For The One Surviving

For the ones holding onto the end of their rope. The ones coming up for air, hoping maybe solid ground is in sight, only to continue drifting without rescue. Rescue is coming.

The Lord saw me.
The Lord came near to me.
I cried out, and while the waves still crashed around me, He held me.
Raw and broken, He swam beside me.
I laid my forehead to the cold ground, hands open.
Over and over, I came to Him, broken.
He stayed with me.
I screamed silently as the smoke rose around me and my heart broke within me, and He listened compassionately.
I surrendered. Broken, bruised, out of air, yet relentlessly fighting for life.
And He restored me.
In moments at first. Seconds of peace before the storm raged again.
Then minutes, and hours.
He covered my wounds, spoke gently to my broken spirit.
I walked in the palm of His hand, protected from harm.
He covered me with grace and lifted me from my own ashes.
The waves stilled, the dry land appeared.
My heart grew calm and gained strength, my lungs filled with fresh air.
I will sing of His goodness and mercy.
I was pruned to bear fruit, and like a first morning stretch, my branches grow wide.
Praise God, companion in all seasons and faithful healer.
I am His forever.

Exclusive Pumping: What I've Learned

If you’re curious about why I turned to exclusive pumping for my son, you can read the whole wordy saga here.

Our at home set up and our car set up.

Our at home set up and our car set up.

I nursed two kids past their first birthday, so I thought I knew a few things about breastfeeding. However, after now exclusively pumping for most of my son’s first year, I’ve learned to navigate a whole new side of breastfeeding I never really knew existed. Exclusively pumping requires a lot more logistics and grit than nursing (at least it did for me!), but it’s given me a sense of accomplishment far above what I felt with my first kids. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned here, in case the nuggets I picked up along the way could help someone else in their journey. Below I’ve outlined a few helpful things I’ve learned, but this was my very first [pumping] rodeo - so some of these may or may not apply to others. Take them with a grain of salt. :)

Always watching!

Always watching!

Your Pump Matters: Why I Loved My Spectra

As most everyone knows now, most insurance companies will pay for your breast pump. I was able to take advantage of this with all three of my babies, passing along my first Medela Pump in Style Advanced to a close friend for her second baby when she needed a new pump. I got another Medela PISA with my second, but when I was pregnant with my third I decided to do more research since it had been a good four years since I’d looked into pumps. I kept reading about the Spectra S2 (or S1, which is the same, just rechargeable and therefore can be cordless) and hearing it was an excellent choice. My insurance happened to cover it, so I decided to take a chance on it since I could always fall back on my Medela PISA if I needed to. YOU GUYS. It is a GAME CHANGER. I’m so grateful I chose it this time since I ended up exclusively pumping. The bottom line differences in the Spectra and the PISA (which is a popular choice among insurance pumps) is that the Spectra is hospital grade (meaning it’s a closed system so the milk cannot be contaminated by the air from the motor and it can be used by different moms without risk of contamination), and the extra features it boasts. You’ll get the same quality of suction (I did at least), but the Spectra is insanely quiet, has a built-in timer so you don’t have to remember how long you’ve been pumping (!!), a nightlight (with two brightness levels) for middle-of-the-night pumping sessions, and the suction speed and vacuum settings are completely customizable, unlike the PISA. I would get another one in a heartbeat. It’s been incredible. Also, for an exclusive pumper like me, it has a little built-in spot for a bottle to sit and that’s been super helpful. Since I usually feed Chip in the bouncer next to me, when he’s taking a break from his bottle I have a little place to put it. The only cons I’d mention are that it’s a bit bulky (but way more user-friendly in shape/size than the PISA, in my opinion) and there’s a learning curve to the vacuum settings. I asked my IBCLC what settings I should use, so I’d recommend others do the same. She took the guess work out of it for me. Overall, for a main pump I highly recommend considering a Spectra. It’s also nice that a lot of the pumping resources I found on Instagram also recommend a Spectra for exclusive pumping and therefore most of them offer their advice in the context of a Spectra vs. other brands of pumps.


A Few Extra Things Go a Long Way: Accessories I’ve Loved

When I switched from nursing to exclusively pumping in January, in true form I asked the Facebook peanut gallery for tips and advice. I also discovered a few other items along the way that helped a lot. I tried not to just buy everything because part of my motivation for not immediately switching to formula was financial… so while pumping is NOT free, I knew I could do it relatively cheaply and I tried not to just buy allthethings but rather just what I really needed. That being said, here are some helpful things I used:

  1. On-the-go freezer bag. My friend recommended this and it came in handy over and over again when I had to pump in the car. It also stays cold for FOREVER and there’s no hassle of extra icepacks and what not.

  2. Car adapter for pump. A no-brainer if you can’t just nurse the baby. You’ll likely have to pump in the car at some point or another. (Make sure your pump is compatible! This worked with my PISA and my Spectra.)

  3. Extra hands-free bra. I already had one, but I got another to keep in my “car bag” for pumping in the car. That way whenever we needed to leave and I was pumping on the go, I didn’t need to remember to add anything to the bag but my pump. (I also kept extra bottles in the bag.) If you don’t have one of these to begin with, it’s CRUCIAL. I truly don’t know how people get by without one.

  4. aLoo Valve. This little valve, while sometimes hit or miss, will keep backwash from contaminating breastmilk. Some people are more lenient with the “rules” about how long breastmilk lasts once it’s been contaminated (meaning the baby drank out of the bottle but there was milk leftover). If you’re a stickler, these little guys keep the milk from getting contaminated at all so you can feel confident putting that leftover milk back in the fridge and saving it for the next feeding. However - I will say, they did make my bottles leak from time to time (but for what it’s worth my bottles leaked from time to time on a regular basis even without the valve - ha - the valve just made it more likely). I ended up using them if I knew Chip was unlikely to finish a bottle, like if he’d had a big dinner right before bed and I thought he might be too full for his whole bedtime bottle. Overall though, they gave me a lot of peace of mind. (Be sure to select your bottle type when purchasing!)

  5. Lansinoh Therapearl Hot/Cold Pads. I actually already owned these but had never used them, and after seeing them recommended for pumping they became a staple in my pump routine - especially for the first-morning pump. I would pop mine in the microwave for 17 seconds (that seemed to be the perfect temperature for mine) before pumping and then put them in between my skin and the flange while I started pumping. After 10 minutes of pumping I’d remove them and massage the rest of the time. For awhile I did this every time I pumped, but now I just do it for my first-morning pump since I’m so full at that one - the heat helps move the milk out.


Learn About Pumping: Helpful IG Accounts to Follow

I follow a lot of breastfeeding/pumping support accounts on Instagram, but hands down the most helpful has been @LegendairyMilk. I HIGHLY recommend following them and reading all of their story highlights. The information and knowledge shared by their account is unmatched and I probably (very literally) owe my pumping success to them. Another helpful account is @milksprouts. She does a lot of live teaching and real-time question/answer sessions. Both accounts focus on both breastfeeding AND pumping, but Legendairy Milk is especially helpful for pumping information. If you are a pumping mom and do not follow them, GO. NOW.


Find Your “Magic Number”: How to Know When to Drop Pumping Sessions

This information was a major eye-opener and turning point for me in my pumping journey, courtesy of @LegendairyMilk. At the point when I began exclusively pumping, Chip was eating seven times a day. I started out nursing him in the morning, so I was pumping six times a day. Eventually I pumped in the morning too but he also dropped a feeding, so six was my number for a long time. Six times a day was A LOT. I had several friends tell me that their output stayed the same even when they dropped to four times a day - but I was too scared to try for fear my supply would drop or, worse, dry up. Then I ran across this graphic from Legendairy Milk. Basically it’s a chart that shows how many times a day you need to remove milk to maintain supply (based on your “storage capacity” - which is determined by the highest amount of milk you’ve ever pumped in one sitting). This amazing information helped me have the courage to drop down to 3-4 pumping sessions a day and still maintain supply. That was INCREDIBLE for my morale and put new wind in my sails. This information could also be invaluable for working moms who need to know how many times to pump at work to keep their supply up.

Living the dream.

Living the dream.

The Six Month Hump: When Things Got Easier

As we approached six months (which was my original goal for exclusively pumping), Chip’s appetite grew and I felt like I was barely making enough milk to keep him satisfied. At the most, he was taking 30oz a day, and on average I pumped 28-30oz per day. There were days here and there I had to pull from my freezer stash but then there were other days I was able to add milk back to it. However, for the most part, I wasn’t able to freeze much milk until after he started solids. Six months was also around the time I found my “magic number” and decided to try dropping sessions. It was an anxious few weeks there for a bit - me, trying to figure out how often I could manage pumping to have enough milk without going crazy, and Chip getting hungrier and eating every drop I pumped. However, at his six month appointment our pediatrician agreed I was fine to scale back to just four bottles a day as long as I knew he was getting as much milk as he was before — and also mentioned that he’d take less milk as he started solids. That was a GREAT reminder for me since making “ends meet” with milk had been a little stressful at the time and I was just about ready to quit. Within a couple of weeks of introducing solids, Chip had gone back to his younger needs of 24-27oz per day and now at nine months he takes about 20oz a day. Once we made it over the six month hump and introduced solids, “making ends meet” became WAY easier and I’ve been freezing milk almost every day since. That means my freezer supply is growing and I’ll be able to ditch the pump sooner than his birthday (most likely). I guess all I’m saying is, if you’re pumping for your five month old and you haven’t introduced solids yet and you feel like you can barely make enough to feed him/her, hang in there and see how it goes after solids before throwing in the towel! It might get a lot easier.

Basically a glorified cow.

Basically a glorified cow.

Supplements: Results May Vary

I tried my fair share of supplements to increase milk supply this year. Everyone’s bodies respond differently to different things, so this is just my experience - but honestly none made THAT noticeable of a difference. Out of all I tried, Legendairy Milk’s Pump Princess made the biggest difference, but even with that it was only a couple of ounces overall. I also tried another one of theirs that caused me to have extremely low blood sugar and nearly pass out a few times — so take caution when you’re taking any supplements for a test run. I think the best thing that helped my supply was just drinking water and eating enough food. Also sleep. I noticed a HUGE difference on days I hadn’t slept well the night before.

Tips & Tricks: Things That Kept My Sanity

Finally, there were a couple of things that really helped me stick it out on this crazy ride. I’ve listed them below, along with a little freebie that has helped me the past few months.

  1. Find a way to feed your baby while you pump. This piece of advice was given to me, and I’m so glad I took it. It will take literally twice as long (if not longer) to feed your baby at a separate time than you pump - UNLESS you only pump three times a day, in which case, YOU GO GIRL and forget I even said this. But until you get to that, if you’re still pumping as often or almost as often as your baby, just find a way to feed them while you’re pumping. We use a bouncer on the couch next to me, my friend used a boppy, another friend uses her carseat… whatever works. Just save yourself the time suck - especially if you have other kids like me! That way you’ve got that much more time to spend with them instead of tied to the baby or the pump. (If you’re feeding baby what you pump and aren’t ahead of bottles, maybe consider offering some formula for just half a bottle or one bottle a day to help you get ahead. Most people get samples in the mail and just a sample could get you ahead enough to be able to feed the baby while you pump which can save your sanity in the long run! Just an idea.)

  2. Wash your parts as you go. A piece of advice that was given to me multiple times was to rinse your pump parts and put them in a freezer bag and throw them in the refrigerator and then just wash them once at the end of the day. This might work great especially for working moms who don’t want to wash their pump parts in the break room or a bathroom at work. For me though, since I’m home, I preferred to wash my pump parts immediately after I was done pumping. At the least, I’d throw them in a sink of warm soapy water and come back to them within the hour. I just found it easier to keep up with it immediately and then they’d be dry by the next pumping session. I also HATED the feeling of cold pump parts on my chest. I’m cold natured anyway, so I couldn’t stand the extra chill. That’s just my two cents.

  3. Try to pump into the bottle you’ll use to feed your baby. This isn’t a huge deal, but I found that with Chip preferring Medela bottles and me pumping with a Spectra — it was easiest on me to pump straight into Medela bottles. I bought an adapter and just used Medela flanges and pump parts with my Spectra, but you can also buy all kinds of adapters for different flanges to fit different bottles. This minimizes washing and keeps your brain power usage lower. Also, most flanges fit several different types of bottles without adapters (ie: Medela and Dr. Brown’s, Spectra and Dr. Brown’s wide neck, etc.)

  4. Pump for at least 20 minutes and massage while pumping. This is one area I have rarely, if ever, wavered. It’s harder to keep supply up over the long term with a pump since it’s not as efficient as a baby and you don’t get the hormonal response of cuddling your baby like you would if you were nursing. Therefore, pumping at least 20 minutes per session and massaging while you pump ensures you’re properly emptying ALL the milk out to tell your body to keep producing it. Even the few times I’ve not massaged or stopped just a few minutes early I’ve immediately noticed a decrease in output. Legendairy Milk’s story highlights also have an excellent section on this.

  5. Keep up with your output. I used to be more concerned with how much Chip was taking than I was with how much I was making, but after starting to track my output I’ve seen first hand how slowly output can decrease and you’d never really realize it unless you were paying attention. I’m a data person, so this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it gave me peace of mind to keep a little log of what I was pumping to know - in a general sense - how my supply was doing. There are loads of apps for this, but I found it easiest to just keep a log with good ole pen and paper on my refrigerator. I designed a little chart and if you’d like to use it too, you can download it here for free! It even has a little bar at the bottom that you can divide into however many weeks/months you have left to meet your pumping goal and color it in as you go! I’m a nerd and I love to see my progress bar fill up. :) It also has a handy place to keep track of how much you have in the freezer so you don’t have to count all your bags every few weeks. The key for me with tracking output was not to get hung up if I had a weirdly low output day, but just keep a casual eye on the “total” numbers to make sure things were maintaining. This is how I noticed that pumping only three times a day decreased my supply over time, so I went back to four times a day to maintain output for a bit longer before I start supplementing with freezer milk and weaning from the pump.



Whew. That was a lot. I hope it’s helpful for at least just one person out there. I feel like I’ve gathered all of this random information from a hundred places and would love to pass at least something along to someone else who finds themself in the same grind that I was in. All moms are amazing no matter how they feed their babe, but if you’re exclusively pumping, this was especially for you girl. You’ve got this.


This post does not contain affiliate links but it probably should because man wouldn’t that be nice! Ha!

Why I Pumped for Chip

Where to begin. I suppose I’ll begin where my pumping journey began: with my son, Chip. I nursed my two daughters both til just past one, and while we had our fair share of challenges (reflux, thrush, Raynaud’s Syndrome, etc.), overall the entire experience was a good one with both girls. I pumped as little as a stay-at-home nursing mom would with the girls (about once a day before bed, at most). So I didn’t assume anything would be picture perfect with Chip, but I certainly felt well-educated when it came to breastfeeding after successfully breastfeeding two kids already.

Nursing my newborn son in the hospital.

Nursing my newborn son in the hospital.

Unfortunately, at two weeks Chip was already struggling. Although he had gained more weight than my doctor had hoped, he only nursed for 8-12 minutes total and I never felt empty afterward. I tried to relax after seeing his excellent weight gain, but just I didn’t have peace about his eating habits. By six weeks he was incredibly colicky, eating every two hours, and screaming during feedings. I’d cut out dairy, soy, gluten, and caffeine but really only found caffeine and dairy made a difference so I kept those out of my diet. I knew his issue was likely reflux because my first two both did the same thing, but I called a lactation consultant just to be sure and have her check things out. She confirmed he had no lip/tongue tie disfunction but also told me my supply was likely low from his poor eating. A weighted feeding showed that he wasn’t taking enough per feeding - which was my suspicion - so I began pumping after three feedings a day just to boost supply. By his two month appointment I asked for Zantac and our doctor prescribed it once he heard how unhappy Chip was most of the time. His weight gain wasn’t great and I voiced my concerns about his short nursing sessions. He suggested I come back in three weeks for a weight check after using the Zantac.

At that next weight check, things didn’t look like they’d changed at all - in fact, things looked worse. Chip had stopped crying during feedings (the Zantac helped tremendously), but he still refused to eat past 8 or so minutes, and he seemed to be eating even less. At this point, he’d also started refusing a bottle altogether so that complicated the issue. I couldn’t supplement (with breastmilk or formula) even if I wanted to. This time, my doctor suggested adding back in two night feedings (Chip had JUST started sleeping 11 hours at night, of course) and trying to get him to take a small bottle of more breastmilk after he nursed, if he would.

After this appointment, my mother-in-law, who worked at Vanderbilt in the NICU at the time, set up an appointment for me with two specialists she knew from the NICU — one a lactation consultant, and one a speech language pathologist (for feeding issues). At this appointment I explained our problems and we did a weighted feeding. He miraculously took 4oz in 8 minutes. (I think we just had a lucky feeding.) They assured me his latch was fine, he had no ties, and that he probably only stopped nursing so quickly because he was frustrated with a slow flow and was FULL. I was so relieved. This was the best news - and I hoped that since we’d added back in the two night feedings that would be enough to get him back on track.

Boy was I wrong. I took him in for his next weight check and he had just about fallen off the whole growth chart (for weight - he was born in the 35th percentile). I was so defeated. I discussed the options with my doctor, who said if Chip was taking a bottle willingly he’d have me exclusively pump for a week to see if increased volume helped - but since he wasn’t, just to keep “doing what I was doing.” He also instructed me to increase my caloric intake significantly in hopes that my milk would be fattier (I think he was grasping at straws because I’m 99% sure that is a myth - but perhaps he was also just concerned I wasn’t producing enough). He also added, “I mean, he’s not going to dry up and blow away… but I definitely expect him to be completely off the growth chart by his next appointment.” I was at the end of my rope, and frankly very worried about Chip. I know slow weight gain can significantly impact developmental growth - the brain needs fat to operate and grow. Amelia was also born late (like Chip) and therefore a bit higher on the growth chart than she probably should’ve been (like Chip), but she fell and then stayed on her curve and I never felt very worried. Bettye fluctuated a little here and there but ultimately stayed pretty consistent. I felt WORRIED about Chip’s weight. Whether it was instinct or just hormones, it really weighed on me. He seemed SO tiny and skinny to me, and not ever very content. [To be clear: our doctor was very supportive of breastfeeding and not gloom and doom at all. My gut was what caused me worry. I just felt something wasn’t working.]

On the other hand, exclusively pumping sounded like a death sentence to me so I was secretly a bit grateful Chip wouldn’t take a bottle. I had two other children to care for. How on EARTH would I find time to pump 7-8 times a day (which is how many times I was feeding him at the time)?! What would I do with Chip during that time? He still cried most of the time and preferred being held. I would’ve much rather turned to formula than to pumping if he was going to take a bottle of anything!

For about a week I woke up feeling sick and anxious every morning at the thought of feeding my child for the whole day. I called a friend who happens to also be a speech language pathologist (specializing in feeding for babies through age 3 - what a godsend), and, among other heaps of encouragement and affirmations that he likely didn’t have any mechanical issues, she told me if at the end of the day all I’d thought about was feeding my child - something needed to change. That was too much to carry. I so appreciated that dose of reality. I probably would’ve fought much longer than I should have if she hadn’t gently pushed me to accept that what I was currently doing just wasn’t working for us, and I owed myself the grace to make a change for my own well being. During that conversation, she also gave me tons of ideas for helping him get over the bottle strike, and finally a combination of them WORKED!

Once I got him back on the bottle, I started using what I was pumping after his feedings (for supply) to try and supplement. The only problem: he didn’t want to eat any more after he nursed. It’s almost as if he had the tiniest stomach and would only eat 2-3oz per feeding and just want to eat again in a couple hours since he ate so little — so supplementing after a nursing session was pointless. He was “full.” I could tell he still wasn’t gaining well, and I was so worn out from pumping after every feeding and trying to force him to eat more, so finally, out of desperation, I decided to try pumping for one day to just see how things went.

Coincidentally, it was January 1st. That’s really when my (almost) exclusively pumping journey began. I was heartbroken all day. I cried multiple times, but I started with still nursing him first thing in the morning and only pumping for the rest of the day. (He stopped willingly nursing in the morning a few weeks later.) We went to my in laws that day for a New Years meal and I remember handing Chip to Logan for his bottle while I went upstairs to pump and feeling so lonely and sad. This special time when I used to sneak away with my sweet babe to nurse him and snuggle him, just the two of us, had turned into hooking myself up to a machine while someone somewhere else gave my son his nourishment. It absolutely broke my heart. That day he wouldn’t take more than 2oz in a bottle and I remember feeling just as anxious - if not more so - than I was when he nursed. Seeing in actual volume how little he ate made me sick to my stomach. Why was he starving himself?

He also happened to be a little under the weather at the time, so I decided to give it another day and see if he’d take more in the bottle. That day was slightly better. The day after that was, too, and suddenly he was taking full feedings from the bottle and I finally felt a little relief. Thankfully I had a small freezer stash to help me get ahead of his feedings and, like a train slowly chugging and churning to full blown speed, within a week we were finding our rhythm.

When I was still experimenting and in the process of figuring out if this was something I could really commit myself to, a friend reached out who exclusively pumped with both her kids. I have to add this to my story because truly it gave me the perspective I needed to push through. I remember lamenting to her how much work it is to pump full time - and how I couldn’t believe she did it - and I’ll never forget her cheerfully responding saying, “It’s really no big deal!” and telling me all of the reasons it can be super convenient (which I’ve found to be 100% true!). She also urged me to learn to feed him at the same time that I pump - be it with a boppy or propped on a pillow or a bouncer or whatever. She insisted that would make things feel way less cumbersome. I had been throwing myself such a pity party that hearing her say, “It’s really no big deal!” parted the clouds for me. Oh - this can feel normal? This can actually be better and easier in some situations than nursing? Oh, okay… maybe you’re right… And her advice to find a way to feed Chip while I pumped was invaluable. I grabbed our bouncer and parked it on the couch (it still lives there) and suddenly what had been taking me an hour (to bottle feed then pump) now only took me 20 minutes - and I got to spend the time that he used to nurse still feeding him - mom to baby. This also solved the problem of what to do with him while I pumped. He was occupied with eating - so he was happy - and I wasn’t trying to calm a crying baby while strapped to the couch! This is really when exclusively pumping became doable for me and felt like something I could stick with. I owe our success to you, Martha!

Emotionally, it was really, really sad for me. I had a hard time accepting that he was better off this way. Nursing is so emotional and there’s such a deep connection it brings, it was hard for me to set that aside (selfishly) for his physical wellbeing. He was also my first son and that felt really special and different - and likely my last baby - so it was especially disappointing. I mourned for a very long time. I remember feeding him on the couch in our living room one day, before I’d switched to the bouncer set up, feeling particularly sad and also frustrated because feeding now took up so much of our time, and he just gazed at me while he ate - so content and peaceful - and I felt like he was saying, “Thank you, Mom. Thanks for doing this for me. Thank you for making me more comfortable. I’m sorry it makes you sad, but I’m so thankful.” He just looked so satisfied. After months of screaming during feedings and fighting to get him to eat, I couldn’t help but feel peace instead of sadness while I watched him eat that day. At some point in those early pumping days I had a physical therapy appointment and had to park outside early to pump while I gave him a bottle in the car and I just sat there and cried. It felt so broken - so awkward and strange when before I’d just lay him on my lap and he’d eat without machines or accessories or bottle warmers. I was surprised to find, however, that once I cried about it and let the sadness out, I felt better. I felt lighter about it all.

Those first few weeks were rocky for me - trying to figure out what normal was and balancing all the new logistics I had to manage with just living life with my kids. I felt like I was ruining the quality of life of my older children, so I decided to just set my goal at six months and re-evaluate how we were all doing when we got there.

The grieving didn’t stop for a very long time, if it truly has at all. Every time someone would bring up lip or tongue ties I’d wonder if we should’ve sought a third opinion. Every time I’d give him a bottle in public I’d wonder what other people were thinking. It’s all so silly, but it’s all so deeply personal too. So many things I’d looked forward to with this next baby I wasn’t getting to experience after all. It was all just hard to accept.

Six months rolled around and I was still pumping six times a day - afraid to drop to any fewer for fear I’d lose my supply. I was so over it. I decided to try some formula to see if maybe I could switch to formula during the day and just pump morning and night until my supply ran out since I’d made it to my goal. He’d had two formula bottles back when I first started pumping because I was afraid the pump wouldn’t keep my supply up and I wanted to know I had a backup. Both times he’d thrown it all up, which is why ultimately I stuck to pumping instead of switching to formula early on. I researched for forever, but finally just decided I needed to start somewhere so I got him a can of Gerber Good Start and Earth’s Best. He. was. not. interested. Not only was he not interested, but he also threw up a few of the bottles he did take. After about two weeks of attempting one formula bottle a day, I felt good enough about it to at least drop a pumping session while continuing trying to acclimate him to formula. To my surprise, my output didn’t change. Then I dropped another.. and it still didn’t change. Suddenly I was only pumping four times a day and still producing the 30oz I was feeding him. At that point I was so encouraged that I just gave up trying to get him to like formula and committed to finishing out his first year with breastmilk.

I ended up dropping down to three pumping sessions a day, but recently my supply has declined a bit - which is fine since he only takes 20oz a day now that he has solids, so I still make more than he eats - but that made me switch back to four a day, which I think will be sustainable til he’s a year old, or I start supplementing with frozen milk in the next few weeks.

As far as nursing goes, if he woke at all in the night I’d nurse him back to sleep, so I’ve been grateful to still get to experience a small dose of that special bond. However, there were times where I went nearly four weeks without an opportunity in the night to nurse him, so there were several times I thought we were done. I’d get really emotional thinking it was the last time and I didn’t even know it, but then inevitably I’d end up nursing him again. In the past few weeks he’s been less and less interested in nursing even in the middle of the night, which has been sad for me but I’ve also recently felt kind of ready to be done nursing. I held onto it just because I was afraid to let it go, to never feel that precious bond again, but this last time he nursed it was so sweet and peaceful and I decided it would be our last. A few days past nine months. I’m honestly kind of surprised I got to nurse him that long at all. It’s been kind of a fight if he’s done it at all lately and I don’t want to risk ending our nursing relationship on that note, so I have peace knowing that that part of our story is over.

So here we are. Three more months to go til his first birthday and I’m feeling weary of pumping but also grateful to have made it over the hump and be in the downward slide. I have about 400oz in the freezer that I’ll likely start pulling from as I wean from the pump - but I think I won’t start doing that til he’s 10 months old for good measure.

I’m really only writing all of this down for my own therapeutic benefit, but I thought making it public might also encourage someone who might be in the middle of a similar journey. It’s honestly become second nature to all of us (my husband included), and I’m really grateful for that.

Here’s to you, Chippy. For making me prove to myself that I can do more than I ever thought I could possibly do. Thanks for that, sweet boy. It’s all for you, my love.

Disclaimer - because it seems I always give one, ha! Feeding your baby is a very personal choice and experience. Whether formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping and feeding, using donor milk, or a combination of those - there’s no wrong decision. Breastfeeding worked out for my first two kids, so I planned on doing it again, and as you (probably?) read - breastmilk ended up being all my son would accept. This is my account of the experience I had with my son, and when it comes to you feeding your child - you do you, friend!

Chip's Birthday: It's a Boy!

Continued from “Chip’s Birthday: Preparing for Labor”

I slept remarkably soundly for the night before an induction, and woke up feeling excited and ready to meet our baby and find out if it was a boy or a girl! I was surprised to feel very little disappointment that I didn’t go into labor in the night - I think at that point I’d just accepted that induction is our reality and I was feeling grateful that at least I was already at 4cm 80% and hopefully could avoid Pitocin.

We left the house around 5:30am and stopped by the Starbucks drive-thru for Logan to get a coffee for himself. As we were waiting, someone behind us yelled, “Logan?!” Our friend Katie Herndon was heading into work (a nurse herself) and was behind us in the drive-thru! I got out and ran back to tell her we were being induced and asked for any last minute words of wisdom. She said, “I know you know this - but if you need an epidural, just get one. There is no shame in that.” I laughed and agreed that that was my plan, just like it was with Bettye. I felt like that moment was so serendipitous and for whatever reason seeing Katie brought me so much peace that morning. (Katie, if you’re reading this, thank you for that!)

After we got checked in, we settled into our room - which was probably a different room but looked IDENTICAL to the room we had Bettye in (same side of the hall and everything), so that also gave me so much peace.. remembering how beautiful her birth was and the joy and redemption we felt that day.

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A nurse came in to set my IV and I mentioned that I was planning a natural birth and she said that we’d hit the jackpot on nurses in that case. Apparently our nurse, Elaine, had all of her three kids naturally and taught Lamaze classes for years. She had been a Labor and Delivery nurse for over thirty years. I was so thankful! I’m convinced God placed Elaine there just for us that day - she basically acted as my doula.

They started my fluids and I asked, like I did with Bettye, if I could receive half the amount of fluids normally given because I got SO uncomfortably swollen during Amelia’s birth. They agreed to do this during Bettye’s birth, reluctantly, so I was surprised that when I asked this time that they offered to just disconnect the IV altogether! They said they only needed to reconnect it and give me fluids if I ended up with an epidural. I was SO excited! I’ve never labored without being hooked up to an IV pole so I felt like I’d won the lottery! I was so glad I had the courage to advocate for myself and my wishes.

Elaine mentioned something about going to get the Pitocin and again I mustered my courage and told her that we had discussed just breaking my water with Dr. Heidemann and seeing if that started labor. I was nervous for Elaine’s reaction, but she was so pleased! She said she loved that idea - and that hopefully we wouldn’t need the Pitocin at all. Again, RELIEF! We were on the same page! She said she’d go wake Dr. Heidemann up to break my water (she was on call all weekend and sleeping at the hospital), so we waited eagerly until she joined us.

At 8am, I was still at 4cm 80%, and I guess because of this I didn’t even feel her break my water. It was uncomfortable when we did with Bettye, but this time I just suddenly felt warm liquid everywhere and thought, “Was that it?!” This time, however, my doctor moved the baby around a bunch - which wasn’t painful but awkward and felt like TONS of pressure. She moved him up and down and back and forth and said she was trying to get out all the fluid she possibly could, because the more we got out, the more likely my body would be to respond. I’d never heard this before but it definitely made sense!

After she was done, I asked her how long we would wait to see if I went into labor before starting Pitocin. She said she wanted to see cervical change within 6-8 hours. “SIX TO EIGHT HOURS?!” I thought… I’d almost rather just have Pitocin and have the baby! She said that if a patient called in and said their water had broken at home, she’d tell them to wait 6-8 hours and if contractions hadn’t started yet, to come in… so she was treating me the same. I really appreciated that - she knew how badly I wanted to avoid Pitocin this time - but I also felt a little impatient thinking it could take all day. Bettye’s quick birth had spoiled me!

She left and I stood up to go to the bathroom and immediately everything hurt. I kept saying, “Rocks!” to Logan because it felt like I just had a huge pile of rocks in my belly grinding together and against me and it hurt to move even a little. She wasn’t lying when she said she got most of the fluid out - I didn’t feel different at all after we broke my water with Bettye, but we didn’t do any of that moving the baby around business. Almost immediately I started having very strong contractions. I was so relieved! My body was responding! I sat on the bed breathing through them like I did during Bettye’s birth, and laughing with Logan in between. It felt very carefree and we were both in good spirits. At some point during one on my contractions, Elaine saw me closing my eyes and she gently suggested I keep them open to give my brain more stimuli to focus on (besides the pain). Similar to the advice Geraldine gave me during Bettye’s birth about not making noise, this made a lot of sense to me and I used it for most of my labor.

After a little while on the bed, I decided to move to the birth ball in hopes the contractions would continue and I’d dilate more quickly. About this time, Elaine came in and with authority told me I needed to start walking the halls. She said my contractions were irregular and varied in intensity, and that’s a tell tale sign that you’re NOT in active labor. She insisted I get up and start walking so they’d hopefully intensify and we could avoid Pitocin. She said, “Walking just makes you feel more human - labor is not a disease state, it helped me a lot in my births.” I was admittedly a bit annoyed because my doctor had given me 6-8 hours and it hadn’t even been two hours. However, I trusted her advice and into the halls we went.

We were both in great moods which was such a blessing. The hallway wasn’t long, so I trudged up and down the short corridor in my hospital gown and my fluffy blue slippers and would pause to lean against the wall when a contraction would come. During one of the first contractions, Logan stood there supportively helping me stand and intently watching to see if I needed anything while I breathed through the pain. During the peak of the contraction, his stomach growled so loudly and he put his hand over his stomach as if that would silence the growl. I lost it. I could NOT stop my laughter and it intensified the pain to a level I could barely stand. But I couldn’t stop! Logan tried to be serious to help me pull it together but the growl was SO loud and the fact that I needed desperately to stop laughing made me laugh even harder. Finally the contraction passed and I pulled it together and we kept walking.. but at that point, everything seemed to make me laugh. Logan was so intent on helping me that he insisted on keeping his arm up right beside me - like a rail to grab onto - and I kept telling him I’d tell him if I needed him… he didn’t have to walk like I was going to fall at any moment! It was just making me laugh seeing his arm up like that. He had to walk with his other hand grabbing it, behind his back, to keep from putting it up like a rail for me. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. I kept the laughter to a minimum for a few more lengths of the hallway, but then an incredibly strong contraction hit and as I leaned into the railing in the hallway, my body proximity set off the Purell hand sanitizer station on the wall and again - the laughter just came rushing out. I couldn’t stop it but I also couldn’t handle how painful it made the contraction. I stood there literally banging my head against the wall, laughing and gasping. As soon as I could talk, I said I needed to go sit down… the laughter REALLY intensified things.

We quickly walked back to our room and I sat back down on the birth ball. Elaine ran in and said a nurse told her I was crying in the hallway… I smiled and explained that I was not crying, I was in fact laughing hysterically. She was so relieved - she thought her instructions to walk had made me cry! I asked her if the walking had helped - we only did it for about twenty minutes - and she took a look at my contractions and said yes! I was in active labor! All that laughing must have paid off, ha!

She could tell I was starting to get in the zone during each contraction, as they were becoming more and more powerful. She suggested I lay on the bed with a peanut ball to rest as much as I could. A peanut ball is sort of like a birth ball, but shaped like a peanut, and it’s especially great for women with epidurals who can’t move around. You can lay with it between your legs and it helps to keep you dilating while laying down. I found it awkward but I was feeling tired and sapped already and welcomed the relief of laying in bed. I put earbuds in and turned on a Hypnobabies track for the only time durig this labor and just focused on relaxing.

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Just a few minutes passed before I let out a loud moan and raised my hand in the air. I couldn’t speak but I knew this pain. This was what I’d felt right before Bettye was born. Naively thinking, “This is it!” I said, “I need to push!” Elaine ran back in and checked me. I was at 6cm. HA! I felt SO defeated for just a moment.. how could I only be 6cm when I KNOW this is how I felt just before Bettye was born? But I knew things were going to move quickly, based on how I was feeling. I had to get off the bed.. I felt so restless suddenly. She encouraged me that we were close to meeting our baby, and that it’s very common to go from 6-10cm in less than an hour. I did feel encouraged, and I knew I could do it, but I was READY to be done with the pain.

I decided to try to use the bathroom, since a full bladder can make contractions more painful. I did the exact same thing at this point in Bettye’s birth - which is so funny looking back because that was the most intense part of her labor (a few minutes before she was born). After I hobbled over to the toilet, I immediately regretted it. I personally find sitting on a toilet incredibly painful during labor. Of course I wasn’t able to use the bathroom, and then I felt stuck there as contractions hit me like waves. I felt sick, so Elaine grabbed a pan to throw up into and Logan stood there encouraging me as I threw up a few times.

At this point I knew I had to be close.. I felt stuck. I kept saying, “I want to be done.. I want this to be over..” and I felt panicked about having to endure labor for any longer. I asked to be checked again, but couldn’t bring myself to leave the toilet. Elaine left to get a wheelchair and while she was gone I made a run for it to the bed. Ha - wheelchair abandoned! Once in bed, she checked me again and told me I was at 7cm and beginning transition. At this point I was totally overwhelmed by the pain, and I mentioned that I had some back labor. She moved the bed around to be a chair and pulled a bar out to go in front of me so I could lean forward on it and encourage the baby to turn, if it was in fact posterior - causing back labor. I lost my focus at this point and started breathing erratically and Elaine began some Lamaze exercises to help me bring back my focus. Her exercises weren’t helping me, but I did hear her advice to stop hyperventilating and breathe slow shallow breaths. I focused on a random knot on the wooden floors and tried with all my might to breath shallowly through each contraction. Logan stood beside me reminding me that I could do this, that we were so close. At some point I whispered, “You’re the best.” He was so focused on supporting me however he could - I was just overwhelmed suddenly by his gentle presence and how peaceful seeing him and feeling him next to me made me feel.

We rested my head up against the bar and I leaned forward. This was the most comfortable I ever was during that second part of labor. It was a wonderful way to be positioned. Unfortunately, I was leaned so far forward with my huge belly that my left leg started going numb and we had to move me around again after just a couple contractions. I was so sad because I really felt like I’d found my zen in that position and collected myself.

At that point I asked to be checked again, because I could feel the slight urge to push beginning to creep up on me… She checked me and said I was 9cm! So close! That gave me fuel to keep focusing and breathing and accepting the pain of the contractions knowing my baby was so close. I was dead set on that random knot on the floor and all I could think to myself was, “You’re gonna come out. You’re gonna come out. You’re gonna come out.” I felt like I was willing this baby out of my body and into my arms. I felt strong and able. I’d found my groove again. Logan would say, “You can do this!” and I remember at some point saying, “You’re right! I can!”

Elaine told my doctor at 6cm to head back to the hospital from St. Thomas - she knew it wouldn’t be long. At this point she called her to the room and Dr. Heidemann began setting up all of the birth preparations. I never had this for Bettye because she was born well before my doctor could make it to the room. It was so comforting to see my doctor there, pleasant and calm. She asked if I was comfortable and what could make me more comfortable. Logan at some point began putting ice chips in my mouth and I found this incredibly helpful. It gave my brain something else to focus on, and a place to direct my tension rather than holding it in my body. It was also very refreshing. I had Logan adjust the bed a bit, and I was ready to get this baby out.

I kept asking if it was okay to push - knowing from experience that I wouldn’t be able to stop it once I needed to. Dr. Heidemann checked me one more time and said I was welcome to push whenever I was ready. Just to do whatever I needed to do. For some reason I also had the thought to yell out, “Nobody say what it is!” and she asked me who was going to say. I told her Logan. Almost immediately after that, I felt the urge to push with a contraction and pushed with all my might. I felt him move almost all the way out and I asked if his head was out. They said yes, and it’s like my battery was recharged. I felt like I had Hulk strength and I was ready to hold my baby. Less than a minute later, another contraction hit and I pushed with all my might. I didn’t want to have to wait any longer. I wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to be out of pain. I yelled, “Get this baby OUT OF MY BODY!!” and pushed with everything I had. I didn’t care if everything down there burst to pieces - I wanted to hold my baby and I was going to make it happen. (Spoiler: I had less “damage” with this baby than any of mine, and I didn’t have much with the girls to begin with! Woohoo!)

With that, he slid out of my body and I immediately felt such great relief. I couldn’t believe it! My baby was born! I asked what it was and Logan was looking frantically and hesitantly said, “I … I think it’s a boy?” I replied, “You’re joking! It’s not a boy! Is it really a boy?” He checked again. “It’s a boy!!” “Are you sure?! Are you positive it’s a boy?!” The nurse held my sweet boy up and yes, there was no denying it, he was a boy! I couldn’t stop the tears.

They laid him on my chest as we waited to cut the cord and I couldn’t believe I had a son. Laying on my chest. I kept saying his name, Chip, over and over. He was beautiful.

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Logan cut the cord and as we finished all the other parts of the birth we marveled at our beautiful son and laughed that we both thought it was a girl! But here he was. Charles Archer Hartline, in all his perfect glory.

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Chip was born at 11:44am - less than 45 minutes after I had asked to be checked with the peanut ball on the bed. He was 7lbs 14oz and 19.75” long. We are absolutely in love, and could not be more thankful for Dr. Heidemann, our nurse, Elaine, and the staff at Centennial for blessing us with the gift of a non-Pitocin natural labor. Logan jokes that Bettye’s birth happened to me and I was an active participant in Chip’s birth. I couldn’t agree more, and I feel so profoundly grateful for getting to experience the birth of my dreams despite having to be induced. As much as I wanted to experience spontaneous labor, I would not have changed Chip’s birth for anything and I have so much peace about that decision. Praise God for a perfect baby boy, and the perfect way to complete our little family.

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If you need an amazing OB who will listen and take your hopes for your birth into account as things unfold, I cannot recommend Dr. Heidemann (TN Women’s Care) more. We have also had two incredible birth experiences at Centennial - it is an amazing place to have a baby!

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Chip's Birthday: Preparing for Labor

We have a new little boy and we could not be more in love. I’m documenting his beautiful birth story and the days and weeks leading up to it here so I don’t forget the details of that very special day.

If you know me, you likely know I was induced for my first two births (Amelia and Bettye) and really REALLY wanted to experience spontaneous labor this time around, for our last baby. Things were looking very encouraging when I was checked at 36 weeks - 1-2cm but 0% effaced. I was just elated to be dilated at all, because with both girls I was 1cm or less and needed 2+ rounds of cytotec to dilate enough just to start Pitocin. So to already be nearly 2cm was a huge relief! This meant that even if I had to be induced again, I likely wouldn’t need to do the overnight/hours and hours of dilating prep that I did with Amelia and Bettye. Praise God! I felt ahead of the curve with five weeks left to go into labor on my own, and clearly my body was getting ready.

At 37 weeks I was surprised and excited to learn I was 70% effaced, still 2cm. Again - elated! By 38 weeks, I was 3cm 70% and at 39 weeks, 3.5cm 80%. I was so grateful that things were progressing on their own! My doctor did a membrane sweep at 39 weeks and being as my body was so “ready” - I was positive I’d be in labor within 24 hours. I immediately started having painful contractions, and was sure I was in early labor - ready to meet our sweet baby. I remember not wanting to make dinner for our family that night, sure that by the time it was done cooking we’d be on our way to the hospital (based on how I was feeling). Spoiler, I did make dinner that night and I didn’t have a baby for another week and a half. Ha! The joke was on me!

The contractions came and went for the next week. Sometimes painful, sometimes not at all, and never developing into a pattern that lasted for longer than an hour. It was emotionally exhausting and disappointing and I went through waves of feeling patient to let my body do what it needed to do, and grateful that I was contracting at all, and then to frustrated that it seemed like an engine that was stalled, and back again. I walked and walked and bounced and “curb walked” the step down into our family room, drank all the red raspberry leaf tea in the world and did all the things.

My doctor scheduled an ultrasound for our next appointment, because it would be 40.5, just to make sure Baby was doing well in there. I really didn’t want to make it to this appointment - not just because I was ready to meet our baby, but because paying for yet another ultrasound seemed silly and unnecessary. After the membrane sweep at 39, I was sure we wouldn’t have that ultrasound.. but somehow the days kept creeping by and I was (miraculously?) still pregnant.

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I was due on Labor Day, September 3rd, and it was such a sweet day. We walked Opry Mills as a family together and ate hot chicken at Donelson’s newest restaurant, Party Fowl. I felt so at peace and patient that day, soaking in my big round belly and all the squirms and stretches from our little one inside of me. Amelia’s birthday was the next day, so I wrapped her gifts and bought cinnamon rolls for breakfast and really breathed in the simplicity of just being a family of four.

That night the contractions started yet again. This time, they seemed to be following a pattern and definitely intensifying. I tried to stay calm and just see what happened but it was hard not to get excited! For an hour they were about seven minutes apart, and then slowly became closer until they were about six minutes apart. They still varied in intensity, but were stronger than what my Braxton Hicks usually felt like. It was midnight at that point and I was exhausted, so I figured if I went to sleep and it was truly labor - I’d wake up and know. The contractions were still manageable enough to sleep through them, so I fell asleep quickly. Around 1:30am I bolted awake in pain from a really strong contraction and immediately grabbed my phone to start timing them. I only timed for about twenty minutes, but they were almost exactly five minutes apart and still manageable pain wise, but very strong. I definitely had to breathe through them. I woke Logan up and we decided to call the OB on call just to see what they thought. Since I was so dilated, and Bettye’s labor took an hour and a half from first contraction to birth, I was nervous to wait too long to leave. When I finally got him on the line, I asked if we should keep timing or go ahead and go in and he suggested we go on in just in case, since I was so dilated already.

We called Logan’s parents and packed our last minute things and for some reason I was feeling nervous instead of excited at this point. I walked into our kitchen to write my mother-in-law a note about the cinnamon rolls and the gifts for Amelia sitting on the island caught my attention. My eyes immediately filled with tears as I realized we wouldn’t be here when she woke up on her birthday - and while I REALLY wanted the baby to share a birthday with Amelia (my sister and I share a birthday), I was overcome with guilt that I would miss the whole day with her. As soon as I had this realization, my contractions started spacing out. Logan’s parents arrived just a couple minutes later, so unsure of what to do we still got in the car and headed to the OB ER at Centennial. I told Logan a couple times that I felt like my contractions had spaced out, but we’d see what they said.

By the time we arrived and got to a triage room, my contractions were back to 8 minutes apart and not very strong at all. I was 4cm and 80% effaced, so I’d still made some progress in terms of dilating, but I was definitely not in active labor. The OB there asked if we were interested in being induced or having labor augmented while we were there (since I was already 4cm), and Logan and I discussed it but I was so sure I’d go into labor on my own if we waited, and I couldn’t bring myself to CHOOSE for the baby to be born on Amelia’s birthday. So we left to return home and I sobbed the whole way. I felt so silly, but also relieved we’d be there for Amelia to wake up to, and also frustrated that yet again it seemed by body had stalled. I was exhausted and defeated.

A couple of days later was my 40.5 week appointment, complete with ultrasound. The baby looked perfectly healthy as did fluid levels and my placenta. My sister’s wedding was a week and a half away (I was the Matron of Honor) and Logan and I assumed my doctor would want to schedule an induction for 41 weeks at the latest, so we’d discussed our ideal day for that. Much to my surprise, she actually was comfortable letting me wait another week to schedule an induction (41.5 weeks), but at that point I would be three days out from the wedding and it all seemed like too much at once. I also carried Amelia to 42+1 and I was not interested in doing that again. It was a Thursday, and generally inductions aren’t scheduled on the weekend because what doctor wants to come in when they could wait until Monday and do it then? We had decided Monday would be a good day if we couldn’t do it on the weekend, since it would give me a little more time to go into labor on my own hopefully - and I’d be right at 41 weeks… albeit uncomfortably close to the wedding. But when we asked about a weekend induction, my doctor said she was actually the on-call doctor that weekend so she’d be at the hospital all weekend anyway, and she was happy to induce us on Saturday morning - which was our ideal date! I would be 40+5 and it would give me about 30 hours to see if another membrane sweep got me into labor before inducing. I felt a lot of peace with that timing.

She felt sure that should I still need to be induced, just breaking my water would be enough to start labor and we may not need Pitocin at all. This sounded WONDERFUL to me, since I wanted to go natural again like I did with Bettye, but obviously didn’t want to do it with Pitocin like I did with her. So we planned to go in early Saturday morning for her to break my water, if I hadn’t gone into labor by then.

I had fewer contractions after the second membrane sweep, but started spotting all day on Friday (I’d lost my mucus plug twice already - ha!) so I thought maybe, just maybe, we still had a chance at spontaneous labor, but at that point I felt fine about our plan. We took the girls to Logan’s parents’ house and spent that Friday evening together. Honestly, I’m such a planner, it’s been really nice that for every birth Logan and I got a really sweet date night the night before, and time to prepare our hearts and minds for the birth of our babies. We ate at Chuy’s and walked around Opry Mills (two miles!) looking for a pair of Adidas tennis shoes I had a dream about and really wanted (ha), but we never could find them in my size. It’s such a sweet memory - just like the dates we had before the birth of our girls. I’m so grateful for that.

Then we headed home to tie up a few loose ends, tidy the house, pack our last minute things, and got in bed…

Continued in Chip’s Birthday: It’s a Boy!

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...

Kroger Wisdom

I spent the better part of my afternoon today trying to relearn how to successfully coupon. I want so desperately to save our family money where I can, and I hear all these crazy stories from friends (people I really know!) of getting $300 worth of groceries for like $86. It has to be possible.. right?!

This rabbit hole stemmed from a quiet panic that has been rising within me all month. It happens every month. About this time.. after the bills have been paid, we've used up most of our budget categories, and I see the bank account getting lower and lower, I just begin to slowly self-destruct. I start feeling like a burden to my husband, I start googling job openings in Nashville, and then.. I recommit myself to couponing. As if this will solve all of our problems. Ha!

The reality is, our finances are fine. Logan makes plenty to allow me to stay home, and we never struggle to "make ends meet," but ever since I closed the retail portion of my business (read: the part that made the *relative* big bucks), I wring my hands over every tiny purchase and stress as the money - that's been carefully budgeted and responsibly dealt with - gets spent. I feel an obligation to save our family money, since I'm not making our family money.

All of this to say, I found a cheap recipe that sounded good for dinner and had to pick up a few things at Kroger before I do our real grocery shopping later this week. Naturally, "a few things" turned into $40 worth of groceries and I left with a pit in my stomach. Did I spend that money wisely? Were those items that weren't on the list really necessary? Is milk necessary? Did I find the best deal?

As I'm running through these questions in my head, trying to stave off the guilt of making the bank account drain a little more and remind myself of the reality that we have to eat, I turn out of the parking lot behind an 18-wheeler Kroger truck that was leaving the store as well, and on the back of the trailer, someone had taken a Sharpie and written "TRUST JESUS" almost unnoticeably in the bottom right corner. Exactly in my line of sight.

The swirling thoughts immediately fell to the ground. Trust Jesus.

Money. Groceries. Saving saving saving. Working. Staying home. Trust. Jesus.

What sweet relief washed over me at the sight of those words. In Jesus, my hope is found. Not in coupons or bank accounts or salaries. It's in Jesus.

I've questioned my decision to be a stay at home mom hundreds of times, and continue to, mostly for financial reasons and because sometimes I wonder if I was really cut out to play this role - and today was the first day that I realized that instead of viewing my current situation as something upon which to improve, maybe I should just look at it as a sacrifice. I do want to be home with my children, putting them down for naps and feeding them and watching them learn instead of letting someone else do that. I'm selfish for those moments and responsibilities. Instead of viewing this decision as something that holds me back from allowing our family to live more comfortably, or fulfilling a deeper desire in my own mental space, maybe I should view it as a worthy cause that also happens to bring some sacrifice with it. What a beautiful thing to sacrifice a "more comfortable" life in exchange for all those precious moments and memories. And maybe in a different season, it will be time to go back to work, and that will be beautiful too.

This realization came just hours before the Kroger wisdom.

Trust Jesus. It's like nothing else mattered suddenly. Just Jesus. 

 

 

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