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Dear Asher: One Month

Dear Asher,
This weekend you were one month old! These past four weeks went lightning fast, and every time I tried to remember how many weeks it had been since you were born, I was sure I was doing the math wrong.

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There was only a small respite before we had to continue on with life. I was sick and had to go to the doctor when you were four days old, we had to take Addison to school a week after you were born. We didn’t have a lot of down time, but you have been wonderfully flexible.

Besides being a little sleepy at first, you’ve been a great eater and had already surpassed your birth weight when you were five days old! Every few days we will look at you and you will seem twice as big as the day before. Your one job right now is to plump up, so way to go, champ!

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Days are sort of a breeze. You don’t really cry at all unless you absolutely hate something, and instead fuss a little to let us know when you’re unhappy. You do seem to get bored quickly with the same thing, like the swing or sitting on the Boppy. You much prefer to be held where you can see what’s going on around you. If we really want to keep you occupied, we’ll give you a nice view of the fan, your favorite.

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I’d think having to feed you and hold you and reposition you and entertain you so frequently would wear on me—and sometimes it does, of course—but mostly I am relishing this fleeting phase of being needed so completely. I’ve been here before, and I know when it’s gone, it’s gone. You’ll never return to this itty bitty size, you’ll never again squeak at me like this when you’re happy, you won’t stare straight into my eyes with those big, blue-gray, straight from your Daddy eyes and immediately calm us both. I know it’s already slipping from me, sweet boy, and I refuse to miss it.

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Nights on the other hand…those are tricky. You are so uncomfortable lying on your back (thanks to a sensitive, still developing tummy) and will grunt and strain and strain and grunt for hours. The noise combined with feedings every two and a half hours is not a recipe for sleep success. I try multiple locations and positions every night, hopeful that eventually we will stumble on a system that works for all of us. No such luck yet, but we’ll get there. I have to keep reminding myself of that around 4 a.m.: we will get there one day.

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But hey, at least you’re not screaming.

I only believe that you are my child because I had a front row seat at your first appearance. Otherwise, I’d assume your Daddy handled the whole thing by himself since you look nothing like me and everything like a Noa.

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It sounds so funny to say out loud, but you have no idea how much we needed you, Asher. You came on the heels of an emotionally chaotic and complicated time. More than a distraction, you’ve been a grounding force for our family. A lot to take on at eight pounds, but you don’t seem to mind.

I will always be grateful to you for how you helped pull me back into a place of hopefulness and joy. I hoped for you, Asher Wylie. You are my joy, grunts and all.

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From My Whole Heart,
Mama

Dear Addison: Before You’re a Big Sister

Dear Addison,

Before anything else, I should mention how much I love you. Not like I love ice cream or doughnuts right now or even coffee. I’m talking about that Mama’s love that aches in its insistence, blinds in its radiance, distracts in its omnipresence and overwhelms in its depth. How much my heart tugs in my chest when you let out a deep, raspy giggle, how a small but constant weight lifts off my shoulders when I see you after being away for any amount of time, how my hopes and dreams for myself and for you are so intertwined that I often can’t tell them apart.

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It has been a rough season for you and me, little girl. At times, I question whether I was the best choice to be your Mama. Maybe I’m not wise enough for your independence. Maybe I’m not patient enough to reach you in your strong willed stances. Maybe I’m not nurturing enough to comfort you when you feel hurt or confused or misunderstood. Maybe it shouldn’t have been me.

It positively doesn’t matter, though, because I would not choose to be anyone else’s Mama. Not on the very best days,
when we laugh about beating up monsters and let the breeze whip our hair around swinging peacefully at the park,
or on the very worst days, when tears and tempers flow freely from both sides of this union.

You are mine, and I am yours. For the yesterdays full of chubby cheeks and napping on my shoulder, for the todays mixed of delight and destruction, and for all the tomorrows that may be ahead. I knew from the very first millisecond of your life that I was inextricably bound to you, that this new person had in every way rewired my soul to its own.

So before life changes in a monumental and irreversible way, I wanted to let you know that even though some things will never be the same—
how much sleep Mama gets, how many clean clothes you have at one time, the number of days we get to spend just the two of us–
the way I feel about you is not one of those things. That is constant. That is eternal.

Some of my favorite moments with you are the quietest, so rare in this endless marathon of energy and noise that is toddlerhood. I love doing puzzles with you. It’s one of the few activities you will concentrate on for a half hour, determined to finish the whole thing at one time and so proud when you tap that last piece into place. When I give you a piece, you study it, try it one way, furrow your eyebrows, turn it around, and try it again until it fits. I was so surprised to learn that you actually do have that kind of patience and persistence. It’s mesmerizing.

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I hear “I can do it myselp” or “all by myselp” 219 times a day. You can go right ahead and thank your “me can do it” daddy for that little trait.

You love to have braids in your ever lightening curly hair, either one Elsa braid or two Anna braids. You are specific, and it’s unacceptable to give you a ponytail when you want braids or leave your hair in one braid when you want two. I’ve learned to take my marching orders seriously.

We still have Flapjack Fridays. You’ve started asking to help, so now you carry your stool into the kitchen and will help pour the pancake mix, milk and blueberries in the bowl. I once let you crack the egg. Yeah, just once for that. You’ll mix it a little and then scoot away to wait for them to cook. Though you’re extremely strong willed, you are very task-oriented and like completing a job you’ve been given.

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You are so social, goodness gracious. If there are any other kids at the park, you can’t get to them fast enough. You’d be up for anything if I told you your friends would be there. You also like to call the shots with all those friends and have recently been referring to people, even little kids you met five minutes prior, as “baby.” Not like a little newborn baby but in a saucy, probably offensive way.

“Come on, baby!”
”Let’s go, baby!”

This is usually my cue to take a very important call on the other side of the playground.

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You like dancing, singing, jumping, sprinting and twirling, all prefaced with an unending loop of “Watch this. Watch this. Watch this. Watch this.” I promise we are watching. Sometimes.

At this particular moment, your favorite movie is “The Little Rascals.” You have a massive crush on Darla and don’t like “Panky.”

You’d live in a tutu and heels if allowed. Trying to put jeans on you is declaring all out war.

I paint your toenails and have, more than once, contemplated bringing you with me to get a pedicure. Maybe when you’re three, professional salon treatments will feel more appropriate.

You’re a lot pickier than you used to be when it comes to food, but luckily there are still a handful of healthy eats you like: fish, peas sometimes, avocado, chicken usually, bananas, eggs, peanut butter, blueberries like a fiend. And because you’re two and I guess signed some sort of contract, you must have regular servings of mac ‘n cheese and Cheerios.

I think you’re going to make an excellent big sister. While at the park with BeeMa the other day, she was telling someone you were about to have a baby brother. You mistakenly thought another little girl was talking about your brother when she said, “It’s icky.” She was referring to the slide, but you were not having any of that and told her, “My brother is NOT icky.” For all the worrying I do about how this transition will affect you, that story is singed onto my mind so that I remember not to shortchange my fiery, passionate girl. You are capable of nurturing, of defending, of bonding with this baby more than I could probably imagine.

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Your brother and I will have a new, special relationship, of course, but I am so intrigued at the thought of your relationship with him. To see it spark, to see it grow and evolve, and to see it become one of the most meaningful parts of your life and your identity. I am a completely different person than I might have been because I am a sister, and I believe the same will be true for you, in the very best, beautiful way.

I know I always place the blame on you, but thank you for loving me despite my impatience, my tantrums, my mood swings and my refusal to share dessert with you. I am here for you after the toughest days, but you also come back to me for bedtime stories, for pretend “hot coppee” from your kitchen in the mornings and for kisses and hugs on knees and elbows and foreheads.

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I’ll always be yours, Addison Brooke. When you’re a “terrible two,” when you’re a terrible first time driver, when you date a terrible boy that I despise, when that terrible boy breaks your heart and I break his terrible face, when you choose a terrible major or choose to become a terrible University of Florida Gator, when your own toddler is being downright terrible,

and when you suddenly have a terrible little baby taking up space in your house, your car, your schedule and your Mama’s arms,

remember that I am still yours. And you are mine.

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Mama

Do it big.

Duuuuude. natl champs screen

(Source)

I can’t stop smiling. Is there such thing as an elation hangover that lasts for like a month? Because that’s what I have. But instead of a headache, I have a permagrin and the giggles and sometimes full tear ducts when I catch that shot of Jimbo hoisting the crystal football over his head with his eyes closed or when I see the parking lot outside of Doak Campbell stadium packed with people welcoming the team back to Tally. If I’d had one more millisecond to contemplate it, I would have made the 4 hour drive with Addison yesterday to greet them.

Let’s back up. I was stomach-twisting nervous in the morning, so I got in a workout while Addison napped to clear my head and keep the anxiety at bay. That was important since I was such a vital component of FSU’s game plan. My parents arrived mid-workout and waited for Addison to wake up before removing her from the inevitable cone of profanity.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

I had a few hours to kill so I made some stops in search of cold weather FSU gear. We were watching the game at an outdoor restaurant and the temps were going to be around 35. Stellar planning, as usual. I bought several correctly-colored-but-team-neutral sweaters but ultimately couldn’t bear not having FSU displayed prominently. The floor length puffer jacket would just have to do its job over a t-shirt and cardigan. Plus, I knew my head would be warm.

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We arrived a solid 90 minutes before kick off to eat and tremble and pace.

If you have a television or access to any social media outlet, I’m assuming you know how things played out. If it was 9:30 p.m. on Monday night and you posted about The Bachelor, it’s safe to say our friendship is irreparably damaged.

Three quarters of rage and disbelief and antisocial behavior from one alumna.

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

And then a fourth quarter that  will live on in college football history.

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Followed by a jumping, screaming, high-fiving, hugging, wife-carried-out-into-the-streets-of-Tampa celebration that hasn’t exactly ended in my mind.

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C N crazy face

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How many consecutive days can one wear FSU apparel? I figure I have at least a month until people start making conspicuous comments in public.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn't let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn’t let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

Fun tidbit: Downtown Tampa has a tall skyscraper, the SunTrust building, that is lit up for Bucs, USF, Rays and Lightning games in the team colors. When we were heading towards the restaurant I mentioned that ”they should have done the SunTrust building in garnet and gold,” not realizing that peak was ablaze in FSU colors. I was giddy when I saw it and said that if we won, we were going downtown to take pictures with it. Behold.

Professional photog skills from the car

Professional photog skills from the car

Mission: Accomplished

Mission: Accomplished

We (my SIL and I, the boys were totes poopers after 1 a.m.) wanted to party into the morning, but it was a Monday night and the two spots we crashed were already closed.

I still have grand plans to make my way to Tallahassee for some kind of celebration. And I shall keep partying it up until I have no more party left in me. Probably around week eight of next season when we get upset by Notre Dame or something.

And one last time for blogland…

F-L-O-R-I-D-A    S-T-A-T-E
Florida State, Florida State, Florida State
Wooooo!

Turkey Gobble 5k

After the half marathon from hell, I registered for a Thanksgiving 5k for me and Clayton. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hit my sub 30:00 goal, but after the disaster of St. Augustine, I tried to keep expectations to a minimum. Temperatures dipped Wednesday night and I figured there was no hope of hitting my goal pace while freezing. I told Clayton when we went to bed Wednesday that sleeping in was sounding better and better; I decided I would be a game time decision when my alarm buzzed at 5:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

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Without much struggle getting out of bed, I figured I could at least keep Clayton company for the ride and burn a few calories before feasting.

We missed approximately 17 turns to find the right parking lot. We pinned bibs, shed our extra layers and put on Chapstick in the car, knowing we were cutting it very close. Clayton grabbed a spot along the street and, thinking I had time for a port-a-potty stop, I started jogging to the start while he fed the meter. Everyone was lined up and there wasn’t a p-a-p in sight, so I hopped in the middle of the pack and waited for Clayton. The race started, and he still hadn’t shown up. Wife of the Year over here decided to hang back and wait for him…but not without shouting down the sidewalk for him to RUN! Why he was taking his sweet time to begin with, I have no idea.

All's well that ends with a PR

All’s well that ends with a PR

We crossed the start line with only a couple of strollers and dog walkers behind us. Actually pretty standard race procedures for me. But we took off, and I felt good. Really good. I was aggravated by the crowds, so I wanted to get into some space. And you know what’s fun? Passing people. Foreign to me, but I highly support it now.

“Why are you going so fast?” Clayton asked.

Now, I have never, ever, ever been asked that question except when I have to pee and am on the hunt for a public bathroom. So all of a sudden this became THE race. I wanted that PR and I decided I’d ride that “so fast” pace as long as I could, expecting to peter out around mile 2. Maybe if I banked enough time, I could still have a slow last mile and come in under 30 minutes.

Except I didn’t peter out. And I even had a little kick at the end when I heard a group of girls point out a sign about 0.1 mile before the finish, saying they were going to sprint when they got to it. I had not been passed up to this point because I was like the last person to start (fail proof strategy to avoid being passed). Frankly, I didn’t want to get passed at that point. So I started my sprint a tad before the sign.

Maybe I crossed the finish line and had to cool down a ways from the crowd so no one would notice the, uh, sweat dripping from my tear glands.

I know it was a silly, stinkin’ not chip timed 5k. But it was a big moment for this novice runner. A runner who desperately needed a good race to help put a terrible one to rest. A never-imagined finishing time to remember that goals don’t just loom over our heads to make us feel disappointed and incapable but help us push ourselves to be and to do more.

And to leave me wondering what else may be possible from this rickety, nearing 30 body.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

26:13. A new 5k PR by over four freaking minutes! (Ignore that the race was 0.05 mile short.)

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Then I came home to some sweet snuggles that were possibly more satisfying than a PR. Or a close second at least. A snug

I hope you also had a Thanksgiving full of simple surprises that made you sweat a little out of your eyes.

Dear Addison: Twelve Months

My sweet Addison,
Happy, happy first birthday to YOU!

To have spent this year with you, baby girl, has rewritten my life. All the things that
shone or sparkled or
hinted of excitement
paled on that dreamy day I met you twelve long
and too, too short months ago.

In all the ways I wrestled with questions of inadequacy–
“What have I done that matters?”
What will I create of remembrance?”
You are the resounding answer that, if all I’ve given to this world rests in your ten fingers,

it is quite enough.

The world shines a little bit brighter beneath that gap-toothed grin, the people who catch that crinkle-nose smile breathe easy, even if just for a moment.

You are walking with greater and greater ease, spanning whole rooms and navigating obstacles like the dog bed with less effort. Picking up treasures along your journeys sometimes throws you off balance: a shoe, a sock, a bone. Always invaluable items worthy of a tumble.

Endlessly, tirelessly, you plop, reposition, stand and take off. Again and again and again. No one can believe how well you are moving for just one year old.

Tenacious and determined, these traits have woven their way into your will after only 365 days. Smiley with strangers. Stubborn. Seeker of attention.

What a dizzying medley of personality you have become—a sprinkle of me, a dash of your Daddy—but a clever, compact, perfectly swirled unique you. The original Addison Brooke.

Hair with whispers of red, maintaining its wave as it grows by the day. Eight front teeth, four stacked on four, with a glorious gap in between. An appetite for table food that appeared overnight, scarfing chicken and fish, sweet potatoes and squash, plantains, kiwi, strawberries and, in a lapse in Mama’s judgment, banana pudding.

Refusing to keep even one of your 39 bows on your head.

Lover of dogs, which is most definitely in your genes. You play fetch with Maya, but she’s confused by your 3-inch throws.

Music grabs your attention and inspires the world’s cutest clapping. I’ll entertain you in the car with my best alphabet song to see that full-face grin that appears around “D.”

You are confident and brave in new situations, not clinging but eager to explore. The emptiness in my ever-ready embrace stings every time you squirm away. I imagine your first day of school, a flash of curls darting into the future before I can steal a forehead kiss. (Please don’t do that unless you want to have the hysterical mother sobbing outside the playground.)

I try to dream of what this puzzle will become, but it doesn’t feel right creating my own shape.
A doctor,
a dancer,
a teacher,
a poet.
Your dream is my dream.
My wish is that you become
you.

With ears that keep an elfish point, eyes that keep their twilight gray, hands that find their rhythm, and feet that make their own way.

I pray for your heart to be filled,
poured into in gushes, 
spilling over and out, 
in the way that you have overwhelmed the boundaries of my heart’s beat.

A Mama’s job is so complex, beautiful girl. To endure the aches of growing and letting go while resonating with pride and awe at the person I once knew only as flutters behind a belly.

I have, more than I ever would have anticipated, relished this year with you. My constant companion, my audience, my entertainment, my reminder of what matters the very most. In 365 days, there were two that I didn’t see you. Only two mornings I didn’t greet your puffy eyes, scoop you in my arms and carry you through our day.

How silly to say that you have been my best friend, but I certainly can’t imagine spending that many hours with anyone else and somehow waking up missing them.

I tell you of this year, and how inseparable we are, because one day—God help us—you will turn 15 years old. And I know from experience that I will be the very last person you’d choose to take on a road trip, to look for a new pair of jeans, or to the Starbucks where “he” works. You will look at me with unsolicited resentment, and my words will evaporate into the air before ever hitting your ears. I cringe remembering that very perfect picture of unfounded teenage angst I was.

But I just wanted you to know that we had this year, you, your Daddy and I. When your sparkling eyes hung on every move I made. When sitting on the floor giggling over a green ring was the best 15 minutes of our day. When you told me every little thing that crossed your mind, even if I couldn’t understand any of it. When you studied my words and sounds as if they were magic.

Not a year that will stick in your memory, but
the very best year of my life.

I said it when you turned one month old, and even though I don’t know how, I still promise:

it will only get better from here.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

a bday

Dear Addison: 11 Months

Dear Addison,
You are 11 months old! What a great job at growing you’re doing, little lady!

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This month you’ve conquered some unbelievable feats. Walking, for starters! You’re still wobbly and prefer the stability of something to hold onto, but when you set your sights, you can take some serious bowlegged steps. Our highest step count is nine so far.

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You also graduated from your swim class, and I could not be more proud of you. I was worried before these lessons started that I’d be traumatizing you (and me) for life. But by the final week, you didn’t even whimper while you were in the water. You knew what to do and did it, happily splashing and waving at your fan club when you came back up. I love that you constantly exceed my expectations. What a great reminder that you are you, and what you will so often need from me is to simply understand and trust in your independence and individuality. It’s hard, baby girl, since every cell in my body reacts to protect you, but I will try to keep myself on the pool’s edge when that’s what you need.

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Eating is still an adventure. I refuse to give you pieces of table food larger than a grain of salt, so meals can take some time. You’ve tried a bunch of new foods and like most things. Your absolute favorite way to eat is to pick the food up yourself and attempt to locate your mouth. Sometimes you actually do. It’s quite clear eating the food is secondary to the fact that you’re doing it yourself. If only your paranoid Mama would chill out and give you the whole dang banana already.

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You’ve made it through two Rays games at the Trop, which is almost unbelievable to me. I know grown men who can barely do that (looking at your dad).

noas rays fieldThis month, like all the others, seemed to trickle too easily out of my grasp. You are losing some of your baby chub and growing longer. I love that you are strong and healthy and thriving, but I hate that you are bigger by the day.

A car seat

A dog bed

Still, there are times when you are all baby. 

At 3:00 on an anonymous Tuesday afternoon, we sat swaying back and forth in daylight dimmed by happy curtains, as your exhausted hand draped carelessly across me, tiny fingertips tiptoeing along my arm. I sat still, every few seconds nuzzling my cheek into your baby soft hair, watching your tired eyes and mind melt from a daze, to a droop, to asleep. The world waited—as I always claim it cannot–because it must, because in that moment

you needed me.

And there was nothing else.

In that moment, awash in the purest glory, breathtaking stillness and sheer soul-gutting abandon, I was Motherhood. In its quietness. In its barefootedness. In its Tuesday afternoonness. In its old t-shirtness. In its snot wipingness. In its

hopeless devotion
heart wrecking love affair
how-is-this-possibly-possible

ness.

You and me, we were Motherhood, there in a cushy brown chair. On a Tuesday afternoon.

And no matter how slim your thighs become, or how well you begin to swim, or how quickly those shaky steps turn into strides, the second you say the word, I will dive into the deep end and pull you to our Tuesday afternoon.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

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A back seat

A N pool

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The Birth Story, Part 3

(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

Thanks to God’s infinite providence, the doctors had changed shifts, and my absolute favorite doctor from my practice was on duty. She was much less strict about the time limit (I didn’t have any signs of infection yet) and worked with me to try and stick to the non-surgical labor I wanted.

Getting the epidural actually proved more difficult than anticipated. My stubborn defense is that the doctor did a lousy job of explaining what he was doing and alerting me when/where I was going to feel touching or poking. Basically, I was a big, fat flincher. I flinched so hard right before he stuck the needle in that he jumped backwards.

Finally, we conquered that hurdle and soon I was reclined and relaxing on the bed. Around 9:30 p.m. my doctor checked me again. (For anyone who is counting, this makes the 107th time I was checked.) Six centimeters! Woohoo! A hundred hours of labor to get one and a half centimeters, add drugs, and I get to six in an hour and a half. Someone’s uterus was obviously not relaxing going the natural route, but I won’t name names. I was completely thrilled with my progress, and my doctor was convinced I would be at 10 centimeters and ready to push in an hour or so.

Clayton’s mom had arrived by this time, and she hung out with us for awhile, along with my parents who had been invited back to the room once the epidural took hold. We were all in pretty good spirits.

The doctor checked me again around 10:45 p.m. To my surprise and disappointment, I was only 8 centimeters. And I had a fever, suggesting I was finally starting to get the dreaded infection. I know in my core that if I still had the doctor who was on duty in the morning, I would have been wheeled into the operating room at this point. But Dr. Peden agreed to give me just a bit longer, and I am forever grateful to her for honoring my wishes in a safe, reassuring way.

During the next hour, I tried to prepare myself for a C-section. If I had not progressed appropriately, I knew that was what the baby would need to avoid an infection. Honestly, I accepted it. I was ready to undergo the procedure that had topped my list of fears my entire pregnancy. If Addison needed to come safely into this world via surgery, I would give that to her. I fully anticipated that was going to be our story.

Around midnight, Dr. Peden returned for one final check. I locked in on her face, trying to read every eyebrow twitch as good news or bad news. Then she smiled. “9.9,” she said. “I think we can go ahead and push.”

I was ecstatic and filled with relief. I thought it was over, that we had reached our destination. I was so, so wrong.

The Birth Story, Part 2

(Part 1 here)

When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken to a room in the Emergency Department so that the on call OB/GYN from my office could make sure my water had broken. It had. Unfortunately I wasn’t dilated at all. She then casually mentioned that I would be taken upstairs to start pitocin. I’m sorry, do what now?

My doctor explained that because my water broke, I would need to deliver the baby or at least be in hard labor within 12 hours to avoid getting an infection that could pass to the baby. This was vastly different than what I understood from our conversation weeks earlier in her office; I thought I had 12 hours to try and have contractions on my own if my water broke. Nope, 12 hours to get the baby out. Time clock: started. Strike two.

My doctor agreed to give me a couple of hours to see if I started having stronger contractions or progressed at all before beginning pitocin. I didn’t. And what had been one of my greatest reservations had to take place. I got an IV and started on pitocin to induce labor around 10 a.m. With the IV, I could only move around with the bulky cart attached to the drip bag. Strikes three and four. I don’t know what game we were playing, but my birth plan was definitely losing.

The contractions began getting stronger and more noticeable. For several hours I was handling them well. Clayton would rub my back and a birth ball and I became besties. Lying in bed was horrendous, so that was nixed pretty quickly. My parents visited for awhile (another no-no on the original plan). At first, it was a welcome distraction to have other people to talk to and laugh with. They brought lunch for Clayton while I munched on the hospital’s finest ice chips. So cliché.

Unfortunately, their visit stretched into the time the contractions crossed over into the much-harder-to-manage range. I had shown my parents how to see the contractions on the monitor, and every time I was about to have one, my dad would announce it from looking at the monitor before I had felt it yet. “Here comes one,” he’d say, making me unable to relax for any extra seconds I might have had before feeling it myself.

My mom could tell we were entering the no talk, no laugh zone and told my dad it was time to go. It was early afternoon when they left, and after that, things got real. The back rubs no longer felt good and Clayton needed to stay a good three feet away from me during contractions. The birth ball was losing its magic. I’m shuttering a little just thinking about those few hours and feeling perfectly content at the idea of Addison being an only child.

The pain got intense. I was having strong contractions every one and a half to two minutes. Despite how uncomfortable it was, I figured at least things were moving along and I could tell through the strength of the contractions that we had to be progressing. I decided I wanted the epidural around 7:30 p.m. My nurse wanted to check me one last time before she left at 8 and asked if I could hold off on getting the epidural until then. I was at the point in labor when I measured time in contractions. I honestly didn’t know if I had that many epidural-less contractions left in me, but I agreed. But I negotiated a 7:50 check.

One and a half centimeters. Thirteen hours of labor for one and a half centimeters. I was stunned and disheartened and totally discouraged. I wanted the largest cocktail of pain meds this place would serve me. I had just writhed in pain for hours and it was completely useless (according to my less than trustworthy reasoning).

Beyond being completely demoralized, my not progressing also made the C-section conversation relevant. We knew that there was a chance I could be forced to go that route if I didn’t get far enough along in the 12 hour window after my water broke. And now I had hit the time limit and was at a ridiculous one and a half centimeters.

Dear Addison: Six Months

Dear Addison,
Happy Half Birthday! Yesterday you turned six months old! I know, I don’t believe it either, but those newborn pajamas sure aren’t fitting up over that belly, so I guess it has to be true.

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If last month was The Month of the Grunt, this month is The Month of the Squeal. You have found a new high-pitched register in your voice and people or things that are worthy enough are met with the squeakiest shrieks of enjoyment. It’s a fail-proof way to elicit some serious smiles.

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I’m afraid I jinxed us by bragging all over town about your mystical deep sleeping habits. I miss those 9-hour nights. The wicked combination of teething, getting arms and legs stuck in crib slats, and discovering the concept of separation has reintroduced us to middle-of-the-night wake ups. Sometimes a couple. Sometimes every hour. No more laying you down and retrieving you the next morning bright-eyed and eager. Back is the creeping backwards out of your room, waiting outside the door holding our breath, and wincing at the monitor at 3:30 a.m.

But it’s ok. I wrote about it in those first months, and it’s just as true these days: when I lean over your crib in the morning and our eyes meet, and your whole face lights up with recognition, there is just nothing that can diminish that moment. Not sleep deprivation, not the previous day’s meltdowns, not even the puddle of runny poop that is beginning to seep through your sheets.

Some may call it chemical, but I plead divine.

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Speaking of those teeth, you’re sporting TWO BOTTOM TEETH! Woop woop, girlfriend. And it only took you a month and half to push out those itty bitty chompers. Seriously, can we not come up with a more efficient way to get this done? It’s 2013, people.

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This month you’ve experimented with some rice cereal and bananas. I don’t know that you actually absorbed the calories from these foods as would be required for actual “eating,” unless those calories can be taken up through your chin, your cheeks, your fingers and your bib. Because that’s where all the food ended up. I am so excited to dive into this real food thing; it will hopefully eliminate the ticking time clock I hear every time we are out and about ominously counting down until “Feeding Time.” Instead of retreating to the car or a bedroom, I can just shove some mushy fruit in front of you. Win!

A banana

I’m not trying to be dramatic here, so I’ll preface this by saying everything is absolutely, 100% A-OK. Nothing to worry about at all, except for some musculoskeletal issues that I’ve self-diagnosed as “Toting Chunky Baby Syndrome.” TCBS in medical circles. But there was a two-week span where I was worried, with scary-sounding “just in case” tests that planted seeds of anxiety and far off scenarios felt like they were closing in. “What if?” games (not the fun kind of game) ran through my mind, and I thought about a future that I wasn’t there to be a part of.

And in those cloudy days, I watched your Daddy close. I watched him come home and mechanically perform the same ritual—bag down, wash hands, tie off, grab baby. I watched him roll over and stumble out of bed at 5 a.m. to soothe your cries. I watched him bounce you on his lap in an unashamed effort to coax out a smile. I watched him make ridiculous faces and talk to you in sing-song lyrics because that’s what you like most. And I knew, no matter what the doctor would tell us, you were going to be just fine. Your Daddy loves you with a love that strangers witness and wish they had, with a love that reminds people why you need more than just a Mama, a love that would compensate for the unthinkable. He loves you that much and more, baby girl. What peace that brings me. What comfort and rest I have knowing that I am not alone in this battle to keep you safe and warm and smiling. He fought for me for years, and now he fights for you, Addison.

A & C

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Some other lessons I’ve picked up this month are perhaps less philosophical but equally important to note.

Skinny jeans don’t work for every body type. Namely, your body type.

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Some days you can fly right down that to-do list making neat little check marks of productivity. Other days, all you get is the satisfaction of opening a child-proof pill bottle with one hand.

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And every now and then, getting louder does in fact get you exactly what you want.

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Thank you for teaching me so much already, sweet girl. I hope I can shape your life in half the way you have redefined mine.

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

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6 months swing collage