Saturday, November 14, 2015

Marlow's Birth Day

I never thought I'd get to write this story. I never hoped, that after three somewhat crazy births, I'd experience a birth for the story books. And never in my wildest dreams did I dare expect to deliver a pink baby girl into my arms. I never thought I'd get to write a story like this. It is the very best story.

Each of my pregnancies has gone longer than the last. Cannon was five days early. Cason was born on his due date, and Colt arrived two days past 40 weeks. While I didn't want this pregnancy to go late, the trend had me fully expecting to see my due date still pregnant. So, when June 18, 2015 came and went I wasn't surprised. I was miserable, yes, but not surprised.

However, when week 41 rolled around and I was STILL pregnant, I was surprised. I experienced my first non-stress test (NST) which oddly made me feel stressed and my first stripping of the membranes. I was doing my best to take each day as it came, but hormones and emotions run high when you're ten months pregnant. Some days I felt calm and patient, enjoying yet another quiet day with my three boys before we added a newborn to the mix. Then some days I felt agitated, huge, and incredibly uncomfortable. Every night I showered, re-packed my labor and delivery bag and hoped I'd wake up in labor. Every morning I woke up still pregnant. I spent each day mentally gearing up for labor and mustering courage to face another delivery. It was very draining. I felt like I had the capacity to be a mom to my sweet boys or I had the capacity to be so incredibly pregnant, but I didn't have the energy for both. I knew in my head that babies come when they are ready but my heart was ready to meet my little one. And the closer we got to 42 weeks and the deadline of induction (ie: breaking my water) the harder it became to not be a big ball of nerves.

At 41 weeks and 4 days I had a second NST scheduled. Surely, I would go in to labor before that Saturday. SURELY! Well, Saturday morning rolled around and my Mom graciously (or out of pity) took me to get a pedicure and then for a fabulous lunch at Brio. I tried to relax, enjoy the girl time and enjoy those little baby kicks on the inside. As usual, the waitress asked when I was due. And, as expected, she gave me the shocked look of pity when I told her, "Oh, over a week ago." Some people would even worry that I was going to have the baby right then and there, as if labor started instantly in the middle of transition. Some asked why I hadn't been induced yet. I "loved" having these conversations about my pregnancy with complete strangers.

So after a morning of pampering, I headed up to the birth center for my check up. Three births were/had happened that morning already. Three births that had all be due AFTER me, and yet there they were laboring away and meeting their babies. And there I was, still pregnant. It was hard to not be irrationally discouraged. Everything looked great on the NST. The baby was moving fine and had a great heartbeat. Leslie checked me and said she easily stretched me to four centimeters with a bulging bag of waters. So, my body was gearing up. She also told me, after feeling my belly, that I was not carrying a 10, or even a 9 pound, baby. That was music to my ears. I knew that on my due date this baby was smaller than Colt, but with each day that passed the fear that I was growing another 9 lb 9 oz baby increased.

I went home from that appointment with a bottle of Start Up, which is a natural tincture that can help get labor going. I was mentally preparing to take it the following Monday. I spent the afternoon sweeping and mopping the floor while the boys finished up their naps. I had a few crampy contractions while I mopped by nothing terribly hard, intense, unusual or consistent.

My mother-in-law had been in town for over a week waiting on sweet baby's arrival. She was picking up dinner and after naps we were loading up the boys to go to her apartment for Jimmy Johns. Around 6:30 pm, during the five minute drive to Watters Creek I had a hard contraction and all of a sudden my mood shifted. I was uncomfortable. I had this intense desire to go back home. I didn't want to go in to labor at my mother-in-law's apartment with all the boys there. So, we called her and told her we were turning around. We picked up our sandwiches from her and headed home. I had another contraction in the parking lot and just knew in my gut things were getting started. We called my parents on the way home to come and pick up the boys. It was around 7:00 pm when we got home. I had had three significant contractions.

My parents picked up the boys and I laid on the couch. I tried to watch Netflix and relax through each contraction, but they were already too strong to focus on tv. Contractions were 10-12 minutes apart and Danny was already on the phone calling the midwife, the doula and the photographer to tell them tonight was probably the night.

Around 8:00 pm, while Danny was on the phone with Leslie, the midwife, I told him that I'd probably want to go to the birthing center within the hour. I could tell things were picking up speed. Leslie, very wisely said she'd just get ready and head that way and be there by 9:00 pm. I'm so thankful she just knew to go because by 8:30 pm I was ready to head that way. Contractions were increasing in intensity faster than even I was use to. I would have one or two contractions at one level and then the third contraction would be harder. I felt like I was on a runaway train. We kept passing these stations and I wanted to slow down and rest for a minute, but the train kept plowing on at break neck speed.

By 8:45 pm we were in the car and to the birthing center by 8:55 pm. It was dusk and the sun was going down. Leslie was not there yet, so I labored on the porch of the birthing center. On my hands and knees, I remember the fresh air and the births chirping. I remember the rough wood of the porch under my hands. I remember when the neighbor across the street came out of her house to get into her car. "How many crazy laboring women has she seen on this porch?" I wondered. I moaned through two or three contractions before Leslie arrived and escorted us upstairs.

Danny and Leslie scurried about getting things ready. I had another two or three contractions before our doula, Stephanie, arrived. I remember her squeezing my hips through one contraction. I was very quickly disappearing down the labor hole, going to the place where the world fades away and it's just me and my baby. I also remember going to the bathroom at some point. I had a contraction on the toilet and had an instant need to hold Danny's hand. Usually Danny's job during labor is to squeeze my hips, and while that felt good this time, I had a more pressing need for him to be in my face, so I could look him in the eyes and hold his hand during each contractions.

After just a few contractions on the floor, I was ready to get in the water. In God's gracious provision the tub was already filled and warm. It had been filled earlier in the day for one of the laboring mamas and she hadn't used it. I felt in that moment that God showed me that he cared about the little things for this baby's delivery.

I had a few contractions in the tub and Monica, our photographer, walked in. I remember have two or three strong contractions leaning on the outside of the tub before I wanted to turn over. Remember the runaway train? I didn't stay in one position for more than two contractions I don't think. Things were progressing so quickly.

I had several prayers and hopes for this labor and delivery. One of my prayers leading up to this birth was that it would be quick and gentle. I know that those things don't usually go hand-in-hand for birth, but I had so much anxiety anticipating childbirth, that asking God for a swift and easy labor was comforting. I also wanted to be more "present" during this birth. In my previous births I felt like once I hit transition and pushing I was very frantic, out of control and just "out of it." I had my eyes closed for the birth of all three boys. With Cason and Colt, the midwives told me to reach down and catch my baby as they were being born and I was so paralyzed with pain and fear that I couldn't move. I didn't want that for this birth. I wanted to open my eyes. I wanted to see my baby being born. I wanted to catch my baby in the water. I wanted to see it all so I could remember it. I didn't want fear and pain to be my last memory of being pregnant.

It was during this time laboring in the tub that I opened my eyes. I saw the dim lights. I saw Leslie listening to the baby with the doppler. I saw Danny's arm supporting mine. I saw my knees bent, sticking up out of the water. I noticed shadows on the walls. I reminded myself when I felt like I was splitting in two, that I wasn't dying. Nothing was breaking. God was giving us a baby! And as crazy as it sounds, I talked to our baby. I told Marlow I'd deliver her as gently as possible. I asked her to be gentle with me. "Come gently baby. Come gently," was a phase I repeated to myself. Later on Danny said he noticed that  there was a point right before I started pushing that I calmed myself down. My moans didn't turn to screams like usual.

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After I turned over in the tub, I had one or two contractions sitting, leaning against the side and my water broke with a pop. I knew instantly. I also asked Leslie if I pooped in the tub because my water breaking felt so explosive. She kindly replied that my body was doing what it was suppose to do to deliver my baby. Danny later told me I did indeed poop in that tub! Ha! my worst fear when I was pregnant with Cannon happened, but in all honesty it wasn't a big deal and I didn't even care. The very next contraction after my water broke was a pushing contraction.

Another hope for this birth was that I would let my body tell me when to push. I usually start pushing simply because I'm so tired of the pain that I want to get the baby out. I've never started pushing because I just can't stop, which is what I've heard other mom's describe as the "pushing contractions." Well, this time I waited. I let the contraction start after my water broke and suddenly it was there. The pushing contraction. It was like every muscle in my body was bearing down and pressing the baby out. I pushed. She crowned. And her head was born, just like that.

The contraction ended and I was going to take a breath and a rest and deliver her body when the next contraction started. However, Leslie told me to push and birth my baby. "Now?" I asked. "Yes." She replied. And so I pushed. At first I felt like I wasn't going to make any progress or get her out, when suddenly that wonderful slippery relief of delivering the shoulders happened and Marlow was born. My eyes were open. I saw her underwater and I grabbed her. Danny reached down and helped lift her to my chest.

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Fifty minutes after we arrived at the birthing center, our baby had arrived. Three hours of labor. It was swift. And while it felt fast, it also felt calm. I know that sounds odd, but I felt like God answered my prayer with a quick and gentle birth.

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And then someone asked if it was a boy or a girl. We checked and my heart exploded and my world went upside down. It was a girl. A beautiful, sweet, pink baby girl. Marlow Gracen had arrived earthside at 9:50 pm on Saturday, June 27, 2015. She weighed in at 8 pounds and 10 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. She was perfect.
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Leslie took fabulous care of me to insure I didn't hemorrhage again. I got a shot of pitocin in my thigh to help my uterus contract back down and my bleeding was monitored closely. My parents brought the boys up to the birthing center and they met their sister. I'm pretty sure Cannon gave me a look that said, "I knew it was a girl. I told you so." He had waited for her and she was here. And yet again, sitting on that bed with Danny, my arms full of children, my heart exploded in my chest. What a beautiful gift.
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The boys left with my parents and Stephanie brought Danny and I burgers from In-n-Out around midnight. We ate as our wonderful birth team trickled home and then settled in for a little nap. Somewhere around 2 am, I couldn't sleep, so we packed up. We loaded our daughter in to the car and in the dark of the night, about the time I'm usually going in to labor, we drove home. Home to write the most beautiful songs we could ever write with out new little family of six.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from the Stillers 2014

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Christmas 2014
Friends and Family -

It’s another Stiller Family Christmas letter. This one is actually full of information NOT found on the blog, because I have three small children and blogging has taken a backseat to real life.

After more than four years working at Cigna, Danny took a new job this fall. He’s an account manager at Speech Privacy Systems. He’s selling Sound Masking and we’re hoping this will be a great, new opportunity for our family. Sound Masking is an engineered sound that sounds like whooshing air to render speech unintelligible in order to reduce conversational distractions and increase privacy in open office areas. It’s eerily similar to the white noise I play for the boys at nap time. Danny also became a certified Crossfit coach this year and works part time at a local gym in Plano coaching classes.

I’m still enjoying being a stay-at-home mom with the boys. We fill our days with trips to the Perot Museum, the Dallas Arboretum, the library and the park. I still enjoy meeting up with the Lens Baby group for photo shoots with our kiddos. I’ve been in this group since Cannon was six months old and it’s been fun to watch the kiddos grow. The boys and I also love going to Bible Study Fellowship each week. We all learn the same Bible story and it’s a nice break for me to enjoy a discussion and lecture with other moms. Photography has been busy and growing this year. I enjoy the creative outlet and appreciate the opportunity to hone a skill other than keeping children alive.

Cannon is four years old and growing like a weed. He still loves all sports, particularly baseball, and anything involving outdoor play. He and Cason could dig in the dirt, beat trees with sticks and jump on the trampoline wielding swords all day if they didn’t need food and rest. He’s a great big brother. He simultaneously toughens his brothers up with daily wrestling matches and also looks out for them and includes them in his daily activities/play.

Cason will be three years old in January and thinks he can do everything Cannon does. He repeats every question and statement Cannon says, which makes my days full of talking. He has really grown this year and I love watching him play and imagine every day with Cannon. Cason’s favorite activity at the park is swinging. He also loves book and is a fabulous cuddle buddy during reading time.

Colt is quickly finding his place with his brothers. He loves to be in the middle of things and is the quickest of all of them to make his voice heard. His favorite activity is taking lids on and off containers or putting clothespins into a soda bottle. He can empty a cupboard faster than I can fold a dish towel and we’re trying to figure out how to put that skill to good use. Colt is learning new signs and a few verbal words every week. He will take a step or two on his own and push his walker all over the house, but crawling is still his preferred mode of getting around.

Aside from Danny getting a new job, the biggest news for the Stiller Family in 2014 is that we’ll be adding a new little one to the gang. Baby #4 is expected June 18, 2015 and while Cannon maintains that he’s getting a sister, we already call the little one “him.” So 2014 has been an exciting year for us, and 2015 is shaping up to be full of new adventures as well.

Praying that you have a wonderfully Merry Christmas and a beautiful Near Year!

Danny, Laura, Cannon, Cason, Colt & Baby #4

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Just a little video for your Thanksgiving weekend

As we come out of a weekend of giving thanks and enter a season of Advent, there's this . . . where God pours out His beautiful blessings upon us. 
hello baby from Laura Stiller on Vimeo.

And in case you weren't around for our other chalk videos, here they are:

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