Not just a word anymore

Miscarriage. Almost 2 months ago, that was just a word to me. Miscarriage. I mean, I know several friends and family members who have had them, but I legit had no idea what all they entailed or what a miscarriage really was. I guess I just never gave it much thought or maybe it was that I had never heard anyone talk about their experience. I knew they were sad… But I had no idea the real depths of sadness this word carried with it until the moment we delivered our son at 11 weeks.

I have wanted to share our experience in writing, but every time I’ve sat down to write, I simply can’t. But tonight I laid down, and I was ready. November 11, 2020, Norah (our oldest, our 8 year old) came and laid with me in bed and told me she had the most incredible dream. She said that it was so real. She told me that in the dream Chris and I told her and her sisters we were pregnant. She went on and on about how real the dream felt. I kissed her forehead and told her that her dream sounded magical and I was so happy she had such a beautiful dream.

I wanted so badly for her dream to be true. While we weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, I have had such a strong desire for another child. Some days it felt so strong that it felt like someone was actually missing. We would be doing a craft or eating a meal and I would look around and just know someone was missing. The girls had been begging and praying and talking about a baby any chance they got. They wrote Santa and asked for a baby and told him even if it meant they didn’t get any other presents, they wanted me to be pregnant. 🥰

Two days later, it was Friday November 13th. I didn’t have any pregnancy symptoms yet, but a few other events had taken place that made me feel like there was more to Norah’s dream. I took a pregnancy test and those two pink lines showed up right away!!! So I took another☺️ Same thing! I was pregnant! Ahhhh!!! I honestly kind of freaked out and started shaking and was just so excited but also just like whaaaaa?! I texted two of my closest friends, and they both had the same reaction. “AMANDA!” I was so excited/nervous/excited! We were pregnant!!!

I remember walking downstairs and saying to Chris, “Hey, can I talk to you upstairs for a bit?” I knew he knew.🥰Chris’ reaction was different then any reaction her had ever had before. He took a deep breath and said, “Whoa, I feel weird.” He explained that he had never hoped for a son before but he really hoped, and almost just knew this was a boy. Then he explained that he had this really weird feeling that he didn’t want to tell me. That this would be different. That he didn’t want to scare me but he felt really weird. I kind of shook that off and we both decided to move on from that feeling and choose excitement. 

First bump pic I took of baby #5☺️

We told a few other family members in the following days but wanted to keep it a secret, especially from any of our friends from church or friends with children our girls’ ages, because we didn’t want it to accidentally get back to them and ruin the surprise we had planned. We decided telling the girls on Christmas and using their reaction to tell our friends and family would make for the most magical Christmas surprise ! Waiting to tell people was so hard for me because we’ve always gone public with our pregnancies the moment we find out, and I love telling my friends everything as soon as possible, but we so badly wanted to surprise the girls on Christmas! It was so worth the wait!!! I love pregnancy! And labor and breastfeeding and just all of it. The calling our midwife, the sorting through baby clothes, the dreaming of who that baby would be, the rearranging of car seats and bedrooms, and growing into new clothing, and just all of it! I was so excited to tell everyone!!!! 

We did the Sneak Peak blood test and on December 22 we found out our baby was in fact a BOY!!!! As in not a girl, but a boy😳 There was still part of me that was certain it would be another girl, and was so shocked to find out he was a HE. A few days earlier I had heard the name Shepherd and whispered it to Chris, just in case. With all of the girls we only ever had one name we agreed on and that was their name. We hadn’t been able to agree on a girls name at all this time around. I whispered, “What about Shepherd?” Chris looked at me with these wide eyes and was like, “Yasss! That’s so rad. I really like that.” I kind of felt like in that moment, as weird as it kind of felt, that we were pregnant with a boy and his name was Shepherd. We were right☺️

Christmas morning finally arrived. I have never been more excited for anything in my life!! Like I could hardly sleep thinking about the moment we finally got to tell the girls we were pregnant!!! They had been asking, well begging and praying and wishing and talking about their desire for another baby daily for months and months. We planned how we would tell them and it was pure magic! We saved this special present for last. We pretended like all the gift s had been opened and then Chris said, “Oh wait! Wasn’t there one more gift upstairs?!” I brought down a HUGE box that I had filled with special baby blankets, some baby clothing, and the ultrasound photo of our little man. The girls began to open it, thinking the blankets were for them and their babies. Then Norah opened the box with the ultrasound photo. She looked and me and gasped and brought her hands over her mouth. There were tears instantly. She said, “You’re pregnant?! You’re pregnant?! Are you?!” I began sobbing and telling her YES!!… That we were pregnant… And with a little brother!!! We held one another and we all just cried and hugged and laughed pretty much the rest of the day!

The surprise was met with the most beautiful excitement and was just one of the most incredible days of my life! I will never forget how magical that morning was!!! We recorded their reaction and shared that as our very special announcement! Our secret was out! We were going to welcome our first son July 2021!! 

The next few days felt like the most magical days of our whole lives! We told the girls we liked the name Shepherd, like right away and they all agreed they loved it and that it felt like them name of their baby brother!! I mean Ada might have suggested the name Bucket and Frankie the name Cimmanim, but Shepherd had the best ring to it ☺️ The girls were constantly rubbing my belly and saying, “Hello little brother” “Hello little Shepherd” “I’m your sister and, “I love you so much!” The next few days were full of excitement and celebration and also thrifting for baby things☺️ It was all just so amazing! Such a beautiful surprise and just such a special gift!!! 

December 27. We went to church and I was so happy everyone knew our fun secret! It was lots of hugs and congratulations and I just felt so happy!! We spent the day with friends and sanding down his crib! It was a free marketplace find I had found a few years back and gifted to a friend. We joked and I told her I would be asking to borrow it back if we ever had another baby. It was one of the first things I asked her once she knew☺️ I sanded and sanded, imagining what he would look like. I planned for him to have a special little nook in our room and maybe he would eventually sleep in his crib. We co-slept with our girls until… like now 😂 but I still wanted him to have a little crib and a special spot of his own.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CJbvXKagdR5/?igshid=5qiaaxinqd3i

Monday came around and felt this huge urge to pick out his middle name… Nothing felt like it fit. I started thinking of my favorite authors and books and then it hit me!!! LITTLE WOMEN! That’s our story! The girls share the same age gaps as the little March women from the story and it’s just so special to us. Their best friend in the book is the neighbor boy they all love so much. Theodore or Teddy or Laurie they call him. Theodore Laurence. Mr. Laurence’s grandson. Laurence. Shepherd Laurence. It just felt so right! Such a fancy little dude name🥰 The little man whom the 4 little women would love so very much! The girls loved it and Chris didn’t hate it which meant it was a go☺️👍 

That evening I began sharing his name with a dear friend who is also pregnant. They were picking out names for their baby as well. This part is always so magical to me! I love knowing our babies gender and naming them as soon as possible.🥰 It just makes me feel so connected and I just love it! She agreed Shepherd Laurence was just perfect!! I was laying down because I was feeling weird.  A few days before this, I had some spotting, but it was considered totally normal and any worry I had about it was covered in prayer and the worry was totally gone. It was just after dinner and I was having some strange cramping. I actually skipped eating because I felt so weird. But I didn’t think much of it. I was so close to our second trimester and just feeling weird and when you feel weird you should rest. So I was resting…

All of a sudden I felt a sensation I knew well. Something that I shouldn’t be feeling. I thought, there’s no way this is what I’m feeling! There’s no way that’s happening! Why would I be having this feeling?! My cervix was dilating. My labors are a bit bizarre in that I fully dilate to a 10 before I ever feel my contractions I know this very specific feeling and I know it to be the beginning of labor. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. (Before you read any further, I want to disclose that I talk about our miscarriage in detail and it might be difficult for some to read, so please read with caution.) 

I looked down. Blood?! So much blood. This isn’t good! This isn’t spotting! This is different. This is bad. This is so, SO bad. This is that thing! This is that thing that can’t be happening!!! How can this be happening?!!! Blood. Not flowing, but gushing. I ran up the stairs and yelled for Chris. He joined me in our upstairs bathroom and neither of us had any idea what the next few hours would entail. 

I sat on the toilet and I went into labor. Real labor. Painful labor. Contractions, fluids, surges, and more blood than either of us has ever seen. I remember sobbing and screaming “NO!” Just over and over, “Nooooo, no, no, no NO!!!!” WHY?! Why was this happening?! I had never once feared losing our babies in pregnancy. Miscarriage was never even a thought in any of our pregnancies. I never struggled with fear or anxiety about anything being wrong with the girls while pregnant with them. I was always just excited and ready to get huge with all of them. This was the first pregnancy where I had spotted or even had a thought like something could be wrong. And now something was so, so wrong!!!

What was happening?!  Why was this happening?! Chris asked what he could do. I told him to go make sure the girls were ok and settled and protected from what was happening upstairs and then to just to sit with me. Contraction after contraction, I realized I was going to give birth. I won’t ever forget the sounds of blood gushing from me. I remember Chris listening, sitting right by me, and asking in the saddest voice if that sound was blood. With each contraction making that awful sound, I watched him just sigh. His head hanging down, not knowing what to do… We were both feeling something so new and so painful and what do you even do watching someone you love so much hurt in such a way.

I just cried and said it won’t stop😭 I knew I was going to deliver our son and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That one of these contractions was going to end with me delivering our son. I knew as soon as the contraction started it was it. I reached my hands underneath me, pushed as I contracted, and there he was. This tiny little motionless baby, our son. Our 11 week old son, Shepherd. Shaking and sobbing, I laid him on our counter. I said, “There he is. There’s our baby. That’s our son.” 

I think this is where I went into actual shock. I started uncontrollably shaking, and felt like I was freezing. The blood continued…The contractions continued. Oh right, I still have to deliver my placenta. I know this part too. A few more contractions and I delivered our placenta. I caught it as well. We rinsed everything off to get a better look and make sure Shepherd and our placenta were both accounted for. We were in shock but somehow also functioning. Up until this point, I was just focused on that moment. But I remember starting to think, “Oh God!!! We have to walk downstairs and tell the girls their brother is dead!” How do we tell our daughters that I just delivered their baby brother upstairs and they’re never going to meet him?! 😭 How?! How can this be possible?! We just picked out his middle name hours ago?! How is this happening?!

Chris helped me clean up. There was a lot to clean and I didn’t want the girls to have to see any of it. I put on a pad and a nightgown and proceeded to walk down the stairs feeling the most heavy feeling I still don’t have words for. We asked the girls to gather around. Their eyes were all so big. Norah started crying right away. They knew something was wrong. I put my hand on Norah’s leg. I told them that sometimes sad things happen and we don’t know why. That everyone dies at different ages and we don’t always know why. And that sometimes babies die in their mother’s tummies before it’s time for them to be born…. And that I was so, so sorry but I just delivered Shepherd, as he had died in my tummy. The way the girls looked at me… Those looks I don’t think I will ever forget😭 The way they all collapsed exclaiming no and asking why. It will haunt me forever. Their hearts were so broken. My heart was so broken. 

Just then, blood poured from me, covering my nightgown and our chair. I sobbed and apologized and ran upstairs needing to change fast. I wanted to hide my physical pain and what was happening from the girls but there was really no way to hide it.
I went and laid in my bed while Chris comforted and consoled the girls. I didn’t even remember this part until my mother asked Frankie a few days later what she got for Christmas. She said, “Some paint! And a puzzle! And a baby brother!… But then he died and mom got blood all over the chair… but Dad cleaned it up.” 😭  I hate that these are memories our girls have. That our 3 year old remembered this. This is just one of the many weird parts we have to learn to process to such an experience.

Watching them grieve has been one of the most difficult parts in all of this. They were so happy! They had such dreams too. Watching them experience grief and loss for the first time has been tremendous. I hate that they hurt so much😭 We are doing our best to help them and teach them and guide them, but watching them hurt is terribly painful. I feel so convicted to suffer well. To model for them how they can grieve and choose to react to the unexpected difficulties of life. I pray that in my choosing joy even when it’s hard, it greatly impacts the way they experience future hardships.

After the girls went to bed the night we lost Shepherd, I didn’t know what else to do except get on Instagram and start sharing. I was in shock. Legit shock. What are you supposed to do after you give birth to your dead son in your bathroom?😭 No one had ever told me that when you miscarry you actually go into labor or the trauma of holding your dead child in your hands. So many people asked what we did with his body and we don’t remember. I remember wrapping him up in toilet paper and perhaps we set him on the trash we were gathering all of the other birth matter in, or perhaps we set him back in the toilet with the rest of our after birth. We don’t know. We were in shock. And that is ok. We were never meant to experience such a thing. 

I learned after sharing our story that so many women are traumatized by this part of miscarriage. What do we do with our babies bodies? Friends shared that they also don’t remember or that they panicked and flushed their babies or that they put them in the freezer and have left them there not knowing what to do. Some friends buried their babies bodies or wrapped them up and burned them. What to do with your dead baby isn’t something any of us have probably researched…until after the fact. One of my friends talked about this with me and worded it exactly how I was feeling. There are two big losses to reconcile with at this point. We are grieving our child and all that goes with that and then the shame and pain that comes with feeling like how we reacted or responded was wrong. That in our shock and trauma, we didn’t give our babies what we wished we would have 😭 We wish we would have given them a better goodbye, a more proper burial. It’s all so traumatic and devastating. But we did our best. 

In the middle of our delivery, I called my sister in law who’s an ultrasound tech who deals with miscarriage a lot. I told her I thought we were losing him when it first began. She told me to prepare ourselves for a lot of blood loss. I also called our beloved midwife and she told us to prepare for a difficult postpartum. I don’t think anyone telling us this could have prepared us for the reality of blood loss we witnessed or the painful post partum experience awaiting us. It was nothing anyone had ever told me they had experienced before. How had I known so many people who had gone through this but not known how terrifying and traumatizing and incredibly messy and painful it all is.

More on how I’m physically healing- https://www.instagram.com/p/CLZU94PgVF1/?igshid=g8ep3rhz9cdp

I don’t think I had ever heard a single detail about miscarriage outside of, “we had a miscarriage”. I decided we have to talk about this. As women, sisters, friends, mothers, daughters. We have to talk about this and help one another! I felt this weird feeling and still do. Like how in 2020, can we be this unprepared, uneducated, and unequipped to experience such a thing… As a mother to 4 daughters, I pray they never experience this, but hope if they do, they will have me right there helping them through every moment. I hope everything I am doing with them now better prepares them for all the difficult things they may experience in life😭

Norah came and climbed into bed with me. I wept and wept and held her, wiping her tears. I felt such a deep guilt like I had just introduced them to some kind of pain I should have protected them from. So many new emotions and feelings to process. What she told me kind of shocked me. Norah told me she knew this was going to happen and she didn’t know how to tell me. She said as soon as I told her we were having a brother on Christmas morning, she felt really weird and knew we wouldn’t actually meet him. She told me several times after we shared our pregnancy with them that she was so scared this was going to be like Little House on the Prairie. In the show they finally welcome a little boy and he dies. I assured her several times that this wasn’t going to be like that. I promised her Shepherd was ok. I am still apologizing for making that promise. Norah said in her dreams she had been having, we never actually met the baby, except in one where we had a girl.
We talked about what a gift she has but how it must have been very scary and painful to feel the things she was feeling and feel alone in them. We have been reminding her that she doesn’t have to keep these feelings to herself ever, even if they’re weird or painful. We’re all learning to process so much.

I made the decision at that moment to share it all. The physical trauma. The emotional devastation. The ways we can maybe even prepare for miscarriage. There are so many layers of things we were grieving and are grieving and are going to grieve and I’ve never really heard them discussed past a surface level. I knew that whatever I was experiencing, I simply couldn’t be alone in it. I couldn’t be the only person to feel these things. And also I just couldn’t feel alone in it.  And I didn’t want anyone else I knew to go through this feeling alone. We weren’t meant to do any of this alone.

The next morning I woke up. I had that, “Maybe it was all a dream, hope-filled feeling”, which went away real fast with intense body cramps and more contractions. By the time I woke up, many of our friends had already gathered downstairs. All day Monday, friends were in and out of our home. With treats and gifts for Chris and I and the girls. With hand written letters for us and the girls. With meals and and prayers and healing oils and thoughtful treasures. Before lunch, we had no more room on our table for any more gifts. But they kept coming.😭And they never stopped. It’s been almost 2 months… and they haven’t stopped😭 

Our local community has wrapped us up and refused to allow us to feel alone. Friends I have never met in person from Instagram have sent teas and books and journals and homemade stuffed animals and quilts and crafts and homemade goodness and jewelry and self care products for all of us. People have shared poems and art and songs and personal stories, messages of such love and hope. And they still haven’t stopped😭  We haven’t felt alone and that has been one of the greatest treasures of my life. Something that I get to always have and has forever changed our hearts and the way we will respond to and love others. 

After I began sharing that we lost Shepherd, messages started coming in by the thousands. Messages from Poland, Brazil, Iraq, London, Saudi Arabia, England, New Zealand, Wales, Mexico, Australia, France, Chile, the Netherlands, Russia, Canada, India, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Argentina, all over the US… Thise we’re just a few that signed their messages with “Love from….” I would take hours at a time to read and reply, just to see that it had barely made a dent in my inbox. Women from all over the world sharing with me their losses. Some saying they had never told anyone or shared details with me they hadn’t shared before😭 I knew I was supposed to keep sharing.

We went to Colorado to be with family and heal and I basically laid on a couch and read and answered messages for 4 days. My family knew I needed it. It was like therapy for me. To tell my story. To be heard. To hear other stories. To let people know they’re not alone. The girls played and played with their cousins, we ate delicious food, my mother loved on the girls and I was given the time and the space and the gift to process really heavy stuff in the way I felt I needed to process. And I will never stop feeling grateful for that. We celebrated Charlie turning 7 and there was that beautiful celebration and grief dancing together again.

In this time, I began having nightmares. I could hardly sleep. I would cry out and toss and turn and I’ve never struggled with nightmares like this. I understand how trauma works. My training as a therapist taught me all about it. But knowing something and knowing something  can often be quite different. I am still having vivid nightmares and difficulty sleeping, but am simply allowing my body to feel the things and heal and do what it needs to do. The physical pain I experienced afterwards was so intense and I am so grateful this part has healed. I wasn’t expecting to be in so much pain. I made the decision to wait a few weeks before I took anything for the pain. I didn’t want to numb what I was feeling or experiencing. Which sounds weird. But it’s what I needed. 

4 weeks after delivering Shepherd, I still had positive pregnancy tests. I just kept taking them. I didn’t want to see that line turn from 2 to 1. I never saw a negative test. I finally just stopped taking them. My body cramped and cramped and ached all over. It was the most painful post partum I have experienced yet. I never heard anyone talk about their bodies after miscarriage. How heavy but also how empty it would feel. How our bodies still think we’re pregnant. That my boobs and belly would continue growing and I would keep gaining weight. I didn’t know how weird it would all be. To have this little baby bump and no baby. To watch that bump that I was so excited to watch grow, get bigger and then to have to watch it fade away. It’s just such a weird pain. 

December 28, 2020 changed our lives forever. It has hurt in all the ways. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. It hurts. This was not the labor we had dreamed of. It was nothing we could have imagined. I love writing about our birth stories. But this one has not been anything like I imagined. I have grown to believe that the word miscarriage is terribly misleading.  It doesn’t seem strong enough a word to describe what actually happens. What is taken away from you. What you have to endure. What is out of your control.  What you have to grieve. We had to give birth to our dead son and then experience all the painful parts of post partum without that baby we so longed for.  Instead of holding our beautiful baby, we are left with intense loss and grief and are often met with this overwhelming sense of ‘get over it and move on it’s actually really common’. It just doesn’t feel right or ok in any way. The word miscarriage just feels like it misses it all. 

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CK3xKgNAhDv/?igshid=66ch2t9nfanu

Here’s the thing for me though. Even in this pain, even in our unexpected suffering, I have made the decision to choose joy. I have refused to allow bitterness or resent to creep into my heart. Several of my dear friends are pregnant, and I made the decision to refuse to let this loss rob me of the joy of celebrating my friends, their babies, and their joys. I have said no to comparison. I have said no to jealousy.  I have said no to self pity. I have said no to fear. I have seen what these things can do to people and I have already experienced such a devastating loss that I am not allowing these things to take even more away from me.

I am sad. I am so, so sad. And that is ok. Grief is normal and brings with it all kinds of stuff to work through. It triggers old trauma, creates new trauma, and those things aren’t really avoidable. I am sad. I am grieving many things. And I am allowing myself to feel and process all of it. I am learning new ways to heal. But I am not ok with things that create no good fruit robbing me of more than grief already is. This might not be the case for everyone, but I have chosen joy and even in this pain, I feel loved and peace and comfort. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLqRzpFALLh/?igshid=n98rdasjbqk4

I am experiencing many new emotions, but I get to choose how I will react to them. We have 4 incredible daughters. Like, they’re just the coolest really. We can grieve and still experience all the goodness that is in front of us. They’re learning so much from us and I want them them to learn things that will help them in so many ways. We cry a lot. We visit and we pray and we bathe and we cuddle and we play and we read and we learn and we bake and we jump and we sing and we dance and we cry. We laugh and we grieve and it’s all intertwined. It’s not a this or that thing for us but more like a lot of this and a lot of that.  

I remember the morning after losing Shepherd well. Norah lost a tooth. There was so much joy intertwined with such sadness. She was so happy! The girls were all so proud! She had lost her 9th tooth they kept exclaiming and telling everyone who came over! There was such an excitement even amongst such tragedy and I realized that was such a beautiful picture of life. Sorrow and joy and devastation and excitement, all happening at the same time… and all experiences to be shared with one another.

This was the first little onesie I thrifted for our little dude. So teeny and so sweet!

The 28th of February will mark 2 months since losing Shepherd. Every day there are painful and devastating reminders that I am no longer carrying our son. The girls longed for a sibling so much. To see their excitement about their little brother move from pure joy to their first intense loss, has been terribly painful. So many of the things we are experiencing have been  so unexpected and hurt in a way I haven’t experienced before. Chris is hurting in so many new ways and he will share his perspective on all of this soon.

Through all of this, the girls have been incredible. Home education has blessed us in so many ways, but it has allowed us to grieve in such a special way. To slow down and be fully present with one another. To make comforting meals, and spend hours on the trampoline, or hours snuggled up reading and playing card games. To talk about grief and loss and our dear Shepherd. We have been able to retreat and heal in a way that has been such a gift.  

I hate that they have had to learn about grief and loss in this way. But I am so grateful that we can show them that it is ok to hurt and teach them healthy ways to process and heal. I am so grateful that they have experienced the love they have from our community. They have been loved so well and have been given such an incredible example of how they can serve and love others who are hurting. A treasure they can take with them for the rest of their lives. I sometimes can’t help but think of the people who will benefit from their love years down the road because of the ways they have experienced love first hand. I say the word treasure a lot. But this really is. 

Soon after we lost Shepherd, a friend reached out to me and asked if I would want to document this experience. I didn’t even think twice about it. I needed to. I wanted to have photos of his space I was creating for him. His crib and his blankets and the special things I had purchased for him. I wanted pictures of the space where I delivered him. That space won’t feel the same again. Isn’t it wild how experiences can transform a space so much…

I wanted photos of me in the dress Norah picked out before she knew I was pregnant but suggested I size up, just incase I were to grow. ❤️ I got the dress knowing I was pregnant and was so excited to tell her! On Christmas morning when I asked if we could take a family photo, Norah squealed, “Ooooh! Go put on your fancy new dress!” And I was so excited to!! These are not the images I imagined taking in this dress. But I am glad I have a space to share my heart and what we are experiencing.

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CKholZWAkO8/?igshid=tno35lqk759z

I wanted to give people visuals to relate to. Those moments that get tucked away and many are left experiencing alone. The weird things we think and feel and don’t know how to communicate them. The moments we will always remember but don’t know to share with people. An empty crib… The precious baby things you have to put away. The place I giggle with and wash our daughter’s hair is also the place I stood and watched the blood from the loss of my son leave me. The place where my husband and I brush our teeth and pinch each other’s butts and flirt with one another, is also the place we sat and felt parts of ourselves forever leave us. I didn’t want to to forget these things. Right afterwards, I remember crying and thinking, I guess if it had to happen, I am happy it happened at home and with Chris and that friends were at our home within minutes😭 I didn’t have to be alone, and we were able to have our 4th home birth. I got to deliver our son at home and with my husband, and part of me felt so grateful. And then I felt so weird for feeling that way because we delivered our dead son and man…even thinking and saying those words is hard, ya know.

I wanted photos of the first things I thrifted for him, the things I that reminded me of how I imagined him. As the world moved on and time passed, I wanted to remember all of it and have a way for others to help remember and process and heal as well. I had imagined his little arm rolls and slobbery giggle and how smitten the girls would be with him. I would hold his blankets and just cry feeling so happy we were going to have another baby. A son. Can I tell you something? One night right after finding our he was a boy, I couldn’t sleep. I was so afraid. I felt all these new fears I hadn’t felt with the girls like, what if he liked Eminem😂😭 We had to introduce him to the best music just to try our best. 😭 I can laugh but that was like a legit thing I lost sleep over. I’m still losing sleep, but it’s so real different now😭

I want these images to be a way to connect us all and help us remember that it’s ok to grieve. That it’s ok to feel weird things and to not be ok sometimes. I want to play a role in taking away the shame and stigmas that surround miscarriage and so many forms of loss.

I want these images to serve as a reminder for so much. I want them to serve as a reminder that we have a son. His name is Shepherd and he is with Jesus. And I believe one day I will hold him. I will see him and his sisters playing and laughing and I will get to see his smile and hear his voice and know the color of his hair. And I truly hope that in our sharing this part of our story, others find peace and support and healing. My prayer is that no woman would have to feel alone in such loss. That women who have held onto negative things that are hurting them will be able to let them go and heal.

I am no stranger to grief. I know it well, but the unexpected loss of our son has felt so different than any other loss I have felt. There are about 74826229 things I am leaving out. So much more I want to say. I could write a book. Maybe I will. But I want this to end with asking you to love those around you. To share your stories. To know that you are not alone and that you and your experiences truly matter. If you are hurting I want you to be empowered to pursue healing. If you see people hurting, I pray you feel equipped to love them. I pray that this makes someone feel less alone and more seen. I pray that Shepherd’s beautiful little life gets to impact so many people in positive ways. I want to remind you that there are still cozy beds to be made and rainbows to be seen and so much goodness to be experienced.

I don’t know why it’s so difficult to stop writing. It feels like another end. Another end of something I just wasn’t ready to be over. We truly thank you friends for taking the time to read this. For giving us this space to process and seek healing. For taking the time to pray for us, to think of us, to sit with us, to talk with us, to message us, to reach out and love us extra these last 2 months. We have truly felt so supported and loved and are just so very thankful for all of it. 

I don’t really know how to end such a post. Maybe I should say something inspirational? That feels right. If you are hurting, please allow yourself to feel and to grieve, to process and to heal.. But I ask that in your grief, you don’t lose sight of all of the goodness around you. Honor those who have gone too soon by loving others better and pursuing justice harder and maybe being more present and working on changing the things you want to change and maybe learning that thing you’ve been wanting to learn. We’re still here which feels like we have stuff to do. Let’s do the stuff friends, even when it hurts and it’s hard…. and let’s not do it alone. 🤎

Thank you Meggan for taking these photos and giving us such a gift. These have allowed me to share my heart in so many ways.

Thank you to everyone person who has come along side us in all of this. For any and every part you played in helping us heal and feel less alone, thank you!😭🤎

Welcoming Our Frances Grey

I almost can’t believe I am snuggling with a little newborn and already writing another birth story.  I feel like it was just last year that I was writing Ada’s:D Probably mostly because it was:) We are truly so grateful for another beautiful daughter!  I almost cry every time I stop and think about how awesome it is that we get to parent these FOUR little ladies!

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Frankie is 4 weeks old today!!! That doesn’t even seem possible!  We have heard her cry only a handful of times, and that even includes mild fussing!  She is just super content and has the sweetest temperament!  The big sisters are absolutely smitten with her and she loves snuggling with her daddy! Her favorite things include boobs, naps, blankets late night snacking and snuggles galore, so I guess you could say she takes after her dad:) #momjoke. Aside from me being freaked out that she doesn’t poop as much as her big sisters, she might be our easiest baby yet! So, with that, I am so grateful and so excited to share another beautiful birth story with you!

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Ok… So let me start with 2 weeks before we met her.  I started to feel “ready”, even though my original due date wasn’t until the first week of October. I went to see my midwife on the 7th and told her I totally felt like I had dilated quite a bit already.  Before I share more, I should give you a little back story.  My body might be jacked up:D  Well, it kind of is for sure, we’re just not totally sure why.  When I went into labor with Charlie, I was dilated to a 9 before I ever felt my contractions. My water broke and a few minutes  later, 2 pushes and she was here!  With Ada, I was dilated at a 10…for 2 days before I felt my contractions!  SO WEIRD!  I couldn’t really feel my contractions with Ada until my water broke and once my water broke, it was time to push; 4 or 5 pushes later, she was here!  Norah’s labor was the only one that was kind of normal except kind of not either.  You can go read those stories under my birth stories if you guys want to!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAnyway, I share this because for some odd reason, my body works a little differently and labor is probably a little different for me than most…  I’m not bragging, but I’m also definitely not complaining! So, back to the 7th.  When I told Rebecca that I felt dilated she kind of giggled at me like she does often. Side note: We love Rebecca like a lot! We’ve gotten to know each other on so many different intimate levels and can joke about anything and everything and it’s just awesome to know your care taker and have your care taker know you so intimately. It makes for such an incredible experience! So she kind of teased me and then I asked her to check me and, yep! I had dilated to a 5, was 80% effaced and all of babies suture lines were feeling just right! I told her I knew I wouldn’t carry Frankie to October.  It was like this weird momma instinct, the same one that told me I was having girls each pregnancy:D

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Ok, so… Jump to two days later and I started having this really weird and specific kind of cramping, which I’ve learned is me dilating.  I don’t really know how to describe it except for I felt it with Charlie and Ada and feel like I was tuned in and aware of my body more than ever this round and as soon as I felt it, I knew what was happening. I started losing my plug and, remember that this is a birth story, but I mean, I was losing A LOT!  I lost more and more all day and continued to the next few days.  This made me a little nervous because I knew I was dilating more and in my previous pregnancies, I lost my plug only days before meeting our daughters.

Rebecca and I decided it was best if I took it really easy, like bed rest style, just to make sure we kept Frankie nice and cozy!  Chris and the girls were incredible during this time!  Actually, Chris was beyond incredible this whole pregnancy.   For those of you who know me, you know about my back… but for those of you who don’t, we have learned that my tailbone is broken 3 different times and in 3 different directions! When I’m pregnant, my tailbone and sciatic nerve basically try to become one with one another…NO BUENO! It is extremely painful and any kind of intervention we have tried has only provided temporary relief.  By the time I was 6 months along, I couldn’t walk some days.  Chris did all of our grocery shopping, prepared most dinners, did laundry when I couldn’t carry any or walk down stairs, and basically carried the many loads that I physically couldn’t.  If you see that guy, tell him what a stud he is!  I’ve always known I was so blessed to be his wife, but Chris serves us girls and I so selflessly and sacrifices so much for us in a way that I can’t even comprehend sometimes. Thank you so very much husband!

When I had to take it easy, he had the girls join him on a mission to help me out and they called themselves ‘team home birth’. 😀 He taught the girls different ways they could help out, and it was just incredible. They started folding laundry, emptying and filling the dishwasher, working harder at keeping their toys picked up AND nobody complained, well, at least in front of me:D They just loved me in such a way that I definitely don’t deserve but am so grateful for! Chris literally got them pumped up to clean:D He is the best, like for real!

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Ok… So, fast forward to the 18th.  Everything was looking great and I was now measuring right about 39 weeks.  I had been measuring ahead for quite some time and I really felt like I was further along than we had initially thought. I was still having that cramping and losing plug and so I ended up asking Rebecca to come visit me and check me.  She came over and YEP! I was dilated to an 8! Everything was looking great, but I was dilated to an 8! She wasn’t at all worried but it is a little strange to dilate this far without having contractions and without having an incompetent cervix.  My body just doesn’t mess around I guess. Rebecca headed home and the game plan was to just wait and see what my body did over the next few days.

The next day I felt so weird. Like, almost scared.  I started to think about what might happen if my water broke because if this labor were to be like Charlie or Ada’s, I would probably have ended up delivering a baby on my kitchen floor by myself.  I don’t feel my contractions until my water breaks, but by that time I’m at a 9 or 10 and ready to push, and my longest pushing record is 6 pushes.  With Chris working more than 5 minutes away and my midwife being over an hour away, I knew if my water broke, this would be an unassisted delivery…Chris and I talked and we both were in favor of us delivering Frankie WITH our midwife over me alone:D

So… I asked Rebecca if she felt comfortable coming over and helping me get labor started.  We weighed the pros and cons and decided that in this situation, this was a good idea. So on the 20th, Rebecca came over at 10 am and here is where the fun begins!!!

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The first thing she did when she arrived was check me… and I was stretching to a 9!  It was the weirdest thing because I woke up feeling so amazing and had 0 back pain! It was the first morning in like 9 months that I hadn’t woken up in pain! It was like my body was just as ready as my mind was! She measured me once more and I was right at 39 weeks. Rebecca gave me a little contraction encouraging herb that we thought would take about an hour or two to get contractions started, but within 10 minutes, I was having them! They kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger until the point where they almost started to hurt! And then at noon, they just completely stopped. I wanted to cry because this is what happened with Ada and it was so emotionally exhausting! I was complete, as in dilated to a 10, and as soon as my contractions would get going, they would stop.  I did not want this to happen again… Rebecca had me go walk around the yard for 15 minutes, and while I felt a heavy type of cramping, I wasn’t having regular contractions anymore.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWe made some sandwiches, ate lunch together and then I took a little more of the contraction inducing goodness. Rebecca told me she felt like I just needed peace, quiet and rest. We had Ada go with a friend at this point, put a movie on for the big girls and Chris and I came upstairs to our bedroom to rest.

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Rebecca’s daughter came to help assist us and is just amazing! She plays with the little ladies and the girls have grown to love her and Rebecca’s other children so much! Did I mention she has 11 children! All whom she home educates! AND, from what we can tell, they’re totally normal:D Talk about #momgoals!

Rebecca helped get me into bed and into a position that would allow me to relax but would also help baby get settled a bit better.  She asked me to stay put for an hour and almost exactly an hour later, I was having strong, regular contractions and felt ready to get into the birthing pool!!!

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By now, my friend Olivia had arrived and I was feeling ready to go. Norah was SO ready! She had been asking me every day when Frankie would be here and reminded me every day that she wanted to be there with me and cut the venible, aka, umbilical cord:D Once I was in the tub, I started having what I will call “normal people” contractions! They were so strong and powerful and I just knew Frankie would be coming so soon!  Norah and Charlie got measuring cups and would rub my shoulders and pour warm water on my back through each contraction!  Charlie would lay her head by my head, touch her forehead to my forehead and hold my hand. I won’t ever forget it…. It was absolutely precious!

F10Norah would say things like, “take it easy, listen to your feelings, you’re doing so good, relax yourself”. It made us all giggle each time which made labor feel so easy. There wasn’t any stress or tension or fear. Just peace and joy and sweet giggles. At one point Norah asked me if I was having any “uh oh” feelings and proceeded to tell everyone the things in life that give me “uh oh” feelings:D It was the perfect comic relief!  The girls would bring me my water and tell me to take a sip and were just so encouraging! I just felt completely loved and safe.

After being in the pool for about 10 contractions or so, I felt Frankie coming!  I remember feeling more in control of my body than I ever have in labor before.  I felt complete peace and it was so amazing.  I remember holding Olivia’s hand with my left hand, Chris’s hand with my right and knowing we were all about to meet Frankie! I didn’t fight contractions like I’ve maybe wanted to in the past, I didn’t tense up and I just felt more relaxed than I have in previous labors. I began pushing and then looked over at Rebecca and told her I was pushing.

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The last photo Chris captured before welcoming Frankie!

 

I asked Rebecca to support me, which basically just meant make sure Frankie was not coming out with a hand on her forehead like her sister Ada, and I’m glad I asked her to, because she was! One of the things Rebecca does an excellent job at is supporting my lady bits so there is no tearing.  I tore a little bit upwards with Norah in the hospital but have never again had any damage to my lady biz!  I actually haven’t even been a little bit sore after delivering Charlie, Ada and Frankie!  I think some of that has to do with the water, preventative care, but also just how well Rebecca does at assisting, but not unnecessarily intervening with what’s happening during the birth process.

F7After the first push, Frankie’s head was born! I reached down and felt her head and just felt so grateful.  Norah yelled, “I can see Frankie! She’s coming out!” She yelled for Charlie to come back over to the pool, as she had left the room for a moment. I heard her little pitter patter run towards the pool and got so excited! I was on my knees with my arms and head draped on the side of the pool and felt very comfortable.  Everyone was silent, a Bon Iver record playing in the background, which I maybe had Chris play too many times, and I remember just knowing that I would be holding our baby the next time I pushed… A minute passed, and with the start of my last contraction, we welcomed Frankie!

F15As soon as I pulled Frankie out of the water, Norah started crying and exclaimed, “I can’t stop happy crying! She’s here!” Norah was really sad that she missed Ada’s birth. I was dilated to a 10 for 2 days with her and after a long day of nothing happening and so they went to stay with grandma and grandpa and then she came. Norah’s first words when she met Ada were, “I really wanted to be here, but you did it!” She put her hand on my face and told me how proud of me she was. 😭 I say this to tell you that for my whole pregnancy, Norah and Charlie made it very clear that they would not be missing Frankie’s birth… and I am so glad they didn’t! They were truly incredible and made the experience even more wonderful!

I pulled Frankie to my chest, and the first thing I noticed was her super dark head of hair.  A few days before, Charlie crawled into our bed and shared about having a dream about Frankie and that she had pretty, dark hair. Man, she was so right! Talk about happy tears! My heart was SO full! I remember looking at Chris and Olivia and just thinking, “YEAH!!!” I thought I might be emotional this birth with Chris and I feeling like Frankie might be our last baby, but I was the opposite… I just felt so incredibly happy! And I still do! I just feel really content and beyond thankful! That moment felt like a lifetime but also like it went by way too fast!

A few contractions later, I birthed my Placenta.  This time, a little more blood than usual filled the tub and my midwife gave me a look that made me think, “uh oh” in a scooby doo type voice. She acted fast and with a little uterine massage, which I will compare to some kind of ancient form of torture, she had the bleeding stopped! Thank you Rebecca:D

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After that, we all headed upstairs to get cozy in bed and spend some time getting to know one another!  She was, she is, just perfect!  7lbs, 4oz, and 20 inches of absolute sweetness! She started nursing right away and I nursed for about an hour and then it was time for Frankie’s newborn assessment! Everything checked out at Frankie being a full 39 weeks!  Chris went and picked up Ada and I was a little curious how she would act when she saw Frankie had joined us.  She ran into the room and yelled, “Hi Mommy!” Then saw Frankie and squealed, “OOOHHH! Hi Baby!” in the sweetest little baby voice I have ever heard!  She was and is smitten with her little sister!

F59Aside from seeing the extra time mom spends nursing as the perfect opportunity to empty out any essential oils or coffee she can find, she has adjusted wonderfully! Norah and Charlie have done amazing and are two of the best helpers I can imagine! They’re right by me helping me with anything they can. Filling up my water jug, throwing away diapers, bringing me this or that… Norah actually started changing Ada’s diapers for me, but only pee diapers per her request:D

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Getting a little baby holding practice done:D

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I promise she was looking at me! Or maybe staring down those goods:D Either way, she was looking at me!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped with our girls, brought us meals, coffee and extra hoppy beverages, for the prayers, encouraging words and congratulations, for the sweet intagram messages and late night conversations and for everyone who has loved on our family during this whole process!F48

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Chris, thank you for using your sexy man skills to capture this special day, for making all the babies with me and for taking such good care of us! You’re truly the most incredible man I know! Olivia, thank you for doing all of this mom biz with me! I am so grateful for your friendship! Rebecca, thank you for this last 4 years that you have loved me and supported me in a way that I can never say thank you enough for!  You have been so much more than a midwife to us and we are truly blessed to have you in our lives and to be apart of yours! A special thanks to In His Hands Birthing Supply Co. for partnering with us and blessing us with our home birth kit.  Oh! And did I mention we had a GoPro in the tub! The footage is incredible and I’m so thankful to have been able to watch one of my deliveries this way! If you have a water birth, put a GoPro in the tub! Thanks again, Rebecca! So cool!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetOn that note, I’m going to go nurse! Thanks for reading friends!

If you are interested in why we choose home birth or would like more information on this topic, please feel free to reach out!

Welcoming Ada Lynn

I feel like the only time I blog is when I have a baby, so most probably this will be my last one until next year:D Just kidding…but probably not☺️

Ok, so it’s taken me almost a year to finish writing this but here she is… Ada Lynn’s Birth Story!  Ada’s birth story is nuts.  I kind of don’t even know where to begin.  I’ll start with the week before we met her.

Sunday morning, January 31, I woke up and felt so weird.  I was nauseous and dizzy and couldn’t stop cleaning… I was nesting to the max! I called my midwife and she decided to come check on me.  Everything looked great, I was in tiptop shape and I asked her to go ahead and check me just to see if I was dilated at all.  To our surprise, I was a 6!  I wasn’t having any contractions that I could feel so she just told me to let her know if I progressed at all. OJ4A1832.jpgThursday, February 4th I felt great! Just very pregnant and very ready to meet our little lady.  We had an appt with our midwife and the whole drive there I just rubbed my belly and kept thinking about being a family of 5 and how excited Norah and Charlie were to meet their little sister!  Norah kept telling me she was going to catch Ada and pull her out during labor, and she was just so excited!!  At our visit, our midwife decided to check me since I tend to dilate pretty good before birth and I will never forget the look in her eyes:D She looked at me with these huge eyes and was like, “Amanda! Amanda! How are you not feeling these contractions?! You’re having one right now!” She then looked at her apprentice, looked back at me and was like, “Um, you’re dilated to a 9!”  What the what?! I was dilated to a 9, baby was at  a +1 station and I wasn’t feeling my contractions?!  SO weird.  Our midwife lives an hour from us and I remeber her laughing and was like, let’s head to your place and have a baby☺️

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On the way back home, I started feeling my contractions but they weren’t painful at all. They just felt like I was flexing my abs…  Rebecca told me to get home, eat some cucumbers to keep my blood pressure low and to take a bath to help slow down my contractions. I got in the bath and laid on my side so I could rest and prepare to meet our daughter.  There I was with my giant belly, my cucumbers, and a nice hot bath☺️ I maybe ate some chicken strips too😂 Very romantic 🥰

When our midwife arrived, I was fully dilated!!! Like a 10!!! Like, a 10, 10! What?! How?! I thought I would at least feel some pain by this point?! I was even feeling any discomfort! Since I was fully dilated, we were sure we would be meeting Ada any moment.  Long story, short… We did not. We would fill the tub, drain the tub, repeat…I am pretty sure we tried every midwife trick there is as well.

We tried everything we could think of my favorite was playing an intense game of tag with Norah and Charlie around the house. But nothing seemed to get my contractions strong enough. Like, I’m running around my house, in a robe, dilated to a 10, playing tag with the girls, but like labor just wasn’t happening.  Most labor inducing techniques involve ripening the cervix but I was fully dilated so it was like…what the heck is happening?!  We decided the next step would be breaking my water… Welp, guess what?  This didn’t work either!… Like, that bag was so thick we couldn’t pop it. My midwife encouraged me to eat lots of oranges with as much pericarp during my pregnancy as I could to strengthen everything. We joked that I shouldn’t have eaten that many since apparently it definitely worked!OJ4A1961.jpgOJ4A1974.jpg

So, after a day full of trying to induce labor, laughter, good conversation, amazing lattes made by Chris, delicious pizza’s sent from a sweet friend in Colorado (Thanks Lacee!) we decided to call it a night.  I remember Rebecca asking me what I felt like I wanted to do and just started crying because I was so tired and so confused…Chris held me…Reminded me of how strong I was and that I had this…Rebecca held me and whispered encouraging words to me and then everyone came over, laid hands on me and prayed.  It was amazing.  I felt such peace and security and the presence of the Lord in such a special way🧡

Rebecca, her team, our photographer, and one of my dearest friends all set up camp in the living room and said they weren’t leaving until Ada arrived.  A slumber party it was! Having that many people choose to stay with me and support me was such an incredible feeling.  I felt so loved!

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One of my favorite things about home birth is the wonderful atmosphere and comfort that comes with just being in your home.  There was no rush, no other women needing tended to and no agenda besides my comfort & Ada and I’s health. At one point in the day we all got starbucks and just hung out visiting by the birthpool:D Everyone involved had a wonderful sense of humor so the atmosphere just felt fun and relaxed the entire time. Rebecca’s team was made up of her two oldest daughters, (she has 11 children! #Goals) and her apprentice.  Her girls played with our girls and braided their hair, and watching the incredible relationship that these teenage girls shared with their mother makes me so excited for the relationship that my girls and I will share one day!😭🥰

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I mentioned above how badly Norah wanted to help or at least witness the birth of Ada and I wanted this so badly too, but it just didn’t happen. After such a long day, we decided that maybe it would be best for Norah and Charlie to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for the evening so Chris and I could get some rest and wake up ready to go!  I was super bummed, but also felt like we needed to do it this way.  The next morning I woke up, still dilated to a 10 and was beyond ready to meet our little lady!

Just like the day before, we tried all kinds of things until I was just so ready!  Rebecca asked what might be stalling labor and I told her it might be that the painters tape on my windows in my room😭 We had just painted and there was still painters tape up… So my friend, our midwife and I took down all of the tape. I think that really helped 😂

We were determined to get my water to break so we decided to go to the bedroom and make it happen!  Everybody huddled around my bed, I think at this point there were 8 of us, and we finally got my water to break! What I should say, is my water BURST! Like, sprayed me and everyone around me kind of burst.😂 Sorry about spraying you with birth fluids, friends😂😭  I remember laughing, and then getting a contraction that was like the mother of all contractions!  Up until this point, my contractions were painless. I would have a few minutes of some soft contractions followed by hours of nothing… It was emotionally so strange and draining because they would start to get a little more intense and I would think, “This is it!  Here we go!” and then nothing. But this contraction, I knew she was coming and FAST!

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I asked Rebecca and Chris to get me downstairs and back into the tub.  I got in and there was another huge contraction!  I was on my hands and knees and reached down and could feel Ada’s head.  I remember Rebecca asking me to roll over and I was like, “Nope! Not happening!” She rolled me over herself and told me to push!  Now, this was my third labor and I feel like after all this work and being dilated to a 10 for so long pushing would be so easy, but I’ve never had to push like this.  Norah was 6 pushes, Charlie was 2 painless pushes, but this was like, no matter how hard I pushed, I felt like I needed to push harder!  It wasn’t that I was in pain, or that it even hurt… I just couldn’t seem to push like I felt I needed to. Then, with every fiber in my being and an maybe a hint of some serious scrunting (you know the grunt/scream I’m talking about) 😂, I pushed and then… Rebecca told me to slow down!  Slow down?! Ada was finally right there and I had to slow my pushing down?!OJ4A2412.jpgOJ4A2417.jpg

This is another area where I am so incredibly thankful for the extra time, care, consideration, and attention that you receive with a well-seasoned, very attentive midwife.  Rebecca had a hunch and thought maybe Ada might be trying to exit with a Nuchal hand.  It’s not what it sounds like. She was crowing with her hand on her head with her elbow bent out wanting to exit at the same time as her head!  Think Burt Reynolds 1972 centerfold style.  She was just wanting to arrive with extra class, but this class is not so great for your lady biz, and we realized this was the reason my pushing felt so weird.

Rebecca used her sweet skills and gently pushed Ada’s hand and arm back while having me slowly push and I am happy to say that no vagines were hurt or torn in any way during this delivery!!! Or in any of our home births! THANK YOU, Rebecca!!! After that, I reached down and with one more push, pulled my sweet little Ada out and onto my chest!OJ4A2650.jpg

I then remember something really special. My mom was there with me when I delivered Norah and Charlie but timing was a little off on this one and it didn’t work for my mom to be there this time. Sorry Mom! However, my best friend was there with me.  I remember looking down at Ada and looking up and meeting eyes with Olivia, both us with large tears streaming down our faces.  I remember looking at her as she birthed her son and held him for the first time and just feeling so proud of her and so amazed with her strength and the beauty of birth.  In that moment, I knew what she was feeling and there’s just something so special about it 😭 It was just a special moment I’ll never forget😭OJ4A2678.jpgOJ4A2697.jpg

I will never forget the sensation or that moment when each one of my ladies first laid on my chest!  Reaching down and pulling your own baby up and out of yourself and onto your chest yourself is a sensation that is truly incredible! I exclaimed, “You’re here! You’re here!”  I remember kissing her, looking at her hands which were so small in comparison to her sisters, and looking into her face and just being in awe of how perfect she was.  Her pouty lips, her dimpled chin, her soft brown hair.  I remember looking  at Chris and smiling and having this funny sense of relief and while he didn’t say anything, in my head he was laughing and saying, “FINALLY!” 🥰 2 days of being dilated to a 10 is a serious tease!😳OJ4A2707.jpgOJ4A2770.jpg

After cuddling with Ada for awhile, we got out of the tub and got settled in our bedroom. Our room was set up with all the necessities you might find in a hospital except way cozier! And no painters tape! 🥰🥰 By this time Norah and Charlie were back home with us. I was so bummed they weren’t there when I delivered but it all worked out beautifully. I was on the bed nursing Ada as the girls rushed in screaming, “She’s here! She’s here!”Norah jumped up onto the bed, put her hand on my cheek and said in the sweetest little voice, “I really wanted to pull her out… BUT YOU DID IT!” She gave me the biggest hug was just so proud! Her and Charlie got in bed with us and were so excited! I’ll never forget them smiling, and laughing, and cooing about how much they loved their new little sister and how cute they thought she was! Special doesn’t even begin to describe these moments😭OJ4A2844.jpgOJ4A2845.jpgOJ4A2852.jpgOJ4A2856.jpgOJ4A2884.jpgOJ4A2888.jpgOJ4A2923.jpgOJ4A2938.jpgOJ4A2957.jpg

Then we just got to cuddle up and love on one another while we watched and participated in taking Ada’s vitals. She was here, we were all together, all felt perfect. Home birth is seriously magical😭 I hope to experience it again and again!

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Ada Lynn. 21 inches. 7 lbs 4oz. Born in our dining room on February 5th, 2016 at 5:53pm.
Oh man, I am so thankful for this incredible family and for all if the incredible people who took part in loving and caring for us while we welcomed our sweet little Ada Lynn!
OJ4A3188.jpg Thank you so much toTruly You Midwifery Services and to everyone who prayed for us, encouraged us, supported and loved us throughout our pregnancy and welcoming Ada! This was one of the most incredible days of our lives.  I can hardly believe that Ada is almost one.  It doesn’t seem possible that this much time could have passed already.

Charlie’s Birth Story

She’s here! She’s here!  Our beautiful Charlotte Reece was born January 2 at 2:21 pm weighing 7lbs 15oz and 20 inches long.  Based on how big my belly was, I was sure she was at least an 8lb baby, but she was just right!  Our sweet Norah is down for a nap and Charlie is snuggled up asleep as well.  As I look at my two beautiful daughters, I am overwhelmed with how blessed Chris and I are. We have joked since we were 20 years old about our two beautiful daughters we were told Chris would give me, and they are here!!! We are SO in love!

I thought while the girls are sleeping, I could start to write about our home birth experience.  I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life!  When Chris and I found out we were expecting baby #2, I knew that a home birth was the way I wanted to go.  I really struggled with Norah’s birth experience.  There were no actual complications, just a really, really long labor (30 hours) and an awesome staff who did only what they were trained to do.  Hospitals are not my jam, and I could not relax while I was there.  Any time I would tell the doctors and nurses what my body was telling me to do, they would have me do something different.  I just knew that if I could get comfortable and do what my body was telling me, labor would be so easy… And Charlie’s birth proved this for me:)

I started looking for midwives right away, like the day I found out I was pregnant. Chris wasn’t sold on a home birth at this point but the more we researched and the more I stressed to Chris how badly I wanted a home birth, he decided we should do it!  We met with our midwife and decided home birth was going to happen!  Her values and beliefs aligned with ours and I felt confirmation that this was the way we were to go. The whole experience seeing a midwife vs. a Dr. was so different.  They give you so much responsibility and ownership in the whole process.  You check your protein levels, eat a stricter diet, take different vitamins and nutritional supplements, and there was such an emphasis placed on our health and making a healthier lifestyle than what was stressed with our first experience.   Everything was so natural, warm and comfortable.  All my checkups were done in a big cozy bed and I just felt so taken care of.  Also, prayer was a big aspect of the whole process as both of our midwives were believers.

There were many times when I would ask my doctor or nurse a question and they wouldn’t have an answer or, after researching, I would discover many of the answers they gave me were false.  It wasn’t that I was being lied to, I was just being given the only information that they knew. Our midwives gave us nutrition classes, birthing classes, vaccine classes, pre and post-natal classes and most of the information  stemmed from the Bible and Biblical principles.  This was especially cool to me.  Not only were they coming from a holistic, natural point of view, but they used lots of scripture to explain why they did things and why certain practices were so efficient.

It wasn’t until about a month before we had Charlie that we decided to do a water birth.  The last 2 months of my pregnancy I had crazy back pain and Michelle and Rebecca thought that the water would be really good for me.  I’m so glad they suggested we do a water birth!   A few months before we were due, Michelle got an exciting opportunity to go to Haiti, but in order to do so she would need to leave a week before my due date.  We talked about what we  might do and we decided she should go to Haiti and we would naturally encourage labor the day before she left.  At first I struggled with the thought of encouraging labor in any way because I wanted to do things “all natural” and this seemed to contradict this, but everything worked out just right!

Monday morning, December 31st, I went to see our midwife and found out I was dilated at a 4, 95% effaced and Charlie was at station 0.  This was great news!  The plan was to go again wednesday night to see how I was doing before Thursday, the morning we would encourage labor, but due to snow we decided we would just see them the next morning!   I could hardly sleep Wednesday night knowing we would meet our sweet Charlie the next day!!!!

So, Thursday morning, Chris and I woke up early and made my labor encouraging milkshake which consisted of castor oil, chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup.  For those of you who have never eaten castor oil, you’re not missing out on anything:)  That stuff is funky!  However, castor oil helps you dilate in a fast and effective manner. I had read horror stories about the fun bathroom times that castor oil would give me, but I did not experience this.  I probably would have been sicker just eating at a salad bar:) I had a little bit of this concoction at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30. Chris started juicing me a bunch of delicious fresh juices to drink during labor and I snacked away on crackers and sprite. At 9:30 I started taking Caulophyllum Thalictroides, a holistic herb which helps bring on contractions.

Our midwives arrived at 10am and I felt great!   The ladies came in with all their gear and were all set up by 10:30. They were studs!  Here’s where the fun begins!!!

Getting  the tub all ready!

They put the tub in the dining room and set up shop in our bedroom which was so very cool.  Basically our bedroom was turned into a birthing/ recovery room.  I got all nestled in bed and felt so comfortable.  They went ahead and checked me and I was dilated to an 8 and stretched to a 9!!! A 9 and I was experiencing 0 pain!!!  An 8 is usually when you hit transition and is considered the most painful/hardest stage of labor, yet I had no discomfort or pain at all?! I was still 95% effaced and Charlie was moving on down!  They then decided to break my water.  I had also heard horror stories about this, but I have to say it actually felt awesome!  After this, I started having contractions right away… Man, they were good! I guess I wasn’t expecting things to go so fast, but I didn’t mind.

I labored on the couch for a while, walked around the house, and just hung out with everyone through the my contractions.  Chris, my mom, Michelle, Rebecca and I just sat around in our living room, visiting like any other day.  It was so cool and relaxing.  I was in active labor but I felt so comfortable.  There was no fear, no discomfort, just peace and relaxation.  There were no IV’s, no beeping machines, no chords, no hospital bedding, no unnecessary checks, no hospital smells,  no other patients for my nurses or doctor to tend to, no fall risk bracelets or big red bulky socks:)… Just my super handsome hubby, our sweet little Norah, my awesome mom and our midwives. Our midwives laughed at me a lot and told me that I was the most positive person they had ever seen in labor.  I was just so very excited to be having this experience and so excited to meet our Charlie!

After about 30 minutes, I decided to get into the pool which felt AMAZING!!! I just hung over the side and rested through each contraction.  They were coming on stronger and stronger and lasting longer and longer, but still not super uncomfortable.  One of the big differences between a midwife and Dr.’s and nurses is the way they take care of you through the labor and birth process.  You are their only patient, they have no other agenda, and their goal is to make you as comfortable as possible while waiting for that beautiful babe to arrive. Rebecca rubbed my back through my contractions in the pool & whispered words of encouragement, while my mom rubbed my arms and played with my hair.  I like to be touched, but even more so during labor.  It’s hard to describe what the water did for my contractions but the ladies told me to ride my contractions out.  I rocked and floated through each contraction and it was like I just melted through them. Once my contractions were lasting about 1.5 minutes, they decided to check me again.  I was dilated at a 9 and they wanted to help me get to a 10 with gentle ease. Midwives have all kinds of cool tricks up their sleeves:)

They had me go back to my bed and during contractions I gently pushed while they pushed on the thicker part of my cervix that was dilating slower.  This was the most difficult part of the whole process, but totally worth it. After doing this about 3 or 4 times, I was adamant that I needed to use the loo… like now!  They knew what was happening but they let me get up and go to the bathroom anyway.  That’s when I realized I didn’t need to use the ladies room, just have a baby!  I told them I felt like I needed to squat, so I left the bathroom and came out and squatted on a C stool, an awesome stool used to help you deliver in a squatting position.  I squatted, pushed once and the ladies suggested I hop back in the pool.  Again, the water felt INCREDIBLE! I laid back and the ladies told me to push on my next contraction.  I bared down and there was Charlie’s head! I had no idea she would be here a push later!

While I was pushing, they were putting hot oil compresses that had been soaking in oils in a crockpot on my lady bits, massaging me softly and asking me if it hurt anywhere.  They had me push very slowly through my first contractions which made them seem to disappear, like not hurt at all. Chris was by my side, holding my hand and was just so awesome the whole time.  I was anticipating lots of pain and being in the tub for a long time, but I was way wrong. Chris did an incredible job at being there for me, for Norah, and making sure everyone was taken care of.  Our midwives ensured that I was comfortable during the whole labor process. Surprisingly, I only felt very little pain and when I told them when and where I was experiencing discomfort, they just supported me so that I wasn’t hurting or stretching in a way that could cause me to hurt or tear.  The infamous “ring of fire” that I had heard so much about was nothing like I had imagined.  There were also some other things they did to help this part move along smoothly, like instead of administering pitocin to speed up contractions, they have your husband twerk your nerps to help produce natural oxytocin.  Funny and effective:D  One more push and there she was! It was the most incredible feelings!  I felt the most insane rush of adrenaline and a feeling of joy that I can’t even describe! Norah had napped through my whole labor but woke up as I began pushing.  My mom was holding her across from the pool so they could watch and when Charlie came out of the water, Norah held out her hands and yelled, “my baby!” It was SO cool.  I felt like I had just climbed Mt. Everest!

 Charlie’s Apgar score was a 9 and after 5 minutes, a 10. She was, is, absolutely beautiful! After cuddling and nursing in the water for a while, Chris cut the chord and I delivered my placenta which was also very different from the hospital.  They took their time and it came out pain free. We headed back to our bedroom to to check on Charlie’s vitals and I snuggled up and got all warm and watched as they weighed and measured our precious new babe.  It was so cozy.  Chris and I just kept smiling at each other and saying how awesomeness thankful we were for this experience! There was no stress, no fear, no anxiety, no discomfort…just so much peace and joy.   From the time my contractions started until we met sweet Charlie was right around 3 hours!

Proud, beardless, and might I add, very studly Daddy!

About 10 minutes after I was all cuddled in bed, I had to use the restroom.  I got a little scared because this was more painful than birth itself with Norah.  In fact, it hurt to sit down or go to the bathroom for 8 weeks after having Norah… However, I was surprised when I had absolutely 0 pain, tenderness or sensitivity! Praise the Lord! Had it not been for sweet little Charlie laying in my bed and my cute little jelly sack of a belly,  I didn’t feel like I had just had a baby at all!  I have had no pain or tenderness in my nether regions whatsoever since having Charlie!   Another thing I’m praising the Lord for is no back pain!  I had really bad back pain where I received the epidural with Norah that lasted almost a year after having her.  That was so frustrating and was a constant reminder of the frustration and discouragement I felt. I begged the staff not to give it to me with Norah, but they felt it was necessary to slow down my contractions. I know now that it wasn’t, and am so thankful to have learned so many natural interventions.

Weighing sweet Charlie

While I was resting, the ladies put together a basket full of diapers, wipes, gauze and goldenseal (used to help dry and protect the umbilical cord), arnica oil and olive oil (natural and great moisturizer), thermometer, stethoscope, q-tips, baby blankets and anything else we might need for little Charlie.  This way, we had everything we needed easily accessible and ready for us to change Charlie and do our vitals.  Since we weren’t in the hospital, they taught us how to check both Charlie and I’s respiration rate, pulse, temperature, and other important vitals.  I have to admit, it was pretty fun playing Dr. with Chris;)  Another awesome thing the ladies did was take notes the entire time.  They noted when my contractions were and what they were like, all the important transitions and different things we said and did and different stages of labor. I thought that was neat that we get to have those kind of things recored.

Big sister Norah holding her little sister for the first time!

Charlie’s right ear had this cute little pointed tip, but after  few minutes it was gone:)

Charlie’s first bath in our kitchen sink:)

Getting those sweet little footprints

Fun fact: did you know that vernix, the protective covering of the baby’s skin, has lots of antimicrobial properties protecting baby from infections and is uber moisturizing for both momma and baby.

I am so thankful we got to have this experience.  I contribute this first to God’s faithfulness.  I believe the comfort I experienced in our home along with the comfort Michelle and Rebecca brought with their natural techniques played a huge role in this experience as well.    Michelle and Rebecca, along with Chris and my mom, were so encouraging and empowering and made me feel that, not only was I able to have a natural delivery, but that my body was created to do so.  The best way I can describe our experience is that it was supernatural.  Not only was it easy, but it was FUN! Thank you so much to everyone who encouraged us and prayed for us during our whole pregnancy and through this process.  Chris and I are so grateful for all of the encouragers in our lives!  Charlie is such a blessing and we are so excited to watch Norah grow into her new role as a big sister!   Chris and I understand that everybody’s circumstances are different and home birth might not be the experience for everybody, but we would highly recommend at least researching home birth, and your natural birthing options if you are interested.

Norah’s Birth Story

The Week Of:

The day we were blessed with Norah Grace was quite the day…Let me rephrase…Quite the 2 days…  I’ll start with the week of her arrival.  The plan was to call my mom and have her come to Kansas once my labor had started.  However, my mom had an intuition that Norah would be joining us before my due date and my doctor told us that she was expecting me to have a very fast labor, so my mom decided to come early.  I was already 70% effaced, dilated to a 4, and Norah was positioned at 0 station, so I really thought labor would be fast too.  My mom and little brother came down for the week and she was determined for me to have Norah by my due date, September 4th… and so was I! I was HUGE! Like, HUGE, HUGE!  I gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy and I’m sure only 30 of it was baby:) I was SO ready to meet little Norah and say goodbye to the extra pounds!  I could hardly walk at this point:) Determined to kickstart my labor, we went all out while my mom was here. She bought lots of chocolate, black licorice, stocked my freezer with hot wings and greasy food, got me blue cohosh ( an herb commonly used by midwives to help bring on contractions), primrose oil to ripen my cervix, and red raspberry leaf tea to strengthen my uterus.  She encouraged me to do anything and EVERYTHING she could think of to help Norah get here.  We watched funny youtube videos because supposedly a good laugh should help contractions,  then we watched sad movies because we read maybe a good cry would kick start things.  Anytime we were sitting around that week my mom made me sit on my exercise ball and bounce to try to start things.  She was hilarious! I absolutely loved having her here! Chris and I went for lots of walks, curb walked, and did all kinds of fun things to try and kickstart labor;)   Well, every night that week we thought Norah was coming.  Around 7:00 every night I would start having crazy strong contractions.  Chris would pull out his guitar and play worship music while I would sit in my rocking chair and rock through the contractions.  We were convinced she would be coming, and then about 4 hours into the contractions they would stop. UGGHH… I was very discouraged after 4 nights of this.  One of the reasons my mom wanted Norah to get here by my due date was my younger sister Heather was due with her little girl and my mom needed to get back home to Colorado for her birth as well. (They ended up being born only 4 days apart!) 

My sweet Niece

During this week of Norah’s birth, both of Chris grandparents went to be with the Lord.  It was very sad but also an amazing blessing the way they went.  They went two days apart and both very peacefully. They were married over 50 years, raised 7 healthy kids, and have grandkids and great grandkids a plenty! God is so gracious!  Their funeral was to be held Saturday morning and Chris was asked to be a pallbearer.  

Day I:

Well, on September 1st, the day Chris was suppose to be in his Grandparent’s funeral, I was woken up at 5:30am by a sudden gush in my bed.  I thought, great! I just peed myself, which wouldn’t have been that surprising:)  Thank goodness we were advised to  put trash bags under our sheets! I sat up and then realized maybe my water had broken. I woke Chris up and told him my water had broken or I had just peed myself.  I stood up and well, my water BROKE!!! There was water everywhere! It wouldn’t stop!  Every time I would step, there was more water! It was hilarious! I woke my mom up and the three of us were in hysterics!  We were laughing so hard which only made more of a mess:) My water broke in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in our living room, in the laundry room, in the car on the way to the hospital, and my favorite…All over the parking lot in the way to the hospital!  Not at all embarrassing:)  I wasn’t in any pain but, I could feel my contractions.  We had taken bradley method classes and had been advised what to do in this situation.  Chris, my birthing coach, made me drink a gatorade and eat a healthy breakfast before we went to the hospital.  He juiced me some fresh orange juice for me to drink after delivery.  Fresh orange juice is a great recovery drink!  We packed extra gatorade, honey sticks, and healthy treats to snack on for energy during labor. I know this is a no-no, but I am SO thankful we did this! Little did we know, we were in for quite the experience, and no pack of 2 lil’ crackers was gonna cut it!   We got all checked in and everyone was so nice, but acted surprised I was in such high spirits.  I didn’t stop joking throughout the entire process.  Whenever I get scared or uncomfortable, humor seems to be the antidote, so I thought as long as I could keep laughing, I wouldn’t get too scared and for the most part, it definitely worked! 

When I got all hooked up, the nurse informed me that my contractions were strong and only 3 minutes apart!  I had no idea!  I had been praying for a pain free delivery and so far, I was having one!  I stayed active for the first…day:) I would have to get in bed every hour for monitoring and this was my least favorite part.  My nurses were amazing! They were so funny and kind and one nurse even me a giant twix to enjoy after Norah’s arrival.  That twix was SO good:) I know they were only doing their jobs, but I hated my IV and the monitors. They would apologize every time they hooked me up.  The IV and monitoring bothered me more than my contractions.  It seemed like every time I would get int the bed, my labor would stop.  I was so frustrated to the point of tears.  Well, about 10 hours into labor, I started having serious pain, the good stuff.  I had been having contactions all day but now they were staring to get real serious!  Some of them were peaking all the way to the top of the monitoring screen! I had company all day which I think helped me manage my pain.  A lot of the girls from my bible study were stopping by with gifts and plenty of labor humor.  Those girls made my entire pregnancy experience such a blast! Between the surprise chocolate milks, fat jokes, and incredible  prayer, I wouldn’t want it any other way!  (Thank you ladies!)

(Our last picture as a family of 2!)

So, back to labor.  I thought surely Norah would be here any minute but after at least 20 hours I was still at a 4!  WHAT?!  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t progressed past that point after a day of labor.  Well, I finally got to a 7 and that’s where things really got hard… I felt like I was in transition for days! I did not want an epidural and although I was in an incredible amount of pain, I never asked for meds.  We prayed, played lots of worship music, tried several birthing positions, and used bradley method pain management suggestions.  Around midnight my contractions got nuts! They were non-stop and I was having contractions on top of contractions with no break in between. OUCH!   There was about 5 hours that I went into a trance that I don’t really remember but, Chris tells me after seeing me this way, I terrify him.  I began shaking uncontrollably and this lasted for several hours.  Well, I finally hit 24 hours since my water had broken.  I couldn’t believe I had been in labor for this long.  I didn’t understand how this could be, especially since I had been expecting a fast delivery.  My mom and Chris were amazing! They stayed up with me through all of this.  They alternated rubbing my back, legs and arms, tickling my feet, playing with my hair, and praying over me.  My primary love language is physical touch and I wanted it more than ever during labor.   We originally were not going to let anyone else in the room with us, but I turned into a giant momma’s girl and am so glad she was there.  My mom was so encouraging and whenever I would get scared, she knew exactly what to do.

Thanks mom!

Day II:


At 26 hours of labor, I began to run a fever.  This is not so good.  The doctor kept letting me try to have Norah with no medical intervention, but once I hit 28 hours she decided she needed to intervene.  She hooked me up to some antibiotics to protect Norah from any infection.  My body had grown so week at this point.  I was EXHAUSTED!  I was still having contractions but I wasn’t appearing to progress at all.  Fearing that I would be too weak to push once Norah did arrive, the doctor gave me the choice of getting an epidural to help me rest or C-section… NO!!! I had gone this far to reach this point?  I was devastated.  I bursted into tears when they told me this.  I wanted so badly to have a completely natural delivery.  I felt like a little kid hearing I was going to get a spanking and wanting to do anything to avoid it.  I asked them if there was anything else I could do, but the doctor’s said at this point, these were the only options they felt comfortable with.  This definitely wash not in my birth plan.  I  now know, I was actually very lucky.  Most doctor’s would not have let me try this long.  I remember looking at Chris and being overwhelmed with fear and disappointment.   I was terrified to get an epidural. I cried so hard as they administered it and I felt so defeated.  However, it worked, and the rest it provided was great.  As they laid me back into the bed, I crashed.  I fell right asleep.  I woke up 2 hours later, the doctor was checking me and I was ready to go! She asked me how I felt about a 10 and 100%.  Oh man, I was psyched! Apparently rest really was what my body needed.  They gave me the lowest dose of medicine in my epidural that they could, but my legs were still pretty numb when it was time to push.  Chris and my mom held my legs and after pushing only 5 times, SHE WAS HERE!!! At 11:32am, after 30 hours of labor, Norah Grace Pahls was laid on my chest!   AHHH!!! It was AMAZING!!! I didn’t even care that she was all messy.  I covered her in kisses, which looking back was maybe a little gross:)  She was perfect! Her little cry was SO cute!  Like a little velociraptor:)  I pulled her up to my chest and she started breastfeeding almost immediately!  It was the most incredible thing I had ever experienced.  It was perfect!  Everything around me faded and all I can remember in that moment was, Norah…Our sweet little Norah, whom we have prayed over and anticipated like nothing before, was in my arms!!!  That moment changed our lives in the most incredible way.  



 I gained feeling back in my body almost immediately so I was able to get up and move around.  I got to enjoy the delicious orange Juice Chris had juiced me the day before…SO Delicious!  Chris gave Norah her first bath and everything else they were able to do in our room.  Chris’s parents showed up and ordered me the BEST…I’m talking, THE BEST pizza I had ever had. I love food, but I have never enjoyed food like that!  

I am so thankful for everyone who helped take part in this special time in our lives.  My awesome husband, incredible mom, family, friends, the young ladies, our church family who covered me in prayer, and the incredible staff at Salina Regional Health and Mowery Clinic.  Although, things didn’t go how I had planned, God taught me so much through this experience and, like always, He provided and blessed us with a precious, beautiful, healthy girl!!!