Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Lord is Gracious ... Leva Reese's Birth Story

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: 
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

Psalm 111:4

As I sit in the same sage green glider where I rocked and nursed both your sister and brother, in reality not too long ago but to my heart what seems like ages ago, I am grateful for the joy another newborn has brought to our home. 
I'm reminded of their baby days, seeing so much of each of them in your tiny profile. Bubby's round face. Sissy's nose. Yet your dark ebony hair, that little dimple in your chin, and the extra pound in weight and two inches in length giving your appearance a unique look that's all your own. And the same is true for your birth story. Elements that mirrored my other births, but so many things that made your entrance into our lives different, an experience filled with one reminder after another His goodness and care over every detail of our story. 

Though we calculated your expected due date as the first week of spring, we never expected to get even close to the 24th of March since neither Londyn Grace or Liam arrived near their due dates. It was my goal to have everything ready for your arrival by the end of February when I would be 37 weeks along, the week both of your siblings came. I spent the majority of February crossing things off my before baby to-do list and adding finishing touches to your nursery as we marked the days on the calendar and March drew closer. But then the first day, second, third, fourth and so on passed without any signs of your arrival. The list I made with hopes of completing maybe a handful of tasks from grew shorter and shorter. I scrubbed the stove, organized the closets and tidied every nook of our home as your hiccuped and kicked contentedly in my belly. I took Londyn Grace out for a girls afternoon filled with manicures and pedicures and frozen yogurt and had a Mama and Bubby date to Aldi and Calandra's for cupcakes as we continued to wonder who it was would make us a family of five and when exactly he or she would do so! Each time we took a picture of our duo we wondered if it would be the last one before it would become a trio. 

Thirty seven weeks turned into thirty eight and Daddy had to go out of town twice which changed my prayer from "bring this baby as soon as possible to please keep the baby from coming until Daddy is home!" I struggled with feeling like there were so many days when you shouldn't arrive whether it be because of Daddy's traveling or because of so many events on the calendar where we had responsibilities at church. Mimi and Auntie and Bayleigh came to stay with us while Daddy was away on his first trip and just two days later Mimi and Pop Pop drove back to Jersey to stay overnight again while Daddy attended a church event a few hours away. I was anxious that he may miss your birth if you came as quickly as Londyn Grace and Liam did, but as he returned on Saturday afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief and praised the Lord that he was home and finished traveling until your arrival! We said goodbye to Mimi and Pop Pop as they packed up again to head back to Maryland to wait for the call that you were finally ready to make your debut, but we had no idea how soon they would be making the three and a half hour trip again... 

I had spent the majority of the day Saturday baking for our upcoming Upward Awards, in order to be a little ahead of the game. After finishing the cakes and making dinner, I decided to go and get groceries for the week so that would be checked off of the to-do list as well. The snow was falling lightly again as I drove, my mind filled with what if's and when's and how's regarding what seemed would never come. I had never experienced the mental place that is being near a due date or even being over the one the baby was most expected on. I found it to be a moment by moment struggle to trust His timing and the fact that He had already picked your birthday perfectly regardless of the date on the calendar. 

Upon returning home from the store, I was readying the cakes I had spent the day baking for the freezer when I felt it. Just a trickle. I thought "Maybe?!" but knew it was nothing compared to when my water broke with Londyn Grace. I finished the cakes and then took Sissy and Bubby upstairs to read bedtime stories. 

We rocked in the same glider, I sit in now. I snuggled my first two babies as we read, "Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel" per brother's request. Just a few pages into the story, it came, water, flooding the cushion beneath me and flooding my heart with a mixture of relief, fear and excitement. We would soon be a family of five! 

I had Sissy go downstairs to get Daddy, I text Mimi who had only moments earlier arrived home in Maryland and Linda, our midwife, to let her know you were on your way! After cleaning up the chair and changing my clothes, I finished our bedtime reading and told your siblings that they would soon meet the baby they had been anxiously waiting for! It took them awhile to settle down after such exciting news, but soon they were asleep, dreaming of the new sister or brother they expected to meet in the morning! 

Mimi and Pop Pop decided to repack the car and make the one hundred and fifty mile trip back to the Garden State in hopes of making it here in time to attend your birth. Auntie and Bayleigh came, too. Daddy and Mama tidied the house and prepared the rest of the birthing supplies. Linda came to check for dilation and we listened to your sweet little heartbeat before she headed home to rest, giving us instructions to do the same and to call her when things progressed.

I drifted in and out of sleep as I waited for Mimi and Pop Pop to arrive and for more signs of labor to begin. Your big brother wandered in, wanting to sleep with Mama and Daddy so he snuggled between us and with each new hour, I awoke wondering when the contractions would begin. Around 3 AM, Mimi, Pop Pop, Auntie and Bayleigh arrived and I was once again surprised by the lack of progress considering the speed of my labor with your siblings. I rested well for the remainder of the night and woke on Sunday morning, shocked that you were still content within me. I didn't know then that the sleep I got was just the first of many provisions the Lord would make in order for me to bring you into the world safely and naturally. 

We all had breakfast and chatted about how much different this was than my first two labors. Linda came again, surprised by the pace of my progress or lack thereof, found that I was still only about 3-4 centimeters, and gave me instructions to take a walk to hopefully get contractions going. It was still a bit chilly outside so Daddy and I decided to drive to Home Depot (he needed to pick up some special screws to fix a broken door). I waddled through the aisles and picked out a tiny succulent to take home with me with plans to plant it as a reminder of your birthday. 

Returning home, Daddy fixed the door we had purchased the screws for as I sat and rested watching your brother arrange his cars in lines in the kitchen. The pace of the day was slow and unrushed. Londyn Grace playing in the floor with Bayleigh. Enjoying my favorite sandwich from Panera for lunch. Waiting and praying for progress.

Linda came and found that again not much had changed. After another exam, she felt like there was a bit more water between me and progression. She also discovered that your head wasn't in the exact position to break the rest of the water which would explain the lack of progress. As soon as she said that, I knew that I had felt that all along because I would always feel your hiccups on my left side. So she gave me instructions to walk more and to do exercises that would perhaps position you better. 
So Daddy and I walked again and during that walk I had a few sporadic contractions that were painful enough to make me pause from walking for a minute or two. We rejoiced that they were bringing us closer to meeting you, sweet babe! And Daddy wondered what he would do should you decide to come quickly while we walked! We laughed at the thought of him having to carry {a very large!} Mama home!

When Linda checked again, it seemed you had positioned your self better, yet the rest of the water was still intact. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I started to wonder if we'd get to welcome you into our family at home since New Jersey law states that active labor must begin within 24 hours of broken water, and we were getting closer to that time limit with no progress. We discussed our options and Linda mentioned the use of castor oil. She explained how it brings labor quickly in some women while not doing much but bringing unpleasant side effects to others. She also said she always struggles with suggesting it because she believes that babies always come at their intended time. Daddy and I discussed it and he even drove to two different pharmacies to find it, but we just never had peace about using it. Looking back, we see that the lack of peace was yet another mercy from the Lord.

A bit later, we decided to walk again, hoping it would bring on more consistent contractions. This time Pop Pop, Mimi, Auntie, Sissy, Bubby and Bayleigh came along and so did a few more pains that made me hopeful that your arrival was closer than it had been. 

Linda came once more and found that the walking hadn't done as much as we had prayed it would. I think it was around 5:00 at this point, and it just felt like we were at a standstill while the clock continued to speed towards the twenty four hour mark. She suggested that I rest and wanted Daddy and I to spend some time together before we made a decision as to what we would do next.

Around 5:30, Grandpap and Grammy arrived and as we started downstairs to greet them, it came. The rest of the water. You were finally ready. The rest of the water that stood between me and meeting you was no longer making a barricade between us, and i was so relieved, believing we would be able to welcome you into our home, at home. 

I text Linda, and greeted Grammy and Grandpap briefly as I made my way downstairs. They went upstairs along with Pop Pop, Londyn Grace and Liam to wait for your arrival. 

Daddy and Mimi spent the next hour or so warming water and filling the birthing tub as Mama ate a little dinner and wandered around the living room waiting for contractions to increase. I remember my excitement as I glanced at the clock. 8:30 PM. It seemed we might meet you within twenty four hours of the first signs of your coming! Linda asked if I wanted to be checked and I happily obliged her! I couldn't wait to know how close we were to holding you in our arms, but as she began her exam the look on her face told me that something was wrong before she even said a word. She whispered to herself as she continued to evaluate the situation before she explained the reason for her concern. 

The cord. 

The very lifeline connecting you to me, was wrapped around you in a way that could be devastating. 

In a way that would prevent us from continuing at home. 

Auntie called 911 per Linda's request and Daddy went upstairs to gather a few things we would need for the hospital. 

Minutes later, sirens broke the silence of what was a quiet Sunday evening on Cleveland Street and lights illuminated the darkness of the chilly March evening. The house was soon filled with police officers and EMTs evaluating the situation. 

They wanted to put me on a chair type stretcher to navigate the stairs and steep driveway easier, but Linda insisted that she didn't want me to be moved from the position I was in to prevent any sudden movement which could jeopardize your safety. 

The intensity of my contractions was rapidly increasing as they finally decided to move me from the couch to a tarp like stretcher  that could be maneuvered much easier than a regular one until they could get me to the ambulance. 

Several EMTs carried me out and I was almost sure they were going to drop all 190 pounds of me (and you!) on the pavement!  

In the midst of the craziness, it was decided that Linda would ride in the ambulance with me while Daddy and Pop Pop would follow in her car. Mimi would come to, but drive their car so that they would have a way to come home and be with Sissy and Bubby after you had arrived safely. 

In the ambulance, i lay as still as possible while feeling every bump and twist and turn the vehicle took as we sped toward Mountainside. I held Linda's hand as the pain increased and focused on her Apple watch which was receiving messages from the doctor letting her know he would meet us at the hospital. 

I prayed for your safety. Still unsure of who you were, but knowing that I loved you oh so much.

 I felt the disappointment of not getting to experience a waterbirth or introduce your siblings to you right after delivery, but mainly I felt fearful of the unknown, of how tightly you were tangled and of how tragic the outcome could be. I silently petitioned the Lord asking Him to protect you and allow me the privilege of being your mama. 

Arriving at the hospital, the EMTs quickly wheeled me through the vacant halls of the labor and delivery wing and into a room filled with several nurses. 

They immediately began trying to draw blood and simultaneously trying to have me answer the basic questions of name, address, etc. etc. while I labored through what was rapidly becoming my most painful labor yet. The anesthesiologist brought his paperwork in case of the expected c-section, and I tried my best to scribble my signature on the appropriate lines. 

Daddy arrived, and I was so thankful to have another familiar  face in a room full of strangers. 

I fought through the agony of each contraction, screaming "I can't do this." as I started to question whether or not I really could. 

Transition brought my dinner back up again. And again.

The doctor arrived to assess the situation and decide whether or not a Cesarean would be necessary. As he examined me, he found that I was nearly eight centimeters (an increase from being barely five when Linda had checked previously!) and offered an epidural. This was the first time in any of my labors that I hesitated before declining! 

He decided that he felt it was safe for me to proceed with a natural delivery so he gave Linda the go ahead to continue attending the birth. 

It only took minutes for me to go from 8 to 10 and for me to feel an incredible urge to push. 

The doctor entered the room again and joined Linda to assist her. 

In addition to them, I was surrounded by several nurses on my left side and then Mimi on my right, holding my hand through each wave of contractions. 

Daddy's place was near my head, encouraging me through the pain. 

 My oxygen levels were dropping, along with your heart rate each time I tried to push. My strength was fading quickly. 

A nurse placed an oxygen mask on my nose, only adding to the suffocating feeling that was overwhelming me. The temperature in the room had to be at least 80 degrees. 

The environment was nothing like the quiet, peaceful homebirth we planned.

I heard the doctor say something to Linda, but I couldn't quite make it out, so I kept asking your Daddy what he had said, but he wouldn't tell me. He just kept telling me to push with everything I had and that I could do what every thing in me felt like I couldn't. I found out later that he had said he would need to use the vacuum if I couldn't get you out on the next push, but finally, with another wave of contractions, I found the strength to push again. This was the twelfth or thirteenth time as opposed to only two or three pushes with both Londyn Grace and Liam. 

Then the ring of fire, and at last relief washed over me, the second you took your first breath. Your cord was indeed tangled around you. Once around your arm and once around your neck. 

Looking at your sweet little face, I saw your big brother right away, but your dark hair was so different. The sweet sound of your cry filled my heart with such joy, so much so that I had yet to even look to see who exactly you were! 

Finally, I lifted your tiny body and couldn't believe that my hope of having another girl was reality! 

That Sissy had a sister! That you had a big brother to protect you! And that I would get to use the bows and dresses Daddy let me take a chance on purchasing since he had a feeling we'd be adding more pink to our household! 

I asked a nurse what time it was, unsure of how much time had passed since we arrived at the hospital. 

11:01 PM 

Twenty six hours since my water had broken. 

My longest and hardest labor was now behind me, and I was so incredibly grateful to be cradling you in my arms as you nursed for the first time! 

At 7 pounds 4 ounces, you weighed in as my biggest baby yet, beating your big sister and brother by nearly a pound! Measuring at 20 inches you were longer than they were at birth, as well, but you still seemed so small. How quickly we forget about how tiny newborns are and how quickly they grow. 

You are nearly six weeks old, and every time I look at you, I'm reminded again of the Lord's graciousness. Gracious to give me a night of rest before a long day of laboring and my most difficult birth yet. Gracious to allow your labor to be long, for had you come as fast and furiously as Sissy and Bubby, the outcome could've been much different. Gracious to give us a midwife like Linda, who always handles each birth with patience and wisdom. Gracious to give me the ability to push through the pain and deliver you naturally and safely.

I could go on and on, but I hope you will always know how faithful He is, and how good He was to give us the gift of you!!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Nursery for Sweet Blessing Number Three

March! I still can't believe the month that we've been anxiously anticipating since July is here! Londyn Grace was so excited this morning when I told her that her littlest sibling's birth month had finally arrived! I will be 37 weeks along on Friday which is when both she and Liam were born so we are curious to see if the third member of our trio will follow suit. Either way, the nursery is finally finished and ready to be a place for us to snuggle this a sweet babe whenever the Lord sees fit!

I think one of the biggest reasons I was reluctant to agree to waiting until birth to be surprised with this baby's gender was because of the challenge of a gender neutral nursery, but I couldn't be happier with how this space turned out.

Daniel put a ton of hours into making my vision come alive on top of so many other responsibilities he has at church right now. Before we could begin making it into a nursery, the existing kitchen had to be removed. Our home belongs to our church and had once been made into two apartments rather than one single family house as it was originally intended. When we first moved to Jersey in 2011, we lived only on the top floor and used the tiny kitchen that had been installed in what was once a small bedroom. Soon after finding out that Londyn Grace was on the way, the missionary family who was staying on the first floor moved on to a new work so we have since been able to live in the entire house. Since the little kitchen hasn't been used in five years, it made sense for us to make it into the new baby's room, but meant a lot of extra labor including carrying appliances down a flight of stairs and tearing out cabinets and such!

After all of that was done, Daniel painted the walls with the paint I picked out. It's a creamy color called Writer's Parchment. I wanted to stay with a lighter color since it is a pretty small room. Then, he installed a gorgeous yet really inexpensive rustic "wood" flooring that I'd now love to install in the whole house! Finally, he had to cut, paint and install new baseboards and molding. I am blessed with an incredibly hardworking hubby!

When all of that was completed, I couldn't wait to get everything decorated!

We are using the same crib that Liam used since he's sleeping on the bottom bunk of their new bunk bed (another post is needed in regards to that!) now. The rocking horse was from my childhood, and it makes my heart so happy to have it in here for my babies to enjoy.

I wanted a focal point above the crib, but struggled a little with the direction I wanted to go to keep it neutral. I chose to frame an enlarged hymnal page of "Jesus Loves Me" since the words will fit for either a boy or a girl. I scanned the hymnal page into photoshop and then scaled it to the size I wanted. Printing it at Staples using their engineering print option cost me less than $2! Mimi and Pop Pop bought the frame for it along with the rug and curtains for the room!

The chair was a Craigslist score that I happened upon back in September and ended up being my inspiration for the entire room. I love the wood accents and subtle floral mustard fabric and the fact that such a pretty chair actually rocks making it perfect for nursing! I decided to go with gray curtains and a small cream rug for warmth (I didn't want to cover up too much of that pretty floor!) and add in other wooden and metal tones to compliment it. If the baby is a girl, I will add lace and things to make it a bit more feminine.

The only problem with the chair was that it didn't come with an ottoman, and I knew I would want a place to rest my feet during late night nursing sessions. Not wanting to spend more than I paid for the chair for any of the ones I was finding in my search, I took matters into my own hands and created this piece out of a vintage suitcase. Between fabric, stuffing and the wooden legs, it cost me about $25 when it was all said and done since I already had the suitcase in my stash! 

I also made crib pillows with the gray polka dot fabric and a yellow fabric that almost matched the chair exactly! Yay for Hobby Lobby!

To add more wooden accents, I asked my Daddy if he had any old barn boards he could spare and Daniel made these gorgeous shelves for me! I love their simplicity yet how pretty they look with the various decor on them. I added the milk glass vase, wooden rattle, my old baby shoes and the mustard frame I found at Michaels with my most recent belly picture inside (which I need to have printed professionally since my printer is running out of ink and the black and white photo printed in a nice shade of purple!) to bring some more interest to the room. The ceramic white rocking horse which was a gift from my grandmother plays music and has both a girl and a boy on it so it was fitting for the space. I purchased the basket for storage in Londyn Grace's nursery five years ago! 

In both Goosey and Bubby's nurseries I've used the top of a dresser as a changing table, but space is limited in this room, and I didn't think a dresser that was long enough to hold the changing pad would fit well. Craigslist came through again with this $15 purchase. There is a hall closet just outside of this room which I plan to use for the baby's clothing storage.

I found various baskets to hold newborn essentials and filled them with tiny sleepers, hats and blankets. Sissy loves to sort through them several times a day and ooooh and ahhh over each piece so they don't always stay neat and organized! She also requested that I not hang the diaper holder because she wants to be able to reach it for diaper changes! :) 

This little gallery wall was so fun to put together! We are about 90% sure that we are going to stick with another L for either our boy or girl name so I felt confident enough to include the L's! 

 These pages from a vintage book add the old fashioned flair I love including in every room in our home. I hung them on jute with tiny clothespins in a frame that I used in Londyn Grace's nursery.

My Peter Rabbit stuffed animal from my second Easter (nearly 30 years ago!) was perfect for this little rocking chair I picked up on the curb a few months ago. 

I am so thrilled with how this tiny nook came together for our tiniest blessing! 

We can't wait to meet this baby and spend lots of time snuggling him/her in this space! It could be any day now! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pancakes & Pajamas - Londyn Grace's 4th Birthday Party

We celebrated Londyn Grace's fourth birthday with a pancakes and pajamas themed party! I think it was one of my favorite themes to date! So much fun to plan and so many little details that made it all come together. 

We decided to have the party at our church since our house proved to be a bit cramped when we had Liam's party in August. It worked out really well and gave us space for the activities we planned for the kids!

I made the invitations using Photoshop and then found the perfect pjs for the birthday girl at Carters, but of course, I had to add a monogram! We were so excited when we found a pair of donut pants in my size a few weeks later so we could match! 

The menu was a given since breakfast is one of the few meals our picky eater enjoys! We had pancakes with lots of toppings including maple syrup, whipped cream, fruit, sprinkles and chocolate syrup, scrambled eggs, lots of different cereals, powered and chocolate donuts, and Goosey's favorite, bacon! It's always fun to have breakfast for dinner! 

I used the pink gingham from the invite as the basis for the decor, but added lot of other colors to coordinate with Londyn Grace's pjs. 

She was so thrilled to have both Mimi and Pop Pop, Grammy and Grandpap, Mom Mom, Auntie and Bayleigh and Sonya here for her party.

The donut piƱata was a hit with the kids. Londyn Grace loved picking out the different kinds of candy to fill it and helped me cut and glue the streamer to cover it. I was afraid that it would bust after one or two hits, but the packing tape proved pretty strong and it took all of the kids plus Mommy, Auntie, and Daddy before it finally broke open! 

Daddy was able to break it and after all of the candy was picked over, Pop Pop decided to wear it as a hat! ;)

Pin the butter on the pancake was also fun! I made the poster and had it printed as a 16x20 print at Costco then just cut squares of "butter" out of yellow construction paper. It was pretty funny to watch the blindfolded participants try to find the pancake stack! I really wanted an eye mask to use as a blindfold, but couldn't find one anywhere!

At the kids table, each place setting included a coloring page, crayons, gummy eggs and a variety of tiny cereals they could take home as favors. Vases of fruit loops and flowers adorned the adult tables. 

After all of the games, it was time for cake!

She loved her pancake cake, and was so tickled to be sung to! 

Daddy helped blow out the candles after her first few tries were unsuccessful!

We brought her old toddler bed over and it served as the gift "table!" She was so excited over each gift she opened, but her favorite part was probably just having all of her church friends and our family from back home in Maryland and Pennsylvania there to celebrate.

It was such a fun evening with our favorite four year old! We are so blessed to call her ours!