Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Latelys

I can't believe it's May already. May 27th to be exact. Nearly a month has passed since I've shared a blog post (more like journal entry), I think to myself, as I sprawl out on our sturdy wooden bench at the dining room table. The cool, smooth surface of the wood feels refreshing against my skin. Coupled with this quiet moment, I breathe deeply and relax.

My body instinctively tenses as I hear a few tiny squeaks from the safari-themed baby bouncer to my right. I notice my body clenching; I'm feeling hopeful and yet realistic about what will happen next. Is she going to wake up? Or continue sleeping? My window of opportunity for accomplishing small tasks (i.e eating a meal, paying bills, folding laundry, or loading the dishwasher) is quickly closing, as baby girl's cute squeaks transition into shrieks and crying. Ruby wants to be held close, so I put down my lunch plate of warm veggie pasta, in all its savory goodness, and cuddle with her on the couch. Cuddling turns into nursing, and then napping - napping on mama's chest. An hour or two passes, and I try to maneuver my way off the recliner with a sleeping baby in my arms. She immediately senses that I'm trying to put her down and crying ensues.

And we are now back to cuddling.

From what I've read and heard, this is a phase - a sweet, albeit exhausting phase - where baby girl wants to be held all the time. On any given day, this will include 5-10 minutes here and there of playtime, called "Tummy Time," where baby girl is placed on her stomach and practices lifting her head and legs. It's a form of strength-training. Ruby typically likes the first few minutes of Tummy Time and then wants to be held again. I also try to hoist her around in our baby carrier front-pack, but unless I time it for right after a feeding, she freaks out and tries to nurse, despite whatever I am wearing. Thankfully, she is starting to enjoy her bouncer chair more often, and as part of my daily routine, I set her in there while I race around the kitchen compiling snacks or throwing together a meal. She can see me and that works for a short time.

Ah, the life of a brand-new mom. My days are structured around Ruby: nursing her, changing diapers, encouraging naps, and baby playtime. All these responsibilities are new to me, and I'm trying to balance them gracefully. There are moments when I remember what life was like before Ruby: sleeping in on the weekend - or just sleeping in general, preparing extravagant home-cooked meals and desserts for Ken and company, and hosting friends and family on a regular basis. Our house was well-kept most of the time, and clean laundry didn't pile up in the dryer for days (or weeks) on end. Ken and I made plans and were consistent in them.

My how times have changed. In this season of acclimating to a baby at home, I sense that God is growing my ability to hold things loosely. I no longer plan things with such definitive expectations. Mostly, I verbalize my desires with a keen awareness that something could change - my days are currently centered around taking care of my baby. A baby who is tender and reliant on Ken and me for everything. We are her world right now. (Well, us and the wild, black-and-white creature named "Penny" who likes to lick her face.)

As I adjust to all these things, I think about how beautiful and unique this time in my life is, where I have the opportunity to be at home with Ruby. I get to watch her grow and develop. I treasure her gentle heart, energetic spirit, and curiosity about the space around her. I'm her mom and she feels safe with me. Our home is a place of joy and hope and life. In truth, it also a place of challenge, as I juggle my new role of mother as well as wife and friend. At times, I have to remind myself that only in taking good care of my health and wellness, am I then able to take care of others. There's a reason why, when traveling on an airplane, emergency protocol dictates that parents are to put the oxygen masks on themselves first, before placing one on their child. I didn't understand this concept as a teenager, in hearing it broadcast over the plane's intercom. Only years later, through counseling, did I recognize the incredibly helpful metaphor that is for my life. In order to help others, it's best for me to operate from a place of strength. The strength that God provides, especially when I feel weak and exhausted and overwhelmed - strength I choose to pursue by practicing peace and rest, which looks very different in this season but is still just as important.

Savoring the small things. Like steaming hot showers, crisp bed linens, freshly vacuumed carpets, and soothing cups of tea. As well as celebrating the nights when we are blessed with a few hours of interrupted sleep. These are examples of how God is renewing my spirit and equipping me with endurance for this journey of motherhood. I find it interesting that in learning how to take care of Ruby, I'm also learning how to better take care of myself.

On that note, I better head out. I hear soft squeaks coming from Ruby's direction. She needs her mama.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thoughts on Sleepless Nights & Becoming a Mom

It's been 18 days now since I gave birth to my sweet baby girl, Ruby. Yesterday, I met with my family practitioner and she removed the surgical tape covering my stitches, remnants from my emergency c-section. Her incredibly quick hands stripped the adhesive bandages in record time. I felt a few sharp pinches on my abdomen and before I could fully register the pain, she had completed her task and whipped out a mirror to show me what it looked like down there: a thin, shadowy line running horizontal above my pelvis.

Thankfully, I'm no longer afraid of what I see. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, stripped down before my daily shower, I analyze the ever-changing shape of my body. Each new curve, stretch mark, and scar is fascinating. Prior to labor and delivery, the nurses at my women's clinic would brag about how beautiful my light-brown skin was. They'd say things like, "It's not fair," and "I can't believe you have no stretch marks from being pregnant." Phrases that women tell other women in a sort of backhanded compliment, which translates to "I'm jealous."

Somehow that all changed once I gave birth to my baby. Stretch marks magically appeared all around my belly and my once-flawless complexion morphed into blotchy patches of discoloration. How ironic.

Becoming a mother has truly changed me, both physically and emotionally. While I'm fairly close to my pre-pregnancy weight, thanks largely in part to a rapid 20-lb weight loss during delivery, I recognize that my body has transformed. It's so different.

I'm a mom now. And as such, my body accommodates the needs of my baby - her constant nursing, and desire to cuddle.

Likewise, I feel a strong mothering instinct. I must protect my baby girl, taking great care to feed her and watch over her. Most nights, I fall asleep listening to the sound of her breathing, focusing on every inhale and exhale, ensuring that she's still alive and safe.

To put things in perspective, before having baby Ruby in my life, I had no idea how challenging parenting could be. Sure, friends and family always had their stories to share but until I became a mom, I didn't realize that I could function on so little sleep each night, supplemented by fragmented naps throughout the day. In certain ways, I feel like the worst version of myself: crazy-haired girl who currently lives in her pink and white bathrobe and occasionally (or frequently) forgets if she brushed her teeth or changed her underwear, all while operating in a delirious state of exhaustion each day. Taking care of a baby. That's my life right now.

On the flip side, I also live within the tension that yes, I don't have it all together most days. And yes, I will probably only wear makeup for special occasions in the coming days/weeks/months? But, I'm now a mom and doing things right in so many ways. I have the privilege of raising a baby girl to know that she is loved and cared for, and I get to work through my own sense of selfishness and self-centered desires on a daily basis. It's true that my life has changed forever - my identity and expectations are adapting to accommodate the child who relies on me for everything.  Rather than focusing on all the things I'm giving up (sleep, appearance, sanity), God is constantly reminding me of what I've been given. The gift of a baby girl that I get to steward and raise and protect.

I had no idea how challenging and rewarding, this new season would be. Perhaps, this is reason still to give thanks. I'm finding that there is grace in not being able to see what lies ahead, stepping out in faith into the great unknown.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” 
C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baby Ruby: My Birth Story

What are some defining characteristics about my birth story? I think to myself, as my legs tremble slightly and a rush of heat glides across my cheeks and forehead. The muscles in my abdomen tighten, as I glance down at my now much flatter stomach. A deep surge of pain radiates through my lower right side, and I’m reminded of my surgery – being hoisted onto a brightly lit operating table, with a huge team of medical personnel poised for action, focused and attentive, as my family practitioner facilitated each cut, each movement, and extremely quick extraction of my baby girl from my womb.

Pressure, they said I’d feel pressure and no pain. The surgeons and nurses briefed me, in what felt like seconds, on what I could expect as I was wheeled into the operating room. It was an emergency C-section, and my situation had just bumped the lady who had been waiting to go into surgery before me. In less than 30 minutes from start to finish, I heard baby Ruby’s first loud cry – as if Heaven and Hell were being shaken, and watched as she was immediately carried to a warm baby incubator station to my left. Whisked over to her by a nurse, Ken observed as Ruby was cleaned and suctioned, and got to help cut her umbilical cord.

Without delay, she was brought to me for a moment, and I started crying. Ruby is so beautiful, I whispered, as I fought to control my emotions.

Shaking, I couldn’t stop shaking. A sweet nurse clutched my hands as I said good-bye to Ken and baby Ruby, who were then taken to the recovery room, while my body was sown back up. My eyes caught a flash of light reflecting off the mirror above my head and I could just barely make out the scene taking place below the giant blue wall of sterile curtains.

I cringed, and looked away.

“Water, I need water!” I begged the hospital staff, as multiple blue-coated, facemask-donned workers passed to my right and left.

“You must wait, I’m so sorry,” each person replied, as I became increasingly agitated and desperate.

“I’m going to throw up. I feel so sick. Please just a drop,” I instinctively bellowed, in a Hail Mary attempt to gain access to any form of hydration.

I instantly started dry heaving, as my body went into shock, while a nurse grabbed me a small plastic container to catch throw up. My stomach was completely empty, except for a few small drops of saliva. Those were now in the plastic container.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Thoughts swirled above me, caught up in the mix of incredibly white fluorescent light shining on my face. Unsure if I was dreaming or delirious, I thought back over the last 24 hours.

Just yesterday, I had checked into the hospital as a labor induction. Baby girl was nearly two weeks past due and at my doctor’s urging, along with a peace that it was time to ‘get things moving along,’ my husband, my friend Alisa, and my mother-in-law accompanied me, as I prepared for what I hoped would only take the day. The doctors were aware of my desire to move through labor as “naturally” as possible. I had met with them for the past 9+months and they understand how earnestly I desired a normal, vaginal birth for baby girl. Because of that, my Doctor began by breaking my water at 10 a.m. in hopes of getting contractions going. By 2 p.m., I was still only dilated to about 3 cm, so I was given my first IV and slowly fed Pitocin, which mimics the body’s Oxytocin hormone, and hooked up to an electric baby-monitoring device. My pain gradually intensified although by the evening, I still had not dilated any further. My Doctor then inserted a contraction monitor into my uterus, to pinpoint the strength of each contraction. By using that device, the nurses were able to up my Pitocin level to a higher level.

My pain continued to grow, as I moved through contractions 1 ½ to 2 minutes apart that registered as ‘very strong’ on the monitor.

This really hurts, I thought multiple times, as I focused on breathing and relaxation techniques, exercise, and rest. By early morning, I was only about 5 cm dilated with a fever rising from an infection now plaguing my body. Since my water was broken so early the previous day, bacteria got inside my uterus and was making it harder for baby girl to be comfortable and safe. Multiple times, the nurses asked me to breathe into an oxygen mask, hoping to assist my baby through the stress of labor. Her heart rate would drop intermittently, in spurts, and that completely freaked me out.

My desire to labor naturally quickly diminished after realizing that baby girl was not coming out. Something was wrong, and I was scared for her. I needed to protect my precious little girl, and at the bidding of the night nurse, I finally decided to get an epidural in hopes of relaxing my body enough to continue dilating. Those few hours of relief from the intense pain allowed me a few short moments of rest and quiet. Ken held me in bed, as I questioned what was going on with my body. I cried out to God and asked Him to please keep my baby safe, at all costs. I was willing to do anything.

A few hours later, my Doctor came in to consult with me. It was a little past 7 a.m. and I still had not gained any ground in dilating. My body was exhausted; I was feverish, and unable to move through the labor process.

I broke down crying - those sobbing, hysterical cries that reflected the intense disappointment deep within my heart. Failed expectations. Grief over what I could not control. Fear over what comes next.

“Yes,” I resolved, giving all I that I had left to say those words. “I will do whatever it takes to get baby girl out safely. I’m ready for a C-section.”


It’s been a little over a week since my beautiful baby girl Ruby greeted this world. Every day I feel stronger, and better able to work through my feelings about how things went while at the hospital.

My battle scars are slowly fading, as I trace the outline of three separate IV sites on my left arm, place my fingers on the remaining surgical tape below my belly, and wean myself off my prescription narcotics for pain. I spent six days in the hospital, as both baby girl and I underwent rounds of antibiotics. At one point, my initial infection seemed under control and then suddenly I had another separate infection. My Doctor put me on three different antibiotics and ran all different tests to rule out other causes. It was all very uncomfortable.

But I can say without any doubt in my mind that my baby was worth fighting for. Everything I experienced, in labor and post-delivery, paled in comparison to the incredible joy of holding the most beautiful child in my arms. Nursing her and cuddling her, and speaking words of life over her. Her delicate features are breathtaking. Ruby’s soft, delicate skin and her long eyelashes. Her medium brown hair and grayish-blue eyes. Her ever-changing facial expressions. The way she immediately responded to my voice that first time, and every subsequent time, when I’ve tried to comfort her.

Pain took on a completely new meaning for me through the birth of my baby. I didn’t get the ‘picture-perfect’, Pinterest-worthy birthing process that I so earnestly longed for. All the natural birthing books that I diligently read and studied, didn’t apply when I had to make the decision to have a C-section. Likewise, all the stories from other women about how they navigated their own labor, faded into the background, as I walked through my very own story of labor and delivery.

And this is how it had to be.

These past couple weeks, I’ve grown in ways that I can’t easily describe. God walked with me through some of my deepest fears and I came out on the other side. Stronger and better equipped, perhaps, to handle setbacks – believing in faith that God knows what’s best for me. Although I’m still struggling to do many of the normal tasks that many mothers are able to do right away (such as driving, lifting more than 10lbs, cooking, cleaning), I want to give myself extra grace in that I’m recovering from major surgery.

My body and my heart are healing. And that’s OK.

I’ve been blessed more than I could ever imagine with the gift of stewarding a little human. Baby Ruby is a treasure, an example of God’s rich love for me. She is healthy and strong, and full of life. I praise God for her, and for the unique story of her birth.

My hope is that Ruby will grow to recognize that there is hidden beauty in unmet expectations, and that life is worth fighting for.

I fought for her, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, April 3, 2015

40 Weeks: Baby Girl's Nursery Reveal!!!

I’m at 40 weeks and 6 days today. Tomorrow, I hit 41 weeks of pregnancy. To be honest, I feel ready to give birth – more so than I’ve felt for the past 10+ months of being pregnant. I’m not afraid of the process like I was a few months ago. Lately, I’ve found myself praying, “Lord, please send me contractions. I can take it. Bring on the intensity!” As if I’m gearing up for an epic P90X workout, where trainer Tony’s mantra rings in my ears: “Work through the pain, not to the pain!” 

I really want to meet this sweet, active baby girl who has been growing inside my belly. I want to see what she looks like, and trace the outline of her face with my fingers. Brown eyes or green eyes? Light skin or dark skin? What color of hair will she have? Somehow, I think that she will encompass the most beautiful combination of all these features.

C’mon, Baby! We’re ready for you now, at least as ready as I think Ken and I can possibly be at this point in our lives.

At my Doctor’s appointment two days ago, I found out that I’m about 3 cm dilated, and the lining of my cervix is much thinner than last week. Since I have more amniotic fluid than the average woman, every time baby girl moves down into my pelvis, the fluid bounces her back up. This is nothing to worry about, according to my physician, it just means that she probably won’t drop completely until my water breaks – and at that point, I will definitely know that my water broke because it will be a ton of water. (This actually gets me excited, because I’m going to lose quite a bit of weight on the day I give birth – it’s the small things, right?)

Baby girl is doing great and has obviously enjoyed her time in utero. My focus these past few days has been to give her as many nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits and proteins as possible. Occasionally, this has been difficult as I’m experiencing uncomfortable bouts of nausea this week. My physician is hopeful that I’ll go into labor any day now and if not, by the end of next week, we’ll most likely do some induction techniques (after exhausting all the more natural forms first) and I’ll get to meet our sweet little lady! I look forward to sharing that news with you soon.

Until then, I wanted to share photos of our nursery renovation: before and after pics, of course. I’m suddenly a tad bit embarrassed by how messy the room was before we starting organizing, cleaning, and changing things. Please excuse my initial mess. It’s hard as a woman to let people see this part of my life – the messier, unkempt parts –but I recognize that it’s worth it to be vulnerable. Author and Ted Talk Speaker Brene Brown would be proud of me right now.

Also, before I show you these pictures, I’d like to thank my incredibly patient, humble, and talented husband for working day and night (outside of his full-time job) to put in wood flooring, build shelving, hang photos and decorations, compile baby equipment, and still give me occasional back rubs and pep talks. Ken, you are amazing. Thank you for creating this beautiful nursery + office area. Also, thank you to Ken's parents and friends who helped us in this process!

Hope you enjoy these photos - click on each to enlarge. :)

BEFORE Pictures: 

Clutter everywhere - basically my office become a storage room after Christmas and it's easy to just keep adding things to storage...Penny though the clutter was awesome. She liked exploring in there.

First Project: Installing Wallpaper

And Building Furniture...

Second Project: Removing Carpet & Installing Wood Flooring 

Finished Flooring:

Then Setting Up Baby Equipment:


I enjoyed using my design skills to craft a giant paper flower in Ruby's nursery colors and also utilized old wallpaper from Ken's grandma Alice's house for Ruby's wall lettering. I think this wallpaper could be more than 30 years old. It didn't stick to anything, but thankfully I had a hot-glue gun. Now, I just need to wait a week for all my burns to heal after using the hot glue gun for this type of project...

A peek into how I organized the drawers for baby girl's dresser/changing table combo:

I really love how everything turned out and I hope you enjoyed seeing this renovation! Now, to find more things to occupy my time while I wait patiently for Ruby's arrival. 

Back to praying...C'mon Baby!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Week #38: Antsy or Excited? Maybe Both.

38 weeks and 3 days. Besides my nonexistent St. Patrick's Day festivities, I'm celebrating being one step closer to my due date and arrival of baby girl. Today is a great day.

At my Doctor's appointment this morning, she noted that while my cervix is still closed, it is thinning out, which is exciting. My baby belly measures 37 cm and baby girl's heart is beating at 135 beats/minute. She is growing splendidly. I'm so thankful for her continued healthy development and trying to be present with each passing day, rather than wondering when I'll finally get to meet her.

This is no small feat, however.

Every day now I think to myself, "Is this the day?" and "What if she comes 2 weeks late?!" or even, "What if she doesn't want to come out - she seems so happy inside my belly?"

I laugh to myself, as I realize that baby girl will come out soon, it's just a matter of time. Time is such an uncertain thing, especially in this season of waiting for her arrival. I've been much antsier than normal as I glance at our hanging "Goats in Trees" photo calendar on a daily basis, counting down the days until my due date. No, it's not because those goats can climb so incredibly high up in those scraggly trees - instead, my anxiety is triggered by my own expectations and perhaps those of others, as I wait patiently on the timing of baby girl's birth.

This last week, I felt very exhausted. I've been sleeping less than normal, as I get up to use the bathroom 2-4 times a night and constantly try to find a comfortable position for my growing body in bed. I've also been experiencing more vivid dreams at night. All of this is normal, according to my reading but it sure feels weird to me in never having been pregnant before.

Likewise, my excitement is growing with each new day. I feel more empowered and encouraged to have this baby in the most natural way possible, especially after talking to my Mom this morning. She shared how for each of my sisters and I, she had a relatively short labor, and viewed her contractions as waves of energy that she worked through - rather than "pain" that she needed to overcome. I'm praying, rather intently, that my labor is as short as hers. I'm also praying that God will surprise me in enabling me to become much stronger and more relaxed than I think is possible, so that I can move through each stage of labor and experience the incredible joy of birthing a baby rather than focusing on the potential discomfort of it all.

Please join me in this prayer.

On a separate note, as a fun pregnancy treat for myself, I recently purchased my first heat roller system for curling my hair. My stylist told me that it could be a nice alternative to using a curling iron, since I've been exhausted standing and curling each section of my hair in the mornings. Instead, she said, I can set these 'bad boys' in my hair and do my makeup or anything else, while I wait for my hair to set. I found this idea fascinating and tried out my heat curlers for the first time last week.

At first, everything seemed so ridiculously easy. I got out the heat curlers. I plugged in the unit. I waited for the light to change from red to "translucent white."

But the light never changed color.
And still, I waited.

I waited for 30 minutes while these heat rollers heated up, and let's just say that when I went to put these rollers in my hair, I cursed louder and more passionately than a drunken sailor. I used words that I didn't even realize I could speak. And I screamed them - alone in the bathroom - as I waited for the pain of my burning fingers, my singed ears, and my fried hair to subside. Sometime during this whole process, I broke down crying, unplugged the rollers, and decided that this was not the best system for me.

Fast forward to two days later - I decided that I wanted to try again. So, I came prepared with my thick, black fingered gloves and lots of patience. I plugged in the heat curlers and waited about 10 minutes before using them. The rollers were ridiculously hot and with the aid of my gloves, I was moderately successful in getting all of my hair into a roller. Then, I waited 30 minutes while they 'set' and did my makeup. I'll include some photos.

Heat Curlers - Second Attempt
At least I'm smiling this time...
Awesome hair!! (Albeit worth the emotional cost? Not sure.)
It seemed to work in making my hair look nice, but I'm skeptical as to whether this process is truly easier than using a standard curling iron. I may be making a trip back to the store to return these heat curlers very soon. I'm trying to give it a week and not make any rash decisions. 

I'm also planning on this week's pregnancy 'treat' being something much safer and/or comfortable. Perhaps a seasonal latte at Starbucks or a new pair of socks? Trivial things that won't make me freak out. I would like to keep my language well-mannered, as baby girl can hear me pretty well these days...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Week #37: Bags Are Packed & I'm [Almost] Ready to Go!

I'm now at 37 weeks into pregnancy. With my due date drawing close, I decided that it was time to (finally) pack my hospital bag - like a true procrastinator. My reading leads me to believe that I should've had this bag ready to go by Week 35, but I figured no need to rush things. Similar to this pregnancy, I feel like 'wading in' to things has been best for me, especially as I've taken my time in deciding whether I will try to go the more natural (drug-free) route in childbirth and what my birth plan will look like. 

Since I scoured the internet on "What to Pack" in one's hospital bag, perhaps the checklist I put together will help some other ladies in this process. Here's my compilation of necessary items. 

Click on photos to enlarge: 

Let's take a look inside my bag, shall we...

Comfy slippers and socks
Camera with built in video camera (not sure if we'll use that part.)
Makeup, headbands and hairbrush
Fun movies
First onesie (just in case we can use it)
Going Home Outfit #1
Going Home Outfit #2 (If she spits up on the other one.)

I love ziplocs.

Well, I better get back to organizing Baby Girl's nursery, which happens to also be the home office for my wedding & event planning business ( I look forward to sharing pictures of the completed room with you soon! 

Until then, here's a pic of my growing belly. I'm getting so excited to meet our precious little girl!