the fourth trimester

I don't even know what to say, except that the first few months of life with a new baby seem to get harder with each one, but they seem to get better at the same time. 

I don't know where the time went, but somehow summer's gone and it's fall and I have a 4 month old baby girl who lights up our home and fills our hearts with happiness every minute of every day.

And I'm not exaggerating.

She is a dream.
But let's rewind a moment. 

Her newborn days are over, and I'm okay with that. The fourth trimester isn't my fave, first smiles and coos, and lots of snuggles aside. 
From the very start I expressed my concern with her care providers that she had some reflux. Midwives said it's often overdiagnosed. Pediatrician said as long as her weight gain was fine, it probably wasn't reflux. But it wasn't okay with me that my baby would arch and writhe and cry every time she ate, and that she couldn't stay asleep longer than 5 minutes at a time. 

Yes. You read that right. 5 minutes of sleep at a time...
Baby's 2 month checkup showed significantly slowed weight gain. Pediatrician was concerned.

"And you're certain you're producing enough milk?"

 **Cue the rolling of a mothers eyeballs** 

Yes. Yes, I am positive. I am a milk making machine. She simply doesn't want it. She cries when she eats. She appears to be in pain. Now should we maybe try the reflux meds?

"I have three options for you. 1: do nothing and see what happens. 2: supplement with formula. 3: try out some meds for reflux."

"Alright then, doc. Here's what I think. 1: I don't like seeing my baby in pain. Nursing is stressful. I worry about her. 2: Even if I were cool with formula feeding (I'm not), why would she drink from a bottle when she won't even drink all the milk I have for her? 3: I don't like to medicate, but I'm willing to give it a go if it will help her."

Within days on her meds, she began to fuss less when eating, sometimes even taking both sides!! Gah!!

I was ecstatic.

(and feeling somewhat vindicated.)

Baby's 3 month checkup for weight gain still showed a decrease in her rate of weight gain, although it had improved quite a bit since the last time. Pediatrician was worried. Very worried.

What followed was an awkward conversation in which both parties tried hard to preserve the friendly doctor-patient relationship we've always enjoyed while at the same time maintaining our grounds. 

What resulted was a frustrated pediatrician insisting that there was a breastmilk feeding problem and a frustrated mommy who disagreed wholeheartedly. 

She is happy-- the happiest baby ever. She is developing on track. She is the heaviest wetter of all my babies. She is getting plenty of nutrition. She is growing (even if it's slowly). She is thriving. 

How is she a baby that needs formula? 

She isn't. 

Screw the numbers. Accept her doctor's genuine concern, and do what you know to be best for her.

Because mothers really do know best.

So as you've all probably guessed, my sweet baby is a peanut. Last month she was in the 14th percentile for weight, and (surprisingly-- as this is higher than my other girls) the 34th for height. Know what's interesting about that?

Her mom is a little small, too. Her dad isn't tall. Her oldest sister was smaller at this age than she is, and is currently in the 1st percentile. Funny how that works...

**cue further rolling of eyeballs**

On a much lighter note, I've been made aware of the fact that I've left a lot of readers hanging this past year. Allow me to explain.

Pregnancy is hard for me. The postpartum months are harder still. Spotting the huge potential for this blog to become a total downer, and not wanting to depress the heck out of all my friends and discourage people from having babies... well, I opted for fewer updates on the blog.

Forgive me?

Thank you. Much appreciated.

Can I get a big warm welcome back to the land of the living?!
Because that's what it feels like. I'm starting to feel like myself again. Myself, although sleep deprived. Pregnancy weight is gone. Reflux meds + baby swing means I can actually put my baby down to sleep somewhere upright, other than my arms. 

It's no secret that I thrive on creativity. 

I'm getting my life back.

And with her in it, it is 145 million times better. She makes everything better.

She smiles, squeals, coos, and giggles round the clock. Leave her alone to practice rolling over in the other room while you make lunch for your older kids? Nothing but happy squeals. Take an extra few minutes to change that poopy diaper while wrestling a terrorist toddler into time out? Peace and quiet, with grateful smiles when you return to her. Walk into the room? Smiles. Wipe the spit up off her face? Smiles. Woke up still sleepy? Smiles and coos. Belly full of milk and done nursing? Happiest of squeals. Smile at her? Floods of happiness wash over her whole countenance. Bath water isn't the perfect temperature? Okay, she'll cry a little. But the gushing smiles return quickly once she's dry and warm again. And she's never cared much for her carseat.
A small part of me resented (and disbelieved) people who described their babies this way.

Ummm.... you're full of it. Babies are great, but no one gets off that easy. I have two. Both are strong willed, independent, and one is downright naughty and antagonistic. Finds joy in causing trouble. The definition of terrorism. Temper tantrums can easily last 1.5 hours.

No one gets off that easy.

Except... they do. Content, calm, pleasant children do exist. 

And I got one...!?!?! Say, what?! 

Evangeline is pure joy. 

Don't get me wrong, my older kids are great kids. They really are. But, this is such a different experience than I've ever had as a mother!!

It's not unusual for 10+ minutes to go by and all I've done is kiss her cheeks repeatedly.

I'm obsessed with this baby.

Squats make her giggle. Of all things to do endlessly to hear the sweetest peals of laughter.. lots and lots of squats (ask me how sore my legs are lately....) 

The sound of my children laughing is the most beautiful sound in the world.

My ringtone is a recording of them laughing.

We keep vacillating between variations of her name. I love Evangeline, but it is a mouthful. There are a million ways to shorten it, and she has an awesome middle name too. Whatever fits best, I guess!

See those grey blue eyes? They're identical to mine.

See those little fingers? They're getting all kinds of grabby.

I can't get enough of this sweet girl and her infectious personality.
I am so obsessed with this baby.


to falling in love

I'm going to be honest. It wasn't love at first sight.

With my first, and with this little one, I didn't have that magical mom moment at birth that everyone talks about where I was instantly in love with my baby. Sometimes there's so much else going on that the falling in love happens slowly. And it's okay.

I love her tremendously, and that's what matters.

(I've wondered if I was instantly in love with Liberty because someone knew I'd need to be...)

So it's been a month! A whole month since Evangeline was born, and I have no idea where it's gone. Like, how is it July?! Did I really just miss a whole month of summer?!
Here's where it's gone:

To long nights and little sleep.
To teaching a good latch in the midst of thrush and a nursing strike.
To keeping a sleepy newborn awake long enough to get some nourishment in her little body.
To diaper explosions.
To the arrival of the world's cutest belly button.
To lots of tears.
And lots of milk.
To teaching toddlers not to maul and smash their sister with love.
To breaking up fights while nursing.
To finding new ways to get dinner on the table.
To accepting gifts and meals from caring friends.
To breastfeeding.
To piles of laundry and changing everyone's clothes a million times a day.
To potty training a toddler who realized she's not the baby anymore.
To take out.
To a house so messy I can't even begin to get it under control.
To texting my midwife.
To babywearing.
To praying for more patience than I possess on my own.
To trying to get out of the house and into the swing of things again.
To work on our house and another setback before we buy it.
To new friendships in the mother's lounge.
To support from friends from a distance, across town, or down the street.
To texting, as my only contact with other adult humans.
To breastfeeding.
To burping.
To gas.
To spit up and full on vomit.
To engorgement.
To overactive letdown.
To reflux.
To supplements and medications to try to get everything back to normal.
To stress and tears.
To hearts so full of love.
To snuggles, the smell of a baby, and the feeling of her soft head on my cheek.
To co-sleeping.
To fussy evenings and fussy mornings.
To the oh-so-sacred shower time.
To envying my Husband's sleep and being grateful for him as a father.
To older sisters so in love with their new baby sister.
To daydreams of the happy life they'll share as best friends.
To getting to know her and falling in love.

And to realizing all over again that what seems insurmountable can actually be done. Three kids in four years?! I guess I can do this after all.
It's true that we come to love those we serve. And that's what motherhood is: a full on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job that's pure service. I sometimes forget this with my older kids, who can use the toilet and dress themselves and get food from their plates to their mouths to their bellies without assistance. But with this sweet newborn who can scarcely lift her own head and relies on me for literally everything else, it's more clear to me. It's about service. Being a mother is about serving others, and loving them in the process. 

So, it wasn't love at first sight. The day of her birth was magical, but maybe when I nursed her I focused more on managing those afterpains than gazing at her in awe while my heart overflowed with emotion. Maybe it took a while for that to subside. And maybe we faced one challenge after another in the weeks that followed and I have older children to care for as well. And maybe love isn't always something that happens to us, as much as it is something that we choose everyday.
Maybe my love for little Evangeline was less mushy mushy and more choosing to latch her on yet another time despite the blood, tears, and stabbing pain of thrush. Choosing to see it through because she deserves the very best. Maybe it's choosing to pry my eyes open when I hear her stirring at night and trying my best to keep us both awake to nurse. It's putting the cleaning on hold and spending that extra hour (or three) to rock her and calm her. Maybe it's letting her fuss for a couple of minutes to care for her sisters. Because I love them too. Maybe falling in love is a byproduct of hard work and selfless service. And maybe, in the end, that's what motherhood is all about.


Baby Evangeline: A Birth Story

 "The third baby is a wild card."

I heard this from at least 3-4 different people in the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Evangeline, one of whom was my midwife, Valerie. 

People will say all kinds of things and I often remain skeptical of the validity of such statements, except... my midwife said it too. I could believe my midwife. 

So I had no idea what to expect this time around. But then, do we ever? We think we do. And while some labor patterns may be predictable, there still remain so many variables with each baby.
At around midnight around 39 weeks, Husband and I crashed into bed, exhausted. I was so sick of contractions, and knew that laying down just so in bed often stopped them and allowed me to sleep. I love my bed.

That night, my bed did not love me. I laid down and my contractions became surprisingly intense and close together. Say, what?! 

2.5 minutes apart. Intense. Long. I was trembling. 

Holy heck. I thought. No. This cannot be happening. I don't want a baby tonight. No, I want to go to sleep. I don't want a precipitous birth. I just want it to be normal. No. Let me get a good night's rest and I'll do this in the morning. Please... no.

Husband helped me. I tried a few different positions, still hoping they'd go away. And they didn't.

Husband began to tidy up the living room. I was thankful I had cleaned the kitchen after dinner that night. 

After a couple of hours, I was just wondering if we should call the midwife and Husband was wondering if he should set up the tub. They started to slow a little. I sat down on the couch and dozed between contractions. Liberty woke up screaming and jumped into Daddy's arms. 

Within 30 more minutes, contractions had spaced to 5-7 minutes apart, and I decided to go back to bed.

So when I woke the next morning (ie, approximately 4 hours later..) I was not only 100% exhausted, but also feeling a little defeated. And confused. What on earth was all that about?!

It was real labor. I knew it. It was different from my everyday contractions. How could I come out of labor without having a baby?

A few texts to my midwife and I felt a little relieved. In a medical world where this kind of thing is treated like a problem, I felt reassured by her experience and knowledge.

"Posterior babies often do this when they're trying to rotate that last little bit into position for labor. I'll bet she won't be much longer now."

Rotate away, kiddo. Just do what you gotta do.

A nap, a chiropractic adjustment, and restocking of the house with food made me feel a little better. Still, I was wondering what the hold up was. I was nervous about the labor-- which was really strange-- considering I'd done this twice before without pain medication, and this time, we were planning a home birth so I didn't even have to worry about all the annoying parts about being at the hospital. But my initial reaction the night before to those labor pains came as a surprise to me.

That was what I'd clearly thought to myself. 
No, I don't want to do this.

Well, crap. If that isn't the best way to put off the onset of labor, then I don't know what is. I talked with my good friend Jami (also a natural childbirth instructor) as our kids played together outside, and determined I had some things to sort out before this baby would come.

I plunged headfirst into a day's worth of introspection. Reading, journaling, prayer, discussing things over and over with my Husband. A day later, my head and heart more clear, I felt ready.
The next morning as the sun was starting to rise, I woke up with strong contractions coming every 2.5-3 minutes. I wondered. Tried not to get too excited. Tried to go back to sleep until my kiddos woke. 

But... there was no way I could sleep!

This was it.

And I immediately thanked God that yet another baby had so graciously given me the gift of a full nights sleep before laboring.

Thank God. I didn't have to do it at midnight after a long, exhausting day.

I put all my mental faculties into welcoming every contraction, with smiles and tears through the pain, because.. I was finally going to hold my baby.

Don't fight it. Welcome it. Embrace it.

Concerned that things might fizzle out again, I brewed and downed a quart of potent raspberry leaf tea, and took a couple doses of blue cohosh for good measure. I chugged a protein shake and ate a slice of toast. Husband began cleaning up toys from the living room and adjusting furniture to make room for the birthing tub.

"Don't get excited too soon! You know what adrenaline will do in terms of labor progress."

I knew. But I just couldn't stop smiling.

This is it! Today I get to meet my Evangeline!

I kept on my feet-- walking, swaying, pacing, cleaning the bathroom-- in hopes of speeding things up. Contractions were kind of all over the place, although still coming nice and strong, even if they were only 30-35 seconds long consistently. 

I had a turkey sandwich with avocado. Mmmmm... With my last labor, I had so wanted avocados. But I was at the hospital where food is forbidden. 

The memory of that made this sandwich all the more spectacular.

Husband set up the tub and began to fill it. My midwife, Valerie, arrived about 6 hours in with her student midwife, Angela. My friend Heather showed up with her camera and her daughter to watch our little ones. 

The excitement slowed things down and I was bummed.

I was encouraged to eat again. Husband brought me some hummus, pitas, and sliced strawberries to eat as I lay on my couch contracting every 5-8 minutes.
I love my couch. I love strawberries. This is how labor should always be.

I was torn. I wanted to keep walking to get the labor over faster, but I was getting tired. A nap sounded so much nicer, so I rested a while on that couch. I dozed a little when I had a larger gap between contractions. Husband had hymns playing and it was peaceful. So very peaceful.
Time sort of began to blur for me around this point. I have no idea how long I laid there for, or what everyone else was doing to pass the time. My children came in and out a few times, and I loved to see their happy, sunkissed faces. Libby handled the birth tub swimming prohibition surprisingly well. My husband held my hand, applied counter pressure on my lower back, and kissed me. 
No one made me do anything I didn't want to do. No one pestered me with questions. No one wanted to do a vaginal exam. No one insisted I get a hep lock or be stuck in bed attached to monitors. No one tried to tell me I wasn't in labor.

It was peaceful.

But it was starting to drag...

I asked Valerie to palpate my belly to check the baby's presentation, to see if she had rotated yet. She hadn't. But she had descended quite a bit, and I was grateful that all these contractions were getting us somewhere.
In an effort to get baby into the anterior position, we tried Valerie's rebozo. That felt really good, actually. The gentle pressure on my belly eased the pain of contractions. This labor was different than my others in that I felt my contractions both in my back and by belly. With the first two, it was 100% back labor. I didn't really care for the combo. This kid was changing things up for me!

We also tried a technique called the abdominal lift and tuck, which (as you might guess), consists of lifting the belly during a contraction and tucking the pelvis under. This proved to be trickier than I thought. 
I was tired.

How long has it been?! Why am I not in transition yet? Shouldn't I be there by now?

I looked at the clock. Whatever it said was a blur, but it was a blur that indicated a lot more time had passed than I had been aware of.

How much longer am I going to have to do this?

I cried. The whole pregnancy had been a more emotional one for me, and labor wasn't any different. My Husband hugged me. I cried some more and pleaded to go into transition and get it all over with. I listened to the words of the hymns in the peace of my living room and thought of the Savior in Gethsemane, suffering out of love for me.

Not my will, but thine, be done.
I will do this as long as you need me to.

And then..

I want to be in the water now.
And oh, that water felt so nice! It was a hot day and the water had gotten cool. The feeling of weightlessness is like magic to a tired, pregnant body! I loved it. And the lift and tuck move was much easier in the tub as well.
I was back and forth between the tub and the restroom when Valerie suggested I just stay in the water.

"Urine is sterile. If you need to go, it won't hurt anything."

"What?! I'm pretty sure that's something my 2 year old just did.." I replied, aware of my girls frolicking outside in their inflatable pool. 
Thankfully, I didn't need to go again after that. I maintained my dignity. 

As soon as I said those words in my head, accepting the possibility that baby would still take several more hours to arrive, labor really picked up.

Husband had put on his swimsuit and was climbing into the tub with me. My heart about melted with love and gratitude for him just then. I knew he wasn't thrilled about being in the tub with me. But here he was, doing it without my asking him to.

I couldn't have done any of it without this man's love, patience, and help.
Contractions started coming right on top of each other and the intensity was greater than with either of my previous labors. I might have also been a bit louder.

Emotionally, things shifted for me. I made several demands to have songs skipped that I had either heard too many variations of or disliked in general. There were more tears. Husband poured water on my back and shoulders and it was soothing.

During a lull between hymns I heard in the background,

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" being sung by an overly cheerful British nanny and insisted forcefully,

"Someone please make Mary Poppins shut up!!"

Really. I can't take Mary Poppins and her perfection on a good day. I certainly can't handle her during transition.

And that's about where I was: transition. 

The dreaded stage of labor that I had been both loathing and praying for simultaneously.

Angela reminded me of a couple of things at this point. 1: I had been in the same position for a long time and should probably adjust my legs before they got achy and sore, and 2: I should breathe in more during contractions.

Yeah, I wasn't doing either of those. 

I was (relatively) comfortable, and kneeling over the edge of the tub allowed for Husband to easily put counter pressure on my lower back to ease the pain. And in terms of breathing in...

To me, during transition contractions, I feel almost as if I've gotten the wind knocked out of me severely and air will only exit my lungs, not enter. I tried to breathe in, but MAN! It was just way more painful. Not to mention distracting. So I did my own thing and made sure to breathe in deeply between them. That's what worked for me. And when checked with the doppler, baby was fine.
I don't know how long this went on. It really seemed like forever. Like, so much longer than with my other labors, and the intensity was so much greater.

Frustration increased.

"Can I just push now, please!?" I pleaded.

"If you feel like you need to push, then push," Valerie said calmly.

"I don't!! I just want to!!" I cried in desperation.

Really. I wanted to push so badly. I wanted so badly to be done.

I was beyond frustrated. I may have yelled a couple of times. 

This labor felt different. It was harder. I was certain that it had never been this hard before. 

I tried pushing. Every few contractions I'd try but just didn't feel her in the birth canal yet, so I kept on laboring.

I could tell everyone was on the edge of their seats at this point. Electronic devices and the hymns had been turned off. Snacking had stopped. All eyes on me and this baby about to arrive.

I had wanted my girls to come in at this point so they could be there to watch their sister's birth, but when I arrived at that point, I was glad they were in the other room. My emotions were so high and the pain so strong that I was a little glad they weren't there to witness it. And I didn't want them to feel scared.

Inwardly, I was pleading for relief.

And it came.


It seemed like forever.

But I felt the distinct and familiar feeling of my baby and knew it was time. I started to move into a squat but only got halfway up before I needed to push with the contraction.

My water broke and her head was delivered.

I leaned backward slightly as I got into a squat, and was caught in Husband's strong arms. It was like landing in a cloud, or being held by an angel. I felt so supported and so light in the water.

I got my other leg up and was expecting to wait for the next contraction to get the baby out, but my body thought otherwise, and I was compelled to give it one more push. 

And that's all it took!

I had also wanted to catch her myself this time around. But at that moment, I was pretty braindead and didn't really care. Or even remember, until I saw her little body float up to the surface in front of me. Angela lifted her out of the water.

There was a slight green tinge and my first thought was,

"She has hair. It looks blonde. But... meconium..."

Angela handed me my baby and I held her on my chest. Husband was behind me, holding me as I held her. 
 Verity and Liberty came into the living room through our kitchen, the late evening sun streaming through the windows, and their eyes were wide with wonder as they saw their new baby sister.

"Happy Birthday, Momma!" Libby shouted.

We all laughed. How appropriate!
"What time is it?" I asked.


"12 hours..." I responded. "Oh my goodness. 12 hours."

The blur of labor didn't clear up immediately for me this time, as my placenta was a little more reluctant to come this time. I was reclining and it was not comfortable with all those continued contractions in my back. I wanted to say something, or move, but there was so much going on and I was still in so much pain I could barely speak. After about 30-40 minutes we clamped and cut the cord. Husband climbed out, dried off, and took Evangeline for some skin-to-skin time with her. I climbed out also and delivered the placenta. 
Angela helped me out of my wet tanktop and into bed. It was so nice to be able to get into my own bed! I love my bed. 

Minimal bleeding, no sutures needed. All was well.

I got a few minutes relief from contractions.

Because as soon as I got baby latched on (not amazingly well, but we did it), the pain came back. It was like active labor had started again.
People aren't kidding when they say it gets worse with each baby. I remembered accepting the percocet that was offered me at the hospital the last time I gave birth (much to my Husband's shock), and happily accepted the tinctures my midwife offered me for this pain as well. I only wish it had helped more... or that anything (percocet included) could help that that kind of torture...

Angela began to talk about the placenta. While it was neat to see the amniotic sac that had contained my baby these past 9 months, I was pretty much back to being braindead as I nursed my baby and the after pains bulldozed me. I have no idea what she even said. I just wanted quiet.

Post-nursing, the pain subsided a good amount and Angela did her newborn exam. 
7 lbs 12 oz, 20 inches long.
Pink, breathing well, great muscle tone. I should have asked for her APGAR rating.
Evangeline didn't care much for her vitamin K shot.
Within the hour, things settled down and the midwives got things finished up. Some words of advice that went in one ear and out the other, and they were ready to go just as my mother in law showed up with Thai food for us.

By the time everyone went home, it was past 10pm and our older girls were still awake. Husband and I looked at each other and I remember thinking, 

Well, I guess life keeps on going...

And I kept nursing the baby while he put her sisters to bed for the night.

I was grateful for the quiet. For another smooth birth with no complications. 

This is why we do this naturally, I thought. It's hard, and it's painful. But I'll take the natural pain of contractions over the unnatural pain of recovery from medicated births and interventions... any day.

I stared at my newborn baby laying there on my bed, zonked out and happy after her meal. I snapped a photo on my phone and studied it.

Who is this miraculous little person?

I happily posted the photo to social media. Happy to finally share her name.

We're still getting to know her. I love the getting-to-know-you stage. 

I laid down in the comfort of my own bed, my newborn cuddled up to my chest, and kissed her soft little head a million times. My heart was filled with gratitude for this beautiful, perfect little human that Heavenly Father had sent me. The sound of Husband's voice singing the girls to sleep only added to the peaceful, magical feeling in our home that night.

Welcome to our family, Evangeline Hero! We love you already.