{Mommy Journal} Eli’s Birth Story

Elijah’s birth story was so different from Caleb’s! You can read Caleb’s birth story here

There may not have been anything particularly out of the ordinary about Elijah’s birth, but every single birth is miraculous and points to the incredible design of our Creator. I am so thankful for the birth story that God wrote for us yesterday. So…if you’re a weirdo like me and love a good ol’ birth story, enjoy. ;) If you’re squeamish….read at your own risk. ;)

On Wednesday, December 14, after a restless night of sleep full of Braxton Hicks and numerous dreams about my water breaking, I woke up at 5:40 AM to a painful contraction. It hurt in my abdomen and wrapped around to my back…I immediately knew this was different. I timed a few before waking Andrew at 6:15 to tell him I was pretty sure labor was starting. We were so glad he had been able to take his last seminary final a day early, just in case!

As we hurried around the house gathering our things, the contractions ramped up quickly in intensity and intervals. By the time we were in the car around 7:00 and dropping Caleb off with our friends, the contractions were coming every five minutes, lasting about 50 seconds, and were pretty painful but totally bearable.

We met my wonderful midwife Rachel at the Ventura Birth Center (an hour drive from home) and were ecstatic to learn that I was 3-4cm dilated! Since I was still in early labor, she left to allow us to settle in and labor alone until we wanted her support.

It wasn’t long before the contractions died down. I was discouraged, but glad not to be in the hospital, where I likely would have been started on pitocin at this point. We went on a walk to the mall a half mile away and Andrew got his hair cut! I never had “early labor” with Caleb, so the notion that I could be laboring at the mall while my husband got a haircut was hysterically funny to me. Throughout the afternoon, I enjoyed a sweet time with Andrew as we rested, ate, worked through sporadic contractions, and waited for labor to pick back up. Around 3:30, it did.

The contractions were really painful, but I felt in control as I rocked and moaned through each one. Andrew provided counter pressure on my back or let me sway with him while I contracted. He encouraged me constantly. I was beyond grateful not to be experiencing back labor this time! What a difference!

Between 4:30 and 5:00, things became really intense and a lot more painful as I hit transition. I got super emotional and began crying between contractions, and I lost that sense of control and had a hard time dealing with the pain mentally. Rachel and her assistant, Sue, both showed up within about five minutes of my water breaking (gushing!) with a contraction around 5:30. Now the contractions became seemingly unbearable. I felt trapped in the pain. I got in a warm tub and labored there on my hands and knees. I was now 7cm dilated.

I remember thinking, If I were in the hospital, I’m pretty sure I would be begging for an epidural right now. I kept telling Andrew I couldn’t do it and telling him how bad it hurt as I swayed back and forth in the water. He kept telling me I could do it and that I was doing amazing. Rachel and Sue kept encouraging me as well. The contractions were super close together and sometimes I couldn’t tell where one stopped and the next began. The heaviness  and piercing pressure of my baby on my pelvis was tremendous. As the urge to push came on, I started to do so. For some of the contractions, there was less pain when I pushed through them. On others I just writhed and couldn’t push. Rachel checked me…I had one centimeter to go. She used a technique on the next push to help my cervix fully dilate. It felt excruciating but was so worth it!

I wanted to crawl out of my skin with each contraction, as I’m sure everyone does at this point in labor. ;) I yelled or groaned through most of them. The thought of a baby coming was no longer comforting because in my mind I truly didn’t believe I would ever be able to push him out. With some pushes, I felt the beginning of the ring of fire burning. I knew I could be close, but I kept remembering how I’d pushed for almost four hours with Caleb, and my heart sank. Andrew prayed aloud for me as I cried.

Then Rachel said she could see hair! I got out of the tub and sat on a birthing stool. They continued checking Eli’s heartbeat between contractions. Suddenly Sue said something like, “The baby’s in a place he doesn’t like now. On the next contraction, you HAVE to push him all the way out. Don’t worry about tearing, just push with everything you have and make sure he comes out!”

With Caleb, I had followed Rachel’s (my doula that birth) wise instructions and slowed down at the end when I felt the ring of fire, allowing his head to stretch me and thus, evading a bad tear. But now, I trusted Rachel and Sue’s expertise and did the opposite, giving every last ounce of energy to pushing my baby out. The ring of fire passed very quickly as I felt Eli’s head slip out. One more hard push and his shoulders followed, and there he was in my arms. My slippery, squirming, crying baby was against my chest and he was absolutely perfect.

An indescribable wave of relief and love swept over me as I clung to our baby with Andrew right beside me, taking in his precious, pudgy face. He was perfection. Rolls and hair and pudgy cheeks and big, dark, beautiful eyes that stared right into ours. It was 6:59 PM when he entered the world.

The midwives explained that Eli’s hear rate had dropped and then spiked, indicating he may be in distress. When he came out, his cord was over one shoulder. It had likely been briefly pinched in the birth canal, causing the change in heart rate. I got a second degree tear and needed ten stitches, but I was so thankful that my midwives erred on the side of protecting Eli, and thankful the tear wasn’t worse!

Following birth, I got to take Eli to bed with me and just snuggle as long as I wanted to. I experienced violent, uncontrollable shaking for over an hour, and the subsequent stitching process was uncomfortable, but cuddling our new baby overshadowed everything unpleasant.

When I finally turned my sweet Elijah Steven over to Sue for his measurements, we were shocked to learn he was nine pounds, 20.5 inches long, and had an enormous 15 inch head. He was well over a pound bigger than Caleb!

There are so many things about this labor to praise God for. That I was allowed to let my body “do its thing” and not get rushed. That I could labor in water. That I was supported tremendously, emotionally and physically, by my encouraging, steady, rock-of-a-husband. That I was in excellent hands with the intuition and genuine care of my fabulous midwife team. That I was able to relax and enjoy my prize following labor, and take him to the comfort of our home just four hours later. That God watched over Eli’s heart and oxygen levels and kept him totally safe. That God provided me with the strength to push Eli out when I needed to. That I had no back labor or pitocin, only had about two hours of active labor, and only pushed for 19 minutes! So spoiled!

Every single birth story is amazing. Every single baby is a gift. I am so grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to witness God’s wondrous miracle of birth again, with all its agony. The prize was worth every bit of the pain and I am SO excited to get to know our sweet little boy in the days and years ahead. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above.” Thank You, Father.

The Best Two-Player Games

91sn9inwqbl-_sl1500_This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. :) 

Andrew and I are crazy about games. It’s probably our favorite thing to do when we have a free evening and Caleb is down for the night. Over the years we have collected a number of tried-and-true games that are really fun and successful with just two players. Usually this means they are games that are designed for two players. We find that most 2-4 or 2-6 player games technically work with two, but aren’t all that fun. That is not the case for these games! I am listing them in order of my favorites, which would differ slightly from Andrew’s order. :)

Jaipur

This game reminds me a little bit of Dominion, another game I love, but one that isn’t so fun with two people. Jaipur is played in three rounds that take approximately 10 minutes each to complete. Every turn presents multiple strategy options, and my favorite thing about this buying and selling game is that you really can’t tell until the end of each round who will come out on top! I’d say it took us about 25-30 minutes to master the rules the first time. We’ve played it on the ferry, in coffee shops, and at home…it’s always a winner.

Patchwork

Patchwork is so different from your mainstream board and card games. It’s fast and easy to learn (a huge plus for me because I hate rule books), and with a variety of options each turn, the strategy element is definitely there, with just a bit of chance. I enjoy the fun element of piecing together your “quilt” in a strategic way.

Lost Cities

Speaking of easy rules, Lost Cities is incredibly fast to learn but it’s surprisingly fun to play–over and over again. It is designed to be played in three rounds, and the scores from the three are added up at the end. This card game falls into the category of chance more than strategy, so it’s surprising that I love it so much, but we find ourselves returning to it over and over. It requires little brain power, so it’s great on lazy nights when you just want to chill.

Empire Builder

Okay, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this game. Andrew has only played it once with me, so I’m not sure how much we’ll break it out together, but I play it with my brothers whenever I am back home. It takes a good hour to learn and 1-2 hours to play with 2-3 people, but it is seriously the best! You have to think ahead and plan out your turns, work efficiently and frugally, and pace your spending carefully. Definitely a fun one for Christmas break or a late game night with board game geeks…but not for your casual board gamer. :)

Pandemic

Designed for 2-4 players, Pandemic is fun with more but still really great with just two. It’s cooperative, so if you’re looking for an option that doesn’t make you butt heads, this is a good one. ;) I love the unique aspect of playing together against the game to eradicate diseases across the globe. It does take a little while to learn the rules at first, as it’s more complicated than the first three games I listed, but it’s worth the time you put in at the beginning!

Gobblet

A lot more fun than Checkers but less brain-intensive than Chess, this is a fun, old-fashioned-feeling game for two. We learned it on our one-year anniversary getaway and I still enjoy it whenever we pull it out, which is probably only a few times a year now. The rules are insanely simple, so it’s good for the people in your life who don’t like to read rule books.

Set Cubed

If you’ve played the card game version of Set, this is similar, but turn-based…none of that frantic, crazy yelling and grabbing for sets. I.e. it’s relaxing. It can be played by up to four people but is truly just as fun with two, an unusual characteristic that sets it apart.

Monopoly Deal

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this game anymore, I burned myself out on it…but because Andrew still loves it so much, I had to include it. If you love Monopoly but don’t have the patience for hours of play time, this is a fun alternative that requires no setup and can be played in minutes. It’s just a pack of cards, so it’s easy to travel with, too!

I’d love to hear from you! I’m always on the hunt for good two-player games. Please share your favorites in the comments!

Serving Open Arms

I’ve got so much I want to record about Caleb and our sweet Seggie. It’s been an eventful couple of months this summer and we made lots of memories I don’t want to forget!

But in the meantime, I’d like to share about an opportunity to support the pro-life cause in a tangible way. I have a more personal connection this year to the clinic we are raising money for. When I was six weeks along with Baby Seggie, we went to Open Arms Pregnancy Clinic to have my first ultrasound. I got to meet a number of the staff, see what their welcome “interview” is like, and benefit from the medical expertise and kindness of their ultrasound technician. I also personally know one of the women who is full-time there, as she is in our fellowship group at church. This is a wonderful nonprofit!

Although we gave Open Arms a donation to thank them for serving us, it was all we could do to convince them to accept it. There is absolutely NO pressure to donate, which from many testimonies I’ve read, is not true of Planned Parenthood, though they advertise their services as free. Open Arms is truly all about ministering to women by showing them the value of their babies’ lives, supporting them emotionally, practically, and spiritually throughout their pregnancy and beyond, and giving them the hope of the gospel.

It sounds cliche, but $5, $10, or $50, no amount is too small. Together, our family is raising money for the Walk for Life on October 15, which, due to a schedule conflict, only Andrew will actually be walking in. We appreciate any gifts toward this vital ministry!

Our Fundraising Page

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19ish Weeks :)

{Mommy Journal} A 20-Month Letter

FullSizeRender-11DSC_3446DSC_3518Dear Caleb,

Life is going so quickly right now and I wish I could keep up with writing down all your dear little antics. You are an absolute joy and thrill to our hearts. We could not imagine a more lovable, feisty, energetic, silly, affectionate, relational 20-month-old than the one God has given us. Every day with you is a new adventure and I am just smitten with the little person you are becoming.

I realized the other day, as I was cooking and you were busy pulling dishes out of your cupboard, that somehow, wherever I am, you end up there and find something to keep you happy. If I am in the bedroom putting away laundry, you’ll be in the corner playing with Daddy’s reading light. If I am in the living room sending apartment emails, you will be at your book basket reading. If I am in the bathroom getting ready for the day, you will be at the counter, seeing what you can reach and asking to put on deodorant. If I am in your room picking up, you will be pounding your workbench. It doesn’t matter where I go…you are my shadow and you follow me and stay busy next to me. I know it won’t be like this for long, and I treasure those moments of noticing your constant presence and your desire to be where Mommy is.

We love so many quirks about you.
– your crowd cheer
– the way you run and jump onto the bed when Mommy’s making it
– your infatuation with clocks and smoke alarms
– the way you call stars “tinkle stars” and then start signing “tinkle, tinkle little star”
– your noise and hand motion for an elephant
– the way you still sign “bath” when saying it
– your love for playing Hop on Pop
– the way you ask, “shoulders?” when you see Daddy leaving for work
– how you’ve started adding “too” to words for emphasis… “too hot,” “too big,” etc.
– your passion for books. Right now your favorites are Lentil and Bread and Jam for Frances.
– the way you point out “Mommy’s oo-ee (smoothie), Cabub’s oo-ee”. You’re very intent on whose is what, and refer to yourself in the third person.
– your love for nursery
– the way you pull our faces in and give us kisses right on the lips
– your giggles as you run to get in between Daddy and Mommy’s hugs
– when you say “more neck” so I’ll keep kissing under your double chin
– your obsession with “blankie” and “other blankie” for naps and bedtime
– your love for puzzles
– how you chatter about everything you’re reading during blanket time
– the way you say “oh-gurt” (yogurt) and “pagetti”
– when you’re so excited about something, you say “oooooh, yeaaaaah!”
– your passion for all kinds of balls – beach balls, basketballs, footballs, tennis balls, etc…and your acute awareness of the difference between them
– when you say “happy” as we reach the shopping cart, because you’re going to have a happy heart when Mommy puts you in
– your excitement over time with Lukas and Emma
– your enormous appetite
– the way you ask for “eck-fast” each morning and sometimes after naps
– your hugs and kisses and “awwwwws” for baby Seggie
– your crazy dance moves and amazing sense of rhythm
– how you set your jaw when you are concentrating on something

We love you, sweet Monkey! You are going to be a wonderful big brother and we are so excited to watch you grow and learn. If I could freeze time, I would, yet I know that you will continue to delight us as you get older. We pray that God lays hold of your heart from a young age and that you follow Him with all that you are.

Love,
Mommy

A Letter to Our New Baby

IMG_0067Dear Seggie,

Just because you’re baby #2 doesn’t mean we love you any less. But your big brother sure does make life crazy, compared to when I was expecting him! Although I haven’t journaled weekly updates this time, I’ve kept up on how big you are each week and read about your developments just like I did when Caleb was still Yaffie. You are growing like a weed!

Daddy and I were so excited the day we found out about you, and we could hardly believe it was true. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of another child to love and cuddle. It was so fun getting to tell our families in person and they were all just as excited as we were. As the days went on, you started to make me really sick. The weeks felt long, but I never for one tiny moment doubted that you were worth it. We talked about you a lot, what we would name you and when you might arrive–our little Christmas baby. We told Caleb about you and he learned to pat and kiss you through my tummy. We are reading books about being a big brother so that he will be ready when you arrive.

Gradually, I started to have some good days, after we hit 14 weeks. Between weeks 15 and 16, I started to feel some of your very subtle movements. On the Sunday I was 16 weeks, you danced to Psalm 139 put to music at church–so appropriate! We were singing about how God knew you before you were even formed in my womb.

Daddy first felt you playing at 16 weeks, 2 days. Your wiggles were soft but definitely there. Things really started getting real then. You were developing personality and we knew you could hear our voices. I feel you throughout the day now, and it brings a warm smile to my face.

We love you so much, sweet Seggie. We can’t wait to get to know you as the weeks progress. Will you be active and outgoing like your big brother? Or quiet and laid back? Will you love long snuggles, or will you be a squirmer? Will you devour books? Adore animals? Only time will tell.

Love,
Mommy