you're gonna miss this.

all images courtesy of Carol Stephens Photography

These are just a few more photos from our newborn photoshoot that our dear friend Carol did for us when Jake was 9 days old. The night before she came, I was up quite a bit with Jake and was in tears for half of it (TJ worked late that night). I told him I was going to cancel, but I'm so glad I didn't. Carol was so sweet and patient. She let me do my hair while she took a few of just TJ and Jake. I was so worried that Jake wouldn't be cooperative, but once again, Carol thought of everything with space heaters and a white noise app on her iPhone to keep Jake calm. It was the most low-key photoshoot I've been part of and I think that is reflected in these images.

As difficult as the journey has been so far, it has been a beautiful one. I'm going back to work on Monday, and I know I'm going to miss this time I've had with my precious boy even if it hasn't been "picture perfect." This being a mom stuff is messy, exhausting, tear-inducing, heart-string-tugging, and joyful all at the same time; a truly beautiful mess. I think I love it.

thoughts on being a mom.

photo courtesy of Carol Stephens Photography

Jake is now a month old.

If I'm being honest with myself, it's been the hardest month of my life.

Jake has colic and acid reflux, which means that he's not happy for very long when he's awake.He screams after most feedings, sometimes won't eat, has lots of gas, and other things that I'm too tired to think about right now. Those screams....they are exasperating and heartbreaking all at once. They are enough to drive any parent to their wits end. And trust me, TJ and I have both felt at our wits end multiple times. Especially when we hear don't worry, he'll grow out of it, which no matter how well-intended it is never seems to help in the moment.

There have been times when I start crying with my baby. Usually when the screaming lasts longer than 15 minutes, and always when I'm alone with him. For some reason I keep my cool much better when TJ is around. In a book that I'm reading, it talks about the psychological effects that a baby's cry has on his parents. Basically, their crying can bring to the surface bad memories, in addition to feelings of worthlessness and failure (as though we need a newborn cry to bring those feelings to the surface). We're trying a number of different things, and some work....but it's still exasperating.

It's been quite the adjustment. Most days, I'm lucky to get showered and dressed for the day by noon. I try to nap from 8 to 10 in the morning sometimes. I feel like I'm tied to the couch because that boy can eat, and eat he does approximately every 2 hours during the day. I'm scared to go out of the house, because I have to time it just right or else I'll have a screaming baby on my hands. In the beginning, I felt like a that's all he wanted me for and like it was all I could do. It's gotten a little better, but sometimes I get tired of smelling like breast milk and spit-up. Tired of feeling like I've accomplished nothing at all in a 24-hour period other than feed, change, and soothe my child.

And of course there is the lack of sleep. Actually, I'm surprised that I'm doing as well as I am. It's amazing how little quality sleep that I can function on. I suppose that's one of God's blessings to moms. In fact, what I really miss most is sleeping with my husband. I tend to fall asleep nursing on the couch, which creates a whole slew of events which end up with me spending most of the night on the couch with Jake. I'm getting better at it though...solitaire for the win.

Then there's the mom guilt. Like one night when I was super tired and frustrated with other things, and I didn't speak kindly to my baby who did nothing wrong when he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. Or when no matter what I do, I can't soothe those cries and I feel like a bad mom. Or when I wonder if I'm doing something wrong because I don't always enjoy this thing called motherhood. When I wonder if maybe I'm not cut out for it, and maybe I'm not enough. When I just pray to my Father desperately in the middle of the night when I finally crawl back into bed after a feeding, Bless him to not scream. Bless him to just go to sleep already. There's the guilt I feel when I know I'm not cherishing this age enough because I can't wait for him to outgrow the colic and be a happy, pleasant baby, especially when other women tell me how they wish they had a newborn again and I think they must be crazy.

But then....then there are those moments (they happen often). The ones where I hold him, sleeping peacefully on my chest and breathe in his heavenly scent fresh from a bath. The moments when I just watch him as he stares out at the world and wonder what he's thinking. The moments when I watch him and TJ interact and I remember that no, I'm not in this alone and how lucky am I to have this man as my child's father. The moments when I get one big smile after all that coaxing. The moments when I listen to him softly, rhythmically sigh in his sleep, or while nursing. Those moments when I stare at him, in awe of his perfect little body, and kiss his cheeks, forehead, fingers, nose, lips. Those moments when I feel that motherly protectiveness, all because he's mine. When I feel an overwhelming, powerful love for this precious little one that we've been entrusted with.

Those moments make it worth it, this thing called motherhood. Those moments help me remember why  I wanted this more than anything in the whole world. And I know, trust me, that the crying won't last forever (but perhaps the sleep deprivation will). I know that someday I will look back and miss this time in my life. I know that even if my only accomplishment in a day is taking care of that little guy, that is enough. I know that I'm not the first, last, or only mother to feel these feelings. And I know, above all, that I love this little family of mine more than anything, and I await the adventure ahead of us with eagerness.

No one can really explain how you can feel so exhausted, overwhelmed, and happy all at the same time.

photo courtesy of Carol Stephens Photography

the boys of fall.

I come from a family where sports are a take-it-or-leave-it-but-really-we-leave-it kind of thing.
I married into a family where sports are a passion, the basis for many a heated game-watching.
I married a man who lives and breathes for fall and its sport: football.
He loves the game and takes it in almost any form he can get it: Xbox, Fantasy, ESPN, and two-hand touch in the fields by our apartment.

Me? Well, I'm learning. I'm learning what a first down is and how many points a field goal gets. 
I'm learning to almost enjoy watching football on TV, thanks in part to our recent marathon watching of Friday Night Lights on Netflix (#thankyoutTimRiggins). 
But really, I still prefer to watch it in person. I understand the hype more when I'm sitting on those high school bleachers, huddled in my hoodie against the new fall chill.

And now. 
Now that we have a son, I can hardly wait to watch his dad teach him about the sport. Impart his love for it to him. Toss around the ol' pigskin, and eventually go to his Pop Warner games.

For me, football definitely means fall. And fall has its own special magic.

Dear Jake,

While your dad and I love you to pieces, this past month has been pretty difficult. Becoming parents isn't easy (we didn't think it would be), and you have been colicky. That means that when you're awake, you're not calm for very long. You get fussy after you eat, you spit up, and you've got tummy troubles. Sometimes you scream for what feels like hours, but ends up being about 30 minutes. We're learning how to calm you down, but you're a stubborn kid!

That being said, we love watching you grow and learn. You're such a strong boy! And on Saturday, we discovered something that makes up for every scream. You're learning to smile at us (as opposed to just in your sleep). You have the cutest smile and we're so excited to see more. We love you little boy!

Love always,
Mom and Dad


Yet Another Bow Tutorial
I'm sure there are hundreds of posts similar to this one, on how to make hair bows. And honestly, they're so simple that pretty much anyone could do a tutorial on how to make them. I used to "sell" these in the Etsy shop I used to run...but I realized I didn't have a super-unique product or the time/money to market my business, so I figured I would share how I make them.

Basically, this post is pointless....but I already took the trouble of taking step-by-step photos, so here it goes!
1. Gather supplies: needle, thread, fabric, scissors. You could use hot glue too, I guess.

 2. Cut a rectangle. This one is about 9"x6" and will make a bow that is about 4.5" long.

 3. Fold rectangle so that the two edges meet in the middle.

 4. Fold the ends toward the center so that they barely overlap.

 5. Turn over the folded rectangle, and pinch it in the middle.

 6. "Pinch" the fabric on each side of the middle fold, so there should be three folds.

 7. Stick a threaded needle through all three folds and wrap the thread around several times, going back through the folds once or twice.

 It should look like this after you tie it off. You could leave it like this too, I guess.

 8. Cut another rectangle of fabric, about 1"x 2".

 9. Fold it in thirds.

 10. Wrap it around the center of the bow so that the ends meet in the back.

 11. Stitch the ends together using a whip stitch. Or use hot glue.

 12. And you're done! I use an alligator clip that I put through the middle piece from behind. You could also attach it to a headband or another piece of fabric to make a bow tie. 

 Wear it with a bun or ponytail for a little added whimsy.

everybody loves babies.

And, it seems, lots of people love my baby.
So, to appease your appetite for babies, here's the first month of Jake's life in picture format.


Some stats:
*At two weeks old, Jake weighed 9 lbs 12 oz. and was in the 99th percentile for head size, 86th percentile for weight, and 96th percentile for height. He's already outgrown most of his "newborn" size clothes. Except for pants....he's got no tush to hold 'em up.
*At just a three days old, Jake was holding up his head. Now he can hold it up pretty well when he's laying on your chest, and he's working on it in tummy time.
*At three weeks old, Jake rolled from his tummy to his back. I think the first time was an accident, but now he does it every time I put him on his stomach, even if it takes a while.
*He loves to make noises. He's always grunting or sighing, and has the cutest little snore.
*He's pretty much a champ at eating. I love watching his face when he starts "rooting." At two weeks, he took a bottle like it was nothing, and still breastfeeds fine. Definitely a blessing since I'll be going back to work soon.

how two became three [part 2]

I'm not going to apologize for the length of this post, because I really want to document everything I can remember. I've tried to be tasteful, yet honest and real. Especially during the last few weeks of pregnancy, reading birth stories helped me out a lot. I appreciate your comments, but please don't judge me for my choices in how I went about giving birth. 

*Also, please note that this next part might be a little too detailed for some. I kept everything PG, but some may not wish to read so many details.

Thank you for the love and support you've given me! And sorry to make you wait so long!

Read part 1 here.

My water had definitely broken. And to think I was worried I wouldn't know when it did...As the anesthesiologist finished giving me the epidural, George quickly changed the sheets on my bed and TJ helped me breathe through some more contractions before the epidural kicked in. Once it did, I was finally able to relax some. George got to the end of his shift, and introduced me to Nancy, my day nurse, who would be there for the delivery. As George got ready to leave, I asked if I was allowed to have gum (because my breath was not pretty and food was no longer an option). He took a package out of his pocket and placed a piece in my mouth, gave me a kiss on the forehead, hugged TJ, and left with a promise to stop by our room that evening to meet Jake.

Our new nurse, Nancy, was really nice. From about 7am-9am, she would check in on me and check all of my vitals. During that time, I was able to rest some thanks to the epidural. I was feeling the effects of laboring all night, and so it was some blessed relief to sleep pain-free. I don't remember exactly what time it was, but at some point TJ's mom came. She and TJ entertained themselves looking at funny internet memes, and I tried to sleep more. Around 9:30, Nancy checked me and told me that we should start practicing some pushes, since I was getting close to ready. TJ held one of my numb legs, while Nancy held the other. She coached me on my breathing and the timing. At this point, it was really difficult for me since I didn't have much feeling in my legs and I was so exhausted from laboring all night.

During this time, I met Holly, the baby's nurse, and Miguel, a Guardian Air nurse who was really nice but I don't remember really knowing why he was there. He helped with labor, and he helped Holly. Anyways, the next hour was filled with pushing and resting...and a new fun aspect, losing the contents of my stomach. Nancy explained that it was a normal reaction that some women experience when they have really strong contractions that affect their stomachs. I absolutely loathe throwing up, so I was grateful it was something I hadn't experienced much of early in my pregnancy. I threw up more in that two or so hours of pushing than I had my entire pregnancy. It was not a fun experience.

My family arrived at the hospital from Mesa at about 10:30. I asked that only my mom come into the room. She came and was able to be with me for about an hour of pushing, helping to hold my legs and wipe my face with a cool cloth. By this time, I was getting really good at pushing since my epidural had worn off enough for me to have some feeling and be able to push intuitively. However, I was getting really tired. Nancy had turned the coaching reins over to TJ, and he helped me count through the contractions and pushing. At one point when I was getting super tired and discouraged, Nancy grabbed my hand and let me touch the top of my baby's head. It was so surreal. TJ said he immediately noticed the boost of strength it gave me in the next contraction.

Finally, around 11:15 or so, Dr. Lindstrom arrived and started prepping. At the same time, I asked TJ to ask our mothers to leave. I was feeling overwhelmed with the number of people in the room, and while I loved that they were able to be part of my labor to this point, I really wanted TJ to be my main support for this last final and intimate part of our experience.

TJ remained by my side and watched more of what was going on than what he had originally planned on. Dr. Lindstrom continued prepping me and I continued pushing. It was getting increasingly difficult as the baby moved down and I got more and more exhausted. I got very discouraged at this pont and shouted, "I'm done, I can't do this!" Of course, TJ and Nancy encouraged me and said otherwise, but it was definitely no longer a peaceful room since I was very vocal with each push. There is something instinctive about giving birth, and I am grateful I was able to feel that.

Just when I truly thought I could go no further, Dr. Lindstrom told me I had two options: I could continue pushing and I would probably tear, or I could get an episiotomy and the baby would be out with one more push. I opted for the latter. I got a numbing shot, and Nancy had to tell TJ he probably shouldn't watch the next part (he didn't really know what was going on). Then with another contraction and a yell, I pushed and felt immediate relief from the intense pressure and suddenly there was my baby, all warm and wet and crying weakly. Dr. Lindstrom immediately placed him on my upper abdomen and it was the most amazing and beautiful feeling. I was overcome with emotion as I spoke to my son, so fresh from the womb, "Hi baby, I'm your mom."

Dr. Lindstrom convinced TJ to cut the umbilical cord, then Holly quickly took my baby away, because he wasn't crying as strongly as he should have been. They took him away and cleared his airways, cleaned him up some, and took his measurements.

8 lbs. 15 oz. (He's big! I thought.)
15 inch head. (I'm so glad I chose the episiotomy.)
19.5 inches long

TJ came and stood by my head, took my hand and rested his head on my shoulder and we whispered our love and wonder at our beautiful boy. Dr. Lindstrom reminded TJ to take some pictures of our baby, who was totally unmarred by birth.

Soon our room was filled with family, and would be for the next day. We loved to show off our baby, but we treasured the time we had with him alone that night. George came to meet him, gave me a hug, and told us he'd see us in 2 years for the birth of our baby girl. Both of us were completely exhausted (I was in pain), and we were in awe of our beautiful boy who forever changed our lives.

We love you, Jake.

how two became three [part 1]

I'm not going to apologize for the length of this post, because I really want to document everything I can remember. I've tried to be tasteful, yet honest and real. Especially during the last few weeks of pregnancy, reading birth stories helped me out a lot. I appreciate your comments, but please don't judge me for my choices in how I went about giving birth. Thank you for the love and support you've given me!

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was getting really done. I was just ready to my baby, and ready to no longer be pregnant. We were also getting anxious since TJ would be starting school soon, and we wanted to have some time with the baby before things got busy. So we walked. Walking, we'd heard, was really the only thing that most doctors agreed would help get labor started. The Saturday before he was born, however, we went 4-wheeling in Grandpa Troy's truck....which only served to make mommy uncomfortable and make baby squirm a bunch. Anyways, back to the walking.

On Tuesday, we went in for our routine doctor's visit (an appointment I was really hoping to miss). The PA checked me, and I was dilated to a 3 and about 80% effaced. TJ and I were glad to hear that news! But, that didn't necessarily mean that the baby would come soon. We discussed the possibility of being induced the next week, and then I asked Kristi, the PA, to sweep my membranes. It was pretty uncomfortable, but I was willing to do almost anything. That evening, I had a few strong contractions, but nothing regular or consistent. We went to bed that night hoping, but a little disappointed.

On Wednesday morning, August 15th, I got up feeling pretty normal and pretty disappointed. I got ready for, and went to work. Once there, I started feeling some cramps, but I (honestly) thought that it was the maternity pants I was wearing. That pair was a little tight around my lower abdomen, so I thought that the elastic band was the cause of my discomfort. I dealt with it until about 1pm, when I finally ran home and changed into my other, more comfortable maternity pants. When I got back to work, I realized that my discomfort hadn't really gone away. Then I started to notice that instead of just being consistent pain, there were times when the pain got more intense. After talking to my mom and TJ, I decided these were contractions. I had downloaded a contraction timer app on my iPod, and began to time these "contractions." They started off kind of scattered, and I thought that surely I must be mistaken. But, as I timed them, I realized they averaged about 4 minutes apart and were lasting around 1 minute. I finished up the work day, and when I got home at 4:00, I decided to call the doctor's office. I told them how far apart they were, but also that they weren't super intense. They told me to go ahead and go to the hospital to be checked.

I told this to TJ, and as excited as he was for this to happen, neither of us wanted to be sent home for false labor, or not being far enough along to be admitted. He suggested we wait an hour and continued playing his XBox game. I, on the otherhand, started to collect the last few items for our bag and to get myself ready. At about 4:45, TJ realized what I was doing and I said that I'd like to go sooner than later. I think I was just excited, but also thought this might be the real deal. He then realized he hadn't showered yet that day (which never happens, go figure it would happen that day of all days). So, he showered and I continued to get ready, going over my checklist. By a little after 5, we were off, but not in a rush. We even hit a train on our way to the hospital, but I wasn't too worried. I somehow knew we would hit a train on our was just how fate would have it. 

We parked the car on the top level of the parking garage like we'd planned, and left our bags in the car as we walked into the Women & Infants center. They let us in, asked what we needed and had me fill out a paper with my information. I remember my hand shaking, not from pain as much as from nerves. I really wanted this to be real, and didn't want to go home. A nurse took me into the small triage area, had me give a urine sample and change into a gown, and gave me a bed to wait on. A few (long) minutes later, a second nurse came in and hooked me up to the monitors. She said I was having some good, strong contractions (which I was feeling a little more intensely) and then checked me. I was dilated to 4cm, and about 80% effaced. At this point, she said I could stay and see if labor progressed there at the hospital, or I could go home to wait for more progression. (As a side note, I think if I had been in Phoenix somewhere, they would have sent me home. Flagstaff is much smaller, however, and therefore the hospital is less busy. I think there were only maybe 3 other women in Labor & Delivery at that point.) Since I'm super indecisive, she left us for a few minutes to talk about it. TJ was fascinated with watching my contractions on the monitor and enjoyed telling me when another one was coming (as though I didn't know). Apparently the nurse was watching too, because when we returned, she told us that she had seen my doctor who was with another patient, and told him how consistent and strong my contractions were, and he recommended that I stay to see how I progressed. He wanted me to walk around the hospital, and then in 2 hours they would check me again. So that's what we did. We walked all over the 2 floors we were allowed on, and started contacting our immediate family and a few close friends to let them know that I was at the hospital, but it could still be a while before baby came.

[FMC has a "Skywalk" that connects two of the buildings. We walked back and forth between the  two for a change of scenery. I decided to snap one last bump picture of my reflection in the windows.]

Around 7:30, we made our way to our to our labor room, where we met my nurse for the night, George. I could write a whole blog post about George. He was the best nurse I could have asked for. He's in his 60's and was so gentle and kind, and pretty much the sweetest man ever. We both were so grateful to have him as our nurse. I wish he had been there for the delivery, but the nurse I did have was great. Anyways, George hooked me up to the monitors and checked me. I was dilated to a 6. 5, and it was decided we would be staying the night. I got hooked up to an IV and started getting low-dose Pitocin, just to keep the contractions going. TJ left to go grab the couple of things we left at the apartment, and to get us some food since we hadn't eaten dinner.

[George said it was OK. Said it shouldn't both me to much, and at this point it was still appetizing.]

So, we got settled in for the night. George thought that Jake would probably be here by 9 the next morning, but definitely before noon. I asked TJ to give me a blessing of comfort and strength, and it was beautiful and exactly what I needed to hear. TJ watched Netflix on his iPod, while I tried to sleep through contractions. He also dozed off at times. At one point, I tried laboring on a birthing ball, which helped some. TJ rubbed my back and tried to be there for me. George checked on me frequently, and was so patient to unhook my machines every time I made a trip to the bathroom. He even snuck me a peanut butter cookie at 2:00am. TJ woke up while I was eating it, and was so confused when I offered him some. 

It was a long night, and I did get some sleep here and there. I constantly debated back and forth about when to ask for an epidural. I told TJ that I wasn't trying to be a hero, but I also didn't want to be a whimp. It doesn't make sense, but that was how I felt. I wanted the option to go to do things and not be strapped to the bed. George checked me again at some point and I hadn't progressed any further, which was frustrating. Then, at about 6am, I woke up with some majorly painful contractions. I went to the bathroom one more time and about screamed from the pain of moving around like that, and finally told George I was ready. After checking me again, he declared I was finally dilated to 8 cm and that I was just within the window to get an epidural before it would be too late. He went and got the anesthesiologist and got me started on fluids. I endured several more excruciating contractions, and wondered at the extreme pain. As TJ and George helped me get in place so the anesthesiologist could place the epidural, I felt a sudden gush of fluid from my nether regions, and stammered through another contraction, "I think my water broke."

To be continued.