Wednesday, September 19, 2018

After Addie - Four Years Later (And A Six Month Update On Ella)

It's amazing how time flies. At this time, four years ago, I had kissed Addie goodbye for the last time, whispered "I love you" into her little ear, and laid her under the warmer. It was off. She didn't need it. She never did. Up to this point, I had not really felt much. But as I left her behind in that room, never to see her sweet face again, I finally started to feel. Tired. Hurt. Lost. Empty - both in my womb and my arms. A nurse wheeled me out of the hospital, my family following behind, and I sat in silence while tears streamed down my face. Having to leave her behind was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

Even after four years, I still miss her. And there's a part of my heart that wishes things had been different. Then I look at my life now and think of all the things that wouldn't have happened if Adelyn had lived:

  • The experience of strongly feeling the presence of God and hearing His voice in the midst of a crisis.
  • The increased faith in the goodness of God and His sovereign plan.
  • Tessa.
  • Ella.
  • The ability to empathize with others who have lost babies or older children.
  • The great privilege of getting to comfort and encourage them in their pain.
  • The honor of pointing others to Christ through our pain.
  • The laying down of idols in my heart.
  • Becoming closer with the members of my family.
  • Training to become Stephen Ministers who walk alongside other Christians through difficult times.
  • A deeper longing for Heaven.

And these are just a few. I can't even fathom the ways that God has already worked through Addie's story, or the ways that He will work in the future, and I can say without hesitation that it has been absolutely worth all of the pain. So today, like every year at this time, I am remembering and grieving and rejoicing and thanking God for all that He's done. And I'm hugging my two girls a little more tightly.


Speaking of two girls, I never did an update about Ella! Here's a brief overview of her story (and I will try and get a more detailed post up as soon as possible):

I went into labor with Ella at 38 weeks, three days. She came just before 5pm, via natural birth (though I did get some pain medicine during transition BECAUSE TRANSITION). She was exactly a pound heavier than Tessa at 6lbs, 11oz, and she was exactly two inches longer than Tessa at 19 1/2". The first couple of months were really difficult, going from one child in the home to two. I couldn't just sleep in when Ella was sleeping because there was another little girl to take care of, so I dealt with some major sleep deprivation! Also, nursing was very painful and challenging this time around (thankfully those issues were resolved). But after the two month mark, things started to get a lot better and we began to get more sleep. Ella sleeps through the night now, and started crawling at just over six months! No doubt she is trying to keep up with her big sister, whom she adores! It's so sweet to watch them interact.

The three of us in the hospital.
1 week old, and super unhappy about having her picture taken!

Month Photos

I did get pictures for the second and fourth months, but haven't put all of them together in an album yet.

Best friends!
Life with two is very different than life with one, but I love it! Thanks for all your prayers! God is so good to us.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Third Pregnancy Update - 38 Weeks

38 weeks?! Whaaaaaaaat?! This is the longest I have ever carried a baby (so far), which puts me in uncharted pregnancy territory! The last week has been a bit of a whirlwind, so I have plenty to share in this update.

Last Wednesday was my cerclage removal appointment, and everything went well. I was pretty nervous, especially when I entered the exam room and saw all of the tools lined up on the rolling cart. There was no pain, just lots of pressure, and it was over pretty quickly. I practiced my relaxation techniques and tried to let go of any tension. The worst part about the appointment is that Ella pushed her feet into my ribs the entire time - no doubt protesting the unwelcome disturbance to her snoozing. She pushed so hard that I had to put counter-pressure on my ribs with my hand so she wouldn't fracture something! Thankfully it didn't take too long to get the stitches out, and Ella stopped complaining after I sat back up. The specialist said that I was 1 centimeter dilated, and we had already learned the previous week at another appointment that I was 50% effaced. So we said our goodbyes to the specialist (who we won't have anymore appointments with for this pregnancy), and the waiting game began.

We thought for sure that things would start to happen later that night, or the next day at the latest, but things ended up being abnormally quiet. I could finally squat and do other light exercises that had been off-limits while the cerclage was in, and I couldn't believe how great I felt so soon after having the stitches out. Just sitting in a deep squat a few times a day significantly helped the pelvic discomfort, and I felt more energetic than I had since before I was pregnant! On Thursday afternoon, I started having some contractions. They were pretty irregular at first, and I only felt them on the front of my abdomen. Previous contractions had been very low, and usually wrapped around to my sides (though not all the way to my back). As we moved into the evening, the contractions started coming more frequently. They were 6-10 minutes apart each time, occasionally further apart, and they each lasted at least a minute and a half to two (or more) minutes. There was no pain, just tightness that made it difficult to get around. Because there were no other symptoms, I chose to wait it out instead of calling the midwife. I had already called her twice before the cerclage was out, so I knew what she would tell me to look for. I went to bed that night still having contractions, but it was more like one or two an hour and they continued throughout the night. Around 10am Friday morning, I started having 5 or 6 contractions an hour - though they were still irregular as far as timing - that would last 2 minutes on average. I saw my chiropractor that afternoon, and nothing had changed. I had still been experiencing the same amount of contractions every hour, all day long. Friday evening rolled around, and G and I perceived that they had grown slightly more intense - though still nothing that would make me think I was in active labor. At this point, though, I had been having at least one contraction an hour for over 24 hours straight! So Mom and Dad made their way over, and I called the midwife to see what she recommended. After hearing about my previous pregnancies (it was a midwife I hadn't yet spoken to, so she asked a lot of questions), we were told that I could either come in and get checked or stay home and wait until more obvious signs of active labor. We decided to go in and get checked, just so we would know where things stood.

G and I made our way to the hospital, and recognized that it was almost the EXACT same time of night as when we went to the hospital to get checked with Addie. Both times, we were assuming everything was fine and that we would be sent home. Would this time be the same? I hadn't had regular or even painful contractions with Adelyn at all, yet I was fully dilated when I got to the hospital and she was born just a few hours later. We both knew it was in God's hands, so we weren't worried. We arrived at the hospital, parked, and made our way to triage. While we were waiting, two other pregnant women came in behind us. The first lady's water had just broken, but she hadn't had any contractions yet. The second lady was obviously in pain, and I'm assuming she was in full-on labor. I continued to have contractions while we were waiting, and after the more urgent situations were taken care of, we were taken back to triage. Much to our surprise, we learned that I was 3 centimeters dilated and at least 70% effaced. Because of my history, they decided to admit me to see if labor would progress, though the nurse seemed to think that I might leave with a baby! Just after midnight, I stopped feeling contractions, though some small ones were were still showing up on the monitor. Part of me wanted to tell them to send me home, since the monitoring system was uncomfortable on my stomach and I felt restless, but I decided to just wait and see what the midwife would say in the morning. I'd told Mom she could come if she wanted to, so she did, and we walked the halls together to see if I could get the contractions going again. Since I wasn't in need of any coaching yet, I had encouraged G to lay down and try to rest as much as possible. Even though it was the middle of the night, I was wide awake and ready to go. I told Mom that I really wanted to blast some upbeat music and start dancing [read: "flailing"] in the halls (maybe to Thriller or Cotton Eye Joe?), but I think the other moms who were laboring or sleeping at the time would probably not appreciate it. At all. Haha. After a long night of walking, waiting, and resting when I got tired, the midwife came to our room and checked me again. There had been no change overnight, so we decided to head home and continue to wait there. I was starving at that point, and had already devoured most of the snacks and drinks we had brought with us. Plus, I was exhausted at that point and sore from being up and moving around for so much of the night.

We left the hospital and I boohooed a little on the way back because I was so tired emotionally and physically. Plus, I am so ready to hold sweet Ella in my arms, and I was a little disappointed that things didn't progress at all. However, as my grandmother wisely said, each day she continues to stay put is better for her health and development, and I really don't want to rush God's perfect timing. If He's still keeping her in there, it's for a good reason! Time with just Tessa is quickly coming to a close, so I am trying to soak up every moment while I can. We picked up food on our way home, then pretty much everyone napped for several hours. The rest of the day was quiet, and I only had a few contractions. Mom and Dad took Tessa back to their house for the night so that we wouldn't have to wait on them if labor started back up suddenly, and we went to bed at 10:00pm. I crashed, and probably only woke up once all night long (a rare occurrence now)!

After doing a little bit of reading, I think I just went through something called "prodromal labor." Mother Rising had a helpful article about it, and it described exactly what I experienced. I really don't have anything but my previous experience with emergency labors to gauge where I am or help me make decisions, and I do feel like what is "normal" for most people is not necessarily what is "normal" for me (though doesn't everyone think that about themselves?). Hopefully the article is right, and that active labor will get started for me very soon.

How I'm Feeling
Today, I feel very refreshed - though SORE! My stomach muscles ache from having contractions for so long, and my legs hurt from all the exercise I've gotten over the last few days. Aside from that, I feel amazing! Being fresh off a night of great sleep has restored my spirits and ability to wait as long as I need to for Ella to make her grand appearance.

We also learned at the hospital that Ella is at zero station, which means she's engaged, so maybe it won't be long! For now, we continue to wait. Also, I forgot to get a belly picture!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Third Pregnancy Update - 37 Weeks

Have you ever had a moment where you were just in awe of God and His goodness? That's where I am today. By His grace, we reached 37 weeks with Ella yesterday!

37 weeks, 1 day!
Before starting this post, I went back and reread the update I posted at 37 weeks with Tessa. It was neat to see how much has changed and how much is the same this time around. My pregnancy with Tessa was filled with so much stress and uncertainty overall, whereas this pregnancy has held nothing but peace and excitement. Like last time, I am tired. I feel big and uncomfortable, but this time I have a lot of pelvic pain (probably because Ella has dropped).

How I'm Doing Physically
Over the last week, I've had several sessions of "labor practice" where I had semi-regular contractions for two hours straight. The first practice session had a lot of contractions, but they were all painless and fairly irregular, lasting 30-40 seconds - a couple being longer or shorter than that. The second session was several days later, and I started feeling discomfort in my back as well as my mid and upper abdomen (something I had yet to experience in any of my pregnancies), and most of the contractions were under 10 minutes apart and lasted for 60 seconds. Yesterday evening, just before dinner, a third practice session began. It went on, as expected, for about two hours before stopping. The first half hour had regular contractions every 5-6 minutes that lasted 60 seconds or more. I felt them in my back as well as all over my abdomen, and they were the most uncomfortable they had been so far. Still nothing painful, and I didn't end up calling because I never saw the signs my midwife told me to look for, but I can sense we're getting close to the real thing!

Tomorrow is a really big day, because if Ella is still head down, I will be getting the cerclage out! We've really been praying that the Lord would keep her in until after the appointment, because then everything should be smooth sailing after that. She can come whenever she likes, and I won't have to worry about the stitches still being in place. So if you think about us around 3pm tomorrow, we would really appreciate your prayers! We will really be surprised if there's not a baby in our arms before next week, but God works in mysterious ways and He will bring her into the world in His perfect timing.

How I'm Doing Emotionally
This has been the week for hormones, but most of what I've been feeling has been positive. I'm so excited to meet this baby girl, and so humbled by God's goodness to us - whatever the outcome. There have been a few moments when I felt anxious and played the "what if" game:
  • What if I don't get to have my natural birth again?
  • What if something goes wrong and God calls Ella home like He did with Addie?
  • What if she surprises us all and stays put until my due date, resulting in a medically unnecessary cesarean?
These fears never stick around long, because I remind myself of God's sovereignty over all things. Of two things I am certain: He loves me, and He knows what's best for me. If any of those things were to happen, I can rest secure in those truths. He has been so faithful and good to us; how can I doubt that He will be so this time as well? It's hard to hold onto dreams with an open hand, but I know whatever happens is part of His perfect will. That's enough for me. I'm just glad to be involved in the process!

Interestingly enough, I have thought about Adelyn a lot lately. As I picture what my birth experience with Ella will be like, I've found myself going back and remembering everything that happened with Addie. Maybe it's because I long for a natural birth, and Addie was born naturally. I find myself replaying that evening often, remembering what I saw and felt. You'd think it would make me sad, but it doesn't. Addie was still born, and she's still my child even though I haven't been given the privilege and responsibility of raising her like I have with Tessa. I love talking about her and remembering, even if the memories aren't very happy ones. 

There is one thing in particular that I long for as I hope for a positive and joyful birth experience. I want so badly to feel something - anything - when Ella is born. God told me in the hospital with Addie how the evening was going to end, so I was prepared for crisis mode. I felt peace, but nothing else - good or bad - even as I held that tiny girl in my arms. With Tessa, I had drugs in my system for the cesarean that prevented me from feeling any emotion, even when I heard her cry after being delivered. I had ached for that cry since I didn't get one with Addie, and I couldn't react to it at all. Both times, I just held my babies and looked down at them, not feeling anything but curiosity. My thoughts were literally, "This is a baby. I carried her inside me, and now she's in my arms." Just facts, void of emotion. The things I've ended up missing and grieving over are not what I would have expected. And maybe I'm one of those people that doesn't get a flood of emotion and parental love right away. It comes eventually, and doesn't mean I don't love my babies. It would just be neat to have that type of experience. However, I have given it to the Lord and will not make an idol of it. When I stop and really give it some thought, I will just be overjoyed and relieved to have Ella here at last!

How I'm Doing Spiritually
God is good, and I have so much peace. G does too. Neither of us are worried, even in moments when I am trying to relax through contractions or when we are thinking about holding Ella.
"You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You." -Isaiah 26:3
As Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I've got to say about that." Glory to God.

What's Left To Do?
G has some projects he's been working on around the house that he is trying to finish up, but it's not a big deal if they don't get done. The crib is in our room and ready to go, and the hospital bags are in the car. I printed out and laminated some Scriptures to read if I get weary during labor, and I downloaded the Hidden In My Heart Scripture Lullabies albums and put them into a labor playlist on my phone. They really help calm my mind and body, and I think they will help me focus and relax during contractions. All of my paperwork is finished and submitted, so we're pretty much as ready as we'll ever be. This may very well be my last post before Ella joins us! Thank you so for your prayers!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Third Pregnancy: An Overview And Update

My pregnancy with Tessa was pretty stressful, and I'll admit that most of that was my own doing. We had lost Addie, and I was taking my first steps on that life-long journey of grief. On top of that, I was facing a host of brand-new decisions and an uncertain future. God really exposed a lot of things in my heart that I needed to surrender to Him, and He increased my faith so much during that time. 

Thank you, Lord.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017, and we started talking about having another baby. A few months into the new year, we asked the Lord once more to bless us with a child and focused on the things He had given us to do at the time. Just before the summer, when we found out that God had granted our request for another baby, we immediately felt such a peace. After all He has brought us through, there was no doubt in our minds that He had absolute control of every detail and we could move toward whatever the future held for us without fear. We've felt so free, and as a result, the pregnancy has flown by!

Here I am now at 35 weeks, 2 days, and this is the first post I've written since we shared the good news. Life has been good, and going through the toddler stage with Tessa has been fun (albeit challenging at times). It's been difficult to belly pictures, but I think I was able to get at least one or two in each trimester. Since posting regular updates hasn't happened at all, I thought I would do one big update that covered the entire pregnancy.

First Trimester
The day before I turned 7 weeks.
This was the first time I've really felt sick during the first trimester of a pregnancy. Food aversions and fatigue have always been present, but this time around there was a lot of nausea. I never actually got sick, but there were many times that I wished I would just so that I could get it over with and not feel so nauseated! I found that I pretty much had to nibble on something all day long unless I wanted to feel terrible very quickly. As with the first trimesters in the other two pregnancies, I didn't really have any cravings. Oddly enough, tomato-based foods like chili and spaghetti were usually what sounded edible (since nothing ever sounds good in the first trimester). Thankfully, I didn't have any problems with acid reflux from eating tomatoes. 

There was definitely fatigue too, and I relied far more than I wanted to on TV with Tessa. I had zero energy, and physically couldn't keep up with her, so we watched a LOT of Boz, Pride and Prejudice (the good version with Colin Firth, of course), and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. So much for no/low media child-rearing! 

And while it will sound completely crazy, I am positive I felt the first baby movements during my sixth week of pregnancy. At 9 weeks, I starting feeling more frequent (yet subtle) movements.

Second Trimester
9 weeks, 5 days.
Almost the exact day I started my second trimester, the nausea, food aversions, and fatigue completely disappeared! I felt my energy come back, and I was able to rely on the television less and less. I never did have any cravings (except one time at 11pm when I wanted some of that yellow saffron rice in the metallic foil that they sell at the grocery store), but all food sounded and tasted delicious! Second trimester is definitely my favorite part of pregnancy because of how great I usually feel, and getting to experience those regular baby kicks.

We also found out just before I entered the 14th week of pregnancy that we were having our third girl! Just like we did with Tessa, we announced the name of this baby at 23 weeks: Ella Joan. Ella means "Young Girl" and Joan means "God is gracious." God was certainly gracious in giving us another little girl after calling home our first, so it seemed like the perfect fit. We still haven't decided on a verse for her, but there are a lot of good ones we are considering (feel free to make suggestions, if you have any). Ella was a lot less wiggly than Tessa (and even Addie), and I got the feeling that the only reason she moved was because she wanted to get into a more comfortable position for sleeping. We're going to get along just fine, I think!

The day before I turned 17 weeks.
Third Trimester
We found out at my 28 week appointment that Ella had flipped into the head-down position, which was so exciting, since I plan to try for an unmedicated VBAC. Some fatigue came back not long after I started this trimester, though it is different from the first trimester fatigue. I don't feel an overwhelming need to sleep now, but I tire out very quickly. During the early part of the third trimester, I had to stick to lots of smaller meals, because if I ate, I physically couldn't move for an hour because my belly would get so big and tight! 

28 weeks, 1 day. Ready for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
A non-baby-related highlight of the third trimester was getting to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi! We went with some friends the week after it came out, and yes, I did crochet a Leia hair hat and go in costume. Nobody else dressed up, and I'm sure I got a lot of weird looks, but I don't mind. An older man even bowed to me from across the theater. It was a fun night!

Our chubby-cheeked Ella.
We had the final cerclage check at the beginning of January, and everything looked great! The ultrasound technician switched to 3D during the appointment, and my mom and I were able to see Ella clearly for the first time! She is such a cutie, and I can't wait to squish those chubby little cheeks. We also learned that she is growing normally, which is a big deal! Addie and Tessa both measured smaller, and when Tessa was born, she only weighed 5lbs, 11oz. Before I got pregnant with Ella, I started following the Trim Healthy Mama plan. Lots of people adopt the THM lifestyle because they want to lose weight, but the principles they teach in their book also work for people like me who are trying to gain or maintain weight. I gained just over 20lbs with Tessa, and that was with a lot of effort. This time, I implemented the principles of THM (which were so easy and low-stress), and feel like it has really made a big difference. Plus, I feel great!

35 weeks, 1 day!
Today was the last appointment to check Ella's growth, and we got a great report from the perinatologist. Ella's estimated weight at 35 weeks, 2 days is 5lbs, 7oz (just a few ounces less than what Tessa weighed when she was born at 37 weeks). Everything looks great, and she is still head down. This means the cerclage can come out and I can try for an unmedicated VBAC! God is so good. We scheduled the cerclage removal appointment for February 21st at 3pm, so if you think of me on that day, I would really appreciate your prayers. I was still taking progesterone with the cerclage IN when I went into labor naturally with Tessa (prompting the emergency cesarean), so I know I could go into labor at any time with Ella. My due date isn't until March 12, but we are sensing that she will come sometime in February (you can make your predictions if you have any). They will still remove the cerclage as planned even if I do go into labor before the next appointment, so either way it won't be a big deal. I'm far enough along now to where it won't be a problem if she comes at any point from now on. 

Pictures from today's appointment (35 weeks, 2 days)!

Estimated weight is 5lbs, 7oz! She's almost as big as Tessa was when she was born.
We also got some more ultrasound photos today, and I'm thinking they're probably the last ones we'll get before we see her sweet face in person. It's crazy to think that she could be here three weeks from now! 💗

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Shouts Of Joy

"Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy." -Psalm 126:5
This is the first verse that came to mind when I sat down to write this post. Three years ago, I was pregnant with our first daughter, Adelyn Jane. We didn't know at the time that God's plan was to call Addie home to Him just a few weeks later. Then, six weeks after saying goodbye to our firstborn child, God blessed us with our Tessa. In a pregnancy that was fraught with uncertainty and difficult decisions, God showed us that His plan is best and that He can be trusted completely in all things. On the day we finally held Tessa in our arms, we were truly reaping with shouts of joy!
Just before Tessa's second birthday, we shouted with joy once again after learning Baby #3 is on the way! Today was our confirmation appointment, and while I've known for weeks now that I am pregnant (and have almost posted about it accidentally before actually announcing anything), there's nothing quite like seeing with your own eyes that precious new baby on the screen! Baby has a heartbeat of 173, and is due on March 12th. I'm 8 weeks, 1 day today!
Whether God gives us the honor of raising this next child like He has with Tessa, or whether He takes them home like He did with Addie, we have such peace knowing that everything is going perfectly according to His plans. He is so good!

Monday, September 19, 2016

After Addie - Two Years Later

We sat on our bed last night and talked. The clock on the dresser read "10:45pm" and G commented that exactly two years prior, we were at the hospital and I was in labor with Adelyn Jane.

Two years?

Has it really been that long? Sometimes I remember it as clearly as if it just happened, and other times it seems like the remnants of a forgotten story someone told me long ago. But every time I stop, close my eyes, and think back to that day, it's like a movie starts playing in my head and I can remember even the most trivial details.

I remember G driving me to the hospital and me riding shotgun with my feet up on the dash. For some reason, that position eased the discomfort of my contractions and I sat there trying to take deep, slow breaths. I remember the sound of our feet hitting the pavement as we walked around the hospital to the side entrance after finding out the main entrance was locked for the night. I remember the look on the midwife's face after she examined me and knowing before she said anything that we were about to get bad news. And after we talked to the specialist about our situation, I felt God speak to my heart and tell me exactly how the next few hours were going to play out: The labor wasn't going to stop, I was going to have my baby, and He was going to take her home. I remember feeling peace wash over me alongside the certainty that I felt about what was to come. I remember holding our Addie, who we were told had the faintest of heartbeats that would only last an hour, and being surprised by how normal she looked. At only half-way through the pregnancy, I expected her to look like a little alien. Yet there she was, fully-formed and the tiniest baby I had ever seen. Her little head was still warm for the moment, and it felt like velvet when I kissed it. I whispered "I love you" in her little ear. I didn't know whether or not she could hear me, but I wanted those words to be the first and last words that she heard.

For the rest of the night G and I took turns holding her and looking at her, or trying to get some rest. In the morning, sometime between 7:00-8:00, our families arrived. The nurse told us they were there and asked if she could bring them back. I told her "yes" and as she went back out the door to get them, I remember feeling a twinge of concern. Would they be worried? Would they be hurting? Of course they would. They just lost a family member. All of a sudden I was desperate for them to know that we were okay and that God had a purpose for all of this, and I wanted them to have the same peace I had at that moment. Shortly after the nurse left, the door opened again and one after another, our parents and my brother walked slowly - almost cautiously - into the room. All of them were quiet and solemn, and some of them already had wet faces. I smiled at them in what I imagine would be the same way I would have smiled if I'd had Addie at full term and she were merely sleeping in my arms. It wasn't forced, either. I really did feel pride and joy about that beautiful baby I had just given birth to. There were lots of tears, though not by me. Whether because of shock or meds or just the enormity of peace I felt in my soul, I couldn't get emotional. It's as if my heart was still in crisis mode. My tears would come later, when it was time to leave. I watched each family member hold our tiny baby girl. They hugged and kissed her, stared down at her little face, and talked about how beautiful she was. It was a sacred time and God's presence in that hospital room was the heaviest I had ever felt. There was no doubt in my mind that He was right there with us in our pain. He was right there with us when we buried Addie a few days later, and He's still with us today as we look back.

Lots of other things took place after that which you know about if you have followed this blog for a while, and here we are - two years later. God's grace and goodness astound me. He truly never wastes an experience, and He is still using our heartaches for His glory. G and I are doing well, and we can think and talk about Addie without grief. I love thinking of her and talking about her with other people. God has brought us both closure in our hearts, and so we have been able to move forward in confidence, without fear of the future. We still have peace, joy, and hope, and our lives have never been fuller! Tessa is growing up quickly, and we are enjoying each new stage as they come. She is brings so much happiness to our hearts. For a while now, we have been praying for God's wisdom to know how to reach out to others and serve and we are considering a path that would allow us to use Adelyn's story (which is really God's story) to lift up others who are hurting. We don't know if it's the direction the Lord is leading in yet, but we want to go where and do whatever will bring Him the most praise. He is good, guys. Trust Him.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will surely come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves." -Psalm 126:5-6

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tessa Finley - One Year Update

So it did take me another six months after all to write another update! 

Today is our sweet Tessa's first birthday. I can't believe she's one already! I've been looking back through old pictures of her, and it's strange to think that we held her for the first time just twelve months ago. It feels like she's always been with us, and she has changed so much during that time. Tessa has brought us so much joy, and she keeps us laughing. We thank the Lord every day for bringing her into our life.

One week old!

She's grown so much in twelve months!

How She's Changed
Tessa is an excellent crawler and climber (though she hasn't yet managed to climb onto any couches or chairs), so we have to make sure the baby gate by the stairs is shut whenever she is awake. She has started trying to stand without holding onto anything. It doesn't last for more than a few seconds, but she's getting better every day. We've been holding her hands and helping her walk around the house and she seems to have pretty good balance. I think she will probably try and take some steps on her own in the next couple of months. She learned to roll over pretty early, but then oddly enough seemed to forget how. Then one day, it's as if she remembered again, and she can roll over very quickly now. It makes changing her diapers very difficult sometimes!

She has started babbling a lot, and will sometimes crawl around the house "talking" loudly. She is also very vocal when we are in the car. She says "Da Da," though I don't always think she connects it with G, and she will mimic me quite well if I say "duck." It's also very obvious that she understands a lot of what we say. She knows her name and also what "no," "come here," "outside," "water," "eat," "puffs," "peek-a-boo panda" and "choco" (her favorite toys) mean. She can also sign "all done" and "eat," though she will use the sign for "all done" to say she is finished and that she wants more of something. We're still working on the sign language, but she's getting it.

Tessa keeps us laughing with her antics. She has started making some silly faces, and will bust them out when you least expect it. It's hilarious, especially when she does it while looking at herself in the mirror! If you aren't paying enough attention to her, she will get into your line of sight, put on a big smile, and start waving until you look at her. She is very sweet, and most of the time will share her toys with me when we play. Whenever she hears music, she starts bouncing up and down and smiling, so I think she will probably like to dance when she is older. She loves to be chased around the house, and she loves hide and seek. Whenever she hides or crawls away from us quickly, she giggles happily. It's really cute. Sometimes she will lean in and give us kisses on our cheeks (most of the time without biting), so I suspect she will be very affectionate and tenderhearted as she grows up. However, she is also starting to test the boundaries we've set for her. She often crawls over to outlets (all tamper-resistant) and tries to touch them, and we have to make sure we put our shoes away or she will put them in her mouth. Sometimes she deliberately does what we just told her not to do, so she will probably be a little bit strong-willed too. She is also pretty independent right now, and likes to explore the house on her own.

Social Behavior
In social situations, Tessa has really improved a lot. She doesn't really mind now if there is someone new in the house, or if she is in a new environment (provided we are there with her). We are still working on the nursery situation, but she is making progress. Most of the time she ends up being wheeled around in a stroller in the hallway, which she is perfectly fine with. Time in the classroom is still not her favorite, though. She doesn't seem to care for other children her age, and would rather play on her own than with another child. Tessa really seems to think that she is as big as we are, and wants little to do with other babies. Her interest in older children and adults seems to be much greater, however. She waves at everyone she sees when we are running errands, and if people aren't paying attention to her, she will wave or babble until they look at her. One of her favorite things to do is video chat with other family members. As soon as I open the app, she starts squealing excitedly!

How We Are Doing
We have really enjoyed the last twelve months with Tessa. Parenting is hard, but it's so rewarding. There are few things that make me as happy as having our baby girl in my arms. After Tessa goes to bed, we typically work on some remodeling projects (which I will need to post updates about soon) or watch a movies. The summer has been hot so far, and it is often difficult to get motivated to do anything productive. We are in a nice routine now, and we are trying to get some things ready before Tessa's party in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there isn't much to report on.

"I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously." -Psalm 13:6