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Harry’s Birth Story

The week before he arrived was a big one for our family.  Right before we found out we were pregnant, we had started the ball rolling on buying the home we have been living in for the past 6 years.  Little did we know how closely it would coincide with the birth of our 6th child!  So many huge changes, all within a week’s time.  Even though I was anxious to have this sweet baby, I was glad he decided not to come on the day we closed on the house.

Not a huge fan of due dates, I surprised myself about how disappointed I was when the 17th came and went with nary a contraction on the day.  His sweet little bed sat empty.  And we waited.2016-11-14-10-02-36
I decided to tackle “small” projects, like painting the kitchen white.  On Friday, I had some feelings of things starting to happen, so we got the kids squared away for a weekend at Grandma’s.  Matthew and I went down to the city and walked a LOT.  We got my engagement ring cleaned along jewelers row in Philly, and somehow knew it was the last date before baby was born.  Saturday and Sunday came and went and I was a heap of emotions on Monday when things still hadn’t started.

But then my water broke Monday morning.  I went the entire day without any contractions, but that night headed over to the birth center with Matthew to make sure baby was fine, since it had been 12 hours.  Chip was strong, there were no signs of distress or infection, so they gave me another 24 hours to see if labor would start.  I headed home with pretty strong contractions after she stripped my membranes, and my body was showing plenty of signs of being ready to start labor.  In hand, was a little brown bag with castor oil in it. If labor wasn’t in full swing by morning, I was going to give that a go.  Having never done any kind of induction, natural or not, I was really nervous.  But I was even more nervous about arriving at 36 hours of having my water broken with no signs of labor.  I slept uncomfortably, but woke up NOT in labor.  With a big sigh, I cracked open my paper bag and chugged the first dose of castor oil.  It is actually tasteless, and mixed in a little juice, went down the hatch pretty easily.  A couple of hours later, I took the second and final dose.  My stomach was already starting to protest.  The idea behind castor oil is that you will have enough bowel movements to stimulate the uterus into contracting, and hopefully kick it into gear.  By mid morning it seemed like this is what was happening, but my contractions were not painful or consistent.  Just annoying bouts that sent my hopes falling each time.2016-11-22-10-13-52
The Holy Spirit had prompted me to do two things on Tuesday morning: to play worship music all day and to text my good friend, Janice, and ask her if she was available to come over and do some CFT on me.  Craniosacral Fascia Therapy releases the fascia strain in one’s body, allowing it to relax and unwind.  Janice arrived mid morning and worked on me for a few hours.  We took a couple of walks around the neighborhood as well, and I tried not to be disappointed when I walked a whole mile and only experienced one contraction.

Matthew was home, but doing work and taking care of the children, who had all never been a part of mom being in labor before.  I decided to take a hot shower, and let the tears flow a bit, begging God to allow my body to relax and start the process of delivering this baby from my body.  Music constantly filled my ears and slayed many fearful thoughts.

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

When I got out of the shower, something had changed.  I came downstairs to find Matthew and talk to him.  He took one look at me, leaning on the table during a contraction and said, “It’s time we think about going.”  Nadine and Janice were washing dishes, and I started making sure we had everything we needed.  One moment that stands out in my mind is when Jack came over to me, looked at my face and said, “This is it, isn’t it?” I nodded and he burst into tears and hugged me so tightly.  I don’t think I realize even now how much patience and delayed hope they had each experienced in their own way the last few weeks.  Right before we left, everyone circled around me and prayed.  While walking with Janice, I had mentioned that I had always wanted to have a baby in the daytime, before the sun went down.  As everyone prayed, Janice boldly asked that this baby would be born with the sunshine.

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

We got in the van, and the entire way to the birth center, the sunshine was in my face as we drove towards the West.  It was like a kiss from God.  The intensity of the contractions picked up considerably as well.  We arrived around 4:30.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I was almost 5cm, which from my history doesn’t mean a whole lot, because once things picked up, I knew it could go pretty quickly.  Yet way back in my head I kept pulling out doubtful thoughts and laying them on the table.  Fears of the impossibility that lay ahead of me.  I did this already.  I remembered the pain now.  How would it be possible to do it again?  Nadine was in charge of music, and I told her to quickly turn it back on.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Half an hour later, I crawled into the tub at the birth center, and fought with two voices for the next hour.  One voice that tormented and taunted me and told me I couldn’t do this.  Then one Voice that always rose a little higher and held me up through the incredibly intense waves.  Janice was behind me, supporting my body as it moved to make room for delivery.  I knew this was happening, but still kept fighting the fears.

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

Matthew and my mom were perched in front of me, each holding my hands and encouraging me.  I wanted so badly to scream the words, “I CAN’T!” but the steady strength of my Father, played out through the hands of my mom, Matthew and Janice, kept the words from actually coming out of my mouth.  I knew the moment they did, everything would take longer.

The music had stopped and between contractions I told Nadine to start playing “Baby Chip’s Playlist”.  It started right up, and I knew one of the songs on there would be the right one in which for him to enter the world.

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

The all-too-familiar feeling of needing to push flooded over me like a wave.

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…

I remember calling out those words during a wave: I am a child of God.  Speaking truth over myself, which is one of the biggest things God has taught me this year.  This was the song that was playing when he came.

Yes, I am
I am a child of God
Full of faith
Yes, I am a child of God

There is a moment of time when a baby enters the world that is so holy, so indescribable, that I can’t even write about it.  When his sweet little body was brought up to my chest, I kept saying, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  This gift.  This son.  Longed and waited for, I felt like I had fought through so many battles to hold him at last.  It was 5:58pm.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

None of us know the answers to “what if” questions.  All I can say is, I know the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives in me.  He knew what I needed that day.  To be surrounded by songs of deliverance.  I know there was a fight, and I don’t know why it unfolded the way it did.  Harry was born with the cord wrapped around his neck three times, and there were two knots in the cord as well.  Once I was back on the bed and delivered the placenta, things kind of went into high-speed.  My body started to hemorrhage and I just remember wanting to take a nap.  Matthew’s voice in my face asking me if I was alright.  I felt just fine, only tired.  They gave me three medications to stop the bleeding.  It worked, and though I never felt fear, it was tiptoeing around the room, ready to pounce again.

Harry’s breathing was concerning to the midwives.  His little chest was retracting a bit, and I started having a fever.  Even though I was sure it was because of the medicine, because I tend to get every side effect possible, they were concerned enough to transfer us both to the hospital.  So it was a really rough transition, but ten minutes later, I found myself in one ambulance and Matthew and Harry were in the other.  The whole way to the hospital, I started to feel more and more like myself.  My fever was going down, and an hour later, was gone.  I said no thank you to an IV and to antibiotics, and waited for the doctor to see me.  He saw my bleeding was normal, my temperature was gone, and discharged me right away.  Then the NICU doctor came and told us they found a pneumothorax on Harry’s lung.  It was super small, and they were hopeful it would resolve itself.

After two unexpected days in the NICU, we were grateful for the news that Harry did not have any infection and the pneumothorax did indeed resolve itself.  It was the strangest and humanly very lonliest Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced.  Yet it was full of the peace and grace that can only be experience when you are a child of God.  Matthew brought me tons of food from the grocery store and my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner for my voracious appetite.

Again, we can never live in the land of “what if”, so even though the first couple of days were not in any way what I had imagined, it is what it was.

We are home now.  Harry Charles is two weeks old.
2016-11-26-09-36-22Processed with MOLDIV
His furrowed brow is lightening up a bit, and he’s opening his eyes to the world more and more each day.  We all absolutely love him.  He is named after Matthew’s Pop Pop who went to be with Jesus earlier this year.  He was a tall, handsome, incredibly loving man.  We think Harry already has some of his charm.  His name means “Warrior”, “Leader in War”, “Manly” and “Free Man”.  God knew the ferocious world he would be born into.  Our prayer is that he would be a warrior and leader.  A man who fearlessly fights for the freedom of souls, both physically and eternally.



Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands

December started out with a bang, as I supported an amazingly strong woman through over forty hours of labor.  My friend and fellow doula, Sarah, came to spell me for a few hours the last night of November.  Then on the evening of December first, another baby girl came into the world.  It was an honor to witness such strength and endurance as that mama displayed.  I am constantly reminded of the incredible stamina and tenacity we as humans possess.

After that sleepless weekend, we were presented with “the bug”, as my children so fondly have named it.  It really began Thanksgiving night with Betty getting sick outside, just as we arrived home from a wonderful day with my family.  The bug slowly made its way through all but two of us: Jack & myself.  So, after a few days of birth jet-lag and a few days of sickness, we made it to this week, where we have had to reel ourselves back into school again.  Our attempts have felt somewhat like crash-landings a few days this week.  There’s nothing gentle about reality.

Yesterday we had an adventurous trip to Trader Joe’s, where I was meeting Matthew’s mom who was going to take the kids for the afternoon.  Upon arriving, Elsie had to go to the bathroom, so we all trudged into the store.  After about five minutes of waiting, it was evident we were going to be there for awhile.  So I sent Nadine with the others to look for the stuffed hedgehog and claim the prized lollipop that comes from finding said hedgehog hidden somewhere in the store.  Five minutes later they returned, all sucking lollipops, and we hung out to wait for Elsie some more.  Others joined the small area, waiting for the bathroom to be free.  Then Betty, who really has no filter, put her face to the door and yelled: “Don’t forget to wash your hands after diarrhea!”  I quickly tried to shush her, while holding back laughter.  Of course Elsie yelled from the recesses of the bathroom: “What?!”  So Betty quickly repeated her reminder in the same volume.  I just about lost it, standing about ten feet from the eggs and milk section of the store, where busy shoppers were probably only wanting to think about food.  I never did make eye contact with the man waiting near us.

Tonight the girls were playing their most recent game of “Holly & Annie”.  Usually it begins with them meeting eachother after a long absence, and both of them determining how old the other is.
“Holly!” begins Betty.
“Annie!” Elsie replies, and they hug.
“I’m seven years old!” says Betty. (Elsie whispers: Seventeen)  “Seventy!” Betty corrects herself. (No, no! Seventeen, Elsie whispers again.)  “Seventeen!”
“Wow!  I’m eighteen!” gasps Elsie.
“Wow!  I’m almost bigger than you!” exclaims Betty, and so on it goes until they go to Hawaii or some such place.  It usually is Hawaii, actually.

Recently, an incredibly sweet young lady approached me with the offer of a lifetime: to come be at our home every week for a few hours to do whatever I need her to do.  That right there is an offer money can’t buy.  We look forward to our weekly visits from her.  Often she helps with school, or sometimes she is just another ear for this tired out mama to talk to and I know my words find acceptance and not judgement.  If ever there was opportunity for her to judge, it was last week.  She was supposed to come Thursday at 9AM.  I woke up at 9:05.  Every morning, I always lay in bed to try and remember what day of the week it is, where I need to go, who is coming here, etc.  I got to that last thought and sprung out of bed to look out the window.  Yep, her car was there.  I stumbled downstairs to find one of the kids had woken up before me and welcomed her inside.  She looked at me and laughed.  This here is what we call: real life.  Every day I don’t have it all together.  Every day I miss stuff, mess up, fall down, or give in to the pressure of life.  It’s important to be vulnerable about one’s humanness.  I do not wake up gracefully.  It was both humbling and hilarious to welcome a guest into my home with a sleepy voice and crusty eyes.  Whatever came out of my mouth, every word was really saying, “I forgot you were coming.  Forgive me while I go make some tea and clean up the supper dishes I was going to wash before you got here this morning.”  Yes, this real life stuff is just that: real. Not fake or put together.

The same person who saw me in my pajamas and morning hair also offered to help me clean and rearrange my room today.  I say this to encourage some of you who may be on one side or the other of this coin of life.  If you have time on your side, find a mama who looks tired and worn out, and offer a chunk of time to her out of love and not self-gain.  The rewards will be eternal, I guarantee you.  If you are a mama and someone offers to help you, take them up on the offer!  Nothing baffles me more than when we as women shrug off the need for help because we’re too proud to accept it, we’re too embarrassed to air our dirty homes, or we’re too busy to slow down and let someone into our life.  I was embarrassed to my core when she saw every single thing that was under my bed.  At the same time, I felt a freedom in letting go of my facade that I’m all put together.  Just like you, my clothes, my house, my dishes and my hair all get dirty.  If you didn’t know it, now you do.  It’s a constant battle, to admit my humanness and my imperfections.  I’d much rather have an instagram life, but just as quickly as you glance at that perfect picture, reality smudges the lens again.

All these imperfections make me long for more.  Thanks be to God, there is more!  There will be a day, where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more mess-ups, and no more tears.  Excellence and beauty will never be tarnished by sin again.  Home will be perfect and complete because Jesus is there.  If you know Him personally, one day perfection will be your reality too.  Until then, let’s love eachother through the bad breath, messy hair, and clutter.  And let’s not forget to wash our hands after diarrhea.

So thankful for these five.

So thankful for these five.

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A Crazy-Hair Day

A week ago I wrote this, before being interrupted for another week:
Right now one boy is blaring classical piano music throughout the house.  Two kids are playing a board game, and the other two are building with blocks and dancing at intervals.  I snuck out to the front porch, literally hiding a brownie in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.  Just five minutes of peace would be super.  It’s been a long afternoon of school, apple-sauce-making, supper-cooking, and I’m not even cleaned up yet.  Time for tea and an undisclosed chocolatey snack.

It sounds all too-familiar, like I was about to type the same words now… as I lick the melted chocolate off my spoon and swallow the last sip of afternoon tea.  The kids are all in their rooms practicing how to be quiet.  I had a long but beautiful day being a doula yesterday, arriving home close to 2AM.  Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted.  The last thought I had before drifting off to sleep was: I hope I get breakfast in bed.  My super amazing daughter must have known (you see, when you pray, the Holy Spirit is listening, and can communicate that need to someone else who is listening to Him).  Her sweet self prepared this breakfast for me, and we enjoyed a lovely morning in our PJ’s.
2014-10-10 09.58.08
By lunch-time, however, my lack of sleep started to kick in.  I started making scrambled eggs and dropped one on the ground.  I snapped at the children I loved so much.  Then, I stopped and apologized for my grumpy attitude.  Everyone suggested maybe I needed a nap.  Then Nadine smoothed the air even further with her honest comment, “You know, Mom?  Your hair looks CRAZY today!”  I burst out laughing.  It still looks crazy, by the way.

The text I sent to Matthew, which prompted my apology to the children.

The text I sent to Matthew, which prompted my apology to the children.

So, Betty and I decided to take a nap, even though she is “never tired”.  Like the other day, when she told me, “My tummy hurts.  I’m tired of falling asleep.”  Then this happened:2014-10-02 13.08.58

Today she told me she wanted to “talk” before we fell asleep.  Thus began our conversation: “I have a question.”
“Yes, Betty?  What’s your question?”
“When will I be six?”
“After you’re five.”
“Will I always be six?”
“The whole time you’re six, yes.”  We then proceeded to practice counting up to six on our fingers.  She is dead set on being six.
She says some pretty hilarious things these days.  The other night she lamented in a very sorrowful voice, “Everybody makes me so sad.”  When I asked her what would make her happy, she replied, “If you make chicken.”    She asked me this out-of-the-blue question the other day: “Mom, can I put this rock in my pocket?”
“Um, sure,” I replied, puzzled.
“Just in case I need it for something.”  Good to know she’s prepared.
When I asked her if she wanted apple sauce or yogurt for a snack she answered, “Hmmmmmmmm.  I think my body wants yogurt.”

Last weekend, Matthew surprised me with one of my favorite date days ever.  We were given tickets to Chester County Day, and drove all around the area touring historical homes, barns, and grounds.  It was so beautiful, inspiring and refreshing.
2014-10-04 18.02.04
I’ve been slightly obsessed with Instagram the past two weeks.  The photos aren’t a false impression of my life, so much as they are a bit of an incomplete picture of it.  You might see a shot of apple crisp, but in the background you can’t see the piles of dishes I just washed or have to still wash.  You might see us reading books on the front porch, but you can’t see the dirt on the ground, or feel the mosquitoes trying to bite us.  You might see the photo of a budding piano-player, but only we can hear the same three songs being played hundreds of times on the keyboard.  You see the flower, but not the weeds.  October phone photos
This week’s favorite photos are as follows:
October phone photos1
Jack’s ongoing collection of shiny things.  A healed bone in Nadine’s big toe.  Rock-climbing date with my Elsie Rose.  Nadine’s 12th birthday, complete with crepe cake.  Love and Daddy.  The baby-waiting game.  Beautiful clouds that make me wish I was a bird.

The boys just dug out some old CD’s, and we’re rocking out to the Kry, one of my favorite 90’s music memories.  The girls are “secretly” rearranging their room (even though I could hear the furniture scooting all around their room from where I lay in bed while attempting to nap).  My hair is still crazy.  My heart is full.


Making More Than Babies & Lunches

There’s a secret between us.  Yet it’s no secret at all.  It is loudly spoken by the way he looks at me, the notes he leaves me, and most definitely  by the five children who grace our lives.

Our love was strong from the start.  Yet its strength was like that of a seed: its full potential unknown until put into the right environment.  After four years of waiting, we were given perfect freedom, wrapped in holiness, that first night so long ago.  What was once forbidden was now ours to hold.  Each, the other’s, to have and to hold, til death do us part.

Nine months later, a sweet darling baby blessed us.  I struggled with the holding on part, and slowly he grew farther from me.  He no longer had all of me.  I felt needed and needy, exhilarated by new life and exhausted by it too.  I was leaking tears and breast milk, of practically equal amounts.  And as I held this child, I didn’t realize he was drifting farther from my arms.  Fear gripped my body, mind, and soul and I closed out the very thought of ever experiencing pleasure again.  I was forgetting: he was my husband first.

A few months later, the distance was breached.  Our secret, though dangerously close to ruin, was restored and renewed.  Trust replaced fear.  We had become as blue and yellow, independent of each other.  Now our bed melded back into a beautiful shade of green.  Our discordant solos became one unified symphony again.  It took me awhile to truly grasp: children should never replace the love, care and attention we give to our husband.  I’m told one day our children grow up, and am starting to believe it.  They are not given to make strangers of us or dull us, but rather to sharpen and enhance what has already begun.

Exhaustion is real, I know.  It is not an eternal excuse, however.  We miss sleep for football games, favorite television shows, another chapter of our book, and an extra cup of coffee.  Can we not sacrifice sleep for love?

Often I forget to make our bed.  The past couple of days, a little small fairy, with one missing tooth, has secretly been making our bed and tidying our room.  I think of her humming little self, smoothing back the covers and fluffing the pillows.  Deep in her heart she knows how much we love each other.  This messy bed speaks of love and togetherness.  Its crumpled sheets hold a secret.  I’m never ashamed they should know.  The time one of them barged in, because sometimes love has no schedule and can’t wait for candlelight and quiet, I was embarrassed but not ashamed.  He declared he was NEVER getting married, and we laughed to ourselves and held on to our secret.

Tired mamas, hold on to your man.  Don’t replace him with your baby, your phone, your mother, or your wallet.  Nurture him, because he’s hungry too.  He’s hungering for you.  When you become unavailable until an undisclosed date, he may eventually feed his soul, mind and body at some other source.  I know you feel needed every. single. moment. of. every. day.  I know you feel about as undesirable as a week-old hoagie.  I know you sometimes feel like you don’t belong in your skin.  I know you bear the marks of motherhood in so many places and in so many ways.  I really get how a hoodie and stretchy pants are the outfit of choice these days.  I understand how the thought of making sandwiches crosses your mind much more frequently than the thought of making love.  I totally understand.

Yet I implore you to safeguard this secret with your life.  Never share it with another.  Always, always, whisper it frequently to each other.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
    jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    the very flame of the Lord.
 Many waters cannot quench love,
    neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
    all the wealth of his house,
    he would be utterly despised.
-Song of Solomon 8:6-7

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Nine Years and Thirty-Two Weeks Later

I woke up and our bed was soaked.  Something wasn’t right.  We had been living in my in-laws attic for a few months.  The baby inside of me kicked and squirmed, but something still was not right.  The bleeding I had experienced for six months straight took its toll on my body.  My water had broken, and it was time to go to the hospital.  Once there, they gave me shots to help his lungs develop.  I prayed he would cook a little longer.  Thirty-one weeks wasn’t enough.  As I lay still in that hospital bed for a week, listening to Christmas music, our baby boy grew .  A week later, however, things started to change.  Matthew and I had just ordered food from TGIFriday’s.  I had a huge BBQ chicken salad, and enjoyed every single bite.  A couple of hours later, I started to feel funny twinges.  Having had a baby only 13 months previous, the feeling was recognizable.  The twinges became more painful and significant.  I watched the clock, and let Matthew sleep in his little pull-out cot next to my bed.  He had spent every night with me, thanks to his parents who were watching Nadine.  She had learned to walk that week, and had come toddling into the hospital room with a pretty new dress, white stockings, and shiny patent leather shoes.  A lot had happened that week.  Now these birth pains were beginning.

I finally called a nurse and told her was labor.  She assured me that the monitor wasn’t showing anything significant.  Awhile later I woke up Matthew and reassured the nurse that I knew what I felt, whether or not the monitor did.  They finally believed me enough to wheel me down to the labor and delivery unit.  Sure enough, on the newer monitors the contractions showed up sky high, and I was already 7cm.  He was still breech, so they prepped me for a C-section, not wanting to risk anything.  Everything happened so fast, and before I knew it, I was in the OR, Matthew leaning over my head.  Then they showed me this precious tiny baby, and I kissed his small nose before they whisked him away to the NICU.  By then, Matthew was looking very green.  He eventually had to leave the room, and the anesthesiologist kept me up to speed on what was happening on the other side of the curtain.

Nine years ago, in the wee hours of the morning, Elijah Watt Weldon became a part of our family.  He was 3lbs 6oz, and Matthew’s wedding band fit around his ankle.  He spent five weeks in the hospital before we were blessed to bring home our special Christmas present on December 18th.  What a love he was and is!  Our Mr. Fix-it.  The person who almost knows where anything is that is lost.  He is so sweet with babies, has a great ear for music, an incredible memory, and makes us laugh.  Thinking back to his birth, I chuckle about the salad I ate a few hours before he was born, because he absolutely loves BBQ sauce.  Happy birthday, Elijah boy!  We love you.

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Experiencing Joy

Experiencing new life never gets old.  Today I had the privilege of walking the hospital halls with my friend as she bravely faced the painful journey of bringing their baby into this world.  Every contraction just deepened my respect of her, of women, and of the amazing ability God has given us to manage excruciating pain.  The mind and body are amazing things!


I was so proud of my friend, Kelly, today.  Her courage was rewarded with this beautiful bundle of joy!  Elliott Joy to be exact!  8lbs 8oz on the 8th.  Thank you, Lord.