Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Painter Prophet

The afternoon before Grace was born, exactly a month ago today, I had a brief interaction with a stranger that I will never forget.

That afternoon, I went to get my smog check done for my DMV registration. There was a middle aged man painting a sign for the business. I happened to be sitting right next to where his paint supplies were gathered on the ground about twenty feet from where he was working. So, as I waited for the smog check to be completed, he would come over near me to get a new paint color or supply and then back up his ladder to continue working on the sign.

At one point, he chatted with me a little and asked the usual questions about the pregnancy. Boy or girl? How far along? When he asked, "Do you have a name?" I told him we weren't telling people yet, not even strangers! He seemed slightly disappointed and after chatting a little more, he went back to work, and I hunkered down into my smart phone to pass the time.

A few minutes later, he shouted something to me that sounded like "drinks." I couldn't hear what he was saying over the noise of the generator right behind me. "What?" I yelled back. He shouted it again, but I still couldn't hear. I noticed that my smog check was almost over, so I hauled my big, pregnant self out of my chair, walked over, and asked him what he said.

He looked me in the eye and said, "Grace. Is her name Grace?" My heart leaped.

I played it off saying something like, "That's a nice name. We haven't picked a middle name yet, so maybe we'll use that." But, then I had to ask, "Why did you think her name was Grace?"

"Something just told me it was," was his reply.

I couldn't hold it in anymore. "Well, you're right. Her name is Grace."

"Really?!" He responded. "Well, Amen!"

"We named her after the grace of God," I explained. He again responded with a resolute, "Amen."

My smog check was done at this point, so I paid the business owner and said goodbye to the painter prophet. On my way out, I used my cell phone camera to snap the above picture of him working away.

Michael and I treasure this story and have been telling it to all sorts of people. We believe that this interaction was God's gift to us, His way of saying that he sees and he knows our daughter. Michael and I have experienced God's grace in our lives in countless ways, so we could not think of a better thing to name her after than His incredible grace. The stranger's "Amens" felt like God himself was saying "Amen" to our daughter's name.

I can't wait to tell Grace this story.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The First Two Weeks

Our baby Grace is two weeks old today!

Shout out to her for hanging in there with parents who have no idea what they're doing. Shout out to us for not killing her!

The past two weeks have been overwhelming, exhausting, and full of joy. I didn't know that you could experience those three emotions so strongly all at the same time.

Here are a few highlights and lowlights and inbetweenlights from the past two weeks.

  • Rocket Girl. She came out with a bang and has been super chill ever since. Our rocket girl now sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. She slept so much the first few days that she lost almost 11% of her body weight, so we were put on a very involved feeding plan. But, she's doing great now and together, mommy and baby are getting better at this super difficult thing called nursing.
  • Music. Gracie loves it when we sing to her. It calms her down when she cries and it wakes her up when she's supposed to be eating. What songs have we been singing the most? Well, the Fung Brothers, Amazing Grace, Daddy's Baby Girl, and a song about the Triceratops that I learned in 2nd grade.
  • Cuddling. I absolutely love plopping Grace on my chest and snuggling her tiny body and smelling her. I cherish those moments. Who knew that someone that poops and spits up so much could smell so good?
  • Awake time. Since she's asleep so often, Michael and I soak up the times where she opens her gorgeous eyes and takes in her surroundings.
  • Family and friends. I have never felt so well cared for. We have a platoon of people caring for us. Michael's parents have come up a few times and my mom flew in for two days. All three slaved away for us. We've also had friends bring meals, run errands, and support us with encouraging words and prayer. I feel like we would have literally died without the help. We have more help coming our way over the next month. Thank God.
  • Milk & OJ. In the past ten days, we drank over four gallons of 2% milk and four cartons of orange juice.
  • ER trip. When she was just shy of four days old, I reacted badly to medication I was on for post-labor pain and so Michael, Grace, my mom, and I spent about four hours in the middle of the night in the emergency room. In the end, everything was fine. A few thoughts: it was my first trip to the ER ever, I hated having my fragile four day old around such sick people, and it was amusing being with my mom (a nurse practitioner) in the waiting room as she diagnosed people's illnesses ("That kid has croup.") and what should be done to treat them ("He'll be fine, but he needs a nebulizer quick.") and sure enough minutes later, the treatment happening.
  • Poop. Grace once shot poop 3+ feet in the middle of a diaper change when Michael's guard was down. It's anyone's guess how far it would have gone if the mirror hadn't stopped it. That same night, she also rocketed poop into Michael's face. We were only a few days in and so deliriously exhausted that we had no choice but to bust up laughing!
  • Daddy's girl. Who does Grace look like? There have been many moments where I feel she looks like Michael and exactly zero moments where I think she looks like me. She has my feet and ears. So far, she seems to have Michael's eye shape, skin color, and hair color. She is the prettiest thing I've ever seen!

Friday, March 8, 2013

She's Here!

After just over two hours of labor, Grace Gabriella entered the world on Tuesday, February 26th at 7:44am. (Two weeks early!) 8lbs 0oz and 20 inches of pure adorableness!

Michael and I decided back in October to go for a natural childbirth, meaning that unless it become medically necessary, we were going to avoid all pain medication (including the epidural), an induction, and a c-section.

Why? At the beginning, I was mostly curious to know what labor felt like without diminishing the pain. I wanted to experience the productive pain of bringing a life into the world. I knew that that was what my body was designed to do, and I figured that since women have given birth that way throughout time, I could do it too. After talking to some friends about natural childbirth, I also found out about other potential benefits: healthier baby, faster delivery, etc. So, we decided to sign up for a Bradley class and go for it! And it was a success!

Here is a rough outline of Grace's birth story. Since it went so fast, we were in frantic mode, definitely not watching the clock!

4:30 AM
I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. Good old pregnancy insomnia.

My water broke and I woke up Michael. We looked up how long it takes for contractions to start. Our resources said most people go into labor within 12 hours of their water breaking, but some can take 24 hours. We prayed it would come soon and went downstairs to get something to eat.

Contractions started. They felt like bad menstrual cramps. You're supposed to time them for an hour to get a feel for their spacing and length, so we began timing them right away.

It was pretty clear that the contractions were about five minutes apart lasting for about a minute and surprisingly painful already. I called my parents and sent a text to my siblings while Michael shot off a few texts/emails to cancel all of his work meetings and responsibilities for that day.

Looking at our contraction timer app on Michael's phone, we saw that they had moved from five minutes apart to four minutes apart and were getting close to three minutes apart. I was in quite a bit of pain and had to focus a lot to stay relaxed. When Michael saw how quickly I was progressing, he began to rush furiously around the house getting our prepacked bags and a couple other items. I putted around not believing that I was that far along.

All the times, except for the moment of her birth, are fuzzy guesses from now on.

The shortest stage of labor is at end right before you begin to push the baby out. It is called transition and is notorious for being super intense and painful with contractions coming almost one on top of the other. Looking back on that morning, I realize I went into transition sometime on that car ride to the hospital. We live about fifteen minutes from the hospital, but it took us a lot longer to get there because about halfway through the car ride, I started making Michael pull over for every contraction because the bumps and potholes combined with being unable to move around while buckled in were making the pain approach excruciating.

Sometime during this window, we arrived at the hospital. We checked in and walked into the little triage room. Our official check in time was 7:20am. We got me into my gown, gave a urine sample, and the nurses hooked me up to the heart rate monitor before leaving the room. At this point the pain had taken over my body.

Michael was comforting me and helping me relax. When I said, "Michael, this hurts so bad, I don't know if I can do this without pain meds" Michael knew that I was getting close. Sure enough, a few minutes later, pushing contractions began. Michael ran into the hallway to get a nurse, they rushed in, did a quick internal exam (mind you, this was the first internal check since I had arrived), pronounced me fully dilated, and rushed me into the delivery room.

Our obstetrician was busy at the moment so I breathed through the pushing trying to hold out and got on my hands and knees much to the dismay of the substitute OB (hands and knees gave me so much more control and less pain!) I breathed through several contractions.

Our doctor arrived in about three minutes and they told me to go for it. We called her "rocket girl" for a few days after she was born because she came out in about five contractions with about three pushes per contraction and, leaving behind a level three tear...

7:44 AM
I didn't even notice all the wet cheesiness
when they put her on my chest!

Grace was born!

She was bright red, crying, wet, cheesy, and beautiful. In the first moments of seeing her, I had two thoughts. First, I was shocked at how big she was. I couldn't believe that she was what was inside of me. Second, I noticed her head full of black hair and just loved it immediately. The doctor popped her right onto my chest and we had our first family bonding moment.

And that's how our daughter entered the world. Natural childbirth was an incredible experience, but way more than that, we are beyond grateful to our girl in our arms in perfect health.

Welcome to the world, my little girl! We love you so much.

Going home from the hospital.

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