Baby Gear Steal #2: Clek Fllo

When Amelia needed to move up to a convertible car seat, I did some extensive research (surprise!). Ultimately, I fell in love with the Clek Fllo and bought her one during a 20% off sale. It has not disappointed! Not only does it have a myriad of added safety features like an anti-rebound bar, but it's super slim and minimally designed and has fabric that is odor/bacteria/stain resistant so it functions almost like plastic when wet. Knowing we want our kids pretty close together, it's likely we'll have three car seats across in our car, and the Fllo is best-in-class for its super narrow width (less than 17"!). It's also easy to install and has one of the highest rear facing limits, which was very important to us. Basically, it's awesome and we've loved it.

Little one year old Amelia loving her Fllo!

Little one year old Amelia loving her Fllo!

Of course I wanted Bettye to have the same seat, so when I happened upon a black Clek Fllo in Bargain Hunt I audibly stuttered, "Oh.. no..." which almost certainly weirded out the couple standing next to me. To my surprise, the seat was listed at a mere $113 (normal retail price is $385)! I think they may have thought it was a different type of car seat that Clek offers, thus the deep discount. However, I realized the fabric was the lower cost option they used to offer as an alternative instead of the amazing Crypton fabric that we know and love on Amelia's seat. As I circled the aisle thinking and texting my savvy friend Sarah asking her thoughts, I realized there were THREE Fllos total, and one Foonf (the "older brother" of the Fllo). I checked the prices on the others and they were all much more (about $230 - still a good deal!) - except one green one was missing a tag at all. After thoroughly inspecting the green Fllo and still finding no tag, I asked an associate if I could use the tag from the first black one I'd seen. They said that was fine.

So like a crazy woman, I lugged both seats through the line and ended up paying only $125 (including tax) for Bettye's brand new green Fllo. We promptly installed it in Logan's car so we have a second seat for Amelia until Bettye needs it around her birthday! For something we would most certainly have purchased in the next six months, I was thrilled to have paid less than half for the seat we were prepared to shell out for!

So to recap: Clek Fllo 2017 - Retail: $379.99, Paid: $125 = Savings of $254.99

BABY GEAR STEAL #1: UPPABABY VISTA

I have expensive taste. It's just the truth. However, nine times out of ten I don't necessarily have the bank account to back my taste (or I have an understandably unsupportive husband hah!) so I've adapted. I've become an expert at finding the item I'm looking for at a fraction of the cost, and I love helping my friends do the same! I find great joy in the thrill of hunting down an item for less than full price. The bigger the discount, the more fun I have! So in the world I live in currently, this passion of mine generally translates to baby gear. I'm in the thick of the crap-all-over-the-house phase of life, and I have to admit that although some days the chaos makes me want to scream, deep down I really love it. I love love love having a little baby! My research-loving self also happens to love researching baby gear. It's a strange vice but one that serves me well when I'm on the hunt for something, and when I'm able to find that something at a really amazing price.. well.. fireworks!

So in an effort to share how I find amazing deals and how you can too, I'm going to be blogging about my biggest baby gear scores. First up -maybe my best find ever - our Uppababy Vista double stroller.

When we were thinking about having Baby #2, I started researching good double strollers. Long story short, I narrowed down my options to the Baby Jogger City Select and an Uppababy Vista (2015 or after are true doubles). I liked that they could be a single if I needed them to, or a double when Baby #2 came along later on. I could sing the praises of both of these strollers all day long, so if you're in the market and curious... shoot me an email. ;) Of course, I like a good deal hunting challenge and you can find used City Selects on Craigslist for a good price fairly often, and they also go on sale often. I recommend this stroller to SO many friends! It's a great purchase. I actually found my friend one with the second seat for $280 at Bargain Hunt recently .. but that's another story. I decided I wanted to at least attempt to get a Vista just for the sheer joy of the hunt. Also, it's slightly smaller and rarely goes on sale so that was appealing to me. Hah. (Pause to note, they are actually on sale now so you better go run get one if you've been looking at it!!)

I happened upon a new Vista on eBay at a wholesale warehouse located in Lebanon, TN. Usually these types of warehouses sell Amazon returns and other random open box deals, so I felt good about it. The description said it was all in working order and had no wear and tear. Without shipping (since I would pick it up in Lebanon), I won the bidding at about $600. Which is a STEAL for a $900 stroller. I was so excited! Fast forward to me actually unpacking it and - womp womp - the frame was broken. I'm sure that's why it was returned to begin with. I was so disheartened, and sort of embarrassed. I thought I'd gotten a great deal and here I was with a broken stroller. I immediately contacted Tadd Wholesale and they said they were happy to give me a full refund, or a partial one if I wanted to keep it. Which got me thinking...

I called Uppababy and was hoping I could somehow purchase just a new frame, since I had the stroller and that still might even out after a partial refund. After a series of emails, my customer service rep offered me a FREE new frame that they could ship immediately - as long as I returned the broken one to them. What?! I was 100% honest with her that I had bought it off eBay and not from an authorized retailer. She said since it was still in the box they were happy to replace it. The reviews I'd read about Uppababy having amazing customer service were definitely true for me!

So after Tadd Wholesale issued me a 50% refund, with taxes, I ended up paying about $315 for our stroller. And then found the second seat (in the correct color - amazing) at Bargain Hunt a few weeks later after I found out I was pregnant with Bettye.

So to recap: Uppababy Vista 2015 with Second Seat - Retail: $840 + $179, Paid: $315 + $120 = Savings of $584

So that was how I got our Vista, but don't worry - there's more good deal stories to come soon. :)

A New Birth Story: Part III

This is Part III of Bettye's birth story. You can read Part I here and Part II here.

It Begins

Dr. Stany arrived to break my water at 9:15ish. The mood was lighthearted and joyful - we joked about making sure this baby was born before 4pm (she was in a wedding that evening), and a nurse popped her head in and declared that this baby was going to be born at 1pm. "1pm?!" we thought - that would be AMAZING!

I had been having off and on mild cramping since we tried Pitocin the first time, so the plan was to break my water and see if these contractions gained strength and progressed into labor. If they spread out, we would restart the Pitocin and see how my body responded.

At 9:30am my water was broken. Labor pain is much worse after your water breaks because there's no cushion between the baby and your uterus/pelvis. My water broke on its own during Amelia's induction and I was ready for my epidural shortly after. This time, I was surprised that having my water broken didn't seem to make much of a difference in how I felt overall. I thought maybe Bettye would feel lower or more uncomfortable, but I just felt the same.

At 9:45, Geraldine came back in and said my contractions had spaced out so we were starting Pitocin. I was bummed, but had felt the light cramps I'd had easing up so I knew this was likely. At least Dr. Stany gave me an opportunity to try and I was really thankful for that. The "no-nonsense" side of Geraldine somehow comforted me. She acted and spoke with authority, but not in an ungentle way. She told me about her first birth: unmedicated, relatively easy, her daughter came very quickly. For her second birth she had planned for it to be unmedicated but she was induced and couldn't handle the Pitocin contractions without an epidural. Her experiences with childbirth were what (we hoped) ours would be - but reversed. She reminded me that making noise during a contraction just causes you to focus more on the pain, but if you quietly focus on your breathing your brain will be distracted and the pain won't overcome you as easily. She said she'd helped deliver babies from a wide variety of cultures and the women who handled childbirth the best were her Amish mothers and Indian mothers. She said they didn't make a sound.

As soon as she started the Pitocin drip, Geraldine helped me change the bed around to be more like a straight-backed chair so I could sit and completely relax and listen to my "Easy First Stage" Hypnobabies track (to which she said, "you're funny..." when I told her about them HA) but be in a good position for contractions. I knew the tracks wouldn't hypnotize me (I hadn't practiced enough), but I knew they would be helpful in keeping me relaxed. Geraldine left, and I told Logan I was going to listen to my tracks as long as I felt like I needed to, despite feeling sort of bad that I was "leaving him out" as I labored. He didn't seem to mind, so I put in my ear buds, relaxed, and focused. (This is what's happening in that right photo up there - he snapped a photo without me knowing, and I'm so glad he did.)

Relax. Breathe. Focus. Repeat.

The contractions came almost immediately after the Pitocin started, this time with power and pain. Through every one I would remind myself, "This pain is helpful. Bettye is moving down, closer to being born. We'll get to see her soon, and this pain is bringing her closer to me. I can't wait to meet her, so I welcome the pain." I would breathe deeply and slowly and focus on relaxing my jaw (thanks to Ina May Gaskin's book on natural childbirth for that one!) in hopes that my entire body would follow.

At some point I realized there was worship music playing behind my Hypnobabies track. I glanced over toward the window seat and saw my sweet husband crouched over his Bible, intently reading. He looked up and I took out one ear bud and quietly told him, "They're starting to get pretty intense." and put it back in. He probably thought I was crazy. I'll never forget breaking my concentration to look over at him in the midst of my pain and seeing a picture of such quiet strength and faith. The whole room felt heavy with a palpable peace, almost like you could take a bite out of it and swallow it.

Kicking It Up A Notch

After maybe 45 minutes (? it felt like that long, but I feel like they bump Pitocin every 20 minutes so I'm not sure?) of sitting on the bed breathing through contractions, Geraldine came in and bumped the Pitocin up. I never made it past the first dose with Amelia (but they left it on that first dose for all seven hours), and seeing her do that sent a wave of panic through me. I quickly refocused on the words I was listening to and went back to reminding myself of why these contractions were positive.

Not long after Geraldine increased the Pitocin, I became restless sitting on the bed. I decided to try sitting on my birth ball while laying my head on the side of the bed, so Logan helped me move between contractions. I'm not sure how long I stayed on the birth ball, but I remember immediately feeling the intensity increase once I was off the bed. It feels like I only stayed on the birth ball for 20 minutes before wanting to try the shower. The second bump of Pitocin certainly made a difference.

A little *IMPORTANT* sidenote: Centennial offers mobile monitoring. This may not mean much to anyone who has gone into spontaneous labor, but if you're being induced you generally have to have continuous fetal monitoring. For Amelia's birth, this meant that I was tethered by a five foot cord to my bed. It was a big elastic monitor wrapped around my belly that was not comfortable and after the 33 hours it took her to arrive, my skin was raw and sensitive from having the gel rubbed on it with the monitor for so long. At Centennial, they place a small patch over your belly button with electrodes coming off of it onto your belly. THAT'S IT. So you can walk around the hospital, use the bathroom, GET IN THE SHOWER (!!!) for pain relief, and feel like a somewhat normal human being while you attempt to birth a baby. IT IS AMAZING.

After not having hydrotherapy available to me (due to continuous fetal monitoring) during Amelia's induction, I was eager to try it this time. But I knew it would be an ordeal to strip down, get the water comfortable, get out without freezing, get dressed, etc, amidst labor. So I wanted to wait until I really felt like it would help.

I had reached that point.

Logan got the water running at a good temperature while I stayed on the birth ball and buried my head in a pillow trying to maintain my relaxation. He asked me how I was doing at one point and I believe I replied, "They're strong.. but I'm feeling good."

After a contraction ended, I stood up to walk to the shower as he pulled my IV pole along. Another contraction began before I made it to the bathroom and I couldn't stand through it so I just dropped to the floor and did my best to keep breathing. I had just taken my earbuds out of my phone and Logan laid it on the floor so I could still hear the track in the bathroom.

I hadn't thought about how I would sit in the shower, and at that point it was difficult for me to find any comfortable position. I couldn't put the monitor on my belly directly in the line of the water, and I wanted the water on my back anyway, so I sat with my back to the stream of water on the edge of the drop down seat they had mounted on the wall. It was terribly uncomfortable. The shower head wouldn't stay up high enough for the water to reach my back, so Logan had to stand there holding the shower head up and I tried not to think about how his arm was probably getting tired. I couldn't hear the Hypnobabies track over the water and I just remember feeling like I was losing control. I reached out and gripped the hand rail in front of me and hung on for dear life through every contraction and kept struggling to focus and remind myself of why this contraction was beneficial... but the pain was taking over.

Maintaining the Peace

Starting to feel completely overwhelmed by the pain, I looked at Logan and barely blurted out, "I'm reaching a point..."

I wondered if I had a full bladder again, so maybe the contractions were this painful because of that. I also tried not to think about how long it had been and when Geraldine would be back to crank up the Pitocin again. I tried not to think about Dr. Stany's 4 o'clock wedding, and the nurse guessing this baby would be here by 1pm. Focus. Relax. Breathe. Loose jaw--DEAR LORD IT HURTS SO MUCH. I somehow made it to the toilet (about two feet away) and told Logan to call Geraldine to check how dilated I was.

Feeling like the stress of the pain was starting to break the peace, I wanted to know how close Bettye was getting. When I felt this way with Amelia, I was at 6cm and ultimately decided to get an epidural. I figured I was probably at a 5 or 6 currently and that it was time to get the epidural so I could return to a peaceful state of mind. I wondered if I would regret that later on, but remembered our goal of a peaceful birth and felt good about getting one.

As I attempted to use the bathroom (no luck), Logan jogged over to the bed (like I said, the room was enormous!) and called the nurse. Everything suddenly felt urgent. He was looking at me when he said, "I think we're ready for an epidural!" to the nurse on the line and I shouted "NO!" - I had just asked to be checked and would THEN decide if I wanted an epidural - and immediately collapsed into another contraction. Shouting had completely thrown my zen off and I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed and scared. I told him to turn off my phone - I didn't want to hear the Hypnobabies woman anymore. I needed quiet.

Geraldine rushed in as I tried to get to the bed. "I feel weak.. I feel like I'm going to throw up..." is all I could get out. With a sense of urgency, she grabbed my arm and tried to help me on the bed but another contraction came. I just laid there halfway on the bed as we all waited. When it passed I crawled as fast as I could up the rest of the way and flipped over. I briefly thought, "I hope another contraction doesn't come while she's checking me.." knowing how painful that can be.

Before I knew it, she said, "You're an 8! Maybe a 9!" and at this point I was completely terrified by the pain. I managed to mumble, "I feel like I need to poop!" (Oh, the things you say during labor!) Her face lit up with a huge smile and she said, "That's the baby's head! DON'T PUSH." and ran out of the room.

Bettye is Born

Immediately after she left I looked at Logan (I'm sure I looked like I was staring in the face of a ghost, I was so scared) and said, "I have to push. I have to push!!! I can't not push!" He was squeezing my hand and yelled toward the door, "SHE'S PUSHING!!!!" I kept thinking, "Dad gummit I should've gotten that stupid epidural! I waited too long! It's too much, what was I thinking?! Am I a 10 yet? She said I was almost a 9..." (I guess I went to a 10 pretty quickly because it wasn't an issue.)

The first push brought so much relief, but the pain immediately intensified following it. Geraldine ran back in with a whole entourage of nurses and I couldn't breathe anymore. She saw me holding my breath and told me I HAD to breathe. She said to imagine a feather above my nose and I had to keep it in the air - "hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.." It helped a lot. 

It washed over me again. I HAVE TO PUSH. Logan said, "Look at me! Look at me!" trying to help me focus and I said, "I can't! I can't!" and had my eyes dead set on this random dot on the ceiling. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

Another push. 

I hear Geraldine say, "Dad! Dad! Look down!" and Logan looks down and his whole face is overcome with emotion. His eyes well up with tears and there it is again: that urge.

I pushed and immediately feel the biggest sigh of relief I have ever felt in my entire life. She was here! Logan was smiling and had tears rolling down his cheeks and we both just kept saying, "We did it! WE DID IT!" and I just couldn't believe that she was here. I watched Logan cut the cord and I got to hold my precious Bettye as Geraldine toweled her off (that's her in the photo!). I just kept repeating, "I can't believe it.. I can't believe it.. Did that just happen..." It was probably the most emotional moment of my entire life. I was emotional on my wedding day, but I knew what I could expect. This was an entirely new and different experience, and with Amelia's birth I was incredibly sick immediately following her birth and I didn't meet her for five hours.. so that moment was delayed. 

From me saying, "I'm reaching a point," to Bettye being born was about the span of ten or fifteen minutes. It all happened so fast, I was in complete disbelief.

The Afterglow

The worship music was still playing and our room felt like it had a whole choir of angels in it. Everyone was smiling. Geraldine said she'd walked past the room and didn't hear me making any noise so she thought, "Oh there's no way she's close.." We laughed that I took her advice on not making noise, and that she got to catch her first baby after being an L&D nurse for almost two years. She told me how proud of me she was. Then someone mentioned that the official birth time was 11:07am. 

WHAT?!?!

I had completely lost track of time and could not believe my EARS that my entire labor had only taken an hour and a half. I was absolutely shocked. Right about at the same time, Dr. Stany came running in and said, "Nooooo!!!"

She was in jogging clothes and sweaty. I remembered that she said she was going to go for a jog after she broke my water (we were the only patients on the floor and inductions generally aren't scheduled for the weekend). She said when she was paged that I was pushing, she flagged down a car and asked if they could give her a ride back to Centennial. She was running in Centennial Park, and the woman in the car had been there for a 5k for ovarian cancer. Dr. Stany said the woman shared that her mother had passed away at the age of 33 from ovarian cancer. Dr. Stany asked her if she still had her ovaries (yes), her age (56), and promptly told her to get rid of her ovaries before thanking her for the ride and jumping out of the car at the hospital. We all laughed that she got such a good story out of my quick delivery. She was so disappointed that she missed the birth, but I assured her I was just happy Bettye was here and healthy, and thanked for her helping create our perfect birth for us.

After Dr. Stany finished all the post-birth stuff up and everything settled down, Logan and I were left alone with Bettye to contemplate the morning. The worship music was still playing, we couldn't seem to keep the tears out of our eyes, and in the quiet of the afternoon we just felt overcome with humility and gratefulness. We both felt so overwhelmed by the gift we felt was just given to us. The funny thing too, is that I don't feel any sense of pride in having an unmedicated birth. I feel like somehow I cheated the system... that I was given this birth as a gift. I didn't do anything of my own strength, rather just relied on the peace of God and focused on relaxing, and I don't really feel a sense of pride or badge of honor that some do about their unmedicated birth.

All in all, Bettye's birth brought us healing. We felt the Lord's presence with us throughout the entire process - His peace, His joy, His strength - every step of the way. We are so thankful for the redemption He has shown us through the whole experience, and we are immensely enjoying being a family of four. We feel like He took us on a very personal journey starting on September 3, 2014 and "ending" on October 22, 2016 as it relates to childbirth. He lead us through a learning process, a growing journey, and a crazy adventure with a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and while we did not do anything to deserve such a beautiful birth this time around, we are incredibly thankful. I learned a lot about pride and humility, and His deep and unending grace.

Thank you for reading our birth story. There is so much more I want to share about this pregnancy and the way the Lord prepared my heart for her early arrival, but maybe I'll get to that later on. Thank you for making it this far!

A New Birth Story: Part II

This is Part II of Bettye's birth story. If you haven't read Part I of Bettye's birth story, you can do that here. 

Getting Settled

We arrived at Centennial a few minutes early (always) and got all signed in for our induction. There was a couple also there and the woman was breathing heavily. She managed a smile and whispered that her water had just broken. I was really thankful I was being induced in that moment, hah!

I kept one earbud in and kept my birthing affirmations playing, in hopes I could maintain the peaceful vibe we had going from our drive around Nashville. After a short wait, we were directed to the fourth floor and from there we were shown to our labor and delivery room (where I took out my headphones).

The whole floor was very quiet and still, and our room was enormously spacious (much bigger than the ones we saw on the tour!) and the lights were dim and it all just felt like the perfect progression from our tranquil drive in. The nurse asked me to change into my hospital gown and I truly think they make them as a built-in IQ test for all patients. I fumbled around in the bathroom for awhile and found myself getting incredibly frustrated in a short period of time - so I tried to breathe and be patient and not feed my growing anxiety about the night ahead. I finally emerged and just had the nurse double check my work. (I passed.)

I kept hitting little moments like that, where the underlying anxiety would bubble up, but I'd focus on positive thoughts and try to breathe and move on. After all the endless medical questions and IV placement and we were finally settled in, we started the first step of my induction: the dilating process.

Cytotec: Nightmare & Godsend

During Amelia's induction, I also had some dilating to do before we could start the Pitocin. At 42 weeks with her, I was a "tight" 1cm and the midwives wanted me to be a 2 or hopefully 3 before starting Pitocin. With her induction, I had three rounds of Cytotec for 8 hours each. It gave me the scary kind of contractions (that are too close together and could pose a threat to the baby), and I ended up vomiting and hating life for the last round.. So needless to say, I didn't have warm feelings towards using Cytotec again.

For those who haven't had to learn about this process, basically it's a tiny pill that the nurse places on the cervix and it causes it to thin and dilate faster. It isn't approved by the FDA for use on pregnant women, and I've learned a lot of frightening things about it since Amelia's birth. However, after talking about it at length with Dr. Stany, I felt comfortable using it again for this induction (a testament to her bedside manner - it was literally written on my birth plan not to use Cytotec ha!).

While each "round" (one pill inserted) lasted eight grueling hours with Amelia, Dr. Stany only waits four before placing another pill. The first Cytotec was placed and I tried to relax as I waited for the contractions to start like they did with Amelia. It was around 11pm at this point, so we were tired, and we both decided we should try to sleep while we could. I turned on my Hypnobabies tracks and attempted to sleep, but sleep never came. I had some painful cramping almost immediately, so I used it as a chance to practice my Hypnobabies relaxation techniques and test them out. They worked really well. I realized after about thirty minutes that I didn't use the bathroom before we placed the Cytotec, and that a full bladder can make contractions much more painful, so once an hour was up I dragged my IV pole to the bathroom and the cramps almost completely went away after that! I thanked God for this relief, as all the memories of those awful 26 hours of Amelia's birth had started to come flooding back.

Logan fell asleep quickly and I tried my best to sleep as well. When a hypnosis track would end, I would fumble to find another to turn on. I drifted in and out of light sleep, and tried to find a comfortable position amidst my giant belly, tender IV, and blood pressure cuff. After a couple hours I resigned to being awake, and started googling "Hypnobabies Induction" stories. I thought maybe reading about the use of Hypnobabies with induction would encourage me, but it did the exact opposite.

All of the stories I found of women who had successfully used Hypnobabies for their unmedicated labors with Pitocin had extra support, like a hypnodoula or a midwife rubbing essential oils on their back, or a birth partner who happened to be a massage therapist. It was crazy! Logan hadn't even done the birth partner part of Hypnobabies because I didn't really want him to... I was afraid to commit 100%, like I said, and I know he was equally traumatized by Amelia's birth - if not more. I didn't want to ask too much of him this time, and I felt completely discouraged and defeated after reading story after story of these beautiful births that had resources I hadn't been able to pull together.

My anxiety continued to rise, and every time I would feel it wash over me I would say a prayer of peace over myself, Logan, our staff, and the whole birth. I would pray for the health of Bettye and for my pride to be set aside in favor of a peaceful birth. I would pray for the wisdom to know when to get an epidural, and that I would allow God to write this story for us. "Your story is better than my story" is what I kept finding myself repeating.

At four hours (on the DOT - I was super impressed), our nurse checked me and I was still at a 1, but she said everything was much softer, which was a good sign. She placed the second Cytotec and left the room. Logan slept through her visit, and I was thankful he was able to get a decent night's rest. I turned more hypnosis tracks on and was finally able to sleep for a couple of hours after one ended, and ordered Jell-o and juice in the time it took me to fall asleep.

Joy Comes in the Morning

The night shift ended and our new nurse came in to introduce herself before checking what progress I'd made. Her name was Geraldine and she sort of struck me as dry and no-nonsense, which I worried might stress me out during labor. In any case, she checked to see how dilated I was and I was at a 3! I literally cheered - I was so happy! I only ever got to a 2 after the three rounds with Amelia, and my fear was that the same thing would happen this time and I'd have to do another foley bulb. This was a HUGE relief and I could not contain my joy. She laughed that I was so exuberant to be at a 3. I couldn't believe how easy the whole process had been this time!

This also meant that it was time to start Pitocin. 7:15am. After the long night fighting anxiety and reading all those crazy birth stories, I was just ready to get to it. She hung the bag and started the drip and just like that - I thought - our birth had begun!

I sat back and waited. With Amelia's birth, I felt the Pitocin immediately. This time, I didn't feel much of anything. I was kind of surprised, and just kept waiting.. but after fifteen minutes, Geraldine rushed back in and turned it off. She said my contractions were closer than a minute apart so she wasn't allowed to keep it running. 

Huh?

She was surprised to hear that I hadn't felt anything. She showed me the print out of my contractions, and sure enough.. there they all were.. but I hadn't felt more than a twinge here or there and certainly nothing regular. I'm not sure if she left at this point and came back, but regardless, she told us she spoke with Dr. Stany (who was coming in to break my water around 9am) and she decided that since I wanted a natural birth, she would break my water and see if my body started labor on its own before restarting the Pitocin.

I could not believe my ears. I was SO ecstatic! A chance at labor without Pitocin?! What doctor gives that to their patient in my circumstance?! We praised God for this unexpected opportunity and I waited eagerly for Dr. Stany to arrive.

Peace.

After the Pitocin was stopped and we were told to wait for Dr. Stany, Logan and I had an opportunity to reflect on the night and the day ahead. I was feeling very optimistic and thankful, and he was too. I told him about all the birth stories I'd read, and that I'd accepted that I'd probably not have an unmedicated birth this time, but that that was okay. A peaceful experience was still the ultimate goal. We talked about at what point an epidural would be a good idea - both for him and for me. We listened to worship music and waited patiently. (Until she was late and I was not feeling so patient anymore.. hah.)

To be continued in Part III.

 

A New Birth Story: Part I

It's hard for me to know where to start in telling the story of Bettye's birth because there are so many things wrapped up in the story. This is for my own recollection and documentation, and I don't want to forget any of the details, so get comfortable! Also, if you're interested, you can read about Amelia's birth here.

Our Childbirth Expectations, or Lack Thereof

We planned a natural birth with Amelia and while I labored unmedicated for over half of the active labor during her birth (after 26 hours of painful dilating with the help of Cytotec and a foley bulb ... eye roll), ultimately the combination of Pitocin, lack of sleep and food, and what I now recognize as an immense amount of fear culminated in a much-needed epidural and our birth plan going out the window. That epidural was a huge blessing, but I didn't realize that until later. This time around, I didn't want to commit to another attempt at an unmedicated birth because I knew how wonderful my epidural was during Amelia's birth, and because I was more open minded about what a beautiful birth could look like. I also realized that my goals when "planning" Amelia's birth were somewhat pride-based and while I disguised them under a cloak of "what's best for baby," looking back I think a portion (not all, but some) of my motivation for a natural birth was just simply pride. This time, my goal for Bettye's birth was peace. I just wanted a peaceful experience, and honestly an unmedicated labor didn't seem like a great option for a peaceful birth. So my loose "plan" was to labor for as long as I felt peaceful, and when the pain became stressful I would get an epidural and we would continue a peaceful birth. I studied Hypnobabies this time around, in an effort to get rid of the deep fear and dread I had surrounding Bettye's delivery (left from my experience with Amelia's delivery), and to train myself to relax - epidural or not - during the childbirth process. I had a hard time committing myself 100% to the program, because of my aversion to "making a plan" like I had for Amelia's birth, but I completed all the chapters and tried to practice as regularly as I could. I think I'll write a whole other post on how the Hypnobabies Pregnancy and Childbirth Affirmations completely changed my attitude regarding labor and delivery, and how their relaxation tracks (although I didn't experience hypno-anesthesia due to a lack of practice) carried me through labor... but that's another story for another day.

36 Week Appointment

We were under the care of midwives with Amelia's pregnancy, so I didn't know a 36 week ultrasound to check growth and position is standard protocol. For some reason I felt uneasy about this ultrasound, mostly because it just seemed like one more check point along the way for a doctor to find a reason to induce. I was praying and hoping this time for spontaneous labor, after our induction with Amelia. I felt like everything was fine with Bettye, but I couldn't shake the nerves of checking on her so close to delivery.

We went in for our ultrasound and, long story short, Bettye didn't practice breathing the whole time, and was measuring small for her gestational age. This wouldn't have been much of an issue since she was moving and acting fine, but she had been measuring right on track all along and my belly had even consistently measured big... so my doctor asked us to come in for twice-a-week ultrasounds until she was born, to make sure she was growing well. It was hard not to be frustrated that this was exactly what I thought may happen... but it all worked out for the best. We had a repeat ultrasound that following Friday and she practiced breathing the whole time, so growth was the only concern.

37 Week Appointment

On top of the extra ultrasounds and visits, my OB asked me to visit a high risk doctor as a precaution in case she saw reason to induce before 39 weeks (which only high risk OBs have the authority to do). More frustration. It felt like they were making such a big deal out of me having a small baby.. hello, Logan and I are small people and Amelia was fifteen days overdue and had 33 hours of fluids pumped into her... I'm surprised she wasn't bigger than 8lbs 7oz! So we went to the ultrasound at the high risk office, and didn't even see a doctor. We figured if something was wrong, they would've called to let us know. Onto the next appointment and ultrasound that Friday (October 21st).

We showed up for our ultrasound with Amelia, and headed to our appointment with Dr. Stany following. This was old hat at this point. When we finally saw her, she immediately jumped into an explanation of "umbilical vein varix" but I interrupted her to say that we didn't know what she was talking about.. and to ask if we would be checking growth at her next ultrasound on Tuesday, because that was the whole reason we were coming in for ultrasounds and they hadn't checked it since the first day. (Growth is only checked at least fourteen days apart.) She responded, "Well. We're having a baby."

WHAT. (My heart skipped a beat.) Come again?! 

She explained that Bettye had an inconsistency in her umbilical cord, and that this was such a recent discovery with more detailed ultrasounds available that the risk of the cord rupturing could be really low OR really high... Doctors don't know enough about the condition to say. That being said, she wanted us to be induced as soon as possible - which was 38 weeks since I was only 37 and three days. That gave us the weekend (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) to tie up loose ends and head to the hospital Monday night for the induction.

She had forgotten to grab the ultrasound images, so she left for a moment and Logan and I had a second to discuss what just happened... I couldn't believe how excited I felt. I wasn't one bit disappointed. I felt complete peace about being induced, and joy at the thought of meeting our sweet girl so soon. I was also thankful we had a weekend to spend with Amelia and get everything ready for Bettye.

Logan left from the appointment to go back to work, and called a last minute staff meeting to assign responsibilities to his staff. I shared the plan with our parents and a few close friends, and started making arrangements for Amelia. Being planners, it was a little stressful, but overall we felt really comfortable with the new plan, and trusted Dr. Stany's decision.

An Unexpected Twist

After I put Amelia down for her nap that afternoon, my phone rang. It was Dr. Stany. I was expecting her call to let me know when to check into Centennial, and all the induction dos and don'ts. She immediately started apologizing, saying that she kept switching things up on me. I thought she was going to tell me she changed her mind and that we weren't inducing after all and I was already annoyed - thinking I'd JUST gotten used to the idea of having Bettye here so soon. But before I could even follow that train of thought, she told me that she couldn't get us off her mind and she'd been thinking about us all morning. She said she'd been trained to trust her gut, and her gut was telling her we need to get Bettye out as soon as possible... so she wanted us to be induced THAT NIGHT.

... EXCUSE ME?

My eyes immediately filled with tears, realizing that I had spent my last day with Amelia as my only child and we hadn't even done anything particularly special (although, lunch with Danielle at Lipscomb and a visit to my dad's office was a pretty good use of our day!). I tried to not let her hear my tears, and told her that was totally fine and I'd see her the next morning. We had to be at Centennial at 10pm. I had two more hours until I couldn't eat anything. Everything was happening so fast.

3pm. I called Logan to tell him the timeline had been moved up. He immediately left work to come home. I called our parents to work out childcare for Amelia. I got Amelia up from her nap early and just sat next to her sobbing while she "made me supper" in her kitchen. We went outside to play and I just cried and cried sitting on the patio love seat while she sang and scooped dirt and played with chalk. I just felt so guilty that I had unknowingly wasted what precious time I had left with my sweet girl. I tried to let the guilt go, and just soak up what little time I had left, but I was so emotional. Logan got home and found us on the patio. Once he was there and all my tears were used up, I embraced the new plan and got my act together. He started cleaning the house while I packed Amelia's bag and added the last few things to mine. 

It is important to note: during this time, Logan discovered a pipe from our house had burst and was leaking water in our yard. We had standing water covering a corner of our yard, so he had to call a plumber to arrange to have the pipe fixed while we were at the hospital. While he was on the phone with the plumber, Gracie got out of the house (the first time in three years she's ever gotten out when we've been home!) and he had to chase her down. Talk about stress levels running high... But back to the timeline.

 

A Peaceful Evening

My mom came and picked up Amelia (and took a photo... not my finest pregnancy shot HAH). Logan cleaned the entire house (I love him). I gave myself a manicure/pedicure (since I'd just decided I was going to get one at 38 weeks). Suddenly we found ourselves with a clean house, the car packed, the car seat installed, and an hour or so to kill. I was feeling really peaceful again and prayerful about our upcoming night. We decided to leave early for the hospital to stop at Publix for some snacks for Logan, but ended up with about forty minutes to kill before we needed to check in for our induction. I turned on my Hypnobabies "Birthing Affirmations" and they played while we drove around Nashville looking at the city lights and preparing our hearts for what was to come. Call me hippie, crunchy, nerdy, or weird, but when you have a woman with a confident voice speaking positive words over you, it's hard not to feel empowered, encouraged, and peaceful. We prayed and talked and just held hands while we drove around. 

That short drive around town already ranks as one of my favorite memories in our marriage. We felt completely covered in peace and patience as we wondered what the night would bring, and completely aligned in prayer and hopeful anticipation for the birth of our second daughter.

To be continued in Part II...

Meet Bettye

We are officially a family of four and I still haven't quite wrapped my mind around it. Bettye Jean Magnolia Hartline wasn't "due" for another couple of days, and she's already over two weeks old. Born October 22, 2016 at 11:07am. 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 19 inches long. 

I have so much I want to share about the past three weeks. Ways God was preparing my heart and my home for her early arrival, the steps I took during this pregnancy to be in a healthy place (mind and body) for her delivery, the ways in which He completely covered us with peace and joy during her birth... I don't even know where to start.

So for now, while I organize my thoughts - because you know I can't not share them all! - suffice it to say that God is good. He has always been good, and He was good during Amelia's delivery, and He is still good and we just understand that a little more intimately now. He is good, He is good, He is good. That has been the resounding mantra in our home since October 21st, and I hope we never lose sight of that truth in the powerful ways we feel it currently.

More to come...

A Quiet Life

I'm a doer. I may be disorganized in my doing, or my doing may be characterized by passionate bursts followed by a quick change to something else... but I like to, as I say, "busy my hands" with something at all times. 

But in this season, the Lord has slowly called me to trim my life of the fat. Slowly, slowly - almost so I didn't even notice - He has nudged me to say no to things, to end chapters, to make room to breathe. It is beautiful and frightening. Fulfilling and challenging. I am watching so many around me do big, bold things, and I long to "get back in the game" - doing doing doing.

But He says, Be still.

I am yearning to accomplish. To bring ideas to life. To create. To produce. To busy my hands.

But He says, Be still.

I feel this quiet voice urging me to remain in Him, instead of in doing. To take this time of silence and rest and learn everything I can in it. I keep hearing Him say, "Not yet. Be still." and I am doing my very best to listen and lean into this. It doesn't come naturally to me, and I keep finding myself lacing up my metaphorical sneakers in preparation to take off on a new idea or goal, only to hear that quiet voice again. It's difficult not to look around and feel like this place in my journey is less worthy or valuable as the place others are. Generally, obedience is marked by action, and instead of doing, my obedience is marked by not doing. I feel the need to validate why I'm not doing, why I'm resting, why I am seemingly absent from business and hustle. But again, the quiet voice reminds me: just be still.

So I'm living a quiet life, for however long He asks me to. Days filled with dishes and laundry and long toddler cuddles and cleaning up spilled milk and no other immediate responsibilities. It's a relief and a struggle all at the same time, but I think it's supposed to be that way. I will continue listening amidst the quiet, and fighting to prepare myself in this rest for when He finally says, "Let's go."

On Lent & Social Media

I always miss the two seasons that I think I would really enjoy if I purposefully set out to embrace them: Advent and Lent. Since I was raised in a protestant church, we didn't really celebrate these seasons. But as I've gotten older, I've learned more and more about them and the beautiful intention behind them.

So today I was thankful to see a post about it being Ash Wednesday. I had completely forgotten.

I frantically found a study to start, and it felt SO GOOD to finally start it on time, albeit in a frenzy.

Once I finished the first day of the study, I realized I hadn't decided on anything to give up for Lent, and I really wanted to immerse myself fully in the days leading up to Easter. I've felt a burden to take an extended step away from social media for months now, but I kept finding excuses not to do it. So today, on the high from my Lent study and in a moment of passion and good intentions, I decided to commit.

Gulp.

A mere twelve hours later I miss Instagram like an old friend, and as uncomfortable as I feel, that discomfort fully affirms me that I needed this break. Here a few goals I have for this fast:

1. To selfishly treasure the tiny joys I find in my day with Amelia and Logan. 

It's no secret I love to share how I'm feeling or the things I'm observing regarding motherhood and otherwise. But to see Amelia's tiny bare feet with a cape draped down her back and her big ole belly hanging out - and to NOT share it - but rather to treasure it? That's hard for someone like me, but also SO rewarding. I truly share out of a deep longing to connect with those around me, but sometimes I wonder if subconsciously I am trying to prove something. So maybe for a few weeks I silence the need to share - not that it's a bad need - and just treasure these moments for myself. Maybe I take this time to be selfish with my joy instead of opening it up to be liked and commented on. [Sidenote: My mom was VERY distressed at my decision to give up social media for Lent. So I promised to send more photos to her, so maybe some close friends and family will be treasuring with me as well. ;)]

2. Write more.

I love to write. I don't love to talk about how I love to write, because I think that will bring a harsher eye to my writing, but here I am confessing that it is one of my great joys. I think by writing snippets of my heart here and there on social media, I take the edge off that hunger... but never fully eat a full meal. I have had "write more" as a personal goal of mine for YEARS (literally, years) and I have never actually done that. I hope to document the moments I feel the need to freeze in time, like I would normally do on Instagram, in written form for my own pleasure. I'm really excited about this. 

3. Make room for God to speak.

I am the textbook mom who spends WAY too much time staring at her phone scrolling mindlessly through photos just to escape for a couple minutes. I "don't have time" for quiet time, yet somehow I find the time to see what EVERYONE ELSE is doing/selling/saying practically every hour. In the one week I took away from Instagram last spring, I heard the Lord speak more to me than I had in MONTHS. And months since then! I may not hear anything ground breaking, but regardless, I plan to use some of the time that I'll get back to just connect or pray or read or listen. I think the Lord has been putting this desire in my heart for awhile, and I'm excited to finally be stepping into it. I am excited to be able to hear my thoughts alone in the silence instead of pairing them against everyone else's.

With this, I can already feel the struggle setting in. Some challenges I anticipate encountering are:

1. How will I market my business? (I don't do a lot of this anyway, but what if I need to?)

2. Finding other ways to combat loneliness or feeling isolated. Play dates are a lot more of a logistical challenge than sitting on my couch scrolling through Instagram. I hope I get off my butt and make them happen rather than just sinking into a lonely hole until Easter.

3. How will I satisfy my love of story telling and sharing? I truly share from a place of joy and conviction, as well as to document my life for my own sentimental purposes. While I do think I need to discriminate more about what I share and what I keep for my own private joy, I don't want to squash my love of shared conversation. I hope I can find outlets, even as simple as texting my mom or friend, to share in other ways.

4. Feeling out of the loop or behind on things. These days, if you aren't on Facebook or Instagram you may go weeks before knowing someone is expecting or just got engaged. I'm going to try not to be bitter if I'm the last to find things out. :)

I'm nervous and excited for this season of silence and reflection. I wish I could share this post just so people could ask me how I'm doing - but that's what I get for letting Lent sneak up on me. ;) I think it's going to be sanctifying to make my life just a little more quiet. I can't wait to see how God shows up in the extra space. <3

Listening & Following

Why is it that the best things in our lives are sometimes the hardest to do? 

That I know, deep in the buried roots of my soul, and have seen time and time again in my life - that God always - ALWAYS - wins? That His plans are the kind that make your heart light on fire and you feel like you're jumping off a cliff but in the best way possible. The best things in my life have usually come with the sacrifice of something else, and I always feel that thrill of closing my eyes, holding my breath, and taking the leap - but the reward is tenfold.

Why then, have I allowed myself to be paralyzed in fear for the past nine months? All that I have is an idea. A small idea that the Lord spoke to me while I was blowdrying my hair one morning, but after months and months of seeking. An idea that could change the lives of women exactly twelve hours of time zones away from me right now. A beautiful idea with all of the right intentions.

I have been less afraid of bigger things. But this? This makes my feet feel like lead. This makes my breath catch in my throat. I don't exactly know what it is that I'm afraid of. I'm not really afraid to fail, and I'm not afraid of the outcome. I think maybe I'm afraid of the logistics. I'm afraid of the hours of work it's going to take to get it off the ground. I'm afraid that the production details won't come together and I'll be left with nothing but an idea and an expectant group of women. 

But the cliff looks so appealing, because I know how good it is to live a life following His lead.

So I take one step every few months. One google search, one email, one brainstorm. And I am praying that His hand will continue nudging me. That He will continue speaking to me, because He hasn't stopped. At every cowardly moment that I say, "Are you really telling me this, God?" He answers me boldly and without any confusion.

May this be the year that the seeds are planted. May this be the year that I jump off the cliff.

And if nothing else, may I never stop following.

THIS MOTHER LIFE

This life. The best, fullest, most exhausting and wonderful and hardest life that I have ever known: being a stay at home mom.

I say stay at home instead of work at home because at this very moment my business is mostly just about maintaining current processes, but not really growing anything. So aside from processing and shipping orders, not much is happening in that department (although I can't wait to change this!).

When I think about how to write down how I feel in this season of life, my heart swells. I don't have the words for the joy, heartache, overwhelming love and utter vulnerability that being a mother has brought me. The first handful of weeks home from the hospital were hard. Like, harder than anyone could ever have told me, and harder than it was for any of my friends (at least it feels that way to me, based on what they've told me). I walked into our home as a mother for the first time; carrying this sweet, tiny, fragile sleeping body, laid her in her bassinet that I stared at longingly for weeks before her arrival, and just sobbed. What have I done? I kept thinking. How on Earth can I care for this tiny person? I am not cut out for this. My body hurts. My heart hurts. I love her so much, but I am so overwhelmed by her presence. What. Have. I. Done.

Those first few days were overwhelming and exhausting. I look back on them and they seem foggy - I was in such a daze and just focused on making it through the next hour. Thankfully, my mild case of hormonal baby blues resolved itself by about week three and I finally started feeling like I expected to feel: absolutely and totally head over heels for this little glowing bundle of life. And it just keeps getting better.

Naps & Prayers

An unexpected gift of motherhood: experiencing the power of prayer. Back during the epic sleep regression that Amelia went through around three months old, I frantically read and instituted probably every piece of sleep advice known in the modern world. One of the biggest changes that took place was putting her to bed earlier, and creating a solid bedtime routine. (For the record, I don't think any of these things I changed really made a difference. It was her age. But it still brought about some really great changes to our old hat routines!)

We decided on what probably most families do with their little ones before bed (and after dinner): bath, pajamas, stories, prayer, cuddles. It, in combination with everything else, worked like a charm and suddenly her glorious pre-3 month eight hour stretches turned into eleven hour stretches. And all was calm once again in the Hartline home.

Fast forward a few weeks and it was time (really, past time) to get her on a better nap routine. I'm giving wayyy too much back story here about her sleep schedules and whatnot, but long story short I chopped off the bath and pajamas part of her bedtime routine and used the rest to get her ready for a nap. We still do it today.

Our prayers at bed time and at nap time with Amelia started with things like, "Thank you for Daddy, and Gracie, and Melly and Punkum and Gram and Pops. Please help settle Amelia's mind and body so she can have a good night's rest and enjoy her day tomorrow." etc. But then I found out about a sweet little girl at church who was diagnosed with cancer, and then our friend who was having a hard time getting pregnant, and our prayers started to take a different shape.

Particularly at nap time, since it's just me, Amelia and I will go down our list of those that are on our prayer list, for various reasons. Some who need jobs, some who are sick, some who are about to have babies... They are simple prayers, and sometimes I feel silly because I pray as if Amelia can understand (which she can't), but I'm praying for things that really matter. "Please heal Jonathan, because we know you can, God, and we don't want our friends to be sick."

I pray honest prayers for myself on days when I really need help. "Please give me strength and energy today, God, because it's hard being a Mommy sometimes."

Today at nap time we got to praise Him for answering one of our prayers - and I was overcome with the realization that these prayers are real. They aren't just a part of our routine, like I treat them sometimes. We are speaking to a holy, living God who is listening to these tiny, simple prayers. And He is answering!

So even on the days when I forget to pray myself, I have prayer built into my schedule - whether I like it or not - and it has been so powerful. I knew that motherhood would teach me things, but this is just another example of an unexpected way that He is slowly shaping me and guiding me and it has been soul-reviving.

So if you mention something to me and I tell you I'll pray about it for you, know that I will. And if I tell you I'll add it to our nap time prayers, please know that those really happen. And they are heard. And I can't wait to see what else He does that we get to praise Him for next.

Becoming Mother

Millie It's funny how I thought motherhood wouldn't really change me. I thought it would be a transition just like marriage is a transition: a new life phase, but really just a continuation of the last one. I think God must laugh at how naive I was before taking that precious bundle home from the hospital. Despite all of my efforts to lower my expectations and approach motherhood from a very realistic point of view, I had NOT. A. CLUE. what I was getting myself into. I can't stress to you how clueless I was. It's almost funny. Almost...

I pride myself on taking things in stride. I like to think I gracefully float through life - with rough spots on the way that I'm very honest about - but overall things generally coming easy to me. But boy. Motherhood. HA! Motherhood could not have been more a of a shock to my system. In the beginning, it was all the physical things that people tell you about. Being unbearably sore from breastfeeding a tiny boob shark multiple times a day (I also had thrush and had no idea - so in fairness, I do think this was a LOT worse for me than for most), not getting enough sleep, and trying to learn how to care for a newborn while barely being able to walk or use the bathroom without crying from pain. But all of those things healed pretty quickly. Almost eight months in, I can tell you that the hardest part has been laying it all down.

I knew before I had Amelia that babies ate every three hours - sometimes more. But that didn't really mean anything to me until she was eating EVERY THREE HOURS, SOMETIMES MORE. I wanted to pull my hair out most of those first few days and I honestly felt like a kicking, screaming child being held down by their parents and their parents wishing that they would just realize that they were tired and if they would just get into the bed and fall asleep, they would feel better.

This was my introduction to laying it all down.

After resisting the schedule for the first couple weeks and being - okay I'll admit it - annoyed - every time it was time to feed her again, I finally realized that if I just exhaled, accepted that she needed to eat that often and that it was a PRIVILEGE and a JOY to be able to feed her from my own body (even if it did hurt at the time), that my day would go a little smoother. I laid it all down. I gave up, and gave in to her needs over mine.

Once I did this, I realized how utterly selfish I was. Even with my own daughter! My very own flesh and blood that I had eagerly waited to be born, who I gave up my career for and my body for. I felt God pulling back the curtain and showing me just how deeply I cared for myself above everyone else - even her! He did it so gently, but so blatantly that I couldn't deny it. He's so good like that.

After I accepted the schedule, and began to find joy in her constant need for me, He continued to help me lay it all down. Every day I have to lay it all down. Her needs over mine. Her timing over mine. Her happiness over mine.

I'm getting better at it, but man sometimes I still fight it. It has been so humbling to see how UNgracefully I have taken on motherhood. Like an awkward fitting dress that isn't terribly flattering but looks great on the hanger - I have worn it in and it is slowly starting to stretch in the right places and not feel quite so stiff.

For all the hard, it is absolutely even better than I ever could have imagined it being. But I am on a mission to be honest and real about motherhood. So when you hear that mom telling you how her baby's smile can make any sleepless night instantly forgotten, know that she's telling the absolute truth. But also know that for the incredible moments, she is laying it all down. And that isn't easy.

I have said it before, and I will say it until I die. It has become my mantra: Motherhood is the very, very, VERY best work I have ever done. And it is hands down the hardest. And I think it's supposed to be that way.

April

You know what. If all else fails, at least I've stuck to my monthly backgrounds! I'm so proud. As someone who is not so great at following schedules and routines, this is pretty groundbreaking for me. April is my favorite month because it is my birthday month! And my sister's (and my mom's, actually). My sister and I have the same birthday and it's been so fun growing up and making it our special "thing." For awhile she called me the birthday thief (she's two years older), but I know deep down she loves it as much as I do. :)

PLUS it's amazing outside! Beautiful sunny blue skies and not too hot... I can't get enough. Amelia and I have been taking walks nonstop lately, and picnic lunches in the back yard have become a daily part of our routine. After such a long, cold winter, God has really been showing off with this weather lately!

Screenshot

Without further delay, and in celebration of the sun, you can download April's phone/computer backgrounds HERE. And there's even a choice of color this time around! :)

Enjoy and happy Spring everyone!

Xo, Jill

MARCH!

March-Screenshot I think I need to just accept that I live in a perpetual state of awe at how fast the time goes by. I say it every day at least once: "Can you believe it's already _____?!! WHERE has the time gone?!"

But alas. I will continue to be dumbfounded, and I'm sure it will only continue as I age!

That being said, we're all thinking it. HOW IS IT ALREADY MARCH?!! (See previous post.. is this deja vu? Haha.)

In honor of leprechauns everywhere, and as a sweet daily reminder of how incredibly blessed we all are, this month's phone and desktop background features a simple, yet powerful mantra: Lucky me.

Blogpost-Amelia

I've felt especially humbled and grateful lately. I get to spend all day with this incredible little smiley six month old, and I get to do what I absolutely love as my job: creating things. I am married to a guy who's way out of my league, yet somehow he continues to love me and grow with me and surprise me daily. But yet I still have off days and get stuck in a rut every now and then. Whether I lack perspective and need a reminder, or I'm celebrating all the wonderment of my life, I. am. lucky. So I'm posting it to see every morning!

Send yourself a little reminder of just how lucky you are this month. You can download the backgrounds here. Happy March everyone!

February 2015 Background and Calendar

February! How on EARTH is it already February?! Whether I was ready or not - it's here, so might as well celebrate, am I right? :) Screenshot

You can download this fun little background for your computer (with calendar) or phone (without calendar) HERE.

Should you just fall in love with this background - we've got a matching mug in the shop that has your name on it! (Or your sweetie's!) Just saying... ;)

Enjoy!

Xo,

Jill

Office Sanctuaries

I have a dilemma: I rarely work at my desk. I blame it on the baby, but before that I blamed it on the dog. You know... she might get lonely (fact: she DID get lonely and would sit and cry at my feet), so I have to go work on the couch! I'm not sure if this is a problem or not - seeing as I still get things done - but when I finally stopped pretending like I used it, I made the decision to give my big ole 27" Apple monitor Logan to use at work. Because.. well.. he actually uses his desk.

So now with a naked desk and really good intentions (Think of all the creating I can do with more space! What about making a permanent home for my sewing machine?! Etc.), I'm looking for a little inspiration. This is what I'm thinking:

Styling

First of all, this reminded me of my office because of the black/white striped rug and the sawhorse desk. I love the idea of the shelves, now that my monitor won't block them, and the messy styling because let's be honest... it's easy.

PinBoard

This caught my eye because I currently have a similar pin board above my desk but it was awkward to reach with the monitor in the way. I love the simplicity of the decor and how accessible the board is for when inspiration strikes.

Lights

What better to draw me into my work space than some cozy string lights or mini paper lanterns?! I absolutely love mood lighting. That might be why I work so much in our living room... it's open and bright and there are twinkle lights on the mantle. :) An easy, yet room-changing fix.

ClipboardsI also thought this was a great idea for keeping things organized. Since the pin board is more for momentos and inspirational scraps, I tend to collect stacks of papers on my desk. This would be an easy way of sorting through those but not losing track of them. It may make me crazy though... and my papers probably wouldn't be all that pretty to look at.

We'll see. Maybe I just need to accept that I'm a couch dweller and repurpose my desk for something else. In any case, I can't wait to reorganize and make use of that space... even if it is just for looks!

Sources: HomeDit, The Every Girl, My Paradissi, and The Pretty Blog.

Farewell 2014, Hello January!

2014 was an incredible year for us, for many obvious reasons. It was also a year of growth and learning, being stretched and molded, and a whole lot of change. Logan started his new job on December 6th of 2013. We found out I was pregnant on December 9th. We closed on our house on December 13th (moved in on December 28th), and Logan graduated with his masters on December 14th. Needless to say, our lives changed quite a bit by January. I made the decision to leave my amazing job to prepare for our baby and be a work-at-home mom with my small business in late February, and starting May 1st I was home full time. Our little sweetheart was born on September 4th, and quite honestly life from September-December was a blur of developmental milestones, doctors appointments, and changing diapers.

I always feel like the year flies by, but this year it seems like it happened even faster. I think when you're looking forward to something, it makes everything surrounding that special date sort of fade into the background. But here we are: January 2015. I love January not only because it signifies a brand new page, but also because I'm that one weirdo who absolutely loves that it gets dark at 4pm and that it's freezing cold outside. Our anniversary is also in January, and I just can't help but enjoy the coziness of staying indoors and snuggling up with a warm beverage and sweet smelling candles. It's like a month of recharge after the chaos of the holidays and before everything thaws and moves back outdoors. I just eat it up.

2014TRUTH

In thinking back over this past year, being at home full time has taught me a lot about myself. Three big things I learned: I crave routine, even though I'm not very good at it; my surroundings directly impact my attitude and performance; and the best way for me to get things done is to strategically schedule my time. That last one seems trivial, but it has been hands down the biggest theme of 2014 for me and has a lot to do with my "word" for 2015. I know I preach about my Day Designer all the time, but it really has changed the way I organize my life. (Do yourself a favor and get one for yourself here!) I got a Day Designer back in early 2013, then another free one at Amber Housley Inspired... then ANOTHER one when I did business coaching with Amber in early 2014. I didn't really use the first two I had because I didn't understand how to use them, but one day I found myself thinking "I need to make a list of things I have to get done... and a list of the meetings I have to work around today so I can clearly see what amount of time I have left to work with." And then it dawned on me. THAT'S WHAT MY DAY DESIGNER IS. Ever since that day I have religiously planned my days and scheduled the things I'd like to get done so I can make sure to prioritize accordingly.

It's been a game changer. I don't go to bed with a dozen urgent tasks hanging over my head anymore, and I am overall more rested and relaxed knowing I'm using my time wisely (or, not, if I consciously decide to be lazy). This was a huge revelation for me after I spent the first couple weeks at home pregnant and laying around... then wondering a week later why nothing got done. I'm thankful I learned how to design my days before Amelia was born, because between feedings, playing, and nap times, there isn't a whole lot left to work with - but my to do list hasn't gotten any smaller. It also gives me the foresight to know that maybe if we're going out for the evening I should start to wash her diapers earlier than usual so they'll be ready to hang up by the time we're home. You know... Things like that that I used to always forget and kick myself later over. I think my Day Designer has single handedly saved my husband A LOT of grief from me. Hah!

Okay I'm starting to ramble. I share that discovery in my life because it has challenged me as a mother, wife, friend and business-owner to use my time wisely since I have realized that I really don't have as much as I think I do. So in looking forward to 2015, and going over my hopes and goals, I've decided my word for 2015 will be "Intentional." I know this word is so two years ago, but for me it is perfectly timed. I want to be intentional about how I'm planning my days and how I'm using my time. I want to be intentional to prioritize the things that are most important to me like quiet time in the morning and encouraging those around me. I want to be intentional about creating detailed plans for how I can reach the goals I aspire to (something I have never been gifted at). With all the hats I wear in my life right now, I have very little time to spare and I know that life is only going to get crazier. So if I'm not thinking ahead and intentionally organizing my priorities, I won't be able to take full advantage of this short life I've been given. And that's not to say I want to be busy. In fact, that's what I'm trying to avoid. I've found this year that the better I plan ahead and strategically organize my time, the more time I have for resting and being present in the moment.

I've taken a lot of time this past month - more time than I ever have in fact - to sit down and really dig deep and get down to the root of the things I am dreaming of for 2015. Some are simple, like being proud of the body God has given me, and some are more complex, like growing my business after taking the year off, or being present with Amelia. I hope this year I can live up to the things I'm aspiring to, and be wise and thoughtful about how I am spending my time. There will be a few small changes coming to my website and business and blog, and hopefully more regular posting. But at this point, I know better than to promise anything, because I have a habit of collecting unfinished projects that I'm trying to break. ;)

So here is to a fresh start. A clean slate. While I know the Lord's mercies are new every morning, I'm so thankful he gives us a season to reflect on that truth a little more intently. May we enjoy and celebrate every moment of 2015. Hello, January!

January 2015 Background & Calendar

Happy New Year! I LOVE January. I love it for so many reasons, but as I get older the list just gets longer and longer. A few changes will be coming this year to this little forgotten blog of mine, but before all that I thought we should celebrate such a beautiful month, full of fresh starts and new beginnings and crisp cold air. So here's a little desktop decoration... because who isn't looking forward to the adventure of this new year?!

You can find the desktop backgrounds as well as phone backgrounds (without the calendar) here for download.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May 2015 be full of blessings and growth and joy.

Amelia's Birth

Disclaimer: Some of this might be TMI. So proceed with caution. Although, if you know me, you know I've seriously toned down the personal details... I'm generally an open book. Three months removed, I think I can talk about it now.

I mean, I talked about it after it happened and told the story, over and over, to visitors and family and interested parties. But for some reason I kept putting off writing Amelia's birth story in her baby book. I finally realized that I didn't want to write it down because I wasn't really ready to deal with it yet. Everything went almost completely opposite of what we'd hoped, and while I thought I'd prepared myself for that, I had a lot of mixed emotions to sort through afterwards.

So three months later, I have healed. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Birth is a traumatic experience. People told me this - that even if things went perfectly according to plan, it is a major life event and the gravity of it can easily crush you. So here is our story. I've probably forgotten some details at this point, but honestly I think I needed to.

We chose to deliver with the Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives and have an unmedicated birth. We attended Bradley classes and learned everything there was to know about pregnancy, birth, and the post-partum period. It was very important to me that my daughter was born on HER time table and not anyone else's. Not mine, not family's, not anyone's but hers. Unfortunately, at 42 weeks the risk factors go up in a lot of areas, so we gave her as much time as we possibly could. I carried her for fifteen extra days - and I wouldn't change it for anything. Those last two weeks were full of prayer and long conversations with my sweet baby, and ice packs and waddling - but I also love looking back and knowing that she was comfortable, and growing, and developing her brain and taking her time. I also loved being pregnant - even then! Haha. Knowing her now, her extra two weeks are characteristic of her nature: sweet and laid back and content. The last thing I wanted to do was rush her to arrive before she was ready and it was important to me to respect her in that way. So 42 weeks it was!

After I tried everything (literally, EVERYTHING) to go into labor naturally, and nothing worked (even doing that made me feel guilty - but I knew it was better to coax her out than to forcer her out), we were scheduled to be induced at 8am on September 3rd. We woke up, had a hearty breakfast at Fido, prayed, and made our way up to Labor & Delivery. The first 26 hours of our induction were spent trying to get me dilated. Yes, at 42 weeks gestation I was a "tight" 1cm and no where close to labor. Go figure. After three rounds of cytotec, some scary contractions on the second round, and lots of walking up and down the corridors of the fourth floor, I was at a 2. Stubborn, much?! So next we used a foley bulb to manually dilate. I would go into this, but it's pretty horrifying.... I wouldn't even google it if I were you. Just pretend you'd never heard of it and NEVER let them suggest it to you if you're being induced. Ignorance is bliss. In fact, there's a whole other story of how I reacted to this and the complications that arose and I don't hardly remember them because I've blocked them from my memory. Ick.

We started Pitocin while the foley bulb was still in, and I started having mild contractions pretty quickly. Finally! Active labor!! After about an hour, the foley bulb finally fell out which meant I was at 4cm. I loved this part of labor. Logan was an incredible coach, and I reveled in the pain of the contractions. There was some deep satisfaction I found in feeling my body gearing up to birth my sweet child. However, because I was no where close to labor when we came in, Amelia had not dropped. I think if she'd been engaged when we were induced, and maybe if I had gas, I would have lasted at least a bit longer. After four hours of unmedicated labor (we're not sure why I never got the gas... we told them we'd be interested but they never offered it and we totally forgot about it - I think this was the Lord's hand but I'll go into that later), I was no longer reveling in the pain, but absolutely crushed by it. I felt like my bones were being slowly split apart and I could hardly breathe as she dropped lower and lower. Usually people's babies drop over the course of weeks. She was dropping literally in the course of minutes. OUCH. The Pitocin also caused my contractions to be VERY close together, with no more than 5-10 seconds between them for recovery. I finally asked for pain relief. The funny thing is, out of my options (stop Pitocin, get in the shower, but then start it again later on / narcotics for only two hours then back to unmedicated labor / epidural), I chose the narcotics so I could rest a little and then get back at it. Well, when they left to go get the narcotics, I had another contraction and immediately decided we were going for the epidural. Then I screamed at sweetly asked the anesthesiologist to get the epidural going before my next contraction "or else," so they gave me narcotics while I got my epidural. (So no, since so many people have asked me, the epidural didn't hurt! Haha.. but I guess it wouldn't then, would it?)

I also loved this part of labor. I have absolutely no regrets for getting it, even though in the moment I thought I would. Suddenly our delivery room went from incredibly stressful to incredibly calm and peaceful. Logan and I talked, prayed, cried, slept, and enjoyed the process. I honestly think I may do this with our next child (Lord willing): labor unmedicated, and then get an epidural. Both parts were so wonderful I can't decide which is better! So after a couple of hours (we're at six hours now total of active labor - on the afternoon of September 4th), my midwife checked and I was 10cm and ready to push! However, throughout all of this Amelia had been dropping her heart rate when I was anywhere but on my left side. I still think that's all sort of bogus, especially with what I've read about continuous fetal monitoring, but I wasn't about to argue with the professionals. So because of this, our midwife wanted us to labor down and wait as long as possible before starting to push in hopes that Amelia would cooperate when I got on my back to push.

So after another hour (seven hours now), I started getting these awful body shakes. At first I thought I was cold, but we piled blankets on and nothing helped. They got worse and worse. Finally, I couldn't hardly breathe or talk they were so bad and in the moment I honestly felt like it was the worst part of the labor yet. The nurses kept telling me it was a hormone rush because my body was in transition and knew it was time to push, but I felt like something was wrong.

Because my shaking got so bad, they finally decided we were going to go ahead and start pushing in hopes that they would stop after birth. In a routine check of vitals, they took my temperature and heart rate and realized I had a 103 fever and my heart rate was soaring. Our labor quickly turned into an emergency delivery.

They called in an OB who specialized in forceps delivery who kindly told me, "This baby has to come out NOW." (I foolishly thought this meant that I was going to the OR so I mumbled out "Am I going to keep shaking during surgery?" and he smiled and said, "Oh you're not going to have a c-section. We're doing a forceps delivery RIGHT NOW.") After about five minutes of pushing (and vomiting - ugh), I saw this amazing wet little body being held up at the end of the table. Unfortunately, our birth plan went out the window (as if it hadn't already - ha!), and she was rushed to the NICU doctors in the room who had been urgently called in for her. I just remember looking to my left, straining to see her, while they weighed her and checked her vitals, wanting so badly to hold her. I didn't ask because I knew that the docs knew best and I wanted her to be taken care of. I insisted Logan go over to her and not stay with me. He wouldn't leave my side. While they cleaned me up and.. you know.. finished the birth... they informed me that she would be going to the NICU immediately because she had a high fever as well as an elevated heart rate and was having difficulty breathing. They brushed her by my face so I could kiss her, then whisked her away, and I insisted Logan accompany her to the NICU so he reluctantly left. So much for the golden hour!

This is when things got ugly.

I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out, which I'm sure is probably expected and common after giving birth! Haha. So I didn't think much about it, but the doctors immediately became incredibly concerned when my blood pressure bottomed out and my heart rate still had not come down. I was in and out of feeling light headed and feeling fine, but the doctors remained concerned. They had estimated that I lost an average amount of blood, but later revised that to suggest that I'd lost three times the normal amount. The shaking was determined to have been fever chills, and my fever subsided shortly after I gave birth. At some point during my labor, I developed an infection on the placenta which affected both Amelia and I. Luckily, after only an hour in the NICU her fever had broken, and her breathing and heart rate had normalized. I, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.

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The doctors insisted I be hooked up to the telemetry machines, so they could have all my vitals at all times. This meant I had to stay in Labor & Delivery and wasn't cleared to move to the Post Partum wing. I got to meet Amelia five hours later in the peace and quiet of our room. I will never forget staring at her picture on Logan's phone over and over again while I waited to see her. I still tear up when I see that photo because it was the first time I ever set eyes on her. I remember thinking she looked like she was smiling, as if to say, "Don't worry, Mom! I'm here! We did it!" Words can't describe holding her for the first time. It was incredible, especially after that long wait.

Those first few days are all very fuzzy to me now... I remember continuously saying I felt fine to all the doctors, and I know I did, but looking back I think I was much more incoherent than I realized. I can't quite place what events happened in what order, and who visited when. The story was that my bloodwork was terrible, a transfusion didn't help, antibiotics weren't helping, and I still had the infection according to my labs. My blood pressure didn't come up for several days, and my heart rate took about two days to normalize. I was put on strict bed rest and was closely monitored. They wanted to place me in the ICU, but I insisted repeatedly that I felt fine, so they said "my demeanor" was keeping them from moving me. I remember a nurse telling me that the doctors and residents were puzzling over me in the hall - that I had everyone stumped. Thankfully, Labor & Delivery became very crowded while we were there and after my blood work started looking slightly better after three days, they moved us to a different room (likely to accommodate other patients more so than as a reaction to my improvement). I was SO thankful to be able to breastfeed without having to work around twelve cords all tangling up on my chest and arms. Things continued as before, but I was finally encouraged to stand up for short periods of time, and then after another day, I was told to try walking.

Okay, giving birth in general is pretty hard on the body. But then try chaining your body to a bed for 4+ days, left to swell from the lack of movement, in addition to the swelling that was already happening anyway. I couldn't even straighten my back. It was horrible. Just standing up took me about five minutes, and it took every ounce of my strength. I was desperate to go home with our baby, so I was determined to walk two laps around the floor (they said I could be discharged once I did that). It was miserable, but I somehow managed.

They finally moved us to post partum for our last night. I think they only did it because I felt so defeated and disappointed that we never got to be there with our baby. We never got to have normal visitors - just people who we had to give "visitor passes" to. I had a sweet little banner for our post partum door that I never got to use. I was so defeated by the aftermath of Amelia's birth, that they gave us the "best room on the floor" (it had a wall of windows) for our last night I think just to boost my morale. We had a few friends visit us there, and it meant the world to me to feel NORMAL. Six days in the hospital, and we finally got to go home.

It took me about three weeks to walk normally, but we made it. And she was worth it all. (And I have a new appreciation for chiropractors.)

I am convinced that the Lord guided me to that epidural. Having a forceps delivery with no medication, and the ensuing procedures (catheter, etc.) with no medication would have been agony. I was confined to lay on my left side shortly before the epidural, and laboring in bed would have been much more painful than being able to move about. It's amazing how He works for our benefit, even when it seems like things are completely out of control.

Thank you to the Vanderbilt staff - especially the nurses who took incredible care of me and my OBs who spent hours trying to figure me out after our delivery. I owe our health to Dr. Spetalnick, who delivered Amelia, and Dr. Newton who was my high risk OB after she was born and I was still recovering. Three months removed, we are doing famously. <3