Sunday, October 26, 2014

Julie's Catholic!

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

How wonderful it was to join in singing the opening hymn at today's Mass, with words expressing the joy that has been overflowing in my heart.

We had a wonderful weekend celebrating Julia's baptism, and I'm so thankful for the wonderful people who made long trips to be with us!

Fabulous God-parents

Fabulous family.

 Anna narrated most of the ceremony with "Doolia's Baptism!  Fodder pour water on the head!" (on repeat).  When we asked her after what the Deacon had done for Julia, she said "splashed her!"  Her enthusiasm, however, was spent well before it was time for any pictures:

Welcome to the Church, sweet girl!  As a friend wrote in your card: "It's a wonderful place to be!"  Amen, and Alleluia.

For Anna's Baptism photos and more about their gown (cut from the train of my wedding dress), see HERE.  (Note that the post is about celebrating her first Baptismal Anniversary; the second anniversary celebration definitely fell off the radar last month!)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quick Takes: Edition 14

It's been a while since I joined the Friday Quick Take link-up, but it seems the best way to go today, given the number of random topics swirling around in my head and the amount of time I should(n't) devote to this (both girls are currently napping (!) and my self-declared stop time for Internet use was 9 minutes ago).


I feel guilty including this as just a "quick" note, but since I've written about this before, you deserve an update, and it has influenced the past few weeks significantly enough that it's becoming difficult to write about other things without mentioning: my Grandpa passed away two weeks ago, less than 72 hours before Julia was born.

Some of the stress and sadness I wrote about in my delivery story was certainly due to processing this news, to losing someone so dear, to feeling guilty about having not yet had the baby (so that my mom could go home and attend to more pressing matters than babysitting a toddler).

I had been putting off sharing this news in part because I wanted to write my memories and a post that does justice to this incredible man.  I still will, I think, when I have the time that writing it deserves.  Until then, please pray for his soul and for my Grammy.


I believe adamantly that all life is a gift from God, and that it is His to give and to take, and yet I have to admit that it can be so difficult to understand this and sometimes so confusing to understand our own thoughts about life and death, particularly when faced with news stories like Brittany Maynard, the young woman with terminal brain cancer who is planning her suicide and lobbying for others to be able to do the same in light of such a diagnosis.  A friend posted this article today on Facebook, and I was really touched by it and I thought it was an excellent reminder - from someone who truly understands - of how valuable our lives, no matter the suffering:


But that's enough for one day about death and dying.  

Julia will be Baptized this weekend!  I am so excited - I love the Church and Her Sacraments, and I am thankful for the gift and the graces to raise my girls in the faith.  It is my biggest prayer as a mother, that they will always know, love, and serve Him.

Pictures of Julie in the (way-too-big, I suspect) Baptism gown made from my wedding dress coming soon :)

Until then - an "eyes open" picture for those who have asked!


Things continue to go extremely well over here.  I have to admit to feeling a weird sense of guilt/embarrassment at how well, in fact.  I can take no credit for this (unless you count life-long  practice at being high-functioning while extremely sleep-deprived) but I'm very thankful for the easy-going temperaments of both girls (they didn't get it from me) and the constant stream of assistance that's coming direct from Heaven.  There have been so many moments (especially on the 11th or 12th hour of Justin being gone, when Anna's on her second hour of stalling bedtime) when I feel like I'm getting a direct shot of patience that is clearly beyond my own normal ability. 

I said after Anna's birth, and I will say emphatically again now: I would rather deliver 100 babies (and care for them as newborns) than go through pregnancy.  Call me weird, but that's just how my body works.  Not so great at being pregnant, but pretty awesome at birth and recovery.  I'm not sure if that means I have really hard pregnancies or really easy newborns (or maybe both).  It probably sounds dramatic and ridiculous (especially in light of the more serious early points of today's post) but I feel like I'm living again and not just barely surviving.  I honestly looked up at the (gorgeous!) fall foliage all around us and thought, "Oh, wow, did this just change while I was in the hospital?"  I was in such a physical and emotional funk that I hadn't even noticed that my favorite season was all around us in its fiery splendor.

Walking to the local park I just discovered in our neighborhood has been the highlight of our afternoons.  The weather has been glorious (as is the recent development of stamina to walk further than the mailbox!)!


I learned so much from having my mom here for two weeks.  I've always known that I should emulate her supermom skills, but actually seeing her use them here, in my house, with my routines (and my toddler!) was so helpful.  It's not just remembering that our childhood home was well-functioning, but seeing that this one can be too.  Between that and my new-found energy, I've suddenly found a lot of elusive habits (picking up before bedtime, for example) to be a lot more manageable.


I've happened upon several quotes and things recently that have further inspired me to strive for success, to passionately seek to be the best I can:

First, in reading Matthew Kelly's The Rhythm of Life.  His entire premise is that we have one life to live, and that we should actively seek to do so in the best it can be (and not in the worldly sense of fame or pleasure or success).  His book is definitely "self-helpy" but I still appreciate it because ultimately I whole-heartedly agree that we are called to be more than a frenetic being too "busy" to take the time for the things that really matter.

He quotes Egyptian monk Ahtanasius in saying "The glory of God is the perfection of the creature."  How poignant - God gave us each talents, our bodies, and 24 hours in a day, and to use any of these for less than they were designed is a real shame.

Second, in the first reading in today's Blessed is She devotion: 

First Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

Urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  Certainly we haven't been called to be anything less than the best we can be, the best for which we were designed.


So, sorry - you're not done with this self-improvement/"chasing supermom" theme, I (always) have some more to say on that.  BUT I also have lots of other posts (at least in my head, and many photographed) coming your way, too including finishing up the "Goodbye Tour" of the old house, finally showing pictures of our set-up here, tutorial on the "big dirl bed" sheets, a guest renovation post, and plenty of little girl pictures for good measure!  Please always feel free to let me know which things you like to read - as much as I like to hear myself type, it's more useful that someone besides me is interested ;)

Monday, October 20, 2014

More pictures!

I've found myself in the past few days putting off posting anything on the blog because I all at once have a million things I want to write, and yet nothing that seems worth writing.  I have good news, bad news, musings on life with two kids, my typical over-analysis of all things on the home front, etc.  I finally decided tonight to just bite the bullet and post something over more nothing - guessing that my favorite pictures from my Julia folder would be the biggest crowd pleaser ;)

A little wedding-ring photo to commemorate our anniversary baby!

This moment - introducing Anna to her sister - is one of the most highly anticipated, exciting moments of my life.

Anna's face in this picture makes me laugh every time (and so does Julie's hair!)
This scowl definitely does not accurately represent Anna's feelings about being a big sister (see below...)
First photo as a family of four!

Sister love!

 We welcomed Julia Mae at 11:18 pm on October 9, 2014.  I had been feeling as though labor was imminent for at least three weeks prior, and both my mom and Justin had stopped believing me when I said that contractions were picking up (and honestly, I had, too) since we had so many false alarms.  I woke up on the 9th (our fourth wedding anniversary) emotionally and physically drained.  I was sick of the exhaustion, the pain, the uncertainty, the contractions, the discomfort.  I wanted to focus on the good - the fact that I was blessed with a healthy (albeit very uncomfortable) pregnancy and a healthy little girl - but the hormones and the exhaustion got the best of me and I was just a sobbing emotional wreck.  (Definitely what every guy wants his wife to be on their anniversary).

Thankfully, my wonderful mom was still here and pep-talked me (as well as a "It's going to be OK" and reassurance of her prayers over the phone from my grandmother) to the point that I mostly got myself together.  I managed to clean our bathroom, which I had been putting off for days (mostly because I was mad that labor had not yet started in enough time for the bathroom to get dirty again after my previous "last-before-labor" cleaning).

I had a doctor's appointment at 1:30, and my wise mama suggested that I meet Justin for Mass on campus at noon as a little anniversary thanksgiving/celebration and for the attitude adjustment that some good prayer time will always provide.  I was uncomfortable and had tears slowly rolling down my cheeks for a lot of Mass, but I was thankful we had the opportunity to go together.

Since I was past my due date, I had been having ultrasounds and non-stress tests to make sure Julia was still healthy and that the placenta was still providing adequate support.  The ultrasound went really well and the sweet technician got a few good 3-D shots of Julie's face, which were slight consolation for not seeing her in person.  We moved down the hall for a non-stress test.  If you're not familiar, it's kinda what it sounds like - the least stressful possible test.  You sit in an easy chair with two monitors strapped to your belly, checking for contractions/fetal movement and for the baby's heartbeat.  They want to see that the baby's heartbeat accelerates in response to their movement (just like our heart rate would go up after running up the stairs).

For two data nerds like ourselves, watching the graphical printouts was pretty fun for Justin and I.  (In fact, at one of the first tests he took a cell phone picture of the graphs to use as an example in one of his Calculus lectures).  We understood what we were looking at and what we were looking for, in general.  I had trouble keeping the monitor in place (usually it's strapped on at the beginning of the test and I'd have to move it once or twice if she moved enough that it wasn't picking up her heart), and eventually I gave up trying to get it on correctly and paged the nurse.  She took the print-outs to the doctor to read, and came back and announced promptly "You're going to labor and delivery!"

They had noticed a lot of contractions on the print-out (which I knew were happening, and wanted to think were more real than before, but didn't want to get my hopes up), and they wanted more monitoring - given that they didn't have a good read, and what they could see didn't look as great as they had hoped.

I was thankful that I had actually brought my hospital bag and things with me to the appointment - Justin had encouraged me to do so for the last few appointments since the hospital is attached to the office building, all of which is about 25 minutes from home.  I obliged grudgingly the other times (it was annoying to keep getting things out of the car that I needed) but when I left that day it seemed like it was actually a good idea, and I brought everything I needed, not just the 80% I'd been half-heartedly lugging back and forth for a few weeks.

I kept having contractions as we walked through to the hospital, registered, went up to the floor, and began the monitoring.  Some of the nurses who had assisted during my false alarm a few weeks prior said "are you finally having that baby!?" and I told them I wasn't holding my breath.  I kept comparing things to my labor with Anna, which kicked off (and maintained) with a ton of nausea, so it didn't seem that a baby was imminent, especially since I had eaten lunch.

This was going to be my "brief" birth story, which is already much longer than I anticipated....and we're not even sure I'm in labor yet.  Whoops...I'll gloss over some of the additional details (especially the actual labor details!)

We spent the next few hours being monitored, chatting (it was actually more quiet down-time than we've had in a long time, so even if it was peppered with moderate contractions, it wasn't a terrible way to spend our anniversary), praying the Rosary, watching some TV.  I kept thinking this couldn't possibly be labor because I was able to do all of the above things...and I wasn't sick.

Eventually, I was checked and I was barely more progressed than I had been at my previous several weeks' appointments (but - progress! - as I had been holding steady for a looooong time).  The midwife came and talked to us and said that she wanted to move things along - although Julia's heart rate was still accelerating a little bit, it wasn't reacting to her movement as strongly as they'd hoped, and they wanted to encourage her on her way before it got to the point where it was not reacting (or - worse, reacting negatively) and delivery was more urgent.  We decided that I would walk the halls for a little while as one final natural effort to progress, and then we'd reevaluate in about an hour.  Either way, they decided I was definitely staying, and hooked up the IV (for antibiotics and fluid) and declared me officially in labor.  (I had an incredibly crazy (ironic?) amount of relief to know that I was about to start something so physically demanding!)

I was checked again after the walk - a little more progress!, but still not enough to continue without some help.  We chose the breaking of water over Pitocin, and that was done at 9:15 pm.  Things immediately got more intense (as I had expected, based on my experience with Anna).  They wanted me in bed for more monitoring, which I did for a while until I buzzed the nurse and said I had to get up.  I used the bathroom, ended up spending a significant amount of time with my head on my arms bent over the sink, unable to get back across the room because of the intensity and frequency of the contractions.  Eventually they coaxed me back over so that they could monitor the baby's heart rate again.  I thought I might be close to complete, the nurse checked and said I was almost there but not quite (I think I let out a pathetic yet emphatic NOOOOOOOO when she told me).  I managed to make it through the next several minutes as the midwife came in and got ready.

I told them that I thought I might be ready to push - but I wasn't completely sure.  They said I could bear down if it felt right.  I followed instructions, and all of a sudden the midwife said "she's beautiful."  I thought to myself, "what, the top of her head?"  I was thinking back to the multiple hours of pushing with Anna, expecting there was no way they could see more than a few hairs at this early stage.  Then Justin said, "Em, she's beautiful!" and I realized that he wouldn't/couldn't say that if he wasn't seeing a significant portion of our baby that he could recognize.  I was suddenly able to put together what they were saying with what I was feeling, and realized that I had delivered her head.  Another contraction came and I pushed once more and delivered her body.

She cried; they handed her to me; the euphoria of her healthy arrival and the end of the labor and the end of the pregnancy began.  I asked Justin "is it today or tomorrow?" and he told me that it was "today" - meaning, still our anniversary.  It was 11:18, only 2 hours and a few minutes since they had broken my water and the labor really began.

For whatever reason, I felt so much more aware and engaged during this point than I was with Anna.  I remember more vivid details (in a good way) of Julia's delivery - beyond what I've shared here - and I can recall the immediate post-delivery, which I really can't with Anna.  This time, I could just peacefully hold my baby (Anna had to be checked right away because of a few warning signs that ended up being nothing).  The midwife quickly delivered the placenta and they covered us up with some blankets and the whole medical staff left us along for more than an hour to spend time as a family.

I am so incredibly thankful for the beautiful gift of this little girl, for what my body was designed to do, for the medical staff who assisted.  I am also incredibly thankful that I was given (perhaps as consolation for a painful pregnancy) a quick and relatively easy delivery (I wouldn't have agreed with "easy" when I was standing at the bathroom sink moaning about how badly it hurt and how much I wanted it to be over...but still) and for a really easy recovery.  From the minute of her birth, my pain and discomfort has been less than 5% of what I had for months prior.

Now that we're home and settling into routine, I feel fantastic.  Sure, life with two littles is tiring, but it's different.  I've always been really good at sleep deprivation; extreme physical exhaustion like the last few weeks before she was born, not as much.  I am so thankful to be able to pick up Anna easily, to be able to roll over in bed without stabbing pain, to be able to walk up and down the stairs.  I think I've realized even more how poorly I felt now that I have the comparison of feeling good.  We'll see if she (like her sister) lapses into an impossible-to-put-down phase, but for now Julia has been a wonderfully easy baby.

Joy.  So much joy.  And fulfillment in feeling that this - this mommy thing - is what I was meant to do.

We love you, Julie Mae, and we thank God for you every day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welcome, Julie Mae!


 Julia Mae

born October 9, 2014 (mom & dad's 4th wedding anniversary) at 11:18 pm

8 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches long

We are healthy and very happy (and I genuinely feel far better than I have in at least 2 months)

I'll have more to share soon including lots of pictures, but I'm trying to be responsible and go to bed (somewhat) on time these days.

Thank you to all for your prayers and support throughout the pregnancy.  Julia is blessed to be welcomed by so many wonderful friends and family members!