A beautiful birth?

note: as a mom i love reading and hearing birth stories – this is why i’m sharing mine. i’ve tried to be discreet in my wording, but in no way is this a light read. – if you are uneasy about birth, or are currently pregnant, i would recommend waiting to read this story. =)

2 weeks before Vivian made her grand appearance, I thought I had come to terms with the not-so-beautiful side of pregnancy…. But I definitely wasn’t thinking ahead!

I had seen firsthand several of my mom’s births… long, hard and painful. But somehow always strangely beautiful. And that’s what stuck with me up until this point. Childbirth is painful, but beautiful… I still believe that. I look back on Vivian’s birth with such immense emotion. It’s overwhelming really.

Leading up to D-Day, I scoured the internet reading birth stories and looking at picture perfect photographs of stunning women giving birth to stunning babies… (seriously! click the link!) and yes, as a photographer I am aware that photos can give a wonderfully surreal painting of very real events, but it is true what they say… Nothing can quite prepare you for childbirth!

I wasn’t ready.

The entire labor and delivery process was long. And so incredibly difficult.

Vivian was born turned sideways and a whopping 9 1/2 lbs., after a week of hard pre-labor and constant hoping that ‘This might just be the day!’.

Also, I never would have imagined us ending up at the hospital by choice. We had planned a home waterbirth under the sweet care of Beverly, the same midwife that helped my Mom deliver all of her biological children – including me. But God seems to have had other plans. . .

My contractions started up on Sunday – at least, that was when they became regular and I called Beverly and our families to let them know… and for the next 4 days they would start up around 3 pm, increase in intensity and go to about 2-3 minutes apart and 1-2 minutes long, and then around 2 am I would fall asleep from exhaustion and they would stop completely until the next afternoon… then I would do it all over again. We tried everything to try and dilate further – we even went to the mall and walked as much as my swollen feet would allow!…. people were looking at us as though to say “Are you crazy? can’t you tell this woman is in labor?!?!” But the contractions still went away that night leaving me stuck at 3cm for 3 very long days….

Finally on Thursday afternoon, things took a turn and became even more intense. We had turned on some worship music to help us refocus and the contractions immediately started increasing in frequency and intensity.

Around 11pm, Beverly decided it was time to come… and even though I was still stuck at 3 cm, I was finally allowed in the water to relieve my back labor. The contractions continued but the pain became bearable.

After 3 hours of laboring in the warm tub, and continuing in prayer, my back labor was still too miserable for get out of the water for more than a few minutes, and I was too exhausted to keep laboring at this pace on my own… so at Beverly’s recommendation we opted for the hospital.

The plan was to get an epidural so that I could possibly sleep for a couple of hours before trying again, but because I had never been to the Doctor that was on call at 3:30 am, the hospital refused to admit me for the next 2 hours. They said I wasn’t far enough along to admit me, and gave me a curtained section of the waiting room to labor in until there was a “substantial change”.

The next 2 hours were ones I would like to forget. I was uncomfortable and in incredible pain. I shuffled around the waiting area stopping every few minutes for another contraction, just waiting for my time to be up.

But I had been stuck for 3 days, what was 2 hours going to do? We were frustrated and tired, but somehow thank the Lord when the nurse came back to check me, I had progressed to 6 cm! We decided to postpone the epidural.

I labored in the hospital labor tub for a few hours, progressing easily to 8 cm by 7:30am. The warm water was soothing and I was optimistic about continuing without medication. . . Then the nurses asked me get out of the water so they could monitor the baby’s heart rate for an extended period of time… This was a requirement for their records. No reason for concern.

Enter excruciating back labor that I never want to experience again! Ever!:

At 9:30 I was introduced to the doctor that would be catching Vivian, and I asked the nurses to manually break my water to help dilation as I had spent 3 hours out of the water and had stopped progressing. I was tired and shaking from hunger.

The warmth of my water breaking was soothing and I fell asleep for 10 minutes before the pain was back. It was stronger this time.

By noon I was trying desperately to fight the urge to push, and was still only on the verge of being fully dilated. We requested an epidural at this point, but by the time the anesthesiologist made his way into our room and explained that I would have to sit still for at least 40 minutes while the medication took effect – anything but pushing was impossible. We sent him away and had the nurse check me one last time. I was fully dilated…

I was so exhausted that quite honestly I don’t remember much after that moment… I was passing out between pushes, and screaming from the pain.

Vivian was born at 1:04 pm … and wow….

The wave of love that hits you when you see your newborn baby….. it’s so powerful.

She was so beautiful….

My favorite moment was seeing Brad’s face light up when he saw her for the very first time. He was laughing and crying and telling me how beautiful she was….

And I knew right then that if I had to, I would do it all over again.

Liberia in the News

For those of you who may not know, several of my brothers and sisters were adopted from the war-torn but beautiful country of Liberia in 2005, and my family has partnered with several amazing ministries such as Wordsower International and Lifesong for Orphans, in helping restore families and lives from across the ocean, ever since.

So naturally the following story caught my eye when I saw it on Hulu!

God bless these selfless doctors….

Vivian – at 2 weeks

Before Vivian was born, I had an assumption that as a photographer, I would be taking *tons* of beautiful photos every day of my little angel…. yeah, notsomuch.

All of my fantasies of photo-filled days went straight out the window as we settled in with our newborn.

When she slept, I stared… Captivated. Amazed.

When she smiled, I laughed… Smitten.

And when she was awake, taking in the new world around her, I didn’t want to miss a single second.

Though the photographer in me felt guilty for letting time slip away without taking advantage of her beautiful, photogenic moments, all I wanted to do was cuddle my baby.

But finally, on Vivian’s 2 week birthday, we were out at my parents’ for an afternoon visit, and had brought our camera in hopes of trying at least once to get something – anything! – better than a cell phone picture.

I am so glad that we did.

These photos from the first few weeks of Vivian’s life are some of the most precious to me – they are filled with so many sweet memories of her soft newborn skin and little squealy cries and funny expressions. . .

**sigh** I’m gonna go cuddle my baby now. =)

Personalized Soft Blocks

These blocks were so much fun to make! I came across the tutorial here, and when I found these fabric sets at Joann’s Fabrics, I knew immediately that I had to try them! So I printed out a bubble-font alphabet for a visual guide on the letters and gave it a shot! I adjusted the size a little bit, and I think they turned out pretty nicely… =)

If you are interested, I have also posted these up for sale in my Etsy store.

Birthday on a Budget

This month, we are trying to really buckle down and spend as little as possible to build up our savings and help us transition as soon-to-be homeowners. So when Bradley’s birthday came around this week, I knew there had to be some way to make it special while not busting our budget.

All in all we spent less than $35 and I think he had a pretty great day. =)

Here’s how we did it:

1) Swagbucks – Spent – $0.00, Saved – $19.98 [+ any cost that a playstation and controller would have been!]

For the past couple of months we have played around with the idea of saving to buy a playstation 3 next year, and I knew that there were a couple of games he used to play a lot when he was deployed to Iraq, that he would enjoy being able to play again. So I looked on Amazon, and sure enough there was one of the games available for download, and playable on our Mac computer!

I had saved up $20 in free amazon.com gift cards from Swagbucks, and was therefore able to purchase the game for free!

*link above is my referral link

2) Restaurants.com – Spent – $35.00 total ($2 for a $25.00 gift card), Saved – $23.00

My parents had offered to babysit if we decided to go out for the evening, so after Mom picked up Vivian, we went out to a local Winery for a nice dinner.

Every couple of weeks, Restaurants.com will have an 80% off special on their gift cards, making them $2, for $25 worth of food! (Normally $10 for $25). So I printed one out, and off we went! Though the card had a minimum purchase of $50 stipulation, we had a fantastic dinner for just a fraction of the cost, with an appetizer, salad, 2 wonderful entrees, drinks and dessert! We aren’t complaining…. =)

3) Window Shopping – Spent – $0.00, Saved – $ ?

After dinner Bradley drove me around downtown, showed me where he works, and then we browsed some stores with no intention of buying anything that night. We looked at refrigerators for our new home, played on ipads at Best Buy, laughed and talked and closed the store! This is quite honestly one of our favorite ways to save money on dates… =)

What are some creative ways that you have found to save money when blessing someone else?

I Completed A Project!

As a new mom, it’s hard to find time for myself. Yes there are naptimes when I can slip in an hour of wonderful sleep, or a shower here and there, and yes I can watch a show on Hulu while picking up the house or feeding Vivian, but there never seems to be much time when I’m not on high alert – checking on the baby so she doesn’t roll into the kitchen, wiping spit-up spots off my shirt, or working on that never changing pile of dishes in the sink, all the while trying to process the million things that I can’t quite get to yet.

I’m not complaining.

I’m rejoicing!

Because amongst all of this – buying a house, trying to manage our too-small apartment, playing with my daughter, etc…. I finished a project! And not just one – I have more to show you! **dances in excitement**

For starters though, here is Vivian’s new quilt.

I used our favorite green receiving blanket for the backing, and a thin soft fleece one for the middle – all sweet newborn memories attached. =)

And Vivian *loves* to play on it! I know it won’t be long before she is wrapping her own little “babies” in the quilt as she plays mommy with her dolls….. **melts**

Let me make you one!