Thursday, December 7, 2017

bethany victoria | birth story.

Today is December 7th, which means that it's baby girl's due date. We have loved these extra twenty days that we've had with her, and she has already showed us how tough she is by all she's endured since her birthday. I can remember her first mama telling us her due date and how I thought this day would never get here -- and yet here we are. More blessed than we've ever been before.

Early on, our birth mom joked about not wanted to be pregnant for Thanksgiving so she could actually eat all the yummy food, and I began asking God to honor her desires and send baby girl to us a couple weeks early. I now know that I should have prayed more specifically, because although she came around the time that I'd been asking for her to come, she did not come without difficulty.

Her birth story is one of strength, tears, endurance, and hope -- I'm grateful to share it with you now.
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
We went in on Monday morning for our first mama's weekly appointment with the doctor. Her blood pressure had been high for a while and was dealing with a pregnancy-related complication called cholestasis, so we had been hearing the word "induce" for several months. Her blood pressure had gone up since the last appointment and was at risk of pre-eclampsia, but I think we were all surprised to hear, "You'll be 37 weeks on Thursday, so plan to be at the hospital at 8 PM on Wednesday to start your induction." WHOA! I rushed home to do as much around the house as I could for the next two days, packed my bags, spent time snuggling Braxton as his time as my only baby was coming to a close, went on a final pre-baby date night with Teesh, prayed endlessly, and then hit the road to prepare to meet our daughter.

After 48-hours of labor, the induction sadly proved to be unsuccessful. Our birth mama was so strong through the medically-induced contractions during those two days, and she endured everything with grace. It was an honor to hold her hand mid-contraction, braid her hair to keep it out of her face, and try to make her smile those two days. And when the time came for her to be rolled back to the operating room, TJ and I proudly stood beside her mom in our blue scrubs ready to be there with her through this next test of endurance.
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography

*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
Bethany was born at 8:03 PM, and the doctor held her up for us to see her over the sheet seconds after she emerged. Oh, what a sight it was to see our daughter for the first time! The nurses cleaned her up as we stayed glued to our first mama's side, and they invited me over to see her after a few minutes. She was so beautiful! I cried as I looked at her, just as I'd been doing the whole time we'd been in the operating room, because I couldn't fathom that this baby who had just been born from another woman would call me mommy.

I cried because after all the pain our birth mama had gone through to bring this precious girl into the world, she would place her in my arms to be my daughter. The weight of that was nearly too much for me, and I could hardly see anything through the flood of tears filling my eyes.

After a few minutes, I returned to our first mama's side, gripping her hand in mine once more. My eyes went back and forth between her and our daughter, my heart breaking because I could not be two places at once. A few people in yellow scrubs entered the operating room, and I noticed that they were shaking their heads at each other while looking at Bethany's stats. I started to grow increasing concerned, because she hadn't cried very much either.

Then, a doctor approached us to say that Bethany was perfect, but was having some trouble breathing. When the words "NICU" came out of her mouth, my heart dropped and my mouth began to quiver. The doctors let me carry Bethany from the cleaning table to the door before they scooped her out of my arms and into the transfer bed. They wheeled her down the hall, told us to give them an hour or so to get her settled in, and then they vanished around the corner. My mama heart was hurting to so badly!
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
Our birth mama was moved to a recovery room, and we stayed with her for a little while before we went out to the waiting room to update our family. I got a little light-headed after all the craziness had subsided, and I needed a minute to regain my composure. I even had some flashbacks of when Braxton was born, too, which didn't help the sorrow pulsing through my whole being. I knew she would be okay because there was peace in my achy heart, too, but I was overwhelmed by another delivery taking us by surprise -- only this time was worse for me, because I had to watch this baby who had all my love struggle to breathe and be surrounded by doctors and nurses instead of her mommy and daddy. I was okay and she wasn't -- and that's any mama's worst fear.
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
After we updated our families and I had a bite to eat, I made the trek to the NICU to see our baby for the first time since delivery. I had to go alone because TJ didn't have a hospital bracelet, and I tried to prepare myself through prayer as I walked over. Nope, I definitely wasn't prepared. When I saw her laying there with a CPAP on her head, an IV in her arm, and wires hooked up all over her tiny belly, I lost it. The grunting noise she was making really set me over the edge, because you could just tell she was struggling. As I was wiping tears from my cheeks, standing there terrified to touch her, her nurse walked over and put her arm around me. She assured me that she was in good hands, and that she was getting all the help she needed. Her kindness helped me feel slightly less uneasy, and in that moment I offered up my first ever prayer for NICU nurses and doctors.

I held her tiny hand for a few minutes before returning to TJ, hoping that the next time I visited he would get to come with me.
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
The next few days were a whirlwind of bouncing back and forth between Bethany and her first mama, making sure they were both okay. I held her for the first time on Saturday and TJ and her first mama held her for the first time on Sunday (the sweetest birthday gift for her daddy). Then, Monday came and it was a bright spot in our weariness. Papers were signed, Bethany came off of the CPAP, I finally got do skin-to-skin with her, AND they moved us to the transitional NICU.
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
*Photo by EmilieCarol Photography
We ended up staying in the hospital for nine days, but honestly, it felt more like nine years. Things were moving in the right direction once she got her CPAP off on Monday, but then Tuesday came. She was really jaundiced, so doctors decided that putting her in an isolette with bililights above her was the best option. She stayed under them until Friday afternoon, and the only time we were able to hold her was when we fed her. It was so hard to just stare at her from the other side of the plastic all day for so many days, and we were so thrilled when the doctors gave the report that her levels had dropped significantly from spending so much time under the lights. We could finally snuggle our sweet babe! Then, the next day, we were discharged. Oh, happy day!

We were so thankful to be going home with BOTH of our babies in our arms, anxious to officially begin our next chapter as a family of four. I'd heard how stressful the NICU was on parents, but now I can confirm the truth behind those statements. We were only there for a short time, but I have incredible respect and appreciation for NICU doctors and nurses, as well as exponential compassion and empathy for those who find themselves there. And parents with a baby (or babies) in the NICU and other kids at home -- wowzers. Finding someone to watch Braxton every day for nine days was a DOOZY, and we are sooooooo grateful to have such a wonderful family who rallied around us and made sure he was taken care of.

We are thankful to be home and well for the past twelve days, and we're still trying to figure out our new normal. We may not know very much about raising two children yet, but we do know one thing: we are blessed. Even in hardship and trials, God has faithfully provided for our every need, and we certainly don't take it for granted. He continually shows us His good character, and we're humbled to even get a glimpse of His glory.

Every time we look at Bethany or even hear the mention of her first mama's name, we see a glimpse of it.

Adoption is all-encompassing, but I'm ever grateful that we've had the opportunity to be stretched out so far for such a noble cause. We will never forget the blood, sweat, and tears that went into bringing our baby girl home. And we'll never regret them either.

Love made our family grow, and love will continue to be the reason that it flourishes and bears fruit.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
Not to us, but to His Name be the glory.


Monday, December 4, 2017

baby girl's room | home sweet bargeron.

The final room reveal has finally arrived after months of anticipation, and it's the one I'm sure you've been most curious about: the nursery! We are in love with how it turned out. In love! Adding little pink touches after being in a world of blue for three years was so much fun, and we are so excited to have our little miss here with us to begin enjoying it.

We kept the walls the same light green color it was when we moved in, and decided on a vintage floral theme to be what welcomes baby girl home. Gratefully, we reused all of Braxton's old furniture to fill the space. To spruce up the space, we used a combination of new items AND hand-me-downs, and it was thrilling to see it all come together with each new day. Several small shops contributed to the look, as well as Hobby Lobby (surprise, surprise) and yours truly. Yep, that pretty little mobile you see was made with love by me for only $12! The few hours and concentration it took to piece it together was worth saving more than $100 for similar products that I found online. I'm glad I was born with the ability to craft like it's my job. Annnnnd so is Teesh. Ha!

The walls of this room now knows cries, a tune that I'm not bothered by at all yet because I'm just so thankful. We've been frequent visitors of this space, because it's where Braxton always seems to wander, even before his baby sister was here. Seriously, he would rather play in baby girl's room than his. When we ask him what makes him love playing in here so much, he always simply says it's because he loves her. Melts my heart every time! One day soon, B will encourage his baby sister during tummy time on the same rug that I once laid on to encourage him.

Oh, what precious memories will be made in this room. A room that has been prayed over and prepared. A room that is officially called home by a miracle baby.

Three years ago, we were making room for a precious baby boy. And now, we are doing the same for a baby girl who has already touched more lives than we could have ever imagined. Putting this room together was so much more than just that. Baby girl has been growing in our hearts for some time now, and we are thrilled to watch her grow up inside of these walls.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

this is us | plus one.

Today is November 30th, which marks the end of Adoption Awareness Month. For years, I celebrated this month, these thirty days, in honor of all my friends who had adopted or been adopted themselves, but this particular year has caused us to celebrate in a very personal, very raw way.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
TJ and I talked about our desire to adopt before we became husband and wife, but our path to this looked much different than the one we’ve actually walked. If it had been up to us, we would have had three or so biological children before adding to our family via adoption. We would have had time to be “ready” for such a big pursuit.

As you know, this wasn’t how our story played out.

Nearly three years ago when my life hung in the balance after welcoming our precious Braxton into the world, everything we thought we knew shifted. For a year following those scary few days, we grieved with all of our hearts. We were thankful for the gift of one biological child, something we grievously know is not true for everyone, but it took time to truly be at peace with how our future would now look. I faked it with my big smile on the outside (y’all know the one), but those closest to me knew how much my heart ached.

Then, in January of this year, shortly after Braxton turned two, TJ and I were both on the same page: it was time. It was almost as if we weren’t “ready” until we took that first step towards adoption by attending an adoption fair. Isn’t that always the case? For us it has been, anyway. Peace followed obedience.

On May 8th, we became active clients with our agency, Quiver Full Adoptions, and then we matched with baby girl’s first mama a short twenty-one days later, a Memorial Day we’ll never forget. Meeting her and hearing her say that she wanted us to be the family to bring home her baby was the moment that peace transformed into thrill. And for the next 25 weeks, the thrill grew with every new second as we undeservedly walked with her through pregnancy.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
Before we began living out our adoption story, I was ignorant to just how beautiful it could be. I mean, I knew it was incredible based on others’ experiences, but to have it played out in our life was too magnificent to be described by mere words. We didn’t just bring a new baby into our family like we originally thought. Instead, we brought our baby girl, her first mama, AND her first mama’s closest supporters into our family, too. And I promise that it’s the most amazing thing we’ve ever known.

For the last two plus years, I’ve wrestled with this looming question off and on: “Why me, Lord?” I would ask this especially in my most profound moments of grief, leaning on my faith as the only source of hope. I would pray honestly, saying things like, “Lord, the plans we made were good ones. You were at the center of all of it. Are those plans, those deeply-rooted dreams, really over? Am I really a barren woman because of sickness? Aren’t all the trials I’ve faced in my short twenty-eight years enough?”

In response to all of those questions, all those cries, I always heard the same response:
“Trust me, daughter.”

Now I know the answer to all of those questions. I am not barren, I am blessed. I am not sick, but eternally healed. I am not yet done facing trials, but I’m being equipped by His Spirit to overcome them. My dreams have not died, they have simply been rewritten. And I am not wise enough to make plans that are best for me, but I can seek after the wisdom that gives me a heavenly perspective and an earthly purpose.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
The fallen state of this world beckoned me to give up hope and turn to despair, but God in His goodness made a way where there was no way. God redeemed the brokenness that tried to bind me. And He will continue to breathe redemption over our every circumstance, every situation, forever.

We were burdened. Our birth mama was burdened. And God in His sovereignty intertwined our stories in order to lift those burdens. To restore hope.

That’s the beauty of adoption.

And that’s our story.

It’s not the one we penciled for ourselves, but it is infinitely more, infinitely better.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
I’ve only been an adoptive mama for thirteen days, which is hardly long enough to give me any rapport. We are just at the beginning of our journey, and I know we will face many hard conversations and moments ahead as we navigate the ins and outs of this blessing. But as long as we don’t lose sight of that fact — that we are blessed — then we will thrive.

One of my children grew in my belly. One of my children grew in another woman’s belly. But they both grew in my heart.

And they’ll both continue to grow in my arms.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
That’s what our story of love looks like. It’s a story that began with promise, knew hard grief, and resolved with immeasurably more than any of our wildest dreams could comprehend.

Because of adoption, our family has grown by two feet and then some. Because of adoption, we know more now about selfless love than we ever did before. Because of adoption, our faith has been tested and has emerged from the fire stronger than ever.

Adoption is hard. Adoption is costly. Adoption is messy. Adoption is redemptive.

Adoption is worth it.

Our baby girl and her first mama are worth it. And they always, always will be.

Our path to bringing home our baby through adoption didn't take the same turns as we thought it would. Instead, it was exponentially better. We had no way of knowing this prior to walking it, but we know it now. And we are grateful -- oh, so grateful -- that things didn't go our way.
*Photo by Emerson Iris Photography
“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers.”
-Psalm 20:4-5

Monday, November 13, 2017

big boy's room | home sweet bargeron.

This room was a work in progress longer than any other room, and it felt SO good to add finishing touches to it just a few months ago. Between switching from a crib to a twin bed, there were lots of months of bare walls and things sitting around waiting to be put into place. As soon as we transitioned Braxton from sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor to a frame, however, I was more than ready to slap stuff on the walls and complete this space!

Braxton has more books than we can count, pictures of his favorite people AND things spread throughout, a tee-pee full of animals that he refuses to get rid of, and a whole lot of BLUE. Yep, when you see this room, you won't be surprised to learn that he loves the color! He's pretty much obsessed. And we just giggle at him!

There's always a stash of library books on the bottom shelf, toys are constantly being pulled out and put away, and Marshall and "Ti-Ti" (short for Tiger) are always in bed when he is. He's a pretty tidy little dude, and TJ and I definitely encourage him in this. We both love a tidy house, sometimes to a fault. I like to think that one day B's wife will thank us for how he cleans up after himself. Hehe!

I don't know if his love for blue will always be this strong, but while it is, his room is full of it!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

naley | round two.

It had been nearly four years since I visited my favorite spot in all the world, and my college roomie's wedding gave us the perfect opportunity to go back for the weekend. After a stunning Friday evening watching Mallory walk down the aisle to meet her man and celebrating the night away, TJ and I extended our stay through Sunday to have some time together, just the two of us.

Today marks one week since we had breakfast and coffee at Port City Java, lunch at the Dixie Grill, ice cream at Kilwin's, dinner at Front Street Brewery, and dessert at The Fortunate Glass. We got to pop in at the weekly market that morning, and we walked until our feet nearly fell off. I even did a little Christmas shopping at a few of my favorite shops!

Our room overlooked the river with a gorgeous view of the bridge and Front Street, and I dare say that this won't be the only time we stay in this particular spot. We felt so fancy to have a waterfront balcony! This was our second trip to Wilmy together, and I sincerely hope it won't be another five years before we tarry here again, hand in hand. It was so refreshing, as always, to be intentional about our time together. I'd let my Teesh whisk me away at any moment, because in my heart, we're still those goo-goo-eyed babies who are crushing so hard on each other. I'm so thankful to share so many of life's most precious moments alongside of him, including these few days. Every minute I spend with him is such a gift -- and it's always will be.

Before we left on Sunday, we enjoyed a long-anticipated brunch at The George and stopped by a beloved One Tree Hill location before hitting the road. My HPB left our mark on that iconic bridge before life took us all in separate directions, and I just had to stop by to see if it was still there. And it was! Our legacy lives on -- just like our friendship.

Oh, oh, it's magic. This city. These scenes. Mmm, they'll never get old.
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