one month





It's here already. In fact, the day has come and gone. Our baby girl is just over one month old.

I could get extremely sentimental at this point and ramble on and on about how amazing and wonderful it is to be a mother (and it is), but I think I'll just stick with the basic facts for now and leave the emotions for later. In some ways, they are still very raw for me.

Since Lucy's birth, I will admit it's like I've been on constant sensory overload. Every thing I do - from what time I get up in the morning and what I wear to how long I can manage to run errands or even sit on the couch with Pierce and eat a hurried meal for dinner - revolve around our little girl. Going to the store means putting baby in her sling (which she loves!) and still wrapping my arms tight around her because I am terrified that at any moment the seams will rip and she'll go tumbling out onto the ground. It also means watching even more carefully for cars in the lot and attempting to predict exactly when they'll back out. Do they see me back here, twenty feet away, with my baby? Let's move the sidewalk instead. What's crazy about this whole adjustment, though, is how natural it becomes...even though it is absolutely exhausting. Sometimes even when Lucy has been a complete angel all day (and we're lucky...we've had lots of those days so far), I come home incredibly run-down by the sheer effort it takes to constantly think about her needs.

But Pierce...oh, my sweet Pierce. God definitely knew what He was doing when he designed the husband/wife partnership. There is no one more capable of being Lucy's daddy than my husband. I am so thankful He chose Pierce for us. Single mothers...I don't know how you do it. I cannot even imagine how you make it work. Props to heaven and back for you, my friends, because this is the toughest job there is. And knowing that I have someone else to share it with each day is such an inexplicable relief to me. Even better? Pierce is really good at it. He's generous and giving, patient and sympathetic. He's the best of the best, that one.

Okay, I promised not to be sentimental and there I go. I can't help myself.

Anyway, let's get to Lucy, yes? That's all you guys really care about, I know. She's just too darn cute to resist.

Lucy is, let's face it, the world's best baby. And I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying so (especially since the dreaded 6-week growth spurt/sleep change is coming up soon). But it's true. After less than two weeks, she started sleeping through the night. For about three weeks I was exclusively breastfeeding (before we had those issues with her weight) and I'd nurse her about eight times a day, once every two hours like clock work. At first it was just one breast at a time, but then we started switching to both for each feeding to make sure she was getting enough food. Now we mix formula feedings and breast feedings throughout the day (usually formula while I'm at work and breast during the early morning and late evening). It hasn't affected her sleep schedule yet. That's partly why her lack of weight gain was so confusing. The girl was eating like a champ and sleeping like one, too. The pediatrician thinks that Lucy might simply have an intolerance to something in my diet (like dairy) and even though she's getting full, her body isn't processing the fats correctly. That's just conjecture at the moment, though and since the dairy isn't harming her in any way and formula is helping her gain weight, we're all good for the time-being. After we started supplementing with formula over the weekend, Lucy gained back five ounces! These are the things that bring me joy these days.

Oh, and her smiles...they kill me. Apparently, babies don't really begin smiling until about 6 weeks, but baby girl's got that skill down pat! She started smiling (in response to us and not just in her sleep or because she was filling her diaper) at about three weeks. Our pediatrician said she was "advanced" for her little age...which is, of course, what every mother doesn't realize she wants to hear until she does. Go baby girl! You are awesome, my love. I hope I can always make you smile the way you do now.


every hour I need You


I can't believe another Christmas is about to come and go. It's ridiculous how time moves...how this time last year Pierce and I were settling into our new home and picking out a (real) tree from our new neighborhood. I had also just lost my job (almost a year ago to the day, in fact). I wasn't too upset about it, as you might remember from my posts, because I had long felt like I wanted to freelance. But then I fell (well, more like dug myself into) a hole of anxiety and depression, brought on by extreme and irrational fear. It took me until about April to feel kind of normal again. And then it wasn't until August that I had no fear of being alone at all anymore. But now the fear is back. And I hate it, you guys. It's killing my joy. It's stealing the sweetness of this season. And I'm trying not to let it...but that's also part of the problem, I suppose. Trying not to let something happen means all I'm doing is focusing on what hurts me, rather than focusing on what brings me happiness and peace...or what simply keeps me distracted. Often, I have found, that distraction is actually the best healer. If I learn how to redirect my thoughts every time they move in the direction of fear, then eventually that will become my new normal. Fear will be overridden by healthier patterns of thinking.

My husband and my mother both have been encouraging me to face my fear a little at a time. Pierce calls it "the mountain" and says that if all I ever do is look at it directly, all I've ever do is think it's too big to scale. I have to put my head down, he says, and take one step at a time. So that's what I'm trying to do. I might be filled with anxiety the whole time I'm taking that step, but at least I'm moving closer to the moment when my anxiety disappears altogether. And I can't wait for it. Seriously. That day cannot come fast enough. But just as it took time for me to build bad thought habits, it's also going to take time for me to change them. Today, I'm thanking God for His grace, for the truth that He sees me as a beautiful bride and not a failure, and I'm asking Him with everything I have to help me look at Him. Just Him. To choose Him...and not fear. My daughter deserves that and so does my husband. 

And, dammit, I do, too.

pressure


I have no idea how these mama bloggers do it. They mother, they craft, they dress up, and they still blog regularly. I'm struggling to keep up right now and I'll be honest: as much as I'd like to have everything together, I don't. And it's okay. It really is. 

Something that motherhood has taught me already (beyond the fact that breastfeeding is a ridiculously amazing and, yet, still-kind-of-gross phenomenon...I mean leakage? C'mon, ladies. That's awkward.) is that no matter what we believe is ideal, we need to go easier on ourselves. I believe strongly in natural childbirth, but things went a little differently for us in that regard. I still labored through almost all of my unnatural pain (i.e. pitocin hell) without painkillers, but we chose intervention because Lucy was so incredibly late. And I knew that meant my labor might not match the experience I'd created in my imagination. Also, I'm breastfeeding little Lucy. She gained almost all her birth weight back just two days after she'd lost it, but then she started dropping again so I'm also giving her formula to supplement what she gets from me. In the meantime, I'm seeing a lactation consultant to fix any issues we might be having with nursing. But, for now, my baby will get whatever she needs while we figure this out. I realized I didn't give two shits about other people's expectations the moment I saw the number on the pediatrician's scale. All I cared about in that moment was making sure our baby girl was healthy.

I talked to a dear mama friend of mine yesterday and we shared our thoughts about all the expectations that mothers have placed on them...and the ones they put on themselves. It's really, really hard to be a mother. Harder than I ever through possible. But it's also humbling. And sweet. And overwhelmingly beautiful. It's sacrifice, grace, love, and pain all rolled into one...and the grace required to be a mom in these early days has to be extended towards oneself. Because mistakes will be made and patience will be lost and everything you thought you knew and believed about what made an ideal parent will be tested. After I had Lucy, I realized that any woman who had ever given birth was a true rock star, no matter how she did it. Elective C-section, natural, vaginal with epidural, or out in the woods crouched down behind a giant oak tree...they're all rock stars. And so are mothers who are truly seeking the very best for their children. The homeschooling, stay-at-home mama, the working mama, the do-it-all mama...rock stars, you guys. 

I'm not saying all this to preach (okay, maybe I am...just a little). I'm also saying it to encourage because it's challenging enough to keep a little one alive and healthy each day while simultaneously trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy with friends and family, eating enough throughout the day, making sure your floors aren't completely covered in pet hair (not completely) and oh yeah! actually hanging out with your husband. It's hard. We shouldn't make it harder by measuring ourselves against others. We need only measure ourselves against ourselves.

Okay. I got that out. I'll be back later with another sermon on why breast pumps are actually the devil.

I've got a baby asleep on my chest and, oh yeah, I'm guest blogging, too!


Hey everyone! Today, I'm guest blogging over at The Simply Beloved. I've got some simple tips to help you get healthy skin and achieve that perfect holiday glow! Check it out here.

Also, baby Lucy is fast asleep, but she still says hi :).

Lucy Jane: A Birth Story

This will be long. It might even be a bit gross at times. But hey...that's motherhood, right?

My first experience having a child was not quite what I expected or what I had planned. I knew going in that things could always change at the last minute, but I prayed they wouldn't stray too far from the ideal Pierce and I had in our heads. At 41 weeks, I went to see one of the midwives at Intown and she told me we could talk more about induction at my appointment the following Wednesday. Although induction was definitely not my first choice, I knew it was a likely possibility considering Lucy's size. So for the next week, until Wednesday, November 20, Pierce and I sat and waited for baby Lucy to come on her own. But she never did. I guess my uterus is pretty cozy.

At my 42-week appointment, the midwife asked what I wanted to do: be admitted to the hospital for an induction or wait and see when Lucy would arrive. Pierce and I had thought long and hard about this decision, but the waiting game felt endless. We were tired. We were over it. We were also a little bit sad. Every phone call and text message reminded us Lucy that wasn't here yet. We were grateful for all the people who shared our excitement and prayed for us daily, but if anyone ever says the last few weeks of pregnancy aren't somewhat tedious, they're either lying or they've never been pregnant. And every day that passed was another day our concerns about Lucy's size - and whether or not I would be able to deliver her vaginally - grew (no pun intended). After being told she would likely be at least nine pounds, I feared I would have to have a C-section. My midwife believed that if I was induced, it wouldn't take much to get my body laboring on its own so I could have the birth I'd planned. That was when I realized I was more than willing to deal with an induction than I was a Cesarean. So the midwife on call that day - Deena - scheduled me to be admitted to Atlanta Medical Center at 5:00 a.m. the next morning: Thursday, November 21st, exactly a week before Thanksgiving.

Later that day, my mom and little sister drove up to spend the night with us, and Kati, Pierce, and I went out to eat at a local Mexican restaurant here. The next morning, we got up around 3:30, showered, dressed, and drove a whopping two miles to the hospital. Pierce and I were so excited. We couldn't believe the little girl we'd been talking about for almost a year would finally be with us that day, and it was all a bit surreal. I remember feeling the same way when I got engaged and married. I kept thinking, "Is this really happening to me and not someone else I know?"




After we arrived at the hospital, we checked in and I was admitted to Labor and Delivery. My dad and stepmother showed up about an hour later and we all sat around the room, talking and laughing, while the nurse, Alisha, walked me through the induction process, hooked me up to the heart rate and contraction monitor, and checked my blood pressure. All of the staff there were simply incredible. Alisha was the best nurse I could have asked for: bubbly, encouraging, and pregnant to boot. She knew what I was going through and she made me feel as though we'd known each other for years. Best of all, Atlanta Medical Center is pretty relaxed about visitors and although their official limit for L & D is three at one time, they let Pierce, Kati, my mom, dad, and stepmother all stay in the room. I cannot say enough good things about that place. I should have made some Thank-You candy bags or something, what with all the time I had on my hands those last few weeks, but I didn't think about it until later. Perhaps a Christmas card will suffice...

By the time I'd eaten some Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and been hooked up to an IV for pitocin, it was about 7:30 a.m.  Just before I got started on pitocin, Deena gave me a physical exam and discovered I was only dilated to 3 cm and 50% effaced...the same as I had been a week before. The contractions began as very mild cramps and I remember feeling only slightly uncomfortable. I wasn't confined to the bed because I was hooked up to a movable IV, but with all the wires and bands attached to my body I wouldn't exactly say I was mobile. I reclined on the bed while Pierce sat next to me and we chatted with my family. Periodically, Alisha or Deena would come into the room for updates or to check this, that, and the other.



Around 11:00 a.m., the contractions were coming stronger and closer together. Unfortunately, I wasn't progressing very much. We asked Deena if it would still be possible for me to get off the pitocin and she said she was afraid that if we did my labor would stall completely and we'd have to start over. We weren't really discouraged at that point (even though it meant I probably wouldn't be able to labor in water like I wanted) because the pain was still manageable and I naively believed it wouldn't get much worse. Everything I'd ever heard about pitocin was that it made contractions much more intense than natural labor, so I was surprised I wasn't in unbearable pain. It's what I had expected, but I still felt very much in control. Pierce stood by my side and stroked my forehead. He held my hand and told me how great I was doing. My parents and sister stayed busy keeping in touch with family and friends All in all, the first part of the day was enjoyable despite the fact that the pain was steadily increasing.

And then lunchtime passed and a switch went off. Somewhere inside of me, the pitocin hit its mark and it was time for me to put those Bradley Method breathing techniques to serious use.

We had a beautiful view of the city from my room and when we'd first arrived it was pitch dark outside. As the world woke up and the sun came out, we turned off the lights and opened the blinds. The room had a dim, gray look to it and it seemed quieter somehow. Perhaps it was. My family sort of faded into the background as Pierce and I labored through the experience together. I've never loved my husband more than I did that day (and every day since). He rarely left my side. The contractions were building in intensity with each passing minute and I squeezed his hand tightly as they moved down my abdomen, rolling through my body like waves of sharp knives. He whispered affirmations to me over and over and I inhaled deeply, concentrating on abdominal breathing like I'd learned in all my reading. I didn't try to fight the pain. I simply tried to keep my body relaxed and let the pain take its course. My labor went on like this for a few hours.




Finally, I couldn't keep quiet any longer. I began to sound a little like the woman who'd been laboring in the room next to me when we first arrived. I made sounds that sort of embarrassed me at first, but I got over it pretty quickly. Alisha, Deena, and Pierce told me how great I was doing, that my breathing was excellent, etc. etc. but after awhile I kind of lost control of my emotions. I got up to move around the room with Pierce. I couldn't labor sitting down any longer. I tried swaying. I tried squatting by the bed. I leaned on his shoulder whenever a contraction would grip its iron-like fingers around my middle. How do I even begin to describe what labor is like? I wish I knew how natural contractions felt, but I don't. What I do know of childbirth is that pitocin is no joke and it will knock you on your ass. Each contraction would begin just below my breasts, at the top of my uterus, and work its way down to my pelvis. Eventually the pain became so incredible I could hardly rest between them. It was as though someone was sawing through my midsection, carving a path that became deeper each time. I could literally trace my fingers over the places where the pain would begin and end. I knew exactly where they would start each time and I imagined myself pushing the air in my lungs to those places inside of my body, forcing the pain to move through me. This approach kept me distracted at times, but mostly it just allowed me to keep hoping for that moment when the pain would release and I could rest for a minute or two. Walking helped, but only slightly. I wanted to stay mobile, but it wasn't long before I found my way back to the bed because the energy it took to stand upright was preventing me from being able to concentrate on my breathing. After that, I sat in the bed and labored through minute-long contractions that came every 90 seconds for the next five hours.

At some point, I remember my dad sitting on the other side of the bed, holding my hand. My mom was juggling multiple phones and her computer in order to try and talk to all our friends and family about what was happening. Kati was mostly quiet, taking pictures for us, occasionally making a joke, and trying to stay out of the way. My stepmother, Celeste, helped keep my mother calm during a few exceptionally painful moments for me. And although I wasn't quite present for all that was going on around me, I remember being so glad to have them all there.



By the time it was early evening, I was in so much pain I could barely speak. It took everything I had to make it through each contraction. I counted that five deep abdominal breaths would get me through one and, usually, by the third breath I felt like I was going to split in two. I kept thinking, "Just make it to four and five will be nothing...then you can rest for a minute." That thought went through my head countless times. But when Deena came back to check me again and we found out I was only dilated to 7 cm, I started sobbing. I thought for sure I was going through transition and it was a huge blow to find out I still had 3 cm left. I cried to Pierce that I couldn't go on and he did exactly what I'd told him to do: he reminded me that, yes, I could and also why it had been so important for me to labor with as little intervention as possible. Poor guy. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. My family sat around the end of the bed and tried to encourage me as much as possible. Alisha did, too. I know it must have been hard for them, especially when I finally choked out, "I feel like such a failure, but I want an epidural." Suddenly, the room was loud again, filled with the shouts of my nurse, my midwife, my family, and my husband all telling me that I was far from a failure and I was about to push a baby out of my vagina, for goodness sake. I tried in between contractions to think as logically as possible, to remind myself that this was what I'd wanted, and would I regret getting an epidural? I asked Pierce, over and over again, if he would be disappointed in me. I was so caught up in thinking I would let someone down it wasn't until Alisha and Deena spoke up that I finally made a decision.

"This is not natural labor," they said. "This is much worse. You have nothing to prove to anyone."

At that point, Pierce asked everyone to step out of the room so we could talk. He brushed my hair away from my face, held on tightly to my hand, and told me that all he wanted was what I wanted.

After breathing through one last horrific contraction, I looked up at him and said through tears, "I want a fucking epidural."

The minutes had never passed as slowly as they did once Alisha started prepping me for the anesthesiologist. Rather than making my contractions more bearable, knowing I would soon be free from the pain seemed to increase them ten-fold. And P.S. the hardest thing I've ever done in my life is sit completely and utterly still as a contraction rippled through my hugely pregnant body...right around the same time a gigantic needle entered my back.

The epidural worked within minutes but, unfortunately, the whole left side of my abdomen didn't get the juice. So for about another half-hour I was still feeling the pain throughout that entire area. The anesthesiologist came back, turned me on my side, and gave me a little bit more. Alisha and Deena were going off duty, so they hugged me and said goodbye and, after that, I fell into the most blissful sleep of my life for two hours. When I woke up, Lindley, another midwife from Intown, was on call. She checked me, looked up with a grin and asked the best question I've ever heard in my life:

"Well...are you ready to have a baby?"

The room erupted after that. More nurses and staff came pouring in. My dad, who had left to drop my step mom off at home, came hurrying back to the hospital. My mother scrambled to get two of my best friends on Facetime so they could be "present" for Lucy's birth. Pierce continued to garner points for the World's Most Amazing Husband award. I was completely exhilarated...and also completely numb from the waist down. But, most importantly, I was present for what was happening.

The pitocin and epidural were turned off and, soon after, it was time to push. The nurse and Pierce both had to hold my legs up because I couldn't move on my own at first, but after almost an hour of pushing I started to feel my contractions again. I turned on my left side and was able to hold my right leg up on my own to push from that position. On a slightly more disgusting side note, I was secretly terrified of taking a crap on the bed. I know nurses and midwives have seen much worse, but after one extremely hard push I thought I smelled something not so lovely. I looked up, pulled off the oxygen mask they'd given me to make sure baby was getting what she needed, and asked my sister in a horrified voice, "Did I just poop?" Thankfully, the answer was no. At least that's what Kati said...


Anyway, I don't know exactly how long it was before Lucy arrived. I kept pushing, three or four at a time, as Pierce and Lindley counted aloud. Over and over I heard them say, "Good, Wendi!" and "You're doing such a great job, baby". Later, someone told me Lindley sounded like a cheerleader and they were right. She was amazing.

The most incredible part of the whole experience was the fact that I was able to feel Lucy bearing down on my pelvis. I knew when my contractions were coming and I was able to tell Lindley and the others I needed to push, rather than the other way around. I imagined Lucy making her way down the birth canal and out of my body and I was so impatient. I wanted to see her. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to hear her cry.


Finally, Lucy began to crown and I was able to reach down and feel her little soft head. I'll be honest: that was a little strange and it sort of freaked me out. It scared me because she seemed so utterly fragile at that moment and I just wanted her in my arms. A few big pushes later and I felt her head come out. One more push and the rest of her followed suit. It was the strangest, most wonderful sensation. She was here! I looked up at Pierce and he was wearing the biggest grin I've ever seen, his eyes wide with wonder over the little girl they were handing over to us. When I saw her for the first time, I burst into tears and clutched her close to my chest. She was slippery and slightly purple and absolutely gorgeous. She had my nose and mouth, Pierce's eyes, and when I said her name she looked up at me like she knew exactly who I was.

And then I cried some more.



Everything after that was a complete blur. A beautiful, messy, painful blur. And early that next morning, Pierce and I finally went to sleep next to our sweet little daughter. And I'll tell you what...she was well worth the wait.