and there you have it…



happy birthday Grant

Dear Grant Neil V,

I had intentions of making this a sentimental slop fest. You are my first-born, the day you entered your new life in the outside world was the same day I enter my new life of motherhood. You were the one who made me a mother, in all its rosy glow. However, as I listened to you throw your umpteenth screaming fit tonight you have reminded me that motherhood is more than rosy glow. It’s also temper tantrums and nervous breakdowns, half of them mine.

I remember when you were born and the midwife laid you on my chest, I couldn’t believe you were finally here! I had deluded myself into thinking you would be early, like I was. You, however, gave me first lesson in the patience of motherhood before you were ever born, showing up 12 days past my due date. I expected everything to come so naturally with you, but the first time I held you I remember thinking how do I do this? this feels so weird? am I holding him right? Great first time mother emotions! It’s a wonder to me some days that you survived your first year. We really didn’t know what we were doing with you. Every time you cried someone would hand you to me and tell me you were hungry, it didn’t matter if you’d just ate 30 mins ago. I didn’t know any better and I nursed you around the clock, it’s a wonder you weren’t 100 lbs.

You were the happiest most active little baby and toddler we’d ever seen, until your sister and brother were born. You rolled over at 2 months to the day and proceed to do it again and again and again every day after. You crawled at 5 1/2 months, walked at 10 months and generally ran us into the ground every day. You were so darn happy about it though we certainly didn’t fault you for it. Most nights I just fell asleep with you at 8:30. 

I try to keep the other children out of these letters and focus on the one I’m writing too. But with you it’s harder, so much of who you are in wrapped up in your big brotherness. When you were about 8-9 months I remember rocking you to sleep at night praying to God to let me have another baby. I wanted so badly to give you a brother or a sister, for you to have a play mate and friend, someone to stick by you your whole life. Most days I think you’re happy about those prayers. You are an amazing big brother. Sure you push, bite and generally bully your sister at times. But you also spontaneously give her hugs and tell her she’s beautiful and you love her. But what amazes me is how you look out for her, always making sure she’s safe. Now with Jacob we’ve seen another side of you blossom. You’re older and more aware this time, and you’ve been so careful and sweet to your brother. I remember when we came home and told you your going to have a brother. You were so excited we were having a ‘boy like you’ and you’ve so patiently waited for him to get ‘bigger and bigger to play with you.’ 

It’s hard to sum up four years in one letter. There is so much more about your birth and your life I want to say, but there will be many more birthdays to tell your story.

Tonight all I need you to know is even when you’re screaming your head off, and getting out of your bed over and over again, I still love you. We’ve grown together, you and I. Before you were born I didn’t know I was capable of this kind of love, my heart has grown 100 times over to fit it all. 

I love you bunches.


happy birthday baby girl

I’ve been working on this video for months, and somehow I was still up late doing it the day AFTER Jena’s birthday. Something about having two birthday parties, Easter and a baby cutting their first tooth all falling in the same week.

All things considered I’m shooting the perfectionist in my brain on this one. First time I watched it she found at least 5 things to change…you should have cropped that photo and put that one in a different spot and slowed this part down and why’d you highlight THAT one and and and then I told her to SHUT UP and enjoyed watching it again.

On that second run through I thought I would burst with pride. Not only did I create this thing, but I made (ok so technically God did…semantics really) that little girl.  Wow. I’m still in awe.

Dear Jenavieve Grace,

It’s your birthday…not today, a few days ago. But I told myself I could have 10 days to post this, since you were 10 days late, I felt it was only fitting.

Easter morning, a little after 10 you were officially two years old. We had a rough start, you and me. My brain did not react well to your birth, though for all intents and purposes yours was the easiest labor, I forgive you for waking me at 1:30 in the morning to begin your decent into this world. I’d been practicing my relaxation techniques for months and after the first hour of labor I had it down pretty good. As long as I was still, the contractions hardly hurt at all. Of course being still made you take longer, that’s what I could over heard them saying about us in the hall. I personally believe you were just paying them back for making you come on their timetable not your own. Starting labor tired was not the greatest idea, by the time the sun came up I was exhausted. As easy as your labor was I was able to lay down and sleep for a few hours before I brought you to the outside world.

Somewhere around 10 the next morning I had your daddy go get the birth team and tell them I was going to push you out. In they came and we wrestled over how this was going to be done. Once we’d settled on a position and a way to go you were on your way. One strong push and out you flew, covered in vernix. Like you weren’t even past term, I think you’d been telling them that all along.

You were a quiet little girl. They laid you next to me and you just laid there, you didn’t cry you just were. I didn’t know what to do with you. My mind was not computing that you were here, my little girl, the one I had desperately prayed for months convinced you were not going to happen. I was bleeding pretty bad, but I was so tired I didn’t even realize until later they were concerned. All I wanted to do was sleep, luckily you were my sleeper.

Boy could you sleep, 6 hours, 8 hours, even 10 one night was your norm the first few months of life. Of course then teething started and ended all that, but let’s not talk about that. Your easy labor turned into an easy babyhood, God knew my frazzled brain couldn’t handle much more. You were the dream baby. We decided to no-cry train you to sleep on your own in your first week of life. Since you seemed to want your own space anyway, it worked like a charm.

You were daddy’s little girl, right from the start. You two took to each other like peanut butter on bread. Daddy did everything with you, but feed you, that was all I had with you.

I really enjoyed making you your birthday video baby girl. I’m so glad we took videos and lots of pictures, I know if I look at them enough, someday it will feel like they are real memories not just images implanted into my hazzy memory of your first year of life. Your little brother decided to enter the scene when you were only 9 months old. I was crushed, for a variety of reasons but mostly for you. I felt so bad you’d had such a bum mother the last year and now it was going to start all over.

Thankfully God had other plans for us. A few months and a good midwife later mommy started coming back. I couldn’t believe how beautiful you were. How had I not seen it? With your big blue eyes and your blonde hair starting to curl all over your head. You were a happy and mischievous little girl, the happy has stayed, though thankfully the mischievous is starting to go. You’ve kept us on our toes this last year, mostly to step over whatever you found to dump on the floor in the two seconds we took to blink our eyes. Your willingness to eat off the floor began the morning you dumped every box of cereal and crackers we had in the middle of the kitchen floor. I was only trying to go to the bathroom, my mistake.

When your baby brother entered your world, your eyes were opened and all of a sudden I existed. Oh how I cherished those moments with you sitting on my lap without wiggling to get down. You finally decided I deserved my own name and mommy entered your permanent vocabulary. No longer was I daddy or nena to you, finally I was mommy.

I have so enjoyed watching you turn into a little girl this last year. You are a beautiful, sweet child. I can’t wait to see how you continue to grow. You’ve taken all of your life so far in stride, lighting the world with your smile wherever you go.

Happy Birthday my Jenavieve. Mommy loves you little girl.

feel the burn

I started working out. It was not a New Year’s Resolution. It just ended up that way. Since this is the last kid popping out of my body, I figured it’s time to get back in shape. It’s back to the dance days for me! ABS OF ALUMINUM FOIL BABY! I mean…ah…er…STEEL!  Jacob was born in September, 6 weeks recovery, a few weeks to transition back to work, thanksgiving, christmas, new years and BAM here I am working out.

What am I doing you ask? What am I doing….hmmm…can I even say. I cringe to think I’m going to have to answer that question, which is of course why I’m putting it on THE INTERNET.

I signed up for Jazzercise. *cringe*

There I said it. Maybe you’ve heard of it, ’cause your GRANDMA takes classes there! I am so not the demographic that does this. I wanted to take a dance class. But I haven’t dance since before the FIRST kid. To say I’m in shape would be a joke, and my flexibility is laughable. I’ve been in the dance crowd, there was no way I was going back the way I am right now. Jazzercise is close enough to dance and I told myself I’d do it for one year, then I’d sign up for dance classes.

Saturday morning I signed up. I stayed to the back of class and tried to follow along. It wasn’t too difficult to pick up, though it was clearly my first time. Having just read Three sets of ten on  and having NO DESIRE to look like a chocolate-flavored Blow Pop having a seizure, I decided to take it easy.

Which wasn’t to hard. To be honest I had a harder time beating down the voice in my head screaming THIS IS SO NOT COOL! But I am an adult, I don’t have to be governed by the rules of cool anymore…right?

Two days later I’m back. Monday night, home all day with the kids, to say I was highly motivated to get out would be an understatement. New instructor, a few possibly pre-menopausal women, the night was looking up. The routine was easier to pick up this time around, and with the volume up and only one country song to deal with, I actually found myself getting into it. About half way through I realized I was having too much fun, I needed to tone it down, but by then I was already into it, I couldn’t stop, the momentum was going, and an hour later I thought, I AM GOING TO DIE TOMORROW.

the birth of a boy – part 2

Well here I am sitting at Panera with a laptop and a diary free smoothie. I have a feeling Panera and I are going to be very close in the coming months. It’s close enough to make it home in 4 minutes flat if Jacob needs to eat and far enough that I can’t hear any of them scream if they so happen to choose to do so.

Even though when I left I was the one screaming and crying and generally having an emotional breakdown. It’s what happens when I pretend I’m a stay at home mom and don’t get out of the house, EVER! And to top it off my period just started and only a woman know what relief that is. I’ve been feeling horrible for the last few days, I’ve been putting weight back on thus not being able to fit in even the few clothes I have been wearing the last 6 weeks and generally freaking out about everything. The last time I felt like this I found out I was pregnant. Which was bringing me to a near state of panic. But as of an hour ago the world is right again and my first thought was what a perfect time to finish the birth story!

If you didn’t catch the first installment you can catch up here.

And before I go any further I want to do something I should have done in the first installment. I want to thank April for being there to capture, yet again, another of my children being born. All the pictures previously posted of the birth were taken by her. We do treasure your pictures, and I treasured your presence there! I also want to thank Amy for pitching in and being the best first time birth assistant ever! I’m so glad you were able to be there, and not just for your cord cutting skills, but for your bow hunting skills, and computer hacking skills…wait a minute.

Thanks also to my midwife Michelle, who was awesome! She isn’t mentioned much in the story below and quite honestly I feel that only adds to her awesomeness. Her knowledgeable and experienced presence was the ultimate support while never getting in the way of what was going on unless something actually needed to happen. And I especially want to thank my wonderful husband who pulled through exactly like I knew he would. Calm and supportive and just what I needed, I’m so glad he was there so see our son born!

Ok now that the academy award speech is done. ONTO THE BIRTH!

Somewhere around 4:30 I felt the first contraction. Around 20 mins later the next one came. I remember feeling immense relief thinking at this rate I had hours and should get plenty of sleep. You should all know where this is going…

About 15 mins later the next one came, then 12 mins, 10 mins, 8, 7, 5, 4, 3 and by 6:00 I woke Neil up again. I was definitely in ACTIVE labor. He started making the calls: our midwife Michelle, my mom to pick up the kids, Amy to get her butt over here, and so on. In hindsight we should have started these calls sooner, but my previous labors and others (so I’ve heard) typically stay at say ‘contractions are coming 5 mins apart’ for more than one freakin contraction. Just about every contraction was closer than the last one. And once I woke Neil up I think we only timed 3 before he was fully convinced we needed to call Michelle NOW!

Labor progressed very rapidly. I don’t recall when everyone showed up, just that they all did. Everyone worked seamlessly together from all I could tell, but to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention to them, I WAS IN LABOR. I labored standing, sitting, hands and knees, and in various place in the bedroom and bathroom. One of the last places I was before he was born, was in our tub (there was some issues with the birth tub, so I squished my oversized butt into our regular one). At some point in the tub the baby’s (as he didn’t have a name yet at this point) heart rate started to drop so Michelle had me get out to shift his position. On the walk from the bathroom to the bedroom (mercifully a short one) he shifted positions and his heart rate went right back to where it should be. Once back on the bed Jacob was born shortly after 10 AM after only 4 more pushes, so I’m told. Michelle unwrapped his insanely long cord from his body and I grabbed my baby boy. I looked at Neil and said so which one do you think he is? We had narrowed it down to Titus, Jude or Jacob, and both decided Jacob he was.

A blanket was brought in and wrapped around him in my arms where he was nursing away and the calls were started all over again. He looked so incredibly tiny to me. At 7 lbs 10 oz, he was the smallest of any of my kids. We all just sat there staring at him in my arms for hours while all the after stuff happened.

The birth was phenomenal and recovery just the same. I laid down for an hour or so sometime after lunch as the 4 o’clock wakening had finally caught up to me. But I was up and about within hours of the birth. No stitches, complications or the like. It was really about as ideal as you get, or at least as I’ve had.

Now that the logistics are out-of-the-way. You have as much of the time line as I recall even though I’m sure I have some details wrong, but that’s not important. Now I can tell you what I got out of the experience, which has been the harder thing to put into words.

I’ve decided to just list the things that stand out in my memory about this birth. They aren’t really connected and I am making no attempt at chronological order, just a warning, for all you order freaks out there.

I remember Grant being so sweet and wanting to make me feel better. He told me he was sorry for whatever he did, and then asked me if I was ok now. He brought me pictures of Jena and him because they always make me smile. He was insistent that he wasn’t going to leave me. When my mother showed up to take them he told Nana she could take Jena but he was staying with mommy. I also remember that in between contractions I told him it was his brother’s birthday today. He needed to go with Nana, mommy would be ok, and he could come back as soon as brother was here. To this he responded, it’s brother’s birthday?! And then understanding hit, and he said I get ice cream! And all was right with his world again.

SIDE NOTE: I actually wrote this one a few weeks ago and was so glad I did. Grant was still in the heat of the transition period. Being an oldest (as I can relate to) change to his life can be earth shattering, and he was being a monster. It was very good for me to remember there was still a sweet little boy in there somewhere. In the last week or so he’s reemerged, THANK GOD.

I remember sitting in the bathroom (yeah they forget to tell you that once your water breaks it doesn’t really stop) at 6:00 AM after I woke Neil up. He was in the shower and I remember looking down at my stomach and saying BABY LOOK AT MY STOMACH! When I went to bed the night before, my stomach was offering more support than my bra, when I looked down at 6:00 AM this baby had already moved down a good six inches or more. It was totally crazy.

I remember overhearing Neil in the bedroom on the phone with Michelle. I could tell there was some kind of timing questions coming, and I also remember telling him to just tell her to GET HERE NOW, I’M HAVING THIS BABY! To which he responded perfectly…she was already on her way.

I also remember cursing at the phone when it rang because I thought it was Neil’s. Turns out it was Michelle’s. Whoops, sorry Michelle! There were too many iPhones at the birth…

I vaguely remember Amy showing up. I don’t really remember Michelle showing up, but I did notice when she took over from Neil on my back. My back labor was actually significantly less this time around, but the counter pressure still felt heavenly.

I distinctly remember hearing someone say April was on her way. We were supposed to get together that morning anyway, but she wasn’t feeling good the night before. So when my water broke at 4 the last thing I was going to do was wake her up, besides I was convinced I had HOURS until this baby was born. As you’ve already read I was wrong. My head kept thinking somebody CALL HER! However, communicating my inner most thoughts was not exactly happening with labor progressing that fast.

When things started picking up, like on the 3rd contraction, I thought I’m not ready for this. Jacob was early my other two were very late, I wasn’t prepared mental or otherwise. Funny thing about pain is no matter how good you know it can be for you, nobody wants it when it’s there. I mean come on, even JESUS begged God to spare him. I felt I was in good company.

DISCLAIMER: this is MY EXPERIENCE, and I’m not trying to make it a universal one for everyone. If you had an epidural and are satisfied with your birth experience, GOOD FOR YOU! And I say that sincerely. Every person is different and every situation is too. I made an informed choice to have the best chance of getting what I wanted out of my birth and you can too, whatever way you choose to do that is besides that point. Healthy baby, satisfied mother, however you achieve that, is up to you.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program. PAIN! God has been teaching me for years there is value in pain. My birth experiences have been one of the most profound ways he’s done that. But even having learned this lesson over and over when the pain came I wanted it gone. The beauty of laboring at home is I’ve got myself in a place where I can’t change my mind and short change myself from what I knew I needed.

This labor was fast and intense. There were many periods where there were no breaks between contractions. Which meant I couldn’t get to a relaxed place in time to take the next contraction. It was hard and remember thinking and saying that I couldn’t do it. In all the hippie birth books I’ve read over the years they all talk about surrendering to the process, surrender to the birth, to your body, allow the baby to be born. I think there is a lot of truth to that, but I also think they fall one step to short. Surrender has to go beyond the process.

At some point when I was in the tub I realized I really couldn’t, and I surrendered. Looking back now, I can’t even tell you what that means, but I knew then what it meant and when I did all of a sudden I was able to relax and felt at peace about the whole birth.

It was an amazingly spiritual moment for me. To realize finally that I couldn’t do something and that was GOOD. For me that moment was the climax of this birth. Jacob finally entering the world was beautiful and the instant connection I felt with him was unlike either of my other births. But the high point was still that moment in the tub. In that instant I KNEW what I needed to know. I knew I could have this baby, regardless to how impossible it felt. I knew that I would be able to manage three children, regardless of how crazy life already was with two. I knew I wasn’t going to go into the dark black hole of despair after this baby. I KNEW it was going to be ok. And so far it’s been more than ok.

For someone who at 5 told their mother they could run the house and hasn’t stopped running things yet, an unplanned pregnancy rocked my world…to put it lightly. If you don’t remember my initial response you can go back and read it here.

Jacob is the most beautiful child and from the moment he was born our family felt complete, and it’s not just because we’ve now filled every available inch of our Gallant. Our whole family adores him, brother and sister included. Whenever he is awake they both want to be there with him. Grant does not seem at all disappointed he was not born an instant playmate. He is more than willing to hand down all his baby things until Jacob is big enough to play, in the meantime he insists he is still little so he can be more like his brother. Jena just goes around kissing him and shoving his binky in his mouth. Which for her is the ultimate in love.

In short, for all that I plan in life this unplanned event has been one of the best things that’s ever happened. So many good things have happened in our family because of it, and I wonder sometime if any of them would have happened without our little Jacob. I’m so glad I now have a constant reminder that I’m really not the one in charge, and that’s the best way it could be.

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