Theodora Paxton

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Yesterday we found out that we are having another girl! THREE daughters, y’all. Harper had told me the day before that he would be happy if it was another girl, but that he’d still complain because that would mean “the girls win!” As you can see from the picture, he didn’t complain one bit. I love the look of delight on his face. Such a sweetheart!

Theodora Paxton. We picked the name out weeks ago. We actually even had the same name for boy (Theodore). This was probably the easiest time we’ve had picking out a baby name. I remember driving one day and I heard the name Theodore. I decided to look it up when I got home and found that it meant “divine gift”. Well…if that’s not appropriate for this impossible baby, then I don’t know what is! I talked to Benji about it, and surprisingly he was on board. I say “surprisingly” because we usually disagree on all the namez. Haha!

He was reading a book he liked at the time, and told me he wanted to use the main character’s name for the middle name. Paxton. I thought it was cute and so it was decided: Theodore or Theodora Paxton. I didn’t even look up the meaning of Paxton until a few days later. It was then that I discovered we had unintentionally named our baby “divine gift of peace”. I believe with every fiber of my being that this child will indeed be a divine gift of peace. I cannot wait to meet her!

All of our kids have nicknames, and this little jewel will be no different. We are going to call her Theo, after my great grandmother.

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She was a strong, but gentle woman. Sweet, caring, and kind. She loved children. She loved everybody, really. She was an amazing quilt maker and cook. My favorite thing about her was her ability to stop and take the time to teach you something. She never viewed you as an annoyance. If you wanted to learn something from her, she would teach you, and she would do so with patience. She taught me how to cook and sew. She was such a strong presence in my childhood. She and my great grandfather, Frank, were the rock of our family. Their marriage was decades-long, and so solid. They were lifelong partners and had four children together. They were in love until the day they died. And I mean that. They were IN LOVE. They served each other, spoke to each other with kindness, and smooched  <3

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#RelationshipGoalz

Mamaw Theo had so many qualities that I want my children to possess. Harper, our first, shares her birthday. And I love that our last will share her name. I hope this means she’ll inherit those quilt-making skills and make me some beauties to keep me warm in about 20 years:)

Thyroid Cancerish

Hola. People ask me on a regular basis about my thyroid removal surgery, and I figured this would be the easiest way to update everyone.

A little background for anyone who may be checking in for the first time. I have a multinodular goiter. Translation…my thyroid is full of nodules and enlarged. Thyroid nodules are actually quite common and are usually no big deal. Unfortunately, I have one that is humongo. Since it’s so big, it has the potential to be or become cancerous. With that being the case, I’ve been having yearly biopsies on this one nodule since 2014 to keep things in check. Removal of my thyroid has been an option for me all along, but I’ve had some very strong feelings about the potential complications (5% chance of voice box paralysis + the potential to mess with my parathyroid, which would lead to an additional lifelong medication to take). Since my thyroid was still functioning, I just didn’t want to remove it and be on lifelong medication, unless it was absolutely necessary. There are a few reasons why, but mainly…I don’t want my hormone levels to be in someone else’s hands, I don’t want to actually take medication everyday (I’m lazy), and for women in particular, taking daily Synthroid for years, can lead to things like osteoporosis, etc. So that’s why I signed up for tracking the nodule instead of completely removing my gland.

My first biopsy came back benign, and NONE of the nodules have grown since we’ve been tracking them. This is a good sign, and I assumed it meant my biopsy for this year would be coming back clean too…however, that didn’t happen. In early January, I unexpectedly found out I was having ANOTHER baby (#irishtwins). It was so beyond unplanned…you can read about that here. Two days after that shock, I got another shock…my biopsy had come back as “suspicious”. They could neither confirm, nor deny cancer. I’ve since learned that when the nodule came back uncertain, they tested my genes. My genes are what came back positive for thyroid cancer, which is why they labeled my biopsy as “suspicious”. Since I have the genetic trait for thyroid cancer, and my nodule is “suspicious”, my endocrinologist recommended complete removal of the gland ASAP.

When I met with him, it was a haze. I was upset and reeling from the phone call, so I didn’t ask many questions. I just remember him really pushing for the surgery while pregnant, and telling me that it would be no big deal for the baby as long as I waited until the second trimester. I also remember him getting snippy with me because I couldn’t process the plan of action he wanted me to take. He went ahead and prescribed my daily lifelong meds, sent me for an ultrasound of my lymph nodes, and referred me to a surgeon (Dr. B).

A few weeks later, I met with the surgeon. I liked him from the start…especially when he told me that I was a busy lady after finding out I was pregnant again (I mean..y’all know how my sense of humor is LOL). His plans seemed to line up with my endocrinologist’s plans. We would remove my thyroid once I was in my second trimester. He wanted to speak with my OB first though. He instructed me to give her an envelope from him, and after they spoke, his surgery coordinator would call me and we would schedule the surgery.

There was a bit of phone tag that ended up happening between them, so a few weeks passed before they were actually able to speak. After they finally got in touch with one another, my OB messaged me on Facebook to let me know that Dr. B was going to do some more research and speak with my endo again, and then he would get in touch with me. When I read her message, my heart leapt because to me…it sounded like Dr. B might be changing his mind on the surgery.

When his coordinator finally contacted me, she said they wanted me to come back into the office to meet with Dr. B. This confirmed what I was feeling, and I started earnestly praying for it.

I should make a sidenote here and tell you all that in my heart, I do not feel like I have cancer. I can’t explain it other than to say it’s just a gut feeling I have. However, I’m trying to be wise because I know I’m human and my gut feelings aren’t always right (they are most of the time…but obviously not 100% accurate). My plan of action thus far was to be at peace and to just follow the recommendations of my doctors. I decided to trust that God would change things, if they needed to change. And that’s why I just wanted ONE expert to advise me to wait:)

My appointment with Dr. B was yesterday. Benji arranged to be off of work, so that we could process any new information together, and my mom watched the kids, so that we could be 100% focused.

My prayers were answered when we finally spoke to him. He informed me that he had done quite a bit more research, and had spoken to his mentor at UAB, who performs the most thyroid surgeries of anyone in the state. He explained the biopsy results to us a bit more and said that my “suspicious” result with my genetic traits only translates into a 40% chance of me actually having thyroid cancer. With that being the case, and since pregnancy hormones don’t generally affect the thyroid, he recommended waiting until after I deliver the baby to have it removed. But it didn’t end there! He also informed me that he would only want to take out the side that contains the nodule. What this means is that if they take that side out, and it’s not cancer, I get to keep the other half, which *should* be able to function and produce enough hormone to prevent me from being on lifelong meds. Of course, that also means that if the nodule is cancerous, I’ll have to have a second surgery, but like I said above…I feel in my gut that I don’t have cancer, so this is just an AMAZING option for me!

I am just so over the moon excited. I mean…God removed ALL of my concerns in one appointment! I hadn’t even prayed about one of those concerns (being on lifelong meds) because I didn’t think I had any other option. I thought it was just one of those things that just is what it is. I’m so relieved for this new route I get to take!

So for now, the plan of action is to have my thyroid removed in October sometime. We will be having a thyroid ultrasound sometime in the next week or two just to be sure the nodule is stable in size and pregnancy isn’t making anything grow. If it hasn’t grown, we can be reassured that waiting is the right decision:)

Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past couple of years! This has been an interesting journey to say the least!

And because I feel the need to have a picture with every post, here’s a comparison shot so you can see how big I am with Theo in comparison to Mae…

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Whoa buddy. And I’m actually 16 weeks now. HUGE. #4thbabyprobs

Epilogue

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This showed up in my Facebook feed yesterday. I doubled over laughing when I saw it because it’s exactly what my life looks like right now.

Most of our close friends and family already know this, but Benji had a vasectomy back in December. We had been considering it the whole time I was pregnant with Mae, but after the leg/bladder fiasco following her birth, we knew for sure it was the route we wanted to take. I love having children…we both do, but I HATE being pregnant…with a passion.

After Mae was born, we talked extensively about the fact that we may still want more children later on, but at the moment we were maxed out, both financially, and on attention we could give to each child. We decided that since we were currently maxed out, and since I’m fertile myrtle, but never wanted to be pregnant again, Benji would go ahead and get a vasectomy. Since we weren’t sure if we were technically “done” with children, we talked about fostering later on, perhaps when the kids were all in school. It seemed like a win/win situation and it felt like the right thing to do.

Even though it was likely years down the road, I was excited about the thought of fostering. I went through all of our baby clothes three weeks ago (to get rid of them!) and absentmindedly started pulling pieces to save just in case we ever had another baby in our home. That’s when I realized just how badly I wanted to eventually foster.  The thought of it warmed my heart, and honestly….kept me from crying while getting rid of the clothes that Mae had outgrown!

Then last Tuesday, my friend April sent me this text:

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When I got it, I just smiled…hoping again that our family would look like that one day. Little did I know that while I was hoping our family would eventually look like this through fostering, God had something entirely different in store for us.

This past Saturday, after days of feeling extremely tired and sick and thinking maybe I had diabetes or cancer, I found out that I was actually pregnant.

Pick yourself up off the floor and continue reading.

Phew. Yes. I am pregnant. And I’m just going to be honest here…I’ve been feeling the need to defend myself to everyone because I have a four month old and in the world’s eyes this is irresponsible. And truthfully, it’s a little embarrassing too. But Benji and I literally did everything right to not get pregnant. We used condoms every time. Every time! I’m breastfeeding. My cycle never returned. HE HAD A FREAKING VASECTOMY. The only thing we can conclude is that God must really want this baby to be here.

I saw my OB on Monday. It just so happened that I had my yearly exam scheduled for that day. She was able to do a physical exam and determined that I am already 8-9 weeks along. Good Lord. I will have a dating ultrasound this Friday and will know more then. My hCG levels looked great, but my progesterone was low, so I’m having to take progesterone pills until I hit 12 weeks. I just can’t even believe I’m talking like this again.

The fact that this baby is impossible has actually brought me a great measure of peace over the past few days. I’ve always wanted four children. ALWAYS. However, Benji and I aren’t loaded, so if we had done or planned this ourselves, I would be so immensely worried about how we would make it work. Right now, that’s not even on my radar. I don’t have to figure all of that out. God made this happen, and I believe he will cause everything else to fall into place. He’s good like that.

I’m reminded of Harper’s story. You can read that here: Harp’s story. God is good, y’all. He is. He loves us so much!

I am excited…and thrilled…and still in absolute shock. This is an amazing miracle!

I’ve been watching this over and over again because it’s exactly how Benji and I reacted and it makes me laugh:

Poor Benji didn’t even want me to test because he said I was being paranoid and it was impossible. Hahahaha!

I’ve been getting some pretty great responses to the news…and because I love my friends, and want to remember their responses, I’m going to share a few here. Sorry, guys.

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I love you, Rodney. Thanks for making me laugh and for always saying what everyone else is thinking!❤

And then there’s my BFF’s reaction

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I had to cross my response out because my language was a bit…over the top. I was still in the shock phase and the eff word was flying. But Stacey’s response was too good not to share. So…there.

I love my friends.

So yeah. There’s that. I’m pregnant. And since Mae missed the school cut off by one day, she and this two baby will be in the same grade once school starts! HA.

But wait…I have some more news to share!

My endocrinologist called me two days ago and asked me to come into his office. My biopsy results came back and were “suspicious”. They could neither confirm nor deny cancer, so they are recommending complete removal of my thyroid ASAP. Since I am pregnant, I will have to wait until the second trimester to have the surgery. The doctor said the baby would be fine, but naturally…I’m still a little nervous.

They won’t know whether or not it’s cancer until after they take it out and test it. If it IS cancer, thyroid cancer isn’t super aggressive, so I can wait to do radiation and all that jazz until after the birth. Phew.

So…basically this blog is just me dropping huge bombshells on everyone and asking for prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Please know that I’m okay. That’s the question I’ve been asked the most over the past few days…are you okay? I am SO okay. I really am. Yes…it’s a lot to process. And I’m definitely still in shock that I’m here…but I’m also finding great humor in it. God knows that I love a good joke and surprise. I feel so loved by Him and I have peace that this will all work out. With the thyroid stuff, I feel that they’ll remove it and it won’t even be cancer. That’s just what I feel in my gut. So I haven’t even been worried about the stuff that will follow. My main hibby jibby right now is having surgery on my neck. I have neck phobia…and surgery phobia. Not to mention I’m pregnant. It’s just such a weird situation to be in! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

So, besides prayer, any positive stories you can share with me would be greatly appreciated. I’ve already heard a few encouraging stories of pregnant woman having this done, and it just helps to hear those things! The more I hear, the better!

Thanks, and sorry for the shock! Ha.

 

The Pensieve, 2015 Edition

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As usual, I’m posting our favorite memories from our memory jar to my blog. Also as usual, I’m pretty tired (New Years + kids…am I right?), so I won’t be saying too much. This is really just for me so that I can go back each year and have quick visual of our favorite memories. This is our fourth year with the memory jar, and I really love it. I’m thankful for Pinterest giving me the idea! With each passing year, the kids become more involved and it’s such a wonderful tradition to share with them as we start out a brand new year.

If you’d like to look at our memories from years past, you can view them here:

2014
2013
2012

And here are the favorites from this year, in order by date:

  • We drove to Tuscaloosa to work on the house. We spent our drive
    picking out baby names. It took a while, but we settled on two that we like: Mabel Ivy or Moses Silas:) 01/02/2015
  • Me, Grace, and Sarah told the family we were pregnant. Paw Paw Joe made us laugh because he said he’d have to write all the dates down to remember. Granny Gayle was SO excited and so loud!❤ 01/10/2015
  • I got to hold Harper while he was sleeping. 02/24/2015
  • Harper told me that when he grows up, he wants to be a flower for me. 03/06/2015
  • Harper went on his first hike with daddy. Emrist was scared and asked if we would hold her on the mountain, so we took her later. 03/25/2015
  • Emrist told me that when Mae comes out of my belly she wants to give her her blue blankie. 05/13/2015
  • Harper felt Mae kick for the first time. She was active so I told him to sit and watch her move. She stopped, of course! He asked if he could feel her. When he put his hand there, she kicked. His eyes got wide and he said “was that Mae?!” It was so sweet! He read her a book after that – Knuffle Bunny. 05/30/2015
  • I gave Harper a broken music box to play with. He brought it back to me fixed. 07/14/2015
  • 12:41 PM. Mabel Ivy Martin was born. She was calm and warm when she entered the world. Very alert. We got to spend our first hour along. It was so lovely. 09/02/2015
  • Mae burped and Harper said “Look! She’s learning to burp like us!” 10/12/2015
  • (Harper’s memory): Mommy got me to help a lady at Target. She was locked out of her car. I climbed through her trunk and unlocked her door. She called me her hero. 12/06/2015

 

The end.

An update for the ages

So I’ve been kind of slacking on the kid updates lately. We had Mae’s one month check up, and I had planned on writing about where she was and what she was doing, but I never got around to it. Now we’ve passed her two month checkup, and still…no blogging from me. Poor, poor baby #3. But you know what…not really. Because guess who else hit a big number that I didn’t write about. Harp! He turned five and I said nothing. I’m just dropping the ball left and right, y’all.

Today, I’m biting the bullet and writing about all my kids. That’s right. ALL THREE. Em has a birthday in less than a month, so I figured why not knock all three out in one post? Let’s just be honest…you know I’m not going to blog again for another 2-3 months anyways. So yeah. All. Three.

THE OLDEST BABY:

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Sigh. He’s so big. I still can’t believe he’s five. That went by way too fast. I keep thinking…two more of those, and he’ll be driving. What? It makes me a little sad. I often wonder how I’ll even get to the point where I can let go enough to let him drive. JESUS. Guess I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

My little man is an absolute sweetheart. He always has been. I joke that he must be Benji as a child, because he certainly doesn’t take after me. He’s just way too sweet…and WAY too easy! Haha. He’s so generous. He loves giving gifts. If you’re close to us, chances are you’ve received one of his gifts. He’s always giving his stuff away to his friends AND my friends. I just love it! Sweet. Heart.

He’s still very mechanical minded. He loves taking things apart and seeing how they work. We actually had to hide Benji’s screwdriver recently because we walked into a room to find him unscrewing Mae’s carseat with it. Umm…yes. For real. His obsession with windmills, fans, motors, rotors, and turbines continues. I think we’re going on four years of that now. He actually asked me for a turbine for his birthday this year. His brain fascinates me. I can’t wait to see the things he will do when he grows older.

Some of his favorite foods at the moment are tacos, apples, pretzels, carrots, and cheese. He still, to this day, has not touched a condiment. He will NOT touch sauces, and it’s quite hilarious. He eats all day every day – I call him a garbage disposal – but somehow never gains any weight. It’s like magic. He’s been 40 lbs for about two years now and I can’t keep any pants on him because his waist is so small. I’ve been contemplating buying suspenders here recently because his butt is always out and about saying hi to folks. Harp likes to tell people he’s got “no gut, no butt” thanks to my Uncle David (it’s actually supposed to be “all gut, no butt” but we adapted it for Harp)! LOL.

THE MIDDLE BABY:

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Now this little girl DOES take after me. If we ever thought Harper’s easy going and compliant nature was due to our awesome parenting skills, Emrist proved us wrong. LOL. She is super strong willed and stubborn. “Fierce” would actually be a good way of describing her, which is funny because that’s exactly what I prayed she’d be when she was in the womb. Well…I got what I asked for, and I love it! Yeah…parenting her isn’t always easy, but I think her passion and strong will are going to serve her well in the years to come and I’m excited about that. The biggest thing with her will be teaching her all the right and wrong places to direct that natural born stubbornness!:)

She is hilarious, and loves to make people laugh. She will be the class clown once she starts school…I can already tell. She feeds off of laughter. She is kind, compassionate, and very affectionate. When she addresses any of her family members, it is normally preceded by the word “my”. “My daddy, can you get me a cup?” Just like that. Even Harper, is “my Harper” to her. It’s adorable. She loves so deeply and is easy to love.

She’s a snuggler. She makes frequent requests throughout the day to sit on the couch and snuggle. At nap time, she wants to sleep with you, preferably holding your hand as she drifts away to sleepy land.

She’s very creative and has an active imagination. And once she is in character, she stays there…for a while! This has honestly been my favorite part of raising her. She loves to drape blankets across her shoulders, while pretending to be different superheros.

She is very adventurous with her eating. She’s adventurous  in everything really, but especially in eating. She’ll try anything, which is really strange for a toddler! Her favorite foods are green pea straws (she calls them pea fries), apples, bananas, yogurt, and sheep cheese. Her allergies are mostly under control at the moment – thank heavens!

She’s still very short for her age. The last time we measured her, she was in the 7th percentile for height. We know several children who are a good deal younger than her, that are taller than her. This trait could be coming from my mom’s side of the family, but I’m planning to have her thyroid levels checked next month just to be sure nothing is going on with that, since it runs in my family.

THE LAST BABY:

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God-willing, she’s our last. Not that I wouldn’t love another baby. I definitely would. But I never want to be pregnant, ever again! Just sayin’!

Okay. Enough about me. Let’s talk about this little doll. She was 9 lbs 3 oz and 20.5 inches at birth. At her two month check up, she was 12.12 lbs and 23.75 inches long. 90th percentile across the board, and her head size was actually in the 99th percentile. LOL. She’s following in Harp’s & Em’s footsteps, for sure! #waldropjug

So far, she has been an easy baby. She wakes up once at night and usually only cries if she is hungry or tired. She started sucking her thumb last week, and since that time, life with her has gotten even easier. During the day, she usually stays awake for 40-60 minutes at a time, and then naps for 2 hours afterwards. She puts herself to sleep, which is awesome. She’s taking about 3-4 ounces at each feeding. Harp and Em were super chunky by this age, but since Mae is so long, she doesn’t have very many rolls. She may be my first nonchunky baby. I’m going to have to feed her grease or something to change this😉

She’s very smiley and talkative. I think she’ll be an early talker, just like her big sister. She’s already trying to copy and mimic the noises we make when we talk to her – that’s something Em started doing at about two months of age as well. She likes her playmat and has figured out how to roll over onto her side. She has also made the connection that if she kicks the poles on the mat, the toys will move around in the air, so there’s lots of kicking and flailing about from her when she’s on it.

She’s is an absolute joy. I can’t wait to see what kind of personality she will have. So far, she looks a lot like Em, but she acts just like Harp did at this age. I guess only time will tell us who she really is❤

Vaginal Birth vs. Cesarean – Which One Was Better?

I have been asked this question several times since Mae’s birth. I decided pretty early on that I wanted to blog my thoughts on it, but it has taken a few weeks. Honestly, while I want to talk about it, I’m a little afraid to do so. I don’t want people to get the impression that I think one type of birth is superior to the other. Or that someone should get more awesome-sauce points for bringing a baby into the world a certain way. Or that birth is, in any way, shape, or form, a competition.

So this is my disclaimer. And it’s kind of long:

I am a supporter of any type of birth that insures the health of both the baby AND the mother. The physical health of our babies is very important…DUH. But the emotional and physical health of mothers is important too!

Unfortunately, the emotional well-being of mothers is often overlooked when it comes to bringing babies into the world. And it seems that when moms do suffer birth trauma and try to talk about it, more times than not, they’re met with “a healthy baby is all that matters” or some other similar line.

I’ve actually experienced this several times myself via comments made in person and on my blog posts expressing disappointments in my births.

Regarding that sentiment, I’m just going to leave this here:)

“Many women, on telling stories of how they felt abused or traumatized during birth — or some other negative feeling, like having failed as a woman after having a C-section, or something — have their feelings dismissed with, ‘at least you have a healthy baby.’ While there is certainly a place for looking for the ‘silver lining’ in the midst of any cloud, no matter how dark, there is also a place for just putting your arm around somebody’s shoulders and ‘weep with those that weep, and mourn with those that mourn.’ Dismissing a woman’s feelings does not help her — if anything, it only makes her feel worse, because then she has the added guilt of not being able to ‘just be happy’ that her baby is healthy. Certainly she is happy that her baby is healthy… but can she not also be sad that it came at the cost of severe bodily trauma? — Especially if she is fairly certain that the C-section or whatever else that she endured during birth, was in fact not necessary for her baby to have been born healthy and well.”

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(Photo and Quote Source)

I am not a fan of that line, so please don’t use it on me, or any other person expressing sadness over their birth experience. Please, and thank you.

So…I am a supporter of whatever kind of birth a mom wants: C-section. Medicated vaginal birth. Unmedicated vaginal birth. Homebirth. Whatevs, man. Do whatcha gotta do to be healthy and whole.

For me, that was attempting a natural vaginal birth, which turned into a medicated vaginal birth, after two (very) traumatic c-sections that left me feeling sad, among other things.

The pros and cons that I’ll be listing in this post are strictly my own. They aren’t meant to speak for anyone else’s birth experience:)

So without further ado, here they are:

C-section Pros: 
  • It was quick.
C-section Cons: 
  • I was left alone after the birth.
  • The room was cold, lonely, and sterile during the birth. I was afraid.
  • I was strapped to the table.
  • I had to be put to sleep because I could feel the cutting.
  • I have no memory of meeting my Em.
  • With my Harp, I experienced a long wait time between the birth and actually getting to hold and breastfeed him.
  • I was never given the opportunity to have skin to skin immediately following the births.
  • My husband wasn’t allowed to cut the cord.
  • I had no involvement in the birth process.
  • I had a long recovery time and didn’t even begin to feel normal until 4-6 weeks postpartum.
  • The recovery was extremely painful and scary. I constantly felt like my incision would come apart.
  • I was unable to lift or pickup my newborn baby. When Em was born,this limitation was a nightmare because it meant I couldn’t pick up my baby OR my toddler.
  • Delayed cord clamping wasn’t allowed. Both babies experienced jaundice.
  • I experienced depression/anxiety for months following the births.
  • Both Em & Harp missed out on exposure to normal bacteria, which increases risk of allergies, etc.
Vaginal Birth Pros: 
  • I got to have immediate skin to skin.
  • I was able to breastfeed immediately following the birth.
  • The room was joyful and bright during the birth. I felt excited and happy.
  • I was given uninterrupted time with my baby afterwards – medical examinations, etc. were delayed until after the first hour had passed.
  • I was never left alone.
  • We got to do delayed cord clamping – Mae was my first baby not to be jaundiced.
  • I was able to take an active role in Mae’s birth and I delivered her with my own two hands.
  • My husband got to cut the cord.
  • Mae was exposed to normal bacteria, which is good for the gut.
  • I had a much shorter recovery time. Minus my leg complication, I felt normal at two weeks postpartum.
  • I had very little pain. The pain of my vaginal birth was like a skinned knee in comparison to my c-section pain. No competition.
  • I experienced a birth high, and was much more emotionally stable after birth.
  • So far, I have experienced no feelings of depression or anxiety. Admittedly, this could still come, although I’m hoping not.
Vaginal Birth Cons: 
  • Labor pain. Some people love it (or so I’ve heard). I am not one of those people.
  • Tearing. I had a 2nd degree tear, and while it wasn’t THAT bad…I’d still consider it a con haha.
  • I had to have a Foley catheter in for a week due to not being able to urinate (Mae “stunned” my bladder). This isn’t a “normal” complication, but according to my OB does happen occasionally.

So there are my pros and cons. I could probably come up with more if I sat and really thought about it, but this post is already long enough…so we will just leave it at this!

Which birth was better?

For me, the vaginal birth was WAY better. Even with my leg complication, it has still been so much easier than the recovery of both of my c-sections. Yes, I have been limping around for the past month, but I did that with both of my c-sections too. At least this time, I can pick up my babies and adequately care for them. And I can laugh without being in pain. Laughing is a big part of my life and you can’t laugh after a c-section. Seriously! I can also drive (I use my left foot) and ride in the car without fearing speed bumps (ouch!) – both things I couldn’t do for a long time after my c-sections.

BUT…while an easier physical recovery has definitely been a perk, the absolute best part of this whole experience has been that I just feel better emotionally. I feel like ME. I’m happy and energetic and just…my normal self. I feel amazing, and this is the first birth I’ve ever been able to say that about!

So for me, the vaginal birth was definitely the better one! HANDS DOWN.

The NICU

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The NICU. I never in a million years thought that I would experience it. My kids are all born huge, healthy, and pink. I always (subconsciously) had a false sense of security that because my babies are born big, they’d be safe from the NICU. I never even realized that this was my thought process until Mae ended up in the NICU.

She was born at 12:41 pm on a Wednesday. 9 lbs 3 oz, 20.5 inches long. BIG baby girl!❤ She didn’t say much when she entered the world, but she “pinked up” just fine. She was quiet and observant. Benji and I actually didn’t even know what she sounded like for about 24 hours after her birth.

Her first night with us was interesting. She didn’t wake me up by crying. Instead, she would wake me up in 30-90 minute intervals by choking. I would quickly pick her up and then she would gag and subsequently projectile vomit (I guess you would call it vomiting?) clear fluid.  I had never experienced this with H or E, but I didn’t panic. I just figured she had swallowed a lot of amniotic fluid in the womb and it was working its way out of her.

The day after her birth, we finally heard her cry for the first time. She was really fussy, unlike the day before. I thought maybe she was waking up and this was going to be her normal disposition. I kept her at the breast as much as I could, but she still fussed. Sometime around mid day, I noticed she was breathing rapidly. Her nurse came in for one of her checkups, and I shared my concerns with her, but she told me she thought it was just because Mae had recently been crying.

Later that afternoon, the nurse came in again for another checkup. This time, she noticed the rapid breathing for herself and told us that she needed to take Mae to Well Baby so that the pediatrician could examine her. Still in the “my babies don’t go to the NICU” mindset, I let her leave the room without much pomp and circumstance. I assumed that all would be well and they would return Mae within an hour.

Well…that didn’t happen. We were told a little while later that Mae was being sent to NICU for tachypnea (a fancy word for rapid breathing) and she would be getting a chest x-ray. They didn’t really tell us much beyond that, saying the doctor would fill us in later. At this point, I internally freaked out a bit. I actually type the neonatal chest x-rays for this particular hospital, and I knew that Mae would be getting crap-ton of x-rays if she were to stay in the NICU. Hello, radiation.

The doctor didn’t officially come to speak with me until about 11 PM. Once again, he didn’t give me any specific diagnosis…it was just a “she might have this, but we’re not sure so we’re monitoring her” kind of thing. He did tell me that they had taken blood cultures and had started antibiotics to go ahead and start fighting off any infection that might be there. He said her breathing was already headed in the right direction.

Having never had a NICU baby before, I kept waiting for them to call me to say I could come see her. By 8AM the next morning, I realized that obviously wasn’t going to happen. It had been about 14 hours since I had seen her so I started making calls myself <– apparently this is how the NICU works. You tell them when you want to go see the baby, not the other way around. No one ever communicated this to me, so I was clueless. I was pretty upset when I realized that I could have been in to see her all throughout the night.

The NICU told me I could come see her in about 30 minutes. I was still unable to walk at this point, and Benji had to work on this particular morning (you can read about that Here), so I had to call a nurse to wheel me down. That was real fun.

When I finally arrived, Mae was screaming. She hadn’t had anything to eat since the afternoon before. They had her on IV fluids, and at one point had had a feeding tube in her, but she had gotten mad and ripped it out. Though she was getting fluids, she was still hungry. A nurse was at her incubator with both arms inside trying to pat her down and calm her. Mae was on her belly, with her head to the side and she was violently kicking and flailing around. She was very hangry and was letting everyone know about it. She had a million wires coming out of her and she had a cannula in as well. As soon as I saw her, I fell apart and started sobbing. Every fiber of my being wanted to grab her up and hold her, but there was a giant plastic box and a nurse standing between us. Though I was staring right at her, it felt like she was a million miles away. It was a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling.

The nurse eventually put some sugar water on a pacifier and calmed her that way.  She told me I could put my hands through the arm holes of the incubator and touch her that way if I wanted. She left after that, and I just sat and cried. Every time I’d try to pull myself together, I’d start back up again. At some point, another nurse came over and just hugged me. She didn’t say a thing…she just hugged me while I cried. She eventually brought me a baby blanket to wipe my face with – she said they don’t even bother with Kleenex for the NICU parents. It made me laugh. It was such a kind gesture…and I feel horrible because I don’t even remember what she looked like, but I’ll still remember her forever.

One big blessing that came out of my “injury” was that they allowed me to stay in the hospital for one day longer. While I was in the hospital, I visited Mae as often as I could. By Friday, mid day, they had started allowing us to hold and bottle feed her. She was improving and they had removed her cannula. It left a horrible mark though:

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Being able to finally hold her was amazing!

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I was discharged on Saturday. The doctor who discharged me said that the room was mine until midnight, so I could stay as long as I needed to even though I had been discharged. I decided to stay until 5pm, so that I could feed her one last time before going home.

That last feeding was pretty terrible. I cried and cried and cried. Leaving her at the hospital just felt so wrong, and I felt very guilty. It may have helped if we had known when she’d be coming home with us, but the NICU was absolutely horrible about communicating with us. We still didn’t even have a diagnosis for her at this point and when we’d ask when she might come home, they’d basically just repeat their standards and procedures to us. The only time we got close to having an answer was when one nurse told us “Maybe by Wednesday” but even that wasn’t encouraging with the “maybe” in front of it.

The next two nights were difficult and lonely, to say the least. There should have been a sweet little baby right next to me at night, but instead, her bed was empty. I would sit and pat my flattened belly, while looking over to where she should have been, and I would play back all the times I had ever complained about being pregnant, my heart heavy with regret. I may have been uncomfortable, but at least she had been safe then. Now she wasn’t with us at all, and it just sucked.

Thanks to some amazing friends of ours who watched H & E for us practically all day on Sunday, we were able to spend a good portion of our day with her the next day. It was the best medicine! I got to breastfeed her for the first time since Thursday afternoon. She took right to it, like we had never been apart. I was relieved. There was a part of me that believed she wouldn’t know me anymore after all of this was over.

When we came back on Monday, they informed us that we could “room in” with Mae that night. This was music to my ears. Though they still hadn’t told us when she would be discharged, this was the step right before they discharge a baby from the NICU so we had a pretty good feeling it would be the next day!

I had originally planned on just doing the room in alone, but some of the nurses were treating me like an invalid since I had a catheter in and had to use a walker to get around. One had even hinted at Mae not being able to go home until I got well. This statement didn’t sit well with me. Not wanting anything to interfere with her coming home, I asked my friend Bekah if the kids could stay with her overnight so that Benji could come with me. I just wanted the nurses to see with their own eyes that we are a two person team, and Mae would be well cared for, in spite of my injury. So H & E had their first ever slumber party! Thanks Bekah!!❤

The NICU “room in” closet (I won’t even call it a room) was apparently designed to only have one parent stay with the baby – why??? Who knows.

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It had one twin size bed, and then a crappy fold out chair across from it that was totally nonfunctional. Poor Benji got the worst night of sleep ever that night, I believe. He was a good sport about it, giving me the bed, and not letting me trade out with him, even though I offered to. He’s so sweet.

Mae did splendidly that night! She woke up at her feeding times, ate well, and went back to sleep. The last time that we had spent time with her alone (on Thursday), she had been extremely fussy so I assumed she would scream this night as well, but she didn’t.

The next morning, we were officially told that she could go home. We were so happy! Our family was finally going to be together. The doctor came by to discharge her around 11am. He informed us that she had really been kept “too long.” Yes…he admitted that. After three chest x-rays, one abdominal x-ray, and a round of antibiotics, it turned out that she never had an infection in the first place. All of her x-rays were clear. All of her blood work was negative. “Sometimes babies just do this” he told us. Nice. So my baby just went through hell – being poked and prodded constantly, exposed to radiation, not to mention being separated from her parents – all for nothing? Awesome. Thank you, Doctor. Given my stance on modern medicine, the overuse of antibiotics, and the horrible damage they can do to your body, etc. this honestly just pissed me off, but I decided not to focus on it. I decided to instead focus on the fact that we were finally going home and it was OVER.

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My friend Alexa made this for me to go with one of my birth affirmation cards❤ RTR, y’all.

So we made it home. I told Benji when we left the hospital that I officially felt like Mae was ours. It just didn’t seem like she was while in the hospital. Anytime we tried to do “normal parenting” stuff, we had a nurse or doctor hovering over us…watching. It always felt like we were being judged on whether or not we were fit parents. Super weird experience.

And just because I have to document EVERYTHING. This is what Mae looked like when she got home:

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Seven sticks in her right foot

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Seven sticks in her left foot

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One stick in each hand

So many boo-boos😦 And she had another heel stick at the doctor last week, and SCREAMED…so now I can only imagine that she did the same for each of these 16 sticks. Breaks my heart.

But she’s home now…thank God. THANK GOD. And given her start to life, I’m finding it very hard not to spoil her. She’s going to get everything she wants from here on out. Mark my words😉

Stanky Leg

Hi there! You probably guessed by the title that this post is about my birth injury. Or maybe you thought this post would actually be about me doing the stanky legg…for real. I hate to disappoint you if you thought it was the latter. Maybe some other time, friend?

Like with my birth story, I’m giving you a warning with this post. It will have details and pictures that are probably gross, and TMI, but I’m sharing anyways! It’s my story, and I’ve been laughing through it. It’s just how I deal. So here we go.

A lot of people have been asking about my foot so I thought I’d give a few details here to clear it up for everyone. Well…clear it up as much as I can. It’s still not technically clear to me OR the doctors.

Basically, after Mae was born, and the epidural was wearing off, I realized that my right foot was completely numb. We were told that the epidural sometimes just takes a while to wear off and that what I was experiencing was normal. We were told that within 24 hours, my leg and foot would be back to normal. My gut told me that this wasn’t going to be the case for me, but I ignored that feeling and decided to just enjoy the first 24 hours with my new baby girl. I didn’t want to worry those precious first hours away.

After 24 hours had passed though, my foot was still completely numb. The right side of my leg below the knee was also numb, but the left was not. I couldn’t move my toes, or flex my foot up or down. It just sort of….hung there. The doctors and nurses were perplexed and no one had any answers. I was sent in for an MRI to make sure that the epidural had not somehow injured my spine. While I did have two disc bulges and some facet hypertrophy, there was nothing from the epidural, and nothing that would cause me to to lose the use of my right foot.

A physical therapist was sent to my room and she was absolutely no help whatsoever. She just made a bunch of confused noises and left abruptly, offering to bring some ice packs by later on, in case I had an inflamed nerve. I began to feel rather hopeless at this point. My nurse had taught me how to walk by locking my bones into place, but I had to hold onto things as I crossed the room or I couldn’t make it. I eventually requested that my doctor order me a walker. Yes…a freaking walker.

On top of my leg/foot not working, my bladder was out of commission too. I could not pee on my own. I had the urge to go, but I couldn’t get it to leave my body. And we tried everything. Grape juice with sweet-n-low in it (I’m still confused on this one?), medication, tons of water, ammonia packs under me while I was actively trying to go, sniffing nail polish remover while trying to go (again…what?), sucking on a straw while I tried to go…NOTHING WORKED. I thought maybe I was experiencing performance anxiety and that’s why I couldn’t go. But then…my family came to visit. I was feeling like I needed to go when they got there, and that sensation quickly turned into severe pain. I called my nurse and told her I needed a catheter put in ASAP. I seriously thought I was going to burst. When they got the catheter in, they drained nearly one and a half liters from my bladder. Umm..there is no way that was performance anxiety!

At this point, they decided to put a Foley catheter in and just leave it. It stayed in for 24 hours, was removed, and once again, I couldn’t go and I had to have another one placed. Damn. I was beginning to feel pretty desperate. Everyone began to verbalize what I had feared the most – that it might be related to my leg. HOLY MOLY. Please…no. I couldn’t have a catheter in for forever. This was worse than my right leg not working in my book – maybe I’m crazy, but that’s just how I felt. My nurse came in to find me crying over it one night, and assured me that all would be okay and that my bladder would “wake up” soon. I didn’t believe her.

Long story short, I ended up being sent home with that stupid thing. I find this a little hilarious (now), because right before Mae was born, I informed my friend Amanda that getting the Foley catheter was one of my favorite parts of labor! You spend nine months peeing all the time, and finally get a break from it. Needless to say, I ate my words, and I am not a fan of the Foley anymore! Haha.

I had it in for a week. I deal with things by being stupid and cracking jokes. So to cope with this awful contraption, I nicknamed it my postpartum penis and my pee purse and tried to make light of it.

And speaking of laughing about my situation, Benji also started singing this to me anytime I’d hobble somewhere:

LOL!!! God, I love him.

Okay…back to the pee purse. Being in public with it was absolutely humiliating. I felt like I had mastered walking around with my stanky leg, but since I was always carrying a bag of my pee around, I felt tied to my walker. I had to have something to hang the bag on that kept it below my waist line (to prevent urine from going backing up into my bladder once it was in the bag). Seriously…it was awful and people treated me like I was so so fragile and incapable. The NICU nurses were the worst about looking at me with that pity look, and one even hinted to not letting Mae go home until I didn’t have the catheter in anymore.

On top of all that, I couldn’t take a bath with it in – I had to shower. As you can imagine, that’s a little difficult when you can’t use one of your legs properly. And…dude…when things fall apart around me, I just want to hop into the bathtub and SOAK sometimes. It sucked not being able to do that. I also couldn’t wear pants while I had it in. I had to wear a dress, and you could see the tube (aka postpartum penis) coming out from underneath my dress, and from my nether regions. People stared and it was annoying.

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Yep. That’s my pee…in the pee purse. Isn’t it beautiful?

After being at home with that thing for a week, I finally got the chance to try peeing again. I went in to my OB’s office expecting to be sent home with another catheter. I had actually even asked JLo before going in to teach me how to self cath if I couldn’t pee so I could just get rid of that nasty bag. I got there early in the morning and had that “I’m about to burst” sensation. I sat down, prayed, and then…peed. I PEED!!!! I’ve never prayed over my peeing efforts before, but I definitely give God the glory for being able to go – that’s a weird statement. I cried and cried and cried. It was the best feeling in the world! I tell you what…I will never take being able to pee for granted again! Haha.

Once that was all settled, I felt so much better about my leg. My friend Danielle had loaned me a brace earlier in the week to tie me over until I could get an actual AFO brace. Her brace helped me tremendously! I’ve been using it around the house, and once when we took the kids to the zoo. It helps me walk and prevents me from unknowingly spraining my ankle. It’s awesome – thank you, Danielle!!❤

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I forgot to mention that the OB that discharged me told me that what I have is called drop foot. It’s basically the result of nerve damage. So we know WHAT it is…we just don’t know why it happened unfortunately.

I found a group of moms on FB that suffered the same type of injury during their births and recovery time for all of them was anywhere from 6 weeks to a year. I’m hopeful that my foot will slowly began to heal on it’s own.

A couple of times, I’ve caught myself looking forward to the day when I’ll be all better and fully functional again. I’m trying really hard not to have that mindset though – you know…looking forward to a time when my present trouble is gone. Who knows if that day will even come for me. Mae will only be this little once, and since she’s my last baby, I’m trying so hard to be present NOW and to just enjoy her, in spite of my foot. Some days are harder than others, and I don’t always make that choice…especially with all the postpartum hormones and what not going on. Some days I have multiple pity parties over it. But I’m realizing that in some ways, this has been a blessing. When Mae was being released from the NICU, I was praying over her and I started praying that God would make this time go slower for me. That he would slow ME down, so that I could just enjoy it all. I immediately saw a picture of my foot as the words left my mouth. It was like God was saying I’m one step ahead of you, Ash (see what I did there?).

Because of this injury, I’ve had to settle into a new place that I’m not really comfortable being in – a place where I let people help me. That has probably been the hardest part because I don’t really love asking for help. But through that, I’ve found that people really and truly love us…so much. It’s kind of incredible and extremely humbling. God has been so generous towards me, and our family, through all of this.

So that’s where we are now. Hopefully within a week or two I’ll have my AFO brace. I’m also planning to see a physical therapist and neurologist to help me with my recovery. I’m excited about that and hopeful they can give me even more answers.

I’m still planning to post about the NICU stay as well as my feelings on c-section versus VBAC. My feelings on the last may surprise you, given my present situation! But more on that later:)

Mae’s Birth Story

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She’s here! Good Lord. I can’t believe it. A week has already passed, and what a whirlwind it was. I’ve thought about writing this story down several times over the past few days, but never got around to it. Today is the day though. I need to do it before the details get lost in the fuzziness that is new motherhood. Just a warning though. I have a million pictures, and one includes a bloody baby. I’m not sparing any details, so if birthy things gross you out, read no further, friend!:)

It’s hard to know where to start on this one. As most of you already know, I had a vaginal birth after two c-sections this time. I didn’t officially decide to attempt a vaginal birth until I was 37 weeks along though. I spent my entire pregnancy going back and forth on what to do.

When I had Em by csection, I knew I would never try to VBAC again. It was way too painful (both physically and emotionally) to try only to fail in the end. And if I’m being honest…trying and failing left an ugly mark on Em’s birth for me. I was thrilled that she was healthy, but part of me was also grieved by how things went down. I didn’t want that for this birth. The OB who delivered Em had also assured me that my pelvis was too small to birth my babies anyways. So once Em came by c-section, I knew that with my next pregnancy, I would simply sign up for a repeat c-section.

Only I didn’t. I got pregnant again and for some reason, that decision did not come so easily to me. Every time I thought about picking a c-section date, I felt conflicted and I had no idea why. Once again, I had a very intense longing to have a vaginal birth this time around. I was insanely frustrated with myself over it too as I had already been told it was impossible. Whhhhhyyyyyy did I want to try again?

My new OB only complicated my decision because she was pro VBAC…even after two c-sections. She had read all the studies that deemed them safe, and was on board if I wanted to try. Part of me just wanted her to tell me no and make the decision for me. I know. Insanity, right? She said we would wait until late in my pregnancy and have an ultrasound to determine whether or not I was a good candidate – she mainly just wanted to see if Mae was actually in my pelvis or not.

I’ll spare you the emotional turmoil I went through (and put my friends through) during the weeks leading up to my ultrasound. To VBAC or not to VBAC. It consumed me every. single. day. Finally, on August 8th (I remember the date), I felt God calling me to just freaking surrender to Him already. DO IT. Surrender to me, and don’t care about the ending, Ash. I’ve got this. <—it sounded more or less like that. LOL. So I did. I handed my birthy plans over to Him…the ones I had been clinging to and crying over for weeks on end. And I felt immediate peace.

Over the next ten days, as I waited for my ultrasound, “I Surrender All” was my daily song. Anytime I felt a hint of anxiety or the temptation to wonder what would happen, I started singing that song. By the time the 18th rolled around, I had convinced myself that Dr. Logan (aka JLo) would say a repeat c-section was in my best interest, and I was actually okay with it!

However, to my complete shock, Mae was engaged and ready to go at that appointment. I had never had a baby engaged in my pelvis before…not even during labor, so this was a miracle in my book! JLo told me I was a good candidate to try and said my pelvis was just fine to birth my baby. So it was decided. I would try. Again. Phew.

I started doing all the labor-y type things after that appointment. Walking like a mad woman. Drinking raspberry tea. Eating pineapple. Bouncing on my birth ball. Seeing my chiropractor weekly (I had actually already been doing this for a while). Etc. It was fun to work towards sending my body into labor on its own. I came up with a birth plan and officially asked two of my friends to doula for me.

During that week, I actually started experiencing nightly contractions…something that had never happened in any of my pregnancies before. They kept me up all. night. long. It was awful and awesome at the same time! Awful in that it exhausted me and awesome in that it assured me that my body was working towards the end goal of getting Mae here.

At my 38 week check up I was 1.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. I upped my birthing ball and pineapple game over the next week and by the time I was 39 weeks, I was 3 cm dilated.  JLo asked if she could strip my membranes at the appointment and I said “please, and thank you!” That was on Monday. I had contractions all afternoon that day, and I was kind of afraid I’d go into labor that night. I say afraid because I was exhausted from being up all night the night before. I wanted just one night of rest before I went into the real deal labor thing. Fortunately, I got what I asked for! Contractions stopped completely that night, and I had some of the best sleep I had gotten in weeks! The next morning, my friend (and doula) asked if I’d like to go walk. We loaded up all of our kids and took them to the park. They played while we made a couple of laps around the circle there. It was hot so we eventually decided to go walk around and shop at Target. While there, I started cramping.

I went home and put the kids down for nap and the contractions started up. They were 6-8 minutes apart. I stayed in bed all afternoon and evening with contractions. Even though I had gotten a good night sleep before, I was starting to feel extremely tired again.

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I looked awesome. This is my last pregnant picture.

Around 6pm, I had bloody show (I told you…all the birthy things will be written about), and after that my contractions really started to pick up. I texted my mom and told her to go ahead and come to our house as I thought I’d be heading to the hospital later that night.

My mom and doula (Bekah) both arrived at our house around 9pm. I had taken a bath in an attempt to slow my contractions down while waiting for my mom, and it was very efficient. Once Bekah arrived, I told her I’d like to go somewhere and walk to try and bring them back on again. We decided to head off to my friend Naomi’s house as she lived close to the hospital.

We got there and walked, and bounced on my birthing ball, and walked some more. Benji and I walked around the neighborhood and held hands. It felt like a little date and my heart needed that. At some point, I burped really loudly because I do that on dates, and it scared a man that was outside that I hadn’t seen. Yes…I scared a man with my burp. Sorry, dude. I assure you all…I am a lady…sometimes.

Around midnight, Naomi told me she thought that what I was experiencing was prodromal labor. She said I was too smiley to be in real labor and suggested that we wait things out. She told me not to get my hopes up on having the baby any time soon, but offered to let me spend the night at her house just in case. I knew I was in labor, and truthfully wanted to go to the hospital right at the moment because I was in a great deal of pain, even if I was smiley. But I decided to try and lay down for a while and wait to see what happened. I lasted an hour. I was dying. DYING. My contractions were lasting anywhere from 60-90 seconds and my god…they hurt. After an hour of laying there writhing in pain, I started shaking uncontrollably. I was terrified and started to feel desperate. I needed to go to the hospital. I just felt like I’d be safe there. I woke Benji and Bekah up and told them both I needed to go now. I may have dropped a couple of eff bombs in there too. Oh and I started crying uncontrollably. Good lord. Drama.

Bekah went and told Naomi we were going, but Naomi was half asleep and misunderstood, thinking we were heading home, not to the hospital. She stayed home and we headed off.

Things get a little blurry at this point. I know we were in triage for about two hours…and I was SO tired. I was handling contractions okay, but my eyes were rolling back into my head in between them, and I started to feel a little like I was dying. For real.

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So tired.

In all the rush to leave for Naomi’s house, I had forgotten my wallet at home. It had a special “call JLo for delivery” card in it. Since I was a VBA2C patient, JLo promised to personally delivery me no matter when I went into labor. We told the nurses that JLo told me to have them call her, but I didn’t have the card to prove it. Unfortunately, the OB on call that night was not VBAC supportive and if he delivered me, it would have been by repeat c-section. I was in so much pain that I started telling Benji and Bekah that if that man came into my room and told me I had to have a c-section, I wasn’t going to fight him on it. I was too tired and didn’t want to fight. At some point, we finally convinced the nurses to call JLo. They didn’t realize that I had had two prior c-sections – they thought I’d only had one. When they found this out, their eyes got wide. JLo was called, and we were moved to labor and delivery.

I forgot to mention that while in triage, they checked me and I was 4 cm dilated. This derailed me quite a bit simply because I was so tired and had been contracting ALL afternoon, evening, and night. All I could think was…geez…hours and hours of this crap, and I’m only 1 cm more dilated. I can’t continue on like this…hours of pain and exhaustion for just 1 cm. I was also fighting the mental battle of what if I do all of this and I stall at 7 cm again and end up with a c-section anyways – I had never gotten past 7 cm in any of my births.

It was at this point that I started telling Benji and Bekah that I needed the epidural. My birth plan had been ALLLLLLLL natural. No epidural. No artificial rupture of membranes. No pitocin. Etc. So when I started talking about getting the epidural, Benji and Bekah reminded me that pre-labor Ashley didn’t want one. And let me tell you something…it was ANNOYING. They had the best of intentions, and normal rational Ashley knows that. But laboring Ashley was kind of a beast and didn’t really care.

Bekah is one of my best friends, and she knows my birth stories and how they wounded me. She knew my heart’s desire, and wanted to see it through. She was gracious while reminding me of my birth plan.

And Benji…God bless him. He was a bit more firm because he’s physically been there as I’ve fallen apart before each c-section, and had to recover physically and emotionally from each one. He had seen me walk through and agonize over every single decision I made during my prior births, wondering if I had done something wrong. He had sat and cried with me. He lived through those disappointments with me, and didn’t want me to go through that again…so he was a lot more stubborn about my choice to get the epidural. I love him for it…but I was still mean to him in that moment lol. Sorry, babe.

Eventually, after lots of screaming from me, and punching a table or something, everyone agreed that I should be put out of my misery. I think they were really just afraid that I’d eat them alive if I didn’t get my way. I’m still ashamed of how I behaved. Bekah says I was only mean to Benji, but I think she’s lying.

So I got the drugs. And then I was in HEAVEN. You just don’t even know. Seriously. Look at the before and after:

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I took a nap, and progressed to 7 cm. When I woke up, nice Ashley was back!

Doubting Debrah came back with her though. I was now at 7 cm. My stalling point.

Okay…this is where it happens every time. I’m going to stall again, I just know it! Just make peace with it and you won’t be so disappointed when it happens again <—- my thought process.

I want to say I was at 7 cm for three hours, when JLo came in and said we weren’t going to get discouraged over it. She was going to break my water and start pitocin. I’m glad she wasn’t getting discouraged, because I sure as hell was! I just knew I wouldn’t go any further. They cranked up the pitocin, and I started to feel more pressure. It wasn’t too bad, but I could feel it. Sometime later, JLo came in and I was at 8 cm. I kid you not, my belief was that she lied to me to make me believe in myself, so that I would stop blocking my body from progressing. I did NOT believe I was 8 cm.

The nurses came in on an hourly basis and flipped me from side to side to help Mae move further down into my pelvis (I think it’s called the epidural roll?). It took about 1 to 2 hours to progress each centimeter. It was torturous. Eventually I was told I was 9 cm. Hmm…maybe JLo isn’t lying to me? Am I really at 9cm?

Again, I stayed there for a while, until Naomi came in with her peanut ball. Google it. They’re amazing, and I wish I had used it the entire time. They put it between my legs and within five minutes I was complete.

I fell apart when JLo said I was ready to push. No really. I did. Here’s proof. Naomi took pictures of my ugly cry:

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I never in a million years thought I would hear those words. JLo asked if I was in pain and I told her no…I was just so happy. I STILL could not believe it was happening though. I kept asking “is this really happening? Does this mean I’m going to push her out?” It was just absolute shock and disbelief..the whole time.

Still being in my negative state of mind, I was expecting about 2-4 hours of pushing. Naomi turned on my labor grooves playlist which included classics like “you can do it put your back into it” and “push it”. Me, the doulas, the OB, and the nurses ALLLLLLL danced to my awesome music while I pushed my precious baby into the world. My wonderful husband, who isn’t much of a dancer (unless it’s to ska), just smiled and videoed the whole thing for me. What a gift!❤ It was so incredible and SO much fun! Celebratory. Exactly how I had always wanted to experience birth!

I pushed for about 20 minutes, and JLo asked if I’d like to deliver her. UMM…yes, I would! So I got to pull her out. I was literally the first person to touch or hold her once she was earthside. It was pure magic, y’all.

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Seriously. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, and I’m still in awe that it actually happened. I never once believed in myself. I was TERRIFIED of trying and failing again…so I almost didn’t even try. I can’t even believe that. I almost didn’t try! What if I hadn’t? What if I had given into fear and let it win? I would have missed out on one of the greatest moments of my life!

God was so gracious to me. He surrounded me with people who believed in me, when I couldn’t believe in myself. They encouraged me to go for it. They all helped to carry me through this. I’m so grateful to God and my support team.

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I’ll be writing a couple more posts in addition to this one. I want to write about my “birth injury”, Mae’s NICU stay, and my thoughts on VBAC vs. C-section (because people keep asking). But I’ll save that for later, because this is already hella long!:)

God bless you if you hung in there and read the whole thing!

We Finally Have Answers!

IMG_1062This is such an exciting post for me to write! I posted a little bit about this on Facebook, but haven’t felt up to blogging about it until today (you know…being huge pregnant and all, I’m kind of tired).

About a month ago, we had a blood allergy test done on Em. My last post about the Magical Cream actually left off with that…we were waiting to have the test done. That was a whole crazy experience that involved having to go twice because they couldn’t find a vein to stick the first time. We finally got answers though.

They tested her for all the top allergens, plus tomatoes because we suspected she had an allergy to those. Well. She reacted to everything. EVERYTHING. It’s kind of humorous because I’ve always joked that she’s allergic to everything. Little did I know, she actually was! Egg yolk, egg whites, wheat, corn, peanut, soy, and tomato…all positive. And this was in addition to the dairy, cinnamon, and cumin that we already knew about. Sheesh. She had “class I” reactions to everything except for soy, that was a “class II”.

I read so many mixed reviews on what to do with that information. From cut out everything to cut out nothing because it could just be a false positive. The middle ground advice was to just cut out soy since she reacted highest to that. With the way Em’s skin has been though (FOR TWO YEARS), I decided to take it to the extreme. I just kept thinking…she has been itching for her entire life…like seriously…she probably doesn’t even know what it feels like to just be normal. She was constantly ripping and tearing at her skin, and man…that broke my heart. So we decided to be extreme and remove all of that stuff from her diet.

Honestly, I was not thrilled about it and I was very skeptical that it would even work. I kept thinking that we were going to do this major dietary overhaul for her, and nothing would come of it (hi, I’m Negative Nancy). I even went into a mild state of depression over it because I felt so overwhelmed. I kept trucking along that first week though, and realized it wasn’t so hard after all. Soy, gluten, corn, and eggs are in just about everything, so we’ve mainly just stuck to fruits, veggies, and protein for her. That hasn’t been a huge deal because she’s always been into those things anyways. The biggest issue was finding snacky items she could munch on while at playdates and around others. Thank god there seem to be a lot of allergy-friendly food brands out there, so I was able to find a few things that she could have! I’ve also gotten my bake on a few times to make her some special little treats.

I’ve had a few people ask if our whole family has gone on this diet with her, and the answer is sometimes. We’re still doing breakfast and lunch the same way we’ve always done them – everyone has whatever they want. Generally, fruit and yogurt for breakfast for the kids. Lunch is usually protein, cheese, veggies, fruit. Em can have yogurt, sheep and goat cheese just fine, by the way. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that before. There are snacks throughout the day, of course. Em has hers and Harp has his. Sometimes he eats hers, but she can’t have his (for the most part). Dinner is sometimes a 100% allergen-free meal for all of us, and other times I’ll make something like spaghetti for the whole family, and just serve hers with gluten free pasta and no tomato sauce.

I’m doing it this way for two reasons: #1) The new Em diet is way is expensive. No…like really. I spent $100 on one week’s worth of food for JUST EM. Holy cow. And more importantly #2) I’m doing it this way because she will be in school next year, and if these allergies stick around, she needs to go ahead and settle into being around other people who can eat normally without whining about it or trying to steal their food. Does that make me mean? Maybe. But this may be her life for a while. We have no way of knowing if she’ll outgrow this or not, so I’d rather her be prepared for being different when around other people.

So far, she has adjusted amazingly well! The first week was the hardest. She cried at church when she couldn’t have animal crackers like all the other kids😦 Since then, I’ve been better about planning ahead. If we go anywhere that will have food, I try to know in advance what that food will be and take her something similar that she can have. We’ve since successfully gone out to eat, gone on picnics, attended playdates, and we even attended a birthday party with YUMMY cake without her shedding a tear over not being able to have what the others were having. Even tonight, I offered to make mac & cheese for dinner and she told me “I don’t like that. I’m allergic.”  I’m just super impressed by her. She is such a strong and resilient little jewel.

So now is the truly exciting part. We’re a month out from all the dietary changes and we’ve seen major improvement! Her skin looks almost completely normal. Hallelujah!

Day 1

This is her skin at it’s worst. This is when we were just treating her occasionally with steroids. She had patches like this all over – behind both legs, in the folds of both arms, behind her ears, torso, etc. It was horrible. This is right before we started using the magical cream from my last post, which helped tremendously! We started applying that 2-3 times a day, and saw a huge difference in her skin. However, she was still having flare ups because the underlying issue hadn’t been resolved yet.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of her skin when we started the dietary changes – I told you…I was overwhelmed. The first picture I took was on July 13th, and I took it because I was discouraged with her progress:

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Duh. It’s still better than the first picture. And this was also without the help of cream or steroids (I decided to take her completely off of any outside help just to see if the diet was truly helping). However, I was discouraged because with all the extreme changes, I honestly expected all flare ups to stop immediately. That is NOT what happened though, and looking back it was kind of unrealistic for me to expect that. I think her body needed time to heal and get rid of all the stuff that she had been exposed to for months on end. It should also be noted that we discovered the she is also allergic to avocado on this week, so it could’ve been a flare up to that as well.

Here’s when I really started to get excited. July 26th:

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Again, no medicine or cream. This is just her skin being her skin. And this is an absolute miracle because we’ve been fighting her rashes for TWO years. She’s never looked like this without the help of some type of medicine or cream. Unbelievable!

And then we have today’s picture: 

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#BOOM. Can y’all believe this? Because I can’t. Again…this is no medicine or cream. This is just her skin healing naturally after having all of the allergens removed! I am amazed and over the moon excited! This is the first time in two years that we’ve had nearly clear skin without the help of anything! I suspect that maybe in another month or so her skin will be completely normal – here’s to hoping!❤

So that’s the update for now. I have similar pictures of her arms and upper torso as well. It’s all healing and looks amazing! Praise be to God!

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