a Fancy Nancy party, to which I happily obliged because it required minimal work seeing as we had almost everything on hand already. We layed out dress-up clothes for the girls to wear if they didn't come already dressed, I bought some feather boas and tiaras for the girls, and decorated simply. Four of her closest friends attended, we had lunch and cupcakes and presents, and this is hands-down my favorite party because it was simple and stress-free. 

Flannery and Molly

Analise and Selah

All the girls, minus Eleanor, who frequently refuses to pose for pictures

making flower wands

I had to capture this: Avery asked to pray before the meal, and it was such a sweet, simple prayer

ladies that lunch

Eleanor was determined to grab a cupcake quickly
All in all, a happy day for my almost-5-year-old! I love watching her interact with her friends, and it warms my heart to see her sweet spirit shine through.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jack: One Month

The bear is technically Eleanor's, but we're borrowing him. He's made out of an old shirt of Dave's - our D-Dad bear, and even though Dave will never know this little guy, we'll be sure to tell Jack all about his D-Dad and how wonderful he was.

location change, and no longer grumpy after a huge burp and spit-up, requiring an outfit change

"Bro - your sticker fell off." 

Sweet Jack,

You have been the hardest transition out of all of our babies. So many people told us that zero to one child was the hardest, but I disagree. Perhaps it was harder to get used to no sleep when having the first child, but I really think the transitions all depend on the personalities of all of the children combined. Your big sisters are charming, but whatever frustration they have with the changes in our family are being taken out on each other. Thankfully they adore you. The difficulty in this transition is that they are both clingier to me, following me around all day, and you love to be held more than anything, so that makes for having a lot of children on me all the time. I'll let you in on a secret, Jack. If I could hide away and just snuggle you all day, I would. You curl up on my chest and fall peacefully asleep, and we spend most of our evenings on the couch just cuddling. It's my favorite time of day.

It's also been difficult figuring out what keeps bothering your tummy. You spit up constantly, you kept choking, and you had some fast breathing issues in the beginning at the hospital that had us worried. A routine 15 minute visit to the nursery resulted in a 3 hour stay and a chest x-ray. You lost a high percentage of weight when in the hospital, although it didn't seem like much to me since you were such a big baby at birth. You're doing much better now that I've adjusted my diet, but you still sleep in a newborn rocker next to our bed, because laying flat is not working for you right now. You don't like barbecue or pizza or fast food, sometimes no dairy, possibly not gluten - it's such a guessing game and I'm very hungry. But, to have a calm happy baby is worth whatever food I have to give up.

Unlike your sisters, you aren't a huge fan of the carseat or the swing (even though you're a motion baby) and much prefer to be held. If you're well fed and sleepy enough, you'll tolerate them. I wear you in a sling/wrap around the house some days and also for every errand we run. We've added a couple new wraps into the rotation and I'm loving them, as are you.

You started giving tiny smiles just after 3 weeks, and I don't believe that they were gas smiles. Gas hurts! With the diet changes, you transformed into a much calmer baby.

You look so much like Eleanor as a newborn, except the very boy version of her. You have my eyelashes, pale and on the short side, while the girls were thankfully blessed with your daddy's beautiful long dark lashes. You are definitely all boy - you look like a boy, you sound like a boy, you're hungry all the time, and you are such a fan of me.

We had many visitors both at the hospital and in the weeks following at home. Your daddy had the first week off from work, and then Nonnie came for a few days and Nana the week after. Lots of help for me, and I cried each time one of them left! When the last of the help left for good, I cried huge tears. We survived that day, and all the days since, but not all of them have been pretty.

I have to say, you're my most high-maintenance baby, but with all of the snuggling you let me do, you're probably my sweetest, too. I look forward to month number 2!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Jack's Birth, in Pictures

Photo credit goes entirely to Erin Cutts.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Birth Story

Jack's story is our story, a story of grace abounding. It is a story of redemption, of giving new life and new meaning to a day that could have meant sadness for others, and while those other stories are not mine to tell, the significance of God choosing April 4 as Jack's birthday is not lost on me. God's timing is always perfect, and I am thanking Him for making that ever so clear in the sweetest of ways.

Luke and I both come from good-sized families. Four kids in his, five or six in mine depending on which side you look at. I always assumed we'd have three or four kids, maybe even five if I hadn't gone crazy by then. Avery was a pleasant surprise. Eleanor showed up after months and months of trying. We were thrown a curve ball after that and it looked like we were done having children. But oh, my heart longed for another. They wheeled me down the hall with an hour-old Eleanor in my arms, and all I could think was, "I can't wait to do that again." My husband, on the other hand, was done. I was discontent for a long time, learning to adjust to some things which I had not planned for, but in time, though the longing for another baby was still there, the contentment with where God had our family grew.

And then - another surprise. A positive test, to which I had randomly taken to ease curiosity. I fell on my knees laughing; laughter quickly dissolved into tears of worry that my sweet husband wouldn't share my excitement, and tears of worry that this good and perfect gift would be yanked away from me. The question we all struggle with: is God really good? Does He really love me? We all want to believe that what's good for us is also what's easiest. We doubt His goodness when the trials come, and for years the trials kept coming in my life. So then, why would He give me a gift that was simple, no testing attached? It took a couple months to shake that doubt and fear.

Luke was ecstatic to learn the news. I waited a couple days to tell him, partly because we had the budget talk twice immediately following the plus sign on the stick. I should never have worried - his reaction was beautiful.

The pregnancy progressed, the fears abated, and we delighted in my growing belly. This pregnancy was exactly the same and completely different than my last two - a little sicker in the beginning, more back pain, but easy in most regards. What was truly different was my attitude. With Eleanor, I read every book about VBACs I could get my hands on. We did a Bradley class and were the only second-time parents in it. I did prenatal yoga every week. I followed the strictest of diets and then had gestational diabetes which tightened the reins even more on what I ate. I talked through my feelings with friends. I processed my disappointment at my c-section and prayed constantly for my labor. But with this one, my third pregnancy, I chilled out. I made a conscious decision to not over think it, and then two weeks before my due date, I worried that I hadn't prepared enough.

Then, all of a sudden, after feeling like I would never have this baby, it was time. A couple days of warm-up labor, a sleepless night full of contractions that went nowhere...I was exhausted. We celebrated Avery's birthday on April 2, and I was convinced that the two would share a birthday. The baby waited. And the baby waited again the next day, holding off so our doula's daughter could celebrate her own birthday. We have a very considerate baby. My mom drove in that day, since we knew the baby would show up sometime in the next day or two, surely. Late in the evening we decided to walk Costco and Target in an attempt to get my contractions in a regular pattern (and do some shopping, of course). It's rather difficult to not be awkward when you have to pause every 8 minutes, breathing heavily, as you stare intently at the econo size jar of olives or spaghetti sauce or the 64 rolls of toilet paper.

My water broke shortly after midnight, not long after I had gone to bed. I had just updated both our doula and our birth photographer, thinking it would be quite awhile before I needed to check in with them again. My eyes flew open, my body flew out of bed, and I desperately, fruitlessly, tried to catch the water with my hands as I ran to the bathroom. Obviously I wasn't fully awake or thinking straight. Luke went from a dead sleep to overdrive in a matter of seconds. I went through three pairs of pants before we made it out the door. We decided to labor at the hospital this time since my water had broken, and last time I had a baby an hour and a half after. We didn't know how fast labor would go, and my contractions had jumped from 10 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart.

We got settled, sat on the ball, walked the hall, tried all the positions my doula, Sara, recommended, and labor dragged on and on. Our doctor was the same one who had delivered Eleanor, my first VBAC, who I disliked then and fell in love with this time - I guess we just needed time to get to know each other. The pain was out of this world. I hadn't slept in two days. The only thing keeping me going was the encouragement of my birth team and the cranberry juice Sara kept giving me.

Bits and pieces of the last hour of labor are perfectly clear to me. Hanging on the squat bar as if my life depended on it. Luke and Sara helping me push. The doctor calmly going about her business of prepping for a baby, which helped me believe it would actually happen this way, as opposed to another surgery. Trying to eek out one more push when all my strength was spent. The uncontrollable urge to birth that baby that overtook me in the last few minutes. Whispering prayers. Or maybe I wasn't whispering them, but loudly lifting them up. Retreating inside, tunnel vision, complete focus. And finally, the most amazing feeling in the world - new life sliding out, ready to greet us.

"It's a boy!" Luke spoke those words and then promptly broke down. Tears were flowing, and that moment is forever my favorite memory. We had kept the gender a surprise, and we had no hopes one way or the other, but what a wonderful, shocking announcement.

Jack arrived almost 7 hours after my water broke, weighing a whopping 8 pounds 15 oz. God's timing? Perfect. You see, my step-dad passed away a couple years ago, and April 4 would have been my parents' 17th wedding anniversary. Jack also arrived on the first birthday of the precious son of my dear friend (and our birth photographer), a little boy waiting to meet them in a few short weeks. Jack's birth brought new meaning and renewed hope to a hard day. And his name? It means "God is gracious".  Yes, He is.