Kai's birth

One year ago today on July 4th, 2017, I gave birth to Kai Mitchell, who is altogether sweet, joyful, fun and feisty. He’s radiant. I find myself wishing everyone could meet him just to have the chance to share his sweet and happy spirit. I was in labor with him for 6 hours and he was born less than 45 minutes after arriving to the hospital—a blur of memories now. I’m so glad I wrote these words in the weeks following his birth.

Even though the holiday was so close to my due date, I never really imagined Kai would be born on July 4th. And when I realized that was exactly what was about to happen, I wasn't exactly excited--but the idea has since grown on me, as these things do. Fourth of July baby. Friends and family gatherings, swimming and playing, camping trips, telling Kai these fireworks are just for him—and, of course, always having the day off.

On July 3, 2017 around 10:30PM, I began to have contractions, which was nothing new. I was 39 weeks pregnant and had been experiencing strong Braxton Hicks for weeks—in some instances I even felt slight labor-like discomfort with them—but they never progressed and the discomfort always dissipated, so I wasn’t sure this particular time would be any different. But I had my suspicions, so I told Luke and proceeded to tie up some loose ends around the house in case this was truly labor. I finished packing my hospital bag, packed a bag for Cliff who would spend the day with friends, and proceeded to call/text a few people that would need to know if this was it: my friend Lauren (who was kind enough to come sleep over with Cliff), my friend Adina (photographer friend meeting us at the hospital to take photos), and our parents (we needed to determine who would make the last minute trip—10 hours!— to be with Cliff during our hospital stay. So many logistics this time around, much different than having a first baby. My contractions were about 30 seconds long and, after an hour or so of hustle-bustle around the house, beginning to get more uncomfortable. I told my mom I would be very surprised if these contractions just stopped altogether, given their intensifying nature. Lastly, I called our OB office to get some advice from the provider on call but I was sent to voicemail. I left a message.

Luke suggested that we go to bed and try to get some rest, and I knew he was right, but I really wanted to finish getting ready in case we had to wake up and book it out the door. I was giving birth at a hospital an hour away and I felt very little clarity about how things would play out—if I went to sleep, would I wake up to a baby ready to come out? Like, at that moment?! This is how my mind was functioning but honestly what a silly concern. In no way would it ever be possible to sleep through strong contractions that precede birth, but alas, I was anxious. At that point I asked Luke if he had packed a bag and he said no (haha—again, second baby! so little prep), so I told him he should so we would be all ready to leave. Around midnight we climbed into bed and I began timing my contractions with Full Term (it was really fun to see that, when I re-downloaded the app onto my phone, it still showed my stats from Cliff’s labor over 2 years ago). I texted our sweet, amazing previous doula Candice to get her two cents about leaving for the hospital. I continued to feel very unsure about if and when to do so. I was nervous that I would mess up and make all of these people shuffle their schedules, wake up, drive in the middle of the night—potentially for nothing. Candice encouraged me to pray for wisdom and she let me know she would be doing the same. She sent me a picture: it was a candle that she lit for me, to keep me in her thoughts during my labor (seriously tears. This was at midnight). I laid down and tried to rest between contractions but I kept getting up to use the bathroom, at least 8 times. I was praying for some sign to know that this was it. Between 12-1:30 my contractions slowed down a bit, which was not what I was looking for. But then sure enough, they started to pick up in intensity and frequency. I decided that if things continued to build, we would leave for the hospital at 3am. Around 2:45am I called Lauren to ask her to head over to stay with Cliff, and I also called Adina who had already started driving to the hospital! Talk about intuition. I woke Luke up to let him know that we should leave and he reminded me to check in with our provider again because I hadn’t heard back from anyone. One of the midwives, Becca, picked up the phone and informed me that she was already at the hospital attending births and she would look forward to seeing me soon. We left a little after 3am and began the hour long drive.

The ride to the hospital was a bit surreal. Even in the midst of labor, it’s very difficult to wrap your head around the fact that a baby, still hanging out in your belly, will soon be in your arms. I had also been anxious in the weeks leading up to labor with Kai, knowing this time what it takes to give birth. I knew my own power, yet I still didn’t want to face the task again. But thankfully, I felt peaceful on our drive in the dark. It was serene and hardly anyone was out. I had about 8 contractions in the car along the way, but they were short—no more than 45 seconds or so—and the minutes between them were peaceful. Like my first labor, I was using vocalization to get through them—my best best tool. I remembered to put on my trusty labor playlist which has remained saved on spotify since Cliff was born. We listened to one of my favorite worship songs and this line got me: “from my mother’s womb you have chosen me, love has called my name”. I wasn’t feeling scared or nervous. I was feeling VERY confident about our decision to leave for the hospital when we did. I knew with certainty that this was really it, and at the same time that we weren’t at risk of not making it to the hospital on time.

I tried to eat a little snack—a granola bar—and, like last time I ate on the way to the hospital, it didn’t sit very well and I only had a couple bites. We pulled off the exit to the hospital and, as we parked, all of the sudden I felt an extreme urgency to get inside. Suddenly my contractions were SUPER strong. Luke asked me a question about what to bring in with us and I think I just said “We need to get in there now.” When we stopped at the front desk to check in, a contraction hit and I couldn’t even really talk. They were coming very close together now. The person called up to L&D and sent us on our way to triage.

The labor and delivery floor was quiet as we exited the elevator. It was now around 4:15am and we were ushered into a triage room where I was given a gown and told that a nurse would be in to check me shortly. “Shortly” started to feel like an eternity and I realized that I really had to use the restroom, so someone escorted me down the hall. I was at the point in my labor when time becomes a blur. My contractions were very strong, but manageable with intense vocalization and still short—they were around 30 seconds and coming closer together at about 1.5 minutes. Adina arrived and I was so happy to see her! I got a heart monitor strapped to my belly and a hospital worker came in to ask me a million and a half questions for paperwork. I answered when I could and worked through contractions when they hit, letting others do my talking for me when they had to. 

When the nurse checked me, she told me I was 7 centimeters dilated. She asked about an epidural and I entertained the idea until she told me that she would first have to administer an hour’s worth of fluids. Then I said “Okay, no.” I knew I didn’t have that long! We walked right across the hall into our delivery room, which was much smaller than the last time. With Cliff’s labor I also had a room with a whirlpool, which wasn’t available this time. I felt disappointed for a second, which was inconsequential--little did I know Kai would be born 15 minutes later.

At this point, things got a bit crazy. The nurse told me they were very busy that night and that our midwife, Becca, was attending another delivery. I took off the hospital gown and started feeling like I had to use the bathroom again. I was embarrassed because the room was super small and I was using the toilet like 5 feet from everyone. I still had no idea how close we were to meeting Kai. I began to feel him bearing down on my cervix, it’s the craziest feeling in the world. How things unfolded next I barely remember because it was so incredibly fast. I remember kneeling on the bed and pushing even though there was no one in the room to deliver Kai. Remember I said how quiet the L&D floor was that night? Well, it was quiet no longer. I was in the uninhibited moments before my baby boy was born, and I was definitely roaring. My water broke and the nurse calmly but urgently asked me to turn over and lie on my back, and I said no. I truly didn’t feel like I could physically turn myself around to lie down. She checked me, saying I was now 8 cm dilated which is funny, because immediately after that he was READY TO COME OUT and I knew it. I got right back up and kneeled on all fours and pushed, because I couldn’t not. The midwife still wasn’t there, but his head was bearing down so hard on my cervix and I could feel him very, very, very low. There was no ring of fire or burning that some people speak of, only crazy pressure—the indescribable feeling of your baby still being inside your body but being JUST on the brink of bringing him out. Un. Real. Our midwife rushed in at that moment, having just delivered a baby 2 minutes prior and then sprinting to our room. She immediately began talking to me and I remember her repeating my name. “Margaret. Margaret.” She was calm and gentle. “Margaret, try to stop screaming.” She was explaining that I was wasting my energy when I should be channeling it into pushing. That was the single most helpful thing she could have said. I focused hard on not screaming and pushing with everything I had, and with my next push I delivered his head. Then Becca directed me with one more small push and I felt her maneuver his tiny body out. I heard his little cries. I FREAKING DID IT.

Because of the way I was positioned, she had to pass him underneath me and through my legs so I could hold him. May I never ever forget the feeling of holding my brand new moments-old baby for the very first time. Warm, slippery and wiggling—his cord was short just like Cliff’s so I couldn’t fully hold him up to my chest. I held him like that for a long time, feeling equal parts shocked and relieved that it was over. I had done it. I gave birth, again. I was an emotional basket case, crying, laughing, saying "I can’t believe he’s here” over and over. Finally I got turned over to my back and he laid on me. My precious Kai. It was about 4:50am, less than 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.

The moments following were, and always are, total bliss. Staring at his tiny face, absorbing him, smelling him and feeling his perfect skin after only imagining him for 9 months. These are the most glorious moments. Birth is so, so incredible and my experiences giving birth are some of my most treasured memories. But, as every mother knows, the way your baby enters the world pales in comparison to watching them grow. In the past year, Kai has brought us more joy than could ever be recounted. I can’t begin to describe how happy, how sweet, how silly and amazing he is. Kai, we are so blessed that you are a part of our family. You deserve to be celebrated with every firework that lights up the sky tomorrow my love.

when you smile I am undone

my son

you outshine the morning sun

my son

 

incredible photos by dear friend Adina Brown-Selner of Thistle + Lace Photography

cliff's birth story

One month later, giving birth to Cliff feels so far behind me yet remains one of the most visceral and deeply moving experiences of my life. It is truly a gift to play the role of a mother bringing the life she nurtured for 9 long/fleeting months into the world, and I am beyond grateful to have been both a witness and protagonist in one of life's most incredible natural processes.

He came impeccably timed and a week early, which I had felt he would do for some time. I was 1cm dilated at my 36 week appointment and 2.5cm two weeks later. Although that’s not at all a tell-tale sign, our doctor said “If I was placing an office bet on you, I’d say you'll go early.” When I was a week and change from my due date, I felt strongly that he was coming soon. Things starting to shift in my body and I felt almost outside of myself sometimes. Maybe it was nerves—but if so, they all dissipated as the real thing started around 6pm on Wednesday, April 22nd. I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant and still not 100% confident that this was really it (how could any new mom be?); I just started noticing some uncomfortable menstrual-like cramps low in my abdomen. Luke was at an athletics banquet that evening, so I was by myself at home. It was earth day and I felt guilty because I had been inside literally all day long, hustle-bustling and trying to tie up loose ends before Cliff came. I’ll be honest, prior to that week, I hadn’t even packed my hospital bag! I looked out the window and saw the sun was going down, so I decided to take a walk. Our home backs up to Indiana Wesleyan University’s campus and I ended up on the practice soccer fields for the next hour or so. I paced, prayed, and sang—three songs in particular, over and over: our song for Cliff, Little Blue by Josh Garrels, The House of God Forever by Jon Foreman, and God I Look to You by Bethel Music. It felt good to walk and be outside. I could tell that things were slowly building, but tried to push it out of my mind since I’d been taught it’s best to completely ignore early labor so as not to “use up my resources" too soon. 

After my time outside, I knew I should try to keep myself hydrated and nourished so I had a snack of steamed beets—one of my weirder late pregnancy cravings. When Luke got home around 9pm I told him how I was feeling, but again, we tried not to get ahead of ourselves. The car was packed and we were ready to go. We even had my routine 39 week check up the next day at 1:30pm, so we knew we’d be making the hour drive up to our doctor’s office—which happened to be right next to our hospital—anyway. I texted our doula, Candice, to tell her how I was feeling and she urged me to go to bed early and get as much rest as I could.

Sleep was very iffy that night. My contractions became strong enough that I had to practice breathing through them as I was in and out of sleep. I would breathe very deeply/slowly in through my nose and out through my mouth as they came and went, physically willing myself to relax, and then I’d doze off again until the next one. In my half-sleep stupor, I found I was repeating phrases from a collection of birth affirmation notecards Candice had made for me. Statements like “I relax and let my birth happen” and “rhythm, ritual, relaxation”. I didn’t know I had committed any of these to memory, but it was kind of cool how they ran through my mind as very early labor built. I got up to use the bathroom a minimum of 6 times that night. I’ve already forgotten how difficult it became late in pregnancy to hoist myself out of bed and hobble down the hall in the middle of the night! I felt like I was 95 years old.

We woke up the next morning and lingered in bed for a little while. I told Luke about my all-night contractions, and at that point, I began timing them with the iPhone app Full Term (they were very irregular and no more than 40 seconds long). Again, we tried not to get overly excited. At this point my contractions weren’t exactly ignorable, but I was able to continue getting some little things done around the house and packing last minute items between contractions. I took a long shower, shaved my legs, did my hair, drank tons of water and tried to eat as much as I could to keep my energy levels high. I even took a nap. Anything that was relaxing or helped pass the time. When a contraction hit, I would stop what I was doing and use vocalization to get through it—basically low, deep moans, for lack of a better word. I used this kind of vocalization liberally throughout my entire labor. It may have been the single most effective technique to help me let go and open up to what was happening in my body. Luke decided to assemble our new bed for the guest room to keep himself busy, and he now says that it was the best thing to have a project to work on while I was laboring without necessarily needing him. He told me it was kind of funny to hear me work through a tough contraction in the other room and then pop in to the guest room and cheerfully ask him “how’s it going?!” when it was over.

Before long it was 12:30pm and we could leave for our doctor’s office, which, although an hour away, was located right on campus at the hospital. We tried to anticipate the best possible outcome—hopefully this was true labor and Cliff would be born that day. We were determined not to drive back home again before he came, so there was a reality of having to kill a lot of time and potentially even get a hotel for the night, but we hoped for the best. Luke reminded me that it was totally out of our control and we’d deal with things as they came. The car ride was definitely uncomfortable, but not unbearable. I had a portable heating pad that I plugged into our cigarette lighter and used on my lower back, where I began to feel some dull, achey contractions which were a bit less intense. I’m guessing back labor started because Cliff’s position had shifted when I sat down. It didn’t last beyond the car ride. I remember feeling like ANY kind of movement in the car was such a task—I felt glued to my seat. I ate one final snack, a packet of Trader Joe’s Trek Mix, and it didn’t sit very well. Still, I’m really glad I continued to eat for as long as I could throughout labor as I think it helped quite a bit with stamina. My contractions were averaging 35-50 seconds each and none were longer than one minute. They were still irregular but around 4 minutes apart.

We arrived at the Fertility & Midwifery Care Center for our appointment with our midwife, Lindsay, who would be delivering Cliff. I felt a bit like a spectacle as I had several contractions on the way in to the building and then one in the restroom. They were building in intensity and I’m pretty sure I was making a bigger scene than I realized with my ever-increasing level of vocalization :) While I was in the restroom, Luke checked us in and told them we thought I was in labor. When I walked into the waiting room I caught lots of excited glances from the nurses and staff. It was very sweet. We were sent right back to see Lindsay.

We knew that whatever we were about to find out in the exam room would dictate how the rest of the the labor played out. The unknown was making me feel nervous and I remember my whole body trembling. In the room, I could do very little to help Luke take off my shoes and leggings so Lindsay could check me. By now we were going on weeks (months?) of my husband sweetly helping me put on/take off shoes and socks—awww. Lindsay came in and we described what the morning had been like. She said “Alright, let’s see what’s going on!” I had my eyes closed, but later Luke told me the look on her face was priceless as she announced “Um, holy moly. Yep, you’re definitely in labor!” and told us I was 5-6cm dilated! I started crying with relief. Lindsay told us that we could go ahead and check in to the hospital. There were actually two hospitals within a half mile of the office, and although we had chosen one already, Lindsay asked us if we would consider switching at the last minute because she had another patient in labor there and it would be easier to have us both in the same place. Although this seems like a pretty big last minute change, it didn’t really bother us at all—we knew that both hospitals were great options so we gladly obliged and off we went. I texted Candice and she said she was on her way. When we entered, much to my chagrin and Luke’s amusement, there was a gentleman waiting for me with a wheelchair, per hospital protocol.

Luckily, we were able to skip triage and check right into our labor and delivery room, which was spacious and calming with lots of natural light and a whirlpool tub in the bathroom. We began to settle in and get acquainted with our nurses and Candice arrived shortly thereafter. It was probably around 2:15pm. I had tested positive for Group B strep which meant I needed to have 15 minutes of antibiotics administered through an IV, so a nurse began her first of FOUR (!) attempts at getting my IV in place. No joke, that might have been the most stressful part of my whole labor. We were basically barraged with questions, which was somewhat annoying, especially when a nurse essentially asked me “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain would you like to experience today?” I know they were trying gauge whether or not I would be asking for drugs, but the way she phrased it was just so bad. I had no idea how to answer! I ended up telling her 9 since I was hoping to not have any kind of pain meds or interventions unless medically necessary. I had actually typed up a short birth plan, but I forgot to retrieve it from my printer before we left home. Oops. IV and interrogations aside, the nurses were actually very good and supportive of the kind of birth experience we hoped to have. I really appreciated that they never offered medication and willingly followed me around the room in order to intermittently use a handheld heart monitor to make sure Cliff’s heart rate was normal (instead of using the strap around my belly and confining me to one spot).

After the nurses finished their initial routine monitoring, the room was calm and peaceful. They checked in from time to time over the next hour or two, but for the most part it was just Luke, Candice and I. We didn’t talk much and I remember wondering if they felt bored! When a contraction hit, often I’d hold onto Luke while Candice applied counter pressure to my lower back. In the background we had an early labor playlist going which I’d compiled a few days earlier—songs that were fun and calm but still slightly upbeat. Later on, when things started getting really intense, we turned on an active labor playlist I had also compiled with some of my favorite soothing, sentimental tunes. I am so glad I took the time to do this—there were several songs I had a highly emotional response to during labor, which I’m sure helped me to relax, let go and really go inside of myself for some of the more difficult contractions. I found myself singing along with some and crying with others. One of these was the Lumineers “Ho Hey”, which I’ve always liked, but has never made me cry! It was the chorus that really got me (“I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart”) as I thought about our little guy who would be with us so very soon. I’d learned that crying during labor can be a tool, so I consciously tried let go of inhibition while assuring Luke and Candice that I was fine. Later on, I remember Luke and I looking at each other and smiling and singing along when our song for Cliff, Little Blue, started playing. Lastly, I remember a song by Colin Hay, Waiting For My Real Life to Begin, seeming particularly sweet and touching in the moment (“any minute now, my ship is coming in, I keep checking the horizon…”). I treasure these moments during my labor and really, really enjoyed having a specific birth playlist.

I had anticipated using the whirlpool tub all throughout my pregnancy, and after a couple hours of laboring on the birthing ball and walking/swaying around the room I decided to try it out. I experienced my final moments of any kind of inhibition as I took off all my clothes except for my black sports bra in front of the nurses and Candice. After that, it was no holds barred ;) Before getting in I decided to get checked by a nurse, who said I was “a good 7.” I was glad to still be progressing. I got into the tub and expected it to feel comfortable and soothing; but almost immediately my contractions intensified and it became difficult to find a position that worked for me. I ended up on my knees bent over the back of the tub, Luke holding me whenever contractions hit, and Candice massaged my lower back. Her hands were ICE COLD and it felt amazing! Hilariously, in my head I was convinced she was dipping her hands in ice water before she touched me each time. Obviously, that’s not what she was doing, but when I mentioned it she laughed and said her clients have been known to say of her, “cold hands, warm heart”! Either way, the cold felt wonderful as I knelt in the warm tub in the darkened bathroom. Candice had turned off the lights, so it was very peaceful, with the only light coming from the windows.

cliffsbirth-10.jpg

After 45 minutes or so, I started to feel cold in the tub and decided to get out. Before my feet hit the floor Candice/Luke/the nurses were wrapping me in blankets. Once I was out things started getting extremely intense. I was beginning to moan louder and deeper during each wave of pain; it was very primal. During a particularly hard contraction, Luke and Candice came along either side of me and held me as I bore down into a squat. Candice pointed out that I had naturally squatted and asked if I felt like pushing. I told her that I did feel a bit of an inclination so she said I should give in to the sensation, but only gently for now. At that moment it dawned on me that pushing would help the baby move down. Seems blatantly obvious, right? But it was actually really nice to have this realization before it was time to really, really push. I started pushing a little with each contraction and imagined him moving down lower and lower.

Around that time Lindsay entered the room along with our doctor, who was also attending, and I felt so happy they were there! Luke said I visibly lifted at the sight of them as though I realized that meant we were really getting close. Candice mentioned to our doctor that I had started to feel like pushing, so we decided to have him check me. He’s a very laid back guy and seemed so casual when he said “Alright, game time! You can start trying to push whenever you want." He was so calm about it, which was amazingit kept me from feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of pushing, which was the stage I’d definitely had the most fear and reservation about.

All this time I had been laboring, my water hadn’t yet broken. I remember being sort of stressed out about it, but Candice urged me not to worry, it would happen when it happened. It felt strange to push and wonder if at any second the bag would break. When it did, it was so, so, so weird. I was kneeling over the back of the hospital bed, and while I was pushing through an increasingly painful contraction, I felt the bag of waters burst and a ton of warm liquid gush out. It was just a weird/gross sensation, but within 20 seconds Candice and the nurses had everything cleaned up and I didn’t give it a second thought. All the while, Luke stayed right up by my head, holding me, encouraging me and enduring my very strong grip. :)

At one point I recalled that changing positions helps the baby move through the birth canal more easily, so I decided to lay down and push on my side. The only problem was that every time I had a contraction and pushed, my body wanted to curl up into the fetal position and I would almost fall off the edge of the bed! I didn’t realize it was happening because Luke was right there keeping me from rolling off, but everyone seemed very concerned and moved me back towards the middle several times. Things were getting increasingly more vocal now as everyone cheered me on with every push. Our sweet midwife was cheerful and calm as she watched his head begin to slowly appear. Our wonderful doctor stood by and let me squeeze the life out of his hand after I accidentally grabbed it thinking it was Luke’s (let’s be honest—at that point I didn’t care who or what I was grabbing onto), and he even manned our camera at one point! BEST doctor ever. Despite the fact that I was working through an incredible level of pain, the moments in between my contractions/pushes were incredibly peaceful and gave me a much needed opportunity to rest before the next wave came.

We were getting so very close now. I was pushing and roaring with each contraction. I was very conscious of my screaming, but I wasn’t embarrassed of it. The screaming was not for panic, fear or feeling out of control—it was a natural outcome of the exertion my body was under. The levels of excitement and anticipation (and, obviously, pain) were rising. I knew that soon I would have to put every ounce of strength I had into pushing, but for now Candice reminded me to let things happen slowly and steadily and allow all the tissues to stretch at their own pace to minimize the risk of tearing. It was a relief to know I didn’t have to push my brains out every single time. Pushing was definitely tough, but my team was incredible in guiding and encouraging me throughout it. Before I knew it, they were telling me that Cliff’s head was visible—and he had a mound of dark hair! Thus began the longest, hardest part of this crazy experience. He had descended to where his head was RIGHT THERE, and all I had to do was push it out. There is no more fitting time to use the phrase “so close, but so far away”. He was so close to being born that everyone was convinced that the next push would be the one that delivered his head. They were trying to encourage me by saying “This is it! His head is going to come out with the next push!” and, unfortunately, I felt like that happened over and over. It was like I was running a race and all the onlookers were telling me "The finish line is right around the corner!" but, when I rounded the bend, there was still a long stretch ahead of me. I started to feel defeated and even believe that I might not physically have what it takes. Every contraction, every push that he didn’t come out I felt more like a failure. I didn’t like that the nurses were getting louder, trying to cheer me on but instead just making me feel chaotic. Thankfully Luke, Candice, and our doctor and midwife intuited that I was starting to deflate and kept the words of encouragement coming—things like “you’re amazing, you’re doing it, he’s going to be in your arms soon.” At one point someone told me to look down and see my baby, but all that was visible was the tiny crown of his head, which looked like a midget head! In my somewhat out-of-mind-and-body state, some of the fears I’d had during pregnancy came rushing back that he didn’t develop enough (we had to have multiple ultrasounds to confirm his growth was on track). Not the best thing in the moment. I remember crying and wondering if my baby would ever come out of my body. I knew I wasn’t putting my full, total effort into the pushes. I needed to kick it up a notch and just keep going. When he finally emerged, I didn’t even realize he had come out. All I knew was that after an hour of pushing, my sweet son’s body came right out with his head and he was being placed into my outstretched arms. I had imagined this moment so many times—the first time seeing his face and how much hair he had and how big (or small!) he was—and now here was his warm, wrinkly, slippery body resting in my arms as he screamed with all his might. Such a surreal moment.

His umbilical cord was fairly short, so he rested down low on my chest. It took several minutes to calm him down—knowing him now, I’m sure he was angry because he was freezing! Candice and the nurses wiped him off, put a hat on his head and wrapped him up as he lay on me. His face was sooo smooshy, and his hands and feet were HUGE! Once the cord stopped pulsating, they clamped it and had Luke cut it. I think we were both somewhat in shock that our boy was finally with us. We had done it.

All in all, I was in labor for about 24 hours, but it felt much quicker. The hour after his birth was bliss. He just laid on me and I smelled his sweet newborn smell and we marveled at what had just taken place. When it was time to feed him for the first time, he latched on like a little fish. I was completely blown away. That night, I couldn't bear to put him down—I don’t think I slept for more than 45 minutes because all I wanted to do was stare at his beautiful face. Those first 48 hours of his life he never once left our sight.

 

Cliff, how could I put into words the way it felt to welcome you into our lives? You are our greatest gift. We’ve known what a good guy you are even from the womb, and you proved that with your wonderful and gentle entrance into the world. We rejoice over you, our sweet Clifford Zeb. You are fiercely loved.

 

Benediction
by josh garrels

may all of your days shine brightly
and your nights be blessed with peace
wherever you lay down to sleep

and all things are made good for those who believe
may you grow from a seed
into a strong fruitful tree

as the days unfold, hold your breath to see
life is a mystery
and joy is severe when the way is rough and steep
but love will make your days complete

may the work of your hands help those in need
befriend the lonely
serve the weak
and forgive enemies

and if you find true love, one day marry
bear a child from your seed
help it to grow into a tree

as the days unfold, hold your breath to see
life is a mystery
and joy is severe when the way is rough and steep
but love will make your days complete