2 Months of Momhood: Things I’ve Learned

Ollie and I just had his 2-month appointment. He is growing and healthy.

I’ll spare the details of his weight and height statistics, the shape of his skull, his sleep habits, which vaccines we did or didn’t give him, et cetera. And I’ll skip the part where I talk about my postpartum weight and how easy or hard it’s been for me to lose it. Though I love connecting with other moms about this stuff, it is SO, SO easy for me (and maybe you, too?) to lose myself in comparison. Dwelling on those things does NOT help me be a better mom to my baby or a better wife to my husband. This is my story, and you have yours. Let’s celebrate where we are together and be attentive to the little glorious moments each day that fuel us.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was really humbled by my pregnancy and birth experience, and I see now how naive I was to assume so much without having experienced it myself. So sorry if I hurt any other mamas in that. Not my intention at all. I learned!

Actually, I learned a lot. By trial and error, mostly. There were a lot of laughs and a lot of tears. But we dealt. Now, a couple of panic attacks in the bathtub huffing essential oils later, I am a motherhood expert with many precious jewels of wisdom to offer new moms. Use them wisely.

Have a cup of coffee. (Or a glass of wine.) Or two. One midwife told me all caffeinated beverages make babies colicky. Okay midwife, I’ll give up caffeine, but I will also give up being awake and attentive to my child’s immediate physical needs. I’ve heard from the progressive, urban moms I roll with that one cup won’t kill anyone. So most days, I find myself at a coffee shop. Though it’s what I really want, I skip the $5 latte due to budgetary restrictions (because like any submissive wife would, I constantly follow my budget and never exceed my spending money limit), but I still need something. Preferably something cold, because all hot drinks remind me of the time I threw up coffee in my bathroom sink before my glucose screening. Coke sounds good. But what about losing my baby weight? Maybe a Diet Coke? Nope, aspartame causes every kind of cancer that ever existed. There’s no winning. Pick a reasonably-priced caffeinated drink that makes you happy and drink it in moderation.

Get Hulu Plus. And Netflix. And Amazon Prime if you’re fiscally able. I’m pretty sure watching entire seasons of Keeping up with the Kardashians probably won’t ruin your baby’s childhood. The freezer meals and visitors were helpful, but honestly, I couldn’t have done the first few weeks of Ollie’s life without TV. My best friends in those early days were the Kardashians. And the Jenners. I learned many moral lessons about important social issues like gun control and plastic surgery through Kourtney, Khloe, and Kim. And Bruce. Always Bruce.

Get rid of your pet if you have to. Considering our designer dog was essentially used for Instagram novelty purposes only, it wasn’t that hard to give him up. After much thought and debate, when I had to choose between successfully nursing my infant or tending to the superficial needs of an attention-hungry Muppet who eats whole loaves of artisan bread from my kitchen counter and burps up dirty diapers (yes, the poopy kind), I chose the former. Haven’t regretted it since.

Don’t be afraid to customize your pee experience. Unrelated to how you rear your baby but closely related to other kinds of rears, sitting in warm bathwater may make your postpartum urinary experience a tidge more tolerable. Hashtag glamour.

Break the rules sometimes for your own convenience. Desperate for another hour of sleep? Use sleep props. White noise machine not cutting it? Try a blow dryer. Nook not staying in the mouth? Try washi tape. Gearing up for a night out and scared to disrupt your nursing schedule? Wake that baby up.

Expect comments. All kinds of comments. The same people who asked if you were having twins during your pregnancy will comment on the large or tiny size of your newborn and grossly over/underestimate his or her age. If you’re really lucky (and likely on a day you’re feeling particularly exhausted and emotionally vulnerable) you’ll get a bonus comment about your kid’s behavior and some unsolicited advice about how cold dill pickle spears are the answer to all your teething problems. Awesome.

Enlist as much help as you can. Hire a postpartum doula. (Here’s mine). Seriously, having your dishes done and taking a shower longer than 45 seconds makes all the difference. And don’t feel bad about asking your husband to change a diaper in the middle of the night. Mamahood is full-time, just like his job. Tim never even remembers getting up to change Ollie’s diaper anyway.

Your kid might have red hair. You may never know why.

Your baby’s weight (and height and onesie size) is not a trophy. I always assumed having a “chubby baby” would prove I was an expert breastfeeder. Ollie gained a lot of weight quickly at first, and everyone made comments that he was a “good eater.” His growth has slowed down now, and he looks longer than he does chubby. My son is average. My milk game is not proportional to my kid’s girth.

It’s okay to only have food-bringing, chore-doing friends over at first.  Gotta have a boundary sometimes. Love you, but  if you’re not bringing a humongous casserole or “new mom essentials” gift package full of body sprays and organic foodstuffs, please wait until I’ve accumulated a minimum of 25 hours of sleep per week before you come over to tell me all about the 10k you’re running tomorrow and the extraneous graduate degree you’re pursuing with all your free time.  I probably don’t have a category for anything that doesn’t add to my physical and emotional comfort at this point.

Text other moms in the middle of the night.  We’re all up nursing. It’s like a fun secret society where you can unashamedly share prayer requests and the fifteen thousand “baby and me selfies” that are waiting in your Instagram queue.

Befriend a Chinese Herbalist. She will prescribe magical medicinals with names like “Wu Tang Clan” that will somehow restore your hemoglobin and make your tongue more pink. Great for those with excessive blood loss during delivery and even better for hypochondriacs with a soft spot for soy sauce.

You cannot instill a sense of logic in your newborn baby. He will inevitably confuse days and nights for several weeks. He will love to be swaddled on a Tuesday but hate it by Friday. He will wake up the second you set him down in his crib, and he will have a meltdown at Panera, while nursing, when you’re seated next to a group of executives about to make an important business transaction (their fault for doing it at Panera). He will also start screaming when you’re writing a witty blog post about very serious postpartum issues, resulting in a prematurely published draft and coy apology to your very few subscribers who received said draft in their inboxes. Our bad.

Go ahead, change your mind. Your philosophy and approach might differ from day to day depending on the need of the hour. That’s okay. No one expects you to magically have your shiz together on your 44th day of motherhood.

There’s no right way. I’ve read it all. Babywise, Dr. Sears, all the forums. I’ve been guilted into going to my baby every time he whimpers and feeding him on demand till I’m exhausted and covered in breastmilk (sorry guys). I’ve also been shamed to feel like I need my kid on a rigid, consistent schedule so I don’t spoil him, even when that may not fit the flexible lifestyle our life demands right now.  The truth is, I can’ t compartmentalize my kid’s life. Some things work and some things don’t. Pull the good things from all philosophies and do what works for your family with no apologies. Put your iPhone down. The Babycenter forum will be there tomorrow. Enjoy your baby.

Ollie’s Birth Story

One important lesson I learned through pregnancy and birth: be informed but don’t make assumptions. The two greatest assumptions I made before giving birth to Ollie: 1) interventions are almost never beneficial and 2) a hospital will make me anxious. I ended up choosing both things in the heat of the moment, and I really believe my intuition guided me there, to two difficult decisions that turned out to be really beneficial for me, my baby, and my family. Humbling to admit that though much of the information I consumed during pregnancy was helpful, my assumptions about the labor and birth experience were not.

Ollie’s birth story started on Friday, May 2. I was convinced I would have him early because I was 3 cm dliated and 80% effaced and had lots of Braxton Hicks contractions. I regret thinking this way (another assumption) because it set me up for a big-time emotional roller coaster. I decided to have my membranes stripped that morning at my 40 week appointment, believing if my body was truly ready for labor, it would work, and if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t work. I went back to work after the appointment but took a half day because I was having some pretty intense cramps. That evening I had a few hours’ worth of real pre-labor contractions. I knew they were different because they were more rhythmic than the Braxton Hicks I’d been having and they grew more intense over time. I was mentally preparing myself to go into active labor in the next day or so, and felt super thankful as I went to bed for the gentle start & opportunity to get used to the sensation of a contraction.

The next morning Tim & I went out for breakfast. It was a beautiful day so we decided to galavant around the city together potentially one last time as a couple. It was also his birthday weekend so we wanted to make it special. I had heard from my midwife that if the membrane stripping doesn’t do the trick that I might try acupuncture. So I googled it and found a free acupuncture session in south Minneapolis. My contractions definitely intensified after that and I noticed them taking my breath away and lasting longer each time. But they would only stay for a few hours. I began to feel disappointed and wondered when it would all go down. Tim had made a comment about not wanting to go back to work on Monday and I had it in my head that I’d have Ollie by my due date, so I sort of felt like a failure that I hadn’t had him yet. Really emotional. I was content to be pregnant a while longer but the pressure I had put on myself was starting to make me anxious.

The next day or two was more on-and-off contractions. Each set of them only lasted 3-4 hours but they intensified each time they came. My doula told me to ignore them until I couldn’t ignore them anymore. I went to bed early that night in case labor came soon, knowing I’d need to store up as much energy as possible. I woke up in the middle of the night covered in fluid and jumped out of bed. Even more spilled out when I stood up so I naturally assumed my water had broken. We called the midwife & she told me if I wasn’t in active labor within 24 hours (Tuesday at 1 am) that I’d need to be induced. I called into work that morning because we thought Ollie would be coming that day. 

Tim stayed home with me and we went for another acupuncture session to move things along as I really didn’t want to be induced or go to the hospital instead of my birth center. The acupuncture caused some contractions immediately but again, nothing that lasted. We went in to the birth center for a non-stress test and to have my membranes stripped again. My midwife noticed my water bag was still in tact, so she sent us to the clinic, and sure enough, it hadn’t broken. Disclaimer: I am 100% positive I didn’t pee the bed. Still have no idea what it was, but apparently this happens to a good number of people?

I took the next day (Tuesday) off work because I was emotionally and physically spent. It was draining to wonder if each contraction was the “real deal” or not. I began to be frustrated by them because I was still only 3 cm dilated as of my last appt. but had been having pretty powerful ones all weekend. Tim wanted to stay home with me, but I convinced him to go in to work so he wouldn’t waste his paid time off. For all I knew Ollie wouldn’t come for another week or two. (I was only 2 days past my due date at this point). 

I went to grab coffee and got a manicure and pedicure afterward to distract myself. I noticed a few strong contractions there, but they didn’t feel like anything different & I didn’t want to time them. I met up with Tim for lunch and on the way there, I had a couple really strong ones. I waited for him in the car outside Chipotle and they got worse, but I tried to ignore them. In the restaurant I had to grab onto a wall during one of the contractions, and that’s when I wondered if stuff was getting real. 

I had Tim drive me home because I was contracting pretty frequently. He came inside to run me a bath and was planning to go back to work, but as soon as I got in the tub things got really intense, so he decided to stay home, which was a good call. This was about 1 pm. By 1:30 I had him call the doula because they were getting super close together – they went from 15 minutes apart to 1 minute apart within an hour, and each one seemed to last over a minute, some almost 2 minutes. My back also really hurt and the bath wasn’t giving me any relief. (I had guessed Ollie was posterior from where I felt kicks and sensed I would have back labor.)

While I was laboring in the bathroom my water broke, so we called the midwife. I still wasn’t 100% sure this was real labor and I didn’t want to ask Tim what he thought. It was so painful & intense that if it wasn’t truly active labor I didn’t think I could handle the real thing. The midwife heard me moaning in the background and said we should make a plan to meet at the birth center around 6 pm (they want patients to be 5-6 cm dilated when they arrive). I told Tim we needed to go sooner. I couldn’t imagine riding in the car if it was any worse than this. So she said we could meet her around 3. 

My doula Nina came around 2 and suggested some position changes and pressure points for my back pain, but all i wanted to do was hang on Tim. I was surprisingly not anxious at all, just super focused. The pain wasn’t scary because it was predictable and rhythmic, but as it intensified, I wondered if I’d be able to do it naturally like I’d planned. 

We left the house at 2:45 and I had at least 4 contractions between the bathroom and the car. The car ride was pretty bad but not as horrendous as I thought. We made it to the birth center within 15-20 minutes (naturally hitting every stoplight and pot hole on the way there). The midwife checked me and I was 6 cm and completely effaced. I knew transition (the toughest part of labor, preparing to push) was coming soon but had no idea how long it would last. Like I said, if it would have gotten worse or the contractions would have gotten longer, I’m not sure if I could have handled it. That’s when I started entertaining the thought of transferring to the hospital & getting an epidural. 

I got in the tub for about 20 minutes. After I threw up my lunch everywhere I knew I needed to get out of there. I calculated in my mind that if I wanted to go to the hospital (just across the street) I should probably say something then because I was quickly approaching the most difficult part of labor. It took a ton of humility but I said it:

“Get me to the hospital. Please. I want an epidural.”

My midwife was gracious but reminded me that a lot of moms say that during the most difficult part of labor and don’t really mean it. I convinced them I wouldn’t be upset if my birth plan was ruined and had her call them right away and even make sure an anesthesiologist was available when I got there. 

My timing was spot on. I got the last room at the Mother Baby Center. I basically ran from the car to the room, wrapped in a towel and a soaking wet night gown. As soon as I was administered the epidural the whole experience changed. I was able to enjoy myself and feel more connected to the labor experience. The dread I felt before each contraction faded and I began to joke around with the hospital staff and melt into the hospital bed. 

I was surprised I could still feel my legs and even the pressure of the contractions. I had assumed I’d be totally numb and labor would slow but again, I was wrong. I was also astonished at how the epidural really worked in my favor. I went from 6 to 10 cm within an hour of getting it and didn’t need any other interventions. I had always assumed an epidural meant not feeling yourself push meant vacuum/forceps meant c-section. Totally wrong. This was the best decision for me. I can’t imagine having done it any other way.

I also thought the hospital environment would scare me, but it actually put me at ease. The birth center, though, made me feel trapped because I knew I had no other options for pain relief. It really took that intense labor experience to show me how wrong I was in all my assumptions and how modern medicine is actually a gift to be taken advantage of when appropriate. For us, I believe it was. 

After an hour of “labor” in the hospital my midwife checked me and I was fully dilated. Tim went down to get dinner in the cafeteria, so Nina had to call him and tell him to come up because I was ready to push. The urge to push was super powerful. The epidural didn’t affect it at all. I was only allowed to push on every other contraction because they were so long and so close together. I also noticed on the monitor that each of my contractions had two peaks, making it even more difficult to resist pushing. I had to hold myself together though because Ollie’s heart slowed during contractions toward the end and he needed a break from the pressure of pushing. 

After an hour, his head came out and the rest of him slid out on the same push. That’s where everything became surreal. I was so relieved to be done so I really had no concept of what really happened, that I’d just had a baby. Before I even realized what was going on they cut the cord and took him across the room to a warmer. He had meconium (not in his lungs, thankfully) so he had to be monitored for the first few minutes.  I heard Ollie cry and knew he was okay. Tim was the first one to hold him and got to cut the rest of his cord.

At that point things got a little intense for me. My baby was crying on the other side of the room, I still hadn’t seen him, and I was losing a ton of blood. I ended up losing 800 cc’s (almost a liter). They gave me pitocin to contract my uterus and finally things settled down. I didn’t really know if I was okay or not but didn’t feel afraid. The only thing I felt was relief that it was over. 

Tim brought Ollie to me while I was getting stitches. He had the sweetest cry/whimper I had ever heard. I held him skin to skin for at least 10 minutes before looking at him. I had wondered what I’d think or feel when I saw his face. I knew that moment would be special. He just felt familiar when I saw him. Of course he looked that way; he’s mine. I wasn’t surprised at all. He just felt right in my arms. It was nuts.

People have asked what it feels like to suddenly be a mom. It didn’t feel sudden in any way. It’s kind of like having a birthday. You anticipate it feeling super different but when it comes, you kind of just ease into it and realize you don’t feel different at all. It just feels natural. That’s the only way I can describe it.

Sweet baby Ollie slipped into our lives gracefully at just the right time and in just the right way, on Tuesday, May 6 at 6:56 pm. He weighed 8 lbs on the nose and was 21 inches long. To us, he’s perfect, and we have loved discovering him together each day.



38 weeks

I am thinking this will be my last post before Ollie arrives.

It’s nuts to think he could really be here at any time.  Two Sundays from now is Tim’s birthday and also Ollie’s due date–so the longest I’d have to wait to meet him is four weeks, if I go 2 weeks over. I’ve felt like he may come early for a long time for a few reasons, because I’ve been contracting so much since around week 24. I don’t think this is wishful thinking, since I’m enjoying the pregnancy so much and I’d also like to spend as much time as possible savoring time with Tim as just two of us. I am probably a minority when I say I’d be happy to be pregnant for another month or two…maybe as long as I didn’t keep getting bigger.  Either way, Tim and I will post soon after he arrives. :)

We feel as ready as we can be for the babe. His nursery is done, and we are grateful to say we have almost everything we need for him (other than incidental items I’m sure we’ll think of when we get home from the birth center). People have been so generous. We really only had to buy the crib. Everything else was covered between family, gifts from showers, and “donations” from friends whose kids outgrew their stuff.  My “hospital” bag is all packed (has been for a while). We have our frozen meal at the birth center (they discharge early, so we get to bring our own food to eat after the delivery). Tim is putting the carseat in the car tomorrow, and we are having our house deep cleaned, a gracious donation from a vendor at work. The doula is on call, and I’ve got a crap ton of popsicles in the freezer just in case I want them during labor.

So I think we’ve done what we can to prepare ourselves. Lots of books, documentaries, classes, and conversations with friends who have done this before, my doula, and the midwives. I’m thankful to say I am not experiencing anxiety about labor and birth. I don’t see any reason to be. I just want to show up and be present through it, trusting my body knows what to do and getting out of its way. I don’t know if I am being naive, but I just don’t think nervousness will help. I’m focusing now on breathing deeply and exercising a little more control over my self-talk now. I do believe the chiropractic & reading I’ve done will help, but I know I won’t be thinking of those things during labor. I’ve heard for the majority of labor women are in another world, using their “primal” back brain to just survive through the rough parts. Maybe survive isn’t the best word. What I’m trying to say is I think logic goes out the window. I won’t be referencing the notes I’ve taken in my journal or the worksheets from my birth classes. It’s not something I can plan out or control. In the end I am just trusting God made me to do this and He will guide me through it, giving me grace for each moment.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on the spiritual and emotional aspect of labor after I go through it, but from what reading I’ve done, I see so much of God’s design in it. The way the pain and intensity are merely means to a more beautiful end, the way He gives opportunities to rest between each contraction, the way we can mentally choose to be present and engage with the pain rather than being afraid of it and making it worse. I’m sort of looking forward to the mental and physical challenge of it. God’s design is perfect.

As Ina May Gaskin says, “My body is not a lemon. I am not a machine. The creator is not a careless mechanic.”

Tim and I are super thankful for all your love and care for us and Ollie in this season. We would be delighted to have you pray for us as Ollie’s birth draws near, that God would sustain us and draw us to Himself through it, giving grace & strength for each step, and that, of course, we’d reap the spoils of a healthy baby and healthy mama. Trusting Jesus with you!

How far along? 38 weeks on the nose
Baby is the size of a: Watermelon!
Total weight gain: 35. At this point, may as well embrace it. It’ll be nice to lose the immediate 10-15 lbs right after he’s born. Not sure how I’ll go about the rest…maybe I’ll sweat it all out this summer. I feel like women pregnant through the winter probably gain more. Less opportunity to get out & be active and lots of opportunities to eat a ton!!
Maternity clothes? Pretty much down to 2 outfits. Stretchy maxi dress & maxi skirt. Feet are swelling now too, so shoes are getting kinda tight.
Sleep:  Up and down. Peeing a lot, waking up really warm, and just thinking about labor & baby. Taking naps when I can, which helps!
Best moment this week: There were many! My co-workers threw me a surprise shower, which took the cake. We got a high chair and a video monitor, and there were lots of unhealthy but delicious treats! I found out at the birth center I am pretty effaced and starting to dilate, which was good to know–like to hear that I’m progressing. Today was awesome too. Beautiful weather and Easter brunch with friends. Lots of time spent outside.
Movement: Yes. His back and butt are center stage. A lot lower than before–he’s definitely dropped!!
Food cravings: Clementines. I had almost a whole bag in one weekend. Also still donuts unfortunately, and any kind of fried dough. :( Arugula and grapefruit juice. Cherry tomatoes. Kombucha. Iced tea. Pickled beets. Really any beets.  Anything cold and sour.
Miss Anything? The convenience of eating lunch meat without heating it up and the occasional craft cocktail when out to eat.
Symptoms:  Mr. Ollie is head down, which is awesome, but he is also hanging out very low in my pelvis. The other week I felt really sharp nerve pain in my groin when I sat down. So I got on all fours and did some inversions, and he moved over to the left, causing the same pain on that side. So I’m pretty sure his head is grinding on some nerves. Only thing that helps is literally lifting my belly up off my lap. Other than that, it’s getting tougher to get in and out of bed, go up stairs, and bend over, but those things aren’t a big deal to me.
Mood? Wound up and energetic. 7:30 pm? Not normal for me.
Looking forward to: The obvious. This baby is a total mystery to me. Can’t wait to discover him.


Looks like the baby dropped to me. The pic on the right is 37 weeks.
Looks like baby dropped! The pic on the right is 37 weeks.


35 weeks

I don’t have anything emotionally moving or spiritual to say this week. I’ve just been reflecting on how quickly this pregnancy has passed and how gracious God has been to give me the exact opposite of what I anticipated: a complication and anxiety-free pregnancy. A part of me always wondered if being in a situation where I was completely not in control and forced to focus on something/someone besides the inner workings of my mind would allay my long-time bottle with anxiety. It totally has. I am so thankful God intervened in my unhealthy rhythms and created some stability and focus for me. I feel so cared for, like he answered so many questions of my heart and healed some wounds I didn’t even know were there through past several months. It could be the hormones, it could be purely God’s grace, but this pregnancy has been curiously peaceful. This week I want to share a few things that helped me thrive in my pregnancy in a really holistic way:

Chiropractic care. Can’t say enough good things about it. I had been seeing one almost every week before I was pregnant for the past year, which I am convinced cured my migraines. I have had to scale down on the number of visits because they got expensive, but I know for sure the bi-monthly adjustments helped me so much. I haven’t really had any of the traditional pregnancy pains besides the nausea of the first trimester. I get sore sometimes at night but honestly, I’ve been totally free of the back/hip pain thing. I experience occasional discomfort if I eat too much or get too little sleep, but I really haven’t had much heartburn or headaches or anything else besides the normal strain of carrying a human in me. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time –  including before I was pregnant.

Good vitamins. I’ve been taking fish oil, Vitamin D, and a regular prenatal, which has been a good cocktail for me. The combination of fish oil & D made winter a lot more tolerable. Or maybe it was the hormones. Either way, this has been the happiest winter I’ve ever had, even though it was the coldest and snowiest. Seriously, a miracle.

Lots of water. I try to drink four or five Camelbaks of water a day. If my pee’s not clear, I’m not drinking enough. I started this when I had an infection in the second trimester and have felt way better. I also noticed it helps with the BH contractions. I should have started that a long time ago. Here’s to staying hydrated until and through labor!

Super supportive community. We are so thankful to have a family of believers around us at church who are so familiar with the stage we’re in. There are a ton of new moms I’ve learned from and a few other pregnant girls I’ve been able to share and commiserate with. Our missional community and others have been so willing to serve us – planning meals, hosting baby showers, giving advice and prayer, and showing so much grace when I miss events from being tired or sick. I see so much of Jesus in this community! Without much family here, it’s easy for me to feel a little weird that Ollie and I will be lonely at home this summer, or that he won’t have very many people around him – but I’ve felt so covered and encouraged by our friends. This is the community I want helping me raise Ollie up to be a dangerous force for the kingdom!

Similarly, so many friends who have provided for us. I was super anxious about the financial burden of having baby, but God was so faithful to provide for us. Co-workers and friends and family have pitched in to get us everything we need: a stroller, car seat, tons of clothes, a bassinet, a carrier, and all of our nursery furniture. Other friends helped us re-do our floors upstairs, which took a huge load off since Tim and I were clueless about it. Two other friends volunteered to take maternity photos for us and others are planning meals for us when Ollie comes. It’s so amazing to feel God’s love so tangibly. Super thankful for all of you guys.

Awesome co-workers and insurance. I told my office about my pregnancy as soon as I found out, mostly because I knew I’d be sick a lot and wanted them to know why I’d be out, and because I can’t keep a surprise. Since then, I pretty much haven’t shut up about the pregnancy and Ollie. They are so understanding and flexible when I’m not 100% there and so excited with me about the little guy. Mostly I’m just thankful to work in a place where I can be myself, both when I feel good and when I don’t.  Not to mention, my company has the BEST insurance which has covered my birth center and is hooking me up with a pretty great electric pump.

My doula. I hired an intern from the Birth Center and she has been so helpful – always available for questions, super compassionate and knowledgeable, and also really sensitive to my anxiety. We’ve only met a few times but we email and text fairly often, and Tim and I feel really excited to have her partner with us in labor and delivery. She’s coming equipped with a pretty great arsenal of essential oils/massage tools/other misc. comfort measures, including Christmas lights (!!!!) It’ll feel so good to have someone with me who’s done this before!

My amazingly patient and helpful husband. I could not have done this without Timmy. Seriously. Since Day 1, he has held me prayed for me, and listened to me complain and spout of tons of different baby stats and facts and philosophies. He has driven me to and sat with me through birth classes and prenatal appointments, cooked breakfast for me every single day, missed out on events just to stay home with me, scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom when I wasn’t up for it, taken total responsibility for our crazy dog, all the while working full time and pursuing tons of service and discipleship and time with God. I could brag about this man forever. I am so thankful I get to parent this baby with him, the man who shapes me into the wife and mom I want to be with his patience, grace, intelligence and wisdom and challenging insights, and unconditional, undemanding, totally selfless love.

Honorable mentions to Unisom, Kombucha, the staff at Starbucks in CP Plaza, everybody who asks me how far along I am in the elevator, our roommate Joe, my husband’s sweatpants & t-shirts, all you who have faithfully “liked” my crude bathroom selfies depicting my growing belly, The Business of Being Born, Ina May, lavender bath salts, and all candies ever.

I am so thankful pregnancy is gradual, just like any other growth. It’s beautiful how gently and carefully God curates something so life-changing and physically demanding. The minute I found out I was pregnant my mind went nuts because I felt the weight of the responsibility crushing me. But God has been so kind to use the past 8 months to steady my heart before him and give me really great time with the ones I love and with Him, totally preparing my heart for what’s ahead. It’s honestly felt like a vacation and respite for my soul. Something I needed a long time ago but never knew how to give myself.

He gives good gifts. Excited for the next 4 weeks of riding this out and then meeting my little guy and starting a new season with new mercies waiting for me. Thankful for doing this journey with all of you. Let’s do this thing!

How far along? 35 weeks, 4 days
Baby is the size of a: Honey dew, hovering around 5 lbs & 17 inches long! Gaining an ounce a day until he’s born.
Total weight gain: Up 29 lbs. Okay, maybe 30.
Maternity clothes? Even the maternity shirts are getting too short. As I grow the options slim.
Sleep:  Really good. I was pretty needy for supplements to help me sleep earlier this trimester, but being so busy prepping for baby and squeezing in time with friends and house projects has made me really, really tired. Also I’ve kicked the trimester-long coffee habit I developed, which is probably a good prep for breastfeeding. I was sick a few days last week with a cold so I missed my normal morning latte, and now I do fine with just a tea a day.
Best moment this week: This has been a funny week. Mouse in house, spilling water on lap through purse & assuming breaking bag of waters, getting sketchy TDAP vaccines at my neighborhood Walgreens, etc. The former crisis has been averted & the latter two just make me laugh now. The best moment was maybe Tuesday when I went in for a 15-minute back rub at the chiro and ended up getting an amazingly therapeutic 45-minute trigger-point massage.
Movement: Totally nuts. It feels like he’s head-down from what I can tell (lots of high kicks off to the side with a big butt/back above my belly button…) but I could be wrong. I should find out his position at my appointment tomorrow.
Food cravings: Nothing healthy. Red vines, sour candy, chocolate long johns. I’ve been turned off by eggs and a lot of dairy lately, actually. So I’ve been having ham sandwiches in the morning (heating up the meat of course).
Miss Anything? I mean, it would be nice to be able to stand closer to the sink and be able to bend over, but I do not miss the chores. Tim has been graciously doing tons of housework and helping me carry/move things around when needed…a lot of which has been a part of Ollie’s nursery. 2 friends are coming to snap some photos of us in the nursery this weekend, so expect more photos in a week or two! These will function as my maternity shots since I haven’t had any of those lately. It’ll be good to remember how balloon-like I am at this phase. Maybe?
Symptoms:  Lots of contractions. A little more tired. Some light soreness. Nothing major. Feeling really blessed about that.
Mood? Kinda ready for sleep.
Looking forward to: My appointment with the midwife tomorrow AM. I go every Friday for the next four weeks! Love those appointments so much — they feel like milestones. Only 4ish more weeks left, we hope! And just over a week until I’m full term! How is this happening so quickly?

32 weeks

 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. -John 16

My missional community has been studying Ecclesiastes the past few months. Last night we discussed the inevitability of pain as illustrated in Ecclesiastes 12 (and all over the Bible, really).

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come & the years draw near of which you will say ‘I have no pleasure in them.'” 

Ecclesiastes has been difficult for me, but this verse and what we discussed really served me.  One of the leaders asked a heart-probing question: how can we build a foundation for hope now in whatever season we’re in to prepare for the inevitability of suffering? In other words, how can we condition our hearts to trust God when darkness comes–because it will?

This conversation, of course, drew a lot of parallels for me as I think through childbirth (which is hopefully coming relatively soon?!) People have been asking me if I’m nervous to have the baby. Honestly, and I’m as surprised at this as you are, I’m not. Maybe I’m romanticizing my ability to withstand the pains and pressures of labor, but I think a lot of it has to do with mental state. I fear getting in an accident. I fear cuts and bruises and broken bones. I fear major surgery. But my mind and maybe my hormones tell me this is different– my body is cut out for this. Every person who exists was birthed by someone else, who likely survived the process. Birth is not a condition to treat or a wound to heal but a victory to be celebrated. I’m not saying I’ll enjoy it by default, but I am saying I’ll take it as it comes and find ways to deal with it, believing that each contraction brings me one step closer to holding that baby I’ve been growing inside of me for almost a year. A big part of it is preparation. I know how my labor and delivery go are not ultimately dictated by me, but there are some things I can do to get my mind & body in shape for it (yoga poses in the bathroom on my lunch break, reading birth stories, squats, talking it through with Tim, partnering with a doula, etc. etc.)

Similarly, the pain of any emotional anguish we will all eventually experience can be celebrated, but it takes preparing and guarding my heart in the mundane to do that.  We are called as followers of Jesus to be joyful in trials — trusting and even delighting in God’s wise purposes as He uses our circumstances to beautify us into the image of His son. So how can we set a foundation of hope now? I call it “sowing good seeds in my heart,” or acting out of an understanding that there is no neutral when it comes to our hearts; we’re either watering them or we’re not. Not saying I am faithful in every season to make space for God. I rarely do. But I want God to continue to renew my mind about pain, and I know I must partner with Him in that. I don’t want to live my life hiding from it. There must be a way to embrace it, to surrender to it. Resisting it, I think, only makes it harder. I want to be attentive to whatever season He has me in, painful or not, and thoughtfully discern that “okay, even though this hurts like crazy, I am being transformed from glory to glory. I am being stretched. This is good. Maybe not my definition of good, but His ways are higher than mine.  God, I trust you.” When it comes to the body, there is good pain and bad pain. But maybe it doesn’t work that way with God. He can redeem the darkest darkness and make it light, and I want to hope in that.

And I want to encourage you all, friends, in whatever pain you may be preparing for or walking through:

The times when we only see darkness are often when God is behind the scenes ready to pull the curtain up on light like we’ve never seen it before.

Side note on my birth plan, incase you’re wondering: By God’s grace, I’m holding it loosely, desiring a healthy mom and baby a million times more than checking ultimately arbitrary items off my birth plan so I can blog about how orgasmic it was later. I do not want to be a hero. Seriously. Frank breech baby and c-section? Maybe it would be a favor for me. Love to get things on the calendar, and this would be a big one! Planning an all-natural childbirth and then crossing Chicago Ave. for an epidural ? Sounds like classic Ashley, who will do almost anything for a funny story to tell. I’m not choosing a natural birth because I think any other way is lesser or wrong. I have no idea what to expect or what I’ll want.  It’s mostly because hospitals make me really anxious. I chose my birth center for a more peaceful environment, and they happen not to offer pain medication, so I went with it. And in the process I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of unmedicated childbirth, which I am excited about, if it works for me that way.

How far along? 32 weeks
Baby is the size of a: Winter squash, approaching honey dew. He weighs 4 lbs now!
Total weight gain: 24 lbs. Recommended gain was 35 lbs for me. I have 7ish more weeks left. 2 lbs a week? I think I can swing that. Starting with the pizza I’m having in 2 hours.
Maternity clothes? Yes. I’ll speak no more on the matter.
Sleep:  Big improvement somehow. Going to bed later (busier schedule?) has been helping me fall asleep more quickly & stay asleep. Hard time waking up, but nothing a single cup of coffee per day can’t fix.
Best moment this week: Really enjoyed seeing the Spirit move hearts at Missional Community this week. It’s a joy to encourage others to persevere in truth. Also, I’ve shuddered every time I walk by our near-finished nursery. That crib won’t be empty much longer, and it’s a really funny feeling! Realizing how big Ollie is has also been a strange thing for me. I mean, he’s not just “growing into a baby.” He is an actual baby. I googled “33 week baby” and was shocked at what I saw! He’s not a honeydew, he’s an actual infant that looks like me and has preferences and personality. I mean, duh, but it’s a weird thing to process since I’ve never seen or met the kid!  The puzzling feeling is similar to when you say a word too many times and it begins to sound weird…or maybe the inverse of that.
Movement: Space is getting tighter in there, but he’s still a punching maniac. I can’t tell if he’s upside-down or not; we should be able to make a call on that at my next appointment (early April). Fun fact: beginning the first week in April, I get to go see my midwife every week until the guy is born!
Food cravings: CHERRY TOMATOES ARE BACK IN BUSINESS, and I am loving it. I bought 3 packages of the yellow cherubs last night. Also, grapefruit juice, bacon, and probably anything full of grease & processed carbohydrates.
Miss Anything? Not needing to rest when I walk up the stairs. Being able to slouch or bend over without feeling like I’m crushing someone.
Symptoms:  I have been really lucky. I don’t have really any soreness except for the hip pain and intermittent charlie horses in the middle of the night. Back has felt great, which I attribute to regular chiropractic care and lots of water, stretching/yoga poses, and fish oil. The start of this trimester was a little rough (noticing the transition weeks are the most symptomatic for me), but I feel pretty normal now. All that could change soon, so I am trying to enjoy each day as it comes.
Mood? Tired, even though I got ample sleep. Must be time for my cup of coff.
Looking forward to: Honestly? Kind of looking forward to this pregnancy being over, just to avert this odd feeling of “who is this baby living in me?” and get a normal rhythm of life established instead of always preparing, though that’s exciting. I can’t complain. It’s gone by AMAZINGLY fast (sorry to anyone who feels like theirs is going on forever). But like I said, the guy is big. He’s fully developed, just growing and preparing for life outside the womb. I certainly want him to stay in as long as he needs, but I wouldn’t mind a little action at 37 weeks. You do what you need to do, buddy. Just know that Mom (SO WEIRD) is ready to squeeze you.


Nursery beginnings
Nursery beginnings

photo 2

30 weeks

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”Psalm 51:6. (Why didn’t I know this verse existed until now?!)
As I’ve shared before, my past few seasons of life have been hard ones, riddled with deceptive emotions manifested as paralyzing anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD. Like, stuff so intense I couldn’t leave the house. The root of it all, I believe, was issues from my childhood that taught me to believe lies – the world is not safe, and I need to build my own safe world. That means I must be in control, and if my safety is threatened, I responded physiologically in a way I thought might protect it.  A coping mechanism developed by a scared child, somehow both sophisticated and primal. A heavy weapon I lugged around with me everywhere so I could always be ready to defend. As I grew up it was as simple as a snarky, sarcastic comment or “just one more cocktail” to regain control of a situation that felt too vulnerable.  The deeper wounds showed themselves through more extraordinary measures to maintain my “safe world,” which is where the OCD came in.  I wasted so much time and so much energy creating hiding places for myself that always seemed to collapse. I was absolutely desperate for healing.
These behaviors were obviously unhealthy but I wasn’t forced to deal with them, to tear them out at the roots, until some of the crazy symptoms or behaviors surfaced. It was painful, but I really believe it was God’s grace to inflame some wounded parts of me so we could work on them together.  I had tried medication and counseling and books and spiritual direction and discipleship and charismatic churches and Calvinist retreats and vitamins and supplements and more exercise and changes in diet and more sleep. Those things are all awesome and helpful resources, but what I really needed was to sit face to face with God and forgive people who have hurt me, walk through some difficult moments in the past and let Him tell me He was there and those hard things I experienced weren’t okay with Him. I learned He wanted to set those things right and teach me a new way of thinking based on actual truth. I had to walk through the crap to get out of it. The only way out was through.
My mind was renewed day by day as I chose to sit with Him and hash it out. I grew and learned the most about myself and God’s character through inner healing prayer. I went to several prayer clinics at a church where prayer ministers facilitated a helpful, gentle, wise conversation about what God might be zoning in on in my heart. Also beneficial were extended times with Him in my own house, reinforcing the truths I was fighting to believe with times in the word or prayer or worship. Or simply inviting Him into my day when those “extended times” weren’t possible, choosing life-giving music and books and conversations. There isn’t a formula, but I believe sowing good seeds in my heart, denying my deceptive emotions and the grace to say “yes” to Him even in my weakest moments are the catalysts to breakthrough.
I want to emphasize that I certainly was not the faithful one in that season. He was. He was faithful to draw me in, giving me daily grace to follow Him through the dark places.  My freedom wasn’t something I just woke up with. It was a gradual process like any other growth, requiring nurturing and attentiveness which often felt like hard work. I’m not done with it yet, but I am walking in a place where I can see the beauty again and my hope feels renewed.
I want to encourage friends looking for freedom to keep walking through your tough spot. He who called you is faithful. He can’t deny Himself; He must finish what He starts. He sees you and is eager to shepherd you to the Father’s loving presence. He desires you to be thoroughly redeemed and wants to touch parts of your heart no one else can see.
He is a master gardener, tilling the soil in our hearts, planting good seeds of truth that will reap a bountiful harvest if we will partner with Him in the waiting (even when we can’t see His hands, will we trust His heart?)
He is the rain, watering and refreshing us in the dry seasons, reminding us of His nourishing presence when we think we can’t take one more step.
And He is the sun, ripening us to beauty, from one degree of glory to the next.

How far along? 30 weeks! CRAZY to think I’m only 10 weeks away (hopefully). I mean, think about 10 weeks ago…that’s when I found out Ollie’s gender. Seems like freakin’ yesterday.
Baby is the size of a: Winter squash! What even is that? He’s 15″ long and weighs 3 lbs.
Total weight gain: 20 lbs! It’s coming on quickly and suddenly.  Baby’s gotta have his donuts.
Maternity clothes? Same pants every day.  My shirts are all too short. Need to invest in a few new things. Can’t button my winter jacket which leaves my poor belly exposed all the time, but luckily I’m not outside that much and when I am I like people to notice I’m pregs. :)
Sleep:  Not so hot. Between the dog tip-toeing on our new wood floors and my pee trips and just general discomfort, I probably get 4-5 hours a night, even though I go to bed disgustingly early.
Best moment this week: Lots of good moments so far. What I anticipated to be a difficult beginning of the week turned out to be really fruitful and encouraging. I am so thankful to have friends who are after the same things I am and who remind me what’s important.
Movement: All the time! Most days I can see my shirt/dress move because he’s rolling around so much. And I’m learning how to “belly map,” or figure out how he’s positioned in my belly. It seems like he’s upside down now because I’m feeling jabs down below (which are usually hands/arms) and slow, rolling movements above my belly button (usually legs). I also feel a hard spot usually above my belly button, which I think is his butt/back. The midwife finds his heartbeat every appointment on my lower right quadrant, which could be coincidence. Hope he stays upside down, but I know I can’t control it. I’m sitting on an exercise ball at work, getting regular chiro adjustments, and doing some pretty specific stretches/yoga poses to encourage him. He’s smart. He’ll do it.
Food cravings: Sweets after meals, unfortunately. Girl scout cookies (’tis the season). Sour candy. I got some Also, lots of lemon water. I got a Camelbak bottle & those things are miraculous. I drink 10x more water. The straw thing on it is so satisfying!! I can sit the bottle on my belly and get after it. Keeping that uterus hydrated!!
Miss Anything? Probably being able to bend over.
Symptoms:  Just that my uterus is bigger than a loaf of bread. Seriously. How does something so little (I think the size of my fist normally?) stretch so far? I can feel it from my pubic bone all the way beneath my breast bone. Extra creepy when the guy kicks up there by my rib cage. I’m surprisingly not having any back pain or hip pain like I expected. All in all I feel pretty good. I really think my water intake, fish oil, and chiropractic, and attention to posture/stretching have been super helpful.
Mood? A little wound up. I had some caffeine late in the day. (Got a terrible iced coffee (half caf, before you judge me) from an anonymous skyway coffee establishment and it took me all day to not even finish it. I think I’m experiencing some residual effects from those last 3pm sips.)
Looking forward to: BABY SHOWERS!!! My first one is this weekend, and I have another one toward the end of the month. I’m thinking March will go by extra fast! And then I’m really, really close to seeing this baby’s face!! I am astounded how quickly my pregnancy has passed–totally God’s grace.

Almost 31-week-bump
Almost 31-week-bump.

28 weeks

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
–CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

I know what I want from God.

Many nights I’ve breathed the simple prayer “Jesus, give me peace.” But when He wakes me in the morning and takes my hand to shepherd me there, I turn my face. I want a simple blanket feeling that like a bandage gently covers my troubled thoughts, but that’s not what He gives. He gives a penetrating peace that stands firmly rooted even in storms, which means I must deal with some hard truths.  So I sink back down and pray the same prayer over and over while refusing to look to Him and see the answer He’s giving. I won’t get to the still waters He promises because the journey from glory to glory is just too tiring.

I want a swift switch of emotions as convenient as a change of clothes, but He wants to reach in and change my heart so I can see what is true, what’s been true all along. He must correct some deceptive ways of thinking that keep me from seeing Him the right way and in turn keep me from approaching Him like a Father. If I really believed He was who He says, if I actually knew His heart and character, my supply of peace would never be exhausted! I just refuse to look to Him long enough to let Him change me. But He’s committed to getting me the still waters I long for, even more resolved than I am.

I saw His commitment to me a few Sundays ago. I spent time reading verses like “He gives grace to the humble” and “He who is bowed down will be speedily released” and saw how humility is effectual. We get the result we want–grace and healing– when we are willing to let Him reach in and empty us, making us vessels for His love, His peace. I wasn’t totally prepared for the hard work of clearing out when I asked for humility. Cue emotional flare-ups.

Pretty quickly after I prayed for Him to humble me, He switched my gears and turned me toward those still waters I wanted. But like I said, the road there isn’t always a smooth one. A comment one person made coupled with an unexpected pregnancy side effect were enough to push me over the edge of where I felt comfortable. My humanity was confronted and I felt condemned and weak, ill-prepared for what I had gotten into. I was tempted to self-pity until I took a second to think those inflamed emotions might be worth exploring if it meant moving toward peace.

Those emotional responses showed me areas of my life I’m not surrendered to truth. Dark places I’m not allowing Him to thoroughly redeem the way He intends. Incomplete parts of me that could be whole if only I would look to Him, to see Him as He is–and to trust.  I really believe Jesus came to restore us to Shalom, but the peace He has in mind for us is not the easy change-of-clothes peace we’re looking for. In that place we find the tension of living between the “already” (what’s been done for us once/for all on the Cross) and the “not yet” (the promise that we will be restored to the way we were meant to be: like Him).

It’s tempting to despair in this tension, where the hard work of a renewed mind seems like too much. The truth is, the emotional peace I am looking for isn’t promised from day to day, and my awareness of it even when I do have it waxes and wanes. But underneath I have a firm foundation, something sturdier than my changing will and weak resolve. Beneath this fight to believe Him when He says He’s gentle and good, beneath those moments when I feel like I’ve arrived only to be reminded of one more crappy part of me I have to deal with, beneath my failure in doing the opposite of what He tells me is good for me, there is peace. The peace He accomplished on the cross–my restored relationship with the Father, in whose presence healing is found. Peace that justifies. Peace that means my performance doesn’t change the verdict. Peace that means I’ll never have to taste the sting of death or condemnation. Peace that doesn’t change just because my emotions do. He answered my prayer for peace on the cross long before I even prayed it.

How far along? 28 weeks today. My belly suddenly popped last week! See below.
Baby is the size of a: Papaya, still. Haven’t seen one of those that I can recall, so I did some Google research until I came across something more familiar. Cauliflower & large eggplant sound better! Next week: winter squash. (The app I use is British. I think that’s why the fruits and veggies haven’t been resonating.)
Total weight gain: Well, my guess last week was totally wrong. Up 18 lbs!
Maternity clothes? Always, only. My standard boxy dress + tights thing isn’t working with the sub-zero temps, so I’ve been wearing my skinny pants underneath dresses. Gotta be creative in such a time as this! Needing a new winter coat as my current one barely buttons around my belly.
Sleep: I knew the second semester sleep honeymoon was too good to be true. And I know if I complain now, you’ll all say “it’s only gonna get worse.” But let me say, sleeping is not a joy for me these days. My legs and feet cramp and if I don’t have a pillow cradling every crevice of my pregnant body, I wake up with the sorest hips. Plus, I’m still waking up 4ish times a night to pee. Maybe this is God’s cute way of preparing a sleep-monger like me for a life without much sleep very soon.
Best moment this week: It hasn’t been the easiest week for me so far mentally. Feels like I need a lot of energy to muster up a fight against bad attitudes at work and sharp reactions to Tim at home. But there are also interrupting moments when God takes my blinders off and I’m able to see His kindness in refining me.
Movement: I’m getting used to his patterns. He is super dancey after meals. I usually don’t feel him in the morning until I’m on the way to work, and he’s especially crazy at night when I’m lying down, up until I fall asleep. Sometimes even in the middle of the night he wakes me up! This afternoon I could see him moving under my skin. That was a first.
Food cravings:  Not as admirable this week, unfortunately. Ate a whole box of Good & Plenty in 2 days. Also requiring probably more coffee than is healthy for me, with probably more sugar than is healthy for me too. I’ve had hankerings for Indian food and hot dogs (my mom craved chili dogs, but I haven’t gone there yet). And still lots of sour and lots of apples and lots of greens. Can’t get enough salads! Had the BEST arugula, pecorino, apple, and beet salad tonight that brought together all my sour and salty and peppery cravings. Wanted to lick the plate. People have also asked if I’ve had any aversions. The answer is not really. The only tough thing is eating foods I ate when I was getting sick during the first trimester. So that includes crackers, eggs, yogurt, and bananas. Black beans are also kind of hard for me, as is red meat.
Miss Anything? Nothing major. The benefits of pregnancy for me and all the things I’ve learned far outweigh anything I could miss. Those things are petty to me, really. And the things considered “no-no’s” during pregnancy haven’t been super attractive to me, anyway.
Symptoms:  Still several BH contractions every day. Lots of peeing. Getting bigger & consequently sorer all over, particularly in my hips and mid-back (lower hasn’t been too bad, which is a surprise). Chiropractic has helped a ton. Finding it harder and harder to bend over and zip those boots, so Tim kindly takes care of that for me every day. I’ve also had a few infections which don’t need to be described in great detail. Never fun, and actually kinda risky in these later trimesters as they can cause preterm labor. I had a non-stress test last week to check if my contractions were anything serious, which they weren’t. Antibiotics solved the problems, but they sure did make me sick!
Mood? A cup of tea and a clean house tonight are just what I needed.
Looking forward to: Duh, meeting my guy. I can’t get over how cute his ultrasound is. Cutest baby face I’ve ever seen in an ultrasound. No offense to all you other babies reading. Also, we have our nursery game plan. Big trip to get the furniture next week, and then hopefully putting in wood floors upstairs. Nesting much?

A crude work bathroom photo where I look visibly 28 weeks pregnant. That was quick!
A crude work bathroom photo where I look visibly 28 weeks pregnant. That was quick!

25 weeks

Being pregnant brings a lot of surprises (the baby itself being one of them in my case).

And unfortunately, I am not good at surprises. (You probably know that every year, I give Tim his Christmas present closer and closer to Thanksgiving.) I like to curate my life and its events in the most comfortable and entertaining way possible. I arrange life around keeping myself safe. If this doesn’t seem possible, I worry. I prefer self-protection over trust (Ed Welch’s words, not mine).

This weekend I simply wasn’t invited to devise every detail. I had some bleeding, the kind that’s particularly alarming for a pregnant woman. And I have also been feeling a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, which are totally normal for where I am in pregnancy, but sometimes difficult for me to distinguish from preterm labor (cue obsessive Googling and frantic call to midwife).

I felt Ollie moving throughout the weekend, which brought me a lot of comfort, along with my sweet midwife’s help and a husband who will cater to my every need when I’m stressed. But beneath those things God surprised me with a new ability to trust Him when things seem absolutely out of my control.

The moments this weekend when I was tempted to anxiety crept in slowly enough that I was able in God’s grace to capture them. Even as the physical sensations began to swell and the lies descended, He gave me strength to zone in on His words, not the deceptive ones ruminating in my worried mind (definitely not a breeding ground for truth).

The accusations were nearly rhythmic, but my Defender was quick-witted and the truths He’s planted and watered proved themselves fruitful. You can’t control what’s happening in your body. But He can. You haven’t been watchful enough. He never stops watching. He doesn’t even sleep. Your body doesn’t know what to do. The One who created it does. You’re going to go into preterm labor. And if I do, it’s God’s grace and Ollie is better off outside the womb than in it. You’re going to spiral out of control, and it’s not good for the baby. He is my rock and refuge and strength. He dictates, not my emotions. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

My perception is almost always marred by deception, but His ways are not my ways; they are higher than mine. I am resolved to keep telling Him I trust Him, fighting to believe He always keeps me safe, and every instance of perceived danger is needed if I walk through it. In the midst of my discomforts and out-of-control moments, He is keeping me from a more perilous harm. So I’m thankful to be vulnerable. Blessed to be out of my own control.

How far along? 25 weeks and one day
Baby is the size of a: Papaya, apparently for the next few weeks. Haven’t ever seen one of these, but it definitely doesn’t sound bigger than an eggplant?
Total weight gain: I haven’t been weighed since my last prenatal appointment at the beginning of the month, but I’d say 10-11 lbs.
Maternity clothes? Totally. Little variety in what I wear day to day. Though I finally picked up another pair of pants from H&M, and a sweater. I didn’t realize I couldn’t just buy bigger-sized shirts…the belly definitely requires longer ones, not just wider!
Sleep: Getting worse, unfortunately. I’m approaching the third trimester, so the soreness is kicking in. I wake up in the middle of the night with shooting pain in my hips and charlie horses in my legs (calcium deficiency?!). All I want to do is lie on my back, but I guess that doesn’t promote good bloodflow to the baby, so I’m strictly a side sleeper now. Multiple pillows help.
Best moment this week: I really enjoyed yesterday morning. We woke up early, which gave us both time to prepare ourselves and our hearts for church. I am so reliant on His words. I can’t encourage or love anyone well without having that time. It was good to remember that.
Movement: Still consistent. I’m feeling most movement above my belly button, which means my uterus is huge, and that Ollie is upside down. Hopefully he stays that way. Ain’t nobody got time to be breech.
Food cravings:  Arugula with balsamic and apples. A few times a day for that one. Used to hate arugula and kale, but now they’re my choice greens – way behind spinach! Anything sour and cold…oranges, grapefruit, green apples.
Miss Anything? Probably being able to be comfortable in any position at anytime.
Symptoms:  I started to have Braxton Hicks contractions last week! Basically it’s my uterus getting pumped up for the big show in a few months. My whole stomach will get rock hard for a few seconds, so hard I can’t press down. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s totally noticeable. It’s also getting a little harder to bend over and zip up my boots, let alone pick anything up off the ground.
Mood? Took a day off today because the number of BH contractions I had yesterday indicated I may have been a little too active over the weekend. Spent some time reading and exploring God’s word and feeling refreshed and eager about what He is teaching. Also surprisingly peaceful for the number of surprises this pregnancy has provided. :)
Looking forward to: February and March will be busy months for all things baby. T & I are starting our baby classes and the baby showers begin shortly after. I’m also looking forward to getting Ollie’s room figured out, hopefully soon!

22 weeks

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. -Psalm 52:8

We’d like to introduce our little nugget by name:
 Oliver Gray Abramson.
Or, as we’re calling him, Ollie.

I don’t have much of a backstory, just that Tim and I have always liked the name Oliver.  We had entertained equally old-fashioned but quirky options, but none of them had sweet diminutives like Oliver does. You all know, too, that I struggled with the idea of having a boy; the name Oliver was one that I was attached to and kind of softened me to the idea of having a little guy around.

The ultrasound actually confirmed our name choice–we identified him as Ollie as soon as we saw his tiny personality emerge. He laid still at first, giving us a perfect profile, which felt really lucky. After a bit more probing and measuring, he covered his face with his hands like he didn’t want any more attention from the ultrasound paparazzi. He got real comfortable in there, even leisurely crossing his feet. I was hoping to see him suck his thumb or smile, but he did plenty of other adorable things. He seemed pensive, deep, thoughtful, sensitive, and clever. Oliver just fit him.

I wish I could say I chose his name based on the meaning, but it wasn’t until after we were attached to the name that we thought through its rich symbolism. In the Bible (and lots of other cultures through history), an olive branch signifies peace. In Genesis, a dove carries an olive leaf to Noah as a sign of God’s mercy – His withholding the waters from covering the earth.

Oliver’s name points to God’s peace, which I pray will be the core of our son’s identity. Not merely the emotion of peace or the absence of anxiety (though I pray for that too), but the peace with God we have in Jesus in our salvation. What God did in the Gospel to restore us to Himself is what makes us who we are, not the deceptive and fleeting feelings of peace or anxiety that capture our hearts.

A few years ago as I was praying through some of my own identity issues, I felt God speaking Isaiah 54 to me to remind me who I really am as His child. It’s a beautiful narrative of God’s peace washing over his people:

“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

God really renewed me through these words. Because of the olive branch of peace God extends to me in the Gospel of Jesus, I get to take hold of this beautiful promise for my children, for my little boy, for Ollie:

“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.”

I love that our son’s name gives us framework for praying for him. Now, I am asking God to be present with him inside of me, speaking the truth of his identity over him, that he may know he is precious and beloved, and that in Jesus, peace is His.  That Ollie, in turn, would be a conduit of peace to others, and as an overflow of His delight in God, He would lead others to a place of peace with God in Jesus.

How far along? 22 weeks, 6 days (so…23 weeks)
Baby is the size of a: EGGPLANT. What? This guy weighs a pound now.
Total weight gain: 9 lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight, but a total weight gain of 12 or 13 lbs since I lost a few during the first trimester.
Maternity clothes? Almost exclusively. Though I prefer the fit of bigger sized form-fitting dresses that stretch with my belly – I’ve been wearing a lot of those types of sweater dresses with tights to work. I really like my full-panel maternity pants from H&M but not so much the demi-panel jeans from Gap. (Thanks for the tip, Kristin!) Waiting on my first order of maternity shirts from Gap ($$ gift cards!! $$) since most of my current shirts are getting too short…nobody wants to see the panel underneath my sweater.
Sleep: The usual. Getting up a couple times a night and waking up with a really dry throat and nose, which I’m sure is due to the lack of moisture in our house. Gotta invest in a humidifier.
Best moment this week: Loved the peaceful time Tim & I had in Wisconsin with my family. Playing cards has been a blast lately too. I’m pretty obsessed with Phase 10. Every night is game night in our household. Which is as equally sanctifying as it is fun. I’m not a happy loser.
Movement: All day long. Flipping, poking, turning.I’ve been feeling LOTS of baby movement the past several days, too – it used to be just at night, but now I feel him all day long, flipping and turning and kicking. Love to know he’s enjoying himself in there!
Food cravings:  Pickled everything. Regular pickles, pickled beets, pickled cabbage. Spinach salad with really vinegar-y dressing. Deviled eggs (holiday fave!) Sour candy. Cold oranges.  Arugula. Kale salad. Soy sauce. Diet Coke. Struggling with meat. Most of my protein is coming from cheese and eggs and nuts, but I’m eating my fair share of chicken, too. Beef is almost intolerable, especially hamburgers.
Miss Anything? Probably being able to eat sweets and drink soda guiltlessly. I have been mercilessly craving Coca Cola but really trying to limit it. I hear diet soda is no good for us preggos either, and DC is my real kryptonite.
Symptoms:  The long car ride to WI for Christmas left me with a really sore lower back. Heating pad helped. Also I’ve had some tenderness/soreness in my belly. I can definitely tell I’m getting bigger. It’s getting harder to bend over and grab things or to stand really close to the sink to do dishes. (Nice to have an excuse to get out of chores…) I’m savoring the last few weeks I have in the second trimester. Hard to believe I’ll get even bigger and more uncomfortable in the coming weeks!!
Mood? Super thankful for the peaceful heart and mind I’ve had the past couple of months. Totally new to me not to constantly battle anxiety but totally welcome, too. It’s amazing that my body and mind are working together (thanks be to God, of course) to create a restful environment for the baby. Can’t imagine pregnancy any other way.
Looking forward to:  Starting to put together the little guy’s nursery in the coming months…never know if he’ll come early! We decided on a pretty nice color scheme: a few different shades of aqua/blue, chartreuse, gray, and white. The walls are gray and the crib we want is white, so now it’s all about finding chartreuse and aqua accents. Feel free to point me toward those things if you see anything!!

20 weeks


A few weeks ago I found myself in a particularly desperate moment and wound up in Psalm 23. I was reminded what it means for God to shepherd me in both the daily mundane of my life and the times of painful crisis. What stuck out to me is where God shepherds me – He leads me beside waters of rest; He restores my soul. This means every step I take following Jesus is toward healing, because He leads me to Himself, into His love, where I can rest from my toil, once and for all.

Jesus led me into a place I didn’t expect and frankly didn’t want this week, but I see now how He graciously appointed this path for my healing and restoration– to give me a place to rest, and delight.

Tim and I are having a boy. At the risk of sounding completely selfish and unexcited for this baby, I want to share why seeing this beautiful boy baby on Tuesday night stung my flesh and also why I believe having him will purpose in healing my soul. (I’ll write more fun details next time, like the name we chose).

Since the moment I saw “pregnant” on the test in September I believed with every part of me this baby was a girl. I had chosen her name, envisioned our quiet, imaginative adventures, and bought her dainty polka-dotted rompers to wear this summer.  I read about old-wives tales over and over online and soothed myself as I reviewed my girl-symptoms: “I think I’m carrying high, right? I’m craving sweet and sour food, so maybe this is a girl after all? I’ve been breaking out like crazy, and I’ve heard girls steal your beauty. And my pillow faces the right cardinal direction and God knows I really want a girl and He just won’t withhold this blessing from me. Right??”

Convinced as I was, the night before the ultrasound I didn’t feel excitement – only knife-sharp anxiety that I wouldn’t see the baby I wanted to see. I cried and didn’t know how to verbalize to my husband the tension I felt. We talked: maybe it was the finality, like finding out I’m pregnant again. Maybe I’m scared something will be wrong with the baby. Maybe I’ve been idolizing this milestone of finding out the gender. I even thought about telling the ultrasound tech I didn’t want to know, just to guard my heart, or maybe mostly because I was afraid of dealing with the emotions that might come if I didn’t get exactly what I planned or wanted.

I’m so glad I saw him. I don’t usually react emotionally at first in stressful situations, but I was up all night meeting my bitterness face to face and asking very deep questions of it. My doubts rushed to the surface as I laid in bed thinking of this little boy we were chosen to have and raise. I calculated and processed. There must be a reason. This is God’s goodness to me.

We don’t always get the answers we need in pain. But God was gracious to take me on a little walk beside some still waters and show me a little of the healing path I had ahead of me.

I’ve shared that when I got pregnant, I felt jealous of this baby God was asking me to nurture because I wanted to be nurtured myself. I resented Him for prematurely ending my healing season and asking me to give all my time, love, and energy to a baby I didn’t even plan. In some good conversations and prayer I began to see maybe God wanted to continue or even prolong my journey of learning about His character and love through this little one. Maybe this baby would show me what it means to have God as Father and Mother, One who desperately loves and leads His kids. I was convinced after all that my months and years of self-focus were what truly drained me, and being a mom would make my heart and spirit more robust.

On Tuesday night I began to believe this was even more possible in the gift of a boy baby than I had imagined.

The questions and doubts I had about raising a boy pointed me to areas of my heart God might want to soothe and restore. I saw how deeply I wanted this baby’s childhood to be redemptive and new, and how mistaken I was to believe only a girl could satisfy that desire. This little girl was me.  I had pictured raising a “little me” to whom I could give better parents and a fuller, more loving life, one without fear or anxiety. I wanted this girl to be “mine” because I identified too closely with her. I thought she’d give me a way to more thoroughly redeem broken parts of my own history.

Instead, God gave me a different baby. One who I believe will be an agent of rest from my toil. One who I can simply delight in and discover. One who I’ll get to watch my husband lead in love toward manhood. God is protecting me from toil. He is giving me a gift. He gave me a boy.

How far along? 20 weeks, 6 days
Baby is the size of a: Mango, approaching canteloupe. My ultrasound tech called him a beanie baby at this phase, long and lean and soft. That resonates more with me culturally.
Total weight gain: 7 lbs last time I checked. I know, I know, I’m working on slamming the donuts.
Maternity clothes? Yes. I have two pairs of paints now, one with a full panel that couldn’t be more comfy. I’m limited to 2-3 other outfits that actually fit outside my maternity stuff. Short supply these days. Usually means I’m in pajamas immediately after work.
Sleep: A little tougher. Still love my maternity pillow (basically a huge body pillow) but I’m still awake 4-5 times a night to pee and I can’t sleep in too long without getting a headache from being hungry. God is probably preparing me for sleepless nights ahead.
Best moment this week: Seeing our sweet guy’s face!
Movement: All day long. Flipping, poking, turning.
Food cravings:  Chocolate donuts. Coca cola. All the good stuff. Don’t worry, I countered it last night with a huge kale salad.
Miss Anything? Probably being able to sleep more. And the holidays always mean parties where everyone’s sipping cocktails, which I wouldn’t mind. But it’s been good to find other ways to cope with stress and also discover adventurous NA drinks (a step up from a kiddy cocktail).
Symptoms: Hungry all the time and peeing all the time. And last week I had some gum issues that took me to the dentist. I guess preggo women are more prone to sensitive gums. And I had a bunch of popcorn kernels between my molars. No wonder.
Mood? Quiet and pensive this week. Super thankful for five days off!
Looking forward to: Absolutely time off work. We are heading to Wisconsin Monday morning to hang with my family and are both heading back to our jobs on Thursday. More days off the next week for New Years!