Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Maternity Reads

I'm an avid reader, and when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was head to the library and check out a whole stack of pregnancy related books! 

I didn't do much more than skim through that first stack, but throughout my pregnancy I started (and mostly finished) a variety of books on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and all such related matters. While many were pretty drab and mundane, or simply scared the life out of me by listing everything that could go wrong(!!), there were a few that I really loved.

For the record, and to consider the types of books I was reading, we had a natural childbirth with a midwife in a hospital.

1. Redeeming Childbirth - Angie Tolpin

This is my #1 reading recommendation for momma's-to-be! I absolutely loved this book! It was recommended to me by a friend who claimed it really calmed her heart and prepared her spiritually for labor - and I would completely agree! I read this book during my third trimester and found it to be a great devotional tool. It helped me look at labor and delivery from a more spiritual perspective and see childbirth as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord rather than just a feat I had to "endure." 

While the author chose to take a natural childbirth approach (which I appreciated as that was the route I knew I was headed and loved the mental tools she suggested) she in no way suggests natural childbirth as the right or only way to go. In fact, the friend who recommended the book to me did not take a natural childbirth approach and loved the book as much as I did!

2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin

This was a book my midwife recommended I read. The first half of the book is a complete index of birth stories. This was a little shocking to me when I first picked up the book - particularly because the stories centered around women who were going a little more "natural" than I intended (i.e. birthing at home or at "the Farm" - the author's midwife center), but as I got closer to my due date, I found some comfort and empowerment in simply reading others' stories and gaining confidence in my body's abilities.

I enjoyed this book because it talked through the physical and mental aspects of labor and really emphasized the power and beauty of natural labor. It also answered many practical questions and spurred some great conversations with my midwife.

3. The Power of a Praying Parent - Stormie Omartian

There is no better time to start praying for your child than NOW! This book was a gift from my mom. I had read and loved its companion -  The Power of a Praying Wife, while Brandon and I were engaged, and was eager to read Omartian's thoughts from the perspective of a parent.

Simply put, this is an excellent read that emphasizes the power a parent's prayer has over his/her children. It provides great tools as to when, how, and why we need to pray for our children.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 5, 2016

In All Things Give Thanksgiving

I had a lot of expectations for Beckett's first few weeks of life - I would spend time cuddling and bonding my newborn as I soaked up his sweet smiles and little noises and filled my camera with pictures of his "firsts."

While all of those things have come true, I certainly didn't expect to spend 2+ weeks with 80% of my body covered in the most painful, itchy hives I've ever experienced. I didn't expect to find myself in tears at 3 am - not because I couldn't console my infant, but because I felt as though my body was literally failing me and no doctor could provide an answer or offer relief.

But that has been my reality for the last several weeks. 

And while there have been some miserable moments, I have also been overwhelmed with awe at how God has used this situation to teach me a powerful message - to draw me to him, and to completely transform my prayer life.

Above anything else, I have learned the power of peace - and the peace that comes with trusting our Heavenly Father and giving thanks in all circumstances

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
James 1:2

It's so easy to say, and so hard to do.

Yet this past week I experienced something completely new - finding true, complete peace while still in the midst of utter physical pain. As I called out to God and turned to him I was continuously reminded that the devil is always at work, looking to prey upon us in our weakest moments. While my body was failing me I came to realize that it would only be worse if I allowed Satan control over my mind. 

And so I called out to God - again and again and again - for healing and direction yes, but also to carry me through this journey, for mental strength, for patience, for a clear mind, for power over Satan's temptations and discouraging thoughts, etc. 

And God responded in an amazing way. Despite the pain and discomfort I began to feel his presence in a completely new way. I felt bathed in peace, revitalized to make it through another day, and able to give thanks despite circumstances.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."
Colossians 3:15

In the midst of this journey, I started a women's bible study at church - Pricilla Shirer's "Armor of God," which I highly recommend (as well as the movie War Room). The study is about putting on the Armor of God as laid out in Ephesians, plus the overarching power and importance of prayer. Coincidentally (hah!) this past week focused on the "shoes of peace" and how the Enemy uses instability/discourse/upset to keep us from Christ. Ms. Shirer presents the argument that it is only God's peace that allows us to stand firm amidst the storms of life - and that such a state of peace is activated through thanksgiving.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace"
Ephesians 2:13-14

So today I give thanks for these weeks that haven't turned out like I've expected, but that have brought me greater peace than I've ever known.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Month Joys and Challenges

Somehow I've found myself with a one month old! Some days it feels like he was just born, and other days I truly can't imagine our lives without him. Each day brings new adventures - physically he changes by the moment and is slowly discovering new things and exploring his surroundings.

I shared with a friend the other day that I never expected motherhood to be such an adjustment. I mean, I did, but I figured that I've always been pretty comfortable around babies, and spent a lot of time babysitting and with my nieces and nephews. However, what I didn't think about was the fact that as the youngest in my family, I never grew up with any babies in the house or around me 24/7!

Really Beckett is a very good baby. He eats like a champ and is pretty happy - but sleep deprivation has been a challenge! Thankfully I've got some pretty great mentors in my life who've been very helpful with advice and encouragement.

I think the most frustrating thing has been feeling overwhelmed about what advice to follow! Everywhere I turn someone has a suggestion about what to do or what not to do! Feed on demand vs. feed on a schedule. Cry it out vs. pick the baby up as soon as he makes a noise. Co-sleep vs. put him in a crib. Slowly (and with a lot of prayer) we've started to discern what works for our little family.

But one thing is for sure - there is no doubt in my mind that I am blessed beyond belief! Earlier this month Brandon and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary. We didn't go out to dinner anywhere fancy, or buy each other lavish gifts, but spent the night on the couch cuddling our newborn son - and we both agreed it was the perfect celebration!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

That Day We Almost Didn't Make it to the Hospital in Time...

I'm honestly not a big reader of birth stories. You know a baby is coming, there is an extended, arduous period of time that is likely filled with some anxiety, exhaustion, and pain, followed by baby's much-anticipated arrival.

Minutes old

Now having gone through labor myself, I have a much deeper understanding of a woman's journey to motherhood and the precious and spiritual gift that labor can bring.

Truthfully, my labor was nothing like I expected (although I really had no expectations...). When Brandon and I found out we were expecting, we were also told that because of my back surgery last year, an epidural was likely off the table. I'd been curious about natural birth before, but wasn't sure if I really had the desire or strength to go for it. Once the decision was made for us, we started looking into how to best prepare for the adventure ahead - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We didn't feel as though the OBGYN we were currently working with was either the best fit, nor very supportive of natural labor, so we started looking for a midwife. I ended up finding an excellent midwife practice, and if you live in the Twin Cities area I highly recommend North Metro Midwives

Other than selecting a midwife, we didn't make much of a "birth plan." I know alot of women are really into planning things out, but even with my type A personality, I wanted to prepare myself to go with the flow. Because of my back history I didn't know how my body would respond to labor, and I didn't want to get my mind stuck on how I wanted to labor and deliver - instead I wanted to be able to go with the flow and really just rely on my midwife's direction and suggestions under whatever circumstances arose.

My due date was December 21, but at the beginning of December I was 3 centimeters dilated, 70+% effaced, and carrying the baby "extremely low." Brandon and I started preparing ourselves for an early arrival of our little man, although we were vehemently praying that he would hold out until his due date. We both had heavy work schedules, holiday obligations, and my parents weren't able to come to MN until Beckett's due date.

But as I hit weeks 38 and 39 I started feeling so ready for the baby to come! Everything was getting uncomfortable and "natural ways to induce labor" became my go-to google search :)

I wasn't originally scheduled to have a midwife appointment until the 22nd, but switched to the 21st at the last minute so I could schedule a pre-natal massage for the 22nd (so much for that....). I went into the midwife's after work and was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I didn't get my hopes up. My midwife offered to do some membrane stripping, but said that while it might start contractions, they would likely dissipate after a short time. 

I figured, "why not?"

I left the midwife's office and got back home around 5 pm. I figured I might as well keep moving, so I headed downstairs to walk on our treadmill. After about 30 minutes I stopped because I was starting to feel some regular contractions. I figured they would fade like the midwife had mentioned, so I went upstairs to make dinner. Brandon came home around 6:30 to find a pot of soup ready and me having contractions about every 3 minutes. He wanted to call the midwife - I wanted to eat :) After dinner I called the midwife, who thought the contractions still might wain and suggested we check back in an hour later.

At 8:30 pm the midwife called back. My contractions were still lasting about 1 minute and coming every 3 minutes, but their intensity was increasing. Brandon and I were still hesitant about heading to the hospital though - I figured I still had several hours to go and we had talked about laboring at home as long as possible so we didn't have to sit around the hospital. At some point during our conversation, a contraction hit and I literally threw my cell phone at Brandon so he could talk to the midwife. At that point they decided it would be best if we all headed to the birth center.

It took us about 20 minutes for me to move from our bedroom into the car - and then another 20 minutes to drive from our house to the hospital. Those were some of the longest and fastest 20 minutes of my life! Looking back, I clearly went through transition labor on the way to the hospital - when we were 5 minutes away I started telling Brandon I had to push, and as we pulled into the hospital parking lot my water broke (9:10 pm).

In short, we were brought right into a labor room and my midwife commented that there had been merconium, so the water birth we had talked about at one point was no longer an option (honestly, I was thinking - seriously? You think I could or want to get off this gurney and move into a tub right now? :)) A few minutes later I delivered Beckett while on my hands and knees (another huge blessing of having a midwife who allowed me to labor and deliver in whatever position was most comfortable) - 24 minutes after we arrived at the hospital!

My first thought as the midwife handed Beckett to me was "who is this gigantic blonde baby??"

God's grace was truly on us throughout Beckett's delivery. We had been diligently praying for a smooth delivery with little to no back pain and God graciously granted our request! Another gift was that a friend had recommended Redeeming Childbirth to me a couple of weeks before Beckett's arrival. The book turned out to be an incredible tool in helping prepare my heart and mind for the journey of labor and I can truly say that this experience drew me closer to my husband and to the Lord.

Would I do anything differently next time? Well, the nurses all suggested we get a hotel room near the hospital once my due date approaches :)

9 days old

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Our Christmas Blessing

Last Monday, and right on his due date, Beckett James joined our family! God truly blessed us with an incredibly smooth (and fast!) labor and delivery. There was a few moments where we thought Beckett might be born on the way to the hospital, but we made it just in time :)

Beck spent a few days in the special care nursery due to some respiratory challenges from coming so fast, but all is well and we were discharged and home in time to celebrate our first Christmas Eve together!

We are so in love! This truly is a Christmas we will never forget!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Nursery Reveal

One of the nice things with moving a few months before Baby R was due is that we had some time to tackle house projects before the weather changed and my due date arrived. However, as first time naive homeowners, we didn't realize how quickly our list would grow, or how much longer than anticipated some of the projects would take.

But just after Thanksgiving we were able to say the nursery was "done" and ready to welcome our little man!

Before we found out that we had a little boy on the way I knew I wanted to stick with mostly neutral colors that could be re-used for (hopefully many) brothers or sisters down the line. So we went with a grey and white color scheme overall and then added navy and deep red accents to man things up a little bit and add a pop of color.

We were so blessed with furniture gifted to us by family and handed down by friends that the biggest to-do project ended up being painting a formerly (dark) wood dresser/changing table white....and about 5 coats of paint later we got there!

My splurge for this nursery was the curtains. Had I been more motivated I'm sure I could have made some that were fairly similar and significantly cheaper. But between moving, several trips out of town, numerous baby showers, and trying to balance work/rest for my back, it was simply easier to watch for sales and buy these from Pottery Barn! 

The nursery is unique in that the former owners actually cut out a space between the wall dividing the master bedroom and this room and inserted french doors. While the set-up may be a little different, we've found that we really like it so far and *think it will be great once baby arrives as well. But for privacy we did buy a set of room-darkening curtains to cover these doors as well.

One of my favorite parts of this room are these bookshelves that Brandon installed. Thank you Pinterest! They are actually picture ledges from ikea (note - some tutorials suggest using spice racks, but we found these picture shelves to work better - they came pre-painted and were easier to install!). Many of our friends and family know of our love for books and our little guy has consequently been gifted with quite the library! This is a fun way for book storage that allows for easy access and using the books as wall art.

Finally, you should really take note of the sweet quilt that was the perfect final addition to the nursery. The backstory of how the quilt came to be is here (along with much better pictures of the quilt in its entirety), and we couldn't be more thankful for the loving hands that made it!

And so now, at 38 weeks and 3 cm dilated we sit back and wait (or attempt to do so patiently when I'm not impulsively cleaning or eating everything in sight :)).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

House Hunting B and J Style

As of Friday Brandon and I are officially first-time homeowners! (well together that is, Brandon was a homeowner at one time back in his bachelor days) I would say we are very excited, a little anxious, and about 75% packed.

I’ve always been an avid House Hunters fan. In fact, since Brandon and I don’t have cable, I’ve unabashedly planned my gym workouts around HGTV’s programming schedule :)  Brandon has always been an avid fan as well, and because of this I thought our house hunting process would be a fairly smooth journey.

HAH! I was so na├»ve…..

Over the last 3 years that we’ve been together, Brandon and I have loved taking walks through old and new neighborhoods and houses – admiring architecture, design, and character. I’ve learned that Brandon loves Tudors, while I prefer a craftsman style home, and while I check out the pantry and closet situation, Brandon’s first question is where would he put a library.

But actual house hunting with a budget and deadline was a little less romantic than our date nights wandering historical neighborhoods.

I went into our house hunting process with 4 “I’d really likes.” Not non-negotiables, but strong desires. They were:
                1. Not on or backing up to a busy road
                2. 3-4 bedrooms
                3. Private outdoor space
                4. Vaulted or higher ceilings in the main living area

Honestly I thought this was a pretty realistic list.

Brandon’s list was, well now that I think about it I don’t think he actually had a list. He had more of a go-with-the-flow-I’ll-know-it-when-I-feel-it approach. If it was in the budget, I think he really would have loved a renovated Tudor style home or to do a new build.

As we started house hunting, I quickly learned a few additional things about my self:

1. I hate split levels. With a passion.
2. Location and natural light matter to me more than I thought.
3. I like houses with a little more character that are in older, more developed neighborhoods with mature trees
4. Attempting long house-hunting days during my first trimester of pregnancy when all I wanted to do was sleep or lose my breakfast was not the best plan of attack

But ultimately, God answered so many of our prayers. In an extremely limited, sellers market we found a home we love, were able to negotiate and get it under list price and our budget, and worked with some sellers who were willing to negotiate a closing date around our apartment lease. Not only that, but we ended up with a home that pretty much has all of the things on my wish list. Granted it has some pretty unique quirks as well, but we’ll just call that the “character” I love so much!

And thanks to my in-laws who are master packers, we are well on our way to seeing the end of our apartment days (woo-hoo!!). Now all we have to do is some repairs, painting, and cleaning and the new house, clean and finish packing up the apartment, and squeeze in a week of vacation before our official move in date at the beginning of next month….