Theo is 1 Month Old!

Today, this little stud is…
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It’s craziness. Truly. I know that, usually, when time feels like it’s flying, you’re supposed to say something like: on the one hand, it feels like it’s been forever, but on the other, it feels really fast.

Nope. It just feels fast. If I were to respond without thinking to the question: “When was Theo born?” I’d probably blurt out: “Last week.”

Apparently, this is life with 6 kids. I’m going to blink a few times, and he’ll be handing me a grandchild to hold (yipes!).

In exactly twenty minutes (at the time of my writing this), Theo will have been on this air-breathing earth for precisely one month. Cue: brain explosion.

In the past 4 weeks, there have been moments of absolute chaos (the night all of the “big kids” came back from my mom’s house was a fiasco. It thunder-stormed. No one slept. The 4-year-old got so upset that she peed on me…at 1 in the morning. As soon as one kid got settled down, another started shrieking. And I remember staring bleary-eyed at Shaun somewhere in the vicinity of 3:45 AM and understanding exactly what that shell-shocked look in his eyes meant, no words needed). Exhaustion too. And “peed on” has been a bit of a theme, actually. But an even bigger theme is joy.

And I wouldn’t trade any of it (okay, I might have traded the moment I realized that I had leaked all through my shirt–thank goodness for baby carriers to hide the stains–in the middle of a Dallas mall on Theo’s circumcision day).

Theo is an absolute doll. Happy and easygoing. Super-interactive. Sleeping well (although, at 5 hours a night, he’s way behind the curve for most of his siblings, who slept through the night by month one…try not to hate me too much). SMILING. Since week 1. No lie.

Want proof?

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These are shots I shared from week to week on my Instagram feed (if you want the latest and greatest #Theobaby shots, following along there is your best bet), and it’s hard for me to fathom how different he looks from day-to-day. You’d think I’d be all jaded with this baby business by #6, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever wanted one of my children to just stay little as much as I do for him.

I’ll write a post soon(ish) in more detail about what life with six is like, but for now I thought I’d just bombard you with a few more shots of Theo at one month (because this is the first time since week one that I’ve actually gotten my act together to take any pictures with my big-girl camera. And that right there is proof-positive that he’s Baby #6, amiright???).

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I didn’t manage to capture a full-on smile before he got tired of posing for me, but he’s been sharing his cute little crooked, open-mouthed, wrinkly nosed grin with us since practically week one (at first, I couldn’t believe it, but he’s never stopped, so I’m calling LEGIT!) onemonth2

Della insisted that I include this one because, “He’s holding his fingers up for how old I am!!!!” (insert super-high-pitched squeal of excitement). onemonth3 onemonth5 onemonth7

Ack! Isn’t he the cutest? (Not that I’m biased or anything).

There’s a fair chance that I won’t post another update until he’s six-months-old with the way time is slipping by, but I couldn’t resist sharing a bit of his wonderfulness with you guys.

P.S. Our It Works 3-winner wrap giveaway ends TONIGHT! Super-easy entry. Don’t forget to get your name in the hat to win!

It Works! (Review + GIVEAWAY!)

Hey guys! I want you to meet one of my best friends.  This is Lindsay.

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{We snapped this ultra-cute shot–hashtag sarcasm–right before working up a major sweat in BODYCOMBAT this past Monday}

She’s a mama (of 3 really stinkin’ cute kids), a fellow BODYCOMBAT enthusiast (she’s the most motivating person to have in class because she kicks and yells like nobody’s business, even when everybody else is acting like they need their 6th round of coffee for the day; I love it!), and she is a ridiculously talented artist (you’ve actually seen some of her work before when she made us 3 fun “M is for Mama” printables last year for Mother’s Day) and you can see more of it on her IG feed.

Above all, though, she’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. You know those people that are just genuinely excited for you when something good happens? No envy. No resentment. Yeah. That’s Lindsay.

The funny thing is that, although we’ve gotten to know each other best over the past two-ish years, we actually met almost 10 years ago when we both started teaching at the same Christian school. Now, almost a decade and 9 (!!!) kids later, it’s cool to see how the Lord crossed our paths again during a time when I needed a friend just like her.

So, why the introduction?

Well, Lindsay recently started a business with It Works Global,  and I thought it would be fun to partner up with her to introduce you guys to some of the products and have a little giveaway (more on that in a minute).

I originally signed up as one of Lindsay’s loyal customers (to receive a monthly item) about 4 months ago because I’d heard/seen great things about the products and because I wanted to get the 40% discount. And then this month, I switched my status from Loyal Customer to Distributor because it gets me the same discount, while helping Lindsay out more. Plus, she seems fine with my being a “lame duck distributor” (I am NO salesperson) who doesn’t actually distribute anything, and I get more perks/free products to try out this way. Win!

I had already tried It Works #1 selling Ultimate Body Applicator–AKA “skinny wraps”–(and written a review about my experience) about 2 years ago after the twins were born, but I was most curious about their Hair Skin and Nails product, since I’ve decided to grow my hair out and was hoping to get any help that I could.

I had great plans of doing a proper before and after series for my hair progress, but 3rd trimester pregnancy + holiday busyness kind of derailed that idea.

Still, I did manage a (rather strange-looking) “before,” which looks a little something like this:

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Less than 3 weeks later (easy to remember because it was my birthday), my hair looked like this:

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I could already see a difference in my, well, hair, skin, and nails (imagine that). Oh, and eyelashes too!

You can see the progression a little better in these preggo update shots which span 4 weeks.

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I faithfully used the HSN for two months, and in that time, my hair grew about an 1 1/2″, my nails were less brittle (I have pathetic, peely, McAwful nails), and my skin looked more even (although it’s hard to tell how much of the skin brightening can be attributed to HSN and how much was happy pregnancy hormones).

I’ve continued using it, albeit more sparingly, because I decided to switch my monthly product up a bit and try the exfoliating peel.

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I LOVE this one! I have combination skin that tends toward the dry side, and I really dig that I can use this twice a week and get baby-soft, smooth, more even-looking skin without that tight, dry feeling that most exfoliating masks leave me with. Huge win for me!

The most recent product I ordered is their defining gel after Lindsay sent me some pretty impressive before and after shots of how it has helped folks with varicose veins (I mentioned several times that I suffered from an especially bad case of these in my right leg this pregnancy, and while they are much improved since Theo showed up, they’re not completely gone).

I haven’t used the defining gel yet, but I’ll be sure to take befores/afters and let you know how it works for me because I know a lot of you had the same issues with your pregnancies.

Finally, I scored a set of Ultimate Body Applicators (or “wraps,” as everyone who wants a little less of a mouthful calls them) on a major Black Friday sale and squirreled them away for after Theo came. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on ordering any wraps when I signed up with Lindsay, since I was more interested in the other products, but after liking my results from everything I’ve tried so far, I decided to give the wraps another go.

I checked with my midwife first, who was familiar with It Works products and compared the use of the wraps to other detoxing agents such as Kombucha tea, and when she gave me the green light, I wrapped myself three different times (waiting the recommended 72 hours between each application) and took some progress pics for my own sake and to show you guys.

Here’s what I ended up with.

I used the first wrap on January 13th, 2 weeks after Theo was born and the last on January 19th.

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It’s easier to see in the side shots, but my measurements changed considerably–decreasing by a total of 3 1/2″ (2″ from the smallest part of my waist, 1/2″ from right below the belly button, 1″ from my “love handles”).

I can also see a big difference in the smoothness of my skin. I’d show you, but then I’d have to kill you. ;)

I’m pleased with my results so far and am interested to see what happens if I wrap different sections (like my back instead of my front or maybe even my legs).

One thing I like about It Works products is that they claim to be whole-food based, non-GMO, and pesticide free. Plus, I can actually see/look up all of the ingredients listed on the back of each product.

I watched my milk supply and Theo’s reaction closely as I was wrapping and didn’t notice anything different or adverse except that last night, my milk supply seemed lower than usual (this was after not having used a wrap for 2 days, though). I realized I hadn’t drunk as much water as usual (they recommend drinking as much as you possibly can to flush toxins out of your system) and started guzzling. By Theo’s 4 AM feeding, my milk supply was back, and I haven’t had any more problems.

So…

Why the It Works infomercial? (I think this is the longest review I’ve ever given to one brand–well–ever).

Because a) I like them, and I like passing things I like along to you guys, b) I love how Lindsay has introduced me to It Works products in such a non-pushy way that it has kept our friendship intact while still allowing me to support her as she works hard to reach her goals (a majorly tricky tightrope to walk), and…

c) Lindsay and I giving away an Ultimate Body Applicator to THREE of you lucky folks!

Yippeee!

If you have some New Year’s health resolutions, this could be a fun (free!) way to keep the ball rolling.

All you have to do to enter is answer the following question:

Have you ever tried an Ultimate Body Applicator (It Works wrap)?

If you would, please choose one of the following as your answer:

A) No, but I AM interested in trying It Works products
B) Yes, but I’d still love to try more products
C) No, but not interested outside of the giveaway
D) Yes, but my interest stops with the giveaway

If you choose A or B, don’t forget to leave some contact info because Lindsay will be contacting you with more info about products or how to be a product-tester! (Or you can contact her via her website). 

Della’s Big Girl Room Reveal

I knew it had been–ahem–a “little while” since I originally posted the inspiration board for what I planned to do with Della’s big girl room. But it wasn’t until I pulled up the actual post and checked the date that I saw that it was from April of Two Thousand TWELVE.

That’s a long time to wait for a room reveal, y’all. You must really love me or something if you’ve hung on for this long. Either that, or you just gave up hope. (I don’t blame you).

Now, granted, most of the important elements have been in place for a long time. But the finishing touches had languished in life-with-twins + I’ve-got-other-things-to-do land for almost three years…until about 3 weeks ago when the fact that we had a new bed (that will accommodate the twins and Della) that needed setting up forced us to rush around and get everything just so. My husband thinks it’s ridiculous that it only existed in its completely finished form for a day or two, but I had promised you a room reveal, so a room reveal you will get.

Plus, although we have to do some rearranging of furniture thanks to the behemoth of a new bed, most of the elements of the room will remain the same. So, it wasn’t all in vain.

Before I show you the finished room, let’s take a gander at the inspiration board to see just how faithful I stayed to my original vision.

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The answer? Pretty darn (faithful, that is).

Wanna see? (Well, gee, Abbie, I don’t know. I mean, it’s only been three years. I think I’m good).

Okey dokey. I’ll try to source everything as I go, but if there’s something I don’t, or you have questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll answer them the best I can.

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I went with the Urban Outfitter’s rug (which was a steal at $35 but has since sold out) from the inspiration board. I love it. The colors are gorgeous, and even though the rug itself is super thin (almost more like a thick burlap than a rug), that’s not a problem since it’s layered over carpet here.

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I also went with the original curtain inspiration. I never managed to track down the perfect curtains already done for me, so I made these from strips of $2/yard white linen and–get this–a $2 batch of fabric from Goodwill that just so happened to be perfect color.

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I couldn’t bring myself to cough up $150 for UO’s waterfall duvet (from the inspiration board), so I did a little DIY hack by ordering an $18 ruffled shower curtain from Amazon and simply layering it over a white $10 quilt from Goodwill.

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I found the pink patterned sheets at Ross, and the pillows are a hodgepodge from Marshall’s (gold polka dots), Target (teal ombre ruffle), and a pillow cover I won from a blog contest (birds).

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You might recognize the name + butterfly art from Della’s nursery. I big-girlified the old frames with a coat of gold spray paint, and I love how they bring a little of her nursery nostalgia into her big girl room.

The bedside table is from Target (I revealed it in this post), the result of a ridiculously long hunt for the right style/scale of table to match her low headboard (which I found at Goodwill for $15 and which Shaun painted that lovely shade of raspberry).

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The sunburst mirror was a $20 score (originally over $100–ridiculously enough–from Hobby Lobby). The metal started out a deep rust color, so I covered the biggest mirror with paper (thank GOODNESS all of the tiny mirrors were covered with pieces of plastic, or this project would not have happened) and spray painted the whole thing gold. (Shaun and I spent way too long peeling all of the little plastic pieces off afterwards).

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Purdy, ain’t she?

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I stenciled that aqua secretary’s desk ages ago, and it still does a great job of corralling all of Della’s non-hanging clothes.

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Gold spray paint makes everything better!

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So do fun floral knobs from Marshall’s.

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That fun framed print is from Lindsay Letters via Hobby Lobby on a 50% off sale. I love her work and was thrilled when HL started carrying some of her prints, since I’m able to get my hands on them for half off (when they run their bi-monthly art sale).

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I borrowed those colorful children’s classics from our upstairs sitting room, and the gold tinsel tree is from the Target Dollar Spot last year (obviously, I took these pictures close to Christmas).

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If you turn around and face the opposite wall, you’ll see this cute vanity that I scored on a local FB swap and shop.

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I made the butterfly art for Della’s nursery and am happy it still works well with the color scheme of this room too.

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Her chair is another holdover from her nursery. Sadly, I don’t have a place for it anymore now that the big bed is in, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to part with it either. I keep moving it around the room hoping it will magically find a nook I didn’t notice before (unlikely in a small, square room, no?), but no such luck so far. The owl is from Urban Outfitter on major sale. And, yes, you guessed it: I spray painted it gold too.

I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good feel for the room at this point, so I figured I’d finish up with a few of my favorite detail shots. dellasroom9

I love this Anthro pouf. I can’t imagine how much they tried to charge for it originally, but I got it for $5 off of that same swap and shop site I mentioned earlier.    #5dolla #holla dellasroom14

That cute wooden bird art is from Hobby Lobby on major sale, and I love the combination of its sweetness with the textured/striped curtains. dellasroom16

My friend, Lindsay, bought me that gorgeous polka dot gold and white bowl for Christmas, and I just about squealed when I realized just how perfect it was for this space.    dellasroom19 dellasroom20

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I think the “love” earring tree was from Ross, and the floral clock was a Goodwill score.

And that, my friends, is what Della’s big girl room looked like after almost 3 years o’ tweaking and rearranging and hunting for just the right pieces at the right prices. I may be slow (like, really, really slow), but I do get there eventually.

Of course, now I have to figure out the room with a giant bed swallowing it whole.

So…be on the lookout for that reveal in a year or three.

So, what do you think? Worth the wait? I was in warm-up stages of labor with Theo and trying not to stress and get down about my body’s weird ways right after we finished this room. To that end, I kept walking into it, taking a long look around, and saying, “I love that it’s finished. It just makes me happy!” So, yeah. It was definitely worth it to me.

What about you guys? Does it take you forever to get a room just so too? Or do you like to bang it all out at once? I would love the all-at-once option if I had endless resources and cash, but, alas, I usually have to hunt for something I have in mind. It makes it all the more rewarding when I find the perfect thing, though.

Theo’s Birth Story {Part 2}

So, I realize that, on Tuesday, I did a pretty spectacular job of leaving y’all hanging by a very thin thread (although, as one reader pointed out: “Even with a cliffhanger, we all know the baby did come out!”). But it wasn’t all in the name of cheap theatrics.

Because, as much as I would have loved to have been very close to the end at 7 AM when I was dilated to almost a 10 and had been laboring for weeks over 12 hours already…the finish line was still miles away. And that post was already getting loooooong.

ANYhoo, once I found out how far along I was, I was more determined than ever to do whatever it took to get my contractions to do their job. To that end, I stomped down the stairs and started doing laps around the circle that makes up our living room, kitchen, dining room, and entryway. More than with any other labor, my contractions had seemed to be strangely regulated by a change in activity/condition (case in point: before I got in the tub, I stuck my toe in the water, which was way too hot, and immediately experienced a contraction so painful and intense that I could barely pull my foot back).

If I stood up, I had a contraction. If I sat down, same thing. If I went to the bathroom, contraction. Coughed, contraction. Thought about contractions, contraction. They never completely stopped, but if I did any one thing for too long, they invariably slowed down, so I was constantly changing my activities–babying them along, if you’ll pardon the bad pun–to make sure they progressed.

With each lap I made around the downstairs, I prayed for the Lord to bring this baby in His time and His way and thanked Him for getting me this far. I had been in awe of just how manageable (if ridiculously slow) the process had been so far and had been breathing prayers of praise for His grace and provision for such an easy labor. But now, it was time for pain. As I marched and prayed, I immediately felt my contractions strengthen. I would feel one coming and speed up to make it to the stair newel so I could hang on for dear life and squat deep into the contraction in hopes of forcing his head low enough to trigger the urge to push.

Pretty soon, I was having contractions every 3 minutes or so (the closest they had come for the entirety of the labor), and they were the kind that make your eyes cross and your lower back want to secede from the Union. The don’t-talk-to-me-or-once-I-regain-the-use-of-my-limbs-I-will-deck-you kind.

I still didn’t quite feel like I was about to die, but I wasn’t exactly loving life either. When my midwife okayed trying the water again, I hobbled gratefully upstairs, hoping the water would once again work its magic. I never really got the chance to find out, though, because, the minute I got back in the tub, the contractions just…stopped.

I felt physically better and was able to carry on a conversation again, but I was pretty fed up with the my weird, sputtery labor. No matter how nonsensical the sentiment, there is a point during long labors in which you become convinced that your baby’s never ever coming out.  (My first-contraction-to-last-push labor times include: 44 hours, 28 hours, 32 hours, 4 days of stop/start labor + 8 hours of the real stuff, and then this one…so I know whereof I speak).

After about 8 minutes of sitting in the tub, chatting with my midwife, birth assistant, and husband as if hanging out in the bathroom in a ridiculous state of undress with other (clothed) adults is a totes normal thing for me, I felt the hint of a contraction approaching and started to change position so I wouldn’t have to endure it flat on my tailbone. The best I can tell, my sudden movement triggered a major contraction and, with it, the undeniable urge to push. This was at 8:30 AM.

Yeeeeeehaw! The finish line was in sight! My pushing periods are traditionally quite short, with 47 minutes having been my longest (and that was my Simon, my 9 lb. 2 oz. 23 1/2″ man-child).

But after my first initial pushing contraction…nothing happened. (Sensing a theme?)

I didn’t have another contraction for a good (bad, awful) 7 minutes. And then another, maybe 8 minutes after that. After 3-4 bizarre rounds of pushing followed by casual conversation, my midwife said she’d feel more comfortable if I could get out of the water and try to get the contractions down to–oh, you know–a reasonably normal amount of time apart for labor.

Theo’s heart rate was steady and strong, so fetal distress wasn’t a concern, but I think we were all pretty ready to get this show on the road.

I moved to the bed and pushed through several more rounds of contractions, starting to feel a little bewildered about this kid’s refusal to budge. My girls, especially, had pretty much come out on their own, so the burning sensation of crowning and then receding was pretty foreign to me.

After a particularly intense session that still produced no baby, my midwife checked my dilation one more time and discovered a tiny lip of cervix hanging around to complicate things. She looked at me seriously and said the words no laboring woman wants to hear: “I want you to stop pushing.”

I don’t think I gave her the nicest look ever.

“In fact, I want you to try to rest through the next several contractions, eat something, drink some water, let that lip of cervix go away completely so it doesn’t swell and block the baby’s head, and build up your strength for the end.”

The end??! 

You mean, this wasn’t it? Everything in me was rebelling against the concept of “taking a break” when we were this close, but I totally trust Melena, and I could already tell the pushing wasn’t terribly effective.

So, I took a “break,” muscles quivering and back spasming as I–well, there’s really no other word for it–survived multiple pushing contractions without actually pushing. My saving grace was that the contractions were still 5 minutes apart, which gave me time to gather a little bit of nerve and resolve for the next one (by this point, though, the contractions were 90 seconds long).

I’m not going to lie: that half hour was one of my least favorite labor memories to date. I could feel my body doing its job, though, working his head lower (who knew it were possible without his falling out??!)

When I finally said, “Melena, I don’t think I can fight this off any longer,” she said, “If you have the urge to push so strongly that your body’s doing it on its own, I’m fine with that.”

So, push I did. Melena assured me I was making progress, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

I know that lots of women deliver babies in all kinds of crazy positions, but I have always balked at the idea of pushing while on my feet. Fear of the unknown, I suppose. So, I was accepting but none-too-excited when Melena had me stand up so that we could elevate Theo’s (still strong but slightly lowered) heartbeat.

Which is how we arrive at, quite possibly, my least favorite labor memory to date. I don’t know if I was just doing it all wrong or subconsciously fighting the process or…what. But pushing while standing/squatting was miserable. At one point, everything felt stuck in a sadistic merry-go-round of pain. If I stood, it was excruciating. If I squatted, it was agony. Everything was shaking and the room was swimming. I could hear myself gasping (I’m not a screamer, and my breathing is usually pretty controlled, so hearing myself dragging in wheezing puffs of air was a bit disconcerting). All I remember is fire and pressure and Melena and Kathryn chanting, “Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.” I had finally reached my, “I’m going to die,” moment, but it was quite different than I was used to.

Thankfully, I was able to get back on the bed quickly, and everything immediately felt better. Not great, mind you. But less like a panic attack on a constant loop. Which is kind of funny since she asked me what I was feeling (the word PAIN came to mind), and I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, you seemed like maybe you were having an anxiety attack.” Out loud, I said, “Maybe…I’ve never had one before,” but I think my brain was going, “Uh uh. That sounds right.”

The next half hour or so is a blur of pushing that felt like it might-actually-but-not-quite be working until the moment when, in the middle of what I was sure was going to be yet another fruitless contraction, I felt a sharp, searing shift in pressure.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that this kid did not slide out as his siblings had. He made me work for every bit of his 21″ body.

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{Theo, only moments after they handed him to me; he had a few battle scars from his reluctant entrance into the world}

(After it was all done, we discovered the reasons for his reluctance to come out: 1) the chord was woven all around his body and kept pulling him back up like a bungee rope each time a pushing contraction ended and 2) his head was off-center, which meant a wider section of skull for me to get out).

I remember being so in itthat I couldn’t think about anything else while at the same time having a strangely out-of-body experience of marveling at the sounds I was capable of producing and the fact that my body could actually survive this much stretching without shattering into a million little shards of pain.

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{This is Melena, my awesome midwife! She was a birth assistant at the twins’ birth, and she has such a chill, gentle way about her that is really reassuring and relaxing and the same time. She and Kathryn both were so amazing as they patiently worked with me to get my obstinate body to give us a baby!}

The moment he was out, the relief came flooding in. They placed him on my chest, and I just kept staring at him and saying, “I can’t believe he’s actually here. It’s over. He’s actuallyhere.”

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{Theo’s feet and hands are HUGE! His feet especially are, hilariously, too long for any of his newborn footie pajamas}

It never ceases to amaze me how it can go from being so, so bad to so, so good in the space of a mere second or two.

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{This man…goodness, I am blessed to have him. He stays by my side through every long hour of every one of my labors, never wavering or complaining, always helpful without hovering. Gee, I sure do love him}

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{Tired, but oh-so-happy!}

Praise God for his goodness and mercy in allowing me to have another healthy, precious baby.

I remember when a friend of mine had her sixth baby, and I wondered whether the process ever got ho-hum.

It doesn’t. At least not for me. I’m still just as awestruck at childbirth and just as smitten with each new baby. It’s just all too miraculous not to be.

Theo’s Birth Story {Part 1}

I know not everyone loves a birth story. Some women eat them up like a plate full of freshly fried placenta (and everybody said, “Eeeeew, Aaaabbie!” But seriously, apparently this is becoming a major trend, y’all). Others find them a turn off (like the group of you who shuddered and slammed your laptops shut the second you read the word, “placenta”).

I’m somewhere in between–thriving on the drama and feeling of camaraderie and yet easily turned away by too much gore or unnecessary (but really, that’s pretty subjective) detail.

And so I find myself in a quandary–wondering how much to include, while still keeping the integrity of the story intact.

Still, at the risk of this getting really (and I mean, really) long, I feel like this story isn’t complete unless I rewind about 7 weeks to the moment when, at a mere 36 weeks pregnant, I suddenly started having regular, crampy contractions at my mom’s house one night for no apparent reason. Within ten minutes, my muscles started to spasm uncontrollably as my teeth chattered in my head (the result, I’m sure, of a surge of adrenaline at the prospect of delivering a preemie).

I lay down, gulped a few glasses of water, and practiced Lamaze breathing (hilariously enough, my mom chose that moment to introduce me to the tv series, Call the Midwife, so I could “take my mind off of the contractions.” It totally worked. Watching other people push babies out of their bodies was perversely calming).  And sure enough, the contractions eventually eased up, the muscle cramp in my lower back gradually released its death grip, and, within an hour, I felt as normal as an 8-month-pregnant girl can expect.

Honestly, it gave me a bit of a scare, but the most lasting effect was to trick my mind into something I had been refusing to even consider: that I might have an early baby, even though all of my common sense told me that this little guy would surely stay put as long as possible, just like 4 off my other 5 had done (Ezra, my first, was, quite surprisingly, 6 days early; I’m starting to suspect that it was because I was in much inferior physical shape to my current state; and, yes, that is an annoying thought).

Fast-forward to 38ish weeks pregnant and the Wednesday when my Braxton Hicks contractions just wouldn’t let up, for the love. I mentioned them to my midwife at my appointment that day, and she raised her eyebrows significantly and said, “Hmmm…maybe I’ll be seeing you later on tonight.”

I rolled my eyes and poo-pooed her suggestion with my usual, “Yeah right. He’ll show up 3 weeks from now.” (Just call me a prophet).

But then I went to teach Combat, and smack in the middle of a punching track, I had the sharp, twinging sensation that if I twisted too much, my water would break. His head felt that low. I continued contracting throughout the class, grateful for the fact that I tend to grimace while teaching Combat anyway, which meant that probably nobody thought too much of the, “Ow, that hurt,” faces I kept making in the middle of a roundhouse kick. In fact, I remember being distinctly relieved when a fellow instructor came in about halfway through the class because I thought, “Well, if my water breaks, at least Peggy can teach something for the rest of the class time.” (Side note: this specific instructor has been known to joke about her nightmare being that one of our pregnant instructors’ waters would break on stage. I’m so glad I wasn’t the one to bring it to life).

By the time I got home, the contractions hadn’t lessened a bit–were, in fact, increasing in intensity and duration. I even said to Shaun, “If these stick, I think we’re in business.”

In FACT, I drove to Walmart that night for various home birth necessities because I hadn’t bothered to order my birth kit yet. (For those who don’t know, a birth kit is a box of home-birthing items like sterilized cord clamps, blue pads, and such).

I’ve mentioned before that I’m really familiar with Braxton Hicks contractions and how deceptively painful/intense they can be. But these were different. When they just vanished after several hours of steady work, I knew they weren’t real, but I remember thinking/saying, “Any other time, those contractions would have meant that I was going into labor. Weird.”

I proceeded to say some version of those words for the next 3 weeks. Sometimes, I woke up all night long with intense, burning contractions, only to have them vanish the moment I put my feet on the ground in the morning. Sometimes, they showed up around 3 in the afternoon and lasted a good 6 hours. But they never decided to stick around and develop a strong, regular pattern.

At my 39 week appointment, my cervix was completely posterior (tilted toward my back), which meant that the contractions weren’t even doing a bit of good. I wasn’t dilated or effaced. No progress had been made. Huzzah for pointless pain!

As best I could, I ignored them, grateful that there was plenty to keep me busy (hello, Christmastime) and always slightly relieved after the fact when I got to tick one more fun thing off my “might-get-to-it-before-the-baby-comes” list (my baby shower, a Mama’s-day-out of childcare at my gym, Christmas day, etc.). My “due date” (the 20th) came and went, and I wasn’t too surprised.

But once all that was done, it started feeling a bit silly to still be contracting all the time…to still be pregnant.

If you’ve read the twins’ birth story, then you know that I had a somewhat similar experience that lasted a mere 4 days (but included multiple bouts of uncontrollable shakes and feeling crummy to make it extra-special).

And I must admit to feelings of déjà vu after I had Shaun take the kids to my mom’s on Saturday, December 27th, somewhat convinced that “this really is it,” only to have to shake my head and shrug when he got back an hour later because–yet again–”they just stopped.”

When nothing much changed on Sunday morning, we decided to pretend like I wasn’t pregnant, and even if I were, he wasn’t coming out ever anytime soon…which translated into finally finishing up Della’s big-girl room (just so we could rip it apart again a day later…more on that very, very soon) and a trip to “town” for a date day of errands (he ended running the errands while I got a pedicure with a friend; I wouldn’t complain if this became a habit) and Asian food (because, when you’re ticking foot massage and all other potential labor starters off the list, spicy Kung Pao Chicken sounds like a good idea). We even stopped by some friends’ house on the way home and spent the evening chatting, while I tried not to grimace too hard when a particularly nasty contraction hit.

dellasroompregnant

{Dressed in comfy layers, happy to have Della’s room finished, but wishing I were in serious pain}

The kids were still at my mom’s on Monday morning when…nothing was happening. I had a midwife appointment that afternoon, but I didn’t really expect good news.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when my midwife told me I was dilated to almost a 4 and 50% effaced. Progress! I’d forgotten what that beautiful word meant. My birth assistant was there for that appointment as well, and she gave me a list of exercises to do whenever I had a contraction to hopefully speed the process along and loosen up my stubbornly tight ligaments.

I was still having occasional contractions, so I headed to the mall (since it was cold and wet outside), stuffed some ear-buds in, and proceeded to march around the perimeter of the stores, listening to a book on Audible and ignoring the squeeeeeeeeze in my belly, even when it was hard to walk through it. I’m sure I looked ridiculous–a mountainously pregnant lady stomping around and around the mall with an expression of extreme focus on her face.

I stopped into a few stores here and there, but mostly, I marched. For two hours. And then I went to World Market. Because that totally makes sense when you’re trying to go into labor.

When I finally made it home, Shaun raised an eyebrow at me, and I just shrugged. The contractions were still coming, and they felt a bit stronger…maybe. But I knew they weren’t anywhere close to producing a baby. So, we watched an episode of Downton Abbey while folding three loads of laundry. And all the while, I guzzled Red Raspberry Leaf tea and faithfully performed my “labor exercises” every time a contraction hit.

After several hours of this, apparently I screwed up my face enough that Shaun got his phone out and started timing the contractions. 45 seconds long. T-W-E-L-V-E minutes apart. (After 3 weeks of this nonsense, people; if you didn’t believe that my body is stubborn before, I hope you do now).

Around 11:30, the contractions were more like 9 minutes apart and considerably stronger. But I still wasn’t too hopeful. I was pretty sure I couldn’t sleep through them, though, so we decided to stay up, Shaun fiddling on his phone in between timing them and me straddling an ottoman beside the bed while I alternated between burying my head in the mattress and breathing through a contraction and editing pictures of Della’s room. Within an hour and 1/2, the contractions were down to 5-6 minutes apart and more like a minute long.

editing

{Editing pictures while contracting;  hence, the intense expression}

By 1 AM, I was finally convinced that I might possibly, actually, maybe, sort of be in labor.

Still, it was strange because, although the contractions were pretty intense, they were still 5 minutes apart. I literally had time to edit pictures and carry on a conversation between each one. Considering that the pattern was tending toward longer, stronger, and (a little) closer together, though, I decided to call my midwife–she lives an hour away–and at least get her headed in the right direction.

By the time she showed up at 3 AM, my muscles were starting to shake (thank you, lack of sleep + adrenaline). BUT! I was dilated to almost an 8! It couldn’t be too much longer now.

The thing is, despite the shaking and the contractions, I felt too normal to be that close to the end. I’ve heard-tell of such magical occurrences as virtually painless labor, but the magic has yet to visit me. In my experience, unless I feel like I’m going to die, my baby’s staying put.

Sure the contractions hurt. A lot. But they weren’t unbearable. Especially after I got in our tub. I looked up at my midwife and said, “What? Are these the same contractions?? They’re like a third of the pain!”

She just smiled and said, “They’re the same.” (Big thumbs up to water-labor!)

Sadly, I only got to enjoy that little miracle for about an hour. My contractions just weren’t progressing. So, sometime around 4:30 in the morning, I climbed out, dried off, and proceeded to spend the next 2 1/2 hours doing everything from lunging the stairs two at a time over and over to lying flat on the bed, falling asleep from sheer exhaustion between contractions to–well–everything in between. Anything to get the contractions revved up enough get this little boy out.

Finally, my midwife checked me again, and I was pretty well fully dilated.

So, I texted my prayer girls–who had been riding the weeks-long roller-coaster of “maybe tonight” with me–and said, “I’m dilated to a 9. I just need the urge to push!”

That was somewhere around 7 AM, a good 13 hours after I experienced the first contraction that I’d dared to let myself think might possibly by the start of something real.

Of course, I definitely didn’t expect what came next…

But you’ll have to wait for Part 2 to hear about that. :)

And the winner is…

Seeing as how Theo is already a week old (WHAT???!), I suppose I should announce the winner of our #babynumber6 guessing game.

ezratheo

(P.S. I’ll be back to posting regularly soon, but, in the meantime, if you want to see more “behind-the-scenes” footage from everyday life, not to mention lots more adorable pics of Monsieur Theodore, feel free to follow along on Instagram. I’m @misformama).

The thing is, out of the 240ish votes, 4 of them were so close that I really couldn’t decide which was the winner (everyone was off by a little bit on one of the factors other than the correct date). So, rather than attempt some sort of mathematically accurate weighting system that would surely cause my sleep-deprived brain to explode, I threw all four names in a hat and had my 7-year-old draw one.

And the winner is… abby ochs

{I promise no favoritism took place as a result of her extra-awesome name :) }

Abby predicted that Theo would come on December 30th @ 5:42 PM and would measure 8 lbs. 7 oz and 21″.

Which is pretty impressive since his actual stats were: December 30th, 10:33 AM, 8 lbs. 6 oz., and 21″.

Abby, you won this little prize package:

Theoprize

…which includes:

  • A polka dot pouch
  • A pack of floral pencils
  • A set of striped clothespins
  • A camera necklace (oh snap! sorry…I had to)
  • A teal ombre scarf

Shoot me a message with your address at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com, and I’ll get your goodies in the mail!

Thanks to everybody who played along and for all of your sweet well-wishes since Theo arrived.

I’m in the process of writing up his birth story, but as we all know by now, I am a woman of many words and–especially right now–little time. I’ll do my best to have something later on this week.

Until then, please know that I appreciate y’all so much. You are the sweetest reader-friends a girl could hope for!

Welcome to the world, Theo!

Blog friends…

Meet Theo (or Theodore Sebastian, if we’re getting all formal).

meet theo

Theo finally decided to enter the world at 10:33 AM on Tuesday, December 30th, after 16ish hours of labor (more on that someday soon). He is 8 lb. 6 oz. and 21 inches of pure baby perfection (did anybody nail the stats?), and we are completely smitten.

And tired. (That might have something to do with the 1 hour of sleep I’ve had in the last 43. Oh yeah. And the labor/delivery thing).

But mostly grateful to God for graciously giving us another healthy little bundle to love.

Peace out, my friends! I’ve got some sleep to catch up on.

Snapshots with my kids

My crew is pretty used to “family pictures” by now.

But when I started tossing Mama-approved outfits at each of them on Christmas day after we got up from our naps and started getting ready to head to Softa’s and Sabba’s (my parents), there was a collective groan of: “OH NOOOOO…again???”

After all, we just got a round of Thanksgiving shots in that resulted in quite the miraculous occurrence of all of us looking at once (although, if you saw our family shot from Christmas, you might have noticed that we managed an even more miraculous repeat. We’re getting good).

But I didn’t quite get the shots I wanted that day. Not a huge surprise, given the number of small humans involved. And yet, I was determined to try again.

Plus, I played the: “This is Mama’s only Christmas present from you guys. Puh-lease??!” card. (I know; I’m rotten).

So, everyone was stuffed into something a bit nicer than the p.j. bottoms and t-shirts smeared with telltale traces of eggnog french toast we’d been sporting all morning and hustled out onto my parents’ pier yet again.

I had visions of cute posed pictures with the kids gathered around my belly jockeying for a position to kiss their stubbornly comfortable little brother or silly, “spontaneous” shots.

But after we managed to nab a good family shot, the twins were done and wanted nothing other than to be held by either Mama or Daddy. So, I gave up on the group shots and instead asked Shaun take a picture of just me and my children, one at a time.

And the results were…better than I expected.

dellanm

As much as I don’t love my physique at (then) 40 weeks pregnant, I know I will love having these to look back on. Della is in such a fun, spunky stage these days. She is full of hilarious, jumbled up witticisms, punctuated with very serious uses of words like, “Actua-wee,” “Wih-wee,” and “Pwobwee.” She’s also a bit of toot, with “spunky” being code for disobedient some days. But mostly, she’s sweet and helpful, and I’m really loving seeing her grow into her status as “big girl” of the family. evynm

Evy is my little fairy sprite. She has a perpetually mischievous twinkle in her eye, and you can tell that she’s pretty much always thinking–usually about how to raid the pantry without Mama’s catching her. But, as much as she loves to pretend that she’s independent, she can’t help but climb up in your lap every now and then for a quick snuggle, and the second she sees someone in distress, she runs off to find a blankie to make them feel better (blankies are the twins’ love language).

ezranme

Ezra is such a firstborn–smart, kind, helpful, people-pleasing, and more than a little high-strung. He loves to pitch in and be noticed for his efforts. A kind word and a hug go a long way with this tender-hearted kiddo, and he is great at doling them out too. Plus, he gives the best foot-rubs, practically every day. nolanm

Nola is my little drama-queen. Everything is either sunshine and rainbows or dark clouds with pouring rain. She is an unabashed snuggler who would be happy to be held pretty much all day long. Every single time I get done teaching at the gym and open the nursery door, she squeals, “MAAAAMMMMMMAAAAAA!” and tumbles across the room straight into my leg, which she proceeds to hug as if she hasn’t seen me for weeks. It’s awesome.

simonnm

And Simon is my little fashion model (we joke about farming him out to GAP to pay for his college education). He has such poise and confidence beyond his years that, sometimes, it’s hard for me to fathom that he’s only 7. That is, until he breaks into giggles over one of his sisters’ tooting at the breakfast table and proceeds to talk my ear off about dragons and asking ridiculous questions like, “What if the earth were made entirely of waffles, Mama?” He loves to pester people and get under their skin, but he’s also great at noticing unexpected details and quietly fixing things that need it when the mood strikes him.

Of course, my kids are so much more than these little paragraphs can hope to encompass. But the best thing of all is that they’re mine. No one else has been entrusted with their welfare, well-being, and training up in the way of the Lord.

In fact, as I typed those words, I was reminded of this print from Lines of Grace:

you are the mama your kids need

{Pic via}

I think I need to have those words tattooed backwards on my forehead so that, when I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that God doesn’t make mistakes and that His grace is pursuing me every single time I lose my temper or respond impatiently or punish unfairly. I am the mama my kids need, not because I’m perfect (or even very halfway decent, sometimes) at this mothering thing but because God gave these kids to me and no one else.

It’s so good for me to see them like this–individually–and not merely as a hungry rabble of tiny humanity to be pacified and put to bed as quickly as possible (just being honest; Mama’s tired sometimes).

I might have played that whole, “This is Mama’s Christmas present,” thing in the first place to get my way, but I don’t think I had any idea what a gift these pictures would really be.

Something tells me God did, though.

P.S. My husband, who rarely asks for gift ideas, admitted to being stumped this year, so I confessed my deep, dark secret–that I’d been longing for a pair of Hunter boots for years now. I had even done all the research on the best price and found a color I loved and everything.  The official Hunter boots site is having some pretty decent sales right now if you’re on the–ahem–hunt for a pair of your own and don’t want to pay full price.

P.P.S. Would y’all pray for me? This little boy is refusing to budge so far, despite days of contractions, some of them so sharp and painful that I have to stop walking/talking and breathe through them. God has been very gracious to guard my heart against full-on frustration up to this point, but I’m running out of “time off” before we start back to regular life, and it’s hard not to get anxious. I’d love if it you’d pray that he COME OUT ALREADY, but more than anything, I’d appreciate prayer for my heart–that I would rest in God’s timing and be filled with his perfect peace. Thanks, y’all.

Wanna play a guessing game?

Hi there, y’all!

And…

merry christmas

(Yes, a day late)

I’m guessing that a fair number of you have been assuming that I’m home with a new baby since there hasn’t been any posting going on this week.

I wish.

Alas. This little fella is still warm and snuggly IN his mama’s tummy (stinker).

I had plans of posting Christmas pics of our house and various other things for the first couple of days this week, but I’m honestly glad I didn’t.

For the first time in, well, maybe since we’ve had kids, I really feel like we celebrated the season without screeching right up to the last minute with gift buying and other such nonsense. Too often, the day after Christmas, I feel a little bit unfulfilled. Not because I truly believe that all of the fluff surrounding Christmas is what makes it important or worth celebrating. No, it’s more like I place unrealistic expectations on what we “should” be accomplishing. And when we don’t reach them, I’m disappointed. (Silly? Yup).

This year, my expectations were pretty low. We started early with the Christmas music, made cookies on a whim, decorated what/when we could and didn’t worry about it when we couldn’t, meandered through a neighborhood in our van one night trying to find the “good lights”–hot chocolate in hand–and watched several “classic” (and not-so-classic–I suppose “While You Were Sleeping” isn’t strictly a Christmas movie) movies.

We talked about why Jesus is the reason for the season and kept the radio tuned to our local Christian station that only plays Christmas music starting December 1st.

And through it all, we kept expecting to have all of the festivities interrupted by the best and most authentically Christmas of gifts–a new little baby.

Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I’m pretty okay with that, given the busyness and bustle surrounding this season. I’m grateful that my older kids got to participate in all of the festivities with their Mama waddling along beside instead of needing to run off and nurse every couple of hours.

But now?

Now, there’s not much that feels like it needs to be “checked off” before he comes, so now is when the true “hurry up and wait” thing starts to go down.

So…

To distract me from that, I decided to play a little game on FB and Instagram and thought those of you who aren’t on social media would like to play along too.

All you have to do is leave a comment with your best guess for:

1) Day and time of birth

and

2) Weight and length of Baby #6

…and, once he’s born, I’ll go through and find the closest guess, and that person will win a fun little prize. Sound good?

Okay. Ready, set, go!

P.S. Don’t forget to leave me some way of contacting you so I can let you know if you win!

 

Mary, did you know?

I never wanted a Christmas baby. Mostly because I love birthdays and celebrating them, and I didn’t love the concept of one of my children’s birthdays being swallowed whole every year by the hustle and manic rush of our country’s most cherished, most overblown holiday.

And yet, here I find myself, 40 weeks pregnant, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of a baby boy, not unlike a certain Jewish girl 2,000 years ago. (Although, yes I realize that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December).

I’ve never given Mary too much thought. I mean, after all, she was just the vessel. Just the container for the miracle that was God incarnate. Nothing special, really.

The thing is, it’s easy to dismiss Mary as ordinary until you read the Magnificat. I mean, historians estimate that Mary was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen-years-old when she received the news of her impending pregnancy.

So that’s…young.

If an angel of the Lord had appeared to my 14-year-old self and proclaimed that I would be supernaturally impregnated with the Savior of the world, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been as follows:

1) pass out

2) wake up, remember what the angel said, and burst into tears

3) curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb

And yet, Mary, a simple, uneducated teenager had this to say (among other things):

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Not only is her eloquence surprising but her poise is just astounding.

Was she scared? I have no doubt. Worried? Um, yes. Aware of the repercussions of a virgin pregnancy that no one would believe? I’m sure.

And yet, she chose to praise.

Which is very different from the response I had yesterday as I was lettering the words, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” on a piece of burlap with a black Sharpie, feeling all of the weariness and none of the rejoicing.

thrill of hope

My body has been trying to go into labor for over a week now. At first, I was cautiously hopeful. After 5 babies, I am on a little too friendly of terms with my old friend, the Braxton Hicks contraction. But these were different. And if they could just establish a pattern and kick in, darn it, we could get this baby out.

9 days of (sometimes painful, always distracting) contractions later, and I’m no longer hopeful. In fact, I’m downright jaded. And annoyed. Maybe even a little persecuted feeling.

But as I was having yet another hormonal episode (right in the middle of touching up the word, “rejoice,” ironically enough), I thought about Mary.

Mary, who was forced to ride aback a bony donkey for days, hugely pregnant, with no hope of a bath or anything resembling a decent bed.

Mary, who, even when she did finally arrive at the closest thing to the prospect of a bath and a decent bed, was rejected out of hand with the terse declaration of, “No room.”

Mary, who suffered through contraction after contraction, crouched in the filthy hay, surrounded by lowing, braying, baaing creatures. No midwife. No dresser full of tiny, clean little clothes she didn’t have to sew herself. No freezer full of meals just waiting to be thawed in a magical contraption called a microwave.

Y’ALL.

My tailbone is getting sore just sitting here on my comfortable couch as I type this. If you asked me to get on a donkey, much less ride him for longer than 2 minutes, I might drop-kick you across the room.

Can you imagine her discomfort, her uncertainty, her worry that she might somehow manage to completely bungle this whole being-the-mother-of-God assignment? I can’t, and I’m feeling considerably more empathetic with her than I ever have before.

You know that song, Mary Did You Know? It posits all kinds of questions about whether Mary fully understood the impact that the tiny baby in her womb would have on the world. For eternity. I have to think that she didn’t. Couldn’t.

And yet, Mary did understand this: God is God. Period. And not only that. But he is Good. And that was enough for her.

May it also be enough for me (and you) this Christmas season.

Today, I am asking the Savior of the world to remind me, in “my humble estate,” to “magnify the Lord.”

Regardless of when these contractions finally decide to stop teasing and start torturing me to the point of delivery. Regardless of how much I don’t want to tackle another mound of dirty dishes. Regardless of how fed up I am with getting screamed at by teething toddlers.

Merry Christmas, friends. May a joy that has nothing to do with your circumstances and a peace that passes all understanding fill your hearts and minds this blessed season.