{Marriage Journal} Four Years

Four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. I never could have imagined how wonderful marriage to Andrew would be. There’s no one I would rather do life with. God has been so gracious to us and I am beyond grateful to Him.

Happy anniversary, my love! Here’s to many more!

Photos courtesy of Ben Bender Photography.

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{Mommy Journal} Highlights From Weeks 2-4

10404074_10152932956028109_5267812812313557094_nI love being Caleb’s mommy. He is doing well being on a flexible schedule, generally eating every three hours, although lately he’s been growing so much, he has a full feeding often every two to two-and-a-half hours. Our routine is feeding, wake time, nap. After 7:00 PM, he goes straight to bed after each feeding, and after 6:00 or 7:00 AM (depending on where his early feeding lands) he has wake time after each. That early morning wake time is my favorite. I’m always exhausted by that point, but those wide, slow-blinking eyes staring back at me make every bit of sleep deprivation worth it.

1461436_10152949805128109_4248847919399227526_nThe shock of this month is Caleb’s new-found ability to roll over! On December 3, before he was three weeks old, he rolled from his tummy to back twice. And since then, he’s been a rolling machine. He’s going to keep us on our toes!

In Caleb’s second week, we enjoyed more Thanksgiving break with Daddy home before flying up to San Jose, where we introduced Caleb to his great grandma, great uncle and aunt, and his aunties (my two cousins). It was a special weekend full of cuddles!

10345577_10152956650533109_2709635492464740889_nThe Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Andrew went back to school. It was a sad and happy day as we said goodbye to leisurely days together, but I said hello to my new job as a full time wife and mommy!

The day before Caleb turned three weeks old, his Popsie and Nannie (Andrew’s parents) arrived to meet him. We spent most of the weekend just sitting at home snuggling Caleb. Popsie and Nannie spoiled us with delicious take-out meals while they were with us, and we all enjoyed attending church together on Sunday. They even 1456039_10152950696483109_7672399407417012548_nbabysat on Saturday night so we could attend a wedding together. After a happy bath time, Caleb flashed his first real smile at Nannie on their last day here! The next day, he smiled at Andrew before school. I’m still waiting for my first smile. =)

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, we ventured out as a little family and picked our Christmas tree. I have been looking forward to this outing since we found out we were expecting! It’s my favorite of our Christmas traditions. =)

Caleb loves bath time, so we have it nearly every day. He lies quietly in his little tub while I keep him warm pouring water over his chubby little frame.

10846297_10152965091803109_5411993776343633772_nAndrew is the best dad ever, willingly helping me out when I need it and not complaining when having a baby slows us down. =) I’m down with a bug since last night, and Andrew has been amazing in taking care of me and Caleb.

I’m missing lots of highlights, but I’m so tired, and my dedication to blogging is apparently declining along with the sleep. =) Happy four weeks tomorrow to my darling little boy!

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{Mommy Journal} Caleb’s First Week

13804_10152926571708109_8343205951740602143_nI will never forget my first week with my first newborn. It was so wonderful. Yes, you deal with pain, soreness, and fatigue from labor. Yes, it is challenging suddenly never sleeping for more than 2-3 hours consecutively. But that beautiful new little life that is now yours to care for and love is so precious, the challenges are hardly worth mentioning during those first magical days.

I was incredibly blessed to have a husband on school break and a mom and dad here to help during the first week following Caleb’s birth. I literally had no responsibilities other than feeding and caring for my new baby.

DSC_0489My mom cooked wonderful homemade meals for us and kept the laundry going. She completely revamped my kitchen cupboard organization so that I can actually find things now. She kept me drinking water and eating nutritious food. She answered all my first-time mom questions as only a mom of six can do. =)

My dad ran errands for us, applied WD40 to squeaky cabinet and door hinges, assembled our bouncy chair, and strung beautiful white Christmas lights in our dining and living room.

DSC_0567And in between all that, the new grandpa and grandma got lots of snuggles with Caleb. Seeing them with our baby was such a precious thing. I am so very thankful they were both able to make the trip!

The first night at home, Caleb peed during two different diaper changes. He hit my snoogle the first time and Andrew’s side of the bed the second. I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping him covered, and since then it’s only happened once. =)

Caleb did a lot of screaming his first few nights, which stressed us out due to our apartment situation. One night we spent an hour sitting in the car with him because we were so concerned about the noise. But a few days in, Caleb seemed to get his days and nights figured out better and he has slept much more peacefully since. Andrew was a tremendous support, taking turns rocking and burping Caleb so that I could try to get some rest.

TDSC_0568he Tuesday after delivery, Andrew and I left him at home with Grandpa and Grandma and got holiday beverages at a nearby Starbucks. I read Andrew my birth story draft to make sure he was cool with me posting it and to ensure accuracy, then we played Set Cubed. (Andrew crushed me.) But really, we spent most of the time looking at pictures and talking about the baby we had left with my parents. Silly first-time daddy and mommy. =) On our way home we stopped at my favorite Farmers Market for some fresh fruit.

Throughout the week, various tenants stopped us in the halls or visited us in our apartment to meet Caleb. One couple who had mistakenly heard we had a girl gave us a pink outfit and then was horribly embarrassed when they realized the error. =) We received a gift card, outfit, and pacifier thermometer from tenants!

Andrew and my dad spent a lot of time discussing ministry and the things Andrew is learning in seminary. My mom and I enjoyed listening in and learning from both of them. It is a joy for us to see the sweet relationship our husbands have with one another. Andrew and I are so thankful for wonderful, godly in-laws on both sides!

On Thursday, my (also pregnant) friends Jo and Julia brought lunch over and held Caleb while we talked everything newborn. It is so fun to be sharing this season of life with them!

IMG_2374On Friday, my parents, Caleb, and I went to visit Andrew at the seminary, where he introduced us to some of the staff. We also visited our friend Hans in his office. My dad got us In-N-Out on the way home. We also got news of Caleb’s new cousin Noel’s safe arrival! Later that afternoon, Andrew took my parents to the airport. I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to say goodbye with a little one involved. Seeing my parents kiss Caleb for the last time about ripped my heart right out of my chest. I cried and snuggled with my baby for a long time after they had gone.

So that’s a wrap on week one as a mommy! Being a family of three has been a huge change and a beautiful blessing already. We have so much to learn, but I am loving the adventure!

{Mommy Journal} Fun Times in the Postpartum Ward

baby4-001There’s so much I want to blog so I don’t forget!

After Caleb was born, Andrew and I spent a few minutes adoring him and crying while I got some minimal tearing stitched up. I texted a photo of me and Caleb to my mom with the message “You can come in shortly! Will call you!” They took Caleb to get his weight and measurements and give him the Vitamin K shot.

A few minutes after delivery, Rachel brought my mom in from the waiting room. I cried and said something about how hard it had been and how sorry I was she had waited for so many hours . Of course, she was nothing but a puddle of happy tears and was so thrilled to meet Caleb.

Eventually my wonderful labor and delivery nurse got us baby2-001ready for postpartum. I rode in a wheelchair and held my baby proudly as we made our way through hallways and onto elevators, eventually reaching our cramped but private postpartum room.

In my opinion, hospitals have committed an enormous oversight when it comes to their postpartum procedures. If ever there was a patient who should be left alone to get rest during the night, it’s a woman who has just been in 19 hours of active, unmedicated labor and now has a new baby to feed every 2-3 hours.

My nurses were sweet, but the first problem was the plural: nurses. There were two, and neither knew what the other was doing. One would come in to give me a Motrin or take my blood pressure and the other would show up shortly after, just as I was finally settling again, to do the same thing. They always turned on the light and used loud voices despite the fact that Andrew was sleeping.

They announced that they would come and weigh Caleb at midnight. I asked if they could come at 11:00 and they agreed. But after one nurse did so, the second nurse popped in at 11:30 to weigh him. When I told her it had been done, she said, “Oh good. Get some rest!” Yeah. I was trying. 

The first time Caleb cried that evening, Andrew sat up and said, “Where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital,” I replied. “We had our baby!”

baby3-001Andrew stared at me. “Really?”

“Yep.”

“Oh,” he said, and laid back down with the blankets over his face. That’s when I realized how exhausted he was after being my physical and emotional rock during labor.

Around 11:30 PM, my mom, who had bedded down in the waiting room, walked in with her suitcase because she had been kicked out. (Keep in mind that she, too, had been up the whole previous night in the waiting room awaiting baby news.) She wasn’t allowed to stay in our room, so we considered finding her a hotel, but I didn’t know where our car was parked and it would have taken a bucket of ice water to bring Andrew to full consciousness. Fortunately, our nurse decided to turn a blind eye to my mom’s presence. After trying to explain the situation to Andrew, who was still in another world, I (literally) drug him off of his cot and into the hospital bed, which comfortably accommodated both of us, and my mom settled onto the cot.

baby1-001Of course, by this time it was midnight and Caleb was hungry again. I had gone through the hardest ordeal of my life and hadn’t slept for 40+ hours (except the tiny cat naps I took between some of my contractions), but I was so in love with my new baby, I almost didn’t notice the exhaustion! The nurse showed up again with a Motrin and said she’d be back at 4 AM.

“Could you come later?” I begged. “I’d really like to get some sleep.” She agreed to return at 6:00 AM. How gracious.

The next morning, we all had a good laugh about my poor mom’s predicament, as well as the fact that she’d been wheeling her suitcase everywhere and wearing the same clothes for three days. She jokingly called herself a refugee and described going for coffee with her suitcase in tow. I also pointed out the irony of the situation: I, the one who had given birth, was busy interfacing with the nurses and arranging accommodations for my mom and husband in between feeding the baby. It was all quite amusing.

Our Sunday in the hospital was filled with visits from all kinds of professionals, some of whom I had not agreed to see. Hearing tester, hospital photographer, lactation consultant, pediatrician, birth certificate official…it was an endless stream of strangers that made rest impossible. I was thrilled and relieved when Andrew informed me that he would be fully supportive of a birthing center delivery next time. I hope that will work out and am already looking forward to a quieter postpartum experience!

Bottom line: we made some humorous memories, our baby survived unscathed, and home never felt so wonderful. =)

{Mommy Journal} Caleb’s One-Week Photo Shoots

Caleb Mark was born on November 15, 2014. He weighed 7lb 11oz and was 20in long.

I am so in love with this little treasure. I thought I was smitten before he was born, but meeting him in person took my affection to another planet. I cannot believe God has entrusted Andrew and me with such a precious gift and I pray that we will be faithful to raise Caleb to God’s glory for as long as he is in our care.

I hope to blog details of Caleb’s first week soon, but in the meantime, here is the fruit of a couple of photo shoots I had fun with this week. Shout out to my tripod and remote trigger for these! The two of just Caleb and me Andrew took. The ones of Caleb in the paw print jammies are from Thursday and the others are from yesterday, his one-week birthday. By the way, today is Caleb’s due date! I am so happy he has been with us for eight days already!

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The Day a Miracle Happened

Birth stories are not for everyone, and that is totally okay. However, many of you have asked for details about how labor and delivery happened for me, Andrew, and our little Caleb, and I thought I would share our story here. It is truly a miracle, as every single birth story is. All glory to God for His incredible design. Please be warned that some of this may be medically graphic; read with caution. =)

One more note: I want to make it clear that I do not think epidurals are sinful, foolish, selfish, or any other such thing. It is quite possible that I will opt for one in future deliveries. Please do not read into any of my decisions as being convictions I think other people should maintain. 

On Friday morning, November 14, I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. I was excited to be 3cm dilated and 70% effaced already! But I also learned that my blood pressure was high for the second appointment in a row, and this time it was worse and it wasn’t coming down with repeated tests. My doctor sent me to labor and delivery so they could monitor it over a few hours. Andrew left work immediately and stopped by the house to get our bags in case I went into labor before heading my way.

After a few hours of having my blood pressure taken every 10 minutes, the doctor came in and gave us news we did not expect: she was concerned about my levels and wanted to induce me. I was really nervous at this point. I knew that induced labors usually meant stronger contractions, and I was so wanting to have a natural birth. But I was also excited–we were going to meet our baby! Naively I thought it would probably be that night, especially given the progress I had already made without any real labor!

We were moved to our delivery room around 4:30. Andrew brought us take out and we enjoyed the incredible view of the Hollywood sign and LA hills before they started pitocin at about 5:15. My wonderful doula, Rachel, had also joined us by this time. For a few hours, we all chatted between my mild contractions. At about 9:00 PM, in the middle of visiting, I heard and felt an intense “pop” inside me.

“Wow,” I said to Rachel and Andrew, “Something just popped inside me!”

“It was probably your water!” Rachel said optimistically.

Next thing I knew, water was literally gushing onto the bed. We’re talking what felt and looked like gallons. I’m not kidding. I started laughing uncontrollably as the nurses came and began cleaning up while the water continued to spill out in heavy bursts. I was crying, I was laughing so hard!

And then it hit me. The first real contraction. And that was the last time I laughed or smiled until 4:06 PM the next day. My doula later told me that she had never in almost 200 births seen such dramatic water breakage and such a sudden onset of hard contractions.

What ensued was hours and hours and hours of intense back labor. Yes, the dreaded back labor I had read about and wanted so much to avoid was unfortunately my lot. Caleb was in a posterior position, meaning his back was against my back, and thus, the greatest intensity of the contractions was in my back and not my abdomen.

This meant that the comfort measures we had learned did not work because they were based on counter pressure. Andrew had planned to rub my back and put pressure on my hips and back to counter my abdominal pain, but since my contractions were in my back, trying these techniques just increased the already excruciating pain.

One of the worst things about back labor for me was the insanely intense pressure on my tailbone and rectum, which gave me the strong urge to push from 5cm on and also made it entirely impossible to sit down. I can’t describe how hard it was to labor with the constant urge to push but know that my body was nowhere near being ready to do so.

I spent hours upon hours in the shower, on all fours over my exercise ball, while Andrew ran alternating hot and cold water over my back. With every contraction, I took a sip of water when it was over from a straw he always had ready right in front of me. I dozed off in 60ish second intervals between the contractions. (Getting awoken by a new wave of a contraction is the worst thing in the world.)

If I had to guess, I would say that I had my eyes closed for about 90% of labor. I also had zero sense of time. All I knew for sure is that I was in misery, that I was going to meet our baby eventually, and that Andrew never left me.

After what felt like forever in excruciating pain, the nurse midwife on call (who was horrible) checked me and reported that I was 4cm. I was devastated. After my first round of throwing up, I had been sure that I was in transition and must be at least 8cm. I can’t even describe how discouraging it was to know I had gone through all that for one stinking centimeter and no change in the baby’s station (position). Andrew and Rachel were incredibly positive, insisting that I was amazing and that my progress was wonderful! So I kept going.

Slowly, one centimeter at a time, I progressed. The snail-pace progress brought me down every time I was checked. But each time Andrew kept telling me how amazing I was and that he knew I could do it. And he stayed by me, holding me, comforting me, coaching me, and soothing me every second. I threw up only four times during labor, and each time I literally enjoyed it because it was such an incredible break from the back pain. I looked forward to the heaves. But each time I also thought surely I must be in transition.

Andrew and I prayed out loud throughout labor and I tried to hold onto knowing that God was in control of my baby’s well being and my body’s ability to bring the baby into the world. During some contractions, I transported my thoughts to holding my baby or being at the beach with Andrew. For a few seconds I could sometimes feel a little removed from the pain.

Sometime in the morning on Saturday, my doctor came in. She explained that I had been 8cm for several hours, that I wasn’t progressing, and that my contractions were starting to get more spaced apart. She told me that she was concerned that the baby was big and I wouldn’t be able to deliver him vaginally without an epidural, and she also said that I needed to restart the pitocin to get my contractions to pick up again. She said that if I didn’t do the epidrual, I would likely end up with a C-section. (Also, with back labor, babies’ heads are not positioned ideally for the birth canal, making the fit bad and vaginal delivery less successful.)

I began bawling and pieced something like the following together between sobs. “I am already in so much pain, I literally cannot imagine how these contractions could be any more intense. I just don’t think I can take any more pain and I don’t see how pitocin is going to work.”

Andrew held my hand. “I think we need to do the pitocin,” he said gently. “It’s going to help the baby get here. You can get the epidural if you want to, and then you could rest. There is no wrong decision here. It is totally up to you and I will support you no matter what you decide. But I know you can do it without if that’s what you want to do!”

An epidural sounded beyond amazing at this point. The thought of being able to rest while my body worked to fully dilate and then having energy to push was so appealing. Instant relief was within my reach. All I had to do was say the word.

But somehow the words that came out were, “I don’t want the epidural. I know I can do this. Let’s start the pitocin.”

During the next several hours, my delivery team helped me get into positions on the bed to try to make the baby turn and get me out of back labor. Somehow these positions made the contractions I already thought were unbearable even worse. I tried to squelch my writhing to keep from getting out of position, but it didn’t’ always work.

At some point during this time, I called my mom and whispered between contractions that I was doing okay and that I was going to be able to have the baby. I felt so bad that she was waiting out in the waiting room all these hours. She encouraged me and said she knew I could do it and that she was praying.

Around noon, the doctor returned and checked me. “You’re 10cm!” she announced.

No words had ever sounded so amazing. I began sobbing tears of joy and relief. I had made it to 10cm! It was time to start pushing! We were almost there!

For the next three hours and 45ish minutes (I can’t remember the exact total my doula recorded), I pushed with every contraction. I’m sure the entire hospital could hear me yelling/groaning/grunting with every push, and I couldn’t have cared less. It was utterly exhausting and really painful, but I felt more in control than I had when I just had to wait out the contractions.

Eventually, I got the exciting news that the doctor could see our baby’s head. And guess what…he had hair!

With each contraction, I always gave one more push than I thought I could. I would push until I thought I surely couldn’t give one more, and then I would muster everything in me and push one more time. In my head, I thought, “This will get me there a little bit faster.”

After each contraction, I would groan, “I can’t do this anymore,” and Andrew would respond, “Yes you can! He’s almost here!” Andrew held my hand and was my biggest cheerleader the entire time I pushed. He was so thrilled to see the baby’s head and all the hair. He kept telling me Caleb was almost here.

Added later: I forgot to mention that at the last minute, while in the birth canal, the baby turned so that he was not born sunny side up! This is a miracle in my mind!

photo (1) And then it happened. I felt the ring of fire. An intense, crazy, burning sensation and tightness and pain. And I knew, “My baby is coming out!” It felt like it lasted maybe about 30 seconds. Then I felt a sudden relief as his head slipped through and my doctor said, “He’s here, take him!” and I reached down and pulled my squirming, gray, slippery baby the rest of the way out and drew him onto my chest.

Sphoto (2)obs. Joy. Relief. Love. The strongest emotions I have ever felt in my entire life. Andrew standing over me crying and looking at our baby’s face. Nineteen hours of active back labor over. The pain I was feeling faded into the background as I clung to my baby boy. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him snuggled against my skin and I knew he was mine.

photo (4)That day, a miracle happened. A new little life came into the world and I got to be a part of making it happen. I know I never could have survived labor without God’s amazing grace, Andrew’s constant, undying support and encouragement, and the prayers of so many friends and family. The prize I got after all the pain was worth every second of it, 100 times over.

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