Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy birthday to precious Judah!

So, as I write this post, I remember where I was one year ago right now. Charlie and I had dropped off Paul at work and were heading to breakfast together. I had mentioned to Paul that "I guess I'm not going to have a September baby." I don't know why, but I thought it would be fun if all our babies were born in the same month. Now I think it's crazy.
We were sitting in our normal booth at Panera when I noticed that I was having contractions somewhat regularly. I'd been having contractions for weeks, and I was five days past the due date, so I really felt that he could come at any time. I'd felt for a month that he could come at any time. This is a picture of my belly 2 weeks before Judah was born. You can see what I mean:
Anyway, we sat there and ate our breakfast, I had contractions, and so the morning went. We had planned a stop at Trader Joe's, so we headed over there for a few things that I thought would be helpful for the few days after the baby was born. While shopping, I started timing what had become significantly more painful contractions. They were anywhere from 10 minutes to 15 minutes apart at this point. I quickly realized that I was actually in labor.

I had resigned to a long labor, since that had been my experience with both other times I had a baby. We took our time shopping and headed to the park to continue the day that I knew was going to be my last day being momma to only Charlie. It was bittersweet sitting there on the bench watching her play with two other girls while I made my phonecalls to the midwife, birth assistant, friend/sitter, and Paul. She was so carefree, having very little comprehension of how much her life was about to change.

The plan was that we would go home and eat lunch, and then I would put Charlie down for some rest time and evaluate my labor situation, and then check in with everyone again. I love this about natural childbirth--it's all up to me! I love that Bradley classes enable the laboring woman to know what's going on and to make the call based on the signs that her body is showing her. I continued to labor for a while, contractions getting closer but still not extremely painful.

After a short while, I called everyone and told them to go ahead and come on over. My friend Ami was the first one on the scene. I'd asked her to be on call to watch Charlie during labor and delivery. She did a wonderful job with her. At times, I could hear her laughing so loud, and that was so helpful during the painful points. Actually made me smile a few times.

The midwife, the student midwife, and my birth assistant all arrived, and then Paul. It was about 2 in the afternoon, and contractions were getting pretty painful by now. I labored in the bath tub for a little while and then back to the bedroom. Charlie was still nearby playing with Ami. The house seemed peaceful, with everything surrounding this beautiful event.

Sometime around 4:30 I felt the urge to push, and shortly after that, my water broke. I knew that I was in transition, because I honestly wondered if I could keep doing this. But Paul and everyone else did very well with reassuring me. At one point, I said something like, "He's coming." I could feel him moving down, and though this might sound painful, it was a very encouraging sensation, knowing that he would soon be in my arms.

I had mentioned to my midwife early on that I'd like to try a few positions for the pushing stage. One in particular was the birthing chair. Since we didn't have one, we sort of created our own by having Paul sit on a low stool and then I sat on his lap facing out. I had tried a few positions for pushing and really couldn't get comfortable (a relative term). Then I looked right next to me and saw Paul sitting on this stool while I was squatting, so I just sat down on his lap and continued to push.

I think it was the next contraction after I sat on Paul's lap that Judah's head was born. I was resting between contractions with his head right there, and then Charlie ran in and saw what was going on. Then she screamed and ran back out. Paul thought that maybe she was just concerned about me and asked me to maybe yell to her that "Mommy's okay," so that she would be calmed down. I told him I really couldn't say anything right then, that I was a little preoccupied.

So the next contracion came, and I put my hands down and caught Judah myself--all 9 pounds of him. It was the most incredible feeling. He has been the sweetest big boy ever since. Having this homebirth was such an incredible experience. I'm so thankful to everyone who helped!

Well, I just thought it would be fun to share Judah's birth story on his birthday. He's an incredible little guy, as are all my little ones. And, frankly, I'm a little relieved to have September nearly behind me now. ;)

Happy birthday to sweet, wonderful Judah, who teaches me every day how to love more and more. I am in love with your smile and your laughter, and your patient eyes that love me back. I adore you.

Just a couple hours after Judah was born:

Just a couple weeks old:

First Christmas:

Best buds:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another weekend in Winchester

On this beautiful first full weekend of autumn, we thought it would be just lovely to do some apple picking. So we packed up the fam and headed to see our friends in Winchester. Here are some shots of Charlie's (and my!) first time picking apples.
Poor kids have the sun in their eyes, but they were still so sweet to let me take a shot:

Yes, I dressed Judah in these overalls specifically for the apple picking. :)

Our friends own and run this incredible Italian restaurant Violino right in the heart of Old Town Winchester. If you are ever nearby, you absolutely must try this place. It is authentic, quaint, charming, and has the best Italian food I've ever eaten.

Before we headed to the orchard, our chef friend was kind enough to feed all of us, and he even handed me a jacket and apron and allowed me in the kitchen with him for a cooking lesson! It was my first time in a professional kitchen, and it was so much fun! Here I am prepping the shrimp for the grill and then the white wine sauce. Amazing!

Paul and Judah are hard at work, too, playing bartender.
Some shots of the dishes we prepared:
Happy dining:
This is just a shot of Charlie riding her friends' trike while she waits to eat:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Charlie in ballet

"Smile and look here, Charlie!"


"I said, 'smile, and look here!'"
"Dad, I'm cooooold!"

"C'mon, Charlie, I just need one good picture!"

"Finally. Sheesh."
Yes, our little one received ballet clothes and classes for her birthday. So far she's been to two classes and just loves it, although the parents are not allowed to watch, so we have very little idea what's going on in there. It's so great, though, to watch her walk in with confidence and know that she's having a good time and probably learning a few things, too. :)

Charlie's party for the big number 4!

Charlie's party was a huge success and lots of fun! It was held 2 days before her birthday on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. The kids topped their own homemade pizza crust with a variety of local veggies, raw cheeses, and pepperoni and bacon. Then they enjoyed them on a picnic blanket outside just before running around and playing a few games like hot potato and pin the tail on the donkey.

Charlie had requested a dinosaur ice cream cake. I found these wooden dinosaurs on etsy, and Charlie and I painted them together to go on top. Here we are blowing out the candles as a family. :) And there's Judah eyeing the camera as usual.
It was such a great time. We had many friends here, some from quite a distance, and we are so blessed to have had so many loved ones to share in the celebration of our "big little girl's" happy day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy birthday, sweet Charlie

It's a little late in the day for this post, but a very happy day to (one of the) the love(s) of my life, my incredibly beautiful, brilliant, and hilarious Charlotte. My life became so much more the moment that I caught you with my bare hands the morning you entered the world four years ago. (Has it really been that long?) I only started to understand at that time what it means to have my heart outside my body. Thank you for teaching me and for making me the woman that I am--your mom. I love you more than you can know.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day weekend and birthdays all over the place

Last Saturday we celebrated our second of 4 birthdays in the month of September--Paul's! We had a fun day watching the first Ohio State game of the season over at Micki's house, and then surprised Paul with a cake. Okay, not much of a surprise, but we had fun all the same.
The next morning we decided to head to Virginia Beach for one night. We hadn't seen the beach all summer and just wanted to have a great unofficial end of summer. It was Judah's first time, and though a beach veteran, Charlie acted as if it were her first time there, too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yesterday's Celebrations

The candle pictured below was made by my friend Joy in honor of Benjamin. We burned it last night as a family, while we talked about our little saint.

We all went to Benjamin's graveside to have a little birthday party. It was a gorgeous day, and spirits were high. Charlie even sang "Happy Birthday" and blew out the candles.

We each wrote a message to Benjamin and then tied it to a balloon and released it for him. We've done this for both of his birthdays so far and will make it a family tradition.

This is a picture of his grave and the cupcake we left for him, as well as the white roses that Charlie helped pick out:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy birthday, Benjamin.

Two years ago I gave birth to my first son. It was the most bittersweet moment of my life. I was so happy to have him in my arms, even though he would never open his eyes, never call me “Mommy,” never know his sister, at least not in this life.

Benjamin was a surprise. We were so happy to know Charlie would be big sister! I knew he was a boy right away. Everything was going great. When we had our 19-week ultrasound, we found out that my hunch had been right, but we also found out our little guy appeared to have some severe health issues. After a couple of appointments with some specialists, it was confirmed that the baby would likely not survive length of the pregnancy, let alone live long afterward. We decided to name him early, since we knew that we wanted to bond with him as much and as quickly as possible.

It was a very long and emotionally difficult summer, carrying a baby that was both growing and dying at the same time. But as hard as it was, I’ll say that I so enjoyed carrying my little guy. Every kick and every hiccup were precious, never knowing which was going to be the last.

Our strong little fighter held on much longer than was expected. I like to think that he knew that he was loved, and he loved back. He was born full-term on September 3, 2007. And God gave us the most wonderful gift that day. Benjamin was alive for more than an hour after his birth. Charlie and my parents were able to meet him and hold him before he died. He passed so peacefully that we weren't even sure the exact moment that he went to Heaven.
Paul and I spent a few hours with his little body before we had to say goodbye. We were even able to give him a bath and take some plaster prints of his hands and feet. The most painful moment of my life was when I had to hand over his body and be taken to my recovery room, but I knew that Benjamin was already gone and that was just his earthly body. I know we will meet again someday, and knowing that made things a little easier.
We found out later that Benjamin had Trisomy-13, a chromosomal disorder that occurs when extra DNA from chromosome 13 appears in some or all of the body's cells.
One wonderful blessing about knowing so early that Benjamin was sick was the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation. We were able to arrange ahead of time for a professional photographer to donate her time and meet us at the hospital to photograph the birth and shoot some portraits afterward. I can't say enough about this beautiful organization. I like to share our experience whenever I can so that people get the word out so that, God forbid, if anything should happen, others can have lasting photos like ours. They've been such an important part of our healing process.

We have also so much support and love from friends and family, even now. And God has wrapped his comforting arms around us like no one else can.
Today, we remember our beautiful baby. Benjamin, you are so loved and by so many people. We are all thinking of you today. I can't wait to see you again and hold you in my arms. Your mommy, daddy, sister, and brother love you so very much.