five on friday (12/09)

ONE. We are counting down the days until Christmas (16, if you’re wondering)! I don’t think there have ever been two little girls more excited for the big day than these two are, and it’s been really fun to see their anticipation and joy grow so much this year. If you even mention the word “Christmas”, Kaelyn is more than ready to tell you all about how she wants a (stuffed) “puppy mommy [with] babies”. I’m really looking forward to these next few weeks filled with festivities and family._mg_6886

TWO. We’ve been working really hard on our phonics and letter-writing this week. Kaya is suddenly obsessed with copying words, so she’s been diligently practicing that as well as flipping through her alphabet flashcards and announcing all their sounds._mg_6990Her writing definitely isn’t in a straight line, but it is legible! This reads: “I love you Grandma P”. (She added a P at the end because she asked me how to spell “grandpa” afterward, and I told her it was the same as “grandma”, just change the “m” to a “p”. Haha.)
img_20161202_104244For Kaelyn, school sometimes turns into seeing how many markers she can stack without having them topple over.
_mg_6978

THREE. We did it! We started potty training last week, and this little girl was almost instantly a pro. I’m so proud of Kaelyn, and grateful that this endeavor wasn’t nearly as messy as I was expecting (which is mostly why I kept putting it off)! She loves wearing undies like a big girl now (although she only wants to wear pairs that are blue or have puppies on them, which are in short supply at our house, so we might have to go shopping, haha).

_mg_6902

FOUR. Sweet Nella has been smiling so much these past two weeks! I am so obsessed with these cheeks and that mohawk and her little dimples.12072016collage1

FIVE. If that wasn’t enough cuteness for you, Google automatically created an animated GIF just to make everyone’s hearts melt a little more. 🙂

img_20161207_203423-animation

Happy Friday!!!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

a change in seasons

The weather is changing yet again, and we’re transitioning from a cool, crisp fall to a dark, frigid winter.

I watch the seasons go by like some time-warped illusion, each one seeming to pass even more quickly than the last. As I see the world turning and the days flying by, the abrupt end of the seasons reminds me how very fleeting time is.

This whole period of life we’re in is nothing but a season, and before anything changes, I already know how much I’ll miss these most tender moments with my young family.
_mg_6579 These days are marked by soft little voices, afternoon naps, chubby baby cheeks and sweet snuggles._mg_6609By the absolute silliest, most hilarious Daddy three little girls could ever hope for.
_mg_6597These are the days when the simplest things bring my children so much joy: jumping in a big pile of leaves, wearing their hair in pigtails, and bringing their best stuffed animal friends  with them everywhere they go._mg_6599There are giggles and all-around goofiness. They run to the door joyfully shouting our names when we come home, and mommy’s kisses are still magic for stopping booboos from hurting._mg_6594In the more challenging moments, I remind myself that I won’t be handling tantrums, potty-training, or seemingly endless mess-making forever, because after this season, those too will pass. In an instant, my daughters’ sweetness and love make up for the more difficult days of parenting little people._mg_6584This is a season I’m so glad to be in.
_mg_6591

trick and trunk or treating 2016

I’m going to spare you my whole “trick-or-treating-was-a-whole-month-ago-and-I’m-just-blogging-about-it-now” spiel and just jump right into it. After this post, I think I’m mostly caught up to the present… The key word being “mostly”, ha!

Our two “big” little girls were beyond excited for Halloween. Kaya asked me nearly every day for over a month when she would get to wear her kitty costume, so when the day finally came, she was ecstatic!

We kicked off our Halloween festivities on Friday with Daddy at his work. His office put on a whole trick-or-treating activity for the employees’ kids, so we went from cubicle to cubicle collecting treats. Everyone (and really, I mean everyone) commented on how adorable Kaya and Kaelyn looked and how Nella looks like a little doll. The kids were feeling pretty shy, so I don’t think they said a single word to anyone, but they still came out with a bucketful of candy!
_mg_6284 From there, we headed straight to our church’s trunk-or-treat. Right up until that morning, we couldn’t decide what we wanted to be, so in true last-minute fashion, we chose “raining cats and dogs”. I made Michael a thunderbolt and myself a rain cloud shirt (which is somewhat difficult to see in this picture). Little Nella wore candy corn jammies and a pumpkin hat, so she didn’t quite fit the theme, but it was the perfect costume for our “Pumpkin”._mg_6290We walked around with the girls to collect even more treats!_mg_6292Later, we went inside for some fun activities. Kaya loved doing this donut-on-a-string game with Michael. Somehow, I think she looks even more like a real kitty here (if only cats loved donuts)!
_mg_6299 Halloween day was on Monday, so a couple of days after all those shenanigans, we finally took these crazy cuties out for their first-ever real trick or treating! It was so exciting to be able to go door to door in our own neighborhood. We really only went down our street, but it was far enough for our little girls on a chilly night._mg_6400 _mg_6410 _mg_6398_mg_6442 Michael said that they’re going to look back at these costumes one day and be embarrassed (the pink poodle costume reminds him of the pink bunny suit in A Christmas Story), but they chose these themselves, and as two and four-year-old girls, they absolutely loved them._mg_6444 Sometimes I can’t believe that all three of these fantastic girls are ours._mg_6443

five on friday (11/18)

ONE. We jumped back into our homeschool preschool routine this week! It feels good to have a little more structure to our days, and the girls have just been loving doing activities again.

We kicked off the week with the letter L. What better way to decorate the letter L than with your lipstick-covered lips? Kaya and Kaelyn love any reason to play with makeup, so this activity was a big hit.
_mg_6751

“Show me your lipstick!” I said, and she instantly puckered up._mg_6758

We also learned about lions and painted paper plates to look like them. Kaya wished hers was a mask._mg_6774TWO. I had my postpartum check-up with the midwife this week, so Michael watched the kids for about an hour. He ended up taking them on a Daddy-daughters date to Sweet Frog, which is pretty much heaven to these ice-cream-lovin’ girls. I always seem to miss out on froyo, but I love seeing them have a good time.img_20161114_135503

THREE. I made it through my first solo shopping adventure with all three girls. We just went to the dollar store, so it really wasn’t much shopping, but it’s still confidence-building to get out and get used to juggling three little people.

Of course, this little pumpkin needed a snack break in the car, because hello, she’s got to maintain those gloriously chubby cheeks.img_20161114_162523

FOUR. My body is finally starting to feel stronger and I am so happy to get outside and get my heart pumping. After having a baby,  I always want to hit the ground running (literally), but it really is worth taking the time to rest and recover before pushing your body too hard. For now, I’m not fast and my mileage is low, but I’m proud of this body and all it has done.img_20161117_071920FIVE. This little baby has already outgrown almost all of her newborn clothes! Shouldn’t that be illegal or something? I’m holding on to this snuggly, sweet stage as tightly as I can, but the days are already flying by way too fast.img_20161117_133837

With that fauxhawk, her tongue sticking out, and her finger in the air, it almost looks like she’s saying “rock on!” I love this crazy baby.

img_20161117_095345

Happy Friday!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

our little pumpkins

From the day we knew we were pregnant, we started referring to our sweet baby #3 by the nickname “Pumpkin”. We knew she’d be due in October, and there couldn’t have been a better moniker for our little autumn blessing.

It was obvious, then, what costume she’d wear for her first Halloween! Kaya wore this sweet little pumpkin hat that I’d made for her first Halloween, and Nella was the perfect size to reuse it this year.
_mg_6488

Kaelyn also wore these candy corn jammies for her first Halloween, so it was pretty much the perfect combination of “firsts” for Nella to inherit._mg_6489These cheeks of hers get me every time! I admit it, I kiss and pretend to eat them up all day long.
_mg_6504 _mg_6480While we’re on the subject of pumpkins, I thought I’d include the one we carved this year. Michael and I counted back and realized that this was only the third pumpkin we’ve carved together in the 8 years we’ve been a couple. We’re good at picking them, just not so consistent with carving them.

Apparently, gutting a pumpkin is pretty messy business._mg_6310

Kaya is completely obsessed with Hello Kitty right now, so after I showed her a photo of a Hello Kitty pumpkin, we definitely had to make one too. Poor Michael was easily outvoted in a house full of girls!_mg_6311 Kaya and Kaelyn weren’t so sure about this whole cutting-up-a-pumpkin activity._mg_6313 _mg_6319 Michael did a fantastic job, and the girls were so excited over the result. It was fun to actually have a place outside to display it this year too, since we couldn’t really do that at our apartment in years past.img_20161030_214839-01

These little holiday traditions bring me so much joy.

five on friday (11/11)

ONE. These sisters! I could say it over and over again, I love how much they all love each other. Nella is already a precious part of their little group, and I know it won’t be long before she’s running around right behind them._mg_6617_mg_6624TWO. Kaya has been really into drawing lately, and I have to say, her skills have really advanced! Here’s a portrait of “Meowy” (aka Kitty):_mg_6653… and “a mommy and a daddy bird at the hospital having a baby”. Haha!
img_20161109_183620THREE. The weather has cooled off a whole lot, so we’ve tried to get outside in the afternoon when it’s a bit warmer. I love wearing Nella and having her cuddled up so close to me (it’s also a plus to know she’s warm in there)!img_20161108_111121img_20161108_111032FOUR. Kaelyn has been doing all these big girl things lately, and sometimes I really can’t believe that she’s not a baby anymore. She gets the step stool out when she needs to reach something (whether it’s the kitchen counter, the sink, or the lock on the door); she’s talking a ton, and this week, she’s had several successes with going on the potty! I’m not sure I’m ready for the marathon of messes and running to the bathroom that potty training entails, but she sure is acting ready, so we might be doing it very soon!
_mg_6636FIVE. Michael’s already trying to turn the baby into a Trekkie. They snuggled and watched the newest movie a few nights ago. I love seeing my sweetheart spending time with our baby._mg_6531

Happy Friday!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

nella: 1 month

(written November 7th)nella_1monthHeight: 21 inches (48%)
Weight: 8 pounds 5 ounces (24%)
Head circumference: 14.25 inches (29%)

Clothing size: Pretty much all newborn things this month, although I’m not sure how much longer they’ll fit! I also tried our smallest cloth diapers on her, but they still seem (just barely) too large. For now, we’ve still been using disposables. The Target-brand newborn size seems to run a little smaller than other brands, so I think we’re about ready to switch to size one until the cloth diapers fit better.

Eye color: Her eyes were so dark when she was first born, so I thought maybe we’d have a brown-eyed girl, but in just a few weeks, they’ve lighten up a lot. They’re a very deep, dark blue now, and I’m so curious to see how they change in the next few months.

Nursing: I’m still waking her up just about every two hours or so to nurse during the day. In the evening before bed, she wants to eat constantly- Michael jokes that she binge-eats so she can be nice and full when she falls asleep. That’s actually a pretty accurate statement!

Sleep: This baby girl is a dream. Of course, we still have random nights where she wakes up every couple of hours, but for the most part, she gives us a 5 or 6-hour stretch of sleep most nights. She’s also been acting ready for bed earlier, so I’ve been putting her down around 8 pm. We’re still tired, but we really are sleeping a whole lot more this time around._mg_6522

Favorite things: Eating, cuddling, looking at her big sisters, and being with Mommy._mg_6037Dislikes: She really didn’t like her first few baths, but she’s getting used to them now (she loves the warm water, but I’m always worried about making it too warm, so those first few baths might have been on the chillier side). She also doesn’t seem to like having the hiccups (which happens fairly frequently)!

Nicknames: Baby Sunshine, Nella Sunshine, Nell, and Nell-Nell. Kaya sometimes still calls her “Baby Nella Sunshine Sprinkle Pop”, and I love singing her the “name song” (you know- Nella Nella Bo Bella Fee Fi Fo Fella… or something like that). We haven’t been too creative thus far! 😉

Milestones, etc.: -She’s still pretty sleepy during the daytime, but she is starting to have a few more hours of awake time each day. She really loves looking around and trying to take in her surroundings.

-She’s been working on focusing on objects (mostly just the face of whoever is holding her) and really examining them with her eyes._mg_6274

-She’s had amazing control of her head from birth. Of course, there’s still strength to gain, but she can lift it quite high and turn very well.

-I think we’re starting to get some real smiles from her, although they still mostly just happen when she’s dreaming. I think I’ve seen a dimple, too!_mg_6510

-She most definitely knew her mommy’s voice at birth, and she still seems to really enjoy hearing me talk to her. Her eyes get wide and she studies every detail of my face as we chat.

-She loves being held upright, so that her head is on my shoulder. She usually tries to look around, but sometimes, she just rests her head on me. This is the easiest way to get her to burp, too!

-The most popular comment we get from other people (besides how adorable she is) is how calm and quiet she is! She hasn’t cried in a church meeting yet, and at home, she really only cries if she’s very tired or hungry.

Dear Nella,

This month has been nothing short of amazing. I felt like we waited so long to meet you, and sometimes, I still can’t believe you’re really here, and that you’re all ours.

You are a perfect little princess, and I just wish time would slow down so I could soak in all your sweet newborn goodness for as long as possible. I treasure those quiet afternoons when it’s just the two of us left to snuggle while your sisters nap. When you wake up in the middle of the night, I’m always happy to hold you again, because I miss you so quickly after you go to bed.
_mg_6541You have two amazing big sisters who are intensely infatuated with you. They kiss you good morning, goodnight, and everything in between. You are one very loved little girl.
_mg_6027

I’m so proud of how much you’ve already grown. Thank you for coming to our little family, Nella.

Love, Mommynella_month1

nella’s first day

I know this was basically forever ago (5 whole weeks already!), but Nella’s first day of life was so special, and I have so many photos that bring back all the beautiful memories and emotions of that day. I finally got to go through them all, and I would be remiss not to include them in our family’s history here.

Besides, it’s hard not to take a million pictures when you have a model who’s so willing. 😉_mg_5767 There’s always such a special feeling in the hospital room when we welcome a new baby into our family. It’s a sacred sense of peace and love that I will never forget._mg_5799 _mg_5785 _mg_5795 Kaya and Kaelyn were ecstatic to finally meet their new baby sister. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was definitely the very best day of their lives._mg_5731They truly never wanted to let her go._mg_5748Kaelyn loves to point out all the parts of Nella’s face._mg_5745My little girl seamlessly transitioned into her role as a big sister. I just know she’ll always be there for Nella- as a protector, a best friend, and a role model._mg_5738_mg_5741Nella didn’t have her first sponge bath until much later that night. She wasn’t a big fan! She did calm down once the nurse swaddled her up and washed her hair in warm water from the faucet.
_mg_5757
_mg_5759We girls all had a monopoly on holding the baby for most of the day, so I made sure Daddy had his own turn later. She already loves him so much.
_mg_5764The next morning, my girls came back for another visit. They were so happy to see both me and the baby, and Kaya kept hugging me and saying how much she missed me. This picture is most definitely one of my favorites of all time._mg_5821 _mg_5819 _mg_5835 _mg_5842 _mg_5841 Kaya had gone to the pediatrician earlier that morning for her four-year well visit. She was nervous about the four vaccinations she had to receive, so we promised her that afterward, Daddy would take her to the dollar store to pick out a reward. She chose a pink bear for herself, and also requested to bring a matching one to Nella. I love her generous and thoughtful heart.

Nella had her first stuffed animal before she was even one day old!_mg_5856 _mg_5848 The doctor came in later that afternoon and asked us how we were doing and if we wanted to go home. We were somewhat surprised that we didn’t need to stay longer, but of course, we were eager to get home to be with our big girls and sleep in our own bed. We loaded Nella up in the van and were back at home by the time she was 28 hours old!_mg_5857_mg_5861 _mg_5864 Of course, she had a few people very excited to see her once we arrived. Kaelyn was the first to hold her at home._mg_5876Those first few days are beyond busy and exciting, and I’m so grateful I got to experience them with my amazing little family.20161005_202942

nella’s birth story

Finally, I’m posting our Nella’s birth story. This was by far the longest post I’ve ever written (Michael was picking on me for it, too, because when he copied pasted the text into a word document, it was about 7 pages long... single spaced)! There are so many details, and honestly, without the text messages and photos we have from while I was in labor, I don’t think I would remember a lot of what happened when. Waiting for her to arrive felt like one of the longest days of my life, and not everything went perfectly, but meeting her was perfect, and that’s all I really, truly wanted anyway.

Monday, October 3rd started out like any other day. I woke up early, before anyone else, got dressed, and went out for a run. I clocked 3.3 miles that morning (with only one stop at home for a bathroom break and a sip of water), and I truly felt great the whole time. I returned home, made Michael a lunch, and he headed out the door to work around 7:40 am. I had breakfast with the girls, showered, and got them both dressed and ready for the day. We’d invited our friend Bianca and her two little girls over for a play date around 10:30 that morning, so between getting ready, I was doing my usual tidying up.

I noticed that my belly seemed to feel a little different. I didn’t have any obvious cramps or contractions… all I could say was that it felt “weird”. I tried to ignore it and attributed the strange feeling to both lifting Kaelyn and bending over more than usual while cleaning up.

Around 9:40 am, I noticed that I was feeling more pressure in my pelvis and a frequent need to pee. I used the bathroom, but while I did, I thought I noticed a small gush of fluid. Remember, when my water broke last time, with Kaelyn, it was while I was in the bathroom, and I didn’t fully realize it. Because I was positive for Group B strep with this pregnancy, my midwife had instructed me to come into the hospital as soon as my water broke so I could receive antibiotics to protect the baby. I honestly wasn’t sure if my water had broken, and I knew I’d be a little embarrassed if it turned out that it hadn’t, but in this case, I needed to be safe and get checked out.

I sent my mom-in-law a text to give her a head’s up, since the plan was for her to come up and stay with Kaya and Kaelyn while we were at the hospital. She lives about five hours away, so I wanted there to be plenty of time for her to get here if we really were about to have a baby soon. I was having doubts that anything was happening, but my mom-in-law agreed that I needed to call Michael and see what my OB had to say.

Michael teaches a class until 10:15 am, and since I wasn’t having noticeable contractions, I just waited to call him until I knew he’d be finished. I talked to Bianca (who had previously agreed to watch my kids until Grandma could get them), and she decided to stay home instead of coming out to our house to play. That way, if we had to go to the hospital, we could just drop our girls off on the way out there.

Michael finally got out of class, and I called him to let him know what was going on. I still felt pretty silly to call the doctor and tell them I wasn’t sure if my water had broken, but I was feeling so much pressure and kept running to the bathroom to pee. Around 10:30, I finally called, and as I had already predicted, the nurse told me to come to the hospital to get checked out.

I had my bags packed up except for a few last-minute items, so I started grabbing those things and getting everything together to leave. Michael had taken the bus to work, and I could have picked him up on the way out, but one of his coworkers gave him a ride home, which made everything a lot easier. He loaded the girls and the bags into the car, and I double-checked that we had everything before heading out the door around 11:15. I was so nervous and excited, but mostly doubtful that anything was really happening. We dropped Kaya and Kaelyn off at Bianca’s house, along with their car seats, just in case we really were admitted to the hospital and Grandma Gina needed to pick them up from there.

We arrived at the hospital right around noon, and went back to triage right away. Our nurse asked me if I had been having contractions, and I replied “I don’t think so. Not noticeable ones, anyway.”

I changed into the hospital gown, climbed into the bed, and our nurse did a swab to test if my water had broken or not. It took some time to process, so in the meantime, I was strapped to the contraction and heart-rate monitors. Our nurse left, and Michael and I just sat there, chatting. I hadn’t felt anything before, but suddenly, sitting in the bed, I started noticing contractions… REAL ones! They were about three minutes apart, but not that strong and not always coming consistently. The triage nurse came in to check on us, told us there weren’t official results yet on the amniotic fluid test, but acknowledged that I was indeed having contractions. She left us again, with my contractions continuing to be monitored.img_20161003_120953

It felt like we were being monitored in that room for so long, but our nurse came in again around 12:45, and told us that my water hadn’t broken (as I had mostly suspected). She did check my cervix, and she said it was about 2-3 centimeters open and very soft. Because I was having contractions, she told us we could walk around the hospital for an hour and then come back and be rechecked.

She gave me another hospital gown to cover my backside, so we put that on and headed out to do some walking. I texted Bianca to let her know we’d be at least another hour, and also texted my mom-in-law to ask her if she could start driving down. Even if this wasn’t the real deal, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be too much longer until it was.

We took many laps around the hospital (I was wishing I still had my Fitbit on at this point so at least my steps would count! Haha!), and I stopped in the bathroom to pee just about every time we passed by it. I really was feeling pressure, and now a decent amount of tightening, in my belly. Something was happening, and now that we were at the hospital, I was anxious to be officially admitted and be that much closer to meeting my baby. Michael and I kept walking, holding hands, making jokes and taking some goofy pictures along the way. We walked right up until 2 pm, and then went back to triage to be checked again.img_20161003_133326

Back on the monitors, I still had contractions coming about three minutes apart. The nurse checked me, but sadly, I was still just “2-3 cm”. She went to ask the midwide on duty if she wanted to admit us, so we sat and waited a little longer, just watching the contraction monitor. When she came back, she told us that she was a little surprised, but the midwife didn’t want us to stay. She gave us some registration papers to fill out and bring back when we really were ready to be admitted, and we headed out to pick up our kids around 2:20 pm.

We arrived at Bianca’s house, and were greeted by our happy little girls. We sat and chatted for a little while, and Michael reinstalled our car seats. Since we were already in town, we decided to stop at Walmart for a few items that I’d realized I didn’t have for my hospital bag. Michael dropped me off at the door around 3:15 pm, and while I shopped, he made a stop at Wendy’s to pick up some early dinner for everyone (Michael and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast that morning)! The girls fell asleep in the car on the way home, since they hadn’t had their usual nap.

We pulled up to the house and unloaded all our bags. I had a strong feeling we’d be packing the car up again later that night, but for now, we were home and I wasn’t sure what was really happening with my body.

We let the girls watch some Daniel Tiger while I went through our bags again and added a few things. It wasn’t long before I was spending a lot of time in the bathroom again, still just feeling that pressure and a need for my body to empty itself out.

Around 5:20 pm, I really began to feel nervous. I just kept having this feeling that I needed to be at the hospital. I still wasn’t having strong contractions, but I definitely had what I know for me is that almost-sick, early labor feeling. I was nauseous, and I started to have hot flashes. I was going to try to lie down and get some rest, but I just couldn’t settle my mind and ended up not even trying to sleep, although I knew I really needed to.

Michael’s mom was still about an hour away from reaching our house, and I was practically counting down the minutes until she arrived. I had such a strong desire to go back to the hospital and be checked again, even though my labors have been pretty slow in the past, and I figured we could still have a very long night ahead of us. I just didn’t want to wait too long to get the antibiotics I needed (which need to be administered at least 4 hours before the baby is born).

At this point, I also still wasn’t sure if I was going to do this naturally, or get some kind of pain medication. I had Kaelyn completely unmedicated, so I already knew I could do it… I just couldn’t be sure if that was what I wanted. I had spent weeks reading, studying, preparing for and praying about having a natural birth again, and somehow, I never felt peace about it. I truly wanted to want to do it without medication, but I continued to feel very nervous about the subject, and despite my preparation, I felt like I was just trying to convince myself that that was my desire.

My ultimate goals for this birth were these: to have the baby arrive safely, to be able to cherish this time with Michael as we waited for our baby to be born, and to be truly mentally present and alert when I met her for the first time. I wanted to remember all the details of first seeing her face, hearing her cries, and holding her, which were all things I felt like I wasn’t able to focus on as much when I had Kaelyn naturally.

Kaya and Kaelyn were in need of baths that night, so Michael went ahead and got them washed up, while I called his mom around 6 pm to see where she was on the road. I was nervously pacing in our playroom, talking to her and somewhat trying to convince myself that I wasn’t in labor. She arrived at 6:45 pm, and by this point, the girls were out of the tub.

Kaya told me to come upstairs for a surprise- Michael was painting everyone’s toes! He had promised to do mine before I had the baby, and we had just never made time for it. I guess he knew that night would be his last chance to do it!

Michael painted both girls’ tiny toes, and I sat and watched, continuing to have hot flashes and contractions. My mom-in-law was guessing that we would have a baby by morning… and I was still somewhat in denial that she would come so soon. I ended up declining having my toes painted, and so we said nighttime prayers and Michael tucked the girls in for bed.

Around 7:30, we were sitting down in the kitchen, and I was definitely having some stronger contractions. I still didn’t feel like they were very intense, but they were definitely getting more noticeable. I cleaned up the kitchen and folded some of our clean laundry while talking with Michael’s mom. I also kept trying to drink water throughout the evening.

After my laundry was folded and put away, my mom-in-law suggested that Michael and I try to get some rest. I changed into pajama pants and got washed up for the night, intuitively knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. We laid down around 9:40, talked a little, and stayed there for a maybe half an hour before I decided to just get up. As soon as I sat up, I had three strong contractions right in a row. That was the moment I truly felt that all this was real, and we were bound to have a baby soon. Michael sprang up and told his mom what was going on, and then they started grabbing our bags and heading out the door. We took his mom’s van, so that she would have our car with access to the girls’ car seats.

I felt even more of a need to be at the hospital now. I was hurrying and still double-checking that things were in the bag. Michael’s mom could sense the change in my labor and even remarked that my countenance had changed from earlier.

We left home around 10:40 pm, and all the while, there was a sense of urgency about getting to the hospital. I was having very consistent contractions about 3 minutes apart now (Michael was timing them as he was driving)! I really didn’t expect to deliver soon after arriving at the hospital, but with the contractions coming like they were, I was very anxious to arrive there and feel safe.

We pulled up to the birth center around 11 pm, went to the front desk, and told the nurses that we had been there about 12 hours prior, but now my contractions were coming more consistently. We went back to triage (for the second time in one day!), and I performed the usual routine: hospital gown on, get in the bed, have the monitors strapped on, and have my cervix checked. I was dilated to 4 centimeters, which was considered good progress from my “2-3 cm” earlier in the day. I honestly felt like I should have been a little further along, and I knew that at 4 cm, we still had hours ahead of us. We had to sit and be monitored for a bit, and my contractions were still coming 2.5 to 3 minutes apart and starting to get stronger. Our triage nurse went to talk to the doctor on call, Doctor H, to be sure he wanted to admit me, but she said she saw no reason why I would be sent home at this point.

We were allowed to walk around the birthing unit while we waited to talk to the doctor. We made lap after lap (and I was still wishing I had my Fitbit on) around the nurses’ station, talking about random things and being pretty goofy. I was still having contractions, but when I was walking, they were more than manageable. We admired the newborn photography on the walls, and pointed out what rooms we stayed in when we had both Kaya and Kaelyn. There were also two babies in the nursery that night, and we stopped a couple of times to peek in the window and squeal about how very tiny they looked. I couldn’t believe that my baby’s birthday would only be a day after those babies’- and that soon she would be in my arms.

It felt like we were walking forever, but finally, we were able to talk to Doctor H. He was pleased that my cervix was progressing, but he did wonder how I was having contractions and still smiling. He even asked if we were sure that this was the real thing, since I was acting so chipper. I told him that it felt real to me, and that if he sent us home, I would probably panic because I really felt like the hospital was where I needed to be. He asked if I was going to want pain medication, and I told him I wasn’t sure. I said I was fine handling the contractions, but I was nervous about pushing her out- that was the truly painful part for me last time, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to feel it again. He showed us our room, felt my belly to be sure the baby was still head-down, and agreed to admit us around 12:30 am. Finally, we were here to have our baby!

We kept walking around while we waited for a nurse to come and complete the admittance process, as well as get my IV inserted and start the penicillin for the Group B strep. We walked and walked, and eventually, we started feeling tired (it was late!), so we headed back to our room to sit for a little while and wait for the nurse.

Our awesome nurses, Kelsey and Sandy, came in and asked us some questions and put in my IV. Sandy had been a nurse for many years, but was new to the birth center, so Kelsey was overseeing her, which is why we had two nurses. I kept having strong contractions, and sat in the bed, just breathing through the pressure and trying to relax. They started the penicillin around 1:30 am, and warned me that it could give me a burning sensation, but if that happened, they could dilute it and reduce the flow rate to help lessen the feeling.img_20161004_021048

Not long after, my arm started to burn intensely. It felt like someone was sticking another IV higher up in my arm, so I told Nurse Sandy, and she made the appropriate adjustments. I felt so much better after that, and just continued breathing through the pressure of the contractions while the medicine made its way through my veins.img_20161004_021114

Our nurse asked me if I was going to want any pain medication, and honestly, I still wasn’t sure at this point. Doctor H had told us that if I wanted an epidural, it was probably better to get it sooner than later, since you never know when labor is about to start moving quickly. I told the nurse that I might be interested in getting an epidural, and she told me she’d tell the anesthesiologist, who was currently in a procedure, so it could still be quite a while before she could come to our room, anyway.

After the antibiotics finished, they started me on a bag of fluids, so I just had some more waiting, sitting, and breathing to do. The contractions were quite strong, but truly, I was still mostly comfortable. Around 2:15 am, Michael started falling asleep in the chair beside my bed. Going through contractions alone is pretty boring, so I texted his mom in between to tell her what was going on. To my surprise, she was still awake!img_20161004_021031

At 2:45 am, the contractions were 2 minutes apart and still strong. I was starting to feel very tired, just due to the late hour of the night, and although I was still feeling good and handling the contractions very well, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get any rest while having them.

The doctor had told me that they wouldn’t break my water, start pitocin, or do anything to hasten my labor until I received my second dose of antibiotics, which was due to be administered around 5:30 am. I had an inkling that I still had many hours ahead of me, and Michael and I were both exhausted. I knew he wouldn’t rest if I didn’t. I decided to get an epidural just so we could get some sleep.

The anesthesiologist came in around 3:45 and prepared me for the epidural. My contractions were strong, but I was still just dealing with the pressure from them, and not in any intense pain.

She warned me that the numbing needle would feel like a bee sting, so I tried to hold as still as possible, but I instinctively jolted away from her when she inserted it. I started crying (my first tears during this whole labor), partly because the needle hurt so much more than I had expected, and partly because I felt (and knew) that this was what I needed to do for both Michael and I to rest, but I still wasn’t completely convinced that this was what I wanted. Michael and Nurse Sandy held and stroked my hands, and I just stared at the nurse’s wedding bands while the anesthesiologist finished up the procedure. She pushed a dose of Fentanyl through my IV and left.

I laid down, and Nurse Sandy stayed to monitor me for a bit. My entire body started to shake a lot. Nurses Kelsey and Sandy figured it was due to my temperature falling from all the IV fluids I’d had, but just to be sure I hadn’t reached transition, they checked my cervix, which was now at 5 centimeters.

Before long, my blood pressure started dropping, which is a normal side effect of the epidural. I generally have low blood pressure anyway due to being a runner, but now it was falling very low, very quickly. I suddenly started feeling extremely cold, and the shaking became uncontrollable. The blood pressure cuff was going off continuously, and I kept asking Michael what the reading was. My blood pressure would go down, and then come back up, just before falling again. I started feeling lightheaded and nauseous, and while the shaking continued, I felt like I had no control over what was happening to my body.

Fear set in, and as my blood pressure dropped to its lowest point (Michael said it was 60-something over 40-something at this point), my heart rate rose to 130 bpm, and I thought I was about to completely lose consciousness. I saw concern in Michael’s face, which to me, made this all feel even more serious. Michael is my rock and my compass. He’s so level-headed and isn’t easily shaken, so seeing any kind of worry in his eyes made me nervous.

In an attempt to stop my shaking, Nurse Sandy covered me with several blankets, including one that had been heated under the baby warmer. I was pumped full of more fluids, and eventually, my blood pressure came back up and stayed within normal range. I stopped shaking and finally felt like I could relax a little around 5 am.

All the fluids I’d received started having a slowing effect on the contractions. I was due for another infusion of antibiotics around 5:30 am, and our nurse said that after that had been administered, they would probably start me on pitocin or break my water to try and get the contractions going again.

My antibiotics were started around 6 am or so, after which I felt like I could finally try to sleep. Michael passed out on the couch, and I kept going in and out of a state of sleep while listening to the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor. The nurse came in a few times to check on me, and eventually, I started warming up enough to take a layer of blankets off.

While Michael was sleeping, the new doctor on call- Dr. S- came in to say hello. I had met this doctor once when I was pregnant with Kaelyn, and she remembered that she and I had both had babies in 2014, but I hadn’t seen her since. She was friendly and didn’t stay long so we could still get some rest. Michael was in such a deep sleep that he didn’t even hear her come in.

Around 8:30 am, Dr. S came back to our room, and told me that sadly, my contractions had nearly stopped completely, and I’d had only one in the past ten minutes or so (darn all those IV fluids)! She suggested that we really needed to do something to try to get them going again. I was so nervous about breaking my water, since once that’s done, it can never be undone, and the baby needs to come out one way or another (I was very nervous about not progressing and needing to have a c-section, although the doctor reassured me several times that there were many “tricks” to try and get my labor going again before resorting to surgery). I requested to just start with pitocin to see if things would start moving, and if not, then we would consider breaking my water.

The pitocin was turned on, and the contractions slowly started back up again. By 9:15 am, they were about 3-4 minutes apart, and I could feel them coming and going, despite the epidural (although they were definitely still numbed a bit). Michael was very awake and functional at this point, and he insisted that I sleep, since I really hadn’t much rest yet up to this point.

Around 9:30 am, our new nurse for this shift, Joyce, came in and checked my cervix to see if the contractions were doing their job. She said I was still “4-5 centimeters”, and brought back what was called a “peanut ball” to put between my knees with the hope that it would help my body open up. I started to feel anxious that things weren’t progressing at all. Why was my body just stuck?img_20161004_092841

All I could do was wait and try to rest. I actually did sleep a bit at this point, and Michael sat at my bedside, getting some work done on his laptop while I did.

I think it was sometime around 11 am that Nurse Joyce came back in to check me again. The contractions were still coming strongly, about 2-3 minutes apart, but when she checked me, she said my dilation was still the same, and she remarked, seemingly baffled, that the baby’s position felt very high. She and Michael helped me sit up, so we could see if gravity would help things get moving.

She left, and I think it was at this point that I asked Michael to pray. I was so nervous that nothing so far seemed to be working to help get my baby here. I had brought some essential oils with me, so I asked Michael to roll some geranium oil on my chest. Geranium is a mood booster and one of my favorite scents, so I thought it might help me calm down and feel a little more hopeful.

Dr. S came in to check me around 12:45 pm. The contractions were strong, but I still hadn’t progressed any further. However, when she checked me, she realized why the baby was sitting so high and my labor wasn’t going anywhere- part of the amniotic sac was bulging through my cervix, which wasn’t allowing baby’s head to push down and help with dilation.

She told me “I really think we need to break your water to get things moving”, and through nervous tears, I asked her if she really thought that was the best option. She assured me that that was what she thought was best, and if we didn’t do this, then there really wasn’t anything else we could do, and I would likely be sent home. With a lump in my throat, I told her that I trusted her, and to go ahead and break the sac.

She did, and just a small amount of fluid came out. She also went ahead and stretched my cervix open to 6 cm with her fingers. I was so hopeful that this would work. I was somewhat relieved that we now had an explanation as to why my body wasn’t progressing before.

After this point, I was very awake, and just talked with Michael for a little while before we decided to try to take our minds off of worrying by watching a few funny video clips on Youtube. We watched some Jimmy Fallon and a little bit of “Studio C”, and it felt good to laugh a little. In the midst of our entertainment, Nurse Joyce came in again, looking at the monitors and seeming a bit concerned. The baby’s heart rate was now dropping with each contraction (but thankfully still coming back up in between them). She checked me around 1:20 pm, and I was still at 6 cm, but the baby had dropped far into my pelvis.

She and Michael turned me onto my side in an attempt to get the baby’s heart rate stabilized… but it still kept fluctuating. They turned me onto my other side, still to no effect, so they then turned me back. I was given an oxygen mask, and I was feeling incredibly nervous at this point. I envisioned being whisked away to the operating room, and prayed that that wouldn’t transpire and that my baby would be okay.

Nurse Joyce informed us that she regretted to leave us, but she had an upcoming meeting at 2 pm, and she predicted that we would deliver the baby while she was gone. We were shocked by this statement, since we knew I was still at just 6 cm, but finally, we started to feel excited.

Nurse Lindsay was our “substitute” while Joyce was away, so she came in to introduce herself briefly and check on the baby. I told her that I was very nervous about the baby’s heart rate still dropping so much, and she reassured me that the nurses were watching more than just her heart rate (i.e. her oxygen levels) and felt that she was okay. This was good to hear, but I was still so anxious while listening to her little heartbeat slow drastically every couple of minutes.

Michael and I were left alone, but it wasn’t long at all before I suddenly felt the baby move down and the amount of pressure increased dramatically.

“Michael, this is it! I just felt her move down. We need to call the nurse back in here.”

Nurse Lindsay came in at 1:45 pm and checked me again- I was at about 9 cm, but had a little bit of a cervical lip still there. She asked me if I felt “pushy”, and my reply was “OH YES!” I knew it was time and I was ready to get this baby here and know she was safe.

The nurse put my legs up in the stirrups as she reviewed the most effective way to push with me (she made an analogy about swimming underwater and holding your breath), and had me push just once to see if I made progress. She could see that I was ready and pushing was working, so she immediately called Dr. S to come to our room.

I was so thankful that my labor had progressed, and I knew how very close I was to finally meeting my daughter. Through tears (and the oxygen mask), I told Michael “I’m not ready!” I knew how intense and amazing that first moment with my baby would be, and I just couldn’t believe I was about to see her for the very first time. It really is emotionally overwhelming, in the very best way.

Dr. S came very quickly, and at 2 pm, I was ready to start pushing. Because Nurse Lindsay had said something about holding my breath underwater, I just kept imagining myself swimming through a crystal blue pool all while I pushed, which I think helped relax me a bit. I could feel Nella moving down through my body with each push, which was really something amazing, because I had never felt that progression with my other two babies (I was too numb with Kaya, and then even though I went natural with Kaelyn, all I felt was her stuck up against my pubic bone for what seemed like far too long). It was so encouraging to feel her moving with each push, and I just knew she’d be out quickly. I worked as hard as I could, because her heart rate was still falling with each contraction. I couldn’t hear the monitors anymore while I was pushing, and I was so afraid her heart wasn’t beating anymore, although I think the lowest it ever went was 90 bpm.

After only 3 contractions, and pushing about 3 times during each one, sweet little Nella Joy was born at 2:09 pm. Dr. S couldn’t pull her all the way out immediately, though, because she had the umbilical cord completely wrapped around her body. It went over her shoulder, and down around her foot, tightly enough that the doctor spent some time unraveling her before she could be placed on my stomach.

She was little, blue, and completely covered in vernix. I cried, she cried, and we both looked at each other. I remarked on how dark her eyes were and how much she looked like Kaya. It was love at first sight. I felt immense joy, gratitude, and relief that she had arrived safely._mg_5721

Our birth center has started encouraging what they call “kangaroo care”, or skin-to-skin, immediately after birth, and I was very excited to try it for the first time with Nella. The nurses wiped some of her vernix off and quickly outfitted her with a hat and diaper, and then she was placed on my chest, under the hospital gown. She was ready to nurse almost immediately, and latched on with no problem. She was already my best nurser within just a few minutes of being born.

We were able to cuddle, skin to skin, for about an hour before she was even weighed or given any other medical treatment. I’m so thankful we had that time to just be together._mg_5706

After having three babies, I’ve finally learned- it doesn’t matter how you give birth. Whether you use pain medication or go completely natural, it’s still hard work! We women are superheros for growing these little people and bringing them to this world. You can, and should, feel empowered no matter how your labor and delivery go. Birth is simply amazing, and that’s all there is to it._mg_5716

kaya’s random birthday celebrations (2016)

Yeah, yeah, I know Kaya’s birthday was forever ago, but I’m basically a million years behind on everything I need to do (folding laundry, blogging, photography business stuff, you name it)… better late than never, right? Plus, I have some very cute pictures that I just couldn’t refrain from sharing here.

Now that’s she’s a little older, Kaya definitely knows what her favorite foods and activities are, so it was really fun to take her out and do what she really likes. We decided we’d treat her to a special birthday dinner, and we let her choose the place. She really loves Red Robin, so on the Friday night before her party, we headed there (along with Grandma Debbie)!img_20160916_195103 img_20160916_192036

The waiter even brought her a special birthday ice cream. This little girl couldn’t have been more excited!

On her real birthday, we asked her what she wanted to do… and predictably, she answered that she’d like to go to the mall. This is one of her favorite places (which might have something to do with the cookie place and the playground being there)!

We had a little “picnic”, and let her pick out a treat. We stuck her candle in the cookie, and sang “Happy Birthday” one more time!

These are some happy people right here. (Kaya was also wearing her most favorite things on this day: a rainbow tutu and a Hello Kitty shirt!)

We had to spend some time playing on the playground afterward, of course.

Daddy ran around with them like crazy (and I love these animated GIFs that Google makes for me, haha)!vid_20160919_204923-animation A couple weeks later, Grandma Gina brought Kaya a special gift she’d made…_mg_5420 _mg_5422 _mg_5424 A rainbow blanket! It turned out so beautiful, and Kaya was instantly in love._mg_5426

It was so much fun making her birthday truly special for her. Sometimes it’s tough watching your kids grow up so fast, but as they get older, there are so many more opportunities for enjoying time together.