June’s newborn photos by Graham Terhune

17 May 2016

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Friends, I have been itching to share these photos since the day they landed in my inbox (and that was several months ago!!). I only waited because, though I’ve posted other parenthood posts out of order, it seemed most fitting to share these after the story of June’s birth. With that taken care of, it’s finally time.

To say we treasure these photos does not quite do my feelings toward them justice. I have known Graham for some time now, and am well aware of his talent — but I’ve come to appreciate it in a new way since having his camera pointed toward my family. I may be biased, but the moments, the light, and the love he captured back in January is, I think, exceptional. We are so grateful to have this particular and extraordinary time of our lives captured with such care and talent by one of our dearest friends.

P.S. If you are in the position to take newborn photos and are considering having your hair and makeup done – DO IT. In fact, if you are having any professional photos done and lack basic hair and makeup skills as I do, DO IT. You will NOT regret whatever money you spend. And if you happen to be in the Triangle of NC – I cannot recommend Sam of Lula Hair & Makeup highly enough. She is the best, best, best.

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You can read more about how we planned for this session here.

Any favorites? The one of the three of us smiling on the bed is one of mine – it is hanging on our fridge :)

The story of June’s birth

8 May 2016

What more fitting day to share the story of June’s birth than my first Mother’s Day? I am so grateful for the little muffin who made me a mama, so grateful for this story, and so grateful for the One who wrote it. Thank you for allowing me to share!

Throughout my pregnancy, I never really knew what to say when friends asked how things were going. Aches and pains? Not really. Cravings? Nope. Complications? Nothing to report! Thankfully, the whole process was blissfully “boring,” and for that I am grateful. However, we did get our dose of excitement at the very end, starting at my 38-week appointment on January 4…

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Two weeks earlier, at my 36-week appointment, my doctor reported that June was head down and that I was not dilated. I opted not to get checked at 37 weeks, and so was curious to see what we’d find at 38. After a quick check, he relayed that I still wasn’t dilated. He also said I was measuring small, and so decided to do an ultrasound. Thankfully, the ultrasound showed that June looked great and that the amniotic fluid was adequate. Unfortunately, it also showed that she was in a breech position.

To be safe, he had me take a non-stress test (which I passed with flying colors – yay!). (For those who aren’t familiar with a non-stress test, in my case, it involved sitting in a comfy armchair and getting hooked up to a fetal heartbeat monitor for 20 minutes. Despite the stressful circumstances, it was quite peaceful sitting there and listening to her!) My doctor also scheduled me for another check a few days later, on January 7… and scheduled a c-section for the following week, a few days before my due date. (I was NOT pleased about this for many reasons, but he didn’t want me to go full term because of the risk of cord prolapse if my water were to break on its own.)

My emotions were a little strange at this point. I still believed there was a chance June could flip (after all, she apparently had flipped between 36 and 38 weeks!), and my doctor had said that if she flipped at any point before the c-section, we would call it off and let things proceed naturally. So in between working harder than ever to wrap up things at work and keeping John, our families, and our doula up to date, I drank TONS of water (I knew low amniotic fluid would be a reason for an immediate c-section, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to stay extra hydrated), and tried some of the moves to encourage flipping on this site. Without a definite “yes, you ARE having a c-section,” I couldn’t or wouldn’t wrap my head around that possibility and wanted to remain hopeful that I would have the birth we’d been imagining and for which we’d been planning. On the positive side, this meant I remained quite calm; on the negative, it meant I was pretty much in denial.

Thursday rolled around, and I was pretty sure June had not changed position – she felt the same as she always had, and they had warned me that if she did flip it would probably be fairly painful. My appointment was at 9am, and this time, John came with me.

It all happened pretty quickly — my doctor took a look at the ultrasound, confirmed she was still breech, and then told us that my amniotic fluid was too low and that we had to head to the hospital, because she was going to be delivered by c-section that day.

And then I started to cry. I felt very powerless at that moment — I wasn’t a doctor, so it wasn’t like I could look at the ultrasound and argue that no, it actually would be okay to wait a few more days. I knew if she was breech she would have to be delivered by c-section, but I did not feel at all prepared for it to happen that day. I wanted a few more days to wrap things up at home and at work, and to wrap my mind around what was happening. As I sobbed in the car outside the doctor’s office to John, I just kept saying, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready.” I also was very concerned that June would be small and unhealthy, which I think stemmed from my doctor saying she was measuring small and also that she would be delivered before 39 weeks. (I had actually said to John the day before, “What if she’s only four pounds when she’s born??” Not terribly likely, but that was where my head was at.)

That half hour was my most intense mourning period for the birth that might have been. I had thought I was going into labor with open hands, but it had never occurred to me that I might have a c-section. I had done a lot to mentally and physically prepare myself for labor, and I was looking forward to experiencing it with John by my side. I wanted this ultimate and uniquely womanly experience, painful though it might be. And besides, everything I had read about c-sections (which admittedly was not much) made them seem bad, painful, and almost shameful — plus with a terrible recovery to boot.

Eventually I regained my composure just a bit, and John called our doula to let her know what was going on. She encouraged us to go home before heading to the hospital, which we did. We had brought some of our hospital supplies with us to the appointment, but only halfheartedly, as again, we didn’t really think we’d be admitted that day. We spent about an hour at home, finishing packing and getting the cats prepared for a few days without us. I also took a shower and re-did my makeup, telling myself I was going to flip the switch on a positive attitude and put the kibosh on crying. We took this photo right outside the hospital:

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Of course, tears again sprang to my eyes as we checked in (“this is not how I thought it would be!”), and then again when the nurse showed us to our room on the delivery floor. After she shut the door behind us to let us get settled, I asked John to pray over all three of us, which he did. When our poor nurse returned and started going through the intake procedures, I again started to cry. She was confused at first, but so kind and encouraging after we told her a bit about our circumstances. Thankfully, those were my final sad tears of the day :) Two things she said that began to help turn my outlook around: you can always have a VBAC next time, and you’re going to meet your daughter today! We also texted our families to let them know what was going on, and their love and enthusiasm helped us get more excited and lifted the emotional weight a bit.

The next two hours passed fairly quickly as I had blood drawn, got hooked up to the fetal heartbeat monitor, received two bags of fluid through an IV, was briefed by the anesthesiologist, and had to drink a nasty liquid to avoid reflux during surgery, among other preparations. We got to listen to our girl’s heartbeat the whole time, which was the best soundtrack we could ask for. Then, after a last check via ultrasound to make sure she was still breech, John and I walked back to the operating room hand in hand.

We parted ways at the door, as husbands have to wait outside and get suited up in full sterile gear while the final preparations take place. I took my seat on the operating table under the bright lights and realized I felt very calm. This, I believe, was a supernatural peace, one that I was so grateful to receive… I don’t believe it was a coincidence I had declared “peace” my word for 2016 just a few days earlier.

So there I sat in my bubble of peace as all sorts of people bustled around me – there must have been ten different ladies and gents in there, from the surgical assistants to the nurse anesthetist to the baby nurse. One gave me two heated blankets to keep warm since it was so cold, and then our anesthesiologist put in the spinal block, which wasn’t painful. They lowered me back onto the table, put up the surgical drape, and before I knew it, they got started and John showed up next to my head, squeezing my hand.

The first sensation I remember feeling was what felt like someone roughly kneading my stomach. This was not pleasant. After just a few minutes, though, we heard a little gurgly cry!!! June was immediately brought to the warmer, and John left my side to go to hers. He reappeared a minute later, assuring me that she was “so cute!!” Another wave of relief washed over me, as I figured if he was talking about her level of cuteness, she probably had two arms, two legs, and weighed more than four pounds :)

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We had asked for as prompt and as much skin to skin time as possible, and thankfully our hospital was receptive to this. June was placed on my chest just a few minutes after she was born, while they were still delivering the placenta (I think? Couldn’t see, so I’m not really sure what was happening down there that whole time!). Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I started to gag (a side effect of the anesthesia), so they took June back over to the warmer briefly. They used the time to clean her up a bit more and take some measurements, then brought her back to me once I had stabilized. We stayed that way for maybe half an hour more, admiring our sweet girl and marveling at what had just happened. She was here! She was beautiful! She was healthy!!

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As I think back on June’s birthday, I find so much beauty in it all, but especially in this: that morning, I was so desperate to delay her arrival by just a few more days. As soon as we met her, though, I wouldn’t have wanted to delay her arrival by even a minute. Perfect timing, indeed.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mamas, the moms-to-be, and the mothers at heart.

Pregnancy book recommendations

5 May 2016

I’ve had many requests over the last year or so to share the books I read while pregnant, and today I’m ready to deliver! I always intended to share, but I thought it would be most helpful to post after I’d, well, delivered (ha!) so that I could give you a comprehensive review. I love reading and I love learning, so it’s not surprising that I dove headfirst into books on babies, but even if you’re not a big reader, you might find a few of these interesting…

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BOOKS TO READ BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Funnily enough, they don’t teach you much about how to GET pregnant in health class. Or maybe they do, but I was very busy pretending not to hear. Anyway, this book filled in the gaps, taught me lots about timing, and helped me get my body in tip-top shape before we started trying. [Buy]
All Joy and No Fun. This book “analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self.” I found this book honest and EXTREMELY fascinating, and have wanted to talk about it with everyone ever since finishing it! Both the author’s research and the family portraits she weaves throughout are thought-provoking, and should help spur great conversation for anyone moving toward parenthood. [Buy]

BOOKS TO READ WHILE PREGNANT:
Expecting Better. The Amazon reviews for this book are pretty hilarious – about half of them say “this is the worst book ever!” and the other half say “this is the best book ever!” As long as you understand what this book is and is not, I think you’ll love it. The author is an economist, not a doctor. She writes from this perspective, using her training to synthesize tons of studies on all sorts of pregnancy things (Is it okay to drink caffeine? Should you get an epidural?), then inviting the reader to make her own decisions based on the information available. I found it refreshing and empowering, and it is my number one pregnancy book recommendation. [Buy]
What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is like the dictionary of pregnancy books – it’s the exhaustive explanation of every symptom, every possible scenario, every risk. If it will stress you out to read about all the bad things that can happen, skip it, but I looked forward to checking in every month to read a new chapter (but I did skim a lot of it!). [Borrow]
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This book is split into two parts: the first is straight-up narrative birth stories, and the second is more informational, with suggestions for labor techniques, information about labor procedures, etc. Most people say they love the birth stories (warning: they can be pretty intense). I found them interesting, though also a little discouraging at times since I knew I would be giving birth in a hospital and this book definitely has a bias toward natural, home birth. I thought the second section was very helpful, though. Specifically, it gave me several questions to ask my doctor that elicited eye-opening answers, and it helped me craft my birth plan. In the end: interesting and empowering, even if you plan to give birth in a hospital and/or with pain relief. [Borrow]

BOOKS FOR THE FIRST YEAR:
Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care. Quick read. This book is very practical, and I loved its confident, no-nonsense, encouraging tone. It’s split up into four sections (0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months) and covers everything you need to know about taking care of a new baby (baths, diapers, dressing, all the day-to-day stuff). Some of the information is so specific that it was a bit overwhelming (how am I going to remember the exact temperature a bottle is supposed to be??), but that’s the reason why I bought this book instead of borrowing it — I know I will want to refer back to it over the first year when all of that specific information will likely come in handy. [Buy]
On Becoming Babywise. This book is super controversial! And that cracks me up, because I’m not really sure what people find so shocking about it. Maybe we’re not following their advice correctly (ha!), but it all seems pretty common sense to me, and really helped June get in a great rhythm with eating, sleeping, and playing from the start. There are definitely gaps where I’d love more information (such as what the recommendation wake times are for certain ages), but it’s still been very helpful for us. [Buy]
The Nursing Mother’s Companion. This is another book that was sometimes very overwhelming as I was reading it (while still pregnant), and actually left me feeling more discouraged about breastfeeding than before I read it. It seemed so complicated! There were so many things that could go wrong! But, now being on the other side, I’m so glad I read it, and think it really helped to set me up for success with a really solid foundation. So, I would definitely recommend it, but just remember that much of what she talks about will never happen to you! :) [Buy]

ONE PICK FOR OLDER KIDS:
Simplicity Parenting. I found that I already agreed with and intrinsically knew the premise of this book — “the power of less” to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids — but it was still a worthwhile read. I skimmed a lot of this book (it’s a little repetitive), but was still happy for the reminder and encouragement! [Borrow]

There you have it! I’d love to hear what books on pregnancy or littles y’all would recommend, or any thoughts on the ones I’ve listed here! I’m looking forward to reading Bringing Up Bebe and Last Child in the Woods next :)

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May 2016 goals

2 May 2016

My goals for May are a curious mix of hard things I appear to be putting off (since they’ve lingered on my lists for the last few months…) and fun things I’m looking forward to enjoying. Maybe, though, the latter is just what I need to push through and accomplish the former! Hopefully, a little more time (which has been scarce lately – my Mom stayed with us for three weeks last month, and I happily chose to hang with her instead of being on my laptop!), is all I’ll need.

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Revisiting my goals for April:
Read “Boundaries” for the NR Book Club
Successfully take work trips to Atlanta and Hilton Head with my Mom and June in tow (Atlanta trip was successful, HH trip was postponed!)
Prep our raised bed and plant our seedlings
Assemble and hang June’s mobile (so happy I checked this off!!)
Order favorite Instagram prints from 2015
Get an estimate from one more landscaping company
Apply to our HOA to have a tree removed (eep)
Finish our will
Begin waking up at 6:30am (not so much)
Begin getting ready for bed at 10pm (see above…)

May goals:
— Get an estimate from one more landscaping company
— Apply to our HOA to have a tree removed
— Finish our will (People, this is staying on the list until it is done. And then I will write a post about it.)
— Master an updo from the Small Things archive (I’m thinking this one.)
— Paint my toenails (I’m a little embarrassed this is actually a goal.)
— Read “168 Hours” for the NR Book Club
— Read two novels
— Plan for and enjoy our weekend trip to Bald Head Island
— Have fun with our weekend visitors – John’s parents and sister + family one weekend, and his other sister + family and two aunts another! So excited for the cousins to meet!!!

As a reminder, here are my 2016 guideposts. If you’ve posted your goals somewhere, I’d love to see – or just drop them in the comments!

Our favorites from the first six weeks

20 April 2016

To me, the idea of registering for baby items was almost ludicrous. When I walked the aisles of a baby store, I had no idea what seemingly half the items were even FOR, let alone which were the best or actual necessities. So, we relied heavily on the advice of friends* as we put our registry together (and learned a lot along the way!). Since we’re also among friends here, I thought I’d share our favorites from the first six weeks – the products that got used every day, and were nearly indispensable to us. Here we go!

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From top to bottom and left to right:

— June wears these nightgowns under her swaddle – they’re elastic at the bottom (no snaps!), so they make nighttime changes easier.

— We don’t actually use these swaddles for swaddling, but for everything else – as a sun shade in the stroller, a light blanket in the car seat, a clean place to roll around when we’re out and about, a nursing cover, and more.

The Ergo! June rode in this almost every day on our walks for the first six weeks (make sure you get the infant insert to be able to use it right away!), and she would fall asleep immediately.

These are wayyyy better than disposable nursing pads – so soft, and you can throw them in the wash and use them over and over and over!

— After we stopped swaddling June in the hospital blankets, we moved on to the Swaddle Me. It’s easy to use and works well, though we’ve had to buy a new one each month because the velcro wears out and she’s able to bust free. Still, they’re priced reasonably enough and work well enough that we’re willing to do it.

— Kudos to my sisters-in-law for recommending Water Wipes. They are the best! They’re literally just wipes that are moistened with water and some fruit extracts, so they’re gentle and perfect for the first few weeks/months.

— We have 20 of these cloths (two packs), and use them all over the house – under June’s head when she’s eating, to wipe her face, under her front when she’s doing tummy time, etc. Super soft, easy to fold, great size! (Note: something funny seems to be going on with the pricing of these on Amazon, because I’m pretty sure they weren’t that expensive when we bought them…)

— I’m really glad we opted for the DVD over the book because we were able to watch it together, and it was helpful to see the techniques instead of just reading about them. Highly recommended for those who aren’t familiar with handling babies!

— A cozy robe for staying warm and comfy while nursing at home.

This (free!) app is perfect for white noise on the go – we use it when June’s fussy and we want her to sleep on a walk, and to help calm her down in the car.

— The Rock and Play has been called baby crack, and I don’t disagree. June slept in this for almost all naps and overnight from the start, and it’s safe to say she’s in love with it… and therefore we are, too.

— If anyone offers to set up meal delivery for you, take them up on it! I wasn’t sure we would love having people at our house every day, but meal drop off was the PERFECT amount of time to see someone, and of course the meals were so appreciated! We used and loved Meal Train.

— And as mentioned here, lipstick. Or whatever makes you feel confident and pulled together, even if you’re wearing pajamas :)

— One thing I forgot to include in the graphic above: the Puj tub! Even though it is absurdly expensive for a piece of glorified foam, it really is awesome. Try to borrow one from a friend if you can – that’s what we did.

I also wanted to mention a few other items that aren’t pictured. These are things that we have and have been happy with, but I feel as though we might have been equally happy with another option. But, if you’re looking for a tried-and-true place to start, here you go! This toiletry set, these wash cloths (they really are different than the adult version of a wash cloth – I wasn’t convinced at first!), this backseat mirror, this car seat, this changing pad, this on-the-go changing pad, and this play mat.

And finally, a few things we didn’t buy and haven’t missed: a diaper pail (we just put them in our step can in the kitchen), a wipes warmer, and a nursing pillow (I just use a regular pillow).

I LOVED reading the “essentials” lists of others while pregnant, and so would love to hear y’all’s favorite items for the first few weeks! Do we share any must-haves?

*John and I also walked the aisles of the baby section of Target for an hour with Nancy and Will, and they talked us through the pros and cons of almost everything (and in some cases, explained what things were!). This was SO helpful, and I’d highly recommend this if you can find someone to do it with you!

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