Monday, January 21, 2013

Violet's Birth Story: A Christmas Eve Miracle

I woke up on Christmas Eve without one sign of labor. I had been having minor contractions on and off for a few days, so I knew I would be delivering within a week's time. But I had no idea it would be that day. 

It felt like an unusually long morning and it was only 8:30. Burke was overly mischievous that morning and I wondered what we'd do all day until our Christmas Eve church service that evening. And then I had my first contraction. And I knew.

But we had some last minute Christmas errands to run. And I needed to wait it out. Labor at home. Or at the store. Each contraction would stop me in my tracks and I would pretend to fixate on whatever ordinary object was in front of me while I silently breathed through the pain. I hoped no one noticed and yet really didn't care if they did. 

I laid Burke down for his nap. I ate a nice lunch. It would be my last meal before delivering. And I wasn't sure how long that would take. 

I had done this before and yet I was nervous. Nervous that they'd send me home. Were my contractions really strong enough? Consistent enough? I didn't have time or energy to time them. I'm a woman of estimation. Precision isn't my thing, really. But I also have a pretty high threshold for pain--and these contractions hurt. But it was 9 days early. Thankfully, they let me stay. I was already 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Around 1:30 pm I was admitted.

Was I getting an epidural, they wanted to know. I didn't want one. I wanted to do this naturally. I wanted to be a real woman. {Because somehow, somewhere my perception of a real woman told me that she would be able to do it all. All. By. Herself. And without any anesthesia.} But since I had a c-section last time, if anything went wrong, they'd have to knock me out cold. General anesthesia. 

I knew the unpredictability of labor and delivery far too well. I knew that no matter my best intentions and my deepest wishes, the outcome wasn't in my hands. But I could control whether I was awake to meet my baby. 

So I got an epidural. And it was okay. I was okay. My child wouldn't judge my decision. My husband already thought I was amazing. And he only wanted me to be comfortable. To be okay. And so, instead of believing I wasn't a real woman--that somehow I failed--I simply began to change my perception.

{Pregnancy and childbirth must be so hard on a man whose inner instinct is to fix things. To be stripped of the ability to act on his instinct and helplessly watch his wife endure the pain must be utterly frightening.}

By 3:30-4 o'clock, I was fully dilated. My midwife broke my water and sat me up to allow gravity to make final preparations for delivery. 

Although I had an epidural, I was ready to push. I could feel the pressure of each contraction. It was time.

Pushing was hard. I realized the next day, when my entire back was sore, that I used nearly every muscle in my body to push the baby out. A realization I couldn't quite immediately grasp under the effect of anesthesia. 

Thankfully, I only had to push for 12 minutes. 

And she was born. At 5:05 pm. Our girl. Our Violet Laine. And the huge sigh of emptiness on my inside was replaced with a crying, warm, writhing body on my chest. She was completely purple from coming so fast. And she was beautiful. And my heart was overwhelmed. And it was complete.

Joy. Relief. Love. Disbelief. Satisfaction. Curiosity. Peace. Gratitude. Happiness. 

God was so good. So incredibly good. Violet's birth was the most amazing gift I could have received. It redeemed my birthing experience. It was my Christmas Eve miracle. 

I had the most loving, kind and attentive nursing staff imaginable. And to them, I'll be forever grateful that they left their families at home and missed watching their babies sing at church on a snowy Christmas Eve night so that they could care for me. The nurse that checked me in and cared for me first was the same exact nurse who did the very same thing for me when Burke was born. Neither time was she there for the delivery, and this time, she visited us the following day so that she could meet our sweet girl. 

And I was so extremely thankful to have an amazing midwife assist the resident doctor in delivering Violet. She was so calm, gentle, encouraging. She kept me from tearing. And she greeted me with a hug the next day and told me how amazing I was. And the resident doctor who delivered Violet was a familiar face as well. I remembered her as the doctor who assisted in stitching my incision after my c-section with Burke. And during my hospital stay with Burke, each time she followed up with me, she was always so gentle, patient and kind. I felt confident and calm knowing that she was delivering my baby this time.  

Six pounds. Fourteen ounces. Nineteen and one-half inches long. My baby girl. My Christmas Eve miracle. We are so blessed.

I am so thankful to our friend, Ken Bruggeman, for these amazing photos. Click here to see Violet's birth story as told by Ken. It's perfect. His detail shots set the stage, narrate the tale and conclude the story in the most beautiful way. {I love the snow-covered conclusion!} The action photos take me back to those moments, but from his perspective. And I love seeing the story that he saw. I love that he captured the joy, laughter, pain, resting, anticipation, relief, calm and strength of the story. And I love that he tastefully captured the most intimate moment a mother shares with her baby. In those moments, when I am nursing my baby, we are so intimately connected and nothing else matters.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Meet Violet

Christmas came a day early for our family this year. At 5:05pm on Christmas Eve, we welcomed Baby #2--a sweet and completely purple baby girl. As soon as we saw that beautiful purple face we knew. Her name is Violet Laine Phillips!
 We are partial to family names when possible. So Violet inherited her first name from my great grandmother, Dorothy Violet. My great grandma was the closest thing to a saint on this earth--in addition to her own 3 children, she cared for more than 70 foster babies in her 92 years. Born in Arizona when it was still just a territory, my great grandma never lost her love for all things western, and glamorized the side braid until the day she died. She was beautiful and thoughtful and I'm honored to have the privilege to name my sweet girl after her. Violet's middle name is inherited from my Nana, Elaine. We had a hard time coming up with the perfect middle name for our baby girl and while Violet Elaine sounded nice, we weren't so crazy about the E. So, one night, about a week before her arrival, my hubby asked what I thought of Violet Laine if we ended up having a little girl. Immediately, I loved it. And I loved that Violet would be named after not just one, but two beautiful and inspiring women. My Nana passed away a year ago in December and I will always remember how gracefully she left this earth. She was beautiful and peaceful in the midst of a painful physical battle and courageous and excited to dance with her groom.
wrapped in my mom's wedding veil
Our girl is amazingly laid back {I suppose she wore herself out after 9 tumultuous months in my womb--the girl was seriously violent at times!} and wants only to sleep and eat. She is not demanding and sleeps well at night. {We are thankful because with Burke, we had serious bedtime anxiety well into the first two months.} She rarely cries, but when she does she's suddenly all sorts of drama. It's pretty funny, actually.
It's hard to believe she's already yet only two weeks old. On one hand, it feels like the past two weeks have blurred by us and I'm afraid to blink because I might find that she's already heading out the door to kindergarten. But on the other hand, she has fit so perfectly into our family that it feels like she's just been here forever. It was mostly a seamless transition.

And her big brother is head-over-heels in love with his sissy--his Vi Vi {except after waking up a bit grumpy from a nap that was far too short}. He calls out her name upon waking in the morning and insists on kissing her many times a day. He still sometimes tries to steal her pacifier and may or may not leave her with a battle wound, but he also gently pats her head and empathetically cries when she cries. He has assumed his new role of Helper without being asked. In fact, he downright throws a tantrum if I don't change her dirty diaper fast enough because he just can't wait to clap for himself after throwing it in the trash. I love that kid SOOO much! 
this photo makes my heart a mushy puddle of joy
 I am so grateful for all of the blessings of motherhood. That my heart can love two babies equally and yet separately and both so fiercely is a marvel. A real miracle. And that this love grows more and more each day leaves me speechless. At times, paralyzed. And mostly only excited about the future. Because each new day fills my heart with an even greater capacity to love, experience and steward these two gifts I have been given. 
{A BIG thanks once again to our amazingly talented friend, Ken Bruggeman, for these beautiful photos! I am so happy to remember our life through his perspective!}

Thursday, January 3, 2013


To a new year. A new chapter. New adventures. And a new life.

Our family was expected to grow by one today. But our sweet Violet Laine surprised us all and stormed into 2012 on Christmas Eve instead. We celebrated Christmas as a family of 4 {via Skype}!

My heart is full as I enter this new year. I am so thankful for all of our blessings in 2012 and look forward to growing, exploring, learning and loving more and more each day of 2013.

I hope you had a blessed Christmas and wish you the best in this new year!