Probably Melodrama.

For the past two years, back to school was just that - back to school. There were no accompanying emotions or dropoffs that could only possibly be completed with sunglasses on to hide the tears.  Ben is entering 2nd grade this year, so he's an old pro at it.  This will be his fourth year at the school.  Three years ago, he was exactly where his little sister is right now - entering Pre-K.

For most school systems around the country, the emotion comes when you send your child to kindergarten.  It's the first time, typically, that the child is away from home or in a formal school setting (other than daycare) for the entire day.  Here, though, a lucky number of lottery-winners get to send their kids to Pre-K, which is all day, at the same school, with the same general schedule and format as the older grades.  Thus, diminishing the magnitude of kindergarten and heightening the enormity that is Pre-K.

Not everyone chooses to put their child on the lottery list.  Some parents choose to keep their kids in private Pre-K programs, or at home with them, or in a daycare setting.  For us, it was a no-brainer.  Ben thrived in the same Pre-K program as one of the oldest in his class (missing being in the grade above by just 5 days).  Abby is essentially in the same spot, missing the cutoff by only one month.

This is all more than I'm sure you cared to know.

The thing is - when I dropped Ben off that first week of Pre-K, I was a hot mess.  Makeup everywhere.  Wearing sunglasses to hide it all, even though I'm sure I looked like a fool with them on inside the not-necessarily-brightly-lit primary school.  I ate breakfast with him all week in the cafeteria to make sure he'd know how to open his milk carton, and that he'd know what to do when he finished eating, and that he wouldn't get lost heading back to his classroom afterward.  The entire situation was an unknown for both of us.  I was ten times more terrified than he was.  I tried to be brave for his sake, but I'm pretty sure I failed miserably at it.  Ben was our first (duh).  So, he was probably a little too babied.  He wasn't as independent as he could have been.  But I quickly found out, he could and would do just fine better than fine without me.

Now, I'm facing the same situation with my precious Abby.  She, however, has been independent since birth.  She has always marched to the beat of her very own drummer.  As structured and orderly as Ben is, that's how whimsical and carefree Abby is.  She has been grinning ear to ear since she found out she was going to be going to the same school as Ben.  Every morning for the past week she has woken up disappointed because she had to wait four, then three, then two, then just one more day to go to school.  At bedtime tonight, she practically sprinted to her bed and forced those big blue eyes shut because she wants morning to be here so badly.  "Don't forget to wake me up for school, Mommy," she told me before I left her room.

I couldn't possibly.

Maybe it's pregnancy hormones, or the fact that Sam left this afternoon for a TDY in Austin, or because it's normal to get emotional about these things, but dangit, it all came crashing down tonight.

Abby's not going to be here with us tomorrow.

I am going to miss that little imp.

I pray that school is everything her wild imagination has filled her brain with, that she wakes up every morning so excited to go to school, that she will find life-long friends, and learn invaluable lessons - not just of the academic variety.

But, above all, I just want her to stay....Abby

While Sarah and I figure out what it's like to share each other's company one-on-one all day, my two older kids will be off filling their brains with knowledge, learning common sense, and making friends.  That sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  Yes.  I'll try not to feel so sad about it then.

And I'll try not to think about not having Abby around all day to teach Sarah all of the necessary big sister stuff...like how to make silly faces and where to find the bananas under the flaps of her Little People book.

And I'll put it in the back of my mind how Abby won't be here to hug baby sister's guts out even while she's wearing a Styrofoam bathing suit or to share a snack with her over some blocks and serious conversation.

In the meantime, I'll have to teach Sarah a thing or two about how to cheese for the camera like her beautiful big sis, because I feel some photo ops coming up with little girl #2.

More than anything, I will remember how blessed I am to have had the wonderful opportunity to be at home with these two sisters who, without question, have gone from bickering little girls to best friends over the past nine months.  And to think, I was ever upset about losing that silly old job...

I know you're just going to Pre-K, Abby, but, man, I'm going to miss you.


The Man who has Everything

Every year around this time and at Christmas, I get a familiar sense of foreboding.  It's all due to the fact that it's gift-buying time for the man in my life, and I have not a single clue ever what to get him.

One time I got him a fancy kind of remote that you don't have to point at the tv to work.  That was my best idea ever...of course, he gave me the idea.  And, of course, it got dropped so many times, we decided we shouldn't buy things like that until at least 2020 when our children are old enough to be trusted not to use remotes as their favorite indoor throwing objects.

The thing is, he's a pretty simple guy.  He doesn't need anything.  If he does, he has it.  And if it's frivolous, he'd just as soon not have it.  It's one of the things I love the most about him.  (And also the reason that he's much better at Dave Ramsey's "gazelle intensity" than me.  I love me some drive-thru coffee and Sonic Happy Hour drinks.)

Last year, I dedicated a blog post to my beloved on his birthday.  I read it last night, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to outdo that this year.

Instead, I'm going to go the cutesy route and interview the kids to see what they have to say about their dear ol' dad.  I cannot guarantee the results of this exercise, but I'm going to give it a go nonetheless.

Question #1:  What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Ben: He likes to play Wii with me.
Abby:  I like to hug him!  I like to love him.

Question #2:  What would you give Daddy for his birthday if money were no object?
Ben:  Something that would help him do whatever he likes best easier.
Abby:  Shoes!
Sarah:  House.

Question #3:  How old is Daddy?
Ben:  29
Abby:  No!
Sarah:  Daddy.

Question #4:  Where's your favorite place Daddy's ever taken you?
Ben:  Busch Gardens...No!  Disney World!
Abby:  The place where there's water and you get in the log.  (That's Busch Gardens.  Le Flume.)
Sarah:  I dunno.

Question #5:  What makes Daddy laugh?
Ben:  He thinks me accidentally breaking something I own is funny.
Abby:  Gagee!
Sarah:  ***random singing noises***  (She's probably the most correct on that question.)

Question #6:  What's Daddy's favorite restaurant?
Ben:  Bojangles.
Abby:  Steak & Shake
Sarah:  And shake.  (Please repeat after Abby.)

Question #7:  How does Daddy make you laugh?
Ben:  Tickling me.
Abby:  Yes.  I like him to wiggle.  (I don't know what this means.  I might need him to demonstrate when he gets home.)
Sarah:  "Choo choo!"

Question #8:  What is Daddy's favorite food?
Ben:  I would guess steak.
Abby:  I would guess waffles.
Sarah:  Umm, pork chop.

Question #9:  Who does Daddy love best?
Ben:  Me!
Abby:  Me!
Sarah:  Me!

Question #10:  What do you want to say to Daddy on his birthday?
Ben:  Happy Birthday.  (monotone) [pause] Change mine to "I love you".
Abby:  Happy Birthday to Daddy!  Happy Birthday to Daddy!  (singing)
Sarah:  [After hearing Ben] I luh you.

I considered waiting until the kids were dressed and combed to attempt the singing of Happy Birthday, however, they were so agreeable about it, I took the opportunity when it presented.  After all, this is real life.  Bed head, nightgowns, and all.

We love you, Sam Daddy!
Happy Birthday!

Here's to at least twenty-nine more (times two).


I'm baaaaacccckkkk.

In case you haven't noticed, I've been absent from the blog world for a little while.  Over a week, actually.  This is a big deal for me.  I wouldn't exactly blame writer's block, though it played a small part.  And I can't blame it entirely on being away from home, even though that was for sure a factor.  After all, I wasn't away from a laptop, or even a decent internet connection (three cheers for fast internet at my parents' house now - hip hip hooray!!!).

You see, I've had this secret.  

And I'm really bad at secrets.

So I just - laid low.

But the time has come for the big reveal.

Any guesses?

We're moving.
That's a lie.  I love this place!

 I got a job!
Nope, nothing happening with that either.

I'm nurturing my inner child.
Literally.  I'm nurturing my inner child.  Yes.  This one is true.

That's right, folks.  5+1=6 
Sam always has had a thing for even numbers.

Expect Shep #4 to debut sometime around March 6th, 2011.

Don't we need another one to help pull that rope behind Sarah?

I have been feeling great (Hallelujah!).  We're so very excited.  And as if there were any doubt, Ben is hoping for a boy.  I'll take what God gives me.  Thanks for celebrating in this blessing with me!

And just a farewell tip for those of you who tend to speak first and think later:
You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.  ~Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"

Mom Things on Vacation

The Mom Things have been on vacation because, well, this mom has been on vacation.  Vacation of the taking-a-break-from-blogging variety and the literal kind.

But I'm back.  And if no one in the world missed this "feature" of my blog, that's okay.  Because I'm secure like that.  Thank you, Beth Moore and So Long Insecurity.

Enough of all of that though.  On to more important things...

Your "all boy" seven year old opts out of sparklers at your 4th of July celebration in favor of catching frogs in a bucket.

You are never more acutely aware of how well your childrens' voices carry than when you are in a hotel room.

You know that even though your two-year-old has gotten much better about not waking up during the van-to-bedroom transition in the event she falls asleep on the way back from somewhere, she will not sleep through an elevator trip to the fourth floor of your hotel.  This means after a 5-minute nap, you are in for at least an hour of protest before she falls back to sleep again.

After at least an hour of protest from your two-year-old after the 5-minutes of sleep that, to her, counted as a complete nap, you had the satisfaction of seeing her sleep soundly in her pack-n-play inside the bathroom of your hotel room.  And that kind of satisfaction is of the Winning! variety.

When it comes to a Battle of Wills, it's best not to get involved with a two year old.  But then again, these are the times when God teaches you patience and discipline, so maybe you shouldn't skip them all.

If you partake of all-you-can-drink coke floats for lunch and nap through dinner, you're probably on vacation.

When you retrieve the bits and pieces of your cell phone back after a 205 foot fall from the Griffon rollercoaster at Busch Gardens, you're instantaneously relieved that it was your cell phone that experienced the fall, and not your thrill-seeking seven year old instead.

When you planned to stop by the Brick Yard at Colonial Williamsburg and help them stomp the clay, you imagined that all three of your kids would love it.  You were wrong.  Just more evidence that you never know what to expect from a two year old (who couldn't even wait for me to take a picture to get out of the mess). 

 "I don't want it!  Out!"

After seeing spa-like accommodations for the clean-up, you wish you would have gotten in the mud and stomped around.  Who knew it would result in a foot rub at the hands of your amazing husband?

Even your kids need some "joe" to keep them going on your vacation escapades.  (Okay, so I confess...it's just milk and O.J., but it's far less likely to spill in the coffee cups with lids.)

After over a week away from home in-each-others'-faces either in the van or in a hotel room, your kids still manage to love on each other.  And that is pretty dang awesome.

Especially when it comes in the form of a bedtime story....

That's all, folks!

Have a very blessed week!


#35 - Read the Bible in 365 days.

Just when I begin to think that undertaking The List was a terrible idea, it brings me a victory so meaningful that I figure even if I don't finish it, it will be absolutely worth it in the end.

While the prospect of standing at 39.6% completion (40/101 tasks) is less than ideal, I just completed one of the self-labeled "major" list items...

#35 - Read the Bible in 365 days.

Since I have been doing so badly on the rest of the list, I devoted myself wholeheartedly to this task.  I downloaded a Bible-in-90-Days schedule back at the first of the year.  Well, that timeline didn't happen, and I didn't expect that it would, but I did manage to read the whole book from cover to cover in 180 days, completing it on July 2.

It was awesome to create the habit of spending time in the Word day in and day out.  It was also awesome to hear scripture come to mind when I encountered things in day to day life.  I'm ashamed that I hadn't done it sooner, but I'm thrilled that I didn't wait any longer.

Without question, the hardest books for me to get through were the 1 and 2 Chronicles (mostly because of the names) and Jeremiah in the Old Testament.  Revelation was tough too.  Apparently, I'm not inclined to understand prophecy.  But then again, that's the nature of it, I think.

One cool thing to happen to me was that I hit Samuel and Kings just as I was going through the study of David in our spring Bible study, so my personal reading schedule highlighted my "homework" for the study.

I simply devoured the Proverbs.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6
The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16: 9
The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.  Proverbs 16:21
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.  Proverbs 18:2
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.  Proverbs 29:11
I found this gem in Ecclesiastes (and this is as close to political as I'll get on this blog): 
A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left.  Ecclesiastes 10:2
And I have always absolutely loved Timothy and James. 
All Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin.  James 4:17
But this time as I read through the Bible, I developed a new appreciation for Paul's journeys...both spiritually and geographically.  The book of Acts has become, perhaps, my favorite.  Aside from Jesus' own crucifixion, the death of Stephen, the first martyr for the Christian faith, was the most moving and memorable event in the Bible for me.  After unashamedly proclaiming his love for Jesus and attempting to share the message with everyone who would listen, an angry mob at the hands of then-Saul stoned him to death.  But Stephen, full of grace and the Holy Spirit ended his life with the dignity that could only possibly come from a relationship with God -
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  And falling to his knees he cried out, "Lord do not hold this sin against them."  Acts 7:59-60 
(Talk about being convicted about forgiving others.  That right there was a lesson for me.)

It seems as though I'm skipping the obvious - that is - the Gospels, whereby we learn of Jesus' ministry and his death and resurrection.  I hate to gloss over them, but having been born and raised in a Christian family, these are all very familiar to me.  They are absolutely, unequivocally important.

It's true that the more time you spend in the Word, the more time you want to spend in the Word.  It was awesome to experience the transition from feeling like a chore (that's right, I'll admit it) to anticipating and being excited about spending more time in it.  I'm going to start over now.  This is one book, I am certain, that will never get old...and one from which I will take away something new and different every single time.

#35...you have been checked!


The One who Made Me "Mom"

Turns out, one can blog on vacation - during naptime.  And if you hurry.  I promised birth stories, and here's the first.  The birth of Benjamin Ryan.  The little man who made me "Mom".

I woke up around 3:30am with, what I thought was, gas pains.  I flipped over in bed.  That didn’t help.  I flipped over again.  Still no relief.  I got up to use the bathroom.  That didn’t help.  Then, the pains started coming and going.  That’s when it suddenly occurred to me, “Hey…maybe this is it.”  It still amazes me that it began so anti-climactically, like labor pains were the last possibility I came to after ruling everything else out.  When I realized the pains were contractions that were coming pretty regularly (about every 10 minutes), I woke Sam up and told him, “I think we need to go the hospital.”  He isn’t the best about waking up in the middle of the night, and, so, mid-doze he suggested that I take a bath to ease the pain.  That seemed like a good idea.  I didn’t want to get to the hospital too early.  I’d been watching a lot of TLC’s Baby Story and Discovery Health’s Birth Day.  This was part of what I considered to be my “research” regarding child birth.  I didn’t want to be one of those moms who showed up at the hospital dilated to 1cm, only to wait days before the baby actually came.  I was determined not to get there too soon.

After the bath (which, admittedly, did help relieve some of the discomfort), I walked around the tiny living room, dining room, kitchen of our house, hoping to progress things.  I didn’t turn the light on and the floor creaked.  I was worried about waking my mom up who was resting upstairs.  She stayed with us for the 2 weeks prior to delivery, anxiously awaiting her first grandbaby.  She was an invaluable help to us during our move (yes, the move that transpired just one week before delivery), and in getting the nursery ready.  Who am I kidding?  She helped with a lot more than that!  Knowing full well that the contractions were getting more intense and closer together (every 5 minutes), I fully woke Sam up.  He got ready, and ran upstairs to tell my already-awake mother (who wakes up at the drop of a pin), that this was it!  We were heading to the hospital. 

It was 5:30am when we got to the Medical Center of Central Georgia.  The drive to the hospital was an exciting one.  Sam drove faster than he should have, including one questionable “race” at a lane-ending, but there was very little traffic on the road that early in the day.  We got to the part of the road on Hardeman by the interstate where the left most lane is almost at a 45 degree angle, riddled with huge pits where inlets used to be on grade with the road.  I was in the middle of a full-blown contraction at this point, and I just remember thinking “PLEASE get in the middle where it’s not so bumpy!” 

I checked in at OB Assessment.  Sam helped with the paperwork, while I attempted feebly to get a urine sample and change into a gown in the midst of contractions.  By the time I got back out to the exam table, and the nurse checked me, I was at 5cm.  It looked like I was in for a pretty quick labor.  I was so worried that I wasn’t going to have time to get an epidural.  (Again, I’d heard this a lot on those birth shows!)  When they moved me to a room, the doctor on record was Dr. Pope (not my primary OB).  I was going to be kind of sad if he delivered the baby, but at that point it wasn’t a huge concern.  Dr. Durso materialized quickly and almost chastized me for not calling him!  (Leave it to me to not want to inconvenience my obstetrician during the birth of my child!  But, like I said, I wanted to be sure it was the real thing.)  He calmed my fears about the epidural and informed me that the anesthesiologist would be in shortly.  When he got there, the epidural process was quick and painless.  Unfortunately, it only numbed the right side of my body.  I could still feel everything on the left side.  Leave it to me to be an oddball when it comes to something like that. 

I labored for a few more hours, and Dr. Durso came back to break my water.  I remember seeing the hook and thinking that it looked like the little plastic thing my mom had to pull the tray out of the toaster oven so we wouldn't get burned.  Funny how thoughts like that occur at the most random moments.  Anyway, what a sensation that was...like all of the sudden I'd lost control of my bladder and it was just wet everywhere.  The bad news was that my water was not clear which meant little man had his first bowel movement in utero.  From the get-go, I was having to deal with newborn poop.  I was ready to push.
It was such a relief to be able to push through the contractions rather than sit through them.  I didn't push for very long when the doctor brought out the vacuum.  I wasn't too excited about it, but he seemed to think I needed help.  As a twenty-year old first-time mom, I just let him go for it.  At 10:55am, my healthy-as-an-ox big man was born at a strapping 8 pounds 13.7 ounces and 21 inches long.  The Stork Squad examined him for any ill effects from the meconium he passed before birth and he checked out perfectly.  He was an angry little, red thing.  (As years passed by, I would learn that some things never change.)
Sam went out to announce the news to my mom and mother-in-law who were waiting just outside the door.  (Maybe I'm weird, but the only person in my delivery room is my husband.)

My mom cried.  (And I'm sure she'd also be thrilled I posted this on the internet for everyone to see.)

While the doctor stitched me up, they cleaned Benjamin up in the nursery.  Sam stayed with him.  It felt like an eternity before I got to properly meet the little guy.  It was probably twenty or thirty minutes later that I held him for the first time and he nursed.  It was at that moment that the enormity of the task before me sank in.  This baby was mine.  He was going home with meI was going to be responsible for him day in and day out.  We'd been hanging out for nine months, sure, but it was instantaneously different.>

And even though I was just a twenty-year-old girl with a brand new baby on my lap, I matured about two decades in that moment.  I've always been a bit of an old soul, but when I became a mom, there was no question about it.  I had no choice.  And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
And so began our life as our little family of three -

What an adventure it would be.


The Poor Middle Child

So, the day before we left home for three weeks, a trip for which I had packed not one single thing until the morning we left, that just so happened to coincide with a holiday weekend was probably not the time to start an extravaganza of any sort.  Live and learn.

In case you can't tell, it didn't happen last weekend.  Furthermore, I now find myself in a hotel room with my family of five, which, let me tell you, is not exactly conducive to blogging.  I'm really good at setting myself up for failure with my unrealistic expectations of myself, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

Since I started with the birth of my youngest child, I supposed I shall go backwards in time and move on my sweet middle child.

After a rather large first baby, I tried so hard not to gain too much weight with my second pregnancy.  I succeeded in gaining only 24 pounds (maybe a lot for some, but not compared to my first).  I was committed to exercising and eating right during Abby's pregnancy.  That's why when her due date came and went without so much as a contraction, I decided I was going to walk, walk, walk her out of my body.  I think my giant pregnant belly walked 15 miles the weekend prior to my induction.  It wore me out, and I was exhausted not just physically but mentally.  The day before I was set to be induced, I hid out in the only place I knew I could get some privacy and laid down on the floor of my closet for a nap.  Turns out that was a bad idea because Sam and my parents (who had come down for the impending birth) couldn't find me and assumed I'd fallen out on a walk somewhere in labor.  I was clearly experiencing some sort of temporary insanity, because I also had an insatiable need to make sausage balls and cheese straws the night before I was induced. 

Since I had tried everything short of castor oil to get labor started, and nothing worked, I went in on Monday morning for my scheduled induction.  For some reason, she just wouldn't drop.  I'd had regular contractions on my walks, but they would never continue.  I woke up early in the morning after a surprisingly restful night of sleep.  I stood in the shower thinking about how surreal it was that the next time I stood there, I'd have two babies at home.  I had scheduled my induction on a day that another doctor aside from my primary O.B. was on call.  I actually did that on purpose because I liked that particular doctor better.  Needless to say I was surprised when my doctor walked through the door to break my water around 7:30 that morning after 30 minutes on pitocin. The anesthesiologist came to put my epidural in around 9:30am.  Abby's head was so high that the nurse had a hard time even checking my cervix.

As my contractions continued, I could feel them getting stronger and longer...and I wasn't really sure why...considering I'd already gotten the epi. Needless to say, it wasn't working.  My legs were completely numb, but I could feel everything from my thighs up.  I told the nurse I was going to have to get the dr back in to check it out or fix it.  She said she wanted to check me first because I might just be feeling pressure.  As it turns out I was complete and ready to push...but I still wish I could have gotten some more drugs!  The doctor came in and her head was still very high...despite the contractions.  After a quick examination, he informed me that she was "OP" or face-up, which is apparently why she couldn't get into position.  He wanted me to push for a while and if she didn't drop down he would come back and "help me out."  I pushed for about 45 minutes....feeling EVERYTHING.  At that point, I looked at the nurse and said, "How long am I going to have to do this!?"  I guess she thought it was cute to be coy with a pregnant woman in transition labor because she replied with a smile, "As long as it takes."  Sorry, but I was looking for an answer like, "Exactly 7 more minutes."  Guess that was unrealistic of me.  But reason goes out the window during labor.  At least, it does for me.  Well, it actually goes out the window sometime around the positive pregnancy test.

When the doctor came back, Abby still wasn't close to coming out on her own, so he employed the use of the "kiwi", which is a tiny vacuum they stick on the baby's head to help get them out.  He was hoping to be able to turn her with it, but she decided to be stubborn and stay face up.  We decided it was because our little sunshine wanted to see what the world has to offer her, rather than be welcomed in by a sterile hospital floor.  After just 6.5 hours at the hospital, Abby was born at 1:42pm. She weighed 8lbs 8oz and was 21 1/4 inches long. She has a head full of honey blond hair that was the talk of all of the nurses.  She had a scab on the top of her head from the kiwi, but it was gone in a matter of about twelve hours.  Newborns are amazing like that.

My parents and Sam's mom were there for the birth and to help with her big brother in the waiting room.  Benjamin welcomed Abby right into the world just minutes after she was born.  It was love at first sight. 

All of my concerns about not being able to love another child as much as I loved my first dissolved as quickly as they developed, and no matter how cheesy or cliche it might be, I immediately believed the saying I'd read somewhere...

A mother's love doesn't divide.  It multiplies.

I skedaddled from the hospital as quickly as they would let me, but not before one of the sweetest nurses I ever met informed me that she absolutely loved the name Abigail because she was her favorite character in the Old Testament. 

To sum up, Abigail courageously dissuaded David from taking revenge on her foolish husband, Nabal, who had earlier refused and insulted David and his men when they requested retribution of food for protecting Nabal's flocks of sheep.  She spoke to David,  predicting that he would rise to kingship at the hand of God, but warned that acting on his own desires to take revenge could jeopardize that.  David became enamored with Abigail and took her as his own wife when Nabal soon died.

Abigail - name comes from the Hebrew name אֲבִיגַיִל / אֲבִיגָיִל Avigail, meaning "father rejoice" or "father's joy".

Father's Joy 

That, I assure you, she is.


A Birth Story Extravaganza!!! (Okay, it might not be *that* exciting.)

As part of that old list that has collecting cobwebs within the depths of my blog archives, I am reading the Bible, cover-to-cover for the first time in my life.  Maybe I should be ashamed to admit it, but I figure better late than never.

As I was flying through the Gospel of John (maybe it's just me, but the New Testament is riveting), I came upon a passage in Chapter 16 that caught me by surprise.  It's a topic that I've discussed a lot of times with various friends.  Most of them agree.  There are few dissenters, but I tend to put most of them in the categories of "Dramatic" and "Wimpy" (of course, I say that in jest, but behind every joke, there's a little bit of truth - am I right?) with a few exceptions, of course.

The context of the passage is Jesus telling his disciples not to be sorrowful about his death, knowing that they would be sad, but reassuring them that the sorrow would turn to joy because He would defeat death, then their joy could never be taken away from them.  Just like Jesus does, so often, he provided an analogy - that of a woman who has just given birth to a child.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.  John 16:21
I maintain that childbirth is designed this way.  It's supposed to hurt.  God promised it would.  But the truly miraculous part is how quickly we forget that pain.  We can't re-manufacture the pain of childbirth with just our memory.  That's awesome.  At least, I think it is.  I know others contend that they vividly remember childbirth and it's accompanying pain.  The thing is, I remember that it hurt, but that's such minutiae compared to the joy of a brand new baby.  And that is what I remember.

So thinking back on childbirth, and how I haven't done a Flashback Friday in ages, and how I actually started this blog after Sarah was born, I hereby declare this Birth Story Weekend.  I typed Sarah's up within a week of her birth, while it was fresh on my mind.  I wrote both Ben's and Abby's in February of 2008, 4.5 and 2 years, respectively, after their births, mainly out of guilt that I hadn't recorded their precious entrances into the world for posterity.

I'm going to remedy that now.  With all the gory details.

First, my most recent, and therefore most detailed birth story - of my sweet and sometimes sour Sarah.

I got up and ready for what I hoped would be my final OB appointment on May 13, 2009. After dropping Ben off at school, I headed for the doctor's office with Abby in tow. I had already resorted to bribing her with a trip to Walmart for some flip flops after we went to Mommy’s doctor if she was a good girl. She obliged. To my surprise, Sam showed up a few minutes after I checked in to help with lil’ miss, and I was SO relieved. I really wasn’t expecting him, and it was great he was there because (of course) the doctor was running late…even for her first appointment of the day. When I got back to the room, she checked me and was having a really hard time reaching my cervix. I was dilated to 4cm and was about 60% effaced, but the baby was still way high. Then she looked at me and said, “Do you want to have this baby today?” I was so caught off guard. I absolutely, in no way, had considered that she might send me to the hospital that day. We’d discussed waiting on induction until week 41, so it wasn’t even on my mind. Sam had just finished telling me a few nights earlier that the sooner I had the baby, the better. He was slated to go to Oklahoma for a work trip the first week of June, and the older the baby was when he left, the more comfortable he would be leaving us.

My mind was totally racing. I was conflicted.  I had been dead set against induction, but now that it was facing me, it was so tempting.  I weighed the pros and cons.  Doing it that day was appealing because we could give Mrs. Lisa (my mother-in-law) enough notice to come on over. (The planner in me was going crazy, after not knowing the gender, not having a nursery, not knowing what kind of clothes to buy, it was hard sitting and waiting for labor to happen, especially with our closest help being 2.5 hours away.) My parents were flying to Scotland that night for my dad’s singing trip around 8pm, and it was killing me to think about how hard it would be to get in touch with them over there to share the news. I was hoping that if we went ahead with the induction that I’d be able to reach them on their cell phone before they took off.

The major con was that I was planning on a natural child birth, and I knew (from personal experience) that pitocin-induced contractions were way more intense than natural labor contractions. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the induction.  In retrospect, I realize that I was putting other people ahead of my own desires, but after the way things turned out I am convinced that I made the right decision. As many of us who have experienced childbirth (or parenting) find out, things don’t always (or hardly ever) go the way that we plan.

When I left the doctor's office, it was around 10am. I was all kind of emotional, tears streaming down my face for a million different reasons. I was so ready to have the baby, but I suddenly felt so unprepared. From the backseat of the van, Abby looked at me and said, “We go to Walmart, Mommy?” And at that point, I just lost it. It was all so real, and I was suddenly mourning the promotion of Abby from “baby girl” to “big sister”. The flip flops were going to have to wait, and that killed me.

We called Mrs. Lisa, who was called in from the field trip bus by the elementary school secretary who had received Sam’s call. I called my sister and my parents to let them know we might have a baby today, so don’t stray too far from the phone. Sam went back to work to officially check out for the day. On his way home, he picked up Ben from school and we did a whirlwind cleaning of the house before we went to the hospital.

My doctor was coming over “around lunchtime” to the hospital to break my water, and I was preoccupied with getting there before her, so, unfortunately for Sam, I wasn’t in the best of moods during the cleaning spree. He was trying to kill time for his mom to get here, and really, that was fine.  He even washed the car.  I'm sorry to say, I wasn't much help.

We arrived at the hospital at 12:51pm. I checked in at the registration desk, and even though I’d pre-registered, it was about 30 minutes before I got called back by a nurse.  The nurse who escorted to me to my room was awesome, and I was lucky enough to have her throughout the delivery. I did the urine-sample, change-into-a-gown routine, then she hooked me up to an IV and monitors. I told her that I was going to try to forego using pain meds, and she was supportive, but told me she was at my service, and if I changed my mind to let her know. She started the pitocin around 2pm, which was also about the same time that Dr. Shirley got there to break my water (which, for the first time in my birthing experiences was clear when they broke it…hooray!). I started having regular, fairly painless contractions. When she re-checked me around 4pm, I was at 5cm and about 75% effaced. The baby had dropped some, but not a lot. (I had been counting on the baby dropping way down as soon as my water broke.) I was pretty depressed at this point to have only progressed by a centimeter in 2 hours.

That’s when the contractions started intensifying. The pitocin had been upping itself every hour. I could no longer talk through the contractions, and I felt like they were getting ahold of me. Sam was at my side with a crossword puzzle that I’d packed in my bag trying to distract me, and while I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world, I just couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. I just kept thinking, at an inch every two hours, this was going to end up being a 12 hour labor, and with the contractions getting so much more intense, I didn’t think I could handle it.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to tell my parents before they left. I was disappointed that I was giving in to the pain.  I told Sam how badly it hurt and he looked at me and said, “Jennie, no one is going to think any less of you if you get an epidural.” I said, “I will.” And he said, “You’re the only one.”  And he was probably right.  He went and got the nurse for me who snagged the CNA on her way to a c-section. She put the epidural in.  [A funny aside…while she was about to stick me with the big ol’ needle to get things started, I was breathing through the most intense contraction I’d had yet. The CNA said to me, “You need to relax your shoulders.” Hahahaha. I can’t do that on a normal basis, I certainly couldn’t do it in the middle of a contraction!]  The nurse put the catheter in, then she checked me.

That’s when we all got the biggest surprise of the day. By 5:45 pm, I was at 10 centimeters, complete, and ready to push. Needless to say, she pulled the catheter right back out and called the doctor. Within 10 minutes, the delivery equipment was set up, the doctor was in the room, and we were ready to push!  Mrs. Lisa, Ben, and Abby walked down the hallway to wish me luck.  My sweet doctor lifted each of them up (excepting Mrs. Lisa) to give me a kiss. It was so sweet.  By the time the doc was in position, I was at the tail end of a contraction.  I was no longer feeling pain (so I guess the epidural was working!!!), but I could still feel pressure.  She went ahead and told me to push, but that one didn’t really count.  In another minute, I was able to capitalize on the whole contraction and in one push, the head was out!  In literally two (and a half) pushes, the baby was here!  Sam caught the baby, who was covered up promptly with a blanket for the big reveal.  The doctor said, “You ready, Dad?”  And she uncovered the legs. Sam said, “It’s a girl!” Then I got to hold her while Sam cut the cord.

Sarah Katherine had arrived at 6:03pm weighing in at 8 pounds exactly and measuring 20 inches long. (Though Sam argues they didn’t measure her right. At her 2-day check up she measured 21.5 inches). She nursed within 15 minutes of birth, and latched right on. She was a nursing champ from the get-go. In the end, I had the epidural for about 15 minutes. I think it covered me for 6 contractions prior to pushing, and then during the pushing stage. Had I known I was *so* close, I know I could have done it, but I truly thought I was going to be there forever. Looking back, it’s so not a big deal. I had the best all-around delivery experience thus far with any of my children.  I required no stitches on my lady parts.  My total labor from start to finish was about 4 hours long (for an induction, no less! I fear the thought of how quickly I’d have gone if I’d have gone into labor on my own!)  The epidural worked just as it was supposed to on the first try.  My nurse was amazing!  And the most important thing was that we added a perfect, healthy baby girl to the herd.
God is good.  And this -

- is joy.

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