Abby’s Fourth Birthday

This month, Abby turned four.

So let me tell you all who our Abby-girl is.  She is the most enthusiastic, life-loving little girl I’ve ever known.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again and again for the rest of our lives, but Abby is an extremist. When she’s happy, she beams.  When she’s disappointed, the world IS ending.  Her meltdowns are epic.  Her naps are deep.  And when she wants to be loud, she’ll hurt your ear drums.

Abby had to get some shots recently.  Imagine a small room in a doctor’s office.  Abby is curled up on my lap with tears in her eyes.  Lydia is sitting next to us, covering her ears and singing (loudly) a made-up song about how everything is going to be ok.  The nurse is quietly singing Abby a little song about what she’s doing.  It’s not actually time for the shot yet, but Abby is curled up tightly on my lap, clutching her favorite stuffed pig in one hand, and screaming at the top of her lungs.  She continues to scream, even when I tell her it’s not time yet, until the “pokes” are done.  But, the moment Abby was done, she had a sweet little smile once again, tears in her eyes, and was proudly clutching her new stickers as if she had just won a medal.

Abby appreciates food.  One morning she greeted me by asking, “Where’s Daddy?  What’s for dessert?”  Her favorite foods are hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and ice cream.  In fact, we let her pick out one meal for her birthday and she waffled between these choices for about a week.  But all hope is not lost for her future dietary choices.  When Abby doesn’t like the meal I make, she’ll happily ask for three bowls of salad instead.

Abby receives compliments like a pro.  You know how some (many) people shrug off compliments because they’re humble or don’t know how to respond?  Not Abby.  If you tell her you like her dress or that she has pretty eyes, she’ll look up at you with sparkling eyes, a closed-mouth grin, and big cheeks in a way that will make you either compliment her more or try not to giggle.  She’s just that cute.  Dan and I took her to a toy store to let her look around and see what she might like for her birthday.  The conclusion: anything.  Just getting a gift makes Abby’s day and she’ll keep that gift with her all day, whether it’s a sticker, sunglasses, stuffed animal, face paint, tiara…you get the idea.  It was so cute on her birthday to watch her reactions when we sung her, “Happy birthday”, and it was even more adorable to hear her later in a different room singing to herself, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…”

Lydia and Abby are your typical young sisters.  They often don’t get along.  But within the past few months they’ve surprised me.  There are moments of every day when they can play happily together.  They get so caught up in their make-believe worlds and later come to tell me all the stories of what they’ve done.  Usually Lydia is the one in charge, deciding what they play and who’s who.  Abby is usually the princess, bride, or ballerina, and Lydia is the one doing Abby’s hair, picking out her clothes, and putting pretend makeup on her.  Abby also often “has a new baby” and Lydia is Abby’s doctor.

Abby gives the best hugs.  We call them Abby-hugs.  She squeezes tighter and tighter with impressive strength.  And, though her hugs are wonderful, she is less of a snuggler than her sister.  But she is more of a wrestler.  Dan likes to play-wrestle with the girls, but I usually sit out, so whenever a family comes over to our house, Abby wants to know if the dad will wrestle her.  If he’s not big on wrestling, she’ll go for tickling instead.

While Lydia learns things in big jumps, Abby is more of a slow-and-steady-type learner, but what stands out in her is her ability to love.  Since Dan and I tend to be pretty academic people, this has really made an impression on me.  I’ve seen that a person’s love can win you over.  In times when I’ve been overwhelmed and crying, Abby would approach me and ask, even when she didn’t have many words, “Mommy, why are you leaking?”  She’ll tell me now that she doesn’t like it when I’m sad or angry, and if I am she’ll ask, “When will you be happy again?”  She’ll stay by my side until I assure her that I’m doing well again and then she’ll run off to go play some more princess.

Seven Years!

Today Dan and I get to remember this day:

And celebrate the seven years we’ve had together since that day. Each year I put together a slideshow of pictures from our wedding, past anniversaries, and the latest year together. We always enjoy looking back on what we’ve gone through in a year (and six others!) of marriage.

Happy Anniversary Dan! I love you!

This Crazy Kiddo

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Lydia turned six at the end of May. She had been counting down to her birthday for over three months. Several days each week she would update us on what she wanted to do for her birthday, who she wanted to have over, and what presents she wanted to receive. When the birthday weekend finally arrived, we had a lot of birthday and start-of-summer fun. We took her to a toy store to pick out a toy to buy with her birthday money, got ice cream and pizza, and spent much of her actual birthday at the playground. She constantly reminded us to sing and say “Happy Birthday” and begged me to make her a “birthday balloon” (a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it). She got pink roses from Dan and went on her second-ever Daddy-daughter-birthday date.

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Lydia has also been asking regularly if it’s warm enough to play in the sprinkler or go to a pool. Since the first day of spring, it’s been hard to keep socks or shoes on her feet, not to mention a coat. She loves playing “house” outside and is so proud that this year she’s big enough to climb into our tree house all by herself.

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Lydia loves to play pretend, dance, and snuggle. She is always dressing up as a bride or asking to “play princess” with Dan, which is not exactly his favorite game. 😉 She loves any hands-on activities and anything “special”. Bridal showers, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers are sure to put her on her best behavior because she’s just so happy. When she learns it’s a significant day, for any reason, she’ll wonder why we aren’t celebrating more. For example, she asked why we weren’t having a fancy breakfast or a special dessert for groundhog’s day.

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Kindergarten was a breeze for Lydia. Thankfully (for me) she picks up on things really fast. Really, the best way to teach Lydia is to not teach her but let her watch others do the task. When she gets it in her head that she wants to try, she usually can succeed. This has worked well with laundry, cleaning up after meals, serving food, and even math lessons. I can get her to learn a lot more by doing a lesson half myself and letting her do the other half, than if I explain a concept to her and ask her to do the assignment alone.

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Gift-giving might be Lydia’s top love language. She loves to make “gifts” for people – homemade construction paper cards, simple cross-stitch pictures, cut out pieces of paper, and bouquets of flowers (dandelions or violets, usually) picked from our yard. She also loves receiving gifts. When she was struggling to do her reading lessons with a cheerful attitude, we discovered small prizes work wonders to get her motivated. And now that our library has started their summer reading program, Lydia has been reading at least a book a day to win her prizes, when it was always a struggle to do a page or two in her reading lesson book.

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She’s always been our most verbal child, so it’s no surprise that Lydia is almost always talking. If we had the patience and knowledge to answer all of her questions, she would be a genius. On ANY topic, Lydia can rattle off 5 questions without taking a break. Usually her trains of questions come to an halt whenever Mom or Dad have to ask for a break so we can focus on something or give attention to someone else. Lydia also has a very good memory. She has memorized over 100 Bible verses (with desserts as the most effective incentive). The other day we were listening to our daily news radio program during breakfast and one of their regular promo segments started playing. She recited the 30 second promo pretty well right on top of the program.

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This year is Lydia’s turn to accompany me to our church Ladies’ Retreat for a Mommy-Daugther date and she’s pretty thrilled. She’s been looking forward to her turn ever since I took Abby last year. Her memory is pretty incredible in that way too. For example, about nine months ago we took Lydia to a dentist appointment. They told her that she would earn a stuffed animal prize if she could stop sucking her thumb for 30 days. She stopped that very day. Last month I took her again and she got her prize. The next day I found her sucking her thumb after eight months without it! Dan and I had to explain that the point was to stop altogether, not just stop for eight months to earn her prize and then start again.

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Some of my most precious memories of Lydia lately have been our one-on-one times together. Sometimes Lydia will snuggle up next to me during nap time and play with my hair while she listens to an audio book. Occasionally Lydia helps me cook dinner, peeling carrots or stirring vegetables as they cook (that’s her favorite because she feels so grown up working at the stove). I try to remember to give her snuggles, hugs, and tickles whenever my hands are free because my hands are so often full, I’ll go days without a Lydia hug if I’m not intensional. (Don’t worry about her being deprived though, Dan picks up the slack. Lydia is quite gifted at sneaking into his lap whether he says it’s ok or not!)

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Little Man Turns Two

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It’s hard to believe Paul is already two years old. He is. And, when he’s not being shy, he’ll tell you he is.

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“How old are you Paul?”

“TWO!”, he’ll answer with a grin as he holds out his thumb and pointer finger to show you.

It’s cute. He is adorable. And he had a really great birthday.

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Before Paul was born, Dan and I joked that we needed a boy. Our girls like their snuggles from Daddy. Several months ago, there was so much fighting over who would sit on Daddy’s lap during Bible time, we had to set up a schedule. So Dan and I would joke that we needed a boy who wouldn’t need the snuggles from Daddy, a boy who would snuggle Mom instead. And do you know what? Paul is the snuggliest little two-year-old I’ve ever met. He wants Mommy to hold him during every meal, whenever he’s tired, and whenever he’s unsure about something. Paul is incredibly sweet and loves to help. Lately he’s enjoyed taking his bib off, bringing it into the kitchen, and throwing it into the sink. He usually does so in the middle of a meal, but it’s still adorable. He also likes to help with laundry, by pushing the wet clothes into the dryer as I put them down on the dryer door. Then he slams the door shut, usually before I’m done. He also likes to shut the dishwasher for me, while I’m still loading it. 😀

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Paul also likes to help set and clear the table. He’ll spot a condiment in the fridge and put in on the table and then come back for more. He’s choices don’t often match the meal (mustard when we’re having tacos, for example). When the meal is done and the girls are delaying as much as they can before clearing their dishes, Paul will walk back and forth, grabbing whatever is left on the table, and throwing it into the sink or trash (not always the right one).

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He’s also a Little Rascal. He’s cute and he knows it. He’s not afraid to cock his head to the side and give you his sweet “emoji” grin when he’s up to no good. He loves to wrestle, but doesn’t like to lose, and isn’t too old to run to Mom for a hug when he doesn’t win. He loves balls and bats, and toys or pictures of animals that growl. (He likes to growl.) Paul loves to be outside and will often grab his shoes and point to the coat closet to tell you he wants out, but he hates the cold and will stay inside whenever it’s below freezing.

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Like Abby, Paul has been slower to start talking. Recently we started using sign language for some basic words at meals and he’s picked up on those pretty well. Even more recently he has started picking up more words and putting words together. Here are some recent favorites:

Bible/Baseball – “Bay-Bul”
“No”
“Coat”
“Bye Nana” (after I got off the phone with my Mom the other day)
“Night Daddy”
“Thank You”
“Hold” (me)
Elijah John – “Lijah John”
Lydia – “Lee-ya”
“Car”
“Nose” (He finds it hilarious to say “nose” and point to your nose.)
OK Google – “Okay Gool” (which he says into my phone whenever he can get his hands on it)

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Paul loves being a big brother and hasn’t had much trouble adjusting, but sometimes he gets jealous if he sees me holding Elijah (or anyone else) when he wants to be held. Overall he is a great older brother who loves his siblings, snuggles his Mommy, and wants to be just like his Daddy.

We love you Little Man! Happy Second Birthday!

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Taylor Christmas Letter 2016

Well, my Friends, I am back again for anther edition of the Taylor Family Christmas Letter. For those of you just tuning in, I am the much Beloved Christmas Moose, back again to update you on the Taylor Family Happenings from this memorable year. Ready? Here we go…

(The pictures you will see were all taken from the Taylors’ afternoon-long, pathetic attempt at a family picture. I say pathetic because they did not get one successful shot, and because they accidentally pointed the camera too low to include me. I was on top of the fireplace mantel. Ah well. Family pictures with four Little Ones are literally impossible.)

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Would you believe I woke up to meet another little Moose-calf in the Taylor household? They never even told me they were expecting! But out I come, out of my box in the closet to join the family in putting up Christmas decorations, and there was the most adorable little Baby just nestled up in Justine’s arms! If you’ve seen pictures, maybe caught a glimpse of the Little Guy snuggled up and sleeping…you have seen nothing. He is SO cute. Just wait until you see him with his little eyes open wide. Adorable.

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Along with writing a traditional Christmas letter, this year I have been delegated with the task of including an update of Elijah’s first month, because yesterday was indeed his first month birthday. Lij, as the family most frequently calls him (pronounced as the middle portion of E-Lij-ah) was born on November 20, bright and early. He flew through his tests and procedures and was happily discharged and sent home two days later, November 22, two days before Thanksgiving and four days before I came out of my box (Yes, they got me out a day late this year). However, Taylors like to break the medical odds and in true Taylor fashion, Lij tested positive for borderline congenital hypothyroidism. It sounds worse than it is. While hypothyroidism (low activity of the thyroid gland) can be very serious, Elijah has a very mild case and is already taking special medicine to keep everything right where it needs to be. As long as he takes his medicine, like the good baby he is, he shouldn’t have any symptoms.

Elijah weighed five pounds and eleven ounces when he was born, and at his latest appointment was up to six pounds, ten ounces. The first couple of weeks were slow going because he was just too sleepy to eat very much. Most parents want their babies to sleep more. Justine was trying earnestly to wake him up. Elijah even sleeps at night, much to Dan and Justine’s surprise and delight. Sure, he gets up every 1-3 hours, but three out of every four nights he’ll go right back to sleep after a diaper change or a snack. He is a content Little Boy and everybody in the home loves snuggling him.

And, I might be speaking too early, but as I was writing this update I saw the Little Guy roll over for the very first time. (Although he was sort of on his side to begin with.) Way to go Little Man!

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Well, as adorable as Elijah is, I just can’t spend my whole time writing about him. Next up is P-Man. That is: Bud, Buster, Buddy, Butch, Butchems, Butchcake, Stinker, Rascal. Paul. He’s a cutie too, and always up to something. This year Paul set a new record for the family by taking his first steps at 16 months old. He spoke his very first words during one of Dan’s softball games this spring, “Hi Daddy!”. Aww. Some of his other words are: baseball, Mama, Daddy, baby, Leeya (Lydia), Lijah, no, and sock. He loves wearing his shoes everywhere he goes, except in the car, where he loves to take them off. He still needs two naps a day, sucks his fingers when he gets sleepy, and enjoys being held by his Mommy. He loves to be outside in the warm weather and hates being outside when it’s cold. He will hold his little brother and give him kisses and sing him songs. He absolutely loves to wrestle anyone, but especially his Dad. Recently he found the drawer where Justine keeps her oven mitts, and now he likes to dig those out and put them on before finding Dan and punching his legs. He is all boy and super sweet all at the same time.

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Then there’s Abigail. Abby, Abster, Abs. She’s a little fireball and whatever she does she does ALL THE WAY. If she’s happy, she’s irresistibly sweet. If she’s angry, everyone from here to Detroit knows about it. She doesn’t let her big sister push her around. They are the very best of friends, even if they don’t realize it yet. Together they love to play house, wedding, and princesses. Lydia is always the bride or bridesmaid and Abby is the “Wedding Girl” (we don’t know what that is yet). She is three, but if you hold up your three middle fingers she will tell you that she is not that three. She is the pinky-ring finger-middle finger three. Abby always calls Paul by his nick-name “P-man”. She thinks Elijah is “so, so cute”. She likes to do school with Lydia, which involves coloring in a coloring book or tracing in her special tracing book which she calls her “cat book” because of the cat on the cover. She is learning that napkins are not called “Backins”, but she still calls toilet paper “paper toilet”. Abby is funny and sweet and learning and growing a lot this year.

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Lydia (Lyds, Lydnacious, Munchkin) started school this year and loves it. Her favorite parts are probably math and art, but everything else comes in a close second. Lydia is almost always pretending: pretending to be a mom, pretending to be a grown up with a sister that she is always visiting, pretending to be a princess, or pretending to get married (to Dan). She is incredibly creative with her outfits (regular or dress up) and becoming more and more aware of what she likes and doesn’t like. Today she was sharing her list of foods she doesn’t like (spicy peppers, onions, celery, mushrooms, and sort of baby carrots) and does (tomatoes, cucumbers, burgers, pizza, cheesy noodles, ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, and chocolate). If you ever are lonely, you could use a Lydia in your life. She loves to be together, loves to snuggle, and can always find something to talk about with lots of questions included. She has an insatiable desire to play with her Daddy; read stories; and, at Christmas time, make tea, turn off the lights, and snuggle in the living room by the Christmas tree. She is quick to love, quick to forgive, and learning how to be a Big Helper to her Mommy and a Loving Sister to all three of her siblings.

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Justine has her hands full this year, as strangers love to tell her. She likes to think that full hands and full days make for a full heart, and she has been basking in the joy of it all this Christmas. This summer felt like one big, long wait for Baby. Now that he is here, Justine is soaking up his Little Newbornness as much as she can (while still taking care of the rest of the pack). She also loves teaching Lydia. All year she has focused on being a Good Mom and being grateful. She finally found a satisfying healthified toffee bar recipe, an accomplishment that can only be trumped by successfully taking all four kids to Elijah’s doctor’s appointment last week. (They are a handful!) Other than homeschool and Baby, the highlight of Justine’s year has been spending more one-on-one time with Dan. She, like Lydia, loves to spend time together.

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Dan started a new job working as an Artificial Intelligence Computer Scientist on the Autonomous Vehicle for GM this year. So far he has been enjoying the challenging problems at work, despite a longer commute and even earlier mornings. He still loves to work out in his (unheated) garage gym, even on the coldest and windiest winter days. This spring he joined several young men from church on a Softball team, and this summer he spent many Sunday afternoons playing baseball and soccer. Dan has also tackled several home repair projects this year including roofing his garage and rebuilding his old shed. He can’t wait until Paul and Elijah can tag along on his projects, in his gym, and on the baseball field.

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As for me, it was a good year snuggled up in my box. I have never had the privilege of seeing a Taylor Baby so freshly born, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, he sure is cute. The others are too, and even more so this year as more of them can say my name and give me hugs. I just love when they suck on my antlers.

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Well Friends, so wraps up another year for the Taylor Family. They, and I, wish you a blessed Christmas season and a very happy new year.

Yours Truly,

Christmas Moose.

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Elijah’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To read about the events leading up to Elijah’s birthday, click here.

At something like 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning on November 20, Dan and I were settled into our triage room waiting for my doctor to come remove my stitches so Baby could be born. My labors have all been pretty fast, and have gotten faster each time, so I was already doing the math in my head and expecting Baby to be born by about 9:00. But, I was also trying to just take things moment-by-moment, because I know nothing is guaranteed to go the way I expect during labor. I had read up, prayed a lot, and was prepared for a completely natural delivery, if possible.

The resident and hospital doctor came into our room to remove the stitches and I braced myself for an uncomfortable experience. (I had a cervical cerclage, or stitches to keep the cervix shut and hold Baby in longer, put in at around 13 weeks.) My doctor was not on call that night and his partner, whom I’d never met, wasn’t at the hospital yet. So my entire time in triage was with the hospital’s on-call doctor and the resident. They had had some trouble getting the stitches out with Paul, and it was a fairly painful experience. This time was much worse.

The resident started trying to get them out, but after several minutes, she gave up and asked the doctor to try. She couldn’t seem to find the stitches. The doctor sat down and started to try to get the stitches out, but she couldn’t find them either. So the two started tag-teaming, trying different tools, angles, and techniques. Thankfully, I wasn’t in too much pain from contractions yet, because the attempts to find the stitches were painful enough. I lay flat on my back, squeezing Dan’s hand tightly with my teeth clenched and eyes tightly shut.

Occasionally the doctor and resident would ask, “Do you want a break?” but I just wanted the stitches out, so I kept telling them to keep trying. I have no idea how long we were in that room, but it felt like a long time. At some point I started praying. Then I started praying more urgently, “Jesus, help them find the stitches…guide their hands…” It started to look like they were never going to find them, and I started to wonder what would happen if they didn’t. Would I have to have a c-section? Would I labor anyway and just tear right through the stitches? I was praying more frantically and feeling pretty desperate.

When I was feeling rather hopeless, urgently praying, suddenly the darkness of the inside of my eyelids seemed to be replaced by a glowing light and I was filled with peace and calm as some verses came to my mind. They weren’t actually verses that I have memorized so the words weren’t clear in my mind, but the idea was there…”When you pass through the waters, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” I was filled with trust. Jesus was taking care of me. Then I heard the doctor and resident and felt the pain again and everything was dark and painful and desperate all over again. And I prayed and again the darkness melted away and I remembered those words, “The waters will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Calm washed over me again.

Just a couple of minutes later, the doctor declared that she had successfully removed the stitches! There were still buttons in there somewhere, stuck in the scar tissue, but the stitches were removed. (The stitches were tied through a button so that they would be easier to find and cut out. Instead, the buttons got lost and the stitches were very hard to find!) As soon as everyone left the room, I asked Dan to find the passage that had come to my mind. He found it and read it to me:

Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you.”

Soon we were allowed out of triage (I have no idea what time it was by now) and headed to labor and delivery. We were shown to our room and once there we let everyone know what kind of labor I was intending on having (since we had already been offered pain medicine once or twice). My birth plan was pretty short:

I would like to have as natural of a labor and delivery as possible.
If possible I do not want an IV.
I know that pain medication is available and will ask for it if I want it.
If possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

Our nurse was sweet. She got me all hooked up to monitors and assured me I could have a natural delivery. Then someone told me I had to get the betamethasone steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. I assured them I had already gotten both doses, but they insisted. New research has shown that it can help if Baby gets it right before delivery, any baby born before 37 weeks. Now, that shot takes 24 hours to be fully effective, and 48 hours for two doses to be fully effective. We thought it was silly, knowing how fast my labors are. But we also felt like we were in a position where we would be terrible parents to say, “No”. So, I got that painful shot during labor again. (My doctor later told me that I could have declined, knowing the shot was pretty much useless in that amount of time anyway).

After the shot I was allowed to labor as I wanted. I lay down on my side, shut my eyes, and tried to relax through the contractions. Dan was at a loss as to how he could help and kept asking if I was ok. “I’m relaxing!”, I insisted, “it’s part of my method”. Eventually I couldn’t just relax anymore, so I got up on my knees and leaned against the top of the bed. The nurse offered me a big bean bag to lean up against, and that really helped. By now my contractions were really intense, sometimes coming on top of each other. Dan tried rubbing my back or pushing on my hips to help and I actually swatted him away, thinking, “you’re doing it wrong!”. I’ve always wanted Dan near me and helping me during labor, so I KNEW I was in transition and Baby would be coming soon. I also started to feel like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but after a couple difficult trips back and forth, I knew it was just the pressure from Baby moving down lower.

When I started moaning more and more loudly through the contractions, Dan and I knew it was time for them to check me. I was a little nervous, not wanted to hear I was only dilated to four. But I was also confident that I was in transition and Baby was coming fast. They told me I was dilated to “six or seven” and I clearly remember thinking, “Whatever. That baby is coming soon.”

I hit the peak of transition and thought, “If this goes on much longer, I can’t do it”. I was moaning so loudly that I heard the nurse saying, “Stay with us Justine!” If I remember correctly, Dan was expressing some concern that, “They’d better get in here!” Then I felt Baby moving down fast and pressure to push. I started yelling (how else could I tell them Baby was coming?). The nurse knew instantly that I was starting to push and she got right up near my face and asked, “Did the contraction stop?” I frantically shook my head no and she told me I had to turn over onto my back during the contraction. This seemed cruel and almost impossible to me at the time, but I was also in a state where I would do whatever I was told. I managed to roll over onto my back and the contraction just kept going.

I was concerned about tearing, and I knew it could be good to stop pushing and wait even if it hurt. I was preparing for that moment, but everything was happening so fast. The next thing I remember was feeling the most intense pushing contraction and the nurse demanding my attention. It took every ounce of will-power to not push and instead listen and obey what the nurse was trying to say, so I opened my eyes wide and looked right into hers. Later Dan told me he would never forget the face I made. He said my eyeballs were almost outside of my head and I looked completely crazy.

The nurse told me to let go of Dan’s hand (I wasn’t even aware I was holding it) and bend my right leg and wait to push. I did. It seems like there were about five people all crowded around me at that point and that a couple of them started telling me to go ahead and push. I have no idea if I was having a contraction or not, but I pushed and then I heard Dan say, “Justine! Look!” I looked down and there was my baby! Well, there was the top half of my baby. I heard one of the ladies there (A nurse? Or doctor? Or pediatrician?) say something like, “What do we have?” and in the next moment someone declared, “It’s a boy!” and scooped him up and put him right up on my chest.

Dan and I both thought it was a girl (again). And I had really wanted a boy. So I was relieved and thrilled and so happy I could cry. They were about to clamp the cord when Dan jumped in and asked if they could wait. They said that was fine, and waited until the cord stopped pulsing to clamp it. (From what I understand, the baby gets more blood if you wait to clamp the cord. Since all of our children have been anemic at some point during their first years, this was important to us.) They left Little Elijah snuggled up on me for the next 45 minutes.

Then my Doctor’s partner came in (he missed the delivery, but I guess I really only did push once or twice). He sat down with the resident and they spent the next half hour or more digging around looking for those long-lost buttons. They finally found them, after a miserable search, lots of hand squeezing with Dan, and lots of sympathy from the nurses. They had to cut them out of scar tissue in the cervix and then stitch up the cervix and a second degree tear.

However, I snuggled my Baby that whole time before they took him away to weigh him and clean him off. He weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. He was born at 8:38 in the morning, just 5 hours and 23 minutes after my water broke.

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It took a while to settle on his name, even though we had pretty much picked it out when he was only about 14 weeks along (that’s another story). But soon enough we announced it: Elijah John, and we were transferred to the Mother-Baby room to enjoy the first couple of days with our new baby.

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Later in the morning, the kids came to visit and meet their new Baby Brother. Lydia very sweetly brought a stuffed lamb for Elijah to sleep with, in fact, the stuffed lamb my mom gave her before she was even born (we told her that wasn’t allowed, but kept the lamb where Elijah could see it.)

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It was sweet to see the kids together, but I especially enjoyed watching Paul react to his new brother. He loves him already, and even though he doesn’t have a lot of words, we’ve heard him say, “Baby” and “Lijah” and sometimes he gives Elijah kisses.

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Like Paul, Elijah got to be held almost non-stop in the hospital. It’s a privilege we just didn’t get to have with the girls.

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And after two (sleepless) nights in the hospital, we got to take Elijah home!

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The Days Before Elijah

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

Since my last update was way back in October, I’ll have to back up a little before I actually tell Elijah’s birth story.

I had been having contractions off and on starting at about 30 weeks. So, for several weeks I was constantly on my toes thinking, “Is Baby going to come today?” However, I had had contractions off and on for a couple weeks with Paul and we didn’t want to put everything on hold just because I was having a few contractions that might be nothing. So I took it easy when I could, but we kept enjoying fall and preparing for Baby. We went apple picking, took the kids to a cider mill, bought pumpkins, and watched some world series games at Dan’s parents’ home.

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We got our car seat, packed the hospital bag, and set up the bassinet. One by one we were checking items off our “to-do before Baby” lists. I even had a verse picked out that I thought I would be using a lot to get through labor:

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exalts, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The one last project we wanted to finish before Baby came was repairing our shed. The shed in our back yard was a mess: dirty and rotting. Early in November, Dan started repairing it, knowing that once Baby and/or Thanksgiving hit, we’d be busy and it would get too cold to work on it anymore. We really wanted it done so we could clear out some space in the garage to park the car this winter.

Just before I hit 35 weeks, I woke up one night with pain in my belly. It was, I think, pain from stretching, and I had experience the same sensation about a week before Paul was born. I knew our time was running out, even though I hadn’t hit 35 weeks yet. I got up and headed downstairs where I could try to relax on our exercise ball until the pain would go away. As I leaned on the ball, I started to worry about Baby.

When was the last time I felt him kick?

I couldn’t remember feeling any movement all day.

What if he didn’t have enough amniotic fluid?

What if the umbilical cord was knotted or compressed?

Before long I was a basket case of worry and could hardly think clearly enough to pray. But I did pray and as I did, I felt led to read my labor verse, and the rest of the chapter. (If you want you can go read Psalms 28. It’s not too long). What stood out to me as I read it that night was that God had heard the cry of the Psalmist:

“He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy….The LORD…is the saving refuge of his anointed…Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”

I felt assured in my heart that God had heard my prayers and that Baby was going to be safe. I gratefully turned off the lights and went back to bed. As I lay down to go back to sleep, I felt Baby kick and I fell asleep with a song in my heart.

The next week Dan attacked that shed with all his energy. But, on Monday morning (the day I reached 35 weeks, and the day Paul was born) I could feel pressure from the stitches in the cervix pulling.

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Tuesday I had an appointment and my doctor told me the cervix had shortened right up to the stitches and that I should come in if I had any more strong contractions. In that case, he would remove the stitches to prevent their tearing as the cervix tried to dilate.

The rest of the week was a race to finish the shed. Meanwhile, I didn’t have any strong contractions, but I had very steady weak contractions. I was in a dilemma about whether to go in, knowing that they would probably remove the stitches and Baby would probably be born. I was trying to wait for Dan to finish the shed, and trying to give Baby just a few more days. We started to pray that it would be clear when we needed to go in, that something would be an obvious sign that it was time to get the stitches out, or that my water would break like it had with all my other babies. The stitches were pulling more and more and the contractions kept coming.

Friday night, we took the kids out to eat (a reward for Lydia when she learned another Bible verse) and Dan and I chatted about what to do. He had finished the roof on the shed, but still had a lot more work to do. I was worried about the stitches. Dan kept assuring me that he wanted me to go in when I felt like I needed to, but I just didn’t know if I needed to or if I was being anxious for nothing. We prayerfully decided to try to wait until Monday morning (36 weeks), then call my doctor and ask if we should just get the stitches out. Dan even planned on taking the day off work so he could be there for whatever happened.

Saturday was a hard day for me. I was trying to stay off my feet, but I was also watching the kids while Dan and his Dad attacked that shed some more. The day was long. The hours dragged by, but Dan made really good progress and we both felt satisfied that night. Dan had finally knocked the bulk of the work off the shed and I only had to make it 36 more hours before calling the doctor.

Dan was exhausted from working out in the cold all day, and I was eager to get to bed just so it would be the next day, so we prayed again for Baby and for a clear sign if we needed to go in earlier than Monday, and then we went to sleep.

At 3:15 I woke up on my feet, running to the bathroom. I was still only half awake when I got there and it took me a minute to evaluate whether I had just wet the bed or if my water broke. This is the third time my water broke while I was sleeping, so it didn’t take me long to realize that was what had happened. I felt overjoyed that God had answered our prayers again by giving us an obvious sign to go to the hospital before Monday morning, and also that Dan had just barely made all that progress on the shed.

Because it was the middle of the night and I knew Dan would be exhausted, I waddled downstairs to make him some coffee for the long night ahead. At 3:30 I woke him up, “Dan…my water broke.” He got up pretty quick, despite how tired he was, and started making calls to find a babysitter. The first two people on our list didn’t work out, but the third had just called me that afternoon to remind us that she could watch our kids whenever I went into labor. It was so neat how God worked that out so we felt it was ok to call her even in the middle of the night. After we called, she told us that she had woken up at 3:30 and was just wide awake thinking, “I wonder why I’m so awake!” Just a few minutes later she got our call.

By 4:00 we were in the car, on the way to the hospital. Soon we were in triage, where the hospital doctor on call and the resident sat down to remove the stitches that had been bothering me all week, but that had done a good job keeping Baby in for a new record: 35 weeks and 6 days.

To be continued…

Baby #4: 32 and 1/2 Weeks

I am so happy to be passed the 32 week mark! Last weekend I was utterly convinced Baby was going to be born before Monday (the day I hit 32). It was purely psychological, apart from a few random contractions, and I made it to Monday just fine, with Baby still in my belly. But let me back up a little…

Just before 31 weeks I started having some abdominal pain which I suspected to be related to contractions somehow. After two days of off and on pain, I started having clear contractions lasting about one minute, about five minutes apart. They never lasted long, so I didn’t expect Baby to come right away, but I was definitely concerned. This sort of thing started about a week and a half before Paul was born, and we weren’t hoping to have Baby come earlier than Paul.

At my last doctor’s appointment, a few days after contractions started, my doctor noticed some prelabor signs. Baby is head down, and his/her head is getting lower. There is also some effacement going on, probably from all those contractions. I’ve been taking it easy, more or less, as I have been for several weeks now. However, we aren’t putting our whole lives on hold this time. I’m still homeschooling Lydia and Dan is still at work all day. I just try to rest when I need to and avoid lifting heavy things as much as possible. I’m cooking the easiest meals I can think of and my 5-week meal plan (repeating the same few meals over and over), posted on the fridge and crossed off as each meal passes, has become my count down to Baby.

After the last ultrasound, the contractions stopped. About a week later I began to feel more pressure, but only occasionally. I’m guessing that has more to do with Baby’s position than anything else, so I just try to lie down when I notice it.

Meanwhile, we are getting excited to meet Baby! I’m only 17 days from the gestation when Paul was born, and less than five weeks from FULL TERM. I’ve finally packed my hospital bag. I wrote out a Birth Plan and stashed that in my purse along with my camera, so we’re not without either one no matter when Baby comes. We’ve lined up some babysitters for the kids too. So all I really have left to do is pack a bag for the kids and, when we get closer to 35 weeks, set up Baby’s bassinet.

I’m still craving almond milk, and have a cup every night. (We’re actually out right now, so I’m thinking the weekly Meijer run is happening tonight!) Other cravings come and go, nothing too major. My joints are all getting nice and loose, which makes it hard to sleep and lie down for very long. Between the joints and constant bathroom runs, I’m getting up several times a night some nights now. I’m trying to be disciplined to go to bed early, and I can tell my body needs the extra rest. When I’m not lying down I have an almost constant sore back, something new for me. My babies never got big enough for that before. 🙂 I’m not complaining though! A little sore back and trouble sleeping are far better than leaving Baby in the NICU every night!

I’ve mentioned this in my Instagram posts, but I’ll say it again here. It’s starting to sink in that there’s really going to be a Little Person coming home from the hospital soon. The pregnancy has been so full of medical stuff, praying, waiting, hoping, and taking it easy, that it’s not hard to forget that fact. Lately I’ve been thinking more about our names, imagining Baby and even having Baby dreams. Lydia is practically counting down the days too.

My next appointment is Tuesday, and soon we’ll be going every week for visits. I never know if I’ll have a chance to write another blog update, but mini updates will definitely be in my Instagram pictures. I so appreciate everyone who has been thinking of us and praying for us throughout the last weeks. God has been so kind and is, once again, answering our many prayers.