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 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I Struggle To Leave My Child In The Church Nursery

Today was the day. We (more specifically, I) had been struggling with the decision of what we needed to do with Tessa during church. For months she sat quietly in our laps, occasionally cooing or chewing on a toy. Sometimes we would have to walk out of service with her, but that wasn't a big deal because there were televisions playing in the lobby where we could still hear the sermon. Now, at ten months old, she is wanting to get down and explore. Sitting still and quiet for an hour is just not something she cares to do anymore, especially when there are other people to wave or squeak at, and aisles to crawl down. She needs to be in a class with children her own age where she can play and move around freely for a while without distracting those who are trying to pay attention to what the pastor is teaching. The most logical option, then, was to start taking her to the nursery. My mind knew it was not a big deal; people put their children in the nursery all the time and the children are just fine.

But I was not fine.

A decision that should have been easy and uncomplicated was weighing heavily on my heart. I felt anxious at the thought of leaving her, and I thought at first it was because I didn't know the nursery workers, or because I knew Tessa would cry. But no matter how many times I told myself it would be okay and I just needed to do it, I couldn't find any peace. Last week during service, Tessa crawled all over the place and made lots of noise and by the time we left church, I knew it was time. So we decided on the way home that today is when we would start taking her to the nursery.

All week long I agonized. I dreaded going to church, and I even mentally looked for some excuse to get out of going while at the same time asking myself why something that should be so simple was so hard for me. We got to church early so that we could fill out the forms and check things out. I felt trembly all over. I kept thinking, "This is wrong. I shouldn't be leaving her." A lady I knew who understood my hesitancy walked us to Tessa's room and assured us everything would be fine. "Everything won't be fine," I thought to myself.

At our previous church, I was in charge of the three year old class and I saw lots of moms who had a hard time leaving their babies. They would linger near the door or even come in the class and play with their children for a while (which always made it ten times harder when they finally did leave). My mind, then, knew it would be best for me to drop her off and go. And though I said I would never do what those moms in my class did, I had already made up my mind today to ask if I could stay for a few minutes and help her get settled. When we got to the room, there was such a rush of activity from other people dropping off their children that she was out of my arms and in the room before I could blink or think to ask. Tessa immediately started screaming and reaching for me, as I knew she would, and we were suddenly walking toward the sanctuary without our baby. As we walked down the hallway, my eyes were tearing up. I felt like my heart had been cut open, but it was more than just sadness over my child being upset. What I felt was both new and strangely familiar at the same time. Grief.

I clutched the sticker we would need to pick up Tessa from her class the entire service. Any time a number would pop up on the screen and signal for a parent to come and get their child, my eyes would immediately look down to see if it was our number. It wasn't. I sat there restlessly in my seat, knowing that my baby was probably unhappy and it stressed me out. Just before service ended, I was longing to go and get her. There was a sense of urgency - a need to have her in my arms again. Why is this so hard for me? I kept asking myself this question, but no amount of rational thinking could change what I was feeling. When service ended, I moved as quickly as I could toward the children's wing of the church. Before we reached her class, I spotted her in the hallway. A dear friend was pushing her around the in the stroller and Tessa was sitting contentedly, chewing on a toy. She did some crying, as we expected, and wasn't crazy about her classroom. But she was okay. When Tessa saw us, she immediately started screaming again. I got her in my arms again as quickly as I could, and she clung to me with all her little might. It broke my heart all over again, and I just wanted to leave and go home as soon as possible. When we were in the car and on the road, the tears came. I cried all the way home. I cried as I put Tessa down for her nap. Then I lay down on the bed and cried some more. And just as I was wondering for the thousandth time what my problem was, it finally hit me.

This is wrong. I shouldn't have to leave her.

I had said these words over and over in my mind when I would think of putting Tessa in the nursery, but this is also word-for-word what I was thinking when I said goodbye to our Addie Jane for the last time right before we left the hospital a year and a half ago. I held that tiny one pound baby in my arms, told her I loved her, and laid her gently on the warming table. The light was off, of course. She was gone, so it wasn't needed anymore. I had kissed her cold little head and moved toward the door, taking one last look before going through it and thinking, "This is wrong. I shouldn't have to leave her."

This is why I struggle to leave my child in the nursery. 

When my arms let go of Tessa this morning, they were remembering the other time I had to let go of my baby. I didn't understand why I was grieving because I wasn't consciously thinking about Addie. But my heart remembered. This time I was walking down the hallway away from my child just for a little while. Last time, I was wheeled in a wheel chair down several hallways away from my child and I wouldn't be picking her up again. The circumstances were completely different but the pain was the same. That's why I struggled with the idea of putting Tessa in the nursery. It's why my heart broke and I wanted to slide to the floor and weep. It's why the thought of doing it again next week makes me sick. Because I had decided that day when we said goodbye to Adelyn that I didn't ever want to leave my child behind again. It doesn't matter that I would be picking up Tessa again right after church. No matter how many times I remind myself that she's fine and that our separation is temporary, I will always remember having to leave Addie. And it will always hurt, though I know the pain will lessen with time. Eventually, dropping her off will become second nature. Tessa will grow to like her class, and someday I'm sure she won't want to leave when we come to get her. But right now it's hard, and we are stepping out in faith and asking God to guide our decisions.

When I talk about how much I dislike leaving Tessa in the nursery or anywhere else, this is why. It's because deep down I'm always reliving that moment when I had to leave Addie behind in that cold hospital room. I frequently forget that while it seems like such a long time ago, it hasn't even been two years yet. The grief is still fresh, and I know it will continue to show up at unexpected times for the rest of my life. Yes, we will keep putting Tessa in her class. We truly believe that it is what she needs right now, and that it's what is best for her long term. She needs the socialization, and she needs to learn to trust that we will come back for her. And we need to be able to sit in service and hear the Word of God without chasing a baby around the church and distracting her with toys to keep her quiet (which never works for long). When she is older, we will bring her back into service with us some of the time. For now, this is what needs to happen. Please pray for us as the Lord leads. Parenting is hard, but it's good. And knowing that Adelyn is safe in the arms of the Lord brings us comfort alongside the grief. I have a feeling my husband will be taking Tessa to her class, at least for a little while!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tessa Finley - 6 Month Update

I realized today that I haven't published any updates about Tessa since she was born! Originally, I planned to write a new post every month to share how she was growing and changing, but then the busyness of motherhood and homemaking would take over and they would never get finished. There are probably a lot of you who were wondering what happened to us and how things are going!

How She's Changed
Considering I never got around to those monthly posts, Tessa has changed a LOT. I've been taking pictures on the thirteenth day of each month to chronicle how much she's growing and changing. Here are the pictures, starting from when she was one week old:

G and I laugh because her mature and exaggerated facial expressions make her seem more like a little girl than a six month old baby. She has a very feisty personality, and will let you know quickly if she doesn't like something or someone. We suspect that she is going to strong-willed when she's older, mostly because she already is! Although she has a flair for the melodramatic, she is also very sweet, funny, and intelligent. Tessa giggles and squeals with excitement, and there is nothing better than looking down at her while she reaches up, touches my face, and stares at me curiously with those big, blue eyes. She truly is a joy to be around, and I'm excited to see how her personality will continue to blossom as she grows.

We kept her crib in our room until she was five months old, and then we moved her upstairs to her own room. She was no longer waking during the night for feedings or dirty diaper changes, so it seemed like a good time to make that transition. At first we weren't sure how it would go, but I really believe all of us sleep so much better now. Tessa took to the new sleeping arrangements beautifully, and without a single issue. She sleeps from about 7:00pm/7:30pm to 7:00am. Some mornings, I have to wake her up to feed her because she's still snoozing away! She also has one scheduled nap at 9:00am, and will sleep anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. She doesn't have a scheduled afternoon nap, but usually will catnap for 30 minutes to an hour around 2pm.

Since we've been following Dr. Denmark's schedule, Tessa started solids at 3 months. And before you throw any stones, know that her pediatrician gave us the green light (though he personally disagreed on the timing) and Tessa did very well with it! She eats a mixture of pureed foods after every nursing session, and is growing at a consistent rate. So far, she's had oatmeal, brown rice, eggs, chicken, black-eyed peas, greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, winter squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, spinach, applesauce, bananas, prunes, pears, and a few mixed squeeze pouches with lentils and quinoa. It seems like maybe she's had a couple of other fruits and veggies as well, but I don't remember what they are at the moment. I usually take a protein and mix it with fruit, vegetables, and a starch. Because there is a lot of fruit in the puree, she doesn't really notice the flavors that aren't as sweet, so she's getting a lot of wonderful nutrients from the mush. The plan is to keep her continue with this way of eating until her second birthday, at which point I will switch her over to the THM eating schedule.

Tessa will be crawling very soon! She can already hold herself up while standing (though will topple over quickly if she starts bouncing with excitement), and as of yesterday can lift one arm in the air while she's on her hands and knees. I think she will be all over the place and into everything the second it clicks in her brain! G and I are already planning a trip to Babies R Us to get some cabinet locks. She is also very talkative, and mostly says "ma ma ma" or "na na na." When she wants me to get her, she'll start fussing and saying "ma" repeatedly, so I think she's making the connection between me and "Mama." She recently started lifting her arms a bit when she wants you to pick her up, and she will reach for me if someone else is holding her and she's over it. Tessa is suspicious of people she doesn't see on a regular basis, and gets very upset if someone she isn't familiar with tries to hold her. That's normal for babies, and I'm not going to force her to go to someone if she isn't comfortable yet. I was always a shy little girl, and though I don't think she's shy, I can certainly understand why she wouldn't want to be held by someone she doesn't know.

After a lot of prayer and intense study, G and I did decide to get the dTap and Polio shots for Tessa. Neither of them use aborted fetal cell lines (if you don't know what I'm referring to, I really encourage you to do some research), and that combination was relatively low in aluminum. Anyway, we decided that the consequences of Tessa getting whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, or polio (as slim as the chances may be) outweighed the possible risk of vaccination injury in this case. We deemed the other shots as unnecessary, either because she had no need for it (as in the case of HepB) or it would not give her an immunity (such as the flu shot as well as the chicken pox vaccine, where immunity can be lost over time). All of the other vaccines compromise our religious convictions and pro-life stance, so we will be avoiding them as well. However, this is something we will continue to research. If future vaccines are introduced that do not use aborted fetal cell lines in their development, various illnesses begin to increase in society, and the new vaccines prove to be a safe an effective way to combat those illnesses, we will revisit the situation at that time. I understand that many who read this update will take offense to our decision but our responsibility is to do what we believe is best for Tessa, not for anyone else's child. I can assure you I've looked at all sides of this issue and spent years in intense research, so please understand that this was a very informed decision. Anyway, she's had her first dose of dTap and Polio, and there was no obvious reaction apart from a very low fever for a couple of days in the evenings. I will be doing my part with Tessa's diet and lifestyle to cultivate excellent health as she grows, and a healthy immune system is the best way to avoid illness.

How We Are Doing
G and I are getting lots of sleep at night again, which is really wonderful. It was tough for the first few months. I still try to sleep while she's napping in the mornings, but being on plan with THM is really helping to increase my energy levels. G has finished several projects around the house (which I hope to write an update about soon) including installing a whole-house water filter, finishing the window trim and chimney chase in the living room, and working to reinstall the central vacuum system that was in the house when we moved in (but had to be cut out to make room for the HVAC ducts when we upgraded everything). We love being parents, and feel like we've found our "parenting groove." Hopefully it won't take another six months to write the next update on Tessa (though I am already planning her first birthday party)! Keep checking back here for updates!

We hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

After Addie - One Year Later

Our "Addie Rose" is blooming today.
When I sat down to write this post, I thought about all that has happened in the last year. It seems strange to think that I've given birth to two babies in twelve months. While I remember all that happened with our Addie Jane like it was yesterday, it also feels like she died a lifetime ago. Most of the time it doesn't even feel like something that happened to us, but that it's something we read in a novel or heard about on television. Yet it did happen, and here we are a year later continuing to move forward. Yes, there have been many moments of sorrow - especially in the weeks leading up to this day - but our minds and our hearts are at peace. 

Sweet smiles for us this morning!
It's funny how what you think and what you feel don't always line up. My head is totally okay and "over it" for lack of a better term, but my heart still feels the occasional pain and grief of being separated from my child. It's in those moments that I am especially grateful that the Lord blessed us with Tessa. When I feel sorrowful, I pick her up and hold her close. The sadness never lasts long, because she either starts screaming in my ear because she wants me to walk around the house with her or she starts filling her diaper! Her little personality makes me laugh, and her adorable smile lifts my spirits every time. A few days after she was born my father-in-law observed that she looks so much like her big sister, only jumbo-sized in comparison (which is saying something because she's still so little). It's a comfort to know that I will never forget what Adelyn looked like because I can see her in Tessa's sweet face.

After Addie died last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about my own life and eventual death (which I know sounds morbid). When an opportunity arose at my church to be a part of a David Jeremiah study called Revealing The Mysteries of Heaven, I signed up right away. I'm a Christian, and I believe what the Bible teaches about a literal Heaven and Hell. It also teaches that you don't get a second chance to make up your mind about Jesus Christ after you die, and that accepting His gift of salvation is the only way to go to Heaven. If you'd like to hear about what I'm learning, I'd be happy to share what I'm being taught in this study. Just ask! I would love to have a conversation with you about it and get your thoughts as well. Anyway, I mentioned the study because going through it has reaffirmed the confidence I have in the hope that I will get to see my baby girl again one day. I have no doubt that she is with her Savior right now, and that she is in a place more spectacular than any we've ever seen or heard of on this earth. 

Life is short; shorter than any of us realize. So as we remember Adelyn Jane on this day, her birthday, we're going to keep stepping forward without fear into whatever future God is leading us to. We're going to hold each other a little closer and take time to say "I love you." We're going to thank God for giving us Tessa and allowing us to have this time with her. We're going to think back over the many ways that God has been faithful to us. We may even cry. And tomorrow, we're going to visit Addie's grave with Tessa. She's too little to understand right now, but she will grow up knowing how God used her sister's life in mighty and powerful ways for His glory. I believe He will use Tessa's life to accomplish great things as well. Thank you all for your prayers, and thank you especially to the people who remembered what this day means to us without me having to say anything. Knowing she hasn't been forgotten means more to us than you could ever know!

"'Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way where I am going.' 'Lord,' Thomas said, 'we don't know where You're going. How can we know the way?' Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" -John 14:1-6

Addie used to move and kick when we would play this song.

This song has new meaning to me at this point in my life. I love it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hello Tessa Finley (And A 3 Week Postpartum Update)

***Just a heads up: this post is going to be very long!***

"Delayed hope makes the heart sick, but fulfilled desire is a tree of life." -Proverbs 13:12

As I thought about how to begin this update, the Lord brought this verse to my mind. It wasn't until I started writing that I remembered I had opened with this same passage of Scripture in my very first post about Tessa, which seems fitting. This verse gets more meaningful to me with every year that passes. With Addie, our hope for a child was delayed and it really did make our hearts sick. Yet less than a year after she died, God has blessed us and brought a second little girl into our lives. I intended to write the next update shortly after Tessa was born, but we felt and experienced so many different things that I couldn't find the words for a while. Three weeks later I now know what to say, starting with Tessa's birth story.

On Monday morning, July 13, Mom took me to my pre-op appointment at the hospital. The C-section was scheduled for the next day at 8:30am. During the appointment, when the nurse was using the doppler to check Tessa's heartbeat, she told me that I was having a contraction. A contraction? I thought that was just Tessa stretching! The contraction didn't feel anything like the contractions I had with Addie, though it was still tight and painless. I thought for sure the nurse had to be mistaken, because if THAT was a contraction, then I had been having them every day for a while after all. I left the appointment confident that she had it wrong (in spite of the fact that she was a nurse who dealt with pregnant women every day), but in the back of my mind I started to doubt. Maybe it was a contraction after all. Mom and I came back to the house, and I felt tired so I laid down and took a nap. At one point, when I got up to go to the bathroom, I felt that familiar tightness again. It wasn't noticeable tightening, but it once again felt like Tessa was stretching. Making a mental note to keep an eye on these moments of "stretching," I went back to sleep. 

Lunchtime rolled around, and Mom and I discussed where to go. For some bizarre reason Chili's sounded good, even though the food tastes processed and usually leaves much to be desired. However, their chili queso dip, chips and salsa, and barbecue ribs sounded better than anything else I could think of, so off we went. That's right, the family "health-nut" decided her last lunch before the surgery would be unhealthy food. Maybe I had a moment of nostalgia, since we used to eat there a lot when I was a child. I'm just as surprised as you! Anyway, when we got to the restaurant, I skimmed the menu even though I knew what I wanted. We had not been seated for two minutes when my attention was drawn to my abdomen. This time it was that familiar and obvious tightening that I experienced when I was in labor with Addie. Oh boy. Mom must have seen my face change, because she asked if I was okay. I calmly told her that I definitely just had a contraction (which I had mentally started timing), so she pulled out her phone and went straight to the stopwatch app. It lasted for over two minutes before easing up. She told me to let her know if I had another one, and she would time it for me. We joked about how funny (and typical) it would be if I ended up going into labor and having the C-section on the thirteenth instead of the next day. It wouldn't be that surprising; from what we could tell in the ultrasound appointments, Tessa was stubborn and had a mind of her own. It seemed very likely to me that she would decide to do things her own way and come the last day before the surgery. The waitress brought out the chips, salsa, and queso dip, and Mom and I chatted some more. A few minutes later I felt another contraction coming on, so I alerted Mom and she started the timer again. Two. Two contractions in less than ten minutes. Four or more in an hour is usually a sign of labor, and I began to suspect that the contractions were not about to stop. After the third contraction in 25 minutes, I said, "You know Mom, I'm going to have another contraction in a minute, and we'll probably have to go to the hospital." She was okay with that, and both of us felt excited at the prospect of what the day would bring. Though our food had just come out, we asked for to-go boxes. Sure enough the fourth contraction hit not long after the third one ended, so we packed up our food and headed toward the hospital. Mom suggested I call the OB, who told me to come there first so I could be checked, and I called G to tell him what was going on.

Between the waiting room and exam room, we were there for over an hour before a doctor came in. My OB wasn't in the office that day, and apparently the wait was that long because they had trouble finding my file (which was probably in the process of getting faxed to the hospital). Thankfully, I do very well with long wait times. While we were in the main waiting room, I had several more contractions. I practiced my deep breathing and relaxation in the exam room, and they stopped for a while. Finally, one of the other doctors came in and apologized for the delay, then asked me some questions about my situation. Then she did a pelvic exam to check the status of my cervix. A few seconds later, she sat back and said, "Well, you are 90% effaced and 1 centimeter dilated, so you definitely need to go to the hospital!" That news didn't surprise me at all because I already knew I was in labor, so we headed across the street and up the elevator to the L&D floor. On our way over I updated G, who immediately dropped what he was doing at work and met us at the hospital. He arrived right before they took us back to a labor and delivery room (much to my relief). 

Because I had eaten lunch recently, they wanted to wait at least 6 hours before taking me back for surgery so that my food would be fully digested. So G, Mom, and I waited in the L&D room for the remainder of the afternoon. A nurse was came in every so often to check the fetal monitor, take my blood pressure, or insert an IV, and we also spoke with the anesthesiologist and his assistant. My aunt and cousins showed up and visited with us for a little while, and eventually everyone but G went back to the waiting room until after the surgery. As we approached the end of the six hour wait time, I was given some medication through the IV to prepare me for the surgery. My OB arrived and talked with me for a few minutes, and told me that I was third in line for a cesarean. They ended up bumping me to second place when my contractions began affecting Tessa's heart rate.

After the first C-section was finished and the operating room cleared, they took me back to administer the spinal. G had to wait just outside the room until they had prepped me, then they brought him in. Although the surgery had previously been such a source of anxiety for me, I wasn't nervous at all. The anesthesiologist was very skilled, and after giving me the numbing medicine I didn't even feel the larger needle. I shook the entire time as a side effect of the spinal, but I was alert and aware of everything that was happening. As I laid there on the operating table, I was struck by how different - yet similar - things were this time around. When I labored with Addie, I was on my back the entire time. With Tessa I was on my back yet again (something I had really hoped to avoid repeating). With the birth of both babies there was a peace in my soul, even though I knew in my heart that Addie was going to die that night and I didn't know what would happen with Tessa. They whisked Tessa away to the warmer after she was born just like they did with Addie. This time though, I saw Tessa move when they held her over the sheet. I heard her cry (or to be more accurate, I heard her scream - boy does she have some lungs!). She was born at 8:30pm, weighed 5lbs 11oz, and measured 17 1/2 inches long.

Brand new and cheesy.
I couldn't hold her yet, but G held her close so I could look at her.
At that point, I was stitched back up and my OB removed my cerclage. G was across the room with Tessa, and he would occasionally come back over to check on me before returning to where she was. Before we knew it, they were wheeling us to a temporary recovery room so we could have a private moment as a family. I finally got to hold Tessa and try my hand at breastfeeding for the first time. After a little while they moved us to the maternity ward, and our family was able to come back and meet her. It was a really special time where many tears were shed and countless pictures were taken. I was reminded of when our parents and my brother came to the other hospital after Addie was born. By the time they arrived she had already died, but they still held her and marveled and cried (just for different reasons).

My baby girl was smiling at me!
After everyone left, reality set in as I tried to feed Tessa on the hospital's recommended 2-3 hour schedule. G and I didn't sleep that night, and I didn't sleep the next night either. Every time one of us would drift off, a nurse would come in to check me or Tessa. G had trouble settling down because whenever Tessa would make a noise or move, he was checking to make sure she was breathing. He was such a trooper and even though he was severely sleep deprived, he would hold Tessa so I could get some sleep. When I woke up, we would trade off, and he would try and sleep. Eventually, I told him he needed to go back to the house for a few hours during the day to get a shower (since hospitals gross him out) and take a nap where he wouldn't have to worry about either of us. He felt bad about leaving at first, but Mom was there with me every day as soon as visiting hours started and I told him he needed to go so that he could be rested enough to tackle the sleepless nights. Our second night in the hospital was probably the hardest, because Tessa screamed most of the night and we couldn't calm her down. She was still learning how to eat, and her little tummy was gassy. Humorously, G had to change all of her horrible meconium diapers, since my legs were numb for a long time (and I couldn't move around easily even after the feeling came back). So much for my promise to change all of her poopy diapers!

That Thursday, we were cleared to go home. Before we left, my OB came in and pulled out the stitch from the C-section (it still had surgical glue). They discharged us a little after lunchtime, and we were so glad to be home. Even Tessa seemed significantly more content. She would get really upset in the hospital if her arms were free from the swaddling blanket because the room was so cold, but our house was really warm, so she stretched out and seemed to relax right away. I found this funny because I dislike the cold so much, so I guess she does too! Most of the first week was spent in the hospital, and G worked half days the following week. Mom and my mother-in-law both came on different days to stay with me until he would get home. I got around much better, but still couldn't tackle much housework. It also helped to have someone else there who could hold Tessa or change her diaper so I could eat and go to the bathroom. Tessa was quick to catch on to breastfeeding in the hospital, and she did especially well after my milk came in the night we were discharged. The next two weeks were a blur of feedings, pediatrician appointments, and catching sleep whenever we could. She was a little jaundiced (I was too, when I was born), but we didn't need any treatment.

Motherhood surprised me. Even before I met G, I knew I wanted to put my babies on a schedule. I consider myself to be a rational and reasonably logical person, so I was caught off guard when I felt so emotional about Tessa. I wasn't prepared for the intense empathy I had for her, and I lost my resolve to do anything but hold her and feed her for a while. She was so little and helpless, and my heart broke every time she would cry. However, after a couple of weeks of on-demand feedings and sleepless nights, I knew things had to change. She had passed her birth weight by then and was growing well, and it would be best for all of us if we got a more structured routine established. That's what we've been working on since last Thursday, and she's doing a great job! She's still working on sleeping through the night, but we'll get there soon enough.

I feel like the Lord has used this pregnancy and the early weeks of parenthood to grow me a lot. God has shown me that when He throws a wrench in my plans, it's very likely because His plans are better. I've also realized how much of a control freak I really am, and I'm learning to let go and take things as they come.

We are grateful to all of you for your prayers and encouragement over the last year. It has meant so much to us!

"Many plans are in a man's heart, but the Lord's decree will prevail." -Proverbs 19:21

"For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations." -Psalm 100:5