R's Mint & Pink 2nd Birthday Party


Hello! Happy Thursday, friends. Thank you for all the messages, emails, and texts after my last post. You all are so sweet, and I'm glad some of you were encouraged by what I shared. Just trying to take it one day at a time and find a new routine!

I wanted to share with you some pictures from R's second birthday party. It was a great time! Like I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't have a theme for this party, and I really only started planning a few weeks before. One afternoon I wandered around Hobby Lobby tossing random things into my cart that I liked, and I realized that everything I was grabbing was either the color mint or pink, so I decided to center the party around those colors. And because last year I did pink and gold for R's first birthday, I was able to reuse some of the things I had bought or made for her. I love how it all turned out!
We moved our kitchen table and set up two longer tables to create a little food/dessert area. Jordan grilled hot dogs, and we had chips, homemade trail mix (peanuts, m&ms, raisins, and corn nuts), baked beans, and grapes. For dessert I made a funfetti cake, and R had her own individual cupcake. I bought a gallon of ice cream, and there were cookies and mini cupcakes from a local bakery.
The week before I took R to the park and did a photoshoot! I printed out 3 copies of each photo and hung a banner up on the wall of all the photos. The remaining copies I put on the table as "party favors." Guests could choose a photo or two to take home with them. Since this was a party with mostly family, they loved it! The grandparents especially :)
^^^ I decided to make a cupcake just for R. That way she wouldn't have a giant slice of cake and would be able to eat this herself. I also put a picture from her first birthday. I found the Happy Birthday napkins and cupcake stand at the Target dollar spot. The plates are from Big Lots. I made the "2" flag for the cupcake.
I reused the "R" I made for her first birthday, which is awesome because it took me so long to make! The tassel banner is from the Target dollar spot, and I printed off monthly chair pictures from 12 to 24 months.
She was so funny with her cupcake and ate it pretty daintily compared to last year when she went in with both fists. 

^^^ I bought a roll of pink wrapping paper and created a photo area. After opening gifts, we took family pictures in front of it! The banner is reused from last year. I swapped out a few of the pink circles for circles using scrapbook paper, and my sister wrote "Happy Birthday." The giant balloon from the park pictures the week before was still inflated, so we used it too!
Bumgarner, party of four! I thought getting pictures with a toddler was hard, but try a toddler and a newborn. It's a miracle there's one of all of us looking and with J's eyes open.

Funny story, I legitimately kept forgetting about J since there were so many family members around who wanted to hold him. I would randomly panic and realize I hadn't seen him in a while and had no idea where he was, but he was always just sleeping on someone. I am obviously still getting used to having two kids. Ha!

We had such a great time celebrating our TWO-year-old! Thanks to everyone for loving on my sweet girl so well! Maybe for her party next year I'll keep the pink theme going and do pink + another color and just rotate all my crafts again ;)

See also: R's Pink + Gold 1st Birthday Party

To Be Understood


Today I was sad. 

I tried not to think about it, and I did a pretty good job until the afternoon, when it hit me like a wave that it was my last day of maternity leave and work is waiting for me on Monday. It's been eight weeks, and I am so thankful for the blessing of this summer. Since I have a traditional office job, I don't get a summer break, but having a baby in June meant that I basically got the whole summer off, and it has been so wonderful.

It's no secret that I find being a working mom to be really hard. And I'm not here to discuss or debate the challenges of being a mom who stays at home or a mom who works. Everyone has different needs and different strengths and different desires, but since having R, my heart has been to stay at home. 

This summer I felt like I got to open the gate and stand in the green grass that I've been staring at from the other side of the fence. I can't honestly tell you I've loved every single minute, because staying at home with two kids all day is often stressful and sometimes boring and always exhausting. 

But, you guys, I have loved it.

I am so thankful to be able to work from home for a couple of months with J before going back to the office, so I don't have to leave him just yet. But I still have to take R to daycare, and let's be real: working from home is not at all the same thing as not working.

So today I was sad.

I texted a few friends about it, because I'm someone who needs to share all my feeeeeelings. They were supportive, but for one reason or another, none of them can truly relate. One doesn't have any kids, one is a SAHM, one works but doesn't have my angst about it... 

It's nice to have friends I can share things with who will listen, and sometimes that's enough. 

But sometimes I want more.
I want to be understood.

I don't want to have to go into the reasons why right now it isn't possible for me to not have a job, or why I don't want to try to find something else because I do honestly like where I work. I don't want to have to try not to sound offensive when I talk about why for me being home this summer has been so much easier than the past year and a half of working. I don't want to have to explain why the phrase "full-time mom" when applied to a stay-at-home mom is so insulting to me (but seriously, we need to stop saying this).

I just want to say I'm sad about going back to being a working mom and be truly, totally understood about everything that's included in that statement.

Today I was sitting on the couch holding J, and R was playing next to me, and I started crying thinking about Monday. Not just watery eyes but actual tears streaming down my face.

And God spoke to me. 

It wasn't an audible voice, of course. There wasn't any thunder; the lights didn't flicker.
Nothing happened. But I just felt this peace settle over me, and I felt God whisper:
I see you. 
I hear you. 
I understand.

Christians like to talk about God understanding all of our fears and desires and knowing all of our thoughts. He experienced it all! we say. He knows what it feels like! And sometimes it's kind of like, yeah yeah okay. That's a nice sentiment, but I can't give God a hug or send him a text and get a reply, so what good does that do me? Sometimes he feels too far "out there" to offer tangible, real-time comfort.

But today, I felt him so close. Honestly I did. And more than that, I felt totally understood. I told him I was sad, and I didn't have to say anything else because he knew everything else.

So I'm writing this now to remind you (and myself) that God sees you. He hears you. And most of all, he understands. Whatever it is that you're anxious or sad or angry or confused about, he knows, and you don't have to explain yourself. He won't be offended or upset. He won't think you're silly. He won't roll his eyes.

Lay it down at his feet and find rest. It doesn't mean you won't still be sad or anxious or angry or confused, but it does mean that you are always seen and heard. You are always understood.

No further explanation needed.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." 
- Matthew 11:28

*Comments turned off. I hope this encouraged you today. 
You are seen and heard. You are understood.



Last weekend I took R, a wooden chair, and a giant balloon to the park by our house. I actually bought that balloon last year, but I thought maybe a one-year-old would look silly with such a huge balloon, so I held on to it. I got it filled with helium at a local store, and it barely fit in my car!

I bought R's blue dress back in March with the intention of having it be her birthday dress. It was risky to buy something for a growing toddler so early, but thankfully it fit perfectly! You will notice that she is wearing a bow in a few pictures. That right there is nothing short of a miracle, my friends. The bow was one I already had and didn't come with the dress, but I thought it matched well.

I printed all the pictures out and hung them up at R's party, and I made extra copies for guests to take home (the grandparents were all over it, obviously). Over the past two years, I have personally taken all of R's "milestone" photos, including newborn, and honestly they have all turned out how I envisioned. I love photography as a hobby and have so very much enjoyed taking photos of her myself. I know for sure our budget is happier because of it too!

We are so thankful for our sweet, beautiful, smart TWO-year-old! Pictures from her party to come later! Thank you, Jesus, for this blessing.
^^^ There was a little goldfish bribery going on to distract her from the headband. ha!

Just Yesterday


For R. 
On the eve of your second birthday.

Two years ago today, I would meet you tomorrow.

Everyone said first babies came late, 
but you came nine days early.
7 pounds, 9 ounces, and perfect from head to toe.

Maybe you cried when you first came out, 
but I don’t remember.
I do remember the first time you laid on my chest.
The first time I saw your dimples.

They put you in the bassinet,
and I pushed you down the hallway to our room.
Slowest and proudest walk of my life.

Jordan and I so exhausted we could hardly keep our eyes open, 
yet unable to sleep because we wanted to make sure you were okay.

Two years ago today, I would meet you tomorrow.

You passed your hearing test with flying colors,
startled awake at the softest sound.
Cried during your entire newborn photoshoot at the hospital.

The nurse had to show us how to change your diaper,
wrap a swaddle,
adjust the straps on the car seat.

We left the hospital at 5:00 pm and drove home during rush-hour traffic.
I kept reaching back to make sure you were breathing.

Two years ago today, I would meet you tomorrow.

Flashing two dimples and looking just like your daddy.

You slept, and we couldn’t stop staring.
You yawned, and we snapped pictures.
You sneezed, and we laughed.

You couldn’t do much, just laid in my arms.
But you were so curious, looking at everything and everyone around you.

Then, I blinked.

And you held up your head
and sat up
and rolled over
and crawled
and walked

You smiled and called me mama.

Two years ago today, I would meet you tomorrow.

And yet, somehow,
please ignore this cliché,
but it really does feel like it all happened 
just yesterday.

*Repost (slightly edited) from last year.

Sharing about My Children Online


Ten months ago, I wrote this post about what I personally felt comfortable sharing about my children online. I outlined some basic "rules" and explained a bit of my thought process. Nearly a year later, I wanted to share a few things I've been thinking about lately.

Deciding what to share or not share about your children online is a personal choice. Some people share a lot, much more than I personally feel is necessary. Some people choose to not share anything at all, which I completely understand but is kind of a bummer because I love seeing pictures of sweet babies! This wasn't always the case for me, but I've entered a stage of life where I can't really get enough of people talking about motherhood. Like I mentioned in my last post, I know I've mostly become a "mom blogger," but that's just a natural shift based on the two humans I've added to my world in the last couple of years. I can't imagine not sharing any photos or stories about my kids.

In looking back over the post I wrote ten months ago, I am happy to say that I've stuck to my original goals as far as what I feel comfortable sharing about R online. Now that J is here and as R has gotten older, I feel even more strongly about protecting what I post online about my children.

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven't been posting many photos of R and J on the blog recently. I do post a couple, but I want to scale back from the amount I've posted in the past. I wouldn't say I've posted an excessive amount of R over the past two years, but I want to post even less of her moving forward, and I want to post less of J overall. I've also been experimenting with different angles and things to take photos of them without showing their faces full on.
*I realize this picture is insanely blurry, but it was such a sweet (and quick!) moment and I kind of love everything about it.

Don't get me wrong: I love taking pictures of my kids, and I love showing them off. I love talking about them. But I've been thinking a lot lately about whether or not I would want there to be lots of pictures and stories of Baby Amanda floating around on a blog somewhere for anyone see and read, and the answer is: no, I wouldn't. So I am going to try and honor my kids by posting fewer photos in public spaces and posting fewer stories specifically about them. I will post about my own journey in motherhood, because those are my stories, but I will keep their stories mainly off the blog. 

Something new I'm doing for J is not posting monthly updates. He turned one month old a few weeks ago, and I intentionally did not post an update--not because I was too busy or because I forgot, but because I didn't want to. I wrote a full update in his baby book, which has space for twelve months of updates, and I think that's all he needs. (By the way, I have this baby book for J and love it!)

I started feeling near the end of R's monthly updates that perhaps posting things like that contributes to our sense of comparison as mothers. Yes, it's fun to see what another baby is doing and be able to say, "My baby is doing that too!" But what if your baby isn't? I don't want my blog to be a place where anyone feels stressed out or less than because my baby is doing something theirs isn't. I guess I just don't see a place for monthly updates about J on the blog this time, although I'm sure I will occasionally share things he's up to!

I will say that it has gotten easier to post fewer pictures of my children the more time goes on. At first I wanted to post all the pictures, but now it's much easier to only post one every so often. I like feeling like I am being intentional about what I choose to share, and I try to always respect R and J as people and not post anything embarrassing or physically revealing.

As always, I am very interested in your thoughts! This is such a personal topic, and everyone is going to have a different opinion about it. We all need to do what feels most comfortable for us and for our families. The main thing is that I hope all moms are respectful of their children when posting to the internet and intuitional about what they choose to post.

Do you post about your children online? Why or why not?
What are some "rules" you have when considering what to post?
Have you ever felt like you publicly shared something about your child that you wish you hadn't?

Coffee Date: August 2017


J turned 6 weeks old on Sunday, and I wanted to sit down and share a bit about what life is like currently. There's no better time than the start of a new month, so let's do that blogger thing and pretend we're friends meeting in real life for a coffee date. Although you all know the drill by now: I don't actually drink coffee (yes, it's true!), so I'd probably order a chai latte.

Adding R to our family was wonderful, but it was also so stressful and tiring, and I've shared in the past that I didn't exactly love the newborn stage with her. Thankfully, transitioning from one kid to two has been so much better in so many ways.

For one thing, I am already used to operating with less sleep overall, and for the past 5ish months before J even arrived, it was rough in the sleep department. R has been a good sleeper most of her life, but we have definitely been waking up multiple times a night now for a while. R had a terrible case of hand, foot, mouth; I had strep; we dropped the pacifier and transitioned her to a toddler bed.... adding in the exhaustion of newborn sleep cycles and waking up throughout the night hasn't been as drastic as it was after having R. 

I have memories of stumbling around in the night, falling asleep while nursing, and just feeling like I had zero energy to do anything at all. Certainly there have been moments of that, but in general I'd say I haven't felt that extreme, indescribable exhaustion that I did two years ago.

Breastfeeding is going really, really well, and I'm so thankful. I tried not to assume that just because R nursed well, J would too, but so far it's been great. R weaned around 13 months, so it has been almost a year since I've breastfed, but it all came right back to me the moment J was placed on my chest and started rooting around. I felt so at ease and so confident. The first few weeks were painful, but there wasn't any bleeding or cracking or bruising like I experienced with R. With her, I was obsessed with my nursing app, timing the exact moment I started a feeding to the exact moment I ended it, and I used it for months

This time I have a more "go with the flow" kind of attitude. He eats when he eats, which is generally still every 2.5-3 hours, but I'm not as consumed with it and feel much more relaxed. (For a post on my experience the first few weeks nursing R, go here.) I also am much more relaxed about his naps, unlike last time. I try to pay attention to his sleepy cues and put him down when I can, but mostly I'm of the mind-set that he does what he does, and I just go with it. It's so freeing.
I started pumping once a day a few days after he was born to try and get a freezer stash going, since last time the pump and I didn't get along so well once I went back to work. I get about 3-4 ounces during a session, and right now I have about 80 ounces in my freezer! I'm really excited about that.

If we were meeting for coffee, I would ask you what makes a blog a "mom blog" because I think I've officially crossed into that territory. This is what is happening in my life right now, and so this lifestyle blog is naturally going to include lots of kid talk. I get that some people won't be as interested in this blog anymore because of that, which does make me sad, but isn't that how life works? Some people are in your life for a season, and then they move on. No hard feelings. But I do wonder if maybe I've become too "serious" lately, and I miss just sharing random funny stories. I want to try and get back to some of that.

Then I would tell you a funny story from J's first week of life.

First you need to know that I am hilariously terrible at changing baby boy diapers and have gotten peed on more times than I have fingers. R likes to stand on a stool next to me and watch me changing his diaper. She gets me wipes and things and in general is very interested in the goings ons. So one afternoon I was changing his diaper, and R was standing next to me holding a bowl full of pretzels that she was eating as a snack.

In the transition to putting on the new diaper, J peed a giant stream straight into the air. I screamed, naturally, because that's my reaction when something unexpected happens. So R screamed because I scared her, obviously, and she continued to cry as pee rained down upon her head. I yelled for Jordan, who raced in, and we had to stick R's head under the faucet and wash her hair. Pee had pooled into the cup of pretzels, so I went into the kitchen to get her more. Except I couldn't find the pretzels anywhere, which was odd because I had just ten minutes ago gotten them out to give her some. Jordan and I commenced a search of the house and turned up nothing. In desperation he pulled the freezer open, and there they were sitting in front in all their salted glory. Jordan thought it was the best thing he'd ever seen, and we laughed about it for the rest of the day.

I would probably mention as some point during our coffee date that my maternity leave will be over soon, and I'm having serious anxiety about it. I'm already tired and busy, so I don't know how I am supposed to fit a full-time job into my life! I'm also worried about paying for two kids in daycare. But mostly I'm worried about how much I'll miss R and J during the day when I'm at work. But since it's not happening for a few weeks still, I would tell you that I'd rather not talk about it and we would move on to more fun things like....

R's second birthday party! It's this weekend, and I'm so excited to celebrate. It will be a small, low-key party with our families. I don't have a fun theme or tons of cute decorations, but I have been crafting a bit, which you may have seen peeks of on my Instagram. The "theme" is mint and pink, because when I walked around Hobby Lobby last week looking for decorations, I kept putting mint- and pink-colored items into my cart. Creative party blogger, I am not. 

I took R to the park last weekend to do a 2-year photoshoot, and while I didn't get the laughing, smiling pictures I imagined in my head, I do think I got some good ones and am excited to share them with you! She is such a beautiful, smart, sweet little girl and I love being her mama.

By this point in our date, J would probably need to eat, so I'll have to say my goodbyes. We wouldn't hug because as some of you know already, I am not a hugger. But we'd make plans to do it again (the coffee date, not the hug), because I think having friend time in person is rare these days and something I really enjoy.

So now a few coffee date questions for you!

What's something you're looking forward to?
What's something you're feeling anxious about?
What kinds of blogs do you enjoy reading the most?

On Postpartum Bodies + My PP Exercise Plan


I think it's wonderful that these days there are so many positive messages about the postpartum body. I totally agree that we should be proud of our bodies for carrying and birthing a child, and we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves about recovery and feeling pressure to immediately bounce back into shape.

But I think we can all agree that it's one thing to say you are going to be proud of your postpartum body and entirely another to try on your shorts and not be even close to able to button them. I can tell myself I'm only a few days or a couple of weeks or months pp, but I don't think there's anyone out there who isn't at least just a little discouraged to find that they can't immediately put away their maternity clothes after coming home from the hospital. Although maybe we should all lobby for pants with elastic waists anyway, am I right?

It's a weird place to be, because on one hand it's so amazing the way God made our bodies to grow a human. Our organs shift and expand and contract to make room for that tiny speck on the ultrasound screen, which has its own heartbeat and fingernails and a brain and a tongue and tiny eyelashes, for crying out loud. It's a privilege and a blessing to be able to carry a child.

My skin stretched and stretched, and then the baby comes out and of course there's going to be stomach flab. My hips shifted, and so why wouldn't my pants fit differently? I know this in my head, but it's still hard to look four months pregnant and have the scale tell you that after it's all said and done, you're up five, ten, fifteen, twenty pounds from what you were before you got pregnant.

It's good to be proud of our bodies for doing this amazing thing, but I think it's okay to feel frustrated that our clothes fit differently. They may never (probably won't) fit the same way ever again, and it's okay to feel sad to say goodbye our pre-baby bodies. But we also need to be sure and give ourselves grace. We need to not just say that we are okay with our postpartum body and actually believe it.

And we need to be patient.

I'm very much looking forward to getting back in the habit of working out and exercising, but I am going to take a different approach to it this time than I did after R. The main thing I'm going to do is be more patient. The day I received the okay from my doctor to start running again, I laced up my shoes. Over the following weeks, I tried to continue to push myself to get back into shape, and looking back I feel that personally for me, I wish I would have taken more time to ease into it more slowly. Again, that's just me.

This is obvious but worth repeating: you cannot compare your recovery timeline to anyone else's. We all have different body types, different genetics, different ways of carrying a child, different delivery stories, different ability and time and desire to exercise. You do you and forget about anyone else.

I am not a personal trainer or a coach, so the following is not advice, and of course you should listen to your own body (and your doctor) and decide what is comfortable for you, but here are a few things on my postpartum exercise plan this time around:

-Run 1-3 miles only, focusing on getting faster and stronger at that short distance.
Last time, I tried to add miles too quickly, and this time I want to focus on increasing my speed and endurance for a short distance. I am going to sign up for the OKC half marathon, which is in April, but I won't start training for it or running longer distances until I've spent quality time with the introductory miles.

-Do exercises focusing on healing diastasis recti (abdominal separation). 
Thankfully, I only have 1-2 fingers of separation, so it's not bad, but I really want to work on specific exercises to target this area of my body and avoid the things that will make it worse. I didn't do this at all with R, and I probably did some harm to myself with planks and things that I should have waited longer to add back into my routine.

-Do more weights/strength training
I am more of a cardio person than a weight person, but I want to build back muscle that was lost while I was pregnant, and I'd like to incorporate more strength training into my routine this time. 

-Remember that something is better than nothing.
I tend to expect the best out of myself, and when it comes to exercise I often feel like if I don't have time or energy to do a long workout or go for a long run, it's not even worth it to do anything at all. But every little bit helps, and something is always better than nothing. Even if it's slow, even if it isn't very long. I want to keep this in mind and not be so hard on myself and expect to be able to consistently fit long workouts into my schedule, because realistically that isn't going to happen any time soon.

Those are a few thoughts I've had recently, and I'm interested to hear your thoughts about this topic, whether you are newly postpartum, have been in the past, or will be in the future!

Related: Postpartum Weight and Recovery after R

What plans do you have for your postpartum recovery? Do you find it hard not to compare your timeline to those of other moms? What tips or advice do you have to share for good exercises or workouts to do to get back into shape after having a baby?

Things I've Been Doing (Instead of Blogging)


When R was about a month old, I wrote a post about the hierarchy of needs vs. wants and the things that I choose to spend my limited amount of free time on when I can get it. (You can find that post along with all my posts on motherhood in a handy list here.) 

Fast-forward two years, and I find myself facing the hierarchy struggle once again, only this time it's with even less free time than I had before. (Example: I tried to start this post once already and R decided to go on a nap strike and cry for a half hour, and then just as soon as I got her to sleep, J had a giant poop explosion! I think they planned it.)

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging as much lately, although I did have a few sponsored/review posts that I needed to get done, so thanks for sticking with me. The truth is, although I have a lot of ideas, I find myself with less time to write and many days lately less desire to choose blogging as the thing I do when I do have a free moment. I do still love blogging and don't plan on quitting or anything, but it just might be a lot less regular for a while. 

I thought I would share a few things I've been doing lately instead of blogging, in no particular order...

Taking walks
See: photo above. I bought that double stroller back in March. It was a garage sale find, so I was pretty excited about snagging it for a cool $40 considering I looked this stroller up and it sells for a couple hundred dollars online. But it's large and somewhat hard to push, and I feel a bit like a drunk person weaving all over the road. It's a workout for sure! I recently started taking R and J on a morning walk before it gets unbearably hot. We go for 30-40 minutes, and I come back drenched in sweat and I don't hate it. I feel lame calling it exercise, but every little bit helps, right?

Making Turkey Sandwiches
I am utterly obsessed with cold turkey sandwiches right now. Forget pregnancy cravings, I have taken this to a new level. When my mom was here the week after I had J, she made me a turkey sandwich, and I don't know what kind of voodoo grandma crack she put in it, but I have craved one every single day for the last four weeks. I've made multiple trips to the store solely to buy lunch meat and swiss cheese. Our fridge may be bare, but at least I can make my sandwiches.

Not Working
Being on maternity leave is the best thing ever. I mean, I know that's probably obvious, but I'm just saying. Being at home with two little kids is challenging and sometimes frustrating, but there are so many things I'm just totally loving right now. I love having a slow morning where I don't have to rush out to get to the office on time while dealing with rush-hour traffic. I love being able to take afternoon naps on my couch. I love spending so much time with R, and I do not miss the feeling of missing her. I love being able to get out for a walk or run to the store in the middle of day instead of after work when everyone else is there. I'm so thankful to have 8 weeks off instead of only 6, and I'm trying my best to not let the cloud of my return to work hover too dark over this sweet time. Maternity leave forever amen.

The above book came in the mail from Blogging for Books just before I went on maternity leave. I'm not reading a lot, but I have been enjoying taking a few quiet moments to dive into a book. It's the perfect book for me right now because it's pretty cheesy and predictable, but it's fun too and something easy to pick up throughout the day when I have a second. Brings me back to my Christian historical romance roots. I used to read that genre alllllll the time.

Is post-partum nesting a thing? I have been feeling the desire to clean and organize everything lately! I want to go through my closet and get rid of clothes and organize the bath towels and buy storage bins for the random stuff in the closet in the extra bedroom. I don't even know.

I am making a photo book for J's first three months of life just like I did with R, and I have been trying to keep up with uploading and editing photos so I don't get too overwhelmed. It blows my mind that I am working on week FIVE right now! I have also gotten J's baby book up to date with photos and stats and printed off some photos to hang around the house.

Taking Naps
After I had R, I really don't remember taking too many naps, but I am killing the nap game this time. Every single night after R goes to bed, I feed J and then hand him off to Jordan so I can head to bed. I get an hour or two of sleep before he wakes up to eat, and it has been a game changer for me as I head into the midnight hours. I also usually take a nap in the afternoon if I can get both kids to sleep at the same time. Although right now they are both napping and I'm writing this, so you are welcome ;) But seriously, if I could give a new mom any piece of advice, I would tell her to nap. It really has helped me not feel so much like a total zombie person. Just do it.

Snuggling Babies
Last but certainly not least, when I'm not blogging or taking walks or doing dishes or editing photos, I am snuggling my baby boy. It's so cliche to say, but I really do appreciate so much more this time the fact that this is just a short stage of life. Even at 3:00 in the morning, I sometimes find myself wanting to just keep snuggling him instead of trying to put him down.

On that note, someone is crying, so I'm going to sign off. When I'm not blogging I am also keeping two other humans alive. Ha! Thanks for reading and for all the lovely comments you've been leaving me even though I haven't been as great about responding. I promise I read every one and will try to be better about responding in a timely fashion again soon.

J's Birth Story, Part 2


When I left off in Part 1, it was 1:15 am on Sunday, June 18, and we had just been admitted to labor & delivery. I was 5cm dilated. They wheeled me down to a room and got me hooked up to a monitor and started an IV for fluids.

My entire experience with the nursing staff from start to finish was amazing, but my one complaint is the night-shift nurse who put the IV in my arm. She put it in my left arm first, and it was fine until I had to go to the bathroom. I took it with me, but when I got back apparently I'd bumped it or something because it wasn't working anymore. She pushed and pulled and moved it all around to try and get it going again, and it was not pleasant. She kept apologizing, and I was trying to be nice about it, but inside I was like, Get your crap together, lady. 

Finally she gave up and took it out of my left arm and moved it over to my right. She had an issue getting it in correctly on that side and it hurt even worse than it did on my left arm! I ended up rocking a sweet bruise for a full week and a half after we left the hospital.

It's impossible to not want to compare one experience to the next, and both Jordan and I found ourselves constantly saying, "Last time with R...." I don't know if it was obnoxious to the nursing staff, but I can tell you that I was getting annoyed with myself.

It's not that we expected things to go exactly the same way it did with R, but that's the only thing we knew. When I was pregnant with R, we never attended any classes. No breastfeeding class, no hospital tour, no birthing class. I was just too overwhelmed by it all to do any of that, and as a result I fully admit that I was not very well informed about the process of labor or any of breathing techniques that are supposed to help you relax during contractions. One thing I remember vividly from my labor with R is the nurses telling me not to yell in a high-pitched tone but to try to breathe through contractions and use lower tones to save energy and help me relax.

I had all of that in the back of my mind already, and then Torrie left a comment on my 39-week bump update post about natural birth and the way the muscles of the uterus contract and why relaxing does help contractions to not be as painful. I read it the day before I went into labor, and it honestly couldn't have been better timing.

After they got me all hooked up (and my IV in the right spot), there was nothing else to do but lie on the bed and have contractions. They were increasingly painful and lasting for a full minute or more at a time. I tried as hard as I could to focus on relaxing through each contraction, taking giant deep breaths in and out. I really wanted to do a better job with it this time than I did with R.

Another difference was that I had brought my iPod and headphones. I have always (secretly) scoffed at the idea of a birthing playlist. I couldn't imagine wanting any music or anything else going on while I was in labor (I've heard of people watching TV and I'm like how????), but I wondered if playing some music this time would help me focus.

In the last few months of pregnancy, I would take daily walks around the courtyard at my office, and I would bring my phone and play David Crowder's "All Creatures of Our God and King" out loud and on repeat for the entirety of my walk. I didn't make an official birthing playlist, but at the hospital I played my worship playlist, which included the David Crowder song and a few other favorites that I played on repeat during most of my labor.

The first few hours at the hospital went quickly, and I was shocked when Jordan told me it was nearly 3:00. They checked me, and I was sad to hear that I was only barely at a 6. I dilated quickly with R, so I was hopeful that would be the case this time, but apparently not.

The next couple of hours dragged on. My parents and sister arrived around 4:00 (I think) and came in briefly to say hi. At some point the resident who worked with my doctor came in to ask me if I wanted an epidural. The contractions were painful, but I felt like I was handling them okay thanks to my focus on breathing, so I still said I'd wait and see. He gave me a thumbs up and said, "Right on," and told me that I could only get one before 8cm and it would take thirty minutes or so, so to let them know asap if I decided to go that route. 

Around 5:00 am, the nurse asked me if I was interested in having any pain medication given to me in my IV. I said yes, and they got me going on Stadol. It made me super loopy and sleepy for about an hour. I remember continuing to feel contractions, but the pain was largely dulled and I got a little rest, which was nice.

According to Jordan, the medicine made me do weird things like continue to ask him to give me ice when I already had ice in my mouth. I also started panicking at one point because I couldn't move my hands and my nose itched. Jordan offered to itch my nose for me, but he wasn't getting the right spot and I was getting mad at him, so he held my hand and moved it around my nose so I could scratch it myself. I wonder if Beyonce is as glamorous during labor as I am.

After an hour or so, I came out of the fog and could feel everything again. I continued to breathe through contractions while listening to my music and focusing on relaxing as much as I could. The whole time I was in labor, I barely made any sound at all except for loud breaths in and out. The nurse shift change came, and our new nurse, Emily, introduced herself. She was so amazing and the absolute perfect person to be by my side during labor! (Side note: I need to mention here that Jordan is sweet and kind and encouraging, but apparently that means nothing to me because just like when I was in labor at home, I still didn't want him touching me or talking to me at all so he felt mostly useless. Every time he would say something encouraging, I would growl, "Don't talk to me" and glare at him. I'm just so nice!)

At 7:30, my contractions were about 5 minutes apart but not getting any closer, and my water still hadn't broken. They told me they were going to start me on pitocin to see if they couldn't get my labor moving along. I remember feeling really upset and kept saying, "Is this like being induced? I'm being induced, aren't I? I don't want to be induced." 

There was also a discussion about whether or not to break my water, but they decided to wait it out a bit longer and see if it would break on its own.

The pitocin worked some labor magic, because Emily checked me around 7:45 and said I was dilated to an 8.5 and my cervix was "paper thin" (her words). I was suuuuper excited to hear that because I was over it and wanted the baby to get the hecksauce out already. I also remember being shocked I was dilated that much because although the contractions were very painful by this point, they weren't completely killing me like I remember they had been with R at this stage. Emily said that was likely because my water was still in tact, which was cushioning the contractions somewhat.

She said that she could feel the baby's head down, but he wasn't "engaged in my pelvis" and was wiggling all over the place. She asked me if I felt okay to do a few different positions to try and get the baby to move down. This was mildly exciting to me because I never did anything fancy with R except lie on the bed and occasionally roll from side to side.

Emily had me move into a squat position on the edge of the bed to try and get him to force down. Imagine doing a very low, deep squat; that's what I was doing, which was surprisingly not as uncomfortable as you might think.

Next she had me turn around and get on my knees facing the wall. They put the bed up, almost vertical, and I drapped my upper body over the back of the bed and kind of hung there, all while continuing to have contractions. I'm not exactly sure how long I was in either of those positions or what happened over the next hour, but just before 9:00 am my doctor came in and said that she thought they should go ahead and break my water.

"It's going to get intense, and I know it feels strange to ask to be in more pain than you are now," she said, "but I think you'll have this baby pretty quickly once we go ahead and do it."

I felt really nervous (understatement), but I said okay. She reached down and I heard a "pop" and felt a warm gush of fluid. It was 9:04 am. As soon as the doctor broke my water, she said, "Oh that's what the problem is." Apparently J, just like his big sister, was sunny side up, which is why dilation was taking so long and why my water hadn't broken. I was shocked. Darn kids.

As soon as my doctor broke my water, I started completely freaking out. I had been doing so well relaxing and focusing, but I was already in a lot of pain, and I knew breaking my water would lead to even more pain (plus hi, the baby was going to come out of me), and mentally I lost it. I started crying and saying, "No, I can't do it. I can't. I'm scared. I can't do this."

Emily had already commented multiple times on how impressed she was with my control and how focused I was, especially considering I was nearly 10 cm dilated. She could tell I was going into panic mode, and she turned to me and said sternly, "Amanda, you have got to pull yourself together right now. This is all mental and you have got to refocus. You can do this."

I've written before about how running a marathon is similar to having a baby, but the biggest difference I think (other than the obvious differences) is that when I'm running a race, I know exactly where the finish line is. Mentally it helps me to know exactly how much longer, how much farther, I have until I can stop. It makes those middle miles where I feel like I'll never get to the end bearable because I can feel tangible progress when I put one foot in front of the other.

When I'm in labor, I know that there is a finish line, but I have no idea where it is or how much longer I have until I get there. It's physically exhausting, but it's very mental too, because you just don't know if you will have to keep going at 100% for hours or minutes or seconds. The finish line feels almost like a mirage that keeps moving farther away as soon as you can see it.

It was such a helpful reminder for Emily to tell me that it was now a mental battle and that I needed to refocus. I knew she was right, and after just a few contractions I was able to regain my focus, stop crying, and continue my deep breathing. Like, the most giant breaths I've ever taken in my life were happening.

Emily had me try two different positions to try and get the baby to flip over so he was facedown. First she got me on all fours on the bed and told me to relax my back. When a contraction came, I was supposed to sink down into it and wiggle my hips back and forth. It felt awkward, and it took a few contractions to get the hang of it, but I was trying my best to follow directions.

I did that for a bit, and then she had me lie on my left side with the peanut ball between my legs. I lay almost flat on my side with my left arm stretched out above my head. These contractions were so much more intense than any I had been feeling previously. The best I can describe it is like an increasing band of pressure and pain tightening around my entire body every few minutes.

At this point all quiet breathing was out the window and I was groaning and yelling. Emily told me later that she thought it was hilarious that instead of actually saying any curse words, I just shouted the word, "Curses!" a bunch.

After just a few contractions lying on my side with the peanut ball, I felt an increasing urge to push. Then all of the sudden I felt the urge to push. Emily had run out to go to the bathroom, and my doctor wasn't there either (long story short, there were a couple of women having babies all at pretty much the same time, so it was a bit hectic). 

I yelled at Jordan to go get someone, and he said, "Well the doctor will be right back..." and I was like, "YOU GO GET SOMEONE RIGHT NOW."

I was literally yelling, "Help! Help!" when the doctor came in. She didn't even check me; she just looked and said, "Um, yeah okay the baby is coming right now." With R, I remember feeling the urge to push and them telling me that I still wasn't all the way dilated and I had to wait (worst thing ever), so I was surprised when the doctor said he was actually coming right then.

All of the sudden there were bright lights and five or six other people standing near my feet trying to get mats under my bottom and my legs in the air. My doctor actually wasn't even in a gown yet and had to call someone to come take her place for a minute while she got dressed.

They told me to push whenever I felt like I wanted to. While I pushed, I could hear someone counting to ten, and then I went right back into pushing for another ten count. Emily was standing on my left side, and she kept saying, "Get mad, mama," which sounds funny to me now, but at the time I found it to be a helpful visual. 

The sensation of pushing totally came back to me, and that probably helped the process because I remembered what it felt like and what I was supposed to do. I liked being able to push when I wanted to instead of waiting on contractions.

My legs were shaking so badly that they had to get someone else to help hold them. Even Jordan got in on the action this time and was holding my right leg. At one point I remember Jordan saying, "Amanda, I can see his head!" which was really cool and helped me know that it was only a matter of time. The nurses were all excited that he had red hair. 

I never once opened my eyes when I was pushing with R, but this time I did open them twice between pushes, and it was a little surreal and kind of felt like a scene from a movie with the lights and the people in blue scrubs gathered around.

They asked me if I could hold onto the backs of my legs to help with the final pushes (something I remember doing with R as well), but I initially didn't have any strength to move. A few pushes later, I was able to grab hold of both of my legs, and the doctor said, "Okay, he's coming. Give it all you have."

I started pushing at 9:24 and had J at 9:28.

He did come out facing the correct way, so I guess all those weird positions helped, and thankfully they did not have to use the vacuum like they did with R.

They put him on my chest, Jordan cut the cord, and I just couldn't believe Baby J was finally here! Emily grabbed my phone and started taking pictures. I was once again flooded with an intense feeling of relief that it was over and the baby was out. Praise the Lord.

A friend asked me recently which labor was more painful--R's or J's--and at first I wasn't sure how to answer that. But after thinking about it, I decided that R's labor was more painful during and J's was definitely more painful after.

With R they numbed me down there and I don't remember feeling them stitching me up, but  because of where I tore, even the numbing didn't help this time, and I felt everythingMy doctor kept apologizing and tried multiple times to numb it, but it just wasn't working.

The first twenty minutes of J's life were not a lovely bonding moment. I was holding him to my chest with my left arm while I held onto Jordan's hand with my right and gripped it tighter than I did while I was pushing. A few times Jordan told me to be careful that I wasn't squishing J. The whole thing was honestly worse than my labor, and Emily told me later that if she had known that would have happened, she would have recommended an epidural just based on the pain it caused to stitch me up.

Thankfully the torture ended eventually, and they turned off the bright overhead lights and left the three of us alone in the delivery room for a bit before we were moved to our recovery room. My parents and sister came in after a little while to say hi and meet J.
We feel so blessed and are so thankful for a healthy baby and a wonderful doctor and team of nurses who helped us bring our son into the world. There aren't words to describe the relief and joy and love and awe that you feel when you finally meet your baby for the first time. It truly is a miracle and an experience I'll never forget.