Sunday, May 30, 2010

Healing and a Birth Story

What can I say?

Our girls love weekends. Fridays to be more exact, even though technically this one held out until early Saturday morning.

Last Friday morning I woke up to some strange pains in my back... nothing too unusual as the 60 pounds this little girl and I added could be known to catch up with me. I got up to use the bathroom, an also customary and frequent ritual those days, when I noticed bright red blood. I fought back a few tears, but we've had enough pregnancy scares to know that blood isn't always a big deal. Bright red blood most certainly can be.

So began the choking back of my fear.

We got in touch with our midwives, who felt that things were probably fine but assured us we could come in if we wanted. Since I had an appointment already scheduled for the afternoon, Joe and I decided to head up early. A dear friend was going to watch the girls for me that morning so I could take advantage of a prenatal massage Joe got me for Christmas, and when I called to let her know what was happening she immediately began to pray and encourage! We then called a sweet neighbor, who the girls adore, and she came over to watch them. We smiled and totally relaxed when once on the road our phone lit up with a picture of the girls inside a fort they had built in the family room.

We put in the worship CD we made and during the 45-minute drive north I had at least two contractions. Once we arrived the midwife checked me out and told me things indeed looked fine. I was dilated a whole whopping half of a centimeter. She was encouraging and hopeful, even still, that our little girl would be coming sometime soon.

Across the street from the office is a big beautiful park, so Joe and I set out to walk around it. Just to see if things would pick up. We did one lap hand in hand and my legs felt so tired I told Joe that I really needed to take a break. We headed back to the car with my contractions still sporadic but definitely coming. Next we went to Trader Joes to stockpile a few final things for the girls, and I only had one or two small contractions while there. With that we decided to head on home, pray, and wait.

The girls went down for naps shortly after we got home. The contractions began to come a bit more frequently and many of them much more intense. Yet still nothing that made us believe we should jump in the car. I called my former doula who agreed that I should rest if my body was telling me to do so, and so I tried.

I couldn't sleep for the excitement so I clicked around on the computer, watched a little "Pride and Prejudice," and read over and over my verses of truth while Joe took care of me and feverishly worked to get a big project caught up. By early evening we knew that even though everything wasn't exactly time worthy, it was getting close.

We called our same neighbor and within minutes she and our back-up neighbor arrived. I gave the girls, who both love animals, a movie gift I had been saving... "Diego's Jaguar Rescue Adventure." They were beyond thrilled at such a special treat! Our friends fed them a carpet picnic while Joe and I took a walk around the neighborhood. I just wanted to see if things would pick up consistently before we made the drive.

About fifteen feet into the walk, we knew it was time to get going. Every three feet or so I had to sway through yet another contraction. Several neighbors stopped to wish us well, to tell us they were praying, to let us know they were there if we needed anything. We treasured up all that encouragement and headed back to our cul-de-sac.

I left some final instructions, fought back tears again to hug and kiss the girls, and called my parents to tell them it was time. Mom cried and prayed for us. Dusk was settling as we pulled out of the drive. I could see the light on in the playroom over the garage where the girls were being treated to pink pedicures, popcorn, and "Cinderella." We rolled down the windows and listened to the worship songs as I breathed through each hard contraction. Something about the evening breeze, the words of truth, the knowing that she was probably coming. It was one of those times you just know you'll never forget.

Once we got to Vanderbilt, we were trying to find the parking garage and the contractions were peaking. Joe started to ask me questions about the detour signs, as they were reflective and hard for him and his tricky eyesight to read when I barked back, "Are you serious? I'm the one in labor!!" Needless to say, the pain was starting to cloud the nostalgia a bit. :)

Thankfully, we quickly found the right garage and made our way inside. My bladder was about to burst so Joe found me a lady's room asap; then I was able to calm down so we could make it to check in on the fourth floor.

Being with the midwife practice, I didn't have to do the standard check-in which was a God-send. They got me back to a room quickly where I got into my gown and the attending nurse took my vitals. My contractions seemed to slow down, and I thought to myself what a bummer that would be to still only be at half a centimeter! When the midwife and her apprentice came in to check, though, I was joyful to hear the verdict... 4 cm! Active labor had indeed begun! This would be the time, after all.

When the midwives left me to go check on other patients they had suggested that I try to rest all that I could. I agreed as I still felt so tired. Not thirty minutes after their leaving my room, though, my body kicked it into high gear again. HIGH gear!

The rest of the labor and delivery can be described as hard. And healing. A combo that I've learned often go hand in hand, especially when the end result is nothing short of miraculous. And beautiful... very, very beautiful.

Joe immediately started playing our songs, quoting scripture from our book, praying for God to give me strength, encouraging me to breathe and believe. I tried my typical methods of pain management... swaying, rocking, leaning in to "dance" with Joe. I was too tired, and it seemed my legs would not hold up. I tried our birthing ball... still, no relief. The midwife suggested the rocker padded with pillows. It was there that I spent 95% of the labor.... rocking, holding onto Joe and them, stretching out and vocalizing when each contraction would hit the maximum, repositioning once a short break would come.

At one point they were coming so hard and so fast that I began to hyperventilate a little, which scared me as we all know how prone I am to passing out. After I slowed down and got things under control I asked Joe out of a place of fear, "I will get to go home, won't I?" and then I began to sob. All I could think about was climbing into our bed piled high with books and reading to the girls. Joe assured me that, of course, I would go home and he began to cry too.

I spent a good portion of this labor letting go of fear and past memories, crying, letting healing happen. Then I told them all I needed some relief and I needed it NOW... as in go hunt down anesthesia and give them your right limb if you have to! :)

They assured me that I was so close, but the level of pain did little to help me believe them. The midwife suggested we check in again, and sure enough I was right at the door. She had just begun to also recommend we break my water when I had a contraction to beat all contractions and my water literally broke like some kind of Olympic event. They had never seen anything like it! It was God's emphatic exclamation point to our prayers, and then I had the most wonderful three or four minute lull I have ever known.

During this time I centered myself, surrounded in truth, and shoved fear out of the way. God would give me the strength to see my little girl and soon... Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

As the music continued to softly play and everyone got into position I rested quietly and securely in His grace. Fear was gone. Then came the urge to push. The midwife and I communicated well, and in the peace I kept going until I heard the words I had been waiting almost nine months to hear...

She's here... and she's perfect!

Joe and I cried again and marveled at her dark hair, her olive complexion... her striking resemblance to our first born. Joe made me feel like I had basically hung the moon as did those attending the birth. The midwife's apprentice told me through glassy eyes that she had attended nearly sixty births and this is the one that really had her in tears. This love and encouragement was especially beautiful to me because of some afterward complications that required a specialist and almost two more hours of holding on.

Finally we were back to our post-partum room. Phone calls were made, texts given and received, celebrations abounding! We thanked God for bringing us through, for His gift of healing, for the little one who we would come to name Alysse Maribeth Martins. Believing she will speak truth and be a woman after God's own heart, very much like our mothers for whom her middle name is a combination.

As I look down at her right now nursing in my arms, warm against my own body I can't imagine that there was a time she wasn't here. I know she was destined before the foundations of the earth to be in our family, and I feel honored to be her Mama. Her Daddy and sisters certainly agree.

Welcome to the World

Beautiful Alysse Maribeth

"God's honest disciple"

Born at 3:26 am on May 22nd

9 lbs. 8 oz.


A million thanks to the thoughts and prayers of so many! And to my mother and husband, without which I would never have the time to rest and recover... never have the time to get this down while it's still fresh on my heart and mind. I am so very, very grateful!

Monday, May 17, 2010


The bassinet is snuggled up close to our bed with clean sheets and a third white afghan made by a sweet lady in my mom's church. Little onesies and gowns and outfits are tucked into baskets at the foot of our bed, washed and ready to be worn. The infant seat is cleaned and installed in our car. Suitcases lay in wait, big sister t-shirts hang on our door, and Nana should be on her way less than a week from now just in case.

And I, my friends, am blown away.

I've had two girls' nights out turned showers, which meant the world to me. The first was a complete surprise from our incredible neighborhood friends, my dip and diaper shower as it was called, since we loaded up on some fine Mexican cheese and salsa (Mama Brown, I wish we had moved that big box, but I couldn't move from all the fajitas! Ha!) The second was from the wonderful women in my church small group, who made me feel special while dining on Italian goodness. They actually printed out the previous blog post and took turns praying specifically for us. It is so humbling to be on the receiving end of such love and generosity!

But to this checked off list of to-dos and sweet blessings, I am blown away by the scripture and prayers that I've tucked into a book. That I read over every single night. That will go with me to the place where our daughter will meet us for the first time. Not to mention the songs that Joe and I downloaded! I am telling you what... among the comments and e-mails and even some deliveries, we are filled up with wisdom and with truth. It is such a beautiful, beautiful thing and... well, talk about meaning the world to me???

I couldn't help but compile them here as a resource for any of you out there facing struggles, challenges, moments of fear. I'll continue to add to this as we receive any more. Pour over these verses and listen to the words of these songs. I promise you, you will feel His strength rise up within you. May it be a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing to each of you!

1 Peter 5:7
2 Timothy 1:7
Joshua 1:3-9
2 Chronicles 20:15-17
Exodus 14:14
Jeremiah 17:8
Deuteronomy 31:8
Matthew 11:28-30
Hebrews 13:6
John 12:15, 15:7
Isaiah 35:4, 54:4-17, 43:1-7, 41:13, 27:1, 28:3, 26:3
Psalm 12:2, 55:22, 116:1, chapters 23 and 27 and 121, 46:10, 10:1, 62:5-7, 127:3-5, 64:1 & 9-10, 56:3-4 & 12-13, 44:3, 37:3-4, 31: 2& 5
Judges 7:2-3
1 Thessalonians 1:3
2 Thessalonians 3:3
1 John 4:18
Zephaniah 3:17
*Our former doula and now dear, family friend also shared a "prayer birth plan" that is chocked full of scripture and amazing truth! I will be glad to forward it to you if you're interested.

One to write out that has resonated with me so is this from Joshua: "... I will not fail you or abandon you... Be strong and courageous... Be strong and very courageous... This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

You are On Our Side by Bethany Dillon
All I Need by Bethany Dillon
Hallelujah by Bethany Dillon
Hope Now by Addison Road
You Never Let Go by Matt Redmon
How He Loves by David Crowder Band
Before the Throne of God Above by Shane & Shane
When I Think About the Lord by Shane & Shane
Burn Us Up by Shane & Shane
Beauty for Ashes by Shane & Shane
When You are Near by Jeremy Camp
I Need You by Jars of Clay
Amazed by Lincoln Brewster
How Can I Keep from Singing? by Chris Tomlin
Everlasting God by Chris Tomlin
Lead Me to the Cross by Hillsong
Safe in His Arms by Phil Wickham
What a Wonderful World
Somewhere Over the Rainbow... Hawaiian version
Every Season by Nichole Nordeman
Where to Find Me by Watermark
If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens
Indescribable by Chris Tomlin
He Knows My Name by Tommy Walker
Anything by Alberto and Kimberly Rivera
Healing by Faith Blatchford
Baby Oil by John Belt
Alone in His Presence by CeCe Winans
Baby Mine by Bette Midler or Alison Krauss (Holly, when I used to have music on this blog, that was one of my top songs! :)
Blessed Be by Alison Krauss
In Christ Alone by Brian Littrell
Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
Your Hands by JJ Heller
What it Means to be Loved by Mark Schultz
God Our Protector by Steve Bell
You're Not Alone by Meredith Andrews
The Shadow of Your Wings-- CD by Fernando Ortega
I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman
Speak to Me by Jill Phillips
The Door by Jill Phillips
I Am by Jill Phillips

Two songs that were suggested more than once have lyrics below because the message of them... well, I hope I'm not wearing out the whole "means the world" phrase, but man... BEAUTIFUL!

With Strength Renewed,

Your Hands by JJ Heller (You Tube Video)

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That You would take my pain away
That You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crookedly lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

When You walked upon the Earth
You healed the broken, lost, and hurt
I know You hate to see me cry
One day You will set all things right
Yea, one day You will set all things right

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

Your hands
Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still
Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave You when...

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave...
I never leave Your hands

I Am by Jill Phillips (You Tube Video)

oh gently lay your head upon my chest
and I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
the tide can change so fast, but I will stay
the same through past, the same in future, same today

I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
your heart's desires

oh weary, tired and worn, let out your sighs
and drop that heavy load you hold 'cause Mine is light
I know you through and through; there's no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep and high and wide

'cause I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
your heart's desires

I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
your heart's desires

oh gently lay your head upon my chest
and I will comfort you like a mother while you rest

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bearing Burdens

Updated: For those who we have recently reconnected with through Facebook, or those who may not understand why there is a certain amount of fear to overcome...HERE gives a little more detail. Thank-you, dear friends!

I'll admit that there have been times in my life when I have felt it was selfish to ask for prayer. Such a silly thing to think, especially considering I have NEVER felt anyone else was selfish who asked me to pray for them. In fact, I feel honored to be entrusted with someone else's concerns, worries, or thoughts!

The Bible says it best:
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ... Galatians 2:6

And so tonight, as the ticker counts down to sixteen days, I would like to share with those who might feel led to pray specifically for us as we bring our little girl into the world:

*That I would have freedom from fear that the enemy will attempt to harm my family or me... that he will have no place in this birth at all
*That she will be the perfect size and my body will open up to receive her as it's meant to do
*That my GBS positive testing will not affect the baby and that all infections, especially mastitis, will never be an issue
*That we will all be protected before, during, and after childbirth... that God's angels will totally encamp around us
*That I will be at peace about the pain aspect of it all... it's hard for me to separate the pain of childbirth alone from the ongoing pain I was in for almost a year following Maddie's birth
*That our little girl will be born healthy in every way... that all of us would remain healthy
*That all the specifics about the girls' childcare will be seamless and that Joe and I will work fluidly as a team
*That my midwife and any other medical professionals will be the perfect fit for this birth

One final request... Joe and I are writing down scripture to place around the room and also downloading some songs to play quietly as I labor. If you have any verses and/or songs that bring you strength, comfort, or peace we'd love to know your suggestions... if you get a moment, feel free to leave them in the comments or e-mail them to us!

Most importantly, we love to know how to lift up each of you. .. please share with us any time. Give us the blessing of fulfilling the law of Christ! :)

With Great Gratitude,

Picking Time

It's never officially spring until we hit the patch. Until I see juice dribbling down little chins, fingers stained with deep red berries, and at least one of my little girls determined to carry her bucket no matter how heavy it gets.

This year Hope picked hers and then asked, "Mama, can I eat some now?" while Maddie determined that the space between her mouth and the bucket was just too far to travel. Nothing that offering to pay a little extra at the end couldn't handle. After all, chances are next year she'll be so big that she remembers to ask too.

Now won't that be wonderful and sad all at the same time?

Bring on the strawberry salad, the popsicles, the smoothies... and, while I'm asking, the little shortcake baking in my tummy might be nice too! :)


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finishing Well

It's 2 am, our time. Joe is working on a brief, though, and sometimes it is hard for me to fall completely asleep while I know he is pressing on. Still, I can't believe I'm not knocked out!

You see, I've been on this crazy nesting binge for the past few days. I went from zero energy, further zeroed out by the weekend's sad turn of flooding events... to crazy, almost nervous like energy. You know the kind I mean? When you feel like you should be doing something so you take on everything you can to fill up that place of needing to do. Besides, let's face it, the house was a capital M-E-S-S! I have scrubbed, vacuumed, magic erased, folded, and list made myself into oblivion. While doing so I discovered something pretty ironic.

The more I scrubbed, the more dishes and toys I found to be washed. The more I vacuumed, the more carpet stains I uncovered. The more I magic erased, the more little smudges I found all over our walls. The more I folded, more were the piles to be donated or sorted and put away. And the more lists I made, the more that came to mind to be done. It was quite irritating, in fact.

Many things of this world, important things like making our home clean and organized, are never really finished. They pile back up before you put down your rag and cap your pen.

Perhaps my body knows something I don't know. Baby Girl coming earlier than expected?
Perhaps I want to get everything done so I can soak up more of these moments before I have to figure out how to divide my attention between three beautiful girls all within three years of each other?
But perhaps, too, my heart is full of this world's needs? The flooded areas in our state where folks only wish they had the normal wear and tear of life instead of destroyed homes caked with thick mud and dirty water.
As my mind turns this over, I find a post.

A life changing kind of post that I know my heart will be full of for some days to come. Because I really, really know something greater.

The things that are not of this world are the things I should strive for. It is those things that should never really be finished. It is my prayer that I too use my energy to scrub, vacuum, erase, fold, and plan until the desires of my heart truly match the way I live out my life.

Though it might require such work, I know there is a finishing line. And it's full of joy unspeakable.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Weekend To Remember

I'm sitting here on this gray Saturday morning watching the rain fall. A plate of watermelon and cottage cheese beside me. And don't forget the ice-cubes. I've been eating those like candy for days now.

Joe spontaneously took the girls to the library, which is pretty much like Disney World in their little books, and the house is quiet. My nesting list is long. This stack of bills beside me begs to be caught up, but I'm tired. Really tired.

So since the house is quiet and the steady drizzle lulling, I choose to blog. To remember something monumental, something whose very name encourages us not to forget.

Last weekend Joe and I got away. For the first time ever.

We've never been away from the kids at the same time, but thankfully Joe worked it all out. ADF, of course, strongly encourages protecting marriage and a GENEROUS person made a way for any engaged or married couple in the organization to attend a "Weekend to Remember" in 2010. Not only that, but some great friends of ours gave us money toward just such a weekend way back almost seven years ago on our wedding day! Though it was a haul to travel being a pretty good distance and all, we decided that we couldn't let it pass us by... plus, Nana got to babysit the girls. That meant no worries for us and bliss for her... a win-win situation, for sure!

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it was a minor act of congress to get us the six+ hours to Asheville and then an additional couple of hours the next day to our destination for such a quick trip, especially since... well, have you noticed my ticker?? We're down to under thirty days!!

Was it worth it?

Sitting at Panera on a breezy Saturday morning writing love letters to later be read in our hotel room...

Watching my groom valiantly guard a stuffed arm chair he found for me for me when sessions broke; me sipping on the vanilla latte he had waiting on me when I got out of the shower (and I leisurely got to drink throughout the morning) all while learning how to love and respect each other better...
Told you I was tired. :) But also relaxed, thankfully, in this photo!

Having date nights ranging from Cook-Out milkshakes and watching old movies to "Shrimp Fest" and strolling through TJ Maxx hand in hand while the rain poured and my ankles told me something like dancing probably wouldn't be a great idea...
Sitting, talking, singing, praying, and not having to say anything at all...
Catching a glimpse of the girls as they caught their first glimpse of us when we got back; then catching up two day's worth of cuddles...
Worth it?

I'd say... yes.

These days we know how precious times like these are, and not just because we got a "break" from the kids. In fact, it really wasn't about that. (Though it was awful nice for a day or two to take long showers with only the thought of getting myself out the door. I realized that on my own I travel mighty light- ha!) It was a time to remember us and how this family began, our hopes and dreams for where it's headed.

I sure hope we take what we learned to better love and respect each other. Love, respect, encourage, romance, and strengthen... even when we might feel like doing very much the opposite.

With these hands. With everything.