How much longer?

How much longer will you make the noises you make as you realize and exercise your vocal abilities? How much longer will my silly songs for all of our activities make you smile and laugh? How much longer will you pat me on my face or neck and chest while you are nursing?How much longer do we have until I’m no longer able to peek over your crib in the mornings to a cooing, smiling baby staring up at me who then laughs when I sing our “good morning” song because instead you’ll be pulling yourself up and holding on to the rail?

Dear Nora,

It’s Sunday November 19th at 7:30 pm. Yesterday was our annual Friendsgiving party. Today we had a lot to clean up and we also went to your cousin Charlie’s 5th birthday party. Your dad went to go play some poker with some guys at a friend’s house tonight and I’m nursing you and rocking you in the nursery, in the dark with white noise on Apple TV and your sound machine while you’re bundled in the sleep suit and I have your playlist playing softly from my iPhone. You calm when I softly sing “Baby Mine” along with Alison Krause, except I change some words to fit you. A very familiar part of our evening routine, but tonight doesn’t seem as routine as normal.

You squirm as I pause from typing on my phone on the lowest brightness to reflect on my feelings and you reach up and touch my face. You grunt. You unlatch and then latch again. I tear up.

The ordinary things you do, noises you make, and ways you move have become so familiar to me. I don’t even regularly think  much about some of them anymore, but in this moment, they overwhelm me.


You’re five months old and in the past week or so you’ve mastered rolling from your back to stomach and then back again. You don’t hate being on your tummy as much now because it’s like you’ve discovered that you can reach for toys while propped up on your forearms and can roll both ways to keep things interesting. It’s a big step to making you more self-reliant. While I’m so thankful for your health and ability to reach these milestones, I’m concurrently excited to be seeing glimpses of the next season where you will be mobile and able to discover  more independently and sad at feeling you start to slip even farther away from things in the newborn baby stage.


Things like the frequent nursing. The cuddling. Thumb sucking. The peaceful resting with your head on my chest while in my arms. The reaching to be picked up. The fussing for me to give you a toy you want or to change which toys you are playing with. The grunting of disapproval you make when you want to move or a change of scenery. The sweet squeals of delight when I do something that particularly pleases you.


How much longer will you grip my fingers and pull my hands and arms by them? How much longer will you get that excited look in your eyes as you realize I’m about to feed you? How much longer will you be exclusively breast fed? How much longer will you make the noises you make as you realize and exercise your vocal abilities? How much longer will my silly songs for all of our activities make you smile and laugh? How much longer will you pat me on my face or neck and chest while you are nursing?How much longer do we have until I’m no longer able to peek over your crib in the mornings to a cooing, smiling baby staring up at me who then laughs when I sing our “good morning” song because instead you’ll be pulling yourself up and holding on to the rail? How long do I have left until you no longer take comfort and nourishment at my breast or rest in my arms?


You’ll be 6 months old so soon, and while I usually spend these next days and weeks of this time of year making all kinds of goodies, making or buying gifts for people, and decorating everything in sight, this year I don’t want to do that. I am choosing to focus on you and to spend as much time on you as possible. Not because you’ll remember this Christmas at all, but because I ALWAYS will. My first Christmas with my precious daughter who is SO dependent on me. Who needs me.


After such a rough beginning to your life and our nursing bond that makes me feel like I was a little robbed of what should have been some of the most precious times with you, now that you’re feeling better and are so much happier, I want to take these few weeks to do less Christmas prep. One tree. Not two or three. And so on.

I’m going to spend this season holding you tighter, nursing you longer, soaking up these last weeks that you need me to carry you everywhere you go, and finally, taking in the peacefulness of the season that can be here among the hustle when you just focus on a baby. To focus on you, of course, but also the one who was born to bring peace in earth and the reason we celebrate this season.

May I never forget the blessing of each season with you, my darling.

Photo Credit: Sannetta Marsh


Nora’s Birth Story

here I was dilated to a 9 with a posterior baby. NO WONDER I’d been having back labor.

I’m playing catch up from the last year. I wrote a birth blog for my photographer to share on her website in August, but she has taken down her website so I’m sharing it here now. I will try and play catch up from during my pregnancy, and at least write a few blogs with details of our IVF journey and my pregnancy, but I hope to start blogging more regularly again.  Here is the blog I shared with Sannetta Marsh at The Art of Unscripted.

I planned on blogging throughout our IVF journey and through pregnancy but that didn’t go as planned. I even created a WordPress account specifically for that, but I only made one or two entries before I just made a private Facebook group to document the IVF journey. I DID, however, keep an IVF and pregnancy journal to give to Nora someday, so at least I did something. Now that Nora is almost 3 months old, I am FINALLY starting to recover from her rough beginning and have some time during the day that I’m not constantly holding or comforting her and wanted to write a blog about her coming into the world.
When people ask how labor went, or how we liked using a midwife, I tell them it was my favorite part of the whole pregnancy besides feeling my baby move inside my uterus. This was partly because I was thrilled that I actually got to use a midwife, with no medical interventions or drugs, like I had wanted to do since I was 9 years old when I had my first taste of midwifery from being at the birth center when my mom photographed my cousin giving birth, partly because it was such a transformational and spiritual journey, and largely in part to the wonderful support and care that I received from my whole birth team from Family Birth and Wellness Center and my husband.

To adequately help one to understand her birth story, there is a little background information that I will give you, condensed into a few paragraphs.

We finally started the egg retrieval process of our IVF journey on July 3rd, 2016. Egg retrieval was done on July 13th and I gained over 20 pounds in those 10 days. After retrieval I had OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome) so I continued to bloat for days after and it didn’t go away for weeks. I couldn’t run or do anything active. I had 22 eggs retrieved, only 10 were mature, 8 of those fertilized normally. All of of those made it to day 3, but only 3 made it to day 5, which is when they froze the embryos after having them biopsied for genetic testing. Since time is of the essence, and one of the biggest reason IVF doesn’t work, is because genetically abnormal embryos often don’t implant or make it past a couple weeks in utero, and we wanted to know, if we miscarried, if it was because of that or some other reason since I’d had lots of fertility issues. We had to wait a few weeks for the results but we were elated that all three were genetically normal! We scheduled our transfer date for September 12th and I started the next round of shots to prepare my body to be pregnant.
After transfer we had to wait 10 days to see if our little embryo, who we affectionately named “Squishy”, stuck and I was actually pregnant. Talk about turmoil and anxiety. I could write a book on this time period and the first several weeks of pregnancy alone, but to work on my brevity, I’ll just state the obvious and tell you that Squishy stuck. She stuck real well. I was FINALLY PREGNANT!

Since I was finally pregnant, I was experiencing intense morning sickness. Before a lot people would even miss their period or have a clue they were pregnant, I was puking/retching/dry heaving all day. I took it as a sign that I was pregnant and I rejoiced in my “morning sickness”, so glad to be pregnant and never wanting to complain. After weeks of this intense, all-day, can’t eat or drink anything, nauseous if I tried to move, nauseous when opening my eyes, nauseous when there was noise or light. It felt like a migraine in a way. I still didn’t want to complain, but I was beginning to wonder what the heck was wrong. I read that strong morning sickness correlated to twins -which we had a higher-than-normal chance of having since the biopsy done on the embryos for PGS testing starts a split of the embryo resulting in identical twins- but after two ultrasounds, one at 6 weeks and one at 8, there was only one heart beat. I started raising my concerns to Ken, who assured me that his ex, nor any pregnant woman he’d ever been around, puked as much as me. I was weak and had started losing weight, which wasn’t such a bad thing since I’d gained so much during IVF treatments. I finally went to Urgent Care because I was so dehydrated and couldn’t keep anything down, and I began getting fluids via IV multiple times a week. I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum after showing up multiple times a week, which is NOT MORNING SICKNESS, and lived with the hope that some women stopped suffering with it at 20 weeks. Some at 28 weeks. But as those milestones passed and I was still violently ill, I gave up hope that I would “get better” before our Squishy was born.

The truth is: I was absolutely miserable throughout pregnancy. There was only ONE day that I didn’t puke at least 8 times, and there were only a handful of times that I only puked/retched/dry heaved less than 20. Some days, especially in the first 3-4 months, I retched upwards of 50 times and up to 100. If I had to get out of the house, I carried doggie-poo pick up bags and I puked in them in aisles of grocery stores, hidden in my purse, puked while driving, puked in trash cans, puked in yards, puked on the sides of roads, puked in all the toilets. I went through 16 rolls of doggie pick up bags and those were used multiple times and usually only when I was on the go. I couldn’t keep anything down, I craved water, I had IVs throughout pregnancy, lost over 30 pounds, tried every “morning sickness” remedy out there (and wanted to throat punch the next person who suggested pregnancy pops or ginger-sorry), and finally resorted to taking Zofran sometimes through pregnancy, though I waited until after 14 weeks. I puked so hard my eyes were blood shot, I puked so hard that bile came out my nose, I puked so hard that I peed on the bathroom floor from retching so hard for up to 5 minutes and I’d nearly pass out from not being able to catch my breath. I retched around the clock, didn’t sleep for months, lost all of my muscle. I did make it out of the house and managed to enjoy myself on multiple occasions, but it took a lot of effort, Zofran, avoiding liquids since the day before, not eating anything, moving slowly, etc. The last 6 weeks of pregnancy I was doing better, but I still couldn’t keep anything down and still had to get fluids. I gained 6-10 pounds the last few weeks, and retained so much water that it added more pain.

I’d been told since the beginning that the biggest risk of HG was premature babies, so passing the big weekly milestones was a relief. We had been prepared to meet our Squishy in person before 36 weeks, because “HG babies never make it to term” or so we were told by multiple nurses, hospital docs, PAs, midwives, an OBGYN, and internet forums I’d turned to so I could see how other women coped. However, Squishy stuck to me very well and she didn’t decide to start her descent until I was just shy of 42 weeks pregnant. Which, looking at the bright side, meant that I was past 36 weeks and could go ahead with the natural, out – of – hospital birth that I had planned and hoped for since I was 9 years old.

I was miserable. I’m not a home body, so being stuck in bed most days, sometimes unable to move, surrounded by plastic puke bags, trash cans, and the smell of vomit/stomach bile was VERY demoralizing. I was unable to work. I was unable to cook for my family very often. It took me weeks to do a project that usually took me a day or two. I was depressed during pregnancy, which made me feel even more guilt, since there are lots of women who are unable to get pregnant even with IVF. Each day I was convinced I couldn’t make it another X amount of weeks. I was beating myself up, convinced that God was punishing me for turning to IVF to get pregnant when nothing else had worked. I was afraid my baby wasn’t going to be healthy because I couldn’t take vitamins or nourish her.

And that’s where the grace of God showed up in my life. Since I’d wanted a baby for so long, and was just a couple months shy of turning 35 by the time I got pregnant, I’d had plenty of time to read books, research, learn from friends, etc about pregnancy nutrition along with so many other topics. Even before getting pregnant I was eating mostly or strictly Paleo, depending on when. I ate healthy, I took cod liver oil. I took the good prenatals with folate, not folic acid. I knew what to eat and how to take care of my body while I was pregnant. I knew what to eat to develop a healthy baby. But I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t eat anything, much less what I NEEDED or WANTED to eat. Most days I didn’t even want to eat or drink because it just meant I would be retching more. And on the days I DID feel like eating, I was paid by even more violent puking. I was afraid she’d have spina-bifida because I couldn’t eat folate rich foods or take my prenatals. I was afraid she’d have a cleft palate because I couldn’t nourish her. I was afraid she would have brain damage because I couldn’t eat DHA rich foods or take my cod liver oil. I ate junk that I didn’t eat while I WASN’T pregnant, like gluten and candy, because I mostly survived on Ritz Crackers. Horrifying, yet true. And the other truth is that God provided for my baby in my weakness. Because for once in my life I was learning that it isn’t by what I can do, or how well I can do something, that he blesses us. He doesn’t reward us on merit. I was an empty shell of a body, unable to do all the “right” things while pregnant, but each step of the way, at each check-up and ultrasound, my baby was perfectly healthy and on track. There are so many instances I want to go into detail on, regarding birth centers, midwives, doctors, etc that would give a great understanding of how transformational pregnancy was for me but it would simply take way too long.

So there I was, almost 42 weeks pregnant by my first due date (May 31st), and OVER 42 weeks pregnant by the due date I’d been given at the first birth center I was at (that’s a novel in itself-basically they shut down without notice when I was 32 weeks pregnant and I had to find another midwife). My new birth center had started to encourage natural induction methods so I wouldn’t go past 42 and have to go to the hospital to deliver. On Wednesday June 7th, I had another ultrasound to make sure “she wasn’t too big” and that my placenta was still intact. That was all perfect but they predicted that my baby was 9.4 pounds. Boo. I was still 80% effaced (had been for weeks) but only dilated to 2. I had another cervical sweep. Nothing. Thursday I had another cervical sweep and they inserted a Foley bulb. Nothing except getting dilated to a 3.


Friday, June 9th, Ken asked me if I wanted to go with him to go get something to eat that evening. I said “I won’t eat, of course, but I’ll go with you.” I was wearing a maternity sundress, and I was terrified of my water breaking in public even though our birth class instructor told us repeatedly that the waters rarely break before you’re already in labor. I had just bought some “adult diapers” (hey-at least they were the Always brand, which was MUCH more feminine and sexy! Ha!) for post-partum, so I told Ken I wanted to put one of those on just in case my waters broke while we were out. I had literally put them on no more than 30 seconds previously and was walking towards Ken when I felt a gush, I froze, my eyes bugged out of my head, Ken froze because he heard a “pop” and we just stared at each other. I couldn’t talk for probably 10 seconds, but when I could I was just repeating over and over, “MY WATER BROKE! MY WATER JUST BROKE! OMG-MY WATER BROKE!” I was frozen and then started pacing trying to remember what to do next. It was 6:10ish pm.

First, I texted my sister Melanie, my sister Christine, and my bonus mom, Julie. Then I called the “on-call midwife number” who just happened to be Carla, the one I was hoping I’d have! ❤ She told me that most women go into labor within 12 hours of their water breaking so to just hang at home and wait for contractions to start. I’d not yet had any contraction that I’d felt, only Braxton-Hicks contractions and I didn’t ever feel those but was informed that I was having them during stress tests, etc. She said to plan on going to the birth center first thing in the morning if my contractions hadn’t started, but of course, could come in sooner if active labor began.

That night Ken and I were so excited! I was mostly excited that I didn’t have to go to a hospital to be induced. We were getting ready for bed, Ken was actually already in bed, while I was messing around with my packed “hospital” bag and I started feeling a contraction. It was almost midnight.
I thought back to what my birth class instructor told us, and that was, “If you think you are having contractions or think you are in labor, take a shower. If the contractions back off or go away, you are most likely having false labor.”
So I did what I was supposed to and got in the shower. I took my phone nearby to use this app that times your contractions and shows you patterns for you. The first few contractions lasted 30-45 seconds and were 10-15 minutes apart. Then the next 10 or so were over a minute long and 4-7 minutes apart. After that, they were 2-3 minutes apart and up to two minutes long, so I messaged my doula and told her what was happening. She told me she thought it was active labor, so I woke up my husband and we headed to the birth center, which was about a 30 minute drive. At this point, they had progressed so quickly in just 2-3 hours, plus I was so overdue, that I thought I was going to be one of those women who it just progress quickly for. I have never been more wrong!

Ken and I were at the birth center by 5am. I had been up for 24 hours already. My midwife checked me and I was dilated to a 5. Sometime before this point, we messaged Sannetta, our birth photographer and let her know we were heading in. I was SO ready to get this baby out of me! I was so ready to be done puking! My first order of business was to bounce on the pilates/yoga ball, like I’d been doing for weeks, to encourage dilation. My doula, Cassi, showed Ken the pain relief technique we’d gone over in birthing class and they did that during a contraction for me.


Then I got in the birthing tub. I knew all along that I would want to labor in water as much as I could.


Somebody then suggested doing lunges so I did that for a while, pausing during contractions.2017-06-10_065203__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

After that, I went back to the room and bounced on the ball some more while leaning over on the end of the bed. I think this is one of the times that contractions stalled a bit or backed off in intensity.2017-06-10_071543__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

A lot of this day is a complete blur. I was in the room for a while on the ball, and I wanted to put on some music, so I turned on Pandora on my Red House music station from my phone.2017-06-10_073244__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I remember trying to loosen up listening to the music while swaying/dancing through contractions. I squeezed some combs that I was given into the palms of my hands during contractions. I was focused, yet relaxed. I let the music run over me and it brought me to tears.


It was around 8:00am and my support team kept offering me food and drinks, but I didn’t feel like I could have any. At some point I drank a little coconut water and had a few sips of one of the applesauce/fruit mix things that you drink out of the package. It just made me puke, of course.2017-06-10_081134__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

We put more essential oils on me. We used several, but I definitely remember the Clary Sage. I remember the Clary Sage because I had been using it for weeks to naturally induce, but nothing happened so I didn’t expect anything to happen. This time when Cassi rubbed it on my inner ankles, I IMMEDIATELY had a super strong contraction that lasted a while. And they kept coming. Strong. We decided to go for a walk outside. Ken put counter pressure on my hips and I puked in yards. Sorry, people.

When we got back around 9am, I got in the shower. I love water so I knew I’d want a lot of water labor. I got more than I bargained for in the end. I bounced on the ball, I did squats, I moved, I straddled a chair and I also sat still while the water ran over me.



I took a brief break from the shower to go walk the stairs and do lunges again. In this photo, Casey was taking fetal heart tones, which she and Kimberly did all day.

2017-06-10_092014__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHERWhen I went back to the shower Ken started a meditation/hypnotism session that he had from an app on his phone. We had been using the meditation to fall asleep to for a couple weeks before, but most of the time it didn’t work for me. He began it and it was really relaxing. All I remember from it was a part talking about imagining water running over me, or rain, or something. And the next thing I remember was the voice telling me to wake up on the count of 3 and I knew I had to wake up. It was so weird because I knew where I was during the meditation and knew I was having strong contractions, but it really helped get me through some of them and eased the pain.2017-06-10_095013__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I was told afterwards when I “came to” that somebody teared up watching this happen because it was like a spiritual experience and they could tell that I wasn’t the same during that time as I had been during contractions before it happened.
When I got out of the shower that time, it had been 2 hours since I got in the shower and it was after 10:00am. I was so exhausted. Not only had I been awake almost 30 hours already after being completely drained for months, but I’d also just worked out more in the last several hours than I did throughout pregnancy and IVF! All those stair lunges, walks around the neighborhood, squats, bouncing on the ball, and not eating/keeping food down had started to take its toll even more. I went to the bed and laid down. I was having contractions but everyone let me rest for a bit. They ate lunch in the other room but they all came to check on me. I remember being asked if I wanted to eat, if I wanted a drink, if I wanted to walk, if I wanted to get in the tub, if I wanted to do stairs. I don’t remember what I said aloud, but in my head, all I was thinking was “Nothing. I want nothing. I just want to sleep and stop feeling sick. I want to NOT be pregnant anymore.”
Around noon, since I’d been there for 7 hours and there was no baby, I requested to be checked again to see how much progress had been made as far as dilation goes. I was tired. Weak. Sick. Carla came in and I was only dilated to 6. SIX. Only freakin’ SIX!! After 7+ hours I’d only dilated one more centimeter. That concerned me. Then they gave me an IV with fluids and nutrients to try to help perk me up.2017-06-10_124856__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

At 1:30, after laying there for a while, they asked if I wanted more Clary Sage and I said, “No.” I didn’t have the energy to deal with harder contractions than I was having! They were crazy! So we compromised and I went for a walk up and down the hallway with my fluids.2017-06-10_133057__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

Ken was my rock all day. He was exhausting himself to put counter pressure on my hips during contractions.This picture just makes me laugh because my face just says, “I’M SO DONE!”2017-06-10_133107__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

Shortly after, somebody suggested going back outside for a walk since it was such a nice day, so we did that. It was a nice day, and it was also my sweet husband’s BIRTHDAY!!!! Forgot that minor detail. We walked the neighborhood again. Cassi and Ken putting counter pressure on me.2017-06-10_155445__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER
From 2pm until 4 pm I bounced on the ball and got in the tub again. Ken sat behind me in the tub and comforted me. He poured warm water over my back for hours.This is all a blur, and the only way I can tell the story is because the photos Sannetta took have a time stamp and Ken kept a note on his phone detailing hourly events. So thankful he did that!

At 4:00pm, I requested to be checked for progress again. Carla came in and checked me and I was dilated to 9. That’s great news! I was now in transition. Transition is GOOD! Transition means that you’re at the hardest, but shortest, part of labor. Transition lasts on average about two hours. And then it’s time to push! I felt encouraged that I had progressed so much from the last time I’d been checked. It gave me a little hope.

There had been discussion about whether or not Ken would be sharing his birthday with our baby girl or not. At this point, EVERYONE was sure that she would be born before the next 8 hours and that Ken would get a birthday baby.

Although I was feeling good about where I was dilated, I was exhausted. Around 5:30 I got another bag of IV fluids to try and give me some strength by keeping me hydrated. Looking at pictures from around this time makes me emotional because I don’t remember it at all. I don’t remember these settings. I don’t remember sitting on the bed like that. I don’t remember Cassi sitting next to me. I remember somebody was always checking fetal heart tones and my temperature, but I didn’t remember who.2017-06-10_174721__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER2017-06-10_174825__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I got back in the tub. Apparently I was sick. Apparently Ken needed some energy, as well. I had an amazing support team. Look at my husband and these women taking care of me! ❤


Judging from the pictures, 8:00pm must be when I started feeling like I wasn’t ever going to have a baby. They were checking fetal heart tones more often it seemed and I started worrying that they were conspiring to take me to the hospital for a c-section since I was still pregnant. I was tired. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone, turn the lights off, and go to sleep. Surely this was just a dream, right?
I didn’t think I could do it.
I requested to be checked again. I needed to know how much progress had been made. I was STILL at 9. At that point I felt like crying. Maybe I did. I don’t remember. I just remember thinking, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” Then Carla said I was 9.5, but that one side of my cervix had a lip or something that wasn’t softened or something. I don’t really remember. Basically only one side of my cervix was all the way ready, so even if I felt like I needed to push, I shouldn’t because it could damage my cervix, tear it, or make it inflamed.
She also, at this point, said that there was a second small bag of waters that never broke. She explained that it must have been clamped closed somehow with the pressure of Nora’s body when my water broke so the part that was left was acting as a cushion between her head and my cervix, so that’s why I was dilating so slow. Carla asked me if I wanted her to go ahead and break that “2nd waters” – I can’t remember the scientific name- and I told her, “Please.”

So here I was, STILL at 9.5, exhausted, sick, and feeling pretty down, and then there was MORE bad news. Squishy had turned posterior at some point during the day. She had been anterior and in good position according to the ultrasound and the chiropractor and midwives who had checked by feeling my belly the last few weeks, but here I was dilated to a 9 with a posterior baby. NO WONDER I’d been having back labor.

This is when I remember thinking, “I have work to do.” I needed to turn our baby back to anterior position. I got the ball back and leaned over it, rocking back and forth to move the baby. I remember Cassi and Sannetta were getting loopy as well. They were laughing about something, and I started laughing, and there were a few moments we were all silly.

I think I asked for somebody to take a picture with us at this point because Sannetta wasn’t in any photos, being the photographer. So somebody took the camera and took this. Because this was the best time to get a group picture, right? So flattering! Hahaha!! Clearly I was not in my right mind but I think it’s hilarious.


This made me so happy to see when I got my gallery! Love these ladies!

These are my new best friends. Kimberly-RN and midwife in training, RN Casey, midwife Carla, Ken, doula Cassi, and let’s not forget Sannetta behind the camera.2017-06-10_214046__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I think this is the last time I was checked for dilation. I was still at 9.5. I never planned to get checked so much but I had been in labor for almost 22 hours at this point and I was SO TIRED. And it was SO HARD. I kept thinking, “If only I had strength or could sleep, then I could get through this.”2017-06-10_212110__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER2017-06-10_221926__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER2017-06-10_212514__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I told them I needed a nap. So I laid down and there were hands on me to help relieve some of the pressure of contractions.

This is where Kimberly started to become more prominent in our birth story. She was talking me through contractions and helping me breathe. She was comforting me and telling me stories of how worth it is would be once I got to hold my baby. How one look at my baby and looking at her would make all of the miserable times go away.

Around 11pm, I went to go sit on the toilet to straddle it for the position. I wanted to sit up and that seemed like the most comfortable position. I was also afraid of going to the bathroom in the bed, so this seemed like a good idea. With a puke bucket at my feet, Ken and Cassi at my side, Kimberly leading me to relax and breathe and loosen my jaw, I began making moaning sounds I never knew I could make during these tough contractions.


I also fell asleep for a few seconds between long contractions straddling the toilet. So lady-like.I don’t know if somebody suggested it or not, but it seems like I decided that I needed to get back in the tub at 11:40pm. I wanted hot water on my back. Once I was there, I started feeling the worst pain I’d felt so far. So. Much. Pressure. The contractions were horrible, and it still mostly just felt like one giant contraction. I felt like I was in a dream, a dream where I could feel everything more than in reality. I was still worried that I was going to have to go to the hospital for a c-section. I don’t know why I thought that, probably just because I DID NOT want one. I thought maybe everyone was giving up on me having the ability to labor any longer and they were just going to send me to the hospital to get the baby out. I kept thinking I needed to push, but I think somebody told me I wasn’t ready. I leaned up, and said, “I HAVE to push!”
This picture was taken 20 seconds before midnight. Over 24 hours after my first contractions. 30 hours after my water broke.


I was asked if I could move to the bed. I replied that I didn’t think I could move. I didn’t want a water birth. I only wanted to labor in the water. But I couldn’t move. They started prepping for a water birth. They put a glove over my IV hook up and taped it to keep water out. I remember the shuffle of the cart with all the supplies and people moving things around.

Somebody positioned me in a squatting position, kind of up on my tip-toes, leaning back against Ken, who was sitting on the back edge of the tub.
At this point, my right foot was hurting EXTREMELY bad (the same foot I’d had a torn muscle and ligament in a few years ago that still gives me trouble and hurt for two months after this) and I said, “I can’t stay like this. I have to move to the bed.” If that was the position I had to be in I couldn’t do it. Never mind that a baby is about to come out, my foot hurts!! I couldn’t vocalize that, but that’s why I got out of the tub and moved to the bed. Sannetta later told me that she couldn’t believe I got out of the tub and waddled over to the bed when she could see that I was crowning when I was in the tub. LOL.
Once I got to the bed, Carla positioned me halfway on my left side, halfway on my back, with my right leg up and bent. Somebody held my right leg and my left leg was on the bed. I always thought I’d deliver my baby while squatting or on my hands or knees, but she said that this position reduces the chance of tearing, so I said, “OK!”

She checked me and told me that I had been successful in turning our baby back to anterior position! So that was more good news.

I had a contraction at 8 minutes after midnight while I was getting positioned and I was crowning. I remember Carla said something about pushing on the next contraction. At 11 minutes after, I had a contraction and I pushed.2017-06-11_001127__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

I remember saying something to Ken at that point about “Here’s the ring of fire” (which I was prepared for and wasn’t near as bad as hours of transition) and he kept saying, “We’re having a baby!” “Can you believe it?” “It’s almost time!” and other similar things.2017-06-11_001332__THE ART OF UNSCRIPTED_SPRINGFIELD MO_BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER_ DOCUMENTARY_STORYTELLING_417_PHOTOGRAPHER

Looking at the pictures I had the funniest expressions looking up at Ken, but I remember at this time thinking, “this doesn’t hurt that bad.” It was a relief from where I had been because I was almost done.


I immediately started to push again but they all told me to STOP PUSHING because the cord was wrapped around her head. I was glad Carla was on top of that and told me not to push, but when she first told me to quit pushing I was thinking, “NO! I want this baby out NOW!”

Once that was fixed, I think I pushed twice more, getting her shoulders out, and Nora was born!


Love at first sight.

Somebody said later that it was 7 minutes after my first push and 4 pushes to get her out, at 12:16 am on June 11th. According to the time stamps on the pictures, she was born at 12:14 am, but maybe one of the clocks was off. I remember saying, “I had no control over anything in this pregnancy, but pushing was something I could somewhat control and I wanted Nora OUT!” I only had a small superficial tear that didn’t need sewn, and everything was perfect with her health and mine.

I haven’t puked since an hour or so before she was born, and here 3 months later, I’ve GAINED 8 pounds from the day I had her! Ha! It sure is nice to be able to eat again.She was placed on my chest immediately for skin to skin. Words cannot even describe what I was feeling while I held my darling daughter for the first time! I just couldn’t believe she was here. I kept saying, “I can’t believe she’s here” and “Is this real life?” It felt like a dream, both because of how exhausted I was and how I couldn’t believe that I was finally holding my precious gift.



We held Nora a lot, she was checked over and healthy, and I took at warm bath with herbs while Ken held our swaddled baby sitting by the tub. She was alert from the moment she was born. I got to nurse her several times over the next few hours. She was quick to latch but we found out over the next couple of days that she had a tongue and lip tie, which needed to be revised, so we had a rough start to our breastfeeding journey, but around 9 weeks it all turned around.


In the days following her birth, I couldn’t believe how perfectly everything worked out for us. I’m so thankful the other birth center closed so I was able to have the most amazing birth experience with Family Birth and Wellness. If I ever get brave enough to go through pregnancy again, I would, without a doubt, trust them and want to do it again just the same, just hopefully without being sick the whole time and without such a long labor.


Nora is worth every pain over the last several years of struggling with infertility and our journey.


Thank you to the wonderful support team I had during labor. Everyone was so amazing, but a special thanks to my husband, Ken, who was there giving counter pressure, working hard, all day long on his birthday, only to have Nora wait 16 minutes after his birthday was over to arrive.

What I Know From Becoming A Mother

This is my first Mother’s Day with my baby on his side of the womb.

What I now know since becoming a mother

I know that I like to be in control.

I know that I’m not in control.

I know that planning something your whole life doesn’t mean it will go as planned.

I know what it’s like to not eat for a whole day and I know what it’s like to eat junk to feed your body that’s begging for quick energy.

I know what it’s like to not sleep for more than 3 maximum total hours a day for months on end.

I know I’ve never loved anyone more while also wanting to run away from them.

I know being given the chance to raise Nora is incredible.

I know I will fail to meet my own expectations.

I know that no brand of diapers, disposable or cloth, will contain the powerful expulsions of my child’s sphincter.

I know I post a lot of baby pictures.

I know the total loss of any shred of vanity. Maybe someday I will have energy to even care again. 🤷🏻‍♀️

know that being a mother is my greatest accomplishment. No matter what the world says about motherhood, nothing I have done or will do is more important.

I know what it’s like to not put on a real bra (nursing bras only) for 11 months and I also know the wonder of putting on a real bra after 11 months. It felt more wonderful than I ever remembered a bra feeling btw.

I know that assault is a crime and throat punching women who complain about their easier babies is not a good idea.

I know that I care less about most everything than I did before, but that I care for my favorite people more than ever.

I know my heart will never belong to me again.

I know how to be more flexible.

I know that I am no longer the same person I was last year on this day.

I know God is using motherhood to humble me and to hold a mirror to my strengths and weaknesses.

I know that my heart flops and my stomach flutters when Nora laughs.

I know that I can’t do it all anymore.

I know a sloppy, wet, baby kiss can erase the horrors of the worst days.

I know that I would go through all the terrible parts of the last 2 years to have 2 hours with Nora now.

I know the relief that a sleeping baby brings.

I know I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

I know how fortunate I am to be a mother.

In 5 short years

Today is our 5 year wedding anniversary! One tradition I actually like is giving each other traditional anniversary gifts for each year. Paper for one, cotton for two, leading to 5 years being wood.

I know 5 years isn’t the longest amount of time, but it seems like a significant block of time to celebrate. A milestone of sorts. I think it’s kind of fascinating that one year is paper, also made from wood/trees, but that you have to go through more seasons before you get to the solid gifts of wood that symbolize the strong, deep roots that grow a healthy tree, much in the same we you have to grow a stronger relationship.

More summers. More falling leaves. More dormant winters. More growth and renewal. Much like in your relationship.

Not all of marriage is a full-foliaged, playful tree in the summer that provides shade and a retreat from the elements, nor is it all a glorious display of magnificent colors in the autumn, showcasing the beauty of all it can be. Sometimes it is dormant, having days or weeks that feel lifeless, weathered by the harsh elements of hurts, misunderstandings, or resentments.

Yet, wood also symbolizes the renewal and growth that comes with spring when you allow your roots to keep growing, digging deeper, not allowing the elements to ruin them.

I am so blessed to have a strong marriage and to be celebrating five years with this man who is my best friend. He has been the one person who knows all my heartaches, worries, joy, and who truly knows my heart through every season. And thankfully, most of our marriage has been the spring, summer, and fall season.

I feel confident that since our marriage has made it through some seriously rough patches in five years, that it has laid a good foundation. We have weathered some storm, held on, and our roots together are stronger to continue building our life throughout each season. I’m not going anywhere.

I had this picnic table made for Ken Mills for our anniversary. So excited about all the memories that will be made around it!

The days are long but the years are short.

936 pennies. Each penny symbolizes one week of your life from birth until your 18th birthday. The weeks that I am your legal guardian, care taker, and responsible for raising you. The weeks that I have to help you realize your purpose and to help you grow confident in your abilities. The weeks I will spend teaching you manners, lessons, and skills that you will use to help you through life as you discover the path you will take and the passions you will pursue.

Each penny shows the value of one week. Pennies are small and get lost in couch cushions, under seats on the car floorboards, in old purses, and sometimes, even thrown out, and divided into 7 parts for each day of the week they seem even more minuscule.

Yet- they can also be invested to grow into something of more worth.

Some weeks it may feel like a quarter’s worth of time will pass, others I’m sure will feel like part of a day. Mundane weeks, weeks of frustration, exciting weeks, weeks of wonder.

No matter how much time it may feel like doesn’t change the actual time that I have before we set set you free.

These pennies will be transferred one by one, each week, and will teach me to watch more carefully how I spend my weeks with you. How many will be invested wisely? How many will be spent too frivolously? How many will I wish I could take back or exchange because of regrets I will have? How many will purchase more than I bargained for? One thing is for sure, they will all be spent, because we can’t save time or spend it more slowly, no matter how much we try.

I wanted to start these jars off before you were born, but I didn’t get around to until until your 32nd week. As I counted out the first 32 pennies to put in the “spent” jar and reflected on them through the day, I also looked back at the journal pages I have kept for you, the photos I have taken of you, and the milestones I have tracked. Many of the weeks have been invested wisely, and some I know I can’t even remember as they are blur of time mixed in exhaustion and frustrations. Some days the fraction of a penny I feel have been lost in the cracks, while others have purchased a a million dollars of memories.

May these jars remind me how time is fleeting, and how my time has been invested. Each penny spent will shape you and the rest of your life. My spending habits of these weeks will forever leave an impression on you.

God, help me spend them wisely.

Music in my heart

Before 2010 the hobby that I spent the most time on was music. I’d played instruments starting when I was 5 years old and always loved to sing. When I was 7 or 8 years old I started writing my own music on piano. I went to a music club with other music writers where I was the youngest one in the room. I grew and played in band, took lessons on several instruments, sang in different choirs, etc, jammed with friends, and couldn’t fall asleep without playing piano into my mid-twenties. I had always felt like music was my one talent or gift and that I had to use it, but never felt like i quite fit in anywhere musically.

In about 2010 my life started changing and during that change I explored other hobbies that I’d wanted to do for a long time but had always been discouraged from, mainly running. Without getting into details, running changed my life because it gave me a courage and a boldness that I had never had before because I’d felt shackled to one idea of who I had to be for so long. I had never been allowed to be ALL of who I felt I was supposed to be because of how I was raised. When my life didn’t feel right or go how others had planned for me, I felt like a failure until I started running and actually believing in myself. It was the first time in my life that I did something without the support from anyone who I loved, despite their discouragement, and for me because “I” wanted to do something instead of letting somebody else tell me what I had to do. It taught me so much. During that phase, and after, my family changed so much from what it had been just years before as I began to see the dysfunction and dealt with those ramifications.

All of this to say, I had missed music SO MUCH. Even though I had still been playing music on different instruments and singing over the last eight years, I felt like a part of me had been shut off. I could no longer write music, no matter how long I sat at the piano. There was a disconnect.

However, over the last year or so, I felt a yearning and a change in my spirit as areas of my life that had been broken began to heal. I had prayed that someday I would be able to write music again, or just enjoy sitting at the piano like I used to for hours. To have piano as an outlet again and write new songs instead of just playing covers or old songs. Until recently I hadn’t even had enough time in the day to even try to play, but starting with Nora sitting on my lap and letting her press the keys and play on it while I was playing old songs I used to play, I began to fall in love with my piano again.

Six days ago, I felt like I was supposed to just sit at it and start playing and to my surprise, a new song was born. Since then, in probably a total of 2 hours, I have pieces of 8 different songs that have just been pouring out of me onto the keys.

I’m writing this because it has been an answer to prayer, and another sign to me of healing in my life. I’ve been in the pit often over the last several years, places that were unfamiliar and new and scary and isolating. Before I got pregnant and during my pregnancy, several people who didn’t even know me or know that I was pregnant spoke things over me the few times that I went to church that confirmed what I had been hearing God tell me. God was using my child to bring me closer to Him and to bring healing in areas of my life, and he would not only heal me, but give me a new purpose and identity.

I am now confident in who He has created me to be now and those things are not limited to one area to define me. I’m not confident because of something I was able to do, but in the new peace I have in my life despite the chaos. I don’t know what the next months or years hold, what direction I will take, what challenges and blessings lie in front of me, or what hobbies or talents I will forget or find. I am confident, though, of His faithfulness through all seasons, and this season I am basking in His love shown to me largely through my daughter, the gift of being a treasured wife, being able to create and use my imagination, and for having music to write again. One thing that will never change is that I am a child of the King of Kings, despite all my flaws and shortcomings, and I pray that I am able to use this to bring honor to Him.

He can make all things new.

Squishy Twinkletoes Part Two

My real life Elf on the Shelf adventures continue…check out part one Here

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #16

I’ve baked up pastries using yeast

With my apron and chef’s hat on.

Now I’ll cook you a tasty feast

Like boeuf ragoûts or bourguignon

Day 17

They say that dogs are man’s best friend

But why?! I just can’t see.

They set me up and then pretend

The victim’s THEM, not ME!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #18

I’ve been hard at work for weeks

Trying to perfect this seat.

A gift for baby I’ll bestow

wrapped in nothing but a bow.

I’ve made it sturdy all from wood;

I can finally call it good.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #19

I usually don’t watch chick flicks

so please don’t ask me why

I’m watching one all by myself;

I must need a good cry .

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #20

I prefer to use a sewing machine

over a needle and thread.

It gives me time to get more done

and even to rest my head!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #21

Baby has some special things her mama can’t forget

Like a doll from childhood and a china tea set.

Since baby can’t yet play with them she’s sharing them with me,

But please just pour me eggnog instead of the hot tea.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 22

Christmas Day is coming and there’s plenty to get done;

I’ve been counting down the days on my fingers and my thumbs.

The wrapping paper, bows, and tape have all been scattered ’round,

Just a few more days now until Santa comes to town!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day #23

The boys were all in on the Flop;

One thought the Turn would help her

but they don’t play like the top dogs-

Their loss the River insured!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 24

Come now, babies, rest your heads

snuggled in the baby’s bed.

I’ve tucked you in all nice and tight

to read about that special night.

A baby born to show us love

sent from heaven up above.

The shepherds and the wise men knew

’cause angels told them as they flew

near a bright star in the sky.

For Christmas, He’s the reason why.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 25

Of all the Christmas music mama has

she most loves this piano book filled with jazz.

From “Deck the Halls” to “Silent Night”

I’m learning how to play them right.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 26

A few more days ’til I must go

Back to where there is lots of snow.

Gifts laying around

that make lots of sound

How to play- I don’t really know!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 27

I dabble in this and I dabble in that.

The pastels go “swoosh” and paints, they go “splat”.

I don’t know which medium I like best for art

so trying them all is a good place to start.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day28

Reindeer are a lot like elves in what they like to eat.

They’d rather pass on salads and go straight for the sweets.

But with a trip about to start that takes me back up north

The proteins found in dog food will surely have some worth.

A dose of healthy food disguised will help trim up this breed

and whip him in to shape to fly; my nimble, sprightly, steed.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 29

I love my elf clothes in red and green and wear them everyday,

but sometimes it’s fun to change it up;

it’s fun to try an array.

From makeup and dresses, to heels and hats, it’s fun to try a new look.

But I’ll soon be a good elf again and give back all that I took.

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 30

I need to do more exercise since I ate a lot of pies.

I can’t yet lift the heavy weight, so check back at a later date.

They say practice will make me strong-

That’s if I’m not doing it wrong!

Squishy Twinkletoes Day 31😭

The festive Christmas month much too quickly passed

My journey back to Santa went pretty fast

My time with you was swell

I must now bid farewell

The memories we made will forever last

es may have teared up the day I put her in the exercise pose when I got her in and out of her elf outfit for the last time! Such sweet memories with her that I will always cherish.

My real-life Elf on the Shelf

I vowed to not over-commit myself this holiday season as usual and to not spend all of my time the usual way I spend December-making 30+ treats to take or send everywhere and to everyone- but to spend it with Nora instead.

That’s where this idea was born! A fun, festive way to make memories with my favorite girl while also creating a special project for her to look back on of her 1st Christmas. It gave me a way to still create things for Christmas, with it all revolving around Nora. She seems to be having fun with it!

Day #1

My name is Squishy Twinkletoes

I came from the north one of the Poles

I’m feeling jolly

And full of folly

I have fun wherever I go


 Day #2

“Traveling is fun for me
I do it every year
I’ve been all around the world
But it’s my first Christmas here”


Day #3

 Squishy Twinkletoes can’t play the guitar *yet* but that doesn’t stop her from banging around and strumming some Christmas tunes for us!
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loudly for all to hear!”


Day #4

Cutting up paper
Getting glue all over me
Cards to bring good cheer


Day #5

Elf on the Shelf #5 Squishy Twinkletoes was caught red-handed playing with Nora’s toys but she has no shame!

“All good elves work hard all day
But they still have time for play!”


Day #6

Squishy Twinkletoes likes to keep her mind sharp by doing some puzzles in her down time.

Half of my beauty is my brain
I play to learn so I will gain!


Day #7

I didn’t do it!! Don’t blame me!
I’m only admiring this Christmas tree! 


Day #8

It’s fun to joke and it’s fun to draw
I hope this isn’t against the law!
For if it is I will pay the price
Because I don’t play very nice!


Day #9

Wool, wood, brick, grain, and ore
Roll the dice to collect some more
I have resources to trade
Although, honestly, I’m afraid
That if you look away my cards may double
Although I try to stay out of trouble!


Day #10

I like to sip on a nice glass of wine, which, just like me, is better with time.



Many festive things to do
before Christmas Eve
Every day it’s something new
until I have to leave


Day #12

I like to do such naughty things
but disapproving looks they bring.
If only I could figure out
a way to carry lots of clout
for blaming all my stunts on pets,
my guilt the humans may forget! 


Day #13

My favorite things to taste are sweet
In any shape or form;
The taste of sugar can’t be beat,
I always ask for more!


Day #14

Why are you looking at me like that?

I’m only an Elf on the Shelf!

I couldn’t have possibly cut her hair;

She must have done it herself!

Day #15

Sprinkles, frosting, sugar, and more

all over the cookies, table, and floor!

Just can’t decide if this tasty treat

is more fun to decorate or to eat!

That’s what Squishy Twinkletoes has been up to so far! Stay tuned to see what other mischief she gets into!


Click HERE for Part Two



Nursing a sock monkey


My friend, Sannetta, captured this photo at our harvest bonfire party while I was nursing Nora.

When I was a little girl I had a sock monkey that I played with more than my doll. I loved that sock monkey and carried it around, put it in the toy baby crib, rocked it, and even “nursed” it. It was a well-known fact in my family how much I loved my sock monkey and I even got called “monkey” a lot. One sister always tried to embarrass me by immediately telling any friend or a boyfriend for 20 years that “Maranda used to nurse her sock monkey” like something a kid does that is sweet and innocent between the ages of 3-5 is something to be embarrassed about. This year I have my real life sock monkey who I get to nurse! I had to fight for me. I had to fight for her. And I had to fight to be able to nurse. But every wonderful dream of being a mother that I had doesn’t compare to the joy I have or the thankfulness that is in my heart now. This will always be one of my favorite photos. 


Funny how life comes full circle.

Our costumes were “Nora’s Toy Box” this year. Ken and I met at a costume party, and I’ve LOVED dressing up and making costumes, so it was a fun year to do this for Nora’s 1st costume party. Everyone who knows me knows how much I’ve loved sock monkey my whole life, and they’ve always been a gift I receive. Raggedy Ann and Andy were a large part of my childhood, as well. My friend Sannetta had made a sock monkey costume for  her son when he was little, and she was sweet enough to let us borrow it so I didn’t have to make one! Ken was  good sport about dressing up as a doll, I convinced him by saying, “Nora only has her 1st costume party once!”


He sure does love that little girl!