... that I shall have no regrets.

Monday, January 20, 2020

For months I've had so much to say, so much to work through in writing, and so little physical and mental capacity with which to do it. Our lives have been flipped upside down by a cross country move during an already challenging season with four little ones. Beckham is undoubtedly our most unpredictable sleeper (though our easiest baby otherwise!) and waking to his cries at all hours of the night has required me to strip away anything that is not absolutely necessary. 

But even so, it's easy to look around and wonder if I'm doing enough. 

Our culture, as presented on social media, screams that women can have it all. We can be devoted and ever-present mothers, we can run our own thriving businesses, we can show up on Instagram in full hair and makeup and share deep inspirational thoughts. It's exhausting and, frankly, it's a lie. While the culture screams that I should be doing more and more and also taking time for me instead of sacrificially pouring it out for others, the Bible says quite the opposite. It's in the serving, in the lowest places, that we meet Christ most intimately. Each of us is called to worship God and love our neighbor in whatever context we find ourselves. In this season as a mom of little people, these children are my closest neighbors. Bending low to serve them is a constant practice in humility, self-sacrifice, patience. But it's also a calling. Not a constant interruption, but exactly where God has me.

Beckham's birth story.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

When you're the fourth child, you do get your birth story written out. It just comes nearly 9 months after the fact. ;) Nonetheless, we are so grateful Beckham Wells is here and is part of our family. He is a gentle, peaceful, joyful little boy whose near-constant smile lights up a room. I have a feeling he may be a little extrovert: he loves when you smile and talk to him, possibly more than any of our other babies.

On the morning of April 18, I woke up feeling crummy and crampy. I'd been experiencing prodromal labor for the past several nights, but this felt different. About halfway through the day, I was struggling to keep up with the kids and asked Shawn if there was any way he could work from home in the afternoon to give some relief. It wasn't a request I'd made during this pregnancy, so I probably should have realized that something had changed.

By the time he got home, cramping had progressed to contractions. I decided to take a quick walk down our street to see if they would ramp up or ease off. Just one block away, the contractions intensified and I felt in my gut that "this is it." We grabbed our hospital bag, asked our neighbor across the street to watch the kids until Shawn's mom could arrive, and jetted out the door.

On our way to the hospital, I started having doubts. What if this was just more prodromal labor and they'd send me home. I had just hit 38 weeks, so I knew that probably wouldn't happen. But I texted my favorite doctor anyway. Graciously, he offered to do a labor check in the office, so we headed there instead. I was 3-4 centimeters dilated and the contractions were every 4 minutes, so he strongly advised we head to the hospital. This time around, I needed 4 hours' worth of antibiotics before the baby was born due to group B strep. Because my last two labors weren't even 4 hours long from start to finish, we were worried that I wouldn't have time for any antibiotics. It wouldn't be dangerous for me, but could pose a threat to the baby, which made us nervous.

So we headed to the hospital, still timing contractions at 4 minutes apart. We were admitted straight into a labor and delivery room, got my IV antibiotics started, and walked around the unit for a bit. As soon as the antibiotics finished 4 hours later, my contractions had slowed to a stop. I felt a bit worried that I'd be pressured into a string of interventions (starting with Pitocin) and didn't want to go down that road. But also, we were so ready to meet our baby. Thankfully, our doctor didn't seem to be worried or rushed in the least.

So by about 11pm that night, it was decided that the doctor would break my water to get contractions going again and have this baby. This was already turning out so vastly different than my lightning speed labors in the past, but we felt peaceful, knowing prayers were being answered that I would have time for the antibiotics to keep the baby safe. Around 11pm, the epidural was administered and my bag of waters was broken. Little did we know, I wouldn't start contracting again for nearly three hours. I also had no clue (thankfully!) that the epidural wouldn't kick in at all where it needed to work.

Around 2am, contractions finally started again. I was still 4cm dilated, but the contractions were intense and frequent. By 2:15am, the nurse checked me again and I was 6cm dilated and 100% effaced. Progress! The contractions began to be painful for the first time, and I realized I was feeling everything on my right side. I let the nurse know and she had me turn onto my right side to let gravity pull the medicine toward that side. But it wasn't working. At all. She tested me with ice in various places and it felt just as cold as if she'd put it on my arm. On the outside of my left hip, I felt numbness - but I could feel everything else. The anesthesiologist returned to readjust the epidural -- and possibly re-do it completely -- but by this time, the contractions had ramped up to every 1-2 minutes and I didn't think I could endure the procedure to replace the epidural. I knew that the end was near and just wanted to make it there.

During all of this, Shawn was resting on the other side of the room and I was facing away from him, still lying on my right side and holding out hope that the epidural would eventually move by gravity. By God's grace, I was mentally focused in a way I'd never experienced. With Lanie's natural birth -- which occurred in triage just half an hour after arriving at the hospital -- I felt completely out of control. I was out of control, screaming and writhing in pain with each contraction until she burst out in just a few pushes. This time, I was able to accept the pain, visualizing that Beckham and I were working together to move him down and out into the world. The thought occurred like a wisp, "I can't do this anymore" as the pain intensified and I moved into the transition phase. Then I recalled that the fact that I was even thinking this must mean the end is near. During this time, as Shawn rested, I was so focused that I hardly moved. With my left leg now completely numb, I didn't have much of a choice. I was resolved to stay under control. I whispered prayers in the dark. "Lord, be near," was about all I could muster. Shawn thought I was sleeping.

By around 2:45am, contractions were 1 minute apart and as our experienced nurse, Kim, watched the change in my breathing, she called for the delivery cart. I heard her whisper to another nurse, "I don't trust her. This is going to be quick." Just a couple minutes later, I felt the pressure of Beckham's head and couldn't help but push, so I told her I was ready. She paged the doctor and said, "I need you right now." The nursery team and doctor rushed in, lights flipped on, I was moved into pushing position and told I could push with the next contraction. I was so intensely focused on what I had to do next that everyone's conversation in the room was a fog, like I was underwater and hearing garbled noises from above the surface. The doctor touched me with a cold metal instrument and asked if I could feel it. I could feel every bit, but I said, "No," to which he replied, "Well that's important." I think I just didn't want to admit - even to myself - that I was feeling it all.

Within a couple pushes, Beckham's head and shoulders were out and I gave one more small push to birth the rest of his body. He gave a good strong cry, was placed immediately on my chest, and I've never felt such relief in my life. "Hi, Beckham," said the doctor. The first words he heard.

The fog I'd been in cleared and I heard the conversation buzzing in the room.

He's here.
He's perfect.
He has the longest fingers and toes!
He looks just like our other babies.
Sweet, beautiful Beckham.

We spent the next two hours in the dimly lit labor and delivery room, just soaking him up. He nursed immediately for over an hour. The nursery nurse came in to assess him head-to-toe and found a tongue tie (familiar to us as Liam and Lanie also had them) but everything else checked out perfectly. We were then transferred to our postpartum room around 5am. Exhausted, overjoyed, experiencing such peace.

I had struggled deeply with anxiety throughout my pregnancy about just how labor and delivery would go. God answered every single feeble prayer. Mostly, he kept me in perfect peace, even when things didn't go as planned. Had I known the epidural wasn't going to work, I wouldn't have been calm entering labor. But by God's grace and with his strength, even though in immense pain, I felt no fear. The nurse God appointed was direct, honest, caring. Exactly who I needed to reassure me that everything was going beautifully, despite how it felt. The doctor remained calm, encouraging, personable. Shawn was a rock, knowing me well enough to know when to talk or turn on music and when to just be silent. He had reminded me in days before this is the last time you'll do this, which was a comfort.

We're nearly 9 months in now, and we can easily say Beckham was our easiest newborn. His big brothers and sister adore him, still leaping out of bed each day so they can hold him first thing in the morning. I don't know that we pictured ourselves as a family of 6, but we couldn't be more grateful that that's what God had planned for us. It's impossible now to picture our family without Beck.

Grace upon grace upon grace. Thank you, Jesus!

Our sweet Raleigh home.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

This past week, we said goodbye to our home here in Raleigh. This house has seen so much life happen in the past 5 years. We've brought 3 babies home from the hospital, we've spent nearly half our marriage here, we've begun our homeschool journey, we've repented and forgiven one another more times than I can count inside these walls. I wanted to share our real estate photos to preserve the memory of this sweet little home. We will miss her dearly.

We're moving to Texas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

It's with such joy and sadness that I announce that our family is moving allllll the way to Texas! Shawn has accepted a position as worship pastor at The Mount in Keller, Texas (just outside of Fort Worth). Our Raleigh house just sold and the moving truck arrives two days after Christmas.

To our Raleigh fam, you have loved us SO well and we will miss you dearly. I wish there was some way to say goodbye (and *thank you*) to you all.

And to our new Texas fam, we can't wait to get to know you, to raise our kids alongside you, and to serve Jesus and his Church with you.

DIY: Stained glass.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Today I'm sharing a simple DIY project that my kids had so much fun with. This would make a perfect homeschool mini unit study on the history of stained glass or a lesson for a co-op! 
During the Gothic period and the Renaissance (1100s - 1500s), stained glass was one of the foremost painting techniques practiced in Europe. The process of coloring glass was probably invented in ancient Egypt, but it was during the Middle Ages that stained glass windows developed as a major art form. Stained glass windows were an important feature of Gothic-style churches, which first arose in the mid-1100's. The windows filled the interiors of the churches with light and color. They also served an educational purpose. During the Middle Ages, the church was the center of learning. There were few books, and only a few people could read. The designs in the first stained glass windows usually depicted stories or scenes from the Bible. Such scenes were important tools in teaching Christian beliefs to people who visited the churches.

The term "stained glass" derives from the silver stain that was often applied to the side of the window that would face the outside of the building. When the glass was fired, the silver stain turned a yellow color. Artisans of the Middle Ages perfected techniques for making stained-glass windows, many of which are still used today. On a large board, the artisan drew a picture the same size at the window. He numbered each section of the picture according to color. Over the drawing he placed pieces of glass that had already been colored while the glass was being made. Then, following the outline of the drawing, he cut out the shapes with a hot iron. Finally, the artisan cut strips of lead to fit between the pieces of glass. The lead did more than hold the pieces together; it became part of the design. Large windows were given a framework of iron bars for added strength.  

New methods have since changed the appearance of stained glass. But one thing has never changed: the magic effect of sunlight pouring through colored glass. 

Plastic box frame or frame glass (for older kids)
Glass paints (I found these at Hobby Lobby)
Small paint brush
Stained glass window template (find some here to print)

1. Place template behind glass or plastic frame and tape into place. 
2. Using puffy paint, trace the lines of the template onto the glass (may need mom or dad's help with this part). Hold the tip to the surface of the glass and squeeze gently.
3. Allow to dry completely, at least 3 hours lying flat.
4. Once dry, use a small brush and glass paints to fill in your design. Let dry overnight.
5. Enjoy your beautiful stained glass design near a window to allow the light to shine through the brilliant colors.

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