Oh Baby. Growing #3!

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Gal Meets Glam Makenna Floral Maxi, Target Torri Two Brand Leopard Sandals, Stella & Dot Shai Bracelet

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We are so excited to add another wonderful little person to our family!

This first trimester has been my most challenging, ever. I’m a few days shy of 14 weeks and really hoping and believing that I will start feeling better, like really soon! My days are still characterized by the nausea, the exhaustion and just the PREGNANCY BRAIN. It has all been so much worse this time… it’s really true when people tell you that every pregnancy is different. This one has been so challenging and it doesn’t compare to my other pregnancies, so I’ve almost had to forget my other experiences and not compare this one to those. Which has been hard! I can’t tell you how many times over the past few months I’ve said things like, “I should be able to do this!” Because in the past, I could.

I didn’t really mean to take a break from blogging and Instagram, but my energy levels absolutely tanked and it’s been really quiet around here - so that’s why! Just keeping myself and my boys going has been where ALL my energy has gone. Because Stevie is gone a lot during the weekdays for work, I’ve crashed on the weekends and tried to soak up all the sleep. Can you tell it’s been a really special time?!

How I found out //
I always seem to know before I actually know. I woke up one morning feeling so off, so exhausted and grossed out by brushing my own teeth (such a telltale sign.) I decided to take a test and there it was - pregnant! I took 3 more tests to confirm. I kept coming back to look at them throughout the day. I couldn’t believe it! And yet, I could. I was elated. I still am!

How I told Stevie //
He was out of town when I found out, so I waited an entire day and night to actually tell him. I wanted it to be in person, although it was the LONGEST 24 hours of keeping this secret with just myself. It was kind of fun though. I actually wrapped up the 4 tests I had taken and put them in an iPhone box (the phone company had recently sent me a new phone so it was just lying around.) When he came home, I pointed to the box on the counter and said, “It’s the weirdest thing - look at what the phone company sent me. ” He opened the box and just stared. Then he goes, “THE PHONE COMPANY SENT YOU THIS??!” I died laughing. He seriously didn’t get that those were my tests for like a full 60 seconds.

How I’ve been feeling //
Really, really bad. Haha. Trying not to sugar coat it but I’ve seriously never been this sick pregnant. My mornings are okay mostly but by the evening I feel like I’ve caught the flu. My days end in a dramatic crescendo of nausea, exhaustion, and staying huddled on the couch. Also, my digestion has been a problem this time around so THAT’S BEEN FUN. Really believing/hoping that the next few weeks mark a big change because I am so ready to feel that second trimester magic. But even though I’m feeling crummy, I feel weirdly grateful because I know it means that my body is doing what it’s supposed to.

Pregnancy Cravings? //
I have yet to find what I’m looking for, but for weeks I’ve been craving a fresh squeezed lemonade icee. I don’t know where to find such a thing so that craving has gone unmet. Other than that, I’ve just had aversions to most things and I feel like I’ve been eating super unhealthy just to avoid eating gross things like salad and vegetables and meat. Even typing those words out makes me nauseous. I ate 1 piece of broccoli on Easter Sunday and I was sick the rest of the day.

Finding out Gender? //
Oh we most certainly will. I’m very curious!

How the boys are responding //
So, so well! I’m not sure Daxton totally comprehends it, but Everett is over the moon with excitement about “our baby”. He has been setting aside toys in his bedroom for the baby, and he’s been touching my belly everyday and saying, “Mommy, your belly is getting a lot bigger!” He’s also very observant, and been telling me that there aren’t enough parents in our family for the number of kids we will have. He’s right!!!


But truly, even in the midst of so many FEELINGS, I am so excited to hold another baby. We have wanted a bigger family and it took a little longer than I thought it would this time around, but I am so grateful to grow another life. I feel sensitive about sharing because I never want to hurt anyone who is going through their own journey of trying to get pregnant - it can be really emotional and seeing others’ birth announcements can be jarring. I really get that. If that is you please know that my prayers are with you and I hope that my sharing bits and pieces can be a place of hope and encouragement.

I appreciate everyone’s kind words and wishes on Instagram and Facebook - thank you for the love and support you’ve shown our family! xx

Help a Mother Out.

New motherhood is a foggy time. It's joyful, overwhelming, exhausting, sweet, memorable... there is nothing like that swift season of having your brand new baby fall asleep on your chest, grab your fingers, search your eyes for the answer to every need. When you're in that moment, it can feel like a very long time, but it really is a fleeting season.

I wanted to share a few ways to help out those new mothers in your life. My friends and family really banded around me as I was healing from my c-section with Daxton back in December. I don't know what I would have done without the help and support I received - it was everything during a time that I was hurting, processing and recovering. I am so so grateful that I was surrounded with an abundance of love and support, and I wanted to share the things that were so nourishing to me during that season. Because while baby gifts are a sweet gesture, when it comes down to whether you should buy a pack of onesies or buy a sleeve of blueberry muffins - a mom of two wants the muffins! Just trust me on this one.

1. Meals!
This was hands-down, my favorite gift from anyone and everyone. It made me feel so loved and cared for when people took the time to cook for me and my family. Having entire meals delivered to my door was actually healing to my heart, since it took care of my family, so it was one less thing to stress about. And postpartum, I was stressed. This is by far the most immediate way to meet the needs of that new mama and her family. And meals don't have to be fancy, gourmet, home-cooked creations (while that is amazing, obviously) - but it can be take out! It can be the wings and mac'n'cheese from the Kroger buffet! It can be Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits. Just one less need to have to worry about when I had a busy toddler and a needy newborn on my hands. I loved knowing that I didn't have to worry about feeding everyone, too! There are a few great websites like Take Them A Meal and Mealtrain that make organizing a meal delivery with friends and family super easy. If you have a friend who is about to pop, offer to organize the meal train for her - it really is such an enormous blessing.

2. Paper products.
This kind of goes along with the meals thing, but I thought it was such a simple and genius addition to the postpartum meal times. Duh! Paper products! Then there are no dishes to do! I don't know why this was such a foreign concept to me, but when someone brought over a meal with a stack of paper plates and napkins, it was like the Heavens parted. I'm sure my weeping wasn't just due to hormones, in this case those were actual tears of wonder and joy too.

3. House Cleaning.
One of my dear friends gifted me a professional house cleaning session as a baby gift. What a brilliant, generous gift! It had been a looooong while since my floors and bathrooms had really gotten any cleaning attention, so her gift came at the perfect time. But even if you can't gift someone a whole house cleaning session, you could show up on her doorstep with some Clorox wipes and Windex - I promise, if you offer to vacuum up her living room and kitchen, she won't be able to say no! And since you don't leave the house much when you're a new mom, it's really nice to have your environment clean and neat.

4. New Pajamas.
This one might not matter to everyone, but my sister-in-law gave me the prettiest purple pajamas for me to lounge around in postpartum, and it was the BEST. I felt so pampered, having my matching pajamas on, even if I hadn't showered and my hair looked like a rat's nest. And still, six months later, I feel so pretty and cared for when I put those jammies on. And it was really nice having someone bring something over for me, not just for the baby. In fact, last week I picked up another pair of matching pajamas at Target, and I've kept them in almost constant rotation since then. It's not the kind of thing I would normally buy for myself, but it makes me feel so cozy when I'm in the house so much.

5. Staying Connected.
I've recognized this second time around that I tend to isolate myself during the postpartum months. Obviously, because most of my time is accounted for in babyland, but also, it can feel overwhelming to get out of the house to do things. So I will say that having people who reached out to me and asked to hang out or come over, or even just texted to check in - all of these things really helped make me feel loved and connected, even during times where I wasn't making an effort to connect with anyone outside of my family. I really appreciated those friends who continued to badger me with love and support and encouragement - those connection points gave me so much strength when I was exhausted and overwhelmed!

My postpartum experience this time around was difficult. I am so grateful that people around me pushed extra hard to love on me while I attempted to put up a brave front - I needed the help, even though I didn't really want to ask for it. So if you know a new mama and you ask her what you can do, and she doesn't answer you - try out a few of these! I promise you, she needs your support - probably more than she would care to admit.

Meeting Christopher Gavigan, CPO of The Honest Company!

I've spent years wiping butts.

Some of you haven't had this experience. Good for you. But I am extremely familiar with the whole lower-quadrant body-sanitizing circumstance that I find myself in roughly 12 times a day. Two babies, yall. Two babies in diapers. I have a system, a method for how to get the job done with the least amount of, how do I put it - contamination - and my speed at diaper changing has accelerated vastly due to my recent years of training in the field. These days I can off rip a diaper, purify the state of affairs, and slap on a fresh one probably faster than you can blow your nose and throw it away.

And I know I'm not alone.

We mamas learn how to get things done - efficiently, stupendously and while we are multi-tasking at least 6 other things. While balancing a coffee cup somewhere we probably shouldn't be.

So when Stevie and I had the chance to chat with Christopher Gavigan, CPO of The Honest Company, our favorite and most-used diaper brand, we took that opportunity. Because we had to tell him. About all our years of using his products in the middle of the night (after sleep-walk bumping into a few walls), on airplanes in foreign countries (while being scowled at in what can only be described as German/Italian/French backhanded glares), in the back seat of our SUV while road tripping (to avoid gas station bathroom filth contaminating our precious baby's undercarriage), and you know, the normal way - on the changing table in our kids' bedrooms.

We love these diapers, we told him. We love the diaper rash cream, we said. We love the healing balm, we use it on ourselves. He beamed with the pride of a thousand suns. He's definitely a sunny soul, you can tell.


We told him something else.

We love the Seventh Generation wipes a little better than yours.

His face fell. "You what??"

I hated telling such a nice man the truth, but I secretly loved getting it off my chest. I felt like we had been cheating on our preferred brand for a while now, by buying another brand of wipes. But we do like them better! They're wetter, they come out of the package a little easier, and we told him - we just prefer them to yours.

Luckily, this Christopher Gavigan guy was kinder than you would believe (and also more intense than a football coach during the super bowl) about defending his wipes.

He literally ran across the room, (which drew some attention - everyone was like, what's happening?!), retrieved a fresh pack of wipes, and then gave us an on-the-spot demonstration on why his Honest Company wipes are the best on the market. Not only are they made of completely pure ingredients (you can see the list here), but they are about 25% larger than most other wipes, meaning they can fit in "man hands" (he wasn't being derogatory - he literally meant for them to fit into both a mom and a dad's hands). They are also surprisingly more wet than what meets the eye, but the water is absorbed within instead of sitting on top of the wipe like a raincoat. I didn't understand what he meant by that until he showed us - he pulled out a wipe and literally squeezed it - and I seriously couldn't believe what I was seeing. TONS of fluid came out of the wipe, more than you would ever think it could contain based on just feeling it, and he was I think he was most proud of this. These wipes are specially formulated to be useful in any scenario - not just the butt-wiping that I described above. You can use these to clean toys, wipe counter tops, clean up boo boos and cleanse any cheek you meet ;)

Such a nice guy. And it was really fun getting to meet him and chat a little bit about family life, business ideas (how is it that business school guys always seem to find a way to talk ideas, even at first meeting each other - what is that about??), and hear more about his heart behind The Honest Company. He didn't have to sell us, since we have been long-time users and have subscribed to both the Essentials Bundle and the Diapers & Wipes Bundle. I also love that I can pick up most of these products at Target these days, too.

Did he convince us on the wipes? I'm not going to lie. We are giving them another go.

Kind of like a date night :)

Kind of like a date night :)

Why don't my flowers ever look this good? Summer garden goals, guys.

Why don't my flowers ever look this good? Summer garden goals, guys.

My bro + sis-in-law joined us!

My bro + sis-in-law joined us!

I know this is like, the blurriest, most 1996-esque picture of my life, but what's a girl to do when she meets a rad CEO and it's dark outside and you have to take a selfie with terrible lighting? You take the selfie, with absolutely terrible, horrible, rubbish lighting. Also, could this guy and Stevie be brothers or what?? Just sayin. Although I think Stevie has enough brothers.

When we got home from the event, we changed Everett's diaper and showed him the little squeeze-y wipe trick. He got such a kick out of it that now he wants us to squeeze the wipes out every time. It's pretty hilarious.

If you haven't had the opportunity to try The Honest Company, I would truly recommend it. I just honestly believe in these eco-friendly, non-toxic products so much and I would love for as many people as possible to try them. I've linked to my family's most-used and loved products below.

Many, many thanks to the Bump Club & Beyond team and to The Honest Company for inviting us and putting on such a fun event :) Like seriously, we needed that date night out. xx

Postpartum Must Haves for a C-Section Recovery (+ a Giveaway with Earth Mama Angel Baby!)

Recovering from a c-section is the kind of thing that no one really talks about. There isn't much common knowledge about the ramifications and recovery from the procedure. The typical response to a c-section surgery goes something like this, "do whatever it takes to get a healthy baby and healthy mommy". While I agree with that sentiment, there is a lot more to a c-section than a simple acceptance of what was probably inevitable. I can't speak for other women, but personally, going through a c-section with the delivery of my second baby boy was a total and complete shock, and the processing and recovery was something I wasn't prepared for. There is so much I didn't know about c-sections - which means most people probably don't really know about them either. It's baffling that it's such a normal procedure now, because it certainly doesn't feel like "no big deal" when you go through it. It's major, a major abdominal surgery. And the incision isn't just skin-deep - there is a lot of mental and emotional healing needed to process the experience.

I do want to say that I am extremely thankful that I had a c-section, because it was most likely the only safe way my baby boy was going to make his way into the world. I don't know why these things happen, with situations like babies getting stuck or being turned funny, but sometimes they do. I've been trying my best to respond with kindness toward myself and patience for the recovery process. Because it is a process. Each day is a new day for grace toward myself and toward this body that I hardly recognize. My incision still aches, 9 weeks postpartum, most likely due to the scar tissue.  But I look forward to the day when the pain is finally completely gone!

I want to put a disclaimer out there that my recommendations below are purely based on my own experience. Not everything works the same for everyone, but I feel lucky to have had an incredibly supportive team around me and some handy products to help with those first few weeks of intensity; healing from the surgery and doing life with a newborn. I want to share what worked and really helped ease the discomfort.

My Postpartum Must Haves:

Postpartum Leggings.
I have been wearing these Blanqi Postpartum Leggings pretty much every other day since I had Daxton. I barely fit into any other pants right now, but that's not the only reason I keep turning to these trusty leggings. The truth is, they are equally soft and supportive, which is really necessary when you have a super sore incision site. The high waist keep anything from rubbing on the scarred area - keeping me pain-free and helping everything heal. I can't say enough good and wonderful things about the Blanqi supportwear that I've discovered during this pregnancy and now postpartum - this gear is absolutely THE BEST. (I shared about my favorite of Blanqi pieces here.)

High-Waisted Underwear. AKA Granny Panties.
It's getting sexy now. Trust me when I say that you are going to want to comfortable, non-constricting underwear for a long while after the surgery, for the same reason as the leggings. These are great options. And yes, you need to do a little dance when you put them on. Because you need all the reasons you can get to LAUGH while you are recovering from surgery.

Bottom Spray.
The Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray is the first of this company's products that I used, way back when I had just given birth to Everett over 2.5 years ago. I loved this product so much that I reached out to the company during this pregnancy and let them know what an incredible relief I experienced from using this spray. Even though I didn't have a vaginal delivery this time, I did have the unusual experience of having my doctor's hand up inside me (birth story here), attempting to turn my baby. So to be fair, there was a similar amount of wear and tear down under. This Bottom Spray doesn't just mask the pain, it really does help heal after the physical trauma of childbirth. You just spray it on every time you use the restroom and it cools and heals. (For those ladies who don't have a c-section, this is great to start using once you don't need to use the perineal spray bottle anymore.)

Belly Wrap.
My abdomen was really tender and sore for at least a month after the surgery, and I needed a way to protect my belly from the loving (but painful) pokes of my toddler. Seemingly normal tasks like walking up to the kitchen counter became kind of dangerous, because I could accidentally knock the exact area of the incision and it would cause the cursing kind of pain. Also, laughing or coughing was kind of dreadful because of the pressure, and I even talked to my doctor about how nervous I was that I was going to cough and accidentally re-open the wound. It felt like I was just going to pop open and spew everything. I know, SO GROSS, but the sensation was real. Wearing an abdomen binder like this one (I got mine from the hospital) really helped protect my whole Abdomen and actually provided a lot of support for breastfeeding during those first few weeks. FYI a lot of hospitals tell patients to wear these, and then some hospitals recommend against it because they don't want to give the muscles a chance to weaken. I think it's best to chat with your doctor about what's right for you.

Fractionated Coconut Oil + Essential Oils.
Since I returned home from the hospital, I've been eager to heal the stretch marks on my belly (I got a few right around my belly button this time, so frustrating!), and heal the scar from the surgery, which is a few inches south of my belly button. Every single time I get out of the shower, I slather my abdomen with this Invivo Fractionated Coconut Oil. Then I add a few drops of Doterra's Frankincense and Lavender essential oils to my stomach and rub it all around. These oils are all good for toning and repairing the skin, and I wanted to make every effort to heal up my tired, stretched out midsection. (I've also started using Palmer's Coconut Butter, slathering it on in the evenings just before going to bed. I kind of hate the smell, but my sister told me to and I listen.)

Bottom Balm.
I started using this Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm about a month before I went into labor. The ingredients (you can see the full list here) are perfect for healing up hemorrhoids, which I had the pleasure of experiencing during the second half of my pregnancy. This balm provided so much relief and healing. I know that no one really wants to talk about what goes on down there in terms of fissures and whatnot, but let's get real - having babies can have some pretty wicked side effects. This balm has an amazingly cooling effect, which provides so so SO much relief. I would recommend this to my closest of friends - heal your lady parts!

Digestion Tea.
Things slow down in the bowel movement arena after a c-section, even moreso than a vaginal delivery. So drinking this tea reeeeally helps move things along.

Postpartum Herbs.
These Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Bath Herbs are so soothing, and this is perhaps even better for mamas who have a vaginal delivery. You can put these herbs directly into a sitz bath, or even a bath tub, and the ingredients aid in healing and comforting after labor and delivery. Yes oh yes please.

Pain Killers.
I am not a pill-popper. I don't even like taking Tylenol for headaches. But c-section surgery is no joke, and if you ever want to laugh again (EVER), you really should take the pain relief that the hospital prescribes. I found that it made everything more tolerable and actually helped me be more mobile, especially during the first 2 weeks after Daxton's birth. I weaned off from the heavy stuff once I got home, but even taking the basic Motrin helped so so much. This is the time in life to take the drugs.

Fat Pads.
Find the brand you love and get the largest, most absorbent pads you can find, I liked these and these. It's ironic to be that girl in the Target aisle, reading all the packaging on each of the pads boxes, looking for the fattest, most ostentatious diaper-like maxis of all time. But for this strange postpartum season, YOU WANT THE BIG PADS. Also, I like to pick up some panty liners too, because there will come a day when the flood will turn to a trickle. Have I grossed you out enough yet? Okay, I'm pretty much done.

Other postpartum thoughts:
I've been living in these nursing tanks, I've been drinking this tea everyday, I love rubbing this oil on my neck and wrists (it lifts my mood instantly), this nipple balm is heaven for breastfeeding, and I've been eating all the things because even though I still have pregnancy weight to lose (20 lbs. you guys!!!), dieting makes me sad. Oh, and Netflix has been my BFF. Am I the only person left that is still watching 30 Rock episodes? I love the Tina Fey-Alec Baldwin dynamic so much.

I hope these recommendations help, whether you're preparing for a scheduled c-section or you are currently recovering from an unexpected one. And give me a shout in the comments if there is something specific that helped in your recovery - as someone who might have to get another c-section one day, I would love to hear about what worked for you!

And now for a giveaway!
Earth Mama Angel Baby is a brand that I love and have been using for years now. I love the toxic-free, organic and herbal ingredients - especially for sensitive areas! I am so happy to be able to partner with Earth Mama and give away the postpartum products I chatted about to one lucky mama-to-be - the Bottom Spray, Bottom Balm and Postpartum Bath Herbs. Head over to my instagram for your chance to enter to win. The giveaway is open to U.S.- residents only (so sorry!), will run for a week, and the winner will be contacted on 2/24. Good luck!

P.S. - My postpartum essentials for a vaginal labor and delivery, from my experience delivering my 1st son over 2.5 years ago. Whew, babies. They're lucky they are so cute :)

Many thanks to Earth Mama Angel Baby for sponsoring this post.

Welcoming Daxton Spencer to the World.

I never shared Everett's birth story. I just never felt like I could share something quite so private with the world wide web. Hahaha I guess after having one baby, you lose all sense of privacy and modesty and nothing is "TMI" anymore - any moms out there feel me? So I went ahead and wrote down Daxton's birth story while it was still fresh on my mind and soul, and even though it took me a few weeks to really get it all out, it was beautifully therapeutic for this heart of mine. And also, I spent a lot of time reading others' birth stories in the weeks leading up to his birth, and I actually feel like it helped me prepare for the unexpected nature of his birth. So this time around, I am happy to share and hopefully shed some light and hope for others who have experienced the unexpected in childbirth. Honestly, even though Everett's birth was super intense and ridiculously long (hello, 36 hours that I will never ever forget!), Daxton's proved to be much more, hmm what's the word for it - lively?!

Also, a few disclaimers. This is a birth story - so yeah, it's crazy LONG, there's some medical mojo and probably some TMI-esque content. If you're not into that, please feel free to skip over this post!

On Dec. 14, 2016 I woke up so ticked off. Another night went by that I hadn't woken up in labor. I know this may sound ridiculous, but this is my truth and this is my story, so I'm not going to apologize. I was sad, frustrated and just so wanting to go into labor. So on that morning on the 14th, I asked Stevie to take a vigorously long walk with me. I was ready to walk until that baby decided to come out. This was after we had tried everything else - days of eating spicy foods, rubbing Clary Sage essential oils on my ankles, getting a massage, then getting a specialty foot massage, having sex (not that much fun when you feel like a 500 lb. sumo wrestler), drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing up and down on my yoga ball, doing jumping jacks in the living room, eating eggplant Parmesan every single day, eating pineapple (there are a lot of foods they "say" will induce labor, and I tried them all), finally culminating to my all-time low point where I ran out into the yard around midnight to stand under the full moon while rubbing my belly in a clockwise motion. I read it on the Internet, so of course I had to try it. And of course, I felt a little weird and superstitious after the fact, and the wet grass was stuck on my feet when I walked inside the house which was just a reminder of how ridiculous I was. I'm sure all my neighbors saw me out there squeezed into whatever nightgown situation that actually fit me in my plumpest hour, and were horrified.

So that morning, we walked. We walked hard. I huffed and puffed and waddled by the nearby golf course and Stevie and I talked. We talked about how we would renovate our house, if we decided to stay there for the long haul. We talked about Everett. We talked about Christmas and our exercise goals for the New Year and Stevie's business idea. We talked about so many things, and I was having increasing pain on the left side of my pelvis. A sharp, shooting pain. Not contractions, but just an irritating, pinching, lightning kind of pain. Once we turned around the walk home was slower, and I had to keep stopping for rest breaks. To pant.

My spirit was a little broken. Would this baby ever, ever come out? He was such a tease.

Once we got home, the sharp shooting pain continued with each step of my left foot. I decided to call my midwife and ask her what the heck that was. It was aggravating and super frustrating, because I knew it wasn't productive, like contractions.

I called and they invited me to go ahead and come in at 2:50pm. So Stevie and I dropped Everett off at my sister-in-law's and we went over to my OBGYN's office. They were busy. We had to wait 45 minutes.

The Property Brother's were on in the waiting room. While we were watching and waiting, something incredibly uncanny happened. Then it happened again. I looked at Stevie, wide-eyed with disbelief. And then it happened again.

"Stevie, I just had a contraction."

And then again, and again, and again. They started coming relatively quick, every 10 minutes or so. He celebrated with me in that waiting room. By the time we actually got into the room where the midwife would see us, I was having regular contractions and they were real.

She smiled and obliged when I asked her to strip my membranes. That was another thing that I had heard would help, although at this point I was kind of certain I was in real labor. Still, it was my good faith insurance. I wanted to be sure that I was going to have this baby. Like, in this calendar year. She explained that the pain I was feeling could most certainly be associated with labor, even though it didn't feel like contractions. She suggested that I should go home and get some rest, eat a good meal and take a shower. I asked her if I should plan on checking into the hospital later that evening or if she thought it would still be a day or two. She said she didn't know, but to go ahead and get prepared to have a baby.

On the drive home we were elated and a little shocked. I couldn't believe I went into labor while sitting at the doctor's office. The contractions in the car ride were pretty strong, and I wasn't able to talk through them. We picked up Everett and jetted home, where I hurriedly jumped in the shower. I figured that would slow down the contractions (if they were Braxton Hicks and not the real deal), but there was no slowing down. They continued to speed up, and by the time I got out of the shower, they were coming 5 minutes apart. I quickly dressed and put last minute items in my hospital bag, and Stevie and I decided to call my wonderful doula Liz (who had been with me for my first birth with Everett). My mom had randomly stopped by since she was supposed to be meeting a friend around the corner for an early dinner, but when she saw what a state we were in, she called and cancelled her dinner. My mother in law soon arrived as well, to stay with Everett for the evening.

As the contractions sped up, I realized we needed to get to the hospital. Like, really soon.

My doula arrived around 6pm and we immediately called the midwife. We explained that I had been having contractions 3-5 minutes apart for an hour, and she told us to come on in. So we kissed Everett goodbye, piled into our Ford Expedition and Stevie started driving, with me and Liz in the back seat. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of, we've been here before. My memories from Everett's birth were suddenly so present - and I was reliving that exact car moment again. Riding with Liz in the backseat, Stevie in the driver seat. Talking about not going over the speed bumps fast. It was all familiar, we had all done this before.

When I checked into the hospital, there were Christmas trees everywhere. Little white lights and wreaths on every desk. I remembered my friend Elizabeth's labor story, about how she took one final pregnancy photo when she checked into the hospital, and I said, "Stevie! Will you take my picture? The last picture of Daxton inside of me?!" And he did. That was really special. I knew things would get really intense before it was all over (ha, little did I know how intense), and I wanted to remember this moment of excitement and joy and tiny little white lights decorating this memory.

In the triage room, they checked me and I was at 4 cm. "Do you want to go home or stay?", the midwife asked me. I was baffled - why on earth would I go home at this point? We were here. Let's do this thing! So we stayed. I suited up. And from 6:30 pm until midnight, I walked the halls of that hospital, huffing and puffing (as I had done earlier in the morning with Stevie, out in the fresh air, talking about home renos as if we were Chip and Joanna Gaines). I walked so much, with Liz and Stevie and my mom taking turns walking behind me. Each time I would have a contraction, I leaned into the walls and Liz would push on my back, giving me counterpressure, just like she had when I was in labor with Everett. Even though the contractions were hard, there was something incredibly athletic about this part of my labor. I felt really in tune with my body and I knew exactly what I needed to do for each contraction - it's amazing how the second time around, these things aren't so scary :)

When I wanted a break from walking, I sat on the toilet (sorry, TMI, but let's just be real), and I labored there. I even cranked up the Johnnyswim album Georgica Pond and put my ear buds in, and just got lost in the music. This was something I could never, ever do in my first labor. Music drove me crazy then. But now, I was completely in the zone with my body and the rhythm of the music and I was feeling super at one with what was happening inside me with my baby. I'll never forget these wonderful few hours, and I am really really grateful that I had them. Because unfortunately later, things got harder in a way that I couldn't help.

By midnight I had dilated to 8 cm. It was a celebration in the hospital room! Only 2 more cm until I could start pushing! I thought for sure that this baby would be coming soon, within a few short hours. I had dilated so quickly throughout the day and I felt such a sense of joy and pride that I had gotten this far without too much difficulty (don't get me wrong, the contractions really hurt), but I knew I was going to meet my little baby so so soon!

Then things slowed down. Way down.

The contractions spread to 6 minutes apart. The momentum I had been hoping for by 8 cm wasn't there. I kept thinking, if I can speed up these contractions, then I can get enough momentum to push this baby out! But without the contractions getting closer together, it just felt challenging. Even though they spread out, they were getting increasingly more painful, and from midnight until 6am they continued to get more painful, but remained 6 minutes apart. I laid on my side in the hospital bed and fell asleep between each contraction. Everyone in my room was overcome with sleepiness, and we were all confused as to why things seemed to slow way down. Of course, we all reminded each other, Everett's birth took 36 hours in total. It was a long slow process. So perhaps that's what was going on here?

At 6am I decided that I needed a re-set. The contractions were so painful they were beginning to scare me a little, not because I couldn't handle the pain, but because I was getting so tired and I wasn't sure how to conserve my energy. I still needed to save some to push this baby out! I also feared that the midwife was going to tell me that I needed something to move the process along, something like a little p-word. So I decided to get in the shower, which had been a standby option during my first labor. Stevie put on his swim trunks and joined me. We stayed in the shower for almost an hour, praying for Daxton and making positive declarations out loud about this labor and delivery. We needed something to shift.

When I got out of the shower, the nurse came in and informed me that a shift change was taking place and that a new midwife was coming - and it was my favorite midwife. I got so excited and for a moment I thought, maybe this is why I've kind of been stalled out! Because God knew I would want this midwife to deliver my baby!

Oh, the things we tell ourselves.

That midwife came into the room with eyes ablaze. "I don't like what I'm seeing here, Kristen. You should be further along than you are." She checked me and I was still at 8cm - after 7 hours! What on earth. She told me that it wasn't a good sign that I hadn't finished dilating by now, especially since my dilation from 3-8 cm was so steady. She told me she wanted to do something to help things along, and I knew what that meant. The p-word.

So we talked about the options associated with pitocin. It was such a foreign concept to me, because my labor with Everett didn't involve any drugs or pain relief options and I wanted to have another natural labor and delivery again. I had heard so many horror stories about the pain that pitocin brings on when it helps speed up contractions. Because of others' stories and experiences, I had decided long before this pregnancy that if I were ever in a position where I needed to get pitocin, I would definitely get an epidural to go with it. It just doesn't seem fair to your own body, inducing painful contractions without relief. But I did ask the question - "So what if I start pitocin without the epidural and decide that I need it? How long would it take to get the epidural?", and midwife answered very quickly, "At least 45 minutes." That just seemed way too long if I were suddenly in horrible, unbearable pain. So even though the midwife mentioned that I could get some pitocin without an epidural (she also offered a few other pain relief options), I was very clear-minded with my choice. I would get an epidural with the pitocin.

I kind of can't believe it. Who was I becoming in this labor? This was pretty far off my birth plan. But I felt such a sense of peace about the choice, its unexplainable... Stevie was nervous though. He wanted to make sure I wouldn't be upset later that I had "resorted" to getting an epidural.

The midwife assured me that the pitocin would dilate me completely, and then I would be able to push this baby out. I was ready. This is what people talk about when they say that birth doesn't always go the way you plan, and you have to be willing to go "off the birth plan" based on what the circumstances call for. I was living it.

And guess what you guys? Epidurals are AWESOME. And this is coming from a girl who did a seriously long labor the first time around with nothing. Within 5 minutes of getting pricked in the back with what I assume is a very long needle, I was sitting up in the bed and suddenly feeling verrrrry at peace. I felt in control of my body again. My contractions were still very present and I could feel every single one, but I wasn't experiencing that edge of unbearable pain anymore. In fact, it felt sort of like being a yoga class - I was connected to my body and feeling the challenge of the contractions, but I wasn't consumed by the wrenching pain anymore. They got the pitocin started. I was curious to see how painful these contractions would be - would it be worse than natural labor? The dorky part of me wanted to compare and contrast. The pragmatic part of me wanted to do whatever to get this baby out.

45 minutes later, nothing had changed. The pain was extremely doable, and I was sitting up in bed chatting with my mom and Stevie and Liz in between the contractions. But I hadn't dilated any further, and the contractions didn't get closer together. So they amped up the pitocin.

45 minutes later again, still no change. They upped the pitocin once again.

Once again, nothing happened. Not one single change.

The midwife came back. Now, remember, I really like this woman. During all my prenatal care, I felt like she was the one midwife that really "got" me. She knew my personality, knew my convictions, and was very *for* my natural birth plan. Which we had already forgone. But when she came back after my 4 hours on the pitocin and epidural with absolutely no progression, things got real. She told me that I wouldn't like what she was about to say, "I need to bring the doctor in to see you. She's probably going to talk about some things that you don't want to hear. But you should be further dilated than 8 cm by now. Something isn't right here."

I immediately began to get angry. I knew what this little speech was leading to. They are going to freaking tell me I need a freaking c-section. Insert a few explicates, because as someone once told me, cursing is for labor.

I had my outburst of anger. I don't think I yelled, but who knows. I started asking Liz question after question - am I just a statistic here? Have I been duped? Am I just another dumb girl who comes into the hospital with a natural birth plan and leaves with a c-section?? Is there really *something wrong*?

Throughout this entire labor, my heart rate and Daxton's heart rate had never faltered. There were no signs of a problem. Why on earth would I need a surgery? Things were just going slowly, right??

The midwife came in with the doctor, and everything in the room got very very fast. The doctor sat down with me and was frank. She told me that I had fallen "way off the curve" and I should have already had my baby by now. She explained that something wasn't quite right if pitocin hadn't finished my dilation, so she wanted to go ahead and check me and see if she could feel the baby being positioned incorrectly. I consented. What else was I supposed to do? At least she was being really straight forward with me. I appreciated her candor.

She checked me and announced to the room, "Okay, the baby is ROT." I just stared blankly at her. She explained that ROT means that his head should be facing down so that my cervix could properly dilate over it, but instead, his head was turned entirely to the left. This is why I hadn't fully dilated - his head wouldn't allowed it.

She said, "I know that a c-section isn't on your birth plan," and then explained what we could do to try to get him out without resorting to a surgery. Which involved us "working together" during my contractions, with her putting her entire hand up in my uterus and trying to rotate Daxton while I pushed with all my might. No big deal right? I took a deep breath and agreed - anything is better than getting sliced. From the moment I said yes, the room was flooded with half a dozen new nurses and technicians. The friendly anesthesiologist was back and threw the switch on my epidural, amping it up by 50%. Everyone gathered around me like you see in the movies, helping me hold my legs behind my knees, and began yelling words of encouragement - You can do this! You've got a contraction coming, are you ready? Get ready - okay, now push! Push! PUSH PUSH PUSH!!!

Remember that lovely feeling I described before, about the epidural being relatively light? Well, since they gave me a ton of it all at once, I couldn't feel the contractions at all. I felt a surge of intense pressure and heaved into pushing to the best of my ability. It was hard to feel where to put all my energy. I bore down as hard as possible. I pushed like my life depended on it. I closed my eyes and went into the deepest parts of myself, pushing from a place of absolute desperation to meet my son. I tried to open my eyes and focus on Stevie's eyes, but everything was so intense and I had trouble focusing on him. I exerted all my final energy into those pushes, and felt myself come very close to the edge of my ability. Everything around me was light and dark all at once, and I was overcome with a piercing siren of pressure and hope and doubt.

We tried this technique for 3 rounds of contractions. Each time the doctor tried to turn Daxton's head (with her hand inside my uterus), he didn't like it and turned back into the ROT position. And each time she tried to move his position, his heart rate dropped.

And that was it. She wouldn't put him in danger, so she stopped. She looked at me and said, "We are done with trying this - his heart rate has dropped and this is now an emergency situation." Suddenly an oxygen mask was lowered onto my face and the flurry of nurses rushed all over the room.

I looked at Stevie and we both knew what this meant. There was no question in his eyes or my mind - we were going to get this baby out, and it was a surgery that was going to do it. We nodded to each other, breathless, pouring sweat and compounding fear and hope. I turned to the doctor and said, "We trust you." She looked me right in the eyes and said something, I can't remember what, but she was reassuring me. I wasn't hearing words anymore, I was communicating almost solely on the language of eye contact. Just by looking at them, I knew Stevie and I were in unity on this decision, I knew my mom was prayerfully hopeful, I knew my doula was sad but believed this was the right call. And we were all trusting the instinct of this doctor and her team to take over the birth and safely bring my baby into the world.

Suddenly my bed was rolling. Stevie was being dressed in scrubs by the team. They began wheeling me toward the OR. I remember my mind suddenly got very clear and focused. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm probably going to need some counseling to process all of this, so I need to remember everything." I counted the number of nurses in the room - 7. The color of their scrubs - powder blue. The tone of their voices - fast paced but calm. Everything was being imprinted in my memory. The trusty anesthesiologist was back in the room, his team was poking and prodding me. He asked if I could feel his pokes below my belly button. I almost yelled, "yes!" - because I didn't want them to start the surgery if I could feel anything! He said, "Okay, I'll give the epidural 30 more seconds," and thirty seconds later, he poked me again. I told him I could still feel his pokes and it wasn't numb down there, and he said, "Really??" Then they all looked at each other and agreed on something, and he informed me that he would be putting me under general anesthesia because it was time to operate. He said that Stevie wouldn't be able to come in the room now because of the general anesthesia and they lowered another mask onto my face. The last thing I remember is grabbing the nurse's arm next to me and pleading with her to take care of my baby. She locked eyes with me and nodded in agreement. If it sounds melodramatic, well, that's exactly how it felt. They were going to take my baby out of me and I was going to have almost nothing to do with it.

And then I don't remember anything else.

When I woke up, they told me my baby was healthy and safe, and in his daddy's arms. Stevie had been holding him for almost thirty minutes when I finally got to meet my big, stunning baby boy - he was so big! I couldn't believe it when they told me everything about him! 9 lbs. 8 oz.! 21.75 inches long! He screamed from the moment the doctor pulled him out of my womb (which meant he hadn't been influenced by the general anesthesia, thank goodness). Stevie's eyes were brimming with gratitude and exhaustion and tears when he laid Daxton on my bare chest. He helped me hold him, since I was still numb and unable to maneuver my body. But nothing mattered. My boy was healthy and strong and a fighter. And he was here. His blue eyes were already apparent and his long, lithe body was sturdy and thick. What a gorgeous, perfect gift from my maker.

It's really great to have a birth plan. I would recommend that everyone formulate one before going into labor, because it helps you prepare for the serious task at hand. And it gives all the people involved in your birth a snapshot of who you are and how they can best serve you. However, it's really good to know when that plan needs to change. In my case, everything on my birth plan was considered by the nurses and midwives and doctor, and they were so honoring to try all sorts of options before having to throw that wonderful plan out the window. And you know what? I don't feel bitter about having a c-section. That kind team tried everything in their arsenal of tricks before resorting to the surgery. I felt super honored and grateful. My baby was safely brought into this world and that is the most important thing.

I'm still processing his birth. Some days I feel absolutely great about the choices I made and how the events unfolded, because I can see God's hand in each intervention. Other days I stare at my peeling scar and I feel sad. I write down questions as they enter my mind, I'm continuing to seek answers. But I feel certain about one thing - this is a great birth story and a treasured birth. Because he's here! The world is a better place because my Daxton is in it.

Thanks for reading my story, friends. Here's to the next chapter!