Friday, January 11, 2019

Family Resemblance

We have been trying to determine which sister Clayton most closely resembles.  Here are 3 photos of Clayton: 
So what do you think?  Below, you'll find 2 photos of each of my girls.
Top 2 photos are Olivia.
Middle 2 are Ellia.
Last 2 are Brienna.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Goodness of God in Clayton's Pregnancy & Birth Story

I won't apologize for being really detailed!  The Lord has been so good to us, and I am liable to forget these little important details unless I get them down here.  I am so thankful to God for giving me a healthy pregnancy and delivery.  It was not without its curve balls, but I'm glad to say that God helped me to trust Him with each unexpected twist.   We're thrilled that God brought Clayton Bradley into the world without complications and that He providentially gave us even more than we expected during that delivery!  

The first "twist" came at the 20-week anatomy scan, when we learned that this baby had a 2-vessel umbilical cord (a normal cord has 3 vessels), and that there was some question about Clayton's heart and possibly kidneys.  A follow-up scan showed a healthy heart and kidneys, and we were told that the 2-vessel cord was most likely nothing to worry about.  The main concern would be stalled or stopped growth late in pregnancy, as well as a placenta that may deteriorate a bit earlier than normal.  We had one more growth check ultrasound before learning that we would be paying a good chunk of those costs.  We therefore declined the recommended once-a-month scans, in favor of the physical measurements in the office. All we could do was wait and trust the Lord's timing and plan for our baby.  He was good to give us peace about this.  

The second "twist" came when I popped positive for Group B Strep (GBS), taken from a urine sample very early on.  Normally they test for GBS around 37 weeks, so I was irritated that they tested me so early.  To make matters worse, my bacteria levels were so low that the lab was not even supposed to inform the clinic about it at all!  The midwives urged me to agree to IV antibiotics during labor.  I have great concerns about antibiotics, so I was very torn about this!  I did a lot of reading on GBS & the risks and decided to insist on the standard swab test at the appropriate time.  If that test came back positive, I would agree to antibiotics.  I began taking high doses of good probiotics, several times per day, to no avail.  I tested positive at the 37-week swab test.  I was sorely disappointed but had to leave it in God's hands and pray that the antibiotics simply wouldn't have a detrimental effect on me or the baby.  I was relieved to learn that 2 doses of IV penicillin, given during labor and before delivery, was all that was required.  At least it wasn't a long 2-week course of them.  Again, God allowed me to rest in His care and plan, and to trust the midwives about this as well.  

As my December 1st due date approached, I was able to rest and wait without too much anxiety or impatience.  God was so good to let me sleep fairly well, and He also kept my back pain mostly at bay.  My weight gain stayed pretty low (13-14 pounds total), and thanks to an iron supplement, my energy levels remained high for most of the 3rd trimester.  

One of the main worries that I did battle was the fact that we do not yet have a doctor for our family.  We moved here in June and have not had reason to seek one out.  This was my own fault, I realize... but somehow I was suddenly 10 days, then 8, then 4 days from my due date and STILL without a doctor for this baby!  I think I called about a dozen clinics and was turned away for one reason or another.  Finally, thank the Lord, a pediatrician did have room for Clayton in his practice.  Phew!  I cried tears of relief when I hung up the phone, after having made arrangements for Clayton's appointments.  Then I looked at my belly and said, "Okay, little one, you can come now!"

But he didn't come by December 1.  As excited as I was to meet this sweet baby, I was thankful for each day to get some extras done.  More Christmas preparations.  Extra cleaning.  A leisurely thrift-shopping day.  Sweet little notes to each daughter.  Some 3x5 cards with encouraging Scriptures on them for laboring at the hospital.  I even made a Spotify music playlist, to help strengthen me during labor with reminders of God's nearness and help.  I had epidurals with all three of the girls, but this time I really, REALLY wanted a natural birth.  I made Nate promise not to let me have any pain meds, no matter how much I begged.  I had prayed for strength and resolve, even at my greatest weakness, to go through with the natural labor I so wanted.  
On Wednesday, December 5, I had a non-stress test and ultrasound.  These were to check on Baby's condition and the condition of the womb and placenta.  The midwife suspected that my fluid level and placenta would probably indicate a less-than-ideal environment for Baby, thanks to the 2-vessel cord.  However, everything still looked optimal for our baby to remain in there for a bit longer.  Nevertheless, they still scheduled an induction for Monday, December 10.  I called the following day (Thursday) and asked why, when everything looked "remarkable" (their word!), why couldn't I put off an induction for a few more days?  Midwife said that would be fine, but I should discuss it with Nate and call the office on Friday if that's what we decided.  And then she asked me an interesting question:

"And oh, by the way... has anyone given you the smoothie recipe?"

This, I would learn, would be a game-changer.  This smoothie has 2 tablespoons of castor oil in it.  Oh my.  I wasn't in a rush to bring Clayton into the world just to meet him, as much as just wanting to avoid that risky induction.  Ellia and Brienna had their Christmas program Thursday night, so I begged Nate to swing by the grocery store afterward so I could get 2 ingredients for the smoothie that I didn't have at home.  I mixed it up--a disgusting concoction of castor oil, fruit juice, vanilla ice cream, and peanut butter--and chugged it around 9 p.m..  GROSS.    And I went to bed, hopeful but skeptical.

3:00 a.m. (6 hours later)…... I woke up to some cramps.  I thought, "Oh no, that castor oil is going to tear me up!  Right here in the middle of the night!"  But no, that didn't happen.  Instead, I just continued to have some mild contractions.  I began timing them on my phone, and they were 3-6 minutes apart for an hour.  Around 4 a.m. they increased to 3 minutes apart, but they were still fairly mild.  So I got up and showered, just in case this was the real thing.  At 5:00 I woke Nate and let him know.  He called into work, and we agreed that we should call his mom, who would make her way to us in order to help with the girls.  

6:30...….  The girls got up and got ready for school.  I did all the usual "school morning" stuff and kept timing the contractions on my phone.  Nate's mom got the girls off to school, and I puttered around and timed contractions.  They got maybe a little stronger, but by 10:00 they still were not intense by any means, so we were really hesitant to go to the hospital.  I just knew I couldn't have progressed very far, and I didn't want to labor ALLLL DAY in the hospital.  However, since they remained 3-4 minutes apart, we called the midwife and asked her advice.  She told us to come into the clinic so she could check me.  

11:00...…. I am 3 cm. dilated and 50% effaced.  Just as I suspected!  Boy, were we glad we hadn't checked into the hospital yet!  Midwife stripped my membranes and sent us on a date and to walk around a bit.  Since we were 30 minutes from home and only 10 minutes from the hospital, we decided we'd labor while out-and-about until Go Time.  We had lunch at Taco Bell and walked around a mall.  FOR 2 AND A HALF HOURS.  And in that time, my contractions spaced waaaay out.  Like, 7-9 minutes apart.  Talk about disappointed!  Looking back, I really believe that I was putting pressure on myself to make labor happen.  I was out of my comfort zone and not at all relaxed, as I was at home.  

2:30 p.m......I told Nate, "Let's just go home.  I'm discouraged and tired, and maybe this baby isn't coming today after all.  I just want to go to bed."  I couldn't believe I'd had this tiring false labor all day, at 40+ weeks, with nothing to show for it.  I felt terrible that we had made Nate's mom come down and waste her day for nothing.  And Nate had taken the day off of work for nothing.  We picked up the girls from school and told the midwife we were heading home.  She said to get some rest and drink another smoothie if I wanted to.  Why not?  

4:15 p.m......Nate's mom took the girls up to her house to keep them overnight, in case things ramped up again.  I made another nasty smoothie, and we both went to bed.

4:45 p.m...… I was awakened suddenly by a contraction that was decidedly different.  Much stronger.  I began timing them immediately because I knew this was the real thing.  Even though they were 5-6 minutes apart, these contractions lasted more than a minute and required all my concentration.  About 30 minutes in, I called to a sleeping Nate that I needed his help.  He alternated between getting dressed to leave, making sure everything was in the van, encouraging me, & updating his mom.

5:30 p.m...…… I texted an update to the midwife.  No response.  Contractions were coming closer now.  I was leaned over the countertop, clutching a rolled-up blanket, head down, eyes closed.  I had read so much about not fighting the contractions with a tensed-up body, but instead visualizing oneself opening up so baby can descend.  I forced myself to think of the contractions as huge tidal waves, slowly swelling over me until they peaked, and then subsiding again.  I confess that I did not remain ultra-calm and serene!  In that hour at home, the strength of the contractions took me by surprise and began to frighten me, and I was whimpering.  Even still, I was praying for God's strength to remain calm and let my body do its thing.

6:00 p.m...……. I was anxious about being 35 minutes away from the hospital with things escalating as they were.  I texted our midwife, "We are going in.  Getting scary."  She did reply this time, and we left for the hospital.  Oh, how I HATE laboring in the car!  Sitting while in labor is so awful!  At one point, I cried out to God, "Please oh please don't let this baby come in the car!"  We checked in and were ushered up to triage, where I had two more contractions while waiting for a triage room.  I could not sit any longer, but instead labored on my knees with elbows on the bench.  The chattering nurses grated on my every nerve, but at the same time I was in such a zone that I barely knew what was going on.

6:45 p.m...……Triage got us checked in.  It felt like an insurmountable task when a nurse told me to change into a gown and give a urine sample.  When she checked me and I was at 7 cm, Nate cheered, and I was so relieved... "Thank you God that we made it, and this baby really IS coming today."  The nurses said I was wonder woman because I insisted on walking down to L&D instead of being pushed in a wheelchair, but in reality I just knew I could not sit down anymore.  I couldn't stay on top of the pain anymore, and I could feel the panic rising.

When we got down to the L&D room, 2 nurses were casually prepping the room for the birth.  I assumed my leaning-over-on-my-arms position over the bedside table.  Contractions just kept coming and coming, with little relief in between.  Someone asked, "Do you want to get into the bed?"  I gave an emphatic NO.  A nurse was asking me questions... "birthdate? how many weeks? GBS positive, right?"  I did not notice when a nurse placed my IV, but I do remember feeling annoyed that the midwife could not seem to get the monitor affixed to my belly, even between contractions.  Poor woman was on her knees on the floor, fiddling with my stupid hospital gown, trying to work with me as I rocked back and forth all hunched over.  I had 2 contractions that forced my legs to bend some, putting me in a semi-squat position.  I heard someone say, "Look at her; she's positioned just as though she's on a birthing ball!"  During that 2nd one, right at the end, I suddenly felt myself pushing down with all my might.  During that push, I called out, "OH NO I'M PUSHING AND I KNOW I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO BUT I CAN'T HELP IT!"  I was just at 7 cm only 10 minutes ago!  I knew it was not good to push before 10 cm and 100%.  I didn't want to hurt myself or cause problems by pushing too soon.  But WOW, I now know what women mean when they say your body just takes over.  I truly had no control over what my body was doing.  I looked down and announced, "Um, I just made a mess.  Oh, gross, I'm sorry!"  I heard someone say, "Her water has broken."

By now, the room was quite abuzz with activity.  The nurses realized that it was Go Time, so they were scurrying around like crazy.  One hooked me up to the antibiotics.  Midwife told me to get into bed so she could check me, which I was happy to do.  I didn't want to drop that baby out onto the floor!  I was at 10 cm, ready to go!  [[Let me pause to say this:  I had always heard that an epidural is effective for labor but not for pushing...that epidurals do not really help with the pain of pushing and delivery.  Um... that is a lie!  I never felt so keenly the agony of crowning and delivery!!!  WOWZERS.]]

Suddenly I had not one but four midwives in the room!  The whole team was in the hospital attending a workshop, and when they heard I was delivering, 3 of them came up to help.  It was a good thing... I needed their support!  I think I asked Nate, "Why did you let me decide to do this without meds!???"  I remember crying over and over, "I can't do this!  I can't!"  And those sweet midwives rallied around me and said all the things I needed to hear.  It didn't matter if I thought I could do it anyway.  My body was doing it, whether I liked it or not!  After Clayton's head was out, they asked if I wanted to touch him.  Oddly enough, I said no.  I knew it would've been encouraging, but I was working too hard and couldn't break my concentration.

7:22 p.m...….. Wow, so intense, some yelling... and then it was over.  Clayton Bradley was born.

7lbs., 6oz. and 19 inches long. Our smallest baby yet!

Clay meets Daddy.

The girls are smitten!

Clayton is 2 weeks old now, and we are loving getting to know him.  As it turned out, the antibiotics did not have time to have much, if any, effect.  As a result, we had to stay in the hospital an extra day so they could monitor Clay for any sign of the illness.  God is in the details, my friend!  Those things into which I had put so much heart and thought--the playlist, the soft robe for laboring, the verse cards, the SNACKS!-- nothing even came out of the bag.  Well, except my chapstick.  

Clay is a sweet baby, and he loves to snuggle.  He HATES having his diaper or clothing changed, and he loves his pacifier and his sisters.  

You are so loved, Clayton!  We praise God that you are here!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above."  James 1:17

Thursday, August 30, 2018

I'm not dead!

I can't imagine anyone is checking in here anymore, since it has been nearly 4 years since I last posted.  FOUR YEARS!  My, how the clock ticks on!  But my girls have discovered this blog recently, and they absolutely LOVE being able to look back at this digital scrapbook of sorts.  At their behest, I'm going to try to be consistent again at blogging.

I won't try to update 4 years of life in one single post, but here are the basics:

In 2015 we moved from idyllic northern Michigan to North Carolina.  I went back to teaching after 10 years out of the classroom (!), and all 3 girls went to the Christian school where I taught... Olivia in 4th, Ellia in 2nd, and Brienna in 1st.     
Olivia, 4th  

Ellia, 2nd

Brienna, 1st

As for me, I taught 6th grade English and Bible. It was difficult, exciting, overwhelming, rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, and challenging.  
yours truly, 2015.  

But the Lord was good to us, as He always is.  We grew so much during those three years in NC and learned a whole lot about our family's needs and God's desires for us.  
at a friend's wedding in SC

We have so much to be thankful for after having experienced that season.  The girls grew like weeds.  I absolutely can not believe the changes in them!



All 3 girls played organized basketball and soccer in NC in the intramural leagues offered.  

Olivia took one year of piano, and Ellia took 2 years.  They will be continuing to learn this instrument, as they both have a gift for it!

Brienna took one year of violin and did well.  Against her wishes, we're going to try to find someone to continue teaching her.  :)  

Olivia played on the interscholastic middle school volleyball team last year in 6th grade.  She LOVES team sports and wants to continue honing her skills.

Olivia and Ellia had opportunities to compete in state academic and fine arts competitions.  Between them, they competed in choir, piano, speech, academic testing, spelling, and art.  We're very proud of their hard work!

After 3 years in NC, the Lord led us back "home" to Michigan, athough in a different area than we had lived before.  I am not teaching anymore, and the girls are in their 2nd week of their new Christian school.  

2018, just last week.  
Um... WHERE are my 3 baby girls???

And as for me, WELL!  I am in an entirely new season of life!  The girls are all away at school each day, and I am not working outside our home.  This is the first time in my adult life that I have not had a job or kids at home, or both.  I'll be honest with ya, I'm not hatin' it so far!
First Day no kids/no school.  *limited time only*

But you know us... life is never boring!  I'm hoping for some subbing opportunities in their schools, and I'll be volunteering in the elementary cafeteria once a week.  

Oh, and there's also THIS new development:

a precious gift from the Lord, a darling baby BOY!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas goodies!

This year we're simplifying BIG TIME again... we have the tree & stockings, the nativity set, and my grandma's lighted church.  I did up lots of sweets because that is relaxing to me:

  • Gingerbread men
  • cracker toffee
  • peanut butter blossoms (subbed out the PB so Olivia can enjoy)
  • chocolate-dipped potato chips
  • chocolate-dipped pretzel rods
  • Peanut butter fudge
  • rolo pretzel turtles
  • puppy chow
  • Oreo truffles (2 batches)
  • molasses crinkles
  • divinity
  • pumpkin cinnamon-chip scone-kies (half scone/half cookie)
  • chocolate-dipped Oreos
Now that I see that ridiculous list, it would seem I didn't simplify at all.

I did, though!  Baking is fun, and I baked only those things we enjoy! 
However, I'll probably regret all this wonderful junk when I step on the scale next week.  No exercise because of injury + Christmas cookie overload = fitness disaster!

I never was a math whiz.

BUT!  We gave some away, and we've been enjoying them all month!  One last thing to bake for Christmas Day:  pumpkin cake roll.

What are you baking for Christmas?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Injury. A Bad One.

On December 1st I injured my back.  
I do this every so often, and I'm usually out of commission for about a week.

This time I really went big.  I'm just now feeling almost like myself again.  
Go figure:  I'm lean and active, and this back injury is probably the worst I've had.

I think God had some priority shifting for me to do.

Brienna was so snuggly that first week, when I literally spent all of the time in bed, except trips to the bathroom (Ouch.) and the 2 showers I took (OUCH.).

She's good company; I highly recommend her if you're flattened by illness or injury.

Olivia made me this very sweet picture for the wall.

We spent a good bit of time cuddling together!   The Lord was very gracious in that He helped them to be good girls and fend for themselves beautifully.  Olivia was a whiz in the kitchen, and they all played together so nicely.

I had a LOT of these babies.  Did you know BBQ sauce is wonderful on sweet potatoes?

Laughing does not hurt my back, I found out.
(Sneezing and coughing, though?  AGONIZING.)

They made many beautiful pictures to hang near my bed.  My favorite was this one by Ellia:

I won't be playing volleyball til after the new year, at least.  
I haven't run since November 30, and I likely won't for another week or so.  I'm okay with that.  

Thanksgiving 2014

The girls and I spent several days in WI during Thanksgiving week.
We missed Nate like crazy, of course.
One day he'll have enough seniority to get more than just Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day off.

I was excited to try out my new running cleats and see if my silly foot injury had healed.
Also:  running cleats are awesome!  Very little concern with slips and falls!

One day I ran a loop past the cemetery where my grandfather is buried.  He's been gone five years this month.

Thanksgiving Day was so fun.  I was able to spend much of the day helping prepare for the evening meal.  I really enjoyed catching up with relatives I see only once a year.
***with my dad***
***Thanksgiving table***

My mom and I broke our own rules and went shopping at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.  I know, I know...sacred tradition and all that.  Sh snagged a nice sewing machine and I played chauffeur.  We felt so young and adventurous!

Day after Thanksgiving we kept the tradition of Leftovers Lunch at my aunt's house.  
(Now that?  That is a sacred tradition.) 

We also had a blast on the sledding hill!

We enjoyed some leisurely times playing games and working puzzles together...

...and playing baby dolls!

How did you spend Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Injury setbacks

It has been weeks now since I had a decent run.
I AM ALL SORTS OF ANTSY.  And that is severely understated. 

I keep giving it a try, once or twice a week, but my foot keeps telling me "OH NO YOU DON'T, GIRL!" 

Now I'm starting to suspect that the treadmill running is exacerbating my problem!  Oh no!!  I've not been able to do more than a mile on it since the pain began! 

So Saturday I took off for downtown, because it's nice and flat. I decided to run at a slow, easy pace and just see how things went.

I happily ran 2.78 miles, until the discomfort showed up. I felt like I could've run 10 more, and I wanted to!  But I want this foot to just hurry up and heal already! 

One of my biggest motivations to run is stuff like this right here:
I want to be able to enjoy Christmas treats without putting on weight!

Last night I tried the treadmill again.  
And I had to stop at .75 for the pain.

Don't want to see a doctor, but this is getting very discouraging!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

6 words per picture

These girls make me crack up.

Tear-jerker and breakfast in bed

I don't even know myself anymore.

This pup is so stinkin' spoiled.

Girls' morning out yesterday!  Yummy lunch!