It's a Wonderful Life

Let me preface this post with a Public Service Announcement.  If you have never seen It's a Wonderful Life, the film, stop what you're doing right now and go watch it.  You're doing yourself a disservice with every day that passes and you haven't seen it.  I'll wait here.

***drums fingers to pass the time***

Fair warning:  If you didn't watch it, there will be spoilers. 

Wasn't it awesome?  Hands down my favorite movie of all time.  It's always presented at Christmas time and I guess that's relevant since the culmination of the movie takes place in front of the Christmas tree, but it truly is an anytime movie.

I've always related to George Bailey.  When I was younger I was a dreamer.  I might not have had the same dreams as him.  I wasn't a dreamer in the whimsical sense of exploring distant lands and adventuring on safari.  I dreamed of what my future would look like in a practical sense.  I planned things.  I didn't plan a beautiful, extravagant wedding or an exotic honeymoon like many young women.  I created a picture of a life I thought I wanted.  A Georgetown townhome in the hustle and bustle of anonymity.  A successful career.  Security and comfort.  Predictability.  I created goals for myself, and I set out to achieve them.  Many times I did.  Through hard work, an innate diligence, a support system, and privilege, I was able to accomplish a lot of things at a young age.

In a sense, nothing has changed.  I'm still the same girl capable of working hard and being diligent.  My support system is stronger than ever.  And there is simply no denying that my life is one of privilege.  To suggest otherwise would be a bold-faced lie.  But the picture is different.  I'm not where I expected to be.  This is where good ol' George Bailey comes into play.  Through various life-altering events, he came to be the head of his father's Building & Loan, stuck in the town he grew up in, solving (to him) mundane problems for his fellow townsmen, growing a family in a house in constant disrepair.  The picture had changed.  He threw himself the biggest of pity parties.

George didn't realize that his expectations were the only reason he was disappointed - that the work he was doing and life he was living were significant to uncountable people.  It took the drastic measure of a guardian angel to show George what the world would look like without him in it.

Let's not get all caught up in the theology of this and let the story be just that - a story that paints a beautiful picture.

Some days, I relate to George Bailey.  I'm doing work I never imagined I'd do, surrounded by an alarming number of children I never dreamed I'd have, in a place I wouldn't have guessed that I'd pick to live.  Sometimes, it's easy for me to think that what I do isn't making a difference.  I don't have a Clarence to slap sense back into me, but my husband is a bit like Mary Hatch, always able to find the positive.  He's the optimism to my realism (okay, fine cynicism).  And while there's not a tangible Clarence to show me what life would be like without me, I cannot imagine a planet earth without each and every one of these precious children.  My world has become so much bigger than myself.  I feel my selfishness creep in and God laughs and tells me "Ain't nobody got time for that."  I can't take credit for any of my blessings.  Clearly God is doing his work in spite of me.  But I see evidences of grace when Abby corners me in private and asks me if I can tell everyone to go outside and play together so she can spend some time with her big brother, who doesn't even realize how much she adores him.  I see Sarah rush to a crying Hannah, change her diaper, and sing her a sweet song.  I see Leah and Noah playing  not fighting co-existing in the playroom without bloodshed or screaming.  I see a family of 8 on the road together for 31 days on the adventure of a lifetime, sharing tiny spaces on little sleep, and returning home tired, but closer than ever.

I see smiles and hand-holding.

I see children who know how to appreciate the finer things in life.  I get to re-experience the simple things through their eyes.  I get to show them the beauty that surrounds us.  

I see children with the gift of a true childhood.  One spent outside exploring, getting dirty.  Full of spontaneous giggles.  And lots and lots of laundry.

I see the testing of boundaries.

I get to realize that the messes aren't messes.  They are just evidences a life fully lived.

Anytime I find myself chasing the "what if" rabbit, I need only pause for a split second to realize that all of those neat and tidy expectations about my future weren't what I needed.  

This was.  

Thank you, God, for blessings beyond my wildest imagination.  For directing the course of my life.  For allowing me to experience the fullness of your love.

This is the life. It's wonderful.

2016 Precap

It's the final hour of 2015 so I'm tempted as always to recap the events of the past year and marvel at the adventures, the silliness, the ups and downs.  Of course I could still do that, but I'm running out of minutes and for the most part I've already relished in those moments.

I read an innovative idea that I loved on the Pioneer Woman's blog today that suggested Precapping our resolutions as if they already happened, as a way to kick off the New Year.  So here are my goals and hopes that have yet to occur, as if they already did.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Then proceed.

My 2016 Precap

I woke up consistently at the same time every day, before my children, spent time in the Word and actually composed a few blog posts.  Turns out, there are plenty of hours in the day to do the things my soul requires, I still have worthwhile thoughts, and I'm a better person for it.

I changed out of stretchy pants and into pants that button (or should, anyway) a few times a week.  It was a genuine wake up call to my waistline.  I didn't stop eating chocolate because of it, but it did help me reconsider my soft drink habit.

Speaking of soft drinks, I kicked them to the curb entirely except on Sunday with our weekly Firehouse Subs indulgence.  I've filled my carbonated void with ice water, unsweetened tea, and coffee.  Because I'm human.  Not a robot.

I started keeping a food journal which is terrifying and convicting.  Turns out I eat a lot of miniature candy bars.  And chips.  And McDonald's chicken nuggets.  Seeing it on paper is pretty embarrassing.  Letting Sam read it is even worse.  Now I just lie and write "raw broccoli and green smoothies."  Sam knows better.  My pants still don't button.

I have purged mountains of clutter from our home freeing up all sorts of brain space.  It feels like the weight of the world (or ten boxes and sixteen bags of crap) has been lifted off my shoulders.  And also, our house feels a million times cleaner.  Even though I still only mop the floors twice a year.  Kidding!  (Or am I?)

I utilized my new Kindle (okay, fine, the replacement for the one that got dropped multiple times by each of my kids rendering it useless) to read various genres of books, stretching myself from my usual self-improvement, Christian-fiction, and non-fiction ruts.  I expected to be more enlightened, but since I wasn't I'll stick to what I know and love.  Unless you'd like to recommend something to me, the next books on my list are Saved without a Doubt by John MacArther, Big Love by Kara Tippetts, and Smart Women Know When to Say No by Dr. Kevin Leman.

I banned myself from Facebook from the hours of 9-3 every day so that I could wholly devote myself to the job I took on back in August 2012, teaching my children.  We might not adhere to those hours per se, but the self-imposed ban has increased productivity across the board and improved my whole attitude.  I'm not distracted by the "noise" of unimportant tidbits and news articles.  My family is benefitting from my presence.  The only thing I miss is running to share the hilarious things my kids say.  But to be honest, writing them in a spiral notebook is just as effective - and something tangible I can keep forever and share with them.  (Although, I admit, slightly less fulfilling.  No one "likes" my spiral notebook scrawlings.)

I went outside of my comfort zone and started a bible study for my homeschooling peers.  It's not perfect.  It's messy just like us.  And that's why I love it.  I might not be a details person (anymore), but I've found that when you find "your people" they don't care if things are perfect.

I put my own selfishness aside and set up more playdates, engaged in more social events, and threw caution to the wind and taught a class at our homeschool co-op.  Turns out, I don't have to be scared of people.  People are pretty cool.  Especially when you get to know them.
I have no idea what 2016 will bring, but I pray it will be blessed.  For my family and yours.  While my words are few and far between on this humble blog, I hope you know how grateful I am to you for reading it, whether faithfully or for the first time.

Happy New Year, Y'all! 
Here's hoping you'll be hearing a lot more from me in 2016!  I think I've finally got this whole "six kids thing" figured out. 

Not To Do but I Did

A few days or maybe weeks, shoot it might have been months ago, I read this brilliant idea somewhere on the internet.  When I remembered it today, I scoured the depths of the web to find the source so that I might credit them when I mentioned it only to find that dozens of folks were claiming it as their own intellectual property.  Go figure.  All I can say is that this seemingly brilliant idea was not mine.  The chances of a meaningful thought originating in this brain right now are not that great.  Unless you're looking to discuss something like, "Wouldn't it be weird if we did to adults what we do to babies?"  Like holding them and bouncing them and patting their butt to get them to go to sleep?  Or patting them on the back to make them burp?  Or, for lack of being able to locate a pacifier, sticking your finger in their mouth to get them to be quiet in public?  (Oh what's that you say?  You already saw a YouTube video about this?  See, even my newborn delirium wonderings aren't original.)

In the day and age of keeping up with the Joneses "Best Of" snapshots of lives from Pinterest and Facebook, it's easy to let the To Do list get a little overwhelming.  I have a lot of mandatory tasks each day, things like "Keep the kids alive" and "Try to teach the 1st, 3rd, and 6th grader something so we can call it a school day."  I never bother to write them on a list, but it may surprise you to know that those simple tasks take a significant chunk of time to accomplish.  The things that do make the list are my loftier goals, like "Reorganize the entire house from top to bottom" and "Fold Mt. Sheppard of laundry so that I can see even one square foot of my laundry room floor."  Somehow at the end of the day, I find that I have very few checkable items completed.

What in the world did I do all day!?!

That's where the brilliant idea from the internet suggested that instead of making a To Do list at the beginning of the day that leaves you feeling unfulfilled and anxious at the end of the day, make a "Did It" list at the end of the day that leaves you feeling satisfied by all of the things you didn't even realize you did that day.

I've meant to implement this for a long time, seeing as how my To Do lists lately result in nothing but frustration.  I can't imagine why.

Just kidding.  I know exactly why.

Here's my first go at a "Did It" list.  I think it's going to be super fulfilling.

Things I Did
1.  Ended up with as many shoes and kids as I started with after departing the Chick-Fil-A playground.
2.  Had a conversation with my 22 month old that did not involve any shrieking, by either party.
3.  Completed a worldview lesson that led to an interesting conversation about how my children would describe me to someone that went a little something like this:
Me:  If you had to describe my physical attributes to someone, what would you tell them?
Ben: You have a lot of kids.
Me: I'm not sure that's a physical attribute.  Although, sometimes it does feel as though you're attached to me.
Sarah:  You have freckles.
Me:  I do?  That's my predominant trait?
Abby:  Well...you have moles.
Ben:  You have hair.
Abby:  You have big feet.
Ben:  No!  I have big feet.
Me:  So, you would tell people I have a lot of kids, moles, and smaller feet than Ben?
Abby:  You have brown hair.
Leah:  And brown eyes.
Abby:  You look a lot different since you had Hannah.
Me:  I sure hope so.
Sarah:  You like striped pants.
Me:  I'm the girl in the striped pajamas.
Abby: You have pretty teeth.
Ben:  You're a vampire!  In Pre-K everyone used to say if you have pointy teeth, you're a vampire.
Me: She didn't say I have pointy teeth, she said I have pretty teeth.
Ben:  I know. I said you have pointy teeth.
4.  Cared so much about my kids that it brought me to tears around 8pm.
5.  Refrained from losing my patience until about 9pm.
6.  Let my first and only "yell" fly around 10pm.
7.  Fed a baby approximately a dozen times.  Or at least it felt like it.
8.  Wiped up about half a gallon of regurgitated milk.
9.  Showered.  Twice.
10.  Washed a load of clothes without forgetting about them in the washer.
11.  Polished off a chocolate cake.
12.  Thought long and hard about exercising.
13.  Danced to Mariah Carey-esque music in my kitchen after the kids were in bed.
14.  Counted that as exercise.
15.  Tricked the kids into learning about Henry Hudson at dinnertime.
16.  Practiced skip counting 7's with Abby while driving around town.  (Unexpected benefit, Leah has them down now too.  Her favorite is 49.)
17.  Resisted the urge to swing through the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru for an afternoon pick-me-up.
18.  Removed a splinter from a kid's butt.  (Don't even ask.)
19.  Laughed with and at my kids.
20.  Finished this blog post.

Definitely ought to do that more often.  You should totally try it.

Mrs.Tech Support (not exactly)

It's 2am.  I'm supposed to show up to teach something from the book of Genesis to a class of three year olds in about 6 and a half hours, and I will, but for now I have a (hopefully very quick) something to say.

When Hannah was but eleven days old, I sat my computer on the half wall in our living room to keep it safe (or so I thought) from my children.  This computer has twice been repaired by Asus, once under warranty and once out of pocket (cha-ching!), because it has a very fragile touchscreen that shatters if you so much as sneeze by it.  (Or step on it or drop it off a bed, but who's keeping track?)  As my very-responsible Ben walked through the living room, he noticed that three-year-old Leah had grabbed my laptop off it's apparently-not-so-safe perch in an effort to watch Netflix on it.  He dutifully confiscated the computer and put it the safest place he could think of - on top of the refrigerator.


Instead of putting it safely on top of the fridge, he rested it primarily on the door so that when Sarah opened the fridge to pour herself a cup of juice, the whole thing came crashing to the floor.

You can guess what the screen looked like after falling six feet onto a tile floor.  (No, I didn't take a picture. It was too painful to bear.)

I, of course, immediately cried, a reaction that probably would have occurred on one of my best days, but at least I had the excuse of blaming it on my postpartum haze  Having just gotten the computer repaired to the tune of $150+ a couple of months ago, all I could think was how that money was just flushed down the toilet.  I was never going to have a computer again.  I can never have nice things.  My life is over.  (Or something to that dramatic effect.)

In our home, Sam is Tech Support.  (No, really.  He literally worked for Tech Support in college.  He has the t-shirt and everything.)  I defer all computer related inquiries, repairs, decisions to him.  It's his "thing" and he's good at it.  After handling the warranty repair phone calls, and coughing up the cash to have it repaired the second time, I just couldn't stomach asking him to deal with this a third time.  Somehow, the "guts" of the computer were still perfectly functional, so Sam began contemplating ways to convert it into a desktop computer.  It would have worked, but I was dissatisfied with that option.  I decided to pull a Scartlett O'Hara and think about it the next day.  That doesn't usually work for me, and instead I obsessed over it for about three weeks.  Finally, I decided to order a replacement part and take my chances at repairing it myself.  Worst case scenario - I'd finish off the computer for good and be out $22.50.  Best case scenario - I'd have a functional computer.

You see, years ago, I was kind of smart.  Somehow, I successfully completed engineering school, secured a job in my field, and actually did kind of okay in the real world.

Now days, it's hard to remember that.  My days are spent covered in stickiness, wandering around trying to remember what it is that I was doing in this room at all, repeating instructions over and over again, making overzealous to-do lists that never get completed, and trying oh so hard to feed, clothe, and educate six little people all the while doing my best not to completely fail at being a wife.

Don't get me wrong.  My current job rocks.  Wouldn't trade it for anything, and I never imagined I'd say that, but it's definitely less...validating.  There's no paycheck.  No one to tell you "Well done!"  Honestly, most of what I do goes unnoticed.  And, most of the time, that's totally cool with me.  I don't need praise or admiration.  But I do like to, every once in a while, see a job to completion and know that I did it well.

Maybe that's why it was so daggone important for me to attempt the repair.

I just needed to know that I could.

Long story short - I did.

Phew.  Still got it.  (Sort of.)

There are so many blog posts I want to get out of my head and into cyberspace.  Now, I have a means to do it.  Until my next late night...

Sweet dreams!

(PS- I would like to thank Sam for unknowingly giving me to the confidence to even attempt this.  I have watched that man successfully tackle so very many major projects and repairs with nothing but a willingness to try and youtube.  Thanks, man.  You're my inspiration.)


Hannah Rae's Birth Story (because a snazzy title is not happenin' right now)

Perhaps I should wait until the cloud of hormones has lifted and I can reminisce without getting teary-eyed.  Maybe two days after being awake for a 72+-hour consecutive stretch is the perfect time to recall the real, raw details of such an event.  I'm not sure what the proper time frame for recording a birth story is, but for me, the time to start is now.  Inevitably, this means I'll finish about a month from now because, let's face it, having a house full of company and six kids including three homeschoolers, a needy three year old, a strong-willed toddler, and a newborn isn't exactly conducive to continuous composition.

Nevertheless, I'm going to try.

On Wednesday morning, September 2, I woke up grumpy.  It was three days past my due date and I had my final prenatal appointment that afternoon, during which I was certain we would schedule an induction.  We had discussed how long the midwives would feasibly let me go and at my new practice, they strongly advise not waiting beyond 41 weeks.  In my mind, the 41 week mark was fast approaching and with each day that passed and my new baby had not yet arrived, I got more and more anxious.  Having been induced with my three girls and having had Pitocin with all five of my deliveries in some capacity for various reasons, I strenuously opposed a labor and delivery using Pitocin if I could at all avoid it.

The grandparents kept the kids while Sam and I went to Macon for the appointment.  Because of the holiday weekend, my induction was scheduled for Tuesday, September 8th.  I didn't cry.  For some reason, this time I was truly optimistic that I would go into labor on my own before then.  Jessica (my midwife) informed me that I was a good 4cm dilated, but still "thick" and high.  She stripped my membranes.  Then, Sam and I then stretched a thirty minute doctors appointment into a date to Sam's Club for a tire rotation and balance and McAlisters for dinner.  I joked that I should have had the broccoli and cheese soup because that's what I had eaten at Panera the night before I went into labor with Noah.

Around midnight that night, I started having that familiar cramping feeling of very early labor.  The contractions were stronger than Braxton-Hicks contractions, and happening regularly but only about every 15 minutes.  I would snooze for about 5 minutes, wake up from a contraction, wait for another one, doze off, and wake again a couple of minutes later.  This continued until about 3am when I woke Sam up and said, "I don't want you to get up or anything, but I think I'm in labor."  He jumped up, took a shower, and strongly encouraged me to get to the hospital.  He'd heard all of the stories about sixth babies coming fast on the side of the interstate and all of that.  (I confess, however, this sounded ideal to me.  If I could trust any husband and father to deliver a baby on the side of the road, I know Sam could do it.  He probably had an instructional youtube video saved to his phone just in case.)  I talked him out of rushing off just yet, and we took a (very) early morning walk around the neighborhood.  Plenty of contractions during that.  Then we watched an episode of Call the Midwife (seemed appropriate).  We left and headed for Macon.  I contracted regularly on the drive there.  We arrived at the hospital around 7am.  As they checked me in at OB Assessment, I could feel...well...nothing.  Not one contraction.  They hooked me up to the monitors.  Baby sounded great.  Checked my cervix.  Hmm.  Still 4cm, thick, and high.  "Are you sure you've been feeling contractions?"  I had two in the two hours I was being monitored at the hospital.  You would think by baby number six, I'd know what was going on.  Apparently, this is not necessarily correct.  For the first time in my life, I was sent home from the hospital in tears.  Not in "true" labor.

I felt like such a fool.

Sam listened patiently as I lamented that it wasn't real, that the baby was never going to come, that I felt so stupid.  He offered his always-ready encouragement.  We piddled around Macon for a bit before deciding that it would be wise to probably take a nap.  We went home and got a solid three hours.  This would prove integral as events of that night and the next day would unfold.

Thursday night I was exhausted, embarrassed, and depressed, but life went on.  We hung out with Grandmom, Grandpop, and Grammie over a meal of spaghetti and meatballs.  The grands took over bedtime, and around 11:15pm, I opted to try for some more sleep.  Not unlike the night before, when I laid down to try to rest, I was quickly woken from my slumber.  At 11:49, I had my first unmistakable contraction.  Not to be fooled again, I grabbed my phone and started the stopwatch.  I laid back down.  The contractions were coming at exact ten minute intervals.  They were more predictable and more real than the night before.  Rather than jump the gun, I opted for a warm bath to pass the time before I woke Sam up.  Around 2am, I woke him up to inform him that my contractions were between 7 and 8 minutes apart.  For the second time in as many nights, he got up and got ready to head to the hospital.  We got to Macon around 3am, but because I was insistent that I didn't want to get to the hospital too soon, we opted to extend our geocaching streak for one more day.  We had been saving a geocache near the hospital for just such an occasion.  We had hoped to search for it in daylight hours, but nevertheless, Sam searched high and low by the light of his cell phone at the corner of College Street and Georgia Avenue and at 3:30am penned "herdofsheps" to the log.  This would be the final find of our 383 consecutive day geocaching streak.

The parking garage was muggy that morning, and I tried my best to stall or at least leave our stuff in the car - I was not going to be embarrassed again by being sent home, but my efforts were for naught.  Sam convinced me to go ahead in with all of our belongings.  I picked up the phone to cross the pedestrian bridge and didn't even need to speak a word before they buzzed me over.  One look at the surveillance video and they could tell I was about to download a baby.  The experience in OB Assessment was more positive.  My contractions were still only about every 7 minutes, but given that this was my sixth baby and that there had been progress from yesterday morning (I was now 5cm, 80% effaced, and the head was actually to a numerical station for the first time in 6 babies), they went ahead and admitted me.

I was moved to Room M322, the same suite I delivered Abby in 9 years earlier.  The night nurses who would be off duty in just an hour and a half did all of the necessary administrative work and lamented that they would not be around to see whether Baby Sheppard was a boy or a girl.  Apparently, surprises are as fun for the nurses as they are for Mom and Dad.  The nurse started an IV line (as discussed with my midwives) as a precaution.  Then Alyssa (the nurse) called to touch base with my doctor.  She came back saying that they were going to start me on a Pitocin drip and my heart dropped.  Thankfully, Sam is not scared and immediately spoke up on my behalf.  I really, really didn't want Pitocin.  Especially not yet.  After speaking with my midwife again, she recalled my plan to do intermittent monitoring and no drugs.  This happened as the shift change occurred, so when Alyssa left she told me she handpicked my day nurse who was awesome with natural childbirths.  Her name was Noreen.  As soon as she told me, I realized that the room number was not the only commonality between Shep 6 and Abby's deliveries.  Noreen was also the nurse on duty when I delivered Abby.

Alyssa unhooked my monitors.  Freedom!  I was able to walk around and come and go as I pleased, unhindered by IV fluids or constant monitoring.  Every thirty minutes, I was to check back by the room for "intermittent monitoring" where they would verify that baby was enduring labor perfectly.  This was my least favorite part because I have a big tendency to wiggle, knocking the monitors haywire, and setting off alarms.  Let's just say my twenty minute strips weren't of the best quality.  I met Noreen as we passed by on a loop.  My contractions were more frequent while I was up and about, but still nowhere as close as I would have guessed.  They would not get any closer than 5-6 minutes apart until transition.

While I was dead set against Pitocin, I was totally okay with breaking my water.  In my previous experience, this is what really got labor moving as my babies tend to ride high...forever...until the water is broken.  Jessica broke my water around 8:30am, and apparently, I have a very strong bag of water.  The first tool she used didn't work to break it, so she had to resort to a second option.  It worked.  I was optimistic that things would move very quickly (as they always had previously) from that point.  I told her that I was discouraged that my contractions were still so far apart, and she said that she once had a veteran mom deliver a baby with contractions coming every ten minutes.  So, it wasn't completely unfounded.  I was making progress, at this point up to 7cm and 90% effaced, but the head was still pretty high.  I continued with the status quo - walk around, get monitored for a little while, repeat.  The contractions were definitely intensifying, but not getting any closer.  On one round through the hallways, we passed through the waiting room so I could give the kids a hug.  It was great to see their faces.

When we got back to the room, I suggested to Sam that he send the grandparents and kids to lunch since things weren't progressing as quickly as I expected.  They divvy'd up the kids and went to the cafeteria and in-hospital Chick-Fil-A.  As I reached transition, my contractions finally started coming faster and I opted to stay in the room rather than walk around.  This was around 12:30pm.  I got a call from the customer service desk saying that Pastor Bob was there to see me.  I said, "Sure send him back."  Sam said, "Are you sure?  Your contractions are coming like every other minute?"  I knew he wouldn't stay long and just wanted to pray over us, and I was happy to be the subject of an earnest man's prayers at that point.  He did just that, and left, passing through the same waiting room to greet our parents and children on his way out of the hospital - a truly perfect person for a pastoral care position.

My midwife called to check in.  She was off duty at 1pm, and supposed to be en route to Mississippi at that time.  I was rapidly approaching the time to push, but I knew I probably would not get her.  She suggested that since I'd only progressed a couple of centimeters since 4am, maybe it was time to consider Pitocin.  I relented, but it would turn out to be unnecessary.  The next face I saw was not that of my midwife, but of the head honcho in the practice, Dr. Luhrs.  She popped in because she had a couple of circumcisions to perform and knew that Jessica was on her way out of town.  It turns out, so was Dr. Luhrs, but only had to go as far as Charleston, so her drive was not as daunting.  At this point, I was 8cm and I was ready to be done.  She had me push through a contraction to see if the head came down at all when I pushed and she realized that the second bag of water had not broken.  As soon as she broke that, within literal minutes, I was ready to push.

I recounted the events of the pushing stage to Sam through watery eyes as I recalled them the next day.  I couldn't even think about it without getting emotional.  I still can't.  He said that my recollection of how the events transpired was totally different than how he saw it.  Nevertheless, I can only speak from my perspective.

When the Noreen checked me and said, "You're still at 8cm."  I said, "Are you sure?  Because I really feel like I'm ready to push."  She said, "Yes, you're at 8, but it's entirely possible that you could be delivering a baby in two minutes."  I could tell.  At this point, there were no doctors or midwives anywhere in sight.  It was 1:15pm so Jessica was supposed to be gone, Dr. Luhrs was never supposed to have been there, and the substitute midwife, Jeri was supposedly on call but hadn't yet checked in.  Poor Noreen didn't know what to do.  I was paralyzed by my contractions which were coming on top of each other without a single second in between them.  In my previous, Pitocin-regulated labors the contractions during transition were intense, but came at predictable intervals.  This time, there was not so much as 10 seconds rest in between them.  As soon as it subsided, the next one began.  I felt like I couldn't catch my breath.  I couldn't open my eyes.  I prayed and reminded myself that each contraction got me closer to finding out whether we were adding a boy or girl to our family, to finding out what color hair or if they had hair at all, to finding out how big this baby I was carrying had grown inside of me.  I felt a familiar level of frenzy about the room, but I was concentrating too hard to care.  All at once, Dr. Luhrs, Jessica, and Jeri all showed up at the same time to deliver Shep 6.  As they quickly discussed who would stay (Dr. Luhrs pulled rank and "ordered" Jessica to go on and get her oil changed before her trip, she would deliver this one), I started to panic.

That familiar phrase I've uttered each of my non-epidural deliveries came out.

With closed eyes and tensed muscles, I said, "I can't."

Jessica was still in the room and came to my side.  She held my hand and in the gentlest voice said to me, "You've done the hard work.  You're almost there.  You can do this.  You just have to focus for a little while longer."  I opened my eyes, nodded, and with renewed resolve, decided to get. the baby.  OUT OF ME.

You see, Jessica was the nurse who assisted my old doctor with Leah's delivery.  Hers was by far the most traumatic of the six, but Jessica was the first person to equip me with the knowledge that when you feel like quitting, that's when you're almost finished.  It was something I've clung to in the subsequent two deliveries, but that I needed a gentle reminder of this time, and she was right there and ready.  Even though she wasn't able to actually deliver my baby, those few words were instrumental in giving me the encouragement to keep going this time.

Maybe you watch Call the Midwife, but this scene immediately came to mind:

Dr. Turner:  Well done.  You made Brenda McKenty feel safe.
Chummy:  Magic handkerchief.  Works every time.
Dr. Turner:  No.  *You* made her feel safe.  It's the mark of a good nurse.  Midwife too.  Everything else is just mechanics.

It took one bad push and five good ones to deliver sweet baby Hannah.  After the fourth good push, her head was out.  Sam looked at me and said, "Her head is out.  Full of dark hair!  You did it."  One more push and we found out it was a beautiful baby girl. With a head full of dark hair and the longest fingers and toes of any baby I've ever seen, she was laid on my chest.  There are no words to describe the complete sense of relief after delivering a baby.  She was here, she was safe, and she was out of me.  It was a beautiful moment.  Being a baby friendly hospital, they didn't clean her off, or weigh her, or anything before I got to hold her and nurse her.  She latched like she'd been doing it all her life.  All of the kids got to come back and meet her with special permission from Noreen (there are only supposed to be 3 visitors at a time in the maternity pods), then the grandparents all held her.  When everyone cleared out, the baby nurse came in to check her out.  She weighed 9lb 1oz, measured 21 3/4" long, and 14.5" around her head.  She didn't look that big, thanks to her long, lean limbs and digits.  She's going to be a basketball player.  Or a piano player.  Maybe both.

In the hours and days that followed, I felt the best I ever have post-delivery.  I had no pain.  And other than being exhausted already from the days leading up to the delivery, I couldn't have asked for a better recovery.  I could even feel my mood lifting.

We are delighted that God has blessed our family with the precious Hannah Rae.

 We promise to love you so.

Thank you so much to our friends and family who have supported, encouraged, prayed for, and tangibly gifted us in celebration of Hannah.  We love you all!
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