Growing our Family

We’re working hard to get this family life back in rhythm. It’s been our groove for the last 6ish years to continually adjust our ways as we add new little people to our brood. We love it and it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done.

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Andy and I knew we wanted children and that we wanted to have children right away. We didn’t know we’d have a honeymoon baby and a child every other year after that, but we are thankful and amazed that we have. Our kids are blessings. They are. That’s the bottom line to us. We love our children. When people ask us if we are done having children or tell us that our family is complete because we have 2 boys and 2 girls we shrug a little because we don’t know if we are done. We’ll take as many children as God gives us.

This season is challenging. The sleepless nights, crying, screaming fits, exhaustion, anxiety and pressure from society to have the picture perfect life or even the accusations that we’re selfish for having multiple children is overwhelming at times. Selfish isn’t the first word that comes to mind regarding parenthood. At all. However, the struggles are there. So are the joys. So are the amazing moments and the milestones. The triumphs and the firsts. So many firsts.

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We want to cultivate hearts of compassion and love in our children. We want them to love their neighbors and look out for their brothers (and sisters). We hope to train them and teach them well. We hope that they’ll know the depths of God’s awesome love for them and that we can be but a glimpse of that never giving up love. We’ll continue to press on and hope and pray for good fruit. We pray for their souls. We pray for their souls that will never die while we die to ourselves. May we be found faithful during this season and forever.

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Roadside Stand

This is a birth story. There are a lot of personal details that come with giving birth. There isn’t anything too graphic and I’m not sharing my heart and soul on a platter, but I am sharing an intimate experience. My experience. I’m also sharing the 911 audio recording at the end of this post so you can experience a little or what we did.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post since her birth less than two weeks ago and how and what to write and what details to share and what to omit, because there are a lot of details and a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ and a lot of angles about this story that I can write. For instance, do I write this as a ‘how to induce labor naturally with castor oil?’ (I read a ton of articles/research/personal testimonies about this subject and another ‘how-to’ never hurts, right?) Or do I write a checklist of what to have on hand if you birth a baby on the side of the interstate? Or maybe I should add an Amazon affiliate link for a stopwatch so that when contractions start you can time them and when they are 2 minutes apart from the very beginning of them starting you can be certain it’s time to have a baby. Then, I can have another affiliate link for a book about being in denial so that you won’t be in denial despite the weeks and weeks of ‘false labor’ before that moment. If you aren’t in denial then you’ll be confident that you’re in active labor and that the castor oil you took hours before actually worked. I could write a dissertation about all of the ‘what-if’ scenarios and ‘what-could-have-happened’ to scare the mess out of you, because even though everything turned out perfectly fine, I’ve been reminded over and over and over by well meaning people that I could have died, the baby could have died, we all could have died and while that is absolutely true, I am so thankful that I didn’t die that night and the baby didn’t die that night and andy didn’t die that night and we are all alive and doing marvelously, thank God. I also don’t want to miss the point that despite the absolute worst case scenarios that people have worried about and despite us heading to the hospital and completely bypassing our plans to labor close to the hospital and despite never even arriving at the hospital before Ms Tupelo was born, everything is just fine and we are amazed and thankful for just how perfectly her birth happened, even if I was standing on an exit ramp off of the interstate….

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I was scheduled for an induction the following week. I was at the 41 week mark and our doctors agreed to let me go to almost 42 before a foley bulb induction. Any sort of chemical induction was out of the question, because of the higher risk of uterine rupture. I was induced with a foley bulb for Buttercup’s birth and after 36 hours of labor in the hospital under the watchful eyes and monitors of the staff she was born. We were thrilled to have a successful VBA2C with her 9lb6oz self and were hoping and praying for another successful VBA2C with Tupelo.

We’d tried every single natural labor induction method ever documented and despite having many nights of ‘false labor’ (it seemed like labor started but then everything would be back to normal and contractions never increased or stuck around) and despite all of the spicy foods, bumpy atv rides, intimacy (birth stories are personal, y’all), walking, jogging (for about 27 seconds), evening primrose oil, eggplant Parmesan, licorice and more we finally decided to give the dreaded castor oil a try. I knew there was about a 50% chance for it to start labor and I knew the side effects would be less than awesome. It’s a laxative after all. It’s a laxative that tastes like lipstick. I knew that if my body wasn’t ready to deliver then the castor oil wouldn’t work. It did work for us.

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We decided to drink the stuff on Thursday morning because if it didn’t work then we’d have plenty of time to get it out of my system and stay hydrated before our scheduled induction the following Monday. It was our last resort. After getting a great night of sleep on Wednesday I woke up and had a T of castor oil with some Oj and went for a walk. Nothing happened. I went about my morning as a mama of little ones and decided to try another T. Still nothing. Around noon when andy came in I told him I felt like an idiot for trying to make something happen if it wasn’t time and that maybe I was trying to act like God. Andy completely disagreed and encouraged me (per our Doula’s advice) to take the rest of the 4oz bottle. I didn’t want to do it because I was afraid of the repercussions but we had plenty of coconut water and Gatorade and we were at home so I could conveniently go to the restroom and stay hydrated. So I chugged it and felt sick.

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I took a deep nap at 3pm while andy did the farm chores with the kids and at 5pm we started getting dinner ready and I changed our sheets for the farm sitter. I felt ‘different’ and told andy that we should probably plan to head to the cottage in Savannah that night. Our friends are caretakers of a retreat in Savannah called Wesley Gardens. There is a big main house and a cottage that can be rented with walking paths and a dock overlooking Moon River. It’s only 9 miles from the hospital. We live an hour and a half away from the hospital so we wanted to be closer and labor with our doula in a peaceful place before going in to deliver. After a 36 hour labor previously and 2 csections before that (one scheduled and one after 36 hours of labor and ‘failure to progress’) we knew it would take some time and we were ready. I text our doula to ask her again how far apart contractions should be before we head that way and I started timing them. I was obviously in denial at this point because I could not believe that contractions were only 2 minutes apart. They had just started. I also thought that if I was going to spend the next day dealing with contractions this heavy then there is no way I could forgo an epidural. It was all I could do to get our bed made and smile at the kids and breathe. I told andy that we needed to go and didn’t know that he’d already called our friend/farm sitter and that his dad was on the way to pick up the kids. BREATHE. And grip the counter top and try not to grip the counter top because you need to relax and let your body do what it needs to do. BREATHE. The kids got loaded up and went to their grandparent’s house (praise God for loving grandparents!) and Andy and I got our shoes on and headed to the car. I couldn’t breathe. I also couldn’t believe that contractions were 2 minutes apart. From the beginning. There was never a build up, there was never a 15 minute break or 10 minute break or 8 or 5 minute break in between each one. They were 2 minutes apart and I was in active labor/transition from the time they started. We had to hussle.

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Just before we drove off I told andy to grab a couple of towels. We had our exercise ball and big hospital style bed pads and walking shoes and snacks and every other possible labor item you can imagine but we needed towels just in case my water broke. For the record my water has never broken ‘voluntarily’ but has always been broken by the midwife (first birth started at a birthing center and ended at the hospital) or the doctor. Still, just in case. Before we left I told my sister Olive, my friend Abby in Alaska and my friend Emily that we were in labor. I also let our friend Abbie know that we were headed to the cottage. I wanted to tell girls from our church and others so they could be praying for us but I never could concentrate long enough between contractions to inform them. So we got on the interstate and headed to Savannah. Andy timed contractions for our doula and we realized they were a minute and a half apart. Janie (our doula) text me to say that if I felt nauseous or got cold sweats or felt my bottom burning then we needed to pull over. I called her because Andy had just pulled over so I could throw up. I thought this was just an effect of the castor oil that i’d consumed hours prior and still didn’t recognize it as transitional labor. I couldn’t actually talk to Janie because of how intense the contractions were but she called andy. We were driving again at this point and I turned the heater to full blast on my side of the car. The entire time I was rolling the window and sun roof open and closed and changing the radio and trying to get comfortable and saying ‘now’ whenever a contraction would start but now andy got worried. Heater on when’s it’s 90plus degrees outside and your wife is practically ripping your head off and you still have 45 minutes to get to the hospital would probably make any man worry.

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So, Andy’s on the phone with Janie and she tells him that he will probably have to deliver our baby. And then I have to go. Right then. I told him ‘I have to poop!’ ‘You have to poop?’ ‘Yes, I have to poop.’ ‘Right now?’ ‘I’m pooping!!!!!’ Oh y’all. I wish this wasn’t true. I wish I was making up a fictional story about the girl who had a baby on the side of the road but I’m not. It’s all true. Every last personal and gruesome detail. I could put an Amazon affiliate link for the kids book ‘everyone poops’ right here, but I actually don’t have an Amazon affiliate link thing set up so I won’t. But the fact of the matter is that I was basically wearing a diaper (remember that I didn’t want my water to break and ruin the car’s interior) so everything was contained in a nice adult diaper sort of thing and we were still driving down the interstate desperately looking for the next exit ramp. We’d just passed a tractor trailer weigh station when the unfortunate (and totally natural!!!) happened so we had about 4 more miles to go. For a brief second I thought I wanted andy to pull over directly on the side of the interstate but in a rational moment I saw all of the traffic and knew that i could wait a few more minutes to get cleaned up on the privacy of an exit ramp vs the interstate. He pulled off of exit 148 (which is also the exit he takes to go to our Tupelo bee yard on the ogeechee river) and I started to crawl out of the car. I’d taken my shoes off (woman in labor=shoes on. shoes off. window open. window closed. radio on. radio off. ac on. heat on. BREATHE) and andy  came to the passenger side, cleaned me up, helped me get my shoes on and helped me get out of the car. I knew I couldn’t sit in the car. He was on the phone with Janie still and debating about calling 911 and telling me to get back in the car so we could keep going. The thing is, I couldn’t keep going. I could stand there and breathe and hang on to the side of the car but I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t get back in the car. I wasn’t being dramatic but I told andy that we werent going anywhere and we were about to have our baby. I didn’t believe we were actually about to deliver her. Right then. But I knew I couldn’t keep traveling. I knew that there was A LOT of pressure down there and that walking or sitting was out of the question. So I stood there. Then I squatted. Then I looked at the ground and saw pavement/asphalt/gravel/probably bits of glass and I stood back up. I couldn’t deliver her right here. On the road. Then my water broke. Having never experienced my water breaking spontaneously it was really neat and not that eventful. There was a pop and a gush almost like a small water balloon had just busted by my feet. But I felt it and andy was there and he called 911. And for the next few minutes I went sort of silent.

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I needed to concentrate and I couldn’t because I was paying attention to andy and his headlamp and his conversation and I just needed to focus. It was time. I told andy to get a towel. When I knew that he was there with a towel under me (I was still standing by the car and had stopped wondering what the cars thought as they drove by and saw us there) and I knew that our precious baby wasn’t going to hit the asphalt and I knew I needed to push her out or I’d stand on the side of the road unable to walk or sit down for the rest of my life so, I started pushing when the urge came. Three hours after labor started, I was pushing our precious baby out into the world. It was a relief. It really was.

Accepting that it was indeed time and that she was indeed being born right then was a huge blessed relief. I’d had so much fear prior to this moment. Fear of the unknowns and what ifs. Fear of ‘failing’ or losing our baby or my life. Traumatic labor and delivery memories would creep in and I’d sob and wonder what I could have done differently. Wonder why things happened the way they did in the past. I was afraid. Then Buttercup was born and my fears of uterine rupture subsided. Then Tupelo was born and my fears of childbirth subsided. All of them. She was born and we were alive and Andy caught her and it was just us. Our family. Andy handed me the baby (cord still attached to the placenta that hadn’t been delivered) and we sat back down in the car (hospital sized pads/towel on the seat) and waited for the first responders and ambulance to arrive.

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I wondered if we should go ahead and drive to the hospital but the 911 dispatcher advised us to wait. So we did. They came and cut the cord and transferred us to the ambulance. She and I rode with andy following. We were discharged 24 hours later. I had a small tear that got a stitch and the nurse told us that ‘it’s a good thing that you delivered her before you got here. The dr on duty is anti vbac.’ He came in to see us just prior to her saying that and apologized for our wait because he’d just done two csections. None of the doctors in our practice were on duty. Our doctors are amazing. They are all pro vbac and are the only practice in our region that I could find that would give us a trial of labor after 2 csections. The hospital has the best NICU in the region also so we knew from our last birth experience that we were in the  best place in the event of an emergency. Thankfully there wasn’t an emergency. Thankfully there weren’t any complications and God totally spared us from devastation.

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Tupelo was 8lbs 13oz and 21&1/4inches long. She’s a beautiful, sweet addition to our growing family and her older siblings all adore her. She definitely gave us a unique story to tell and absolutely gave andy and I a deeper bond than we had before. We got the 911 audio recording and I keep listening to it and falling more and more in love with my man and admiring the way he handled the entire situation. Everyone’s experiences and stories are unique. I never imagined having a baby as quickly and smoothly and ‘unassisted’ as we did, but I am forever grateful that we did. Thankfully, our sweet Ms Tupelo gave us a whole new meaning to the term Roadside Stand. XO.

Ready for a Road Trip

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We’re preparing to take a little vacation/road trip that we’ve been wanting to take for a few years now. We’re driving from Ga to Co and back again to see my 94 year? old grandmother, Olive (she doesn’t have a birth certificate copy) and stopping at some pretty exciting places along the way. We’ll go to the ark encounter and then the Iowa state fair, visiting some of Andy’s family, before spending a week in Eagle, CO which is so neat and dear to me since it is where I grew the most in my faith and where I prayed and prayed for this precious family that will be traveling back with me. I spent a couple of years in Eagle, caring for my ‘Granny O’ and it was my first time living out of GA.

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When I moved out there I was only planning a visit. I had a round trip ticket, but I ended up staying for 2.5 years. I arrived with a suitcase of clothes and another bag of books and journals and I never flew back to Savannah. The family that I was nannying for at the time was incredibly supportive just like they had been when I took some time off to travel on a short term mission trip to India. Suzanne told me that it was important to spend as much time with my grandmother as I could, because I never knew how much time I would have left. Suzanne and her husband John have loved me like I was their own since I’ve known them, which has been over half of my life. I’m thankful for them. I’m also thankful for this upcoming trip.

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It has been years in the making. We’ve just not been able to swing it until now. We leave in less than a week and I couldn’t be more excited. I just need to remember that the adventure is in the journey just as much as the destination. I don’t want to miss the moments. We’ll be spending over 50 hours in the van… Driving… Pray for us.

XO.

The Relatives Came

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One of my favorite children’s books is ‘The Relatives Came’ by Cynthia Rylant. I first discovered the book when Andy and I were interning at Brant Family Farm in SC and fell in love with the story. Mainly because it reminded me so much of my family and how we visit and hug and laugh and breathe together.

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I have a sister and a niece in VA and it is one of our favorite places in the country. The premise of the book is that the relatives came from VA and they all got to spend the summer together. I’ve been reading this story for the last couple of years at our Shaner family gatherings and it always makes me cry. I’m a bit sappy and sentimental sometimes and this book reminds me so much of those that are near and dear to my heart. So, when I pulled out the book to read to my sweet niece, she patted me on the leg and said, ‘you don’t have to cry, I’m right here.’ And my heart exploded with love and joy and gratitude for her precious little soul and her wisdom beyond her years.

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She’s 6. My sister, her mother, and I are 18 months apart and were incredibly close growing up. We were comrades in the truest sense of the word and we had each other’s back, always and no matter what. Seeing my beautiful sister, Aubrie, in my niece’s eyes and having her in my home for just a day filled my cup. I wish they lived closer. I wish our kids were growing up together as best friends. Cousins by default and friends by choice. But, for now, they live in VA. For now, I’ll wait eagerly for their visits and be thankful for the precious hours that we do have together and continue to hope for more.

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My sweet niece will have one of the Great Pyrenees puppies with her at her dad’s house. She came down and was surprised with a puppy by him. We arranged it a few weeks ago and I could hardly wait for the day. Knowing that the last puppy to be picked was meant to be hers has given me so much peace. When he contacted me to inquire about a pup, I knew it was meant to be.

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So, they drove down from VA. She met her new puppy and played with her cousins and read books and told me about her life in VA. We ate together and played games together and breathed together. And that’s all that mattered. Then, they packed up their car with a sweet puppy in tow. Another soon-to-be-mama-bear-dog in the back seat next to my darling niece. My heart melted and once again, the house felt too big and too empty…

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He’s 3!

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Little middle child whom we affectionately refer to as Pinecone here on the blog turned 3 this week. While Andy and I were talking about how we can best celebrate this charming fellow, we decided that he needed a party and it needed to only include those people to which  he feels comfortable giving a full body bear hug. That’s a whopping 4 people other than Andy, myself, Bullfrog and Buttercup.

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So, we invited my sister (Aunt Lulu), my dad (Opa), Andy’s mom (Goma because they couldn’t pronounce Grandma and were used to saying Oma for my mom) and Andy’s dad (Dan dad or Grandad). We ordered a few pizzas from one of our favorite spots in Savannah and we celebrated.

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Pinecone hadn’t had his own birthday party before and he was thrilled to see balloons and to know that this day was to celebrate him. He brings our family so much joy! He is all heart in the truest sense of the meaning and he’s been pretty amazing since day 1.

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He’s rough, tumble and bold. He’s fearless and always ready for an adventure. He loves our family nicknames and makes me feel like the most beloved mother in creation when he hugs my neck tight and says: ‘you’re all mine mama bear’ or ‘you’re my best.’

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I’ve talked before about how I’ve never been great at making much ado over special days. I’m working at it and so far this year we have successfully had a little celebration for each of our precious children to mark their 1st, 3rd and 5th birthdays. This is the last birthday party of the year and it was such a sweet, simple, kiddie pool and water balloonand pizza and ice cream cake kind of day. He opened a few gifts throughout the day and mostly we just got to enjoy Pinecone basking in the love of his family.

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That is all that matters right. That he knows we love him. That he knows Jesus loves him. That he can choose who to give full body hugs to and make them feel loved too. Those are the little things I’m thankful to celebrate. XO.

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My Filtered Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my social media accounts might look like to an outsider and if they are a true reflection of my real life. Do they portray the truth?

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I don’t mean all of the nitty gritty going on every single day or even the deepest depths of my heart that are really reserved for my amazing husband and God. I mean just the day in and day out dirt. The stuff that isn’t puppies and flowers. The stuff that doesn’t inspire, but is necessary for accomplishing the inspiring stuff.

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For example, the fact that we grow the majority of our food is amazing. But, that rosemary and garlic roasted chicken that we ate for dinner the other night had to be raised from a biddy to a big bird and then butchered. Have you ever slaughtered an animal for the table? It’s tough stuff.

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A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about the hard part of farming. I haven’t read the post lately, but it was sort of a rant about the poop that comes with the good. Since we are farmers/homesteaders/live off the land/grow your own food kind of people, the social media circles that I’m in and the blogs and books that I read are often related to exactly those sorts of things. This isn’t a new idea. There’s nothing new under the sun according to the book Ecclesiastes, which I believe is true.

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Still, my life can look pretty darn amazing when I crop out the dirt. Actually, my life is pretty darn amazing and I’m thankful for every single day. I really am. But, there is a lot that isn’t shared on social media and sometimes there is a little too much. I’m working on the balance, because I get distracted and discouraged and discontent when I fail to remember that the big picture, most important, true life stuff can’t be defined with a hashtag.

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XO.

 

 

It felt like yesterday

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She’s one! An entire year has gone by since we welcomed our sweet Buttercup into the world. It seems like only last week that I was pacing the farm anticipating her birth, wondering when she’d arrive and what she’d be like. 9 months of praying constantly for her safe and healthy arrival and years of research after our first born arrived via unexpected c-section and our second arrived as a repeat c-section, because our dr no longer offered VBACs and I’d been diagnosed with cephalopelvic disproportion after a strenuous labor and failure to progress the first time.

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I never shared my ‘birth stories’ before, because the bottom line was that we had 2 (now 3) healthy, amazing children. Regardless of how they were born or the years I struggled with shame and guilt of not feeling like a ‘real woman’ because the natural birth that we’d planned at a local birthing center ended up as a hospital transfer and life-saving cesarean section that completely rocked our world and made us thankful for modern medicine, because Andy could have lost his family that day, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it all.

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I’d read so many birth stories and I know women who have had every birth experience under the sun. I know women who have lost their children during labor and delivery-Women whose children never took their first breath. I know women who would give the world to be able to carry a child in their womb regardless of how that child is delivered. I know doulas and ICAN advocates and labor and delivery nurses and anesthesiologists. I know women who have had home births and water births and csections and vbacs and vba2cs and the list goes on…

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I thought csections were unnecessary interventions-until I needed one to deliver my son. I thought epidurals were evil and dangerous, until I needed one. I thought I could give birth painlessly (even though I know it’s part of the fall for women to have pain in childbirth!), because of a book someone gave me and hearing of a first hand experience of painless childbirth, but that wasn’t my case. I thought doulas were some sort of waste-of-money-witch-doctors until we had one and she helped us get through our ‘trial of labor’ as we attempted a vba2c with our 3rd child!

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We had some healthy and not so healthy criticism and a lot of skeptics for attempting a VBA2C. We knew the hospital would be the safest place for us to deliver, because of the response time in the event of a complication and we had an incredibly competent staff of doctors and nurses and residents working around the clock during the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery for which we are forever thankful. I remember so many of their names and faces and am so thankful for their hardwork and encouragement as we worked hard to bring our daughter into the world.

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I can’t say that I was fully confident or optimistic or hopeful for a ‘successful’ vba2c.  We struggled big time with knowing that we were doing the best thing for our family. It may seem contrary to some but, when it came down to it and our sweet baby arrived 10 days after her estimated due date, larger than both of the boys had been and without a c-section involved we knew that we’d been carried through. Despite the doubts and fears and struggles and unsolicited advice from loved ones and strangers, God carried us, protected us and provided for us and had mercy and grace enough to give us a safe, healthy delivery of a beautiful baby girl. Her name means ‘Pure, Bright and Bringer of Light’ and it’s my hope that she will live up to it all of her days.