July 4, 2016

She's Here! Leighton's Birth Story

I'm dusting off the ole' blog to share the birth story of our newest addition, Leighton Mabrey Stepp. She came fast and furious on Monday, June 28th at 1:28pm, weighing in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and 20 inches long.

Leighton's birth was completely different from Crosbi's and possibly slightly controversial in that I had an elective induction. I read many pregnancy forums where women basically said it was the worst possible thing you could do to your baby. That makes a person feel great. But I knew early on that I wanted to induce and felt incredible peace about my decision throughout my pregnancy. I had several reasons for my choice:

*I knew for sure I didn't want to go past 40 weeks. Crosbi was five days late and nearly nine pounds, and the last two weeks of my pregnancy were so miserable. I was in so much pain and not sleeping at all. I didn't want to put my family through that again. We induced the day before my due date.

*We live 45 minutes away from my hospital with no traffic. Second babies are known to come quick (which Leighton did!) and I was not about to deliver her on the side of the road. 

*Our closest family members are a good eight hours away. My mom is even further in North Carolina and I really wanted to have a plan in place for Crosbi. Leighton's due date was so close to July 4th that I was panicking a bit that I would go into labor over the holiday weekend when friends are traveling or have other plans and getting to Nashville could be difficult with holiday drivers on the road or back-ups at airports.

*Lastly, I was lucky enough to experience a "spontaneous" birth with Crosbi. My water broke at home, I had contractions in the car on the way to the hospital and was able to have a completely normal vaginal birth. My doctor was confident that my induction would be smooth since it was by second baby. I wouldn't have even considered it if it was my first (as you may remember with Crosbi).

Back to the story...at 5:00am, Todd and I packed the car, kissed our sleeping Crosbi goodbye, and made our way to the hospital. I will admit that even though I was confident in wanting to induce, I was anxious on the way to the hospital. I second guessed my decision because it felt so strange to know I would be having a baby that day but not feeling any labor symptoms at all. 

At 8am I was checked in and the nurse started my IV and pitocin. The IV may have been the worst part of my entire labor. The nurse blew a vein in my hand (ouch) and had to redo it in my arm. My arm throbbed the entire day. By 10am my contractions were regular but manageable. Todd encouraged me to go ahead and get my epidural so I could sleep, but I was nervous because I wasn't in any real pain yet. I went ahead and agreed to the epidural so that I could rest. While I don't regret getting it early (as you'll see later), the epidural was pretty painful. Because I wasn't having strong contractions, I could feel everything. I was so distracted with pain during Crosbi's birth that I didn't even feel the needle. Not the case this time.

Once the epidural was in place, the doctor put in my catheter and checked me. I was dilated 4 centimeters. An hour later (yes, just an hour!), I asked that my epidural be checked because I could feel the catheter and it was making me uncomfortable. Little did I know that it wasn't the catheter, it was the baby. I was dilated to a nine and the nurse was calling for my doctor. I will never forget the look Todd gave me when the nurse said it was time to push. We were thinking we would have hours before it was time. My doctor arrived and with one push (more like one and a half) Leighton was here. Her incredible quick delivery was such an answer to prayer and affirmation that we made the right decision for her birth. My labor was so quick that there is a good chance I wouldn't have made it to the hospital in time for not just the epidural, but possibly her birth. In an hour I went from 4 centimeters to holding my daughter. It's still surreal to me!

We spent the next few days recovering at the hospital. Leighton gave us a couple of choking scares and turned blue twice. I was a mess both times. The doctor's think it was due to her quick delivery and not having a chance to get the amniotic fluid out of her system. The pediatrician encouraged us to stay an extra night to monitor her, and thankfully she was much better by the third day and we headed home. 

We are so obsessed with our newest family member. My fears of not being able to love two, although real, were unnecessary. I'm head over heels and seeing Crosbi with her sister is a joy I can't explain. She completes our family in the best way.

Welcome to the world, Leighton Mabrey. You are so loved.

April 27, 2016

Thirty-One Weeks And A Little Perspective

I'm thirty-one weeks into this pregnancy and I'm not going to lie, I'm ready to be done. This week hasn't been an easy one. All of the normal discomfort of the third trimester has hit, but a couple of nights ago I woke up sick. And I didn't make it to the bathroom. Yep. 

I know that's not the picture of a glowing pregnant woman anyone wants to hear about, but it's my reality. I wish I was one of those women who felt strong and confident and loved every minute of pregnancy, but it's just not me. But I've learned that it's okay to not be that woman. We're all made so differently. Pregnancy is hard on my body. However, it reminds me that at my core, I'm really weak and that's actually a good thing. I can easily start to think that I'm in control of my life. I can set goals and work hard and often, though not always, things work out the way I hope they will. But pregnancy is a much needed humble reminder that I have no control whatsoever. I can't make my body not get sick. I can't make my body not gain weight (and oh how I've tried this time!) and I can't will myself to feel rested. I've cried out for help so many times the past few months. Ironically, while the pain and sickness haven't disappeared, I've felt God so close. Pregnancy brings me to my knees. When I can't bear to look at the woman I've become in the mirror, I have to remember where my worth comes from. When I feel like I can't go on one more day, I'm forced to remember that my strength comes from Christ alone. I don't enjoy pregnancy (like, at all), but it's so sanctifying. My pregnancy with Crosbi completely changed my life and my faith and this time around is no different. 

The day after my unfortunate not making it to the bathroom episode, I felt done. I needed a day to reset. Crosbi and I stayed home and had a lazy day of coloring and watching movies. She wanted to draw a picture for me and I was blown away by her art. 

It's the two of us with a heart in the middle. It was all I could do not to cry. The hard, sanctifying work of pregnancy brought me the greatest gift: my incredibly caring and loving baby girl. I looked at her picture and reminded myself that I would do all of it over again for her. The months of sickness, the pain and discomfort. She's worth it. So worth it. And soon her sister will be here and I'll say the same about her. The beauty of it all is that's how Jesus feels about me. He took the cross, the pain, the discomfort because he knew the other side. He saw me and said I was worth it. 

Perspective is an amazing thing. I don't enjoy this. I would be thrilled if it could be over tomorrow, but I'll hang on to my belief that this is as much about me understanding God's love for me as it is welcoming another life into our family. And today I'll be just a bit stronger.


April 11, 2016

Wrong Words and Other Ramblings

I have done a really poor job blogging about this pregnancy. Poor second child! I think that's mainly because once I got out of the dreaded first trimester, this pregnancy has felt so similar to my first. I'm carrying the same, gaining weight (like crazy) the same. My denial is the same. I don't really have anything new to add this time around. They say all pregnancies are different, but so far that hasn't been the case for me. The only difference I can really find this time is my age. It's pretty wild how much a person can age in four short years! I really feel like a woman in her almost mid-thirties carrying a baby and physically it feels harder. I don't think I was "over it" with Crosbi until I hit nine months. I'll be 29 weeks this week and if this baby was fully developed and ready to meet the world, I would be ready to go. I miss my old body in a fierce way. But as much as I'm ready for the pregnancy to be over, I'm thankful that my body carries a baby with little issue. My doctor has spread out my appointments longer than typically suggested because I'm boring basically. I'm more than okay with that.

Crosbi's feelings about the baby change by the day and as we get closer, I notice her really thinking through the changes and how she will be affected and some days it breaks my heart. There are days when she can't wait to feed and change the baby, and then there are days like a day earlier this week when she told me she didn't want us to have a baby anymore. She said she wants it to just be the three of us because she doesn't want me always taking care of the baby. She's been acting out a bit more than normal and I think it's because she's processing the change that's happening already. I know it's completely normal, but it makes me sad. She's my girl. She has my heart and the changes coming scare me too. But I know it will all work out and when we meet this baby our family will feel complete. My focus will just go from loving one well to being intentional with two. Never did I think I would be a stay at home mom, but in this season, I'm beyond thankful that I am. I will have my babies with me each day to pour into. I know there will be really, really hard days, but there's nothing else I would rather do. 

Speaking of Crosbi, each day she grows up a bit more and all of the words she used to say incorrectly are now correct. Another sign that she's getting further and further away from the baby she used to be. But there are a few words she still says wrong and when she says them, it puts the biggest smile on our faces. 

My favorites these days:

Barvie (Barbie) 
Rester-not (restaurant)
Soupcase (suitcase)
Alfin and the Chickmunks (Alvin and the Chipmunks)

Love that girl. 

I'm pretty pumped I'll get to hear lots of wrong words again in the coming years. Crazy.


March 20, 2016

Crosbi Says...

I'm going to call this edition of Crosbi Says "She is so my child."

Because seriously. She is so my child.

Me: How was school today?
Crosbi: Good. We did centers.
Me: Which center is your favorite?
Crosbi: Lunch. Because I'm always hungry.

Crosbi: Mommy, I'm going to do something so exciting! I'm going to clean the whole house!

Crosbi: Mommy, can we listen to your songs (aka the Sam Hunt record)? They're my jam.

Crosbi eating sausage pizza: I love pizza. I mean, I like pizza, but I really love sausage. -- Says the girl who asked for sausage for her third birthday.

I overheard her playing with her dolls...
"Oh that's a pretty dress, but it's not my color."

I have to admit, it's a little scary knowing how much of my personality she picks up on and imitates. I have to really watch what I say and do these days. But really, what's not to love about a girl who loves good food, a clean house and Sam Hunt?!

Four is the best age.

February 18, 2016

It Takes A Village

 Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. - Deuteronomy 4:9

It really does take a village and I'm oh so thankful for mine. It's incredible how powerful words are. The past couple of weeks I have had words shared with me that have stopped me in my tracks, dropped me to my knees, and left me praising my God. All because people who care about me have shared their wisdom and kindness.

When I was pregnant with Crosbi, one of my deepest prayers was that she would find community with women who would lift her up and encourage her, and this week I'm reminded just how important that prayer still is. Not just for me and Crosbi, but now for her little sister. That's right, if you missed it, we're having another girl!

Last week we had our big 20-week ultrasound and discovered that our newest family member is a little girl. The emotions I had about having another girl were all over the place. But God amazed me with his faithfulness. Within minutes my phone was flooded with texts from my mom to best friends to old coworkers who were praying for me and with me, reminding me that God has a perfect plan and that he had always planned for me to be the mom of girls. I had friends share with such vulnerability their thoughts when they first learned the gender of their babies, and I have to say, those words moved mountains for me. God spoke through them to remind me how much he loves me and my family and I went from shock to celebration almost immediately.

Then just yesterday, He did it again. I've shared that adding another child has been a bittersweet reality as I think of how it will change my relationship with Crosbi. I still have days where I'm overcome with fear and sadness when I think of having to divide my time. Yesterday was one of those days. Before I jumped in the shower, I turned on a Taylor Swift playlist and the first song to play was "Never Grow Up." Word to the wise, do NOT listen to that song when you're a 5-month pregnant woman with crazy hormones. I lost it. Sobbed like a baby. All I could think about was how fast the past four years have gone by and how quickly Crosbi is growing up. I thought, will she ever know how much I've loved her during this time? Will she ever understand how much she means to me? (And now I'm crying as I write this...).

As I got out of the shower I heard my phone vibrating and thinking it was Todd, quickly ran to check it. It wasn't Todd, it was my Aunt Terry and her words were so timely that I know without a doubt God was speaking to her for me:

"I wanted to let you know that when I was pregnant, I also wondered how in the world I could ever love another as much as I loved the first...I remember thinking that so well. Believe me, your heart grows big enough to love so much."

What?! Is there a camera in my bathroom? How did she know? I told her I was literally just having a breakdown and her timing couldn't have been more perfect. I also told her my fears that Crosbi won't know how much I love her. Her response:

"You're correct. Crosbi will not know how much you love her until the day she has a child of her own. On that day she will know."

Cue tears forever.

But just like that, her words struck my heart and I knew God was comforting me with them. One of the greatest ways for me to deal with my fear is to know that I'm not alone. I don't know a single woman who hasn't expressed some sadness or worry about how adding another child will change their family. It means even more when they encourage me with their own stories. It's as if God himself comes down to say, "Tara, it's going to be okay. Look at these women in your life. I'm going to do the same for you."

I'm so thankful for my village. I'm thankful for the women in my life who feel a tug at their hearts and share their wisdom with me. I'm thankful that not only are they carrying me, they are going to be such amazing examples to my girls. My girls. It's still sinking in, but I'm not nearly as afraid.

Nineteen weeks left and counting. Let's do this.