We Make Plans, God Laughs {A Birth Story}

I never meant for four months to pass before putting her story into words.  I think I've been avoiding it, waiting to feel a sense of peace and acceptance regarding the choices I made in the hours leading up to her birth, afraid that if I wrote honestly about my feelings surrounding my labor with Berkley, that she would read this years from now and mistake any disappointment toward my decisions and the process, as disappointment in her.  I was hoping I would be able to write about how my whole labor was filled with the same joy and love and beauty that were indeed so very present and overwhelming the moment I laid eyes on my sweet girl, because she is no less than perfect, she is everything I could have dreamed and more.  Perhaps writing honestly about my experience is in fact the only way I will come to accept it and release any regrets.

My due date was December 20 (according to the midwife) or December 18 (according to my OBGYN).  At my forty week appointment the doctor checked me.  I was dilated three centimeters.  I knew from experience that this meant nothing.  I could have a baby the next day or two weeks down the road.  My doctor offered to schedule an induction for the day after Christmas, but he knew my answer before I spoke the words, "I want to let the baby come on his/her own time.  I want to go into labor naturally and let my body do what it is designed to do."  So he told me that I would have to have a non-stress test and an ultrasound at forty-one weeks, and if the baby were still doing well I would be allowed to go to forty-two weeks, no longer.  So I scheduled my non-stress test and ultrasound for the day after Christmas.

On December 26, I dropped off my sweet Milani with her Grandma Andrea, knowing that there was a possibility that they could keep me at the hospital, that my girl would be a big sister before I saw her next.  Somewhere deep down perhaps I knew.  And it was so bittersweet to leave her, to know she might be spending her first night away from me, to know that things could be so very different when we would reunite.

I met Jon at the hospital and reported to our non-stress test.  I sat in the big recliner, with the monitors on my round belly and the clicker in my hand, ready to push the button with every kick and tumble.  My doctor was on call that day and stopped by to check on us.  "You know, we could just take you right upstairs and start the pitocin, just give me the word."  Jon was all for it.  Not only was he all for it, since we still hadn't agreed on a boy name (Jon had his favorite and I had mine) he actually told me that if I agreed to just go up get induced, he would give up all rights to any input on our boy name.  THIS WAS HUGE!  After forty-one weeks of debating and bickering and stressing out over boy names, all I had to do to get my boy name without any further resistance was agree to the induction.  But I didn't want it to go down that way, so I waited patiently in my recliner for the babykins to move.

My little one had different plans, and she only moved once in twenty minutes.  We failed our non-stress test.  This was typical though, I knew that this little one usually slept hard for a while, then would wake up and beat the crap out of my uterus for two hours straight.  Now any other day they would have fed me some orange juice and kept me hooked up for another twenty minutes, until the baby was out of the sleep cycle, but they were booked solid that day so I had to give up my chair and report to the ultrasound.

As I got ready for the ultrasound, the technician made small talk.  "You're forty-one weeks, why is it that you're not being induced?"  I tried to explain again how I wanted to trust my body to deliver a healthy baby when the time was right.  That when my cervix was ready and the baby was ready, a natural labor would be easiest on my body and the little one.  As she swirled the ultrasound wand over my belly, slimy with gel, she continued "You know, your doctor is the only one in the group who will even LET women go past forty-one weeks.  Every other doctor would make you induce now.  A long time ago they all used to go to forty-two weeks before inducing, but they've all decided to switch to forty-one, I guess they all felt that waiting that extra week was too big a risk."  She had my attention.  Even though I knew better, I asked for more details.  "Well, I don't want to scare you, but things can happen past forty-one weeks, I guess most doctors aren't comfortable with the risks.  I won't say any more than that." 

She told us that the baby looked healthy and that my fluid levels were good, but also that the fluid looked cloudy which could be a result of either the vernix wearing off or the presence of meconium, both signaling that the baby was ready.  I was sufficiently freaked out and totally on the fence about what to do.  I desperately wanted to trust my body and to experience an intervention free labor, but I didn't want to but the baby in harms way.  Then I made the biggest mistake.  I asked her what she would do if she were in my position.   Without hesitation, "I would be induced! Let me ask you this, knowing that your baby is healthy today, could you live with the decision to wait if something happened before you delivered?"  The room spun, and I lost my breath.  Her words fell like sand bags on my heart.  Heavy.  Grim.  The technician offered a suggestion, "What if I send you up to L&D for the doctor to check you.  That way if you're dilated further and it would be an easy induction you would know, but if you're not dilated further, you could go home and wait it out?" 

So we checked into labor and delivery, and I changed into a hospital gown, shoved all my clothes into a plastic baggie labeled "patient belongings", and slid under the crisp sheets of a hospital bed.  I was again hooked up to monitors, and was kept company by the steady thumping of my little one's heartbeat.  The baby was moving enough now to make the lines on the printout jump and wiggle.  When the doctor came in, I told him about how the ultrasound technician had terrified me with ideas of a still-birth at forty-two weeks.  He checked my cervix.  Still three centimeters.  And he offered me his input. "Do I think something will happen if you go home, probably not.  Do I know nothing will happen if you stay and get induced, absolutely.  I know you want a natural labor so let me offer you this, most women past forty weeks will start contracting and go into labor on their own once their water has broken.  What if we break your water, and you can walk the halls to help along some contractions and if all goes well hopefully we can have a nice, peaceful, pitocin free birth, today."

So I weighed the scenarios in my head.  1.) I could stay and potentially have an intervention free delivery, with my doctor who I know and like, and who knows me and what I want.  I could avoid the whole "could you live with yourself if you go home and your baby dies" guilt.  2.) I could go home, and trust my initial instinct, and go into labor on my own.  3.) I could go home, and trust my initial instinct, and not go into labor naturally before forty-two weeks and wind up being induced anyway, but with whichever doctor happened to be on call, whom I might not like. Or 4.) I could go home and have that dreaded something happen to the baby

So I took the bait, and signed on the dotted line.  I remember texting my sister, a strong mama who only five months prior delivered her healthy ten pound daughter two and a half weeks after her due date, in her home with a midwife, to let her know I was being admitted.  I imagined how disappointed she would be in me, how she would think that I talk a good "natural childbirth" game but that I had buckled under the pressure and fumbled the ball inches from the goal line.  How she might even think I'm a big phony hypocrite.  At least that was what I was thinking about myself.

My nurse, Debby, who was loud and bubbly and a little bit out there, reassured me repeatedly that she was the best nurse on the floor at putting in IV lines, and that my veins looked awesome.  Four needle pricks later, she slunk to the nurses station to recruit help.  It took two nurses, a whole lot of needle wiggling, IV line untangling and valve checking to get me hooked up.

It was around 4:30 pm when the doctor arrived and broke my water, and set me free to walk the halls, wheeling along my monitor.  Jon and I did laps, literally covering miles of labor and delivery hallways.  I think the nurses were amused, but we walked, and chattered and laughed while mild contractions rolled in and out.  Initially the contractions came roughly ten minutes apart, but nothing too uncomfortable, and slowly they began to die down.  I was panicking on the inside, keeping close watch of the clock, fearing, knowing that if my contractions didn't pick up the pace I'd be pumped full of pitocin.

We took breaks here and there, to rest my back, and so they could hook me back up to the monitors and check on the little one.  We watched Friends on the TV while the nurse repositioned the heart rate monitor that kept slipping down.  After fifteen minutes of monitoring the nurse came back with a glass of orange juice.  "Doctor isn't seeing as many movements as he'd like so we're going to keep you on the monitor a little longer and see if the baby will start moving a little more."  The orange juice did the trick, they could hear the kicks and flips all the way at the nurse's station. 

Ariana came to keep us company around 9:00 pm.  She kindly reassured me that I had made the best decision I could have with the information I had.  She reminded me that if I had gone home, I would have stressed and worried each and every time I couldn't feel the baby.  I never would have relaxed.  I knew she was right.  The doctor came in to check my progress around 10:00 pm.  I was only four centimeters and contractions were fizzling out.  I braced myself, I knew what was coming.  The doctor suggested that I seriously consider pitocin.  With each hour that passed since they ruptured my membranes my risk of infection increased.  I was defeated.  I gave him the go ahead.  I kept reminding anyone who would listen that I could have been at home, in my bed.  I should have been home in my bed.

And so began a long long sleepless night with pitocin dripping in my IV, and contractions getting stronger and more painful.  Jon and I were both exhausted, trying to get rest, trying to find comfort in the dark hospital room.  I kept wondering aloud how Milani was doing.  Kept saying that I missed my girl.  I missed her fiercely.  The nurse told me that there were a series of C-sections coming up which would occupy both doctors for a while.  She kept telling me that since I had delivered Milani in five hours she was worried I would go quickly once I started progressing.  She told me that if I felt any pressure, even felt so much as the urge to fart (honestly her words), that I was to let her know.  The doctor checked me before going into surgery.  I was only five centimeters.  It was maybe 2:00 am.

Around 3:30 am the trembles kicked in, followed shortly by the upset stomach.  I had known it was coming.  I warned the nurse at the beginning of her shift that I was a "puker".  She didn't mind.  Jon and I dozed between contractions.  I knew I wasn't changing positions as much as I should have been.  Maybe that's why when they checked me again at 5:00 am I was only six and a half centimeters, and in serious amounts of discomfort.  And if that weren't enough, my contractions were weakening and slowing, but the pain was intensifying.  My lower back was screaming electric with back labor.  My body was resisting everything.  I was losing my resolve, quickly.

I felt like I had hit a brick wall, emotionally and physically drained.  Exhausted in every cell of my body.  I wanted something for the pain.  If it had taken me twelve hours to dilate from three to six centimeters, simple math told me I could be in labor for another twelve hours.  I couldn't keep going like this for another twelve hours.  I felt again like a sell-out.  A weakling.  How could I have delivered Milani without an epidural, and here I was begging Jon to tell me it was OK if I asked for one.  Begging him to tell me I wasn't weak, and pathetic.  Begging the nurse to promise me that an epidural wouldn't stop my progress and force me to have a C-section.  I wanted to birth this baby the way I had Milani.  I wanted him/her to come down my birth canal.  I wanted to push.  The nurse made no guarantees but told me that if I had only been two centimeters she might caution me about an epidural slowing my progress, but at seven centimeters she didn't think it would be a problem.

Again I chose what I swore I never wanted.  I agreed to let the nurse call the anesthesiologist.  She told me he was tied up and it would be a while, so she offered me something to take the edge off until he arrived.  I don't even remember the name of the drug, but I figured what's one more at this point?  She told me it wouldn't take the pain away, but would help me relax.  She was right.  It still hurt like hell, but I was too high to care.  I was a zombie.  But I was relaxed, and resting.  Like a puddle on the bed.

At 7:00 am the nurses changed shifts, and in walked my new nurse, and even in my loopy state I knew exactly who she was.  It was Dorothy, sweet Dorothy who was my L&D nurse when I had Milani,  Sweet Dorothy who I had loved and had always wanted to thank, but whose name I had forgotten after Milani was born.  Jon and I babbled like sleep deprived, drugged idiots telling her how much we had loved her, how we had forgotten her name, how much had we wanted to thank her for being with us through Milani's birth.  She accepted our crazy talk graciously.  She's good like that.

They checked me again when the anesthesiologist arrived a little after 7:30, I was eight centimeters.  I hunched forward on the edge of the bed like I had seen so many do on A Baby Story.  I felt the pinch, and the weirdness as he fed the line between my vertibrae, and then as I rested, slowly, the pain began to lift.  Relief.  Sweet relief.  I could breathe.  I could relax.  And I was a vision of everything I never wanted for my labor.  Seventeen hours of contractions, an oxygen mask on my face, a catheter to empty my bladder, high as a kite and motionless from the waist down with a tube feeding anesthesia into my spine, and another delivering pitocin into my bloodstream.

Ariana stopped in before her first patents, she said she could only stay an hour.  I could see the sympathy in her eyes, I'm sure I was a sight to behold.  She offered to stay with me and give Jon a break.  Dorothy told me to let her know when I felt pressure.  With the next contraction or so I asked her if it was at all possible I felt pressure already.  Ariana encouraged Jon to go grab a bite to eat, I hinted that I didn't think Jon would have the time.  Dorothy checked me, and smiled "Yep, let's get set up, you're fully dilated"

With Ariana on one side and Jon on the other I pushed through maybe six or seven contractions.  I remember feeling the baby crown.  The doctor told me that the baby was right there, that if he were to cut an episiotomy the baby would slip right out, but he wanted me to push again.  I pushed through one more contraction and the baby was out. "It's a girl!" I thought I heard the doctor say.  I remember turning to Ariana "Did he just say it's a girl?"  She grinned and nodded.  At 8:50 am we met our little girl Berkley Reese.

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Now here is where I insist that all I truly cared about was that the baby would be healthy, but that I honestly with my whole being believed it would be a boy.  I truly and honestly didn't care whether it was a boy or a girl.  If we had a boy we would have one of each, and Jon would have a son.  If it were a girl, Milani would get a sister, and although they might fight like cats and dogs for the first two decades of their lives, hopefully they would get to experience the incredible bond and level of friendship that I am so grateful to share with my sister.  When they told me it was a girl, I secretly rejoiced.  I am so happy that my girls will have each other.  I believe that to have a sister is one of the biggest blessings in the world.  It was meant to be this way.   Maybe we'll just need to try for a boy with number three, I wonder if my rights to the boy name transfer...

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Jon didn't want to cut the cord so Ariana did, and the doctor handed me my sweet girl.  She looked almost exactly like Milani did on her birth day.  She was so perfect, so beautiful.  I clutched her closely, have her kisses.  I saw Jon looking over my shoulder with tears in the corners of his eyes.  Ariana snapped pictures.  Dorothy took her to weigh and measure her, 8lb 8oz, 20 1/2 inches long.  Only one ounce and half an inch different from Milani, and the same dark hair, but her eyes were a deep, rich, navy blue.  And then I nursed her, and she latched on perfectly, and nursed beautifully, and I never wanted to give her up.  Dorothy waited patiently, as I took my time feeding my girl, and when Berkley finished Dorothy gave her her first bath.

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After my blood pressure stabilized, and my legs regained some feeling, my girl and I were wheeled to our Mom and Baby room where my Milani girl, my beautiful big sister Milani girl, waited to meet her perfect baby sister.  Mostly she just wanted me, but she would grow to love her Berkley sister.  And she looked so big and grown up overnight.  She played with the hospital phone, and went for walks to play with the wagons by the nursery, and I was so so happy to see my first girl again.  I had missed her terribly and knew we'd have another night apart.  I spent the rest of our hospital stay snuggled with my new love, nursing painlessly, counting the minutes until we were set free to go home and become a family of four.

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Since that blessed day I have played the If Only game endlessly.  If only I had been stronger, perhaps I could have delivered without the epidural, and I wouldn't feel like such a weakling, or maybe the epidural helped my body relax enough to allow the contractions to make progress.  Maybe, had I been stubborn, progression would have slowed further, and I would have been forced into a C-section.  If only I hadn't let that ultrasound technician scare me out of following my instincts, perhaps I would have had a quick and easy natural birth once my cervix was ready.  Or maybe God knew better than I the way that scenario would have played out.  Maybe He knew that those ugly, paralyzing words were exactly what I needed to hear to get me agree to stay and be induced.  I shudder to think that He knew it had to be this way or I wouldn't be holding her, sleeping, in my arms as I type.

I have wasted too much time criticizing in my choices, and the way the cards fell throughout my labor.  I'm learning that in life you can't go to the DVD menu and play the alternate ending, you don't get to read the other options from the u-choose book.  All I can do is thank God that I was given this healthy, beautiful, absolutely perfect daughter, and accept that the choices I made were the best I could have given the circumstances, and that it unfolded exactly the way it was meant to.  Not the way I had planned, but we make plans and God laughs.

I Love You my Sweet Berkley Reese!

Cause for Celebration

Just like a photo album holds snapshots representing cherished, happy moments, smiling faces, love and laughter, I started this blog so that my family, especially my girls, can someday look back at the way we spent our days.  I wanted it to be a true representation, and honest depiction of our lives, and at the same time I wanted it to be filled with the positive, the beauty, the sweet delicate moments that sum together to equal an amazing life.  So it gave me incentive to seek out the beauty hidden in the mundane, and be present for the tender moments tucked amidst the routine.  It encouraged me to look for the silver lining so that I can write about it, and share it.  It fueled me to find ways to transform ordinary afternoons into extraordinary ones for my girls.  None of these things comes naturally to me, so this all required a real, focused, conscious effort.  A resolution to stay true to the cause, because it is a worthy one, filling the blank pages of my girls' stories with wonder and memories and an optimistic outlook.

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This season, where the grey and cold stretch on indefinitely between the holidays and the first tender buddings of spring, is usually difficult for me.  I almost always find myself sinking into a weepy depression, where cabin fever sets in stirring up anxiety.  So I've been waiting, watching closely for those first inklings of sadness to filter in.  Bracing myself for the storm that inevitably comes, and subsequently passes with the first warm days of spring. 

But it's not coming.  Instead, I'm genuinely happy.  I'm noticing that all of those things that felt somewhat forced and unnatural at the beginning of this blog journey seem to be slowly rewiring my neuro-pathways.  The beauty is starting to find me, tender moments seem more frequent and abundant, and silver linings are becoming more obvious.  Sure, it still requires a positive outlook, and a desire to build and cultivate a positive existence, but the effort feels lighter.  I feel like I'm in a place of comfortable contentment, and where reasons to celebrate, both big and small, just keep coming along one after another.

We've celebrated...


...my Nonno's ninetieth birthday.  We gathered with family to commemorate nine decades and a legacy; three children, fifteen grandchildren, five great grandchildren. 

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He still asks Jon when they're going to hit the course for eighteen holes.  He still wants to sit in the bleachers of Beaver stadium to watch the Nittney Lions cross the goal line for six.

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He may already have ninety years tucked under his belt, but it's not about the years in one's life, it's about the life in one's years and he's still got it!


...the first of what are now frequent and contagious toothless grins.  It's impossible for me to witness one of these smiles without a grin on my own face that makes my cheeks ache.

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She smiles with her whole face, and her cheeks squish her deep clear blue eyes into sweet shining half moons.

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...Jon's thirtieth birthday.  His family threw a surprise party.  We had to tell him about the surprise party to get him to it, which didn't in fact surprise me because it's nearly impossible to surprise Jon. 

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...Berkley's two month milestone

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...our first playground outing this year.

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I'm craving that first really warm spring afternoon when I can fling open every window and let that delicious spring freshness, that scent of warm wet soil mingling with unfurling buds and  new grass, permeate every nook and cranny of my home.  I have an inkling it's right around the corner.

Christmastastic Fabulousness

Even though I am regularly comforted by family and friends with the reminder that Milani is too young know any different if this Christmas isn't perfect; if I spend more time with my feet up than spreading holiday cheer; if the baby conveniently decides that Christmas Eve or Christmas Day seems like the perfect day to make his/her grand entrance and I'm stuck in the hospital forcing us to celebrate our Christmas a week late, I still don't want this Christmas to be a complete dud for my girl.  Because sitting on the sidelines monitoring every sensation below my shoulders for any indication of impending labor is about as eventful as watching paint dry.  The baby's going to come when the baby's going to come, and there's no good reason why I can't be cultivating holiday traditions and etching new Christmas memories with my Lulu in the meantime.  So, I've been trying to make the conscious shift from focusing on only seven more days until my due date and when is baby going to come?, to embracing and celebrating the season we're in.

In previous years my holiday cards would've hit the post office the week after Thanksgiving, at some point every flat surface in my kitchen and dining room would've been covered with cookies destined for goodie baskets or a cookie swap, and I would have been organizing the house and planning a menu preparing to host our family for Christmas dinner.  I am accepting the reality that our experience of the season this year will feel a little different, but will be no less rich with laughter and love and time spent together as a family.

It is so fun to watch Milani's reactions to holiday traditions that are so new and foreign to her; to watch her laugh and run and stomp her little feet in excitement when Jon brought our Christmas tree into the house; to see her wonder grow with each ornament she pulled out of the box; to watch her figure out how the ornaments get hung on branches; and to see her face glow when we plugged in the lights.  There is magic in this season and it can be seen so clearly and purely reflected in the eyes of our littles.







This week Milani and I pulled out of the attic the train set that my family used to put around our tree when I was young.


I'm not sure how I managed to inherit this train, and hadn't gotten it out any previous Christmas', but if I'm to infuse our days with more holiday wonder this would be a perfect starting point.  Milani skittered around me examining the passenger cars and engine as I pieced the track together, and gawked excitedly as I turned the power dial instructing her to "Watch, watch, watch...check out what's going to happen when I turn the dial!".  And nothing happened.  And I was so bummed.  And Milani lost interest, and went on to playing with a stuffed animal.


After some Googling and troubleshooting, and a quick scrub down of the track rails with a brillo, I managed to convince Milani to give the "Choo Choo" a second chance and her gaping mouth and shrill squeal made the whole project worthwhile.  We watched it go in around and around in circles, Milani insisting on being held the whole time it was running, simultaneously thrilled and terrified that it could move by itself.

Last night Jon went to bed early and I found myself in a quiet house, lit dimly by the lights on the tree and cast in a golden glow from a lone candle.


I was taken aback by the sense of peace that blanketed me as I sat at the dining room table writing out Christmas cards by candle light, with the melodies of Christmas carols drifting faintly from the kitchen radio.

This evening Milani and I whipped up our first batch of holiday cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms.  My girl climbed up onto the chair next to me and stirred her bowl full of Hershey's Kisses, whipping up her own imaginary batch of treats.

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And because, at our house, helping to bake the cookies entitles you to a sampling of the ingredients and cookie dough, she devoured no less than nine kisses, licked the peanut butter spoon, and ate a spatula full of dough.

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She's no stranger to this rule; the whole time I was mixing up the ingredients she pointed anxiously at the spatula repeating "poppy...poppy" - her word for lolli-pop - be still my beating heart, this girl can't get any cuter.  She may not have had any appetite left for dinner, and she may have bounced off the walls like a maniac right up until bedtime, but my girl and I had a blast baking side by side and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I still have errands to run, projects to finish, and presents to wrap, and depending on the moment I oscillate between feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and feeling eerily calm.  But I'm becoming more comfortable with knowing that I will accomplish what I can before my little sweetie's arrival, and postpone the things I can't, and it will be a Christmas to remember regardless how it unfolds.

The Day She Made Me a Mama {A Birth Story}

I wish I'd thought to take the time to record in words every blessed detail of every moment of that day much sooner, because while the magic and wonder and gratitude I feel are as poignant as ever, the little intricacies have faded over the past eighteen months.  So now, a year and a half later, I'm going to root around in my memory, and jog loose and dust off every beautiful detail I can, and attempt to find the words that might just begin to capture the emotion and experience of the day she made me a mama.

I can remember an evening about a month before my due date; I was at the restaurant, and I grabbed a new carton of half and half out of the cooler.  As I glanced at the expiration date, I felt my heart catch in my throat, and couldn't stifle a nervous laugh.  The date read May 11, and the only thought that raced through my head, making the floor seem to tilt dangerously to one side and the lights dim for a moment, was that I would become a mother before the half and half would expire.

The days flew past, and my due date approached rapidly.  I began each morning wondering whether today would be the day.  I paid close attention to every Braxton-Hicks contraction, and every uncomfortable twinge, and every unfamiliar pang.  I struggled to distinguish between normal third trimester aches and pains, and crampiness, and contractions.  When my due date arrived without any signs of labor, one of the other doctors in my Obstetrician's practice scheduled me for an induction the following Sunday, at forty-one weeks, May 9th, Mother's Day, at seven a.m.

I desperately wanted our little one to come on her terms, I wanted to trust my body to do what women's bodies have accomplished without synthetic hormones for most of humanity, nothing about an induction resonated with my soul.  I tried to reassure myself that labor would come on it's own before Sunday, and tried to encourage my body to go along with my plan.  I went for long walks up steep hills, I ate pineapple, and lord knows every single bone jarring ride I took in Jon's truck should have been bumpy enough to catapult me directly into active labor.

I remember that Friday, May 7th, was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day.  The most beautiful day we'd seen so far that spring.  Jon called me from work to let me know that according to his father "It looked like a perfect day to have a baby."  I wholeheartedly agreed, apparently our little sweetie didn't.  Later that afternoon I called my OB and asked him if I absolutely had to be induced at forty-one weeks, or if I could wait longer, give our peanut the time she needed.  He reassured me that I could forgo the induction as long as I came in to the hospital on Saturday morning for a Non-Stress Test and an Ultrasound to ensure that the baby wasn't in any distress. 

First thing Saturday morning, Jon and I went in for our routine tests and passed with flying colors.  We canceled the induction, and I felt like I had been let off the hook, like a weight had been taken off my chest and I finally had room to breathe.  The peace of mind lasted all of what felt like fifteen seconds, because by that evening I had reason to believe that I might be slooowly leaking amniotic fluid.  I waited until morning to call the physician on call, and talked to the doctor who had initially scheduled my induction.  He told me to come in immediately.

In my heart I knew this was it.  I had Jon bring my bags.  I was anxious, and nervous, emotional, and terrified and excited.  Part of me wanted to dig in my heels, run back in the house and lock the doors, scream "Waaaaiittt!! I'm not ready yet!"  But ready or not, I went to the hospital and they tested for amniotic fluid, and the doctor looked up at me from his little glass microscope slide and said "It's fluid alright, let's get her admitted and get her started on pitocin.  See, you canceled your induction and you're here anyway."  And this is where it all becomes a little fuzzy.

I'm not sure how I walked from triage to my L&D room, I'm not convinced that I didn't in fact float there, or perhaps no one wants to tell me I actually passed out cold and had to be carried there.  Once I was nestled in my bed in the room where I would deliver our baby girl, the nurse asked me if I was feeling alright because my blood pressure dropped, and my coloring looked a little pale.  I confessed that I was just the tiniest bit terrified.  I'm not sure what had me more nervous, the anticipation of the pain, or the fact that my life was about to be turned upside down in a way I couldn't fathom.  We made the excited phone calls and sent out the mass texts letting our friends and family know that we were at the hospital and today would be the day.

They started pitocin at two p.m. and the contractions came immediately.  Initially they were just like bad period cramps, and Jon would look at the printout dangling from one of the machines to see how big a mountain that contraction had been.  I remember that they broke my water.  The nurse asked me to rate my pain and I'm pretty sure I said it was a five, little did I know.
At some point my sister arrived, and brought her laptop.  I remember her setting it up and connecting it to the internet, giving it to me to pass the time.  I remember starting at it blankly, completely unable to comprehend what I could possibly be doing with the computer.  I also remember Jon and Ariana trying to make something happen with music, to fix something with the computer, something wasn't working, that's all I can recall about that fiasco.  I remember that I brought Norah Jones, and Diana Krall, and Billy Holiday CDs, I only recall hearing Norah Jones, barely.

The contractions became stronger, longer, and more painful.  The mountains on the printout were much larger, with jagged pointed plateaus, and the breaks between them weren't even remotely long enough.  I remember sitting on a birthing ball for a while, and standing along side the bed figuring gravity must be able to help things along.

At one point the I.V. tube administering the pitocin accidentally got a kink in it, causing the machine shreak.  The nurse wasn't in the room so we took matters into our own hands and pushed a button or two until it got quiet.  Whatever we did accidentally stopped the flow of pitocin, and for those few blessed minutes before the nurse came in and realized what had happened, I got the most amazing, and much needed, break from the constant onslaught of contractions.  I remember getting sick to my stomach more than a handful of times.  I remember that when the clock said five p.m. they checked my progress and I was five c.m.  The nurse asked me to rate my pain again, and I told her I wanted to revise my previous assessment to a two, and that now it was a six, little did I know.

Jon got hungry, and went to Cosmo's for a cheesesteak.  It felt like he was gone for ten minutes, my sister tells me he was gone quite a bit longer than that.  I'm sure he relished the much needed break from the constant onslaught of contractions too.

I remember changing positions to kneel tall on the bed, facing the elevated head of the bed, resting my upper body on the top of the mattress.  I remember that position being so so painful, especially in my back, and my nurse encouraging me to hold out for a couple more contractions because the change in position would help the baby move down.  I remember Ariana putting pressure on my lower back, and showing Jon how to do the same.

Jon was so encouraging and supportive, like a cheerleader, talking me through every contraction, telling me how amazing I was doing, reminding me to breathe, assuring me that the contraction was almost over.  He would keep an eye on the printout and alert me the minute the mountain appeared to be starting it's descent.  I remember at a certain point between contractions, trying to tell Jon politely that although he was trying his hardest to be super helpful, I couldn't handle trying to comprehend the words coming from his mouth and deal with the pain of a contraction at the same time.  The next contraction he started cheering me on again, I'm pretty sure I snarled, and the nurse leaned in to him and said "Jon, honey, I think it would be best if you stopped talking during contractions."  I think his feelings were hurt.

The contractions got even longer, and stronger, and much more painful.  I remember pleading that I just wanted a break and whimpering to Ariana that I couldn't do this, and her telling me sternly that I absolutely could.  The nurse encouraged me to try to empty my bladder, she said something like "A full bladder is a closed door" whatever that meansAt that point, the only thing worse than a contraction, was peeing, and throwing up, and contracting at the same time.  She checked my progress again, nine c.m.  She had me rate my pain and if this wasn't a nine and a half I might just die before I delivered.  She had me lay in bed on my left side, and told me to let her know when I felt the need to push.

It seemed like the blink of an eye, like only three contractions had passed, and I was telling her that I had to push.  She checked me and confirmed that I was ten c.m.  It was about seven p.m. and her shift was ending.  She stayed with me a little longer but ended up having to leave before I delivered, and I am so upset to confess that I don't remember my her name, because I LOVED her.  I still wish I could write her a thank you card for her kindness and sweetness and support.  She left me in the hands of another sweet nurse who helped through the rest of the delivery.

Jon held my left leg, I don't remember who held my right.  With each contraction I pushed as hard as I could.  In between each contraction I pleaded with my little one, telling her that she just had to come out right now.  It felt like I only pushed through three or four contractions but Jon tells me it was more than that.  Thanks to the reflection in the TV opposite my bed, I witnessed my little one as she emerged, all eight pounds, seven ounces of her.

Since my amniotic fluid had been leaking, they had to examine her before giving her to me, and I remember Jon being next to the little bassinet with the doctor examining her.  I was glad he was with her, and I couldn't wait to hold her.  They finally passed her to me and I couldn't hold back tears, she was so perfect, so beautiful.  She had dark hair like her dad, and dark brown eyes that looked eggplant purple from certain angles.  I don't remember her crying much, Jon and I both made up for that.  It was impossible to take my eyes off her, and I feel like she really never took her eyes off us.


I will never forget nursing her for the first time, and that she latched on immediately and would have nursed forever.  It was surreal to think that she had grown inside me, that she came out whole and complete and perfect with hair and fingernails and personality.  I remember thinking that she definitely looked like a girl, that there was no way anyone could mistake this newborn beauty for a boy.  The nurse fashioned a hat with a bow.


My heart ached when she cried through her first bath, and I felt the beginnings of a fierce maternal instinct kick in; wanting wildly to rescue her and make everything ok for her.


I was too shaky to walk to the Mom and Baby room so I cradled her proudly as they wheeled us over, and we had a few sacred moments alone, just the two of us, while Jon went to find our visitors.  We were put in a corner room with wrap around windows that displayed a panoramic view of the Scranton skyline.  Ariana brought me a hoagie and girl scout cookies; food never tasted so good.  It was around ten thirty when everyone left, and then it was just me, Jon, and our brand new little angel.


I remember being very emotional the day we were discharged, feeling like if I could just stay in that room forever the timer would never start, that she would stay new and tiny forever.  I could never have known how much joy watching her learn and grow would bring.  I'm still being amazed daily by the way every new stage brings its own beauty and wonder.  She was perfect on that Mother's Day she was first laid in my arms, and she's still perfect today as she sounds out new words and dances to music, and one is not better than the other, just different, both magical.

I can reflect so fondly and emotionally on the day she made me a mama, and look forward to watching her life unfold, because her story isn't over it's still being written and I am so lucky, blessed beyond words, to be the one holding her hand along her journey.

"I Can't Believe It's a Girl..."

It's a double post kind of a day, because this news and these pictures are too sweet to sit on for a week!  

We should have known when she insisted on staying put for an extra week and five days, only a little princess could command such a dramatic entrance.  Fashionably late, and in a swarm of excitement.  It's the only way she would have it.

**for the full effect, read the next paragraph into a tape recorder and play back on high speed**

I got the text from Ariana Monday morning at 6:51 asking if I was still up for watching the boys, and at 6:55 the text telling me to "take my time."  And so I did.  Until 7:05 when my phone lit up with a call from Jake, "Get here quick!".  I've never changed a diaper, dressed a baby, dressed myself, put in contacts, brushed my teeth, and packed an entire days worth of food and diapers for Milani so quickly.  As I pulled into Grandma Andrea's at 8:00 to drop off Milani I got a text from Jake "Baby's Coming!"  S^&@#T!! I quite literally jumped out of my car and into Andrea's and took off like a bat out of hell, to pull up at their house, and sprint up the stairs, bursting into the front door.

At 8:20 a perfect, gorgeous, tiny baby girl was born.  By tiny I mean 10 lb 0 oz.

From the moment I found out she was pregnant, I thought Ariana was having a girl and I stood firmly by my prediction, never wavering.  A couple months back we were standing around in Ariana's kitchen each defending our gender predictions, and I can remember her saying, "When I look into my future I just can't picture myself as the mother of a girl.  I just don't see it happening.  I think I'm meant to only raise boys"  And on Monday, I know it still took a little while to sink in.  I think I heard Ariana mutter "I can't believe it's a girl" or "I can't believe I have a daughter" about twelve times.  Now I'm not the type to break out into an obnoxious victory dance, or rub the I told you so's into one's face, but you can't say I didn't give you fair warning that you'd be delivering a little lady.  And it'll be sweeter than you could ever imagine.  Your little girl.  I promise. 

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Smokin' Hot Celebration

Lately I haven't been able to keep stride with the ferocious pace of the passing days.  The lag between when I'm snapping the pictures and when I'm publishing the posts is growing.  Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in there being no such thing as too much fun, and the cookouts and parties keep coming one after another.  I'm just a little bit overwhelmed with the pace of life this summer.

At any rate, two handsome gents provided good reason for celebration as Jadon celebrated his fifth birthday and Landry is about to land on his third.  And so the clan gathered together at the park again to play in the sun, and eat good food, to talk, and laugh, and enjoy each others company.


We feasted on all the requisite summer cookout goodies like potato salad, and pasta salad, dogs and burgers, and of course wedge after wedge of sweet ruby watermelon.


We grilled with such charisma that the Dalton Fire Co. stopped by to check out our hot dog smoke as it spiraled toward the clear blue sky.


Ok, I lied.  Some generous firemen from the Dalton Fire Co. stopped by with the fire engine so that the kids could climb aboard and put their hands on the steering wheel.  So that they might feel like brave heroes waving from the window of the gleaming truck.


There was a playground at the park?  What playground?  Who needs a playground when you have a fire engine!


I think the kids even managed to forget about cake and presents as the firemen put on a demonstration of their gear.  Both kids and adults were entranced and amazed as a regular guy transformed into a fire warrior.


Only after the firemen waved goodbye and pulled away in their yellow engine could we light the candles and open the presents.  The carrot cake was so delicious, some of us may have snagged extra pieces.  And nothing beats that cream cheese frosting.


The wrapping paper flew, and toys were waved in the air like cherished prizes. 


It was a first rate summer celebration, a smokin' party, and two happy birthdays.

Happy Birthday Jadon and Landry!!

Nuggets of Joy

I love reasons to celebrate.  Reasons to strap on my funky heels, swipe on my favorite lip gloss, and put on massive earrings.  Reasons to spritz on perfume and break out the smokey eye.  To toast to life and love with golden glasses bubbling with champagne.  To bust a move with good friends, laugh at old memories, and etch new ones into our hearts that will last a lifetime.

One of my dearest and sweetest friends, Jackey, got married, and gave us good reason to celebrate.  To fight back tears as she gracefully walked down the isle.  To applaud joyfully as she became Mrs. Terpak.  To hug tightly and congratulate sincerely, because no one believes more deeply in true love, or deserves boundless happiness more than Jackey.
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And to spend the evening talking, laughing, singing and dancing along side another one of my dearest and sweetest friends, Rachel, well I couldn't ask for more.   We laughed heartily as we reminisced the good ol' days.  Times like when the three of us got pulled over but didn't realize that the cop was behind us for at least a mile because we were belting out Free Falling so loudly we couldn't hear the siren.  Or the time we had to make an impromptu emergency visit to the Nitney Mall hours before Rachel's wedding because a certain maid-of-honor forgot to pack underwear.
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Someday we will look back at Jackey's wedding day and laugh heartily over stories like how we wisely positioned ourselves not only right next to the bar, and the table with the stationary hors d'oeuvres, but right where the waiter came out with each new tray of passed appetizers.  And how he always came to us first because he knew we were a sure bet to sample everything he had to offer.  How he left each tray with the leftover appetizers right next to us, and how we usually polished it off.  I'll never forget how, when the waiter didn't know how to describe a particular appetizer, Rachel's husband Dom named them "Nuggets of Joy" and how we overheard the waiter telling guests further down "Big man at the end calls these here nuggets of joy".  There were no nuggets of joy leftover for us to snag.  We'll laugh about the Portuguese priest who hijacked the speaker system and interrupted AJ's toast.  And about how we belted out Mr. Big's To Be With You like the true divas we are, never missing a high note, or backup chorus.
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Yep, I managed to capture all three with the same priceless expression confirming that we did, in fact, stuff our faces.
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The day was amazing and the bride was beautiful. It was the perfect day for the perfect wedding and celebrate we did.  We danced until the music ended and went home to collapse into bed with one of those satisfied sighs that says "Ahhh...that was good."  Thank you Jackey and Chris for letting us be a part of your day.  We wish for you a lifetime of true love, and laughter, and boundless happiness! A lifetime absolutely littered with nuggets of joy!
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Where'd My Baby Go?

She used to sleep swaddled tightly, in a soft cocoon.  Now she sleeps sideways, diagonal, upside down.  Stretched out and twisted, constantly wiggling and flopping around.  Her head ends up near Jon and her mini puffy feet kick me in the head.

She used to roll sweetly from her tummy to her back, and back to her tummy.  Blinking those huge chocolate eyes and soaking in the world from her quilt.  Now she crawls and stands and cruises.  I know that any moment babygirl will start to walk, and when she does I will be overjoyed.  I will proudly celebrate her success, and the accomplishment she's been working so hard toward.  But there is a little part of me that is hoping she takes her time.  A little part that is clinging dearly to the sweet little crawling baby.  A tiny little part of me that feels like those first steps signal the beginning of toddler-hood and the closure of her baby-nessAnd that part of me is constantly pondering "Where did my baby go?" 

My baby is one year old.

Last week we celebrated her first birthday.  All day long Jon and I enthusiastically wished her "Happy Birthday!".  I'm sure she didn't entirely understand what all the commotion was about, but she seemed to bask in the attention none the less.

We baked a cake, and we lit a candle, and we sang to the sweet birthday girl like there was no tomorrow.  Jon and I both fake blew at the candle to teach her how to blow it out herself, until I accidentally fake blew it out.  Milani didn't mind.  Her mini fingers swiped a handful of chocolate icing, and she slowly savored bite after bite of her cake.
Then, of course, came the presents.  Her favorites were her musical instruments and shopping cart.  Girlfriend can bang out a sick beat, and shake the maracas like nobody's business.  She did laps with the shopping cart, and as one who always does things in her own style, with a little Lani-flair, the shopping cart went around sideways.
And last weekend we gathered with family and friends at the park for Milani's first birthday party. 
We stoked up the charcoal until burgers and dogs sizzled, and enjoyed bright watermelon as the juice dripped down to our elbows. 
And as one who always does things in my own forgetful style, with a little Eena-flair, I forgot the birthday candle.  Ariana raced to the rescue so we could sing with a pink candle atop a pink ice cream cone cupcake.  We had a lot of great helpers to blow out the candle, and a lot of great helpers eager to unwrap the gifts.
We saw rain, and sun, and a little sun-shower, but the air was warm and the day was perfect.  I even caught a glimpse of a rainbow in the evening sky.  I couldn't have planned it better.
My baby is one year old. 

Milani may no longer be that tiny little newborn baby, but she growing ever more beautiful and strong, confident and funny.  She is just as perfect today as she was the moment I first saw her, and there's no greater pleasure than watching her grow, and thrive, and blossom.  I fondly remember the tiny baby, and anticipate the joys to come, while I embrace every moment of our precious time together today.

I just realized that I haven't been receiving, or been able to view any comments left on my posts.  Unfortunately any comment left before Friday May 20 I never got to read, and can't figure out how to recover them.  The problem should be fixed from here forward, but I'm bummed I missed those comments.  If you feel like re-posting any comments you left, I'd love to read them.  If not, that's all good too.  So Sorry.  Thanks for reading!!