middle tennessee family adventures (+ photographer!) »

When we were starting the adoption process 2.5 years ago, a fellow adoptive mama gave us advice that turned out to be THE BEST advice for us: Choose one BIG fundraiser. Go all out with it. Then you can supplement with smaller fundraisers, if needed.

After throwing around a few ideas, we felt we could make a t-shirt fundraiser huge. With the help of friends and family, here is what we did to sell over 350 shirts for our fundraiser (plus over $2500 in donations in the same time frame).

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*Note: You’ll read some things that may sound “business-y” to you, but know that the heart behind your fundraiser is what matters. Making smart business and marketing choices in the process is so, so important.

  • We found a designer. A legit, knows-what-he-is-doing designer. For us, that’s my brother-in-law, and he delivered exactly the design we envisioned together.
  • Per his recommendation, we chose a WORD (can be a graphic, phrase, idea) to work around. Our word, “Fight,” referenced Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
  • We made it relatable. Instead of making this word completely about our fight, we wanted it to be about the place that anyone might be in. We wanted them to grab this shirt when they needed it. Or to look down and realize they did grab it on a day they didn’t know they would need the reminder of the Lord’s fight for them. This couldn’t just be about us.
  • We chose to make the shirts as trendy as possible – something a male or female could wear. Something a female could wear with gym shorts or with a statement necklace + jeans.
  • We also gave into our designer’s expensive taste in t-shirts and went with a shirt that is SUPER, INSANELY, BUTTERY SOFT. Why does this matter? For one, people want soft shirts. Second, people will come back and buy multiples. (Tultex 0241 was our choice!)
  • We did not include our names on the shirts. While we know it’s so fun to include because it makes it personal, we wanted to remember that these shirts were meant to be about the person wearing them. Not us. (I don’t know about you guys, but I also prefer adoption tees that don’t have names on them.)
  • We found an incredible printing company – GOA Merchandising. Back in 2015, they only charged about $5.50 each at a quantity of 100 for those super, insanely, buttery soft tees. (I’m sure it hasn’t increased much since.) Ask for Andy + be sure to mention our names! Sidenote: Once we submitted our order, they printed the tees and had them on our doorstep in 8 business days.
  • We chose to forego having inventory and, instead, went with a preorder method. This not only let us know EXACTLY what we needed, but it also allowed us to collect money FIRST so we weren’t “out” until shirts orders came in. Make sense?
  • We set up an online ordering site through square.com. It was completely free + easy to navigate on the backend. (Free with the exception of merchant fees for credit cards, but they weren’t higher than anywhere else.)
  • We set up a donations option on the website. Some people don’t want tees but want to help! Let them!
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  • We opened preordering for a limited time. 3 weeks was the longest amount of time we opened it up for orders; 10 days was the shortest. (Keep in mind that most people won’t order until the last couple of days. Don’t get discouraged! This is normal!)
  • We were open to doing multiple preorders. We did it 3x in our first year and again in 2016. If you have people mentioning that they missed preorders, post on social media about potentially opening up again and ask for interest. This will help you gauge whether or not another round would be beneficial! (Because if you’re going with a company that gives price breaks with larger quantities, you want to make sure you can get to those price breaks.)
  • We gave a SHIPPING option and a PICKUP option. We charged a $4 flat rate + $1 per tee shipping rate. The pickup option must be simple for you. Don’t wear yourself out. Choose one location + mention upfront that you’ll send an email with the exact location once the shirts are in. (So if you are doing pickup in two different cities, list the cities on your ordering website so people can choose. That way you know who to send what details to post-packaging.)
  • We organized and packaged the orders ourselves. Before the box arrived, we wrote addresses on every single envelope for those to be shipped + names on envelopes for those to be picked up. Once the box arrived, we took advantage of every possible space in our living room to organize. We then worked together to fold the shirts, package them, put a thank-you note in (pre-printed but then signed), and seal. Sidenote: I took them to our local post office and used their little kiosk for postage. The people at the front can do it, but I didn’t want to hold up the line.
  • We offered youth, toddler and baby sizes. People loved these!
  • TALK ABOUT IT. TALK ABOUT IT. TALK ABOUT IT. Give countdowns as you get close to a preorder closing. Be vulnerable and honest about the road to adoption. Share lots of personal stuff in-between. Post pictures of your friends in their shirts. Ask your friends and family to share and talk about it. Tag your friends and family in pics. Share more and more and more of your story. Let people in. Let them be a part of what you’re doing.
  • PRAYER + PRAYER + PRAYER. We felt led to do a tshirt fundraiser. It wasn’t just a quick thought + impulse decision. We trusted the Lord + that He would provide for us whether it be through this fundraiser or some other route. We prayed for expectant moms + so many babies. For the expectant mom we would be matched with + the baby that would become ours. We prayed over the fundraiser + the shirts + the whole “Fight” idea. We stayed focused on making this about God’s glory + not ours. And I don’t write that to sound like we’re always great at that…because we are NOT. But we also knew that this adoption was what the Lord wanted for our family + when it came to the financial aspect, we felt so weak that we knew we needed Him. So whether you take any of our idea from above or you ignore them all, make it about Jesus, friends!

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Because we opted out of a t-shirt fundraising website, we maximized our profits. We charged $25 per tee (remember they were only $5.50 + tax at our cost). It took extra work, but we had time for that. If you’re not sure you do, this is when you recruit friends and family to help. Those who aren’t able to help financially would be more than willing to help you do this!

If you have extra advice for making an adoption t-shirt fundraiser a great one, leave a comment below for our friends to read. Sharing the love is the best way to walk the adoption journey, am I right?!

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I woke up this morning and I heard the news.
I know the pain of a heartbreak.
I don’t have answers and neither do you.
I know the pain of a heartbreak.

This isn’t easy. This isn’t clear. And you don’t need Jesus til you’re here.
The confusion and the doubts you had up and walk away.
They walk away when a heart breaks.

I heard the doctor but what did he say. I knew I was fine about this time yesterday.
Well I don’t need answers. Well I just need some peace.
I just need someone who could help me get some sleep.
Who could help me get some sleep.

I’ve heard this song over and over.
It was so beautiful to my ears each and every time that I wanted to use it for a Celebrating Life video.
But then I heard the lyrics and knew it just didn’t match.

Never did I know it would help me tell our very own Celebrating Life story.
It still shouldn’t match. But this time, it does.

Unfortunately this story won’t be accompanied by a video or pictures of us celebrating the first breath of our child.
But it is still a story that celebrates our first baby.
It’s a story that was written long ago…one pieced together by our Creator.
It is a story of a person whom I never met but whom I miss so much.

——————————————–

**originally written 10/15/16**

Maren was the first baby on our hearts + Finley was the first baby in our arms. Yet neither of them were actually our first Whitkid. 

Nearly 2.5 years ago – on May 21, 2014 – I visited the OBGYN for a routine ultrasound. I had just begun seeing this new doctor a few weeks prior + he wanted to take a look at my polycystic ovaries himself. 

But before I tell you about that ultrasound, we should rewind a bit to touch on a few things. 

  1. Yes, I said polycystic ovaries. I have never mentioned it before because our story of getting to our kids isn’t a cut and dry infertility issue. We didn’t try and try and try to get pregnant as most people have assumed. We truly felt led to adopt first. Had I not known I had PCOS…sure, adoption may have come later. But adoption is such a big Plan A in our story. // In addition, I choose not to claim infertility because there are women who have hoped month after month that the Lord would open their wombs. Though I had similar feelings of easy pregnancy being taken away from me, I don’t know what incessantly trying feels like and I will not devalue their stories by claiming it.
  2. In the weeks leading up to the visit, I had terrible pain on my right ovary. I assumed it was a cyst larger than normal. Three different times, I was near going to the emergency room before taking Motrin, using a heating pad and lying down…when the pain subsided, I could only assume it was nothing serious.
  3. A couple of weeks before this was Mother’s Day. I felt a small sting in my heart that it wasn’t time for us to have kids but also felt relief that I was getting so much time with my husband. Little did I know…

The ultrasound tech called me back, and we chatted as we walked to the room + prepared to “take a look around.” Once the tech began, I let her know that I had some bad pain on my right if she would check that out as well. I followed it up with a joking “If there’s a baby in there, it’s news to me!” (You see where this is heading.) Bless that poor woman. She quickly stopped the chatter + barely spoke a word for the remainder of my ultrasound. 

I returned to the waiting room and sat next to the door where the nurse calls names. I’m always afraid I won’t hear my name if I’m too far away in this large, large waiting room, and I didn’t want that embarrassing moment where the nurse comes searching.

After a few minutes, I heard my name called from around the corner. I got up and heard it again. The women at the front desk were asking for me + there was a nurse there with them. She told me I needed to go down the hall to the lab so they could run some tests.

I knew this wasn’t normal.

This wasn’t how this goes.

But I convinced myself I was just being overanalytical. 

I proceeded to the lab + attempted to strike up conversation with the lab tech. As she poked me and drew blood, she didn’t say much. Midway through, I heard my name again. A nurse was sticking her head around a corner saying “Do you have Kate Whitmore? Make sure you get [some special vile of blood].”

It was then I stopped telling myself I was fine. I allowed myself to believe something was wrong. EVERY PERSON in this place is looking at my file. I am known. They’re all talking about me. 

I returned to the waiting room and opened my Bible Study app to Nehemiah. I tried to distract myself but focus was difficult.

I was soon called by the nurse through the doors I had previously sat near. Sweet Rhonda. She is usually talkative + silly. Today she said nothing. She walked me to the scale where she stopped and stared at it. “Do I need to step up on it?” She stumbled over her words as she answered yes. 

It’s not right.

Something is wrong.

She guided me into a room and asked me to sit on the table.

I waited in silence.

I prayed.

The Doctor walked in and Rhonda followed.

He stood at the end of the table facing me.  He then looked straight in my eyes + breathed 7 words that would change my life.

“I believe you have an ectopic pregnancy.”

Stunned.

I feel like I stared at him for a lifetime though I’m sure it was a matter of seconds.

In that time span, I remember every thought in the order it took place…

“I CAN get pregnant?”

“I AM pregnant.”

“I’m loosing this baby.”

It’s a lot to process so quickly.

Those are things that should be processed over years. For me, seconds.

My sobs were uncontrollable, and after a quick exam, I was left alone to compose myself. I put my clothes back on & sat in a chair facing the table where I had just received this awful news. 

My eyes looked up toward the clock high up on the wall but not really looking at it. And, through tears, words left my mouth that I’m not even sure were coming…

“Thank you.”

See, two years prior, I had this amazing woman counseling me. I’m not sure she knows how much she changed my everyday life and my walk with the Lord. At one point, she encouraged me to thank the Lord even when I don’t feel thankful. I thought it was dumb. So dumb. I tried it on the way home anyway + felt so silly. I didn’t know what I was doing.

But she was a smart woman and so I forced myself to continue over the next two weeks until I saw her again. And then I continued for days, weeks and months.

It transformed my thinking.

It made me trust the Lord in the smallest, hardest circumstances.

Which, in turn, made me FEEL thankful naturally.

I wasn’t thankful I lost a baby.

I wasn’t thankful I was alone.

I wasn’t thankful this was happening to me.

And yet I was.

Because I trust Him.

I trust that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. That they are for His glory.

And I want His glory before my own.

Thank you.

Those two small words set the stage for the following few months (and years). They were the hardest of my life as I frequently laid on the apartment floor – bedroom, bathroom, living room…wherever the grief hit me – sobbing for my baby. Asking God why I couldn’t just hold him. Hurting for the piece of me that was gone. Feeling guilty for not knowing I was pregnant for 9 weeks. Feeling guilty that I didn’t enjoy him better for the 3 hours I knew he existed before I was rolled into an OR to save my life. So much guilt.

But Jesus.

You can guess what He did with our hearts as less than 5 months later, we had decided to start the adoption process. 

We did love our time together as a married couple. But now we knew it was time for another Whitmore. We knew that feeling we had, the love we had for a child we never met…we wanted that again. We were meant to have that again.

The very next Mother’s Day, I was a mom of 3. THREE in one year. One pregnancy loss. One growing inside me. One growing in our hearts. 

And seeing what God can do in just 364 days, I can only say THANK YOU over and over again. 

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When my husband and I first decided to start the adoption process back in October of 2014, we had no idea where to start, what to do or what all the adoption language really meant. Lucky for us, I had just come across an adoptive momma on Instagram the previous month and was following her journey. As it turns out, she is an Adoption Consultant…and as a newbie to this world, I had to google what that meant as well. 😉 After some research we realized that hiring a consultant, specifically this wonderful one, would be perfect for us as we navigated these unchartered (for us) waters. Here’s why hiring an adoption consultant was one of the best decisions we made in this whole process…

1. She told us where to start, which, in our case, was completing the Home Study process. She sent us a list of Home Study agencies in our area and touched base throughout that process to make sure all was going well. I realize that sounds simple, but if you have never done “this whole adoption thing” before, you probably have zero clue where to begin. This was a lifesaver in itself.

2. She answered every question in every email we had in a way that made Enrique Iglesias’ “I CAN BE YOUR HERO, BABY!” cue in the background. Every. Single. Time. She never left a question unanswered or left room for new questions because she was so thorough.

3. She didn’t get mad when I said things like “Are we doing this right?” I’m sure she wanted to respond with “Yes, of course…because I’m your consultant.” But instead she just assured me that we were on the right track. Some days, it really feels like you’re missing something, like you misunderstood or like you screwed something up without your consultant knowing about it. I realize that’s silly, but I always appreciated her kindness and assuring me we were good.

4. She communicated with our agencies / attorneys on our behalf. This was incredible! We had heard of situations before where a profile would be shown and, if the families were not chosen, they didn’t receive notification and were left to assume that they didn’t get selected. Her exact words to me were “I will never let that happen.” And she really didn’t.

5. She developed relationships with other agencies / attorneys and would make sure to (without us even asking) talk to them specifically about us. This may or may not be common, but with our specifics that were more restrictive than others, she wanted to be sure we had as much exposure and as much opportunity as possible.

6. She kept us on track with what was next. Always. She didn’t give us a massive list and turn us loose. She gave us one thing at a time. I LOVED THAT! It kept us from getting overwhelmed and kept us from rushing through one item to get to the next. (You may think you’re the type who needs a long list of items…but in this process, it’s not a list you can just quickly check off. Each item is extensive so having one at a time gives you more room to breathe.)

7. She stayed in-the-know every time we had our profile shown. She made contact with us at least once a week (we had one situation in which our profile was with the birthmom for 6-7 weeks…rare!) just to see if we had any updates. She also stayed in contact with the attorney checking for updates. We loved that she was a part of every piece of this process.

8. She encouraged us to do things that we wouldn’t have known to do otherwise. For example, “you need to write a letter to this birthmom specifically to go with the profile.” We would have never even know that was ‘a thing’ if it weren’t for her.

9. She was always praying for us and setting an example of praying for each birthmother as well. Her heart was involved in all of this, and that just says a lot about her and the consulting agency she is a part of.

10. She celebrated our match and our placement with us. Everyone does this, I know. But she was the only person who was walking this with us from the very beginning to the very end. She knew every heartache we had, how hard the wait was, every bump we encountered. To have someone walking every step with you is such an important part of the “support” needed throughout the adoption process, and she gave us that love and support 10x over.

Her title should actually be GIFT FROM GOD. We had no doubt that this was the right route for us, and after actually experiencing it, we can’t imagine having gone through this process without a consultant (Casey, specifically). For those who are interested, Casey Zaruba is a part of Christian Adoption Consultants. They have many wonderful ladies working with them, and I’ve heard nothing but incredible things about them all.

Having an adoption consultant was the best first decision we made in this entire process.

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From hearing about Mama C to matching to paperwork to PACKING A BABY BAG (whaaaaaat?!), this week has been quite eventful. And in between all of that, we’ve still had plenty of time to snuggle our extra-snuggly-this-week girl, which is completely a blessing from God since I immediately started mourning our little time we have left with just her.

Okay, okay…on to the things you’re wanting to know…

BABY DETAILS

Baby is due early July so we are in the “any day now” stage.
We don’t know the gender!
We do not have a girl’s name picked out. And I don’t even think we’re close to picking one.
Mama C will deliver in Texas.
The Whitkids will be ~9 months apart.

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP US

Pray for Mama C.
For her heart in the days leading up to the baby’s birth and in the weeks following. For emotional support from friends and family. That when we finally get to meet her, that the Lord will bless that conversation. For a quick and healthy labor, delivery and recovery.

Pray for a safe delivery for baby.

Pray for our attachment and connection
in the baby’s first days of life.

You can donate!
After all fees, we are looking at a $40,000 adoption + travel fees. This is higher than we were expecting. But because God goes before us, we were able to pull funds through a loan and combine it with what we had raised (with very little left over in our account…crazy how He can “cut it so close”) to send a check to the agency. Everything is technically paid for. However, when we factor in the adoption tax credit and limited reimbursement from Brett’s employer, we will be in personal debt $10,000-$15,000. We believe the Lord will provide this – whether it is through donations or whether it is through blessing us later. Either way, He is not going to let us struggle financially through something He clearly called us to. We know that. But if you feel that you are being called to donate, we would be so very grateful. You can donate through the Fight website. (Email me if you’d prefer to mail us a check.)

Baby Things.
We do lack some items needed for Whitkid #2 – the most pressing items are the car seat and an Ergo (when I’m alone with these babes, I’ll need a way to carry them both so we need this to put Fins on my back). They are on our registry!

 

Those are the details for now. There are so many pieces of this story we can’t wait to share…some that we are still finding out and just in amazement of the way God works. But right now, our brains are mush trying to process all of this. Once I figure out the best way to share all the pieces in several blog posts, I’ll let you know. 😉

Thank you over & over again for loving us!

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Huge THANK YOU to Hayley Collins for being present to document this dayso beautifully for us! Video is at the bottom, if you want to skip the lengthy written story. 🙂 And please be sure to visit her website to comment and let her know how wonderful she is!

Can we be honest together here for a second? I mean…that’s pretty much the basis of all of these posts, right?
There was a long period of time where I was unsure whether I even desired to be pregnant. I was almost positive that pregnancy wasn’t for me. I loved the miracle of birth but wasn’t convinced it would ever be a part of our story. So when we had an unexpected positive pregnancy test back in February, I’ll never forget the joy that filled that little bathroom. I had never cried so hard from pure joy. Joy that came from a desire so very deep that I didn’t know it existed at all.

Through my pregnancy, I feared labor & delivery. Greatly. I was in tears more than I care to admit over the whole process. Each aspect terrified me to the point where I often wished it would just happen so I didn’t have to think about it anymore.

But when it did happen…
As many times as I’ve been present during a birth, I never knew it felt quite like this on the other side.
As many times as I’ve stated it to be a powerful, spiritual experience, I never knew how much the Holy Spirit made His presence known in that room.
As many times as I said I didn’t want this, it was in that room awaiting my daughter’s arrival that I realized I wanted it so bad. Still wrapped in fear, I wanted this day and this moment.
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**every decision we made regarding Finley’s birth was based on what was best for us. we believe every experience is different and requires different choices.**

 

On the morning of Sunday, September 27th, Brett and I were leaving the apartment for church. In a very unusual manner, I practically hopped, skipped, and bounced down the two flights of stairs. Typically I take one step at a time verrrry slowly. The belly can only handle so much. But this morning, Brett noticed a difference and commented on my energy. I jokingly said, “Ya know, I’ve heard that some women get a final boost of energy just before the go into labor.” I giggled. There was no way I was going into labor soon.

We enjoyed church, our afternoon & then had dinner with Brett’s parents. Upon returning home, I started experiencing terrible, sharp lower back pain. No position would relieve it and by the end of two hours of consistent pain, I was on the verge of tears. But then contractions started. In true Kate fashion – as they had been my entire pregnancy – contractions came sporadically and were not painful. We counted them anyway. After another couple of hours (now 11pm or so), they were coming 3-5 minutes apart but still…no pain. I imagined these were just the same contractions I had been feeling for awhile and not actual labor. I talked to my doctor anyway, and he said he couldn’t conclude anything without checking me for dilation. We still weren’t sure this was real labor so in an effort to avoid being the crazy parents-to-be at the hospital, we stayed home. Within that next hour contractions picked up in strength, and I could no longer speak through them. Brett packed our things and made the decision that we were going to the hospital. (I still tried to stay home because I’m stubborn.)

We arrived to the hospital and were put in a triage room at about 1:00am. I was checked for dilation. Still 3cm & 60% effaced – the same as the week before at the doctor. The nurses were sure I was in labor but needed time to monitor me so they gave me some medicine to help me relax so I could sleep. We imagined a long day was ahead and rest was what I needed.

I was checked through the night with no change. None. Nada. Zilch.
When shift change came around, even the nurses were surprised with no change. In addition, my contractions were no longer hurting & they were incredibly inconsistent.

This was not the day. We just knew we would be going home.

But then….

The next on-call doctor came to check me before discharging me. And then he said my favorite words of that entire morning.
“You’re 4cm and 80% effaced. You’re in labor!”

I remember looking at Brett as tears filled my eyes. Though we had been through so much and we knew that pregnancy ended in a baby, we couldn’t believe the day was here.

I was transferred to a labor & delivery room at 8:30a,m, and we began calling our family & close friends to let them know there would be a Whitkid joining us (hopefully) that day. For the next couple of hours, the contractions would come and go, but there was still very little consistency. It wasn’t until 10:30am that they started pitocin to help me along. They started slow with it, and to be honest, I don’t remember a drastic change in contractions.

But then…

The doctor returned at 11:30am to break my water. I was still 4cm when he did so, and he let me know that I would start feeling something more within a half hour. Just after he finished, I looked at him and the nurse and said, “Okay so a half hour, right?” The nurse gave me a side eye of sorts letting me know that this was about to get real VERY quick.

And, oh, how on point that side eye was.

Within two minutes, I went from a 0 to 10 on the pain scale.
And this was where the real part of this birth story began.

See, everything I’ve mentioned so far? They’re details. They’re fun details. But just details. From 11:30am to 3:01pm when we met our girl, I experienced intimacy with my husband that I couldn’t ever have expected. With every birth story I’ve ever shot, I love to mention that it’s just as much (if not more) about the marriage between two people as it is about a baby entering the world. Our story was no exception.

From that very first sudden contraction, my eyes shut. I looked right at the back of my eyelids for the next 60 seconds as I heard Brett’s voice whispering in my ear. I could practically feel his breath on my face. “Breathe. Breathe harder. Deep breaths. Blow it all the way out.” I don’t know how he knew what to do. I never know how he possibly knows me better than I know myself. But he did and he does.

Once the contraction ended, my eyes quickly went to the clock that sat right in front of me. 11:33. Got it. And then I stared at it waiting on the next contraction. Four minutes passed and then there it was.

“Breathe. Deep breaths. You’ve got this. Good.”

After the second contraction, I sent Brett to the nurses counter to ensure that my epidural had been ordered. “But are you positive she actually ordered it already? Or do we have to wait for this bag of fluid and THEN she’ll order it? I need to know. You need to go ask.” I knew in the moment it was funny & it’s even funnier now.

I made him hurry & he returned before the next contraction. After that one, he needed to go to the restroom. I told him he better hurry, knowing good and well that in four minutes, another contraction was coming.

Nope. One minute.
There I was handling a contraction on my own, breathing loud enough that he could hear me from the bathroom. Still looking at pure darkness, I could hear the bathroom door swing open and he was by my side as I finished the contraction.

Over and over.
This is what we did.
And every now and then, we’d look up at the bag of fluid seeing how much had dripped.
DRIP FASTER, I thought.
(Our sweet nurse, Alisa, even came and placed my hand perfectly so that it would move things along. Bless that woman.)

For one full hour, the contractions attacked suddenly and then faded out.
For one full hour, I heard my husband’s words in my ear cheering my on, coaching me, getting me closer to this baby we couldn’t wait to meet.
For one full hour, I breathed through each and every painful contraction.

At the end of that hour, the bag had dripped.
I was checked & I was more than 6cm.
2.5ish cm in an hour. Good.
And then the epidural. Even better. 😉

Sidenote: I had been in tears over natural vs. epidural for months. It was not an easy decision for me but just two days prior, I realized that the idea of natural labor left me in a place of stress. That was not what this birth experience should be. It should leave me in a place that leaves me SURE. For me, that meant an epidural.

During the epidural, I sat up on the bed and leaned against Brett’s chest for support. I remember feeling the side of his body as my right hand wrapped around it and as a contraction would come, I would squeeze a little tighter. Three contractions later, the epidural was in and I was laying on my back again.

But very quickly, there were other voices in the room. My nurse told me she was inserting something that I couldn’t understand at the time, but I knew it was urgent. Then I heard another nurse wanting to flip me on my side, and my nurse telling her she had to get the catheter in (which, she later told me, was quite possibly the fastest she had ever done it). Within seconds, I was on my side and a new nurse was looking at me saying, “How are you right now?”

My response? “You’re all making me pretty nervous right now.”

I knew the baby’s heartrate had dropped. Just weeks prior, my cousin had a baby and the same thing happened to her several times. I had heard every little detail of that story knowing just how scary a drop in heartrate could be.

Thankfully baby’s heartrate came right back up & I was flipped to my back again to wait for the epidural to kick in.
Yes, I said WAIT.
My body was moving so quickly (as the nurse said, “Your cervix is melting away!”) that my epidural took 20-30 minutes to catch up to me. The sweet anesthesiologist even came back to give me a little extra umph behind it. (We were best friends for the half hour.)

At 2:00 – approximately 1.5 hours after the epidural – the nurse checked me and said something I didn’t expect to hear for hours.
“You’re complete.”
Again I looked at Brett in disbelief. This was it! This was REALLY it! It’s funny how every part of the day leads up to this moment. But when you’re ready for that moment, it’s as if it was the most incredible surprise. That suspense is more beautiful than any I’ve ever experienced.

Within minutes, they were set up and ready.
One piece of the story that I didn’t recall until several days later was that Alisa looked at me and said, “Okay, do you know what we’re going to do now?” Being a birth photographer and having just shot one the week prior at the same hospital, I responded: “I’m going to push three times on every contraction and then I’m going to wait for the next contraction. Someone is going to count to 10 on each push for me and I’m going to hold my breath and push in my butt and not in my face.”

“Okay, great! Let’s do it!”

I pushed for about 45 minutes on each contraction until the moment when Alisa held up her hand and made me stop. I had apparently gotten pretty good at this pushing thing by that point and moved things along a little quicker. She called the doctor, and we waited for him to come from his office. He arrived within 10 minutes and I started pushing again. 6 pushes later, I knew she was almost there. Waiting on the next contraction felt like an eternity and just before it hit, Alisa said “You have one more push!”

And on that push, life changed.

The doctor raised up our baby’s tiny little body toward Brett. From my right side, he leaned in a little closer so that he could see whether we were welcoming a son or a daughter.

Once he saw it, he looked at me with slight tears and joyous laughter in his voice, “It’s a girl!”

That moment. Forever, I will remember that moment. She was placed on my chest, and I could only look at wonder from her and then at Brett’s eyes and back again.

I honestly skipped a lot of details from the day because I just don’t remember them.
But those minutes before and after her birth, I remember so clearly. What a gift that is!
Even so, I’m ever so thankful that Hayley was in our room. The whole day. She snuck around her room, at times making me completely forget she was there at all. And for the details I can’t remember, there is THIS. For the details I do remember, there is THIS. We get to share this with Finley one day, and I hope, above all else, that she sees how much Brett & I love each other. I hope that forever actually. In every day that we live.

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