Live Intentionally

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I just read this AMAZING book and wanted to share how it’s already changed things up around our house.
The title struck me because, hey, who doesn’t realize they have too much shtuff taking up space?  Especially with multiple kids and the junk that they bring along with them…anyway, I expected this book was your usual organization how-to guide but it was so much more!
The author and his family are self-proclaimed “minimalists” which he describes as people who choose to spend their time, money and energy on the things that matter in life (i.e. moments, memories, relationships) instead of the things that DON’T (i.e. possessions).  Instead of just telling you how to manage your stuff (which countless books and blogs are already doing) he challenges readers to assess whether they need all this junk to begin with.
The author explains that living with less stuff is not about depriving oneself, but rather a way of learning how to live intentionally.  Instead of buying random crap to decorate his shelves, he decorates with a few meaningful family pictures or pieces of artwork his kids have done.  Instead of having a closet jam-packed with clothes, most of which he never wears, he has a few very favorite items that are a joy to wear.  When a minimalist does need to buy something, he can even afford to have nicer things because he’s only buying things once.  He also has more time and energy to spend with the people he loves.
This book came at a perfect time for me.  Our 4th bedroom was my “craft” room (also affectionately referred to as the “crap” room) for the past 5 years and in it I stored everything from too much thread, to extra pictures frames, to pillow forms and everything in between. 
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This is what it looked like in its “organized” state…
We just decided to move the boys into this room so that upstairs, the twins could have their own room and Juliet and Finn could share (in hopes for more sleeping all around). 
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It took about 2 full weeks to relocate my sewing machines and find space for everything in other corners of the house. 
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Realizing that I’m a collector, and that I often look to possessions for comfort instead of people and relationships, was just one eye-opening aspect of this book.  Since reading it 3 days ago, I’ve cleared out my closet, the kids’ closets, more craft stuff, useless décor – you name it!  I’m prepping for a huge garage sale and adjusting to the idea of being a minimalist! 
I have to say, it is really a liberating feeling.  Our house seems bigger, and I feel less demands on my time.  I expect daily cleanup to go smoother and less stress from looking around at piles of clutter.
In the end, I realized this book was less of a guide to organizing as it was sort of an emotional re-prioritization.  After reading this book, I was reminded of a quote I’ve thought of often:
“Everything you own, owns a piece of you.” 
It’s no wonder we all feel pulled in a million different directions!
I can’t recommend this book enough…it’s a short, quick read and right now it’s really cheap on amazon (especially if you have a kindle). Go buy it, seriously.

holiday fancies

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In my personal opinion, middle class moms never get enough chances to dress up.  So, of course, I like to overdress at every opportunity I get.  Luke’s work party was my occasion this holiday season.  I managed to squeeze all my favorite trends into one outfit this time: peplum, leather accent, metallics and ankle strap heels.  I’m a multi-tasker, what can I say?!

I was really hoping to find a sleek pair of metallic jacquard crops kinda like these but nothing I liked was in my budget.  So luckily I scored this great pencil skirt on sale at Anthropologie instead.  Way impractical due to the fanciness but I couldn’t help it.
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Sorry, forgot the red liptsick for this picture.  Criminal.
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I could just come up with evening outfits all day long.  Time to start crashing some parties!

15” Baby Doll Dress and Pattern

If you’ve been on Pinterest for like 5 minutes, you’ve probably seen or pinned a tutorial from Craftiness Is Not Optional.  The blog is as adorable as the writer and she’s got the BEST little girl dress tutorials (and TONS of them!).  A friend commissioned me to make CINO’s Junebug dress for her little girl along with a matching version for a baby doll her daughter is getting for Christmas.
Fun right??
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I’ve made the Junebug dress before for all 3 of my girls and loved it.  It was a fun challenge grading it to a little baby doll size…I haven’t sewn that small since my foray into Barbie fashions in 1992 (yes, I was 12). 
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Vivian loved modeling for it too.  In fact, I should’ve documented the holy terror she became when I took it off her doll.  That must mean she liked it, right??
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Click THIS google doc link for the PDF of the doll-sized pattern.  This free version on Craftiness is Not Optional’s site is a toddler size 2 but for $10 you can buy this full pattern all the way up to age 8!

Keep reading for how to finish the doll version…
For the skirt, I cut 2 rectangles of fabric, measuring 10” wide and 5” long.  Cut them into a slight A-line and sew together.  Follow CINO’s directions here for attaching the skirt and hemming it.  Or if you want to attach a ruffle like I did, cut a strip of fabric measuring 2.5” wide by at least 35” long.  You can go longer for a fuller ruffle but don’t go much shorter.   Sew raw (short) edges together to make a big circle, then fold in half lengthwise (so your strip is 1.25” wide) and press, wrong sides together.  Gather along the raw edge and sew to skirt bottom, right sides together.
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I ended up making a velcro placket on the back for ease of dressing the doll.  So don’t be a dummy like me and go crazy making 6 teeny tiny working buttonholes on the front cause they’ll be too small for any toddler to button anyway.  Just sew the buttons on through the front flap and and side portion of the bodice so that the flap can’t open.
Cut a slit down the back of the finished dress about 4” long (through the bodice and into the skirt).  Then cut 2 placket pieces with the following measurements:
1) 4.5” long x 3” wide   2) 4.5” long x 1.5” wide
Fold #1 in half lengthwise, right sides together (to make piece 2.25” x 3”) and press.  Sew 3 sides together, leaving one long side open.  Clip corners, turn right side out and press again.  You’ll now have a long pocket-like strip with one long opening.
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Now pin it to the left side of your doll’s dress opening in the back, right sides together.  Sew a small 1/4” seam down the length of the slit, attaching only one side of placket to dress.  Fold the other side of placket back around into the inside of the dress and press seam.  Now you’ll just have one raw edge left of the placket on the inside.  Fold a small 1/4” edge of this raw edge down into the placket and sew closed.  Topstitch velcro onto the outside of this placket. 
Now take placket piece #2 and sew it, right sides together, to the right side of the back opening.  Fold it to the inside of the dress, press and then fold the top  and side raw edges of the placket in on itself and stitch those closed.  Add velcro to the INSIDE of this placket.  Then turn the dress inside out and take the bottom raw edges of each placket and sew them together to close it up.  Voila!  All done.
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I realize that those placket instructions sound much harder than they are.  When I get around to making another one, I’ll try to take more step by step pictures but it’s pretty self-explanatory once you get going.
Good luck!
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A Silhouette Princess Shower

The BEST part about having a Silhouette Cameo machine is making gifts and throwing parties.  Baby showers to be exact (I’ve helped out with several this year…all my sisters are fertile women).  When my SIL Anna found out she was having a girl after three boys, I was giddy at the chance to go over the top with girly stuff.  We did this way back in the spring of this year but it would be criminal not to share details of a pink party.
Of course it had to have a princess theme.
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I thought about these invites forever and finally settled on this castle cutout in pink.  Then I added rhinestones to the the door and turrets and glued it onto the invite itself, printed on vellum (um, leftover from my wedding invitations…9 years ago.  Have I mentioned I’m unreasonably attached to craft supplies?)
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Part of her gift included this little metal magnet board I bought from Pick Your Plum a million years ago.  I decided to add baby’s name and this cute little bird in vinyl so that Anna could use it in the nursery to display pictures or whatever. 
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One of my favorite parts was these cupcakes.  My friend Laurie who makes AHmazing baked goods made them for me and then I wrapped them in these crown cupcake wrappers that are just supes fun.  This wrapping-cupcakes-in-cute-shapes thing is entirely new to me and I have to say – I like it.
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There were a few other fun pinky accessories and then I handed out little chocolates made from a crown mold (the mold was borrowed so no clue where it came from, but I’m thinking maybe Michael’s?).  They were ridiculously easy to make, even with 2 colors of chocolate.  I attached a “Happily Ever After” message to it and handed them out in a basket (pink, obv). 
For drinks at the party, I used waterproof sticker paper to add a label to bottles of berry lemonade.  I designed it in Silhouette’s software and then used the print and cut feature on the Cameo to print a Chevron background and words,  and then cut out this crown shape.
Overall it was all crazy fun to do and I got my girly party itch out (hmmm, that sounded kinda weird :/) just in time to have my baby boy.
I may need to sign up for a Silhouette-aholics group.  I just know they’re out there.

Monochrome animal

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Is there anything better than animal print?  I mean, other than like your family and helping the needy and other worthwhile stuff.  I mean in the frivolous realm of things.  I say unto you NO! There is not.  Except maybe these cheetah pants with a mustard top and some awesome booties found at Old Navy for super cheap.  Definitely nothing better than cheap shoes.

Bell Skirt Tutorial

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I consider myself an Anthropologie sale stalker so when I saw Reachel from Cardigan Empire wearing this little number above on the right I was shocked and appalled that I hadn’t seen it. 
The problem was that not only was it sold out on Anthro’s site but the few left on eBay were selling for upwards of $160.  Ugh.  Even I have limits.
Then I thought, ”Hey…I bet I could make that…”
Behold the Bell Skirt.

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The Anthro reviews were stellar on this skirt and, although this is a very simplified version, I have to say it is one of the cutest, most flattering skirts I own (especially at this more voluptuous time of my life). 
What with the fitted waist and ample hiding room for your bottom half, I can promise that it would look great on just about any woman. Plus it’s a breeze to make.  Promise.
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I started by buying 2 yards of upholstery-weight black and white cabana stripe fabric (57” wide) from this Etsy shop.  Then I bought a yard of 2.5” wide black elastic from this shop.  I knew I wanted a contrasting zipper in the back but I couldn’t decide on pink or green…I eventually went with an exposed gold one instead.
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First of all, the fabric was vertically striped so I turned it 90 degrees so that it was 57” tall and 1 yard wide.  I then folded it in half the long way and cut it along the fold (in half).  I ended up with 2 pieces, both measuring about 28” x 36”. 
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Now make your pleats.  I made one box pleat (here’s a good how-to) by creating a fold about 4 inches from the center and bringing it into the midline on both sides, then made two (2”) knife pleats roughly halfway between the center pleat and the edge of the fabric. 
Do this to both pieces of fabric, the front and the back of skirt.  Of course your exact placement of pleats is up to you…play around with it and see what looks good!
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Sew the pleats in place using a basting stitch, and then sew your side seams, right sides together.  My fabric unraveled pretty easily so I made sure to serge all my edges.
Now, you’ll want to slit your back piece of fabric in the center about 6 or 7 inches down, depending on the length of your zipper.  Don’t forget that your zipper will have to be attached to your wide elastic as well.  I used a 9” zipper.

This is where you’ll want to try your skirt on and fit it to your natural waist.  One of the great things about this skirt is its really high waist since it hides muffin top like nobody’s business.  You’ll probably need to take your side seams in a bit unless you’re a sewing ninja and already made your pleats just the perfect width.
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Having never seen the actual Anthro skirt in person, I kinda winged the waistband.  I decided that I wanted it fitted (not stretchy) to hold me in but I still liked the idea of the elastic to act almost like a girdle (it does!).  So I folded the elastic in half widthwise (to find the center) and began pinning the center of it to the skirt at the front pleat, and continuing all the way around to the slit at the back, on both sides.
I then installed the zipper (you can topstitch around the zipper if you like) and hemmed it right at the knee.

 

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Did I mention that this baby cost me about 25 bucks total?  Yeeeah!
I haven’t cleaned it yet but I’m assuming it’ll need to be dry cleaned or spot cleaned.  An alternative would be to make your own striped fabric by sewing some strips of white and black washable cotton together.  Just make sure you pick something fairly stiff so that you get the “bell” effect.

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Happy skirt making!

Little Graham Cracker

My baby sister had a baby!  It’s hard to believe. 
Graham Christopher Dyson. 9.7.13
She let me be there for her labor and, even though there were some hiccups during the birth, she was AMAZING.  I love how birth can be this transformative process.  It’s the refiner’s fire that turns an ordinary woman into a mother.
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This is a shot taken by her birth photographer, Kelly.  She was sweet, unobtrusive and just fantastic!  Check out some of her incredible work here.
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Poor Nanny ended up needing a cesarean (baby’s heart rate kept dropping…same reason I needed one with Liam, darn it!) but she’s reacovering really well.
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Baby G also gave us all a little scare by aspirating meconium (newborn poop) into his lungs and spent his first couple days of life in the NICU.
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We’re all so grateful that they’re finally home and doing great.
It made me realize that of all my parents’ grandkids there’s only been this one baby who’s had any serious medical issues at birth. What a blessing that we have modern medicine to help us avoid the tragedies of the generations before us.  Can you imagine living in a time when pregnancy was a potentially fatal condition??
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He’s such a perfect little peanut…I love me a newborn babe!

Welcome Baby Finn

I thought baby Finn’s one month birthday would be a good time to finally blog about his birth.  But, it was also his older brother Toby’s 6th birthday…so today little Finn is 1 month and 1 day 🙂  I still need to get some cute sleeping pics of him but here are some great birth shots.  I was lucky enough to have my little sister Nancy at the birth so she got lots of fun pictures.  I wish I would’ve assigned someone to do this at all my births!

In case you missed his stats, here they are:
Finn Patrick Wiscombe
June 1, 2013, 12:38 pm
6lbs 13 oz, 19 in
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I’m one of those weird people who enjoys seeing the in-progress labor pictures.  I think it helps me to think back on it with perspective and realize how miraculous labor is.  It’s kinda hard to appreciate it when you’re in the middle of it all.  Can’t imagine why 🙂DSC_0005
The birth story goes a little something like this…
At 41 weeks 5 days, I decided I was done being pregnant and wanted to take castor oil.  I’m always telling pregnant moms to be patient with their babies and let them go into labor on their own but I was mighty impatient myself this time.  Not sure why, but I did know that if I made it to 42 weeks we were gonna have to have a talk about whether or not my midwife could continue to see me.  AZ statute says that “overdue” moms are out of a midwife’s scope of practice. That might mean a homebirth would be out of the plan and I’d have to change everything.  So glad he came when he did!

My midwife gave me permission to take castor oil Saturday morning so at 8:30am I took 4 oz of it (the whole bottle!) in a milkshake.  I started having cramping (um, as in the bathroom variety.  Castor oil is a laxative which means it “stimulates” the bowels which in turn stimulates the uterus.  I think you can all deduce what kind of side effects this stuff produces) and was slightly uncomfortable all morning.  At 11:30 I was laying on the couch talking to my sister (Luke was running errands) and my water broke.  That’s the first time it’s ever broken without me being in full-blown intense labor.  I went upstairs and Nan called my mom and Luke.  By noon the contractions were intense and luckily my midwife showed up not long after.  We emptied the hot water heater into the tub and it was still only half full…I hopped in anyway cause I needed some pain relief.  30 minutes later my contractions turned into the pushing kind, and he came out just a few minutes later.  By FAR my fastest labor (1 hour!) but that’s probably because of all the maddening practice labor i had during the previous few weeks.
Fast and dirty…that’s how we roll over here 😉
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Let me tell you, if you haven’t actually caught one of your own babies, I highly recommend it.  Super cool experience.  The first pic is me unwinding his cord and the second is me finding out the gender of the baby!
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Favorite shot ever.
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Don’t you wonder what is running through little newborn baby heads at birth?  Something like “It’s bright and loud and cold and scary out here.  Hold me, mom!”
P.S. I love newborn pouty lips!
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See?!  I was smiling just moments later!  Can’t have been that bad, right??DSC_0034
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What a precious little munchkin.DSC_0039
Love how he’s already got a hold of my sports bra 🙂
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Daddy/Baby pics are THE best.

I realized that Baby Finn is special lots of ways.

He is the…
1st baby we didn’t find out the gender of until birth.
2nd baby born at home.
3rd boy in the family.
4th birth with no drugs or medical interventions.
5th VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
6th sweet baby to come to our home.

We just love him!!!

Sunday Thoughts

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View from the BYU-Jerusalem Center

If you have kids, and you go to church, then you know that listening to a single sentence all the way through is nearly impossible in that setting.  Crying and fighting over crayons and bathroom breaks and trips to the mother’s room…you get the picture.
But every now and then we get a good Sunday.  One where, for some reason, you actually hear stuff.  When it happens you know it’s a miracle, and that’s when you really listen up, because God doesn’t keep a bunch of little kids quiet for just anything.

We heard words today from a sweet boy preparing to leave on a mission to England and from a lovely couple that I just admire like crazy.  The general theme was our relationship with God and His concern for us.   I wanted to share what made an impression on me today and why.  Maybe it’s what you need to hear too.
How often do we forget that we are literal sons and daughters of God?  That means that he feels towards us what we feel towards our children…only to a MUCH greater, more perfect degree.
The young missionary reminded me: “Compared to God we are nothing, but TO God, we are everything.”  I think sometimes, as good Christians, we dwell too much on the first bit…but we can’t forget that God’s love for us is divine and perfect and beyond what any of us can even conceive.

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An olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

The couple talked specifically about times in their lives when they knew that the Lord was watching out for them.   Working through trials and hard times using faith was a topic of one of the talks.  Specifically, when times get tough we should take comfort in 3 facts:
1.  What is happening is God’s will for us.  Even if that means God is respecting another person’s will.

God cannot force a person to do something.  He will always respect a person’s choices, even if those choices are causing someone else pain.  God does not cause bad things to happen to us, but He allows them because we must be free to make our own choices.

Example: If you have never been hurt by someone else’s poor use of agency then congratulations, you’re a hermit. ALL of us know what it’s like to suffer because of another’s bad choices. Whether that’s because they’re abusing us or simply because we care for the person and we can’t stand to see them destroy their own chance for happiness. Every parent knows this feeling acutely.

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A tomb likely very similar to Christ’s

2.  God’s will is always what is best for us. This is where we must have faith.  If we are being abused, mistreated, dumped on, overworked, made miserable and hopeless, God will see us through.  Perhaps the trial itself will not end (see #1), but our belief that God has our best intentions at heart will have us looking forward with hope, finding the lesson to be learned.
I’ve got oodles of examples of this one: I didn’t want to move my last year of high school, I wanted to marry someone before Luke, I wanted to go to graduate school, I wanted to kill a crazy lady I worked closely with…we’ve all had LOTS of things that we want and don’t get.  But each time, when I’ve accepted that God’s will was other than mine, the result was a happiness that I could never have anticipated.  Specific to these examples: seeing a friend find happiness in the gospel, marrying the perfect man for me, staying home to raise and teach my babies, and understanding a lonely soul who became a friend for life.

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Jerusalem

3.  We must submit ourselves to His will.  That means we must stop fighting.  If we really truly believe the principles above, then this step will not be hard.  But most of us like to think that we know what will make us happy.  We persistently and stubbornly fight for our own agenda even while God is trying to give us something better.
My favorite example of this was when God needed to teach me some humility.  I had made a decision about my future years and years before I actually acted on it.  It was a GOOD decision, one that would help people and cause me to lead a better life.  When the time finally came, I didn’t even ask God what I should do, I’d already made my choice and heck, it was a good choice so why should I even ask, right?
I finally did ask, simply to show that God that I wanted Him directing my life.  But I didn’t get an answer.  In fact, I prayed for a long time without answer.  It wasn’t until I finally became able to accept a “no” that I got my answer.  And guess what… the answer was “yes.”  God just needed to know that I was fully able to submit myself to Him, even though he was going to to give me what I wanted all along.

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The pyramids of Giza

Wow, that was a lot of rambling.  I’m so thankful for these words that pierced my heart today.  I hope it made some sort of sense.
Kinda hoping there will be more stuff I need to hear next week at church, I could certainly get used to my kids behaving!

 

Twins’ birth story

As I have been reminded numerous times that I have yet to post a birth story, here goes!

My pregnancy with the twins was completely uneventful. Other than trying harder to gain weight, actually gaining less, taking it a bit easier and having a huge tight belly, it was just the same as with my other babies. I knew I would go close to full term since I’m always overdue but still, at about 37 weeks I started anxiously awaiting labor. At 38 1/2 weeks I was getting pretty uncomfortable and then that night I had good solid contractions all night, 5 minutes apart, and I expected to go to the hospital soon. I dozed off between contractions and the next thing I knew, I’d slept until morning and labor had stopped. I was so mad!! Luke stayed home from work that day (Thursday) and Friday since we expected things to start up again any time.

All day Friday i was finally just miserable physically. It felt like i had to go to the bathroom all day and the pressure of two babies dropped so low was so intense i couldn’t sit for very long at all. At about 8pm I finally gave in and took some castor oil 🙂 I was super nervous that i would have a horrible reaction to it so I only took a tablespoon. Of course, no contractions 🙂 until at about 10:30 that night when they started again and were about 7 minutes apart. I didn’t want to call anyone for fear that it was false labor again. But as soon as Luke saw me have to pause and breathe through a contraction, he called the cavalry. He was so afraid of having babies in the car!

My parents and brother came over, and when my doula, Emily showed up, Luke and I, my mom and Emily took off for the hospital. When we got there it was midnight and all through getting checked in, my labor was nice and steady. We got placed in a room at about 1:30am and settled in to wait. Our nurse was awesome, a nice Filipino lady named Tess who knew her stuff. The hospital policy is that twins must be delivered in the operating room, even if vaginally. Tess called the doc (who happened to be a stranger since my doc was out of town and no midwife was available… So much for all that concern over finding the right provider!) and he assured me that as long as baby A was head down, he’d deliver baby B breech if necessary. Then they did an ultrasound and found that baby A was head down and baby B was sideways, almost headed the right way. My doctor had warned me that without an epidural, manipulating a baby into the right position could be really painful…which I already knew cause they did that to me with Liam before the c-section.

Anyway, labor kept progressing normally and was pretty bearable until about 3:30. I used the birthing ball and some other positions to try to get comfortable but I had a blood pressure cuff, oximeter and 2 fetal monitors on me, not to mention an immodest hospital gown so it was pretty hard to find a good position. Bless Emily’s heart, she was my lifesaver in a hospital that is not really designed for natural births. She rubbed my feet, clipped my sweaty bangs out of my eyes and fed me ice chips whenever the nurse wasn’t looking (i was also told not to eat or drink due to that ever present threat of surgery). At some point during this bad labor, i felt what I thought was my water breaking.

Tess checked my cervix right before 4am and although she said it quietly to my mom, I thought I heard her say 8cm. I tried not to think about those last 2 centimeters since I was about at my breaking point and was pretty sure I was minutes from giving birth. My mom really wanted to see the babies be born but only Luke was allowed in the OR so she kept telling me to not tell the nurse I was ready to push until it was too late :). So, when I first felt the urge, I didn’t say anything. Then the second push came and there was no hiding it since I started making some noise. Tess started working like mad to get more nurses in there, lay me down and start pushing the bed to the OR. Vivian was crowning by the time we hit the hall and her head was out before we got to the OR. That was my only real complaint about this birth…they were so intent on following hospital policy by racing me to the OR that no one stopped to catch my baby! Oh well, she came out the right way, and that’s the important thing. They got me in the OR, Vivian started yelling like nobody’s business, bright and pink and beautiful! I had a couple minutes to enjoy her and then i felt the urge to push again.

For a second I had forgotten that there was another baby in there and i started to feel a little dread! But Kira came flying out in about a push and a half. All I felt was intense pressure but Luke said Kira almost came out in her bag of waters before the doc reached up there and broke it. Luke said he did it so violently it kinda freaked him out. Again, pretty obvious that hospital staff is used to treating women who have epidurals and can’t feel anything :). Kira came out really blue and didn’t cry very well so they whisked her over to the bassinet and gave her some oxygen. She did great though, and both babies had Apgars of 8 & 9.
The pushing and births were all so fast and furious that I didn’t have much time to think about it all. Afterwards, we were just so grateful that everything turned out so perfectly. We were sort of local celebrities for a while too…there were extra people in there cause of the second baby so lots of nurses and techs followed us back to the room and my mom said the nurses station was talking about the vaginal twin birth for a while. What’s funny is that it was only a couple days before the babies were born that i realized another reason for avoiding a c-section: I would have 5 kids to take care of, including 2 newborns. That would take a lot of extra help to manage after major surgery and I hate asking for help :). That realization just made me pray even harder that we could have these babies vaginally.

Even though labor was more intense than with Juliet, I healed fabulously and felt great just hours after the birth. Remember my Thanksgiving Day post about being grateful for our bodies? Well I am even more thankful now and incredibly amazed at this blessing that is motherhood. What a miracle we can be a part of!