Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Boo, Baby Norah!

On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, our third little miracle, Baby Boo, joined the world.

Here's her birth story. If birth stories make you squeamish, read no further, though I'll keep it as graphic-free as possible.

Norah Rachelle joined our family on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 2:42pm. She weighed 9 pounds and was 21 inches talk upon arrival. 

At my midwife appointment on Monday, I was 40 weeks, 3 days gestation. I had not slept in over a week due to nightly contractions and other discomforts. So, when I was checked and nearly 4cm, a sweep was done to try to jump start labor. I was measuring well and she was moving well, but everything was favorable for induction. So, if I was not already admitted into the hospital overnight, at 7am on Tuesday, I was to check-in for induction.

Well, despite some contraction increase overnight, the sweep didn't really jump start anything, so after yet another night of about 3 hours sleep, Jake and I headed to the hospital. I felt pretty calm about the entire idea, with an odd combination of relief knowing she would soon be here, and anxiety over the fact that for the third time in four years, much sooner than we had planned, I was about to be going through the childbirth process again. When I was being induced with the boys, I didn't have the anxiety as much, and after much personal reflection, I decided it was likely because they were very much planned, whereas this pregnancy was a mind-blowing surprise. I just wasn't really prepared yet.

Paradoxes aside, here we were, getting ready for the arrival of child number three.

Our nurse was a friendly face we both recognized, though we couldn't initially pinpoint why. Later on, after Norah arrived, she said she checked and saw that she was one of the nurses during Collin's labor! So cool.

Initially, upon being hooked up to the monitors and checked, I was having somewhat sporadic contractions (still) and by this point was 4.5cm. So, the iv was placed and pitocin started. 

I walked 1/4 mile. Sat around. Walked another 1/4 mile. Attempted to nap. Walked 1/4 mile. Text some friends. 

Came back and was monitored a whole. Checked and was at 7cm. Woohoo! At this point the contractions were every 2-3 minutes and really starting to hurt. My hips were taking the brunt of it, it seemed, and when walking with then it felt like they were going to possibly crack in half. Fun times. So, I decided walking was done. Jake and I relaxed and had some lunch, and at noon-thirty-ish, my midwife came by to check on me and break my water. 

It didn't take long for the contractions to really pick up in intensity and frequency despite the pitocin being decreased by half. And good golly, that was wretched. I had come into the hospital with an "open" birth plan, meaning I was just going to see how things went with no real plan at all. It was pretty much the same plan I had with the boys, and it just works very well for me. This time, I decided that I was going to probably go without an epidural, because with Spencer, it wore off way top early and I felt pretty much everything by birth time anyway, and with Collin, I waited too long for it to actually kick in and I delivered before it was really useful.

So, as the contractions worsened and I thought my hips might shatter and my back might snap, I moved to the tub. My nurse said it would likely help with the hip and back pain as well as the increase of pressure with each contraction. 

I think she was probably right. At least at first, she was. I sat in the tub for I don't know how long. After a while though, I thought I was going to be super sick, and so i got out and went back to the bed. 

I could hardly concentrate on breathing at this point, but was at 8.5cm, so I knew  it was getting close to the end. The pressure and pain was so intense I thought I was going to lose my mind and I could hardly think straight, so the nurse offered me a dose of Fetinol at 2:15pm.  I think that's what it is called anyway... as she said it might help with my hips and back. 

Well... It made me feel like I was drunk and dizzy and not much else. Things hurt just as bad, so I changed positions on the bed, and it just continued to intensify.  I was to the point of tears and fear that I wouldn't be able to finish going through with it all, not that I realistically had a choice. It was at this time that my midwife told me I could push.

But... I couldn't. I honestly could not figure out how. I was on my knees upright and just could not process in my mind how to do it, even though she was coaching me through, so I panicked. I started crying and stating I couldn't figure out how and was shaking and nearly hyperventilating.

Jake was across the room in shock, I think, that it was so close to happening, and I cried terrified for him to come to my side.

So, I resorted to the way I had the boys, "normal" fashion, on the bed. But it was still so intense that it took me a contraction or maybe two to figure out how to get my body to do what it needed to.

Then, I pushed through two contractions. Everyone in the room told me it was a short process, realistically, probably about 5 minutes. But it felt like the most painfully agonizing period of my life and I was unsure it would ever end. I cried out that I didn't know if I could do it. I begged for help. But at the end of the two contractions, she was already born.

My first words to Jake were "is she really a girl?!" I guess, deep down, I really did have worries they were wrong and we would have a baby boy and no infant boy things. I think my heart skipped a beat when Jake paused a second before saying "yes," with a giant grin. Turns out he was in shock it happened as quickly as it did and he was not mentally prepared for her to be here already, and she came out facing downward so he hadn't even seen yet. Haha.

I also asked nearly immediately after, if I could take a good nap on Subday, and a Reese's blizzard. Jake promised I could, and I'm pretty sure the whole room laughed at me. 

They placed her on my chest, and I proclaimed to the room how "wretched" and "horrific" and "absolutely horrible" that was to go through with basically no pain medication. Jake told me over and over how great and amazing and wonderful I did, and how awesome it was that it was so fast. I just couldn't believe how much it hurt, and how I actually did it. 

I held her to my chest for a while. I don't know exactly how long, as she cried a minute, and then just looked at me. Jake and I both just gazed at her, still somewhat in disbelief that we had a daughter. We greeted her, kissed her, told her she was beautiful. I told her that some day, she would understand how much I went through to bring her into our family and just how hard that process is. We laughed. 

Eventually, they took her to clean her to and weigh and measure her. She nursed a while. Daddy held her the first time and grinned with tear-brimmed eyes as she cried at him. And we fell in love.

So far, she's been a fairly happy little girl. She's a good eater and sleeps through most of the noises the boys have made while visiting. Her brothers seem to like her well enough. Spencer is excited to talk about her and point her out to people. He calls her "baby Norah" and "baby sister." Collin, with daddy's help, held her. Spencer, as expected, refused.

I'm excited for she and I to join all of our boys at home tomorrow.

Norah Rachelle is a name that carried a lot of significance. Nora is a name on my mom's side of the family, through her mother, who was one of my best friends, that has been used somewhat frequently in multiple generations as a middle name. We added an H to the end as a way to honor one of my very best friends and beloved cousin, Tarah, who has an H. Rachelle, pronounced a bit like Ray-She'll, is a name we chose to combine the names of the two women friends that have been like sisters to me for the longest periods of time in my life, Michelle and Desirae. I do not know if either will ever have a daughter, but I love being able to honor our friendships this way.

Thank you to everyone for all of the well-wishes, thoughts, visits, and prayers!  We are open to visitors at home as well!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dear Diary.

My very first diary was given to me in 1991. I was 8 years old. 

Somehow, through the years, I managed to hold onto it. Not only that, but it's in dang near perfect condition over 20 years later.

I generally forget that I have it. Tonight, however, I found it beside a stack of games I have stored high up on a shelf.

I decided to open it up and read it. It's amazing to look back and see the hand writing of a little girl in elementary school, and the things I thought important enough to pen for future memories.

Here's my first ever diary entry:

It's so simplistic. No stresses or worries. No fears. Just simple daily joys. Such innocence and silly grammar. 

I kept journals off and on through high school and college, as well as online ifs for the last 13 or so years as well. 

Life has become much more complicated since then, of course. My pen and paper journals are stored away in a box somewhere, as I used to dream someday I would have children, and hopefully a daughter that loved to journal, and I could leave my thoughts, fears, joys, wishes, and dreams on paper to them. They would get a chance to know a younger version of the "old lady" that raised them.

It was fun and refreshing to read through my diary, even if it was only a few entries, not a full book worth.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Music has always been one of my passions. It's been a true love for as long as I can recall. 

I began singing when I was a toddler, and to this day, my life is (almost an unofficial) musical. Heck, my sister, the other day, said as she walked in the door and I was singing something random "your life really is a musical."

I asked for a guitar for a few years before my parents gave me one for Christmas in 2000. I taught myself to play. I was incredibly self-conscious about it (I still somewhat am) and would stop playing if I knew people were eavesdropping. I never became "that good," but can play a few songs decently well.

The majority of the time, if given a choice, I would prefer an acoustic version or cover of a song over the original. Acoustic music is my real soft-spot.

I am incredibly fortunate that my love of music entwined with the love of my life- Jake. Around the time that I got my first guitar, 40 minutes from my house was a teenage boy who also got his first guitar. I didn't know him at the time, but the coincidence, to this day, in timing, still amazes me. 

When we met, we both were still learning. We played guitar together and learned songs together. More often than not, he taught me, but I do recall teaching him a few, like "Wonderwall" by Oasis, and "Be Like That" by 3 Doors Down. We would sit in my room (usually) and play. We would sing. We would fall in love with music while falling in love with each other.

So many memories of our courtship revolve around our acoustic guitars. He learned to play my favorite songs to surprise me. He wrote me a song once and played it at open mic night as a surprise. I wrote him a song, and recorded a video of it and played it for him. 

I hear many songs on the radio, but instead of the famous radio versions, I hear Jake, singing alone, simply with the acoustic guitar. I fall in love with him every time, even if he's not near me.

Tonight, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I heard an acoustic version of a song I had not heard before, by a cover artist both Jake and I have been find of for a while.  When the music stopped, and I was lying in the silent darkness, I was taken back to college...

I was actually visiting him for a weekend, and we were spending time at his (and his roommates') apartment, when he asked me to pack up the guitars.  He didn't explain, but I obliged his request, and he lead me to a part of the college campus I had never been to before. We headed to the racquetball courts.

And there, I experienced such a wonderful acoustic concert, as he lead me to the center of the court, then went and shut off the lights so it was completely blacked out. Rising through the dark silence was his guitar, as he slowly made his way around the court, playing and singing some of the songs he knew at the time (including Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You,") and the sounds just catapulted to the ceiling and enveloped the entire space. It was electrifying. When he had finished his set, he had me join, and together, we played and sang together, etching the memory into my heart and embedding it on my mind.

It's almost as if I can hear the residual echo tonight, as my eyes finally grow heavy. 

What a lullaby.

I may not play as often as I once did, but Jake still does. He plays frequently, and he plays very well. Both of our boys have fallen in love with the acoustic guitar concerts that have become a part of our life soundtrack. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

20 years

There are events in nearly each person's life that burn themselves into memory. These events can be major happenings like a first born child, or small things like winning a school-wide handwriting contest in the third grade (yes, I remember both). They can be happy or sad. They can be uplifting or traumatic. It's just how life works.

Dates are sometimes triggers for memories. Songs can be too. I know there are many others, but these are two strong ones for my mind.

Twenty years ago today, I returned home from school just like I did most every other day. But something was off. I had no idea what really, but something was off. A few hours went by until I was given an answer.

"Carissa is missing."

The words still echo.

The news came on at six and verified the nightmare. My two-year-old cousin, who was very much like a baby sister to me, as my cousins and I grew up together as close friends and siblings, disappeared at her family farm. 

I still have my journal entry from that night written in my very first journal. It was mostly a prayer to God that she would be found safe. For years, I would look at the entry, upset about the prayer that had gone neglected. Now, with matured faith, I know He answered, just not in the way I wanted, but she was found, and by then, she was safe in His arms.

The next two days were torture as my 10 year-old mind comprehended the gravity of the situation. Family, friends of family, and strangers gathered on the farm to help find our little girl. After days of searching, her body was retrieved from the river where it was determined she had snuck out the door from the house, silently, followed the dog down the hill, and slipped in, losing her breath and earthly life. It was such a horrible, unexpected accident. I still see the event so clearly, but I will spare exact details from my memory.

It was extremely traumatic. I had visions and nightmares for years. Her older sister who is a few years younger than I, and I, attended a grief/loss support group for children once to help heal. It probably helped some.

As time went on, the nightmares subsided. It wasn't until I took a college writing course at school in the 10th grade, and I wrote a descriptive essay about the event (which garnered tears from multiple teachers and professors as well as an A+ grade) that I think I really healed.

It still makes me sad, but it's much easier to cope with. Sometimes, I still feel like that little girl who was so upset she couldn't even stomach Pepto Bismol to quell the nausea (I still cannot to this day drink that stuff) or the 10 year-old with a 2 year-old, blonde-haired giggly baby attached to her hip spinning in the front yard. I can see Carissa dancing to "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkle and remember laughing at her thinking it was the cutest thing. I listen to that song still and that's where my mind goes.

More often than not, now, I feel the loss like a mother. I felt so horrible as a child for the loss and trauma my aunt and uncle had to endure, but now, with two toddlers of my own and a baby on the way, I embrace it more strongly. I put myself in their shoes. It breaks my heart in a new way, and truthfully, causes terror at the thought that my own children could be gone in the blink of an eye. 

It's affected my parenting, too, I'm sure. There was a long time where bath time terrified me or my kids getting water in their faces at bath or pools freaked me out. I still find myself nervous while someone else bathes them and they become quiet, even though I know it's sheer terrorized paranoia. I worry about them opening doors, or being so quiet playing outside that they've disappeared. I worry about losing them so young and never seeing them grow up. I hate the idea of losing another beautiful young toddler in our family and spending the rest of our lives wondering who they would have become.

I admire my aunt, my uncle, and my cousin, for overcoming the loss. They are each a beacon of strength and hope.  Today, as I do each year, I pray for their continued healing and send them all my love.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

There's no place like home.

A few weeks ago, my dad called with some news. At the time he called, the news seemed like no big deal, almost expected, really, and I hardly gave it much thought initially.  It wasn't until a few hours later, talking with my sister (she lives with us), that I really began to focus on what I was told.

The news? The home I grew up in, for the most part, is set to be torn down soon. 

This house, my childhood home, is the very first house I lived in. My grandma owned the house, when I was born, and it's where I came home from the hospital to live. She lived there many more years. Granted, I did not live there my entire childhood, but after a little less than a decade, my family moved back into the house, and it's where the remainder of my childhood years were spent. I have countless memories created there, both when she lived there, as well as when my immediate family did as well.

I haven't lived there officially since 2005, but up until this month, my dad and youngest sister still did. Needless to say, I've never stopped "going home" and spending time in the house I grew up in.

This house, a double story home on Main Street, in a tiny rural town in Minnesota, was built in the very early 1900s, by the man, a railroad executive, that my hometown is named after. I used to recall a lot of interesting history about my home, but alas, time has dulled those memories. I know at one time, it was a duplex, with a full apartment both upstairs and down. I could show you the spot in the wall where the second story entrance once was, even though I never knew the house in that state. 

I remember when we moved back in during my elementary years, I absolutely had to have the bedroom that was my  grandma's   when she lived there. It had a variated blue carpet. I painted the bottom half of the walls a lilac color, and had a blue and purple morning glory wallpaper border separating it from the white top half. Over the years, our family size grew, and I moved across the hall, into what had been my parents room (they moved downstairs) and their big "closet." That closet at one point had been the upstairs kitchen, and still had a sink and pipes. It was gutted, and I had a bed with shelving underneath it built into the wall, in the small 6'x12' room. I spray painted the walls in a cloudy swirl fashion, in mauve, and signed my name at the foot of my bed. I also was allowed to use the bigger room (where my parents had been), and acquired an old couch. I painted it in bright colors and decked it out with my favorite song lyrics written on paper and spaced strategically around the room. I loved it.

The front porch has (had, soon) a roof that you could climb atop if you went through the windows in my former purple room. I spent countless hours sitting on that roof. It was my thinking spot. I would listen to music, journal, write letters, or just veg out. I would have friends join me there from time to time and carry on great conversations.

Across the alley, from my "new" room window, I could see the back yard of one of my best childhood friends' family home.  It was pretty wonderful to have a friend that close, when we had moved from living right next door to my lifelong best friend (we moved next door to her family in the spring of 1991 and became friends immediately) when we came to this home. It helped ease the loss of moving five blocks away from her. (Yes, that is dramatic but it seemed like a huge change back then.)

I once duck taped my youngest brother to one of the beautiful maple trees in the front yard. I had his permission. I left him there a half an hour at least.

I learned to pass and kick a football in the back yard, as well as play kickball and various other games too. There were often a swarm of bees out back in the spring that terrified me, but I never once was stung. I can recall sitting on the big cement steps leading out the back door in the summer and can still nearly feel the warmth of the cement on my bare feet. I can recall the holes from where large rocks must have been stuck but eventually loosened in the steps.

There was a summer I made my brother eat peanut butter and leaf sandwiches in the back yard because he whined at me all the time to make him something to eat and he was fully capable. My bad.

I had morning glories on the south side of the house, as well as the west (back yard). You could enter the basement fe the cellar store outside, and as much as it was (rightly so) advised against standing atop the wooden doors, my brother and I did so frequently.

The living room seemed so huge growing up. The ceilings in the house were high and seemed to soar above us. The living room and dining room had stained glass in the top section of the picture windows. They were (in my opinion) a bit ugly and obscure, but still very cool. 

You could see the high school I attended from the dining room window. We lived half a block away, so it was hard to be late (though my younger brother totally mastered the skill of being tardy on a regular basis).  

In the summer, we would walk to the local swimming pool. It was about 8 blocks away. We were about 4 blocks from the grocery store and post office, and walking to get the mail was somehow always (unless the weather sucked) exciting. I even had my own key!

You could sit on the porch all day and but a few cars drive by, it seemed. Main Street is extremely wide, but it is a one-way street and not a through road at that, so traffic was very low, and we took advantage by playing in the street frequently. During my exploration phase where I wasn't easily grossed out, I dissected a snake in the street with a stick. 

The sidewalk would flood every year when the snow melted and we would have a last pushing water as fast as we could with snow shovels to splash as high as possible. I did snow sculptures in the front yard for my younger siblings.  I painted Pooh characters on a wooden castle fort in the backyard for my baby sister.

My brother and I made home videos in the living room when our parents were at work and we were home, even though we were told not to. We tried music videos, documentaries, action segments, and even a horror flick. 

I hosted my first "boy-girl" party there, and we sang karaoke to country songs. 

I had my first kiss from my first boyfriend there in 10th grade. I remember thinking it was kind of gross and he was kind of slobbery.  We didn't date long. Haha.

I remember the first time my husband visited the house. It was August 31, 2001. He came with another friend I had recently met. They stayed for hours, late into the night. He played my guitar in the dining room, which still had brown wooden panels at the time. I gave him a tour, and when we were in the basement, he saw a centipede and ran up the stairs like a terrified little girl.

I spent countless hours on Tuesday nights sitting on the kitchen counter talking to him on the phone. I wasn't supposed to sit on the counter.

He kissed me for the first time in that house. He told me loved me in that house. He tried to be super romantic and played guitar in the back yard outside my bedroom window one night on a surprise visit- standing out there for who knows how long, because I had gone for a jog after mailing him a letter. I did find him when I got home and was completely smitten.

He played my favorite song for me the first time in the living room, shortly after I cut my head with a piece of paneling I was tearing off the wall helping to rid the dining room of the atrocious decor. 

Spencer spent hours there two summers ago playing in a pool my dad got for him and put in the front yard. Collin met "his puppy," Wendell, for the first time there, as when I was pregnant with Collin we needed a bigger place to live and we couldn't find one affordable to us that allowed us to keep Wendell here.

Granted, I have memories that are less than wonderful, but it's rare I focus on them, especially now, when I'm figuring out how to process letting go of my home.

Letting go... It seems so surreal. To know that it's likely the next time I "go home" to visit, I will drive by and the lot will be vacant. The image of desolation I have flash through my mind is really hard to grasp and process. I'm not looking forward to that day. 

After my dad told me the news, I heard the song "the House that Built Me," by Miranda Lambert. It's been a favorite for years. This time, it made me cry.

I tell myself it's just a building. It's old and very, very run down (that's why it's being demolished). It's not really worth saving. But impractically, I wish I could save it. 

Since I can't, I had a friend take a picture for me. She still lives in my hometown. I treasure this photo more than I can describe, now.

Hold into it. I know, realistically, I will hold onto the memories and that is what will matter.  But it pulls at my heart strings to know that I won't be able to drive by when my children are older, point it out to them, and tell them the memories I so vividly can see myself. It won't be as tangible to them. It just won't be there anymore.