Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baby Ball: Week 33

Today was my last of the "regular" visits... our upcoming appointments will tell us if we're getting anywhere remotely close to having a baby! (I mean, I guess the calendar can tell us that, too!?) Today's appointment was super quick - I've learned that 9 am is the first appointment for the doctors, so I was in and out in under an hour today!

Weight Gained: +0 pounds... yeah that part kinda made me mad considering I have been trying to eat as much as I can!

Belly Measurement: 32 cm

Maleah's Heart Rate: 141

Other things going on over the last two weeks:

Movement: Apparently I've been having Braxton Hicks contractions and wasn't really aware that's what they were. They aren't painful, but over the past week they've become stronger - so much so that it can be uncomfortable to walk when it's happening.

Symptoms: I've really lost my appetite, for the most part. I get hungry, but I just don't want to eat. I do anyway, of course, but it's become a chore rather than somethign I look forward to. We've been eating out a lot more simply because it's depressing to cook something that you don't even want to eat! I've been taking Tylenol PM more regularly at night to help me sleep and it makes a huge difference. I hate taking something like that regularly, but I need sleep!

Cravings: Ice! It makes me wonder if my iron may be a little low because I know I have craved ice before when I've had anemia, but I think it is just fun to eat. Since nothing really tastes great, I know that ice will give me the crunch I'm looking for without having any flavor. Milk is also high on my list... although I'm not sure if I'm craving it or if I just know it will add calories and substance!

Aversions:  Everything? Okay, not really! The only thing I really can't stomach is still Italian food.

Prepping for Baby: We had another shower over the weekend and received some really awesome gifts!! It was fun to go home and sort through everything and put some of her clothes away. I'll probably go ahead and wash her newborn size and some 0-3 month size clothes over Christmas break. Haven't made any real progress in her nursery, although I did finally buy a picture frame to put this really cute art in:



I'm learning that what everyone says is true - the last weeks of pregnancy are as hard as the first. At first, every little symptom or tinge of pain or strange feeling make you wonder if the baby is still okay. There's discomfort because your body is rapidly changing and, of course, there's the excitement of it all! Now every little thing makes me wonder if I'm going into labor or if I've somehow hurt the baby or if she's turned the "right" way. The discomfort is back and more intense. And there's the excitement of an impending arrival, but you try hard to not wish the time away!! It's a funny cycle and I'm so glad to know this phase of pregnancy ends with a tiny little girl in my arms. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life Lately

We're about 7 1/2 weeks away (maximum!) from holding our little girl and I can already tell that life between now and then is going to be very, very different. I'm to the stage in pregnancy where I feel really pregnant and can see why women begin maternity leave a few weeks before their baby is due. Pregnancy is not a disease or an illness, but you have to come to terms that your body is changing and you have to treat it differently than usual. Almost everything is a challenge - sleeping, eating, grocery shopping, bending over to get laundry out of the dryer, remembering all the little details of things that must get done... I'm worn out just thinking about it all! The good news is that I have a fantastic husband who has picked up the slack!!

Poor Arnold is also struggling through my pregnancy. Since I didn't work through the summer, I was home all the time, plus we had Elaine. We had to give Elaine away towards the end of the summer to make room for Maleah and then I also went back to work in mid-August. Arnold has been having a hard time ever since. He started peeing in the house while we were away sometime around late September and it's only gotten worse. He is ridiculously anxious and antsy when we get home (to the point that he is shaking) and he can't seem to tolerate loud noises or even the slightest discipline. We have tried everything under the sun to help him cope with the changes, but nothing has fully relieved him of his anxiety.

So, we finally took him to the vet and were told Arnold has separation anxiety (exactly what we thought) and given a perscription for an anti-depressant commonly used for dogs with such issues. The vet also said we could use a small dose of Benadryl from time to time to help calm him down if he seems particularly anxious. We'll try the medicine on Saturday while we are home so we can watch and make sure he doesn't have any adverse reactions to it.

I'm also feeling a little anxiety as Maleah's due date draws near. I was making a lot of progress in her nursery, and it seems to have stalled!! I can't for the life of me get motivated to finish up in there! But I don't have much left to do and I know it will get done before she arrives. The last things on my to-do list are to get the artwork finished and hung, finish her mobile and hang it, get her rocking chair (it's being reupholstered and it's almost done!!), reorganize the other half of her closet (that's Daddy's job since it's full of boxes of books), and then the other stuff - washing her clothes, packing our bags, making sure we have the necessities so we aren't making a thousand trips to Target after she's born (although I'm sure that will still happen no matter how prepared we are!), and - oh yeah - going to the doctor A LOT! M

Most importantly, I'm trying to stay relaxed, rested, and prayerful about these last several weeks. I don't want the preciousness of these final weeks to be lost on the busy-ness of Christmas and preparing for her arrival, although those things are keeping the time from dragging by! These are the last weeks Blake and I will be alone, the last weeks we can go and do as we please, the last weeks we have to sleep through the night (for a while, at least!), and the last weeks Arnold gets to be our only baby!

It's going to be a fun few weeks as we wait and wait and wait for Maleah to get here... but I know on the flip side, I'll be saying "I can't believe how quickly these first few weeks with her have gone by!" I'll be wishing the time to slow down instead of speed up. Hopefully I can just try to enjoy each moment... no matter how long or short they seem to be!

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's [Never] Too Late to Apologize...

Blake and I started pre-marital counseling about six weeks after we started dating. That's right - pre-marital counseling six weeks after we started dating! We knew right away that we wanted to head towards marriage, so we enlisted pastor and friend, Jonathan Cook to talk with us and help us navigate through our emotions and to make a prayerful decision about marriage. I had already spent nearly a year in counseling with Jonathan, so transitioning to pre-marital counseling with him was easy for me. He wasn't the type of counselor who just touched on the surface-level issues - this was deep stuff. Core-of-your-heart kind of deep. To Blake, it was scary! But it was so worth it!
We met with Jonathan up until a few months before our wedding. It was the best investment in our marriage we could have made. We walked away feeling confident in our decision to get married, with level heads on our shoulders, and with an aresenal of relationship-defending tools.

But the most valuable lesson we learned through our counseling was about forgiveness and apologizing. In our wedding ceremony, Jonathan joked that we were the only couple he's ever had to actually come to counseling in the middle of a fight. Honestly, it was really embarrassing to be so angry at Blake in front of someone else - but it was the best session we had! Through it, Jonathan taught us how to listen to each other, how to forgive each other, but most importantly - how to seek forgiveness.

The advice we were given goes beyond marriage - it's essential for all of our relationships. The church spends a great deal of time talking about how to forgive. But we don't often learn how to ask for forgiveness. A simple "I'm sorry" is just a band-aid... truly asking for forgiveness is putting yourself in a true state of vulnerability. It is scary, but it is worth it.

So, I wanted to share some of the things we learned with you in hopes that you'll strengthen your relationships the way we have. Here are the high points:

1. Learn to recognize when you have wronged someone, whether intentionally or not: Picture this scenario - two kids are playing on a swingset. One is swinging and one is running around. The second kid walks in front of the swinging kid and gets knocked down. The kid is hurt, crying, and scared. The swinging kid continues to swing away, oblivious and/or uncaring about what has just happened. Many times we say or do things that unintentionally hurt others, but we are completely unaware of how hurt they are or we simply do not care. We think, I didn't mean to sound so harsh or I wasn't trying to be offensive and so we assume the other person is overreacting. Maybe they are overreacting, but you've wronged them nonetheless. Just like the swinging kid scenario above - the kid who gets knocked down is hurt. The swinging kid wasn't purposefully trying to injure anyone, but it happened anyway. We have to learn to recognize when we've hurt someone and be quick to apologize.

2. "I'm just blunt." or "I'm just telling the truth.": These are two excuses I have heard dozens of times after someone says something harsh and is trying to cover up their rudeness with an "it's-just-my-personality" kind of thing. Speaking in truth to someone should be done with a lot of grace. Just saying what you think with disregard to another's feelings is blatant disrespect, not "speaking the truth". If there is something we need to say to someone that is going to hurt a little, we need to do it with respect, understanding, and with a positive goal in mind: to come to a better understanding with the other person. "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." - Luke 6:45 ~ What comes out of your mouth is an indication of what is in your heart.

3. Be Proactive: One great way to master the art of apologizing is to not have to apologize in the first place! James 1:19 tells us, "...Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." When our tempers arise and we are tempted to say things we will later regret, it's best to... can you guess?.... not say them at all! It's hard, I know. Blake and I have had some pretty ugly arguments where our tempers got the best of us. But we have learned how to argue productively and we try to keep level heads when we really just want to be at each others' throats! :)

4. "I'm sorry if...": If your apology includes the words "if," or "but," then it's not a true apology. Wording your apology to make it seem as though the other person is at fault doesn't work, either. Here are some examples:
     - Bad: "I'm sorry if I made you mad earlier."
     - Good: "I'm sorry I made you mad earlier."

     - Bad: "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, but I was just really upset in the moment."
     - Good: "I am sorry I hurt your feelings. I let my anger get the best of me."

     - Bad: "I'm sorry you're upset."
     - Good: "I'm sorry I've upset you."

     - Bad: "I'm sorry you were offended with what I said."
     - Good: "I'm sorry I offended you."

Are you getting the jist of it? For a true apology, you've got to get to the heart of the matter - like I said in #1, whether you've done wrong intentionally or not, you've got to acknowledge the other person's feelings. Maybe they are being overly sensitive or maybe they are overreacting - but they've been hurt and you've got to own up to it and learn from your mistake so it doesn't happen again. Maybe you've picked at them just out of fun, but it deeply hurts them - well, now you know they don't like to be picked on. Pay attention to the situtation, truly apologize, and keep it from happening again.

5. "Will you forgive me?": By far, this was the best advice we got from marriage counseling. When there is deep hurt, there needs to be a deep apology. Asking this question puts you in an exteremely vulnerable situation - the other person completely has the right to say "no". But asking this question shows how genuine you are about seeking forgiveness and it usually leads to a greater level of intimacy with the other person. The times we've whipped out this question, Blake and I have had this overwhelming sense of comfort and peace. You really put yourself out there with this question and when forgiveness is granted, you can feel the physical effect of grace. Try it sometime, I dare you!

These are just a few of the tools Jonathan gave us to keep from killing each other during those heated moments of frustration. :) I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to us - and not just in a romantic relationship. I've used these tips with friends and family and find they work just the same! God wants us to be gracious to one another and when we aren't, we need to own up to it. And once we get used to genuinely apologizing, it doesn't become such a big deal. We begin to lose our pride and realize that we're human and we're going to mess up and once we make it right, we can move on and learn from the experience.

Oh, and about that fight Blake and I had during our counseling session... it was all over a disagreement about what we were going to teach in our small group lesson. We agreed on the topic (Jonah), but during a trip to the library to get some books, we realized we didn't like each others' ideas about how to teach it... which turned into an argument at the library, an argument on the ride to the church, and arguing in front of Jonathan. It was a pretty stupid fight (they usually are), but look what it did for us!! I think we ended up apologizing during the counseling session and eventually came to a resolution that we were both comfortable with. And our small group lesson was awesome!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Baby Ball: Week 32

Friday was my most recent appointment and I forgot to do my little update, so... here we go:

Weight Gained: +4 pounds (16 total) - I gained FOUR POUNDS in TWO WEEKS! I rock. I have to mention here that I'm finally to the point where most of my non-maternity clothes no longer fit (including t-shirts that were formerly baggy!) and I've even grown out of some of my maternity clothes. Last night I was pouting because I am sick of not being able to fit into anything and with only 8 1/2 weeks to go, I refuse to buy anything else!! But, I'm glad I made it this far with what I have... just prepare to see the same outfits over and over for the next two months!

Belly Measurement: 30 cm

Maleah's Heart Rate: 139

Other things going on over the last four weeks:

Movement: I can finally detect specific body parts, although I'm not always 100% sure I'm right. She's been pushing and poking and kicking a lot the past few days. The other day, I pretty much had her mapped out - head down, back to my left side, feet/legs kicking my upper right side. It's what they call LOA - Left Occiput Anterior - known as the ideal position for delivery. Today, I have no clue exactly how she's positioned. A couple of nights ago, her body was literally stretched across my stomach (transverse) - head to the left, legs/feet to the right. It was the most uncomfortable feeling! I'm hoping she'll eventually stay in that head-down position.

Symptoms: Oh, this is the part where I really don't want to complain. Pregnancy is an incredible experience and I am thankful for every bit of it... every ache and pain, every poke and jab, and every sleepless night. It is a beautiful time and it is exciting, but it is taxing on the body - moreso than I ever imagined. My back and hips are what are giving me the most trouble. I've been taking Tylenol regularly, but I can only take so much so it's been tough. I know I won't feel this way forever so I'm just trying to take it easy and relax a bit! Some other weird symptoms: feeling either extremely full or extremely hungry (I guess it depends on whether or not little miss is pushing on my stomach!?), forgetfulness (thanks to restless nights), BEING RIDICULOUSLY HOT (thank God it's not July!!!), and finally... SWELLING. It's not bad, just enough to have to take off my rings and put my feet up at night.

Cravings: So my sweet tooth decided to come back over the past few weeks... I have been consuming a ridiculous amount of cookies and dark chocolate! Woo hoo!

Aversions:  Italian food... the past couple of times I have eaten it, it has not been friendly with my stomach. So, no more spaghetti for a while!

Prepping for Baby: We bought some clothes on the cheap during the Black Friday sales, although trying to buy for a baby who isn't born yet stresses me out. I don't know how much we need of what sizes, so I just got a little of everything when the price was right. I scored a few outfits for around $2/each! We also have three showers coming up, so I'm sure she'll get some more clothes in the near future! We haven't worked in her room for a while, but I'll get back to that next week. I'd like to have her nursery finished during Christmas break (I'm off Dec. 22 - Jan. 2)!

Funny/Pathetic Story: Warning - this story involves puke. Last week, I experienced my most pathetic pregnant moment. I woke up around 3am unable to fall back asleep thanks to my hurting hips. I tossed and turned for half an hour and finally decided to go take a Benadryl. Soon after I took the Benadryl, I started feeling sick to my stomach. I wrote it off and just tried to fall asleep. I tried to wake Blake up a few times, but he was in a deep sleep (lucky him). The next thing I knew, he was asking me what was wrong and I bolted out of bed and ran/waddled quickly to the bathroom. Up came my dinner (spaghetti; see above)... all of it. Blake got up and I could hear him getting me a wet washcloth (I don't know, I just always want one...). I closed the toilet lid, laid my head down on the lid and just started to cry. It was awful!! I remembered thinking, I am NEVER getting pregnant ever again! I went back to sleep pretty quickly after throwing up and had a better night's sleep the following night. I'm so thankful to have a supportive husband who is there for me even in the grossest moments!!

That's about all... now that we're getting closer to the end (8 1/2 weeks or less!) I'm not sure how regularly I'll be doing these updates - I guess just whenever I feel like it! It's my blog and I'll blog if I want to. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Things I will NEVER do as a mom...

She dragged the kids by the arm to the spot where she had been watching the football game and scolded, "Don't you DARE move or touch one another!" She turned her back to watch the tail end of the game and the brother and sister continued to make faces at each other. Sister took a swing, brother stuck out his tongue. The mom whipped back around, pointed her finger at them both and said, "You're about to get taken to the bathroom!" I looked at my mom and said those horrid words, "I will never let my kids behave like that in public...."

Hahahaha. Go ahead and laugh, mamas. 'Cause you already know what I'm about to learn: I'm going to do things as a mom that I promised myself I'd never do. Like... ignore my children's misbehavior for the last 10 minutes of the football game so I don't have to drag them half a mile to the bathroom and straighten them out.

So, I was thinking about all the things that I'd ideally like to do (or not do) with  my own kids. In a picture-perfect world, all of these things would happen and my kids would be well-behaved 100% of the time and I'd never get judged for the decisions I make. But, this isn't a picture perfect world so I'm already reminding myself that, sometimes, reality is going to win. It's nice to still have some goals of things we'd like to strive for as parents, but... we all know some of these will go down the drain pretty quickly! :)

In no particular order:

1. Toys will get picked up before bed every night. (I should go ahead and mark this off my list because even Arnold's toys don't get put away nightly... or... ever...)

2. Maleah won't watch TV or play with the iPad/iPhone until she's a year old. And, even then, screen time will be very limited.

3. We won't eat in the car. In fact, Maleah will only eat at the dining table. (We may stick to this one pretty well simply because we have carpet... carpet + food/juice = bad!)

4. We will not punish (read: spank; and let's not even get into that debate...) her in public (we'll take her to a bathroom).

5. Blake and I will not argue in front of her and we certainly won't "vent" to her about one another as she gets older.

6. Maleah will sleep in her own room and we will not stay in the room to help her fall asleep or go through a nightly song and dance to lull her to sleep (I mean, a reasonable nighttime routine is fine... just none of this craziness like you see on Super Nanny!!).

7. We will not use candy/toys/activities as bribery.

8. We will read to her every night.

9. Maleah will learn to entertain herself when we are out in public (particularly when we are with a bunch of adults) - meaning, we won't let her play with the iPhone or iPad to keep her quiet. This also goes for riding in the car.

10. We will NEVER use "Because I said so!".


Now that you've had your 10 minutes of hysterical laughter, I hope you'll drop me a note and fill me in on anything you thought you'd never do as a parent!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baby Ball: 29 weeks

Weight Gained: +6 pounds (+12 lbs total; 22 if you count the 10 pounds I lost & gained back)

Belly Measurement: 28 cm

Maleah's Heart Rate: 154

Other things going on over the last four weeks:

Movement: Her movements started to change around 27 weeks. It went from random kicks and jabs to much more rolling, wiggling, and fidgiting. It feels sometimes like she's doing a little happy dance! She also gets the hiccups almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Her movements are much stronger than before and she has more regular periods of sleep and awake time.

Symptoms: One of the funnier symptoms I've been experiencing has to do with mobility. I find myself waddling just a tad from time to time - I know I'm doing it, but it feels better for my hips to walk that way sometimes. I try not to waddle purposefully in public. I'm sure there will come a time when I waddle just because that's the only way I can walk. :) I also have started to have a hard time bending over to pick things up. I drop about a thousand things a day (my pen, ice from the ice maker, paper, socks, etc.), so the difficulty in bending over is getting annoying.

Treats: My husband rocks. He let me buy a Groupon for a massage ($35 for 1 hr!!) and he ordered me a subscription to Birchbox ($10/mo). I'll get the massage at 34 weeks, so it will be much-deserved (and long-awaited) relief to my achy back! The Birchbox is just for fun... we can't afford for me to have super nice beauty products, so this is a cheap way to get to try out some fun new stuff and pamper myself just a little.

Cravings: Lately I've really wanted spicy food. I haven't let myself eat much of it to avoid heartburn, but some XX-hot wings sound really good right about now!

Aversions: Nothing, still, except for certain sweets!

Prepping for Baby: We've really come a long way in the baby gear department! Her dresser, crib, and two bookshelves have been put together and found their home in the nursery. Her bedding also came in and looks adorable with her crib! Something I hadn't thought about before was how to organize all the stuff! Where to keep diapers, onesies, pajamas, extra crib sheets, burp cloths, bath towels, etc., so that we have what we need within reach. Organizing is one of my favorite things, so it's a challenge I'm enjoying! We've had one shower so far - hosted by my cousins and aunts. It was a PINK themed shower - the food was pink, the decor was pink, the plates were pink and most of the gifts were pink! It was so much fun and I felt so loved by my family!

Anxiety: As I noted in an earlier post, I have been having some anxiety regarding labor and delivery and how to make the best decisions for Maleah's arrival. I was able to ask my doctor all sorts of questions during our visit and she was so reassuring. It made me feel so much more at peace and I'm praying hard that Maleah decides to come on a day when Dr. Ray is on call! Even if she's not, the information Dr. Ray shared gave me the confidence to make informed decisions with a different doctor. I'm so thankful for her and for my nurse, Mandy (hey, Mandy, if you're reading this!!)!! I'm now going every two weeks and then start weekly appointments at 35 weeks. I love going to the baby doctor (even when there's a long wait!) because each appointment means we're just that much closer to January 27!

Well, yesterday we had our 3D/4D ultrasound scheduled and I was nervous all day about whether or not Maleah would cooperate. She was unusually active during the morning and early afternoon (which was fun!), but it made me think she'd probably wear herself out by 3:45. She had the hiccups while we were in the waiting room, so I hoped she would start to perk up... but, we didn't get our ultrasound until close to 5:30 and the little nugget was sound asleep with her face towards my back.

So, we didn't get to see a close-up of her cute face, although we could see glimpses of her forehead and nose when she would move just a little. We saw her little legs kicking away at my bladder (everyone thought that was funny... not me!) and she had her hands pulled up around her face. We did get to see a great shot of her AORTA (how cool is that!???), right shoulder and arm, right hand, right ear, and we saw that she has HAIR! I was 29 weeks 3 days at the visit and most everything on her measured around 28 weeks 4 days, which is normal. She weighs 2 pounds 12 oz and they couldn't really measure her length, but she is probably around 13-15 inches from head to toe. Even though we didn't get to see her face, it just did my heart good to see our little girl again and know she is healthy and strong.

Oh, and did I mention we get to do it again on Tuesday since she wasn't cooperative!? I can't really be upset about getting to see her all over again!

Here's a little glimpse of her sweet little hand:



She had her fingers pressed against her cheek with her palm facing outward. You can see her thump and four fingers (her pinky is a drifter, like mine!).




Friday, November 9, 2012

Planning a Birth

The urge to learn about childbirth has been nagging at me for the past several weeks. Now that I'm at the 28+ week mark, it's a necessity. I know a whole lot about babies - how to take care of one, how to entertain one, how to change one - but I don't really know much about how to deliver one.

I've read a thousand birth stories and watched several videos and they've all left me feeling very... perplexed. How do I go about "planning" (a loose term, obviously) a birth when I don't have the faintest idea what will happen?

Will she be breech? Who will the doctor on call be? Can I tolerate as much pain as I think I can? What if something terrible happens? Will I go past my due date? If I accept medicine, will my body tolerate it? What if I get exhausted? How long will I have to bond with Maleah before they have to take her away? Will I be nice to Blake?

It's overwhelming. At first, my reaction was to just completely go with the flow. Figure it out once I'm there. But, the closer we get to meeting our little girl, the more I'm realizing that "going with the flow" isn't the best option for me. There are things I need to go ahead and decide now because making decisions in the middle of labor isn't ideal. Obviously, I need to be flexible and remind myself of the ultimate goal: to have a healthy baby and healthy mama. But there are things I need to think about now so that, when the time comes, I can be [somewhat] prepared.

I'm not looking to share what I "plan" to do and I really don't care to hear advice on how great such-and-such was. Just more or less looking to share with the world the anxiety that comes along with childbirth. There's a natural fear of the unknown that I'm trying to resolve before the time comes. For me, that means learning and thinking about the different options and discussing them with Blake so I know we're both informed. It means praying for certain things (like, how awesome would it be if Maleah came on MY doctor's on-call day!?!?), but mostly praying for peace. It means talking with friends and hearing a variety of experiences and weighing my options carefully. And most of all, it means thinking about the moment when I finally get to hold my little girl and know that she is what He planned for me long, long ago.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Thoughts on the Election

Just kidding!!!!!

This is just a post about my thoughts on life.

Since October, things have been VERY VERY VERY busy in the Ball household. I am not a busybody and definitely don't like having something on the calendar every night of the week. But, that's pretty much the way it's been for us for the past few weeks and it doesn't seem like there's any slowing down until after Christmas. It's all fun stuff - Christmas program rehearsals, dinner with friends who have new babies, child care classes, baby showers, even a planned weekend getaway for just me and Blake.

But the frustration is that I don't have time to do the chores or go to the grocery store. Is that silly? Yes. But my husband can tell you that those two things are big deals to me! I like to keep our little apartment moderately clean and I definitely like going to the grocery store (because I like eating...). Last week I pitched a fit because our house was a mess. This morning I pitched a fit because I had nothing to pack for lunch.

All this running around wears on me... but the good news is that there is an end to the madness. After Christmas, I'm calling in "pregnant" to life. I mean, I'll go to work and church and all that jazz. But... I'm going to take it easy. And after Maleah gets here? Still going to take it easy. I'll be in no hurry to get back to the hurriedness of life...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baby Ball: Week 25

Today was blood sugar test day! This was the first appointment Blake couldn't attend, so my mom tagged along and kept me company while waiting. Thankfully I passed the test and had a great visit! Here's a quick update:

Weight Gained: 3 pounds (6 total, plus the 10 I lost and gained back!)

Belly Measurement: 26 cm

Maleah's Heart Rate: 153

Other things going on over the last four weeks:

Movement: This little love is a very busy baby! She's always up to something. I love it! My favorite is when she pushes herself out and we can actually feel the shape of her body. Sometimes it's almost like we're holding her! Last week, I felt her having the hiccups for the first time which was a little weird!

Daddy's Girl: Maleah has finally started responding to Blake's voice, which is a relief for him! She'll move around while he talks to her and he has felt her move dozens of times.

Symptoms: Sleepless nights (thank goodness for Tylenol PM), a little morning sickness (I thought those days were gone???), and general aches and pains (ow my back hurts!). And I guess I should admit that I've been a teency weency bit more emotional than usual.

Cravings: Still in love with Subway sandwiches!!! Mostly I am just craving food in general. I'm constantly hungry and pretty much everything sounds good to me! My sweet tooth has really started coming back, too, which I am excited about!

Aversions: Nothing, really! Still not a fan of anything too sweet (icing, fruity candy, milk chocolate, etc.). I have also cooked, eaten, and enjoyed chicken a few times since my last post. It seemed to be a fleeting aversion.

Prepping for Baby: We put together Maleah's crib!! Hopefully her dresser will arrive in the next few weeks and we can put it together and really figure out the layout of her room. I can't wait to have her room set up so I can daydream about her being here!

Our next visit is in mid-November. I will be 29 1/2 weeks pregnant at that point, which is CRAZY! We will have our 4D ultrasound at that visit, so I'm really hoping these next four weeks fly by!! I can't wait to see her again. I hope she is cooperative, but I really just want to see her again and know that she is healthy!

Blake and I are getting so excited about her arrival. The idea of our baby girl gets more and more real every day. Fifteen weeks to go!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flowers & Birds

The flowers of the field and the birds of the air have been on my mind a lot lately. I hope these verses will speak to your heart the way they have been speaking to mine:

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Ball: Week 21

It's been four weeks since we found out our little girl was, well, a little girl! It was an exciting day for our family and we were so happy to know just WHO we'll be meeting in January! We had our regular monthly visit yesterday, and it was a great, happy visit! The quick details:

Weight Gained: THREE POUNDS!! Woo-hoo! I have finally gained back what I lost plus three pounds. And, I have gained those three pounds since my last visit, which means now I should continue to climb the scale at a normal rate. Special thanks to Krispy Kreme, Nestle Tollhouse Cookies, 3 gallons of milk in 3 weeks, Ranch dressing, and sharp cheddar cheese for making those three pounds possible!

Belly Measurement: 23 cm; I'm really not sure what the typical fundal height is at 21 weeks, but Dr. Ray said I measured perfectly!

Maleah's Heart: Pounding away at 146 tiny beats per minute

Other things going on over the last four weeks:

Achy Back: I know, I know - "You're pregnant, of course your back hurts." Well, it's to the point that my back hurts so badly at night that I have a hard time sleeping because I can't get comfortable. Dr. Ray said it would be perfectly fine for me to take Tylenol PM at night! Best news yet!

General Aches & Pains: I don't take medicine very often unless it's necessary, especially for pain. If I have a headache, I try to take a quick nap or drink some caffeine before I decide to take pain medicine. Last Saturday, I took my first dose of Tylenol since being pregnant!! I hadn't even realized that I hadn't taken anything until I went to the medicine cabinet and had to refresh my memory of what I can and cannot take. I took two Extra Strength Tylenol before walking around the quad and going to the game. I honestly often just forget that medicine is an option. I took three pills with me to the game and completely forgot about taking them - and complained of an achy back the whole time! This Saturday, I'll be more prepared!!!

Movement: Around week 17, I started noticing regular "flutters." Her first movements felt like bubbles popping or something tapping the wall of my stomach. Her kicks have been stronger in the last week and a half and she's already done some pretty crazy stuff! I've felt movement in two places at once a few times - apparently she's got her hands and feet moving in sync! She is usually more active in the mornings, after I eat, and after I've been particularly active. She hasn't moved strongly enough to wake me up at night or to keep me from falling asleep, but she does like to dance around on my bladder!! Other people can feel her, too! She kicks hard enough that if you catch it in time,  you can feel her from the outside. Blake has felt her several times and my mom felt her for the first time last night. Arnold has yet to feel her, although I'm waiting for the moment when he is laying his head on my belly and his sister gives him a swift kick to the nose... for all the times he's jumped on my tummy!!!

Symptoms: Other than the crummy backaches, I really can't complain! I haven't had to take a Zofran in about 2-3 weeks, my appetite is steady (I'm basically hungry every 2 hours), and I am SO much more energetic than I was in the first trimester! I have needed a quick nap after work most days, but thankfully 20-30 minutes does the trick. Since I've also stopped needing Zofran, the side effects of that drug have also worn off. If you've ever taken it, I'm sure you know what I'm referring to... :)

Cravings: The only real thing I "crave" is Subway sandwiches and milk. Just smelling Subway makes me want a six-inch turkey on honey oat, toasted with provolone, spinach, jalepenos, black olives, pickles, spicy mustard, oil and vinegar. Yum-o! Lunch meat is supposed to be a no-no in pregnancy, but Dr. Ray said as long as I heat it, it's fine to eat. So, I eat plenty of it. :) I have always loved milk, but I'm drinking a lot more of it to help add calories to my diet. A glass at dinner, a bowl of cereal with plenty of milk before bed, a half-caf latte or hot chocolate. Mmmmmmilk. It's so good.

Aversions: Lately I do not want to cook chicken. I have eaten it at restaurants, but I'm really grossed out by the sight of raw chicken. Still not a huge fan of pork, although the thought of it doesn't make my stomach turn anymore. My sweet tooth is making a slow return - I've been able to eat cookies, drink hot chocolate, and I think I had a bowl of ice cream at some point.

Prepping for Baby: Now that we know she's a girl, we've been working on our registries and getting her nursery ready. My mom bought Maleah's crib and it will be delivered next week! Thanks, Mom!! Blake's mom is refinishing and reupholstering an antique rocking chair and she is starting on it this weekend! Thanks, Susan!! My aunt Tammy ordered Maleah's adorable bedding. Thanks, Aunt Tammy!! We also received a really nice swing, a bouncy seat, a bunch of cute little hair bows, and a car seat with two bases!! All from people passing down things they don't need anymore, which is such a blessing! We've bought her a few outfits and we've been given some outfits, too! I'm ready to get her nursery set up in the next couple of months... just so I can sit in it and anticipate her arrival!

New Cousins: Maleah's newest cousins have now all been born! Lucy, Dylan, Keasler, and Presley have now all arrived and are setting the "cute" standards pretty high!! Dylan and Keasler have already done plenty to prepare me for motherhood - I fed Dylan (and got spit up on - yay!) and I've changed Keasler's diaper twice now (Holly says I'm really slow at it, so I'll have to practice some more to pick up the pace!!). They are all such precious little babies and I'm so glad Maleah will have cousins her age! My cousins and I were more like siblings and I hope she can spend plenty of time with her cousins while we are still living close enough to do so!

Well, this is more than I intended to write... that seems to happen when I start talking about Maleah. :) Just four months and six days to go before her due date!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Phone Calls

How can I start this post without sounding melodramatic? I'm not really sure it can be done. This is long, and it is more therapeutic than I imagined. Most of you know how this story ends, but it is what happened over the course of six years that my heart always recalls at this time of year. And now I'm ready to share the details.

Tuesday morning, September 19, 2006: The phone rings; my mom calmly says, "Your dad is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance." No real information, no details, no panic.

This was not the first time I'd received such a phone call. My dad's health problems had started six years earlier, and I had become accustomed to hearing scary news from my mom. And over the course of those six years, the phone would ring many times with news of my dad's health.

Mid-August 2000: I call my mom after getting home from school. I tell her about my day and ask about hers. She tells me she's been sitting in the ER with my dad all day. He has an aortic aneurysm and they have scheduled surgery for September 6.

September 6, 2000: Mom makes me go to school. She says she will call the school when Dad is out of surgery and someone will come get me so I can visit him. It's close to lunch and I haven't heard anything. I'm sitting in choir, anxious, nervous, and growing concerned. Mr. Hinton's office phone rings - I can see him talking through the glass window. He calls me over, and says, "You didn't tell me your dad was in surgery." I start to cry and he calmly tells me, "Your mom called and said he is doing fine. Someone will come pick you up shortly." I burst into tears, thankful that my dad is okay. Mr. Hinton shares the news with the class, and they pray for me. I go to visit my dad and watch them wheel him through the hallway and into the ICU. A huge wave of relief rushes over my family.

September 7 or 8 (can't remember), 2000: After recovering fairly well, Dad's lungs suddenly collapse and he is in critical condition. Doctors tell us he has developed ARDS - Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome - from years of working at a roofing manufacturer and the surgery was the catalyst to trigger the sudden onset of symptoms. He is put on a ventilator and we are told that 40-60% of people who have ARDS do not survive.

September, October, and the beginning of November, 2000: Dad spends most of this time in a medicated coma. He responds sometimes to voices, loves having his feet rubbed, and is having all sorts of crazy dreams that we will learn about when he wakes up. When they do finally bring him out of the coma, he is like a newborn baby. He can't talk, he can't walk, and he's skinny as a rail. He can't even write - although he begs for a pen and paper and makes all these scribbles and we pretend to know what he's telling us. Mostly he wants water. He's agitated most of the time, but has moments of happiness when we do what he wants. Mom has spent so much time at the hospital that it feels like I've lost both parents for a while. Thankfully, my cousin Steve has let me live with him in Northport during all of this. Dad gets moved to Northport DCH for rehabilitation and is released to go home just before Thanksgiving.

He recovers, but he is different. He has to learn to do everything all over again. He picks most things up quickly - except for driving, which was terrifying in the beginning. He drove me to school one morning and went straight in a turn-only lane and I thought I was having a heart attack! I had my driver's permit, so he let me drive to school and he drove himself home. He always made it back alive. :)

A couple of years later, he has open heart surgery. It's a scary procedure, but he recovers very quickly. It was a completely different experience than his last surgery. He goes home within a reasonable amount of time and seems to be doing very, very well. His health continues to deteriorate slowly. It's as if he came out of a coma and his body just quickly began to age. With his lung problems, his organs did not receive enough oxygen and so his body is aging quickly. He requires hearing aids, takes a plethora of medications for a number of ailments, and mom forces him to retire as soon as possible. But, he's alive and able to live a normal life.
January 2006: I am at work in Birmingham and my cell phone rings. It's my mom. "I am taking your dad to the hospital. We were at the doctor's office and the doctor said your dad needs to be admitted. He's lost a lot of blood..." My then-boyfriend picks me up at work and we carefully race to Tuscaloosa. I am scared, but I try not to let it show. Dad is once again admitted to the ICU, receives several units of blood, and is tested for everything under the sun. The doctors can't find anything wrong with him, but he slowly starts to get better and is miraculously okay and goes home within a week.

Months pass, everything seems to be okay. I celebrate my 21st birthday August 18, 2006. My parents drive up to Montevallo for my party - not too many 21-year-olds have their parents at their birthday parties. I'm glad I did.

Tuesday morning, September 19, 2006: The phone rings; my mom calmly says, "Your dad is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance." No real information, no details, and no panic. Thinking this is just another one of those crazy hospital visits, I am actually not worried. I call into work, leave Arnold with my boyfriend, and head to Tuscaloosa.

The hospital is being remodeled, so I get lost on the way into the ER. A nurse lets me in a back door near the CT-scan room. Coincidentally, my dad is being wheeled towards this room. I see a nurse pushing a man on a stretcher and it isn't until he is literally two feet away from me do I even realize it's my dad. He looks sick and is not acting like himself. I tell him I love him and the nurse lets me wait outside the room. As she wheels him back to triage, I walk beside him. My nerves are starting to take effect because he tells me he is in a great deal of pain. My dad never complains, and his persistent griping has me worried. In the triage room, he begs for us to flip him from side to side but we know moving will not ease his pain. The doctors refuse to give him any pain medicine until they determine the cause of the problem. I have never seen my dad in so much pain, and my helplessness is overwhelming.

My mom tells me one of his kidneys was declared non-functioning on Friday and that, more than likely, the source of his pain is because his other kidney is now dead. I am relieved, because I know people can live without kidneys. There is dialysis and I could even donate a kidney if I'm a blood match. He's going to be okay.

Except that he isn't. We eventually find out that his kidneys are both non-functioning and that he has developed sepsis. The potassium in his blood is too high to safely proceed with dialysis, although dialysis is what would help treat the sepsis. He is admitted, for a third time, to the ICU. I stay at my parents' house alone while my mom and sister sleep at the hospital.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006: I don't go back into the ICU room to visit my dad too much. I stay mostly in the waiting room with family. Mom is with him and our family members rotate in and out, each taking turns to visit. Most of my extended family sits in the waiting room with me. I overhear my aunt tell someone, "He is in multi-organ failure. It doesn't look good." No one had told me that yet. Immediately, I want to see him and I do. He actually looks better and by the afternoon, doctors say Dad is well enough to undergo a dialysis treatment. This procedure will help rid his body of the toxins it has accumulated, but we will have to leave while the treatment is performed.

Everyone leaves to go get rest. Mom, my boyfriend, and I go to Schlotzsky's to eat dinner and go back to the hospital once we receive the call saying dialysis is finished. It's about 8 or 9pm. We go up to his room and are amazed at what we see - he looks like a new man. His pinkish color has returned and he's actually in a pretty decent mood. I try to crack a joke and he gets on to me and makes an ugly face at me. He's going to be okay. Mom and I ask if it's okay that we go home and get some rest. He looks healthy enough that we believe we will have a long day ahead of more treatments on Thursday. Dad says that is fine, so we say our good-nights.

Something actually overwhelms me to go up to him, hug him, kiss him on the cheek, look in his eyes and say "I love you." I do that, and tell him to get some rest. Normally, I would have just given him a quick, "Love ya, Dad. See you tomorrow!" I feel awkward as I make a bigger deal of leaving than usual, but I do it anyway. "Mom and I will be back around 7 tomorrow morning." We leave, feeling a sense of peace, and head home.

It's not long until we are both asleep. Mom sleeps in her bed and for some strange reason, I sleep on the couch instead of on the guest bed. A little after 11pm, the house phone rings.

"Miss Lewis, this is Nurse _____ from DCH. Listen, your dad isn't doing very well. You and your mom need to come back to the hospital."

No exaggeration - I really thought she was calling because my dad was agitated. During his "long stay" in the hospital (in 2000), he would give the nurses a hard time and not do what they asked. I truly thought she was calling because she needed my mom and I to help calm him down. My mom, however, knew otherwise. We brushed our teeth, threw on some clothes, and started the 20-minute drive to Tuscaloosa.

Mom says, "When your dad dies, Katie, I am going to need some time alone." I tell her that we are not thinking like that and I put in a Johnny Cash CD. We sing all the way to the hospital. We walk in the front doors and have to sign in. We get in the elevator and press "2". When the double-doors to the ICU open, we are greeted by a nurse.

She ushers us into a small room filled with pictures and depressing poems. She says the doctor will be with us shortly. Mom and I are calm. She knows what is coming, I do not. She is bracing herself, I am optimistic. Dr. Katona walks in, sits down, and releases, "Mary Kathryn, Katie, we did everything we could...."

He goes on to tell us that just after 11pm, my dad went into cardiac arrest. The trauma of sepsis was too great and his heart could no longer tolerate the stress. Dr. K and the nurses worked on Dad for half an hour and were unable to restart his heart. It was over. He was already Home.

From that moment on is another story for another day.

My dad left this world just after midnight on Thursday, September 21, 2006. It was surprising, it was traumatic, and it was life-altering. What's happened in the six years since his death is nothing short of God's faithful grace and the fulfillment of His promises. But in that moment as I sat in that tiny room, holding tightly to my suddenly-widowed mother, my heart was as broken as it has ever been.

In just a few short months, my daddy's first grandchild will take her first breath in the same hospital where he took his last. We've come full-circle, my friends, and my heart is as full and as healed as it has ever been. I know the pain of tragedy and I know the beauty of pure joy and I serve the God of both. Not much scares me now, which I have said before and will continue to say. I can say that with boldness because I have seen firsthand, time and time again, how God restores what the locusts have eaten. He has given and He has taken away, and we praise Him through each and every circumstance.

If you took the time to read this, I hope you heard this key Truth: Life never goes according to "plan." People die, tragedies happen, presidents we don't like get elected, and our air conditioners break. When you accept that God is the owner and ruler of all things, you can learn to let go a little. And when you "let goods and kindred go; this mortal life, also," you will find that God's unexplainable peace has never been more in reach.

Be glad, O people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
Joel 2:23-25

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unbelief

I praise Jesus in the storm. Whatever my lot, I have been taught to say it is well with my soul. I sing because His eye is on the sparrow.

Deep down in my soul, I know that God will never leave me or forsake me. He is for me, not against me. He is working on my behalf for the good of His kingdom and for His glory. Knowing that, I can make it through just about anything. But, I have my moments of unbelief.

And if you search yourself, you may see that you have moments of unbelief, too.

You are not alone.

A man brought his son to Jesus, begging for mercy. His son was possessed and though the disciples had been unsuccessful in their attempts to cast out the demon. When the boy was brought close to Jesus, the demon cast the boy into a convulsion. Jesus asked the father, "How long has he been like this?"

"Since childhood," the man replied. "But if you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us."

" 'If you can?' " said Jesus. "Everything is possible for the one who believes."

And the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"

Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and set the boy free of the demon's hold.

I pray this prayer all the time - "Lord, I believe; but help my unbelief." There are times when I want to trust Him, when I want to rest, when I want to let Him work. But I have to admit that there are just as many times when I can't see beyond beyond my own understanding. Thankfully, He hears those prayers and He answers them faithfully.

Where is your unbelief? Tell it to Jesus. Tell Him all about it and let Him show you how to believe.

On Friday, one of my dental caps/crowns broke. I was so frustrated. I made the mistake of dropping my dental coverage at the end of 2011 because I figured I would have a full-time job by this point and a new, more affordable dental plan. I went to the dentist in December to have my teeth checked before the new year and found out I needed a root canal - thank the Lord I went in and was able to have the procedure while still on insurance!! All my other teeth looked just fine - which is why I was shocked that this crown broke out of nowhere.

But, I chalked it up to "just my luck" and prayed that it wouldn't cost more than $700. I figured, "Of course this would happen during a time when we are already strapped financially. Oh well, thank God for financing." Actually, at first I really did pray that my crown would bind itself back together but when that didn't work, I shifted to just praying that we could work out a feasible payment plan for the new crown. I prayed we would have some wiggle room in our monthly budget for the payments.

What I did not pray was for God to just handle it. I prayed that we could handle it. And you know what?

He handled it anyway. :)

My dentist took a good look at my tooth and at my records and recognized that I had only had this crown since 2008 - a mere four years. A crown should last at least five years, and most should last 10-15. And you know what? Because it had been less than five years, my tooth is UNDER WARRANTY!!! Did you know dental work was warrantied? Neither did I, folks.

I knew in my heart I should have just prayed for a little miracle. But I didn't believe that God would come through. Yet He did anyway, to remind me to pray regardless of what I think the outcome will be and to praise Him when awesome things like this happen.

This little lesson applies to so much more than dental work and minor financial burdens. I hope it meant something to you in your own situation, because it was a fresh reminder to me that I don't always trust Him the way I claim to. He is always worthy, He is always trustworthy. And when we are afraid that He isn't, it's okay to let Him know.

And when He proves Himself to us (over and over again, as is His nature), we have to give Him glory. Even for little things like warranties on dental work. :)

*Bible story is from Mark 9. Italics and paraphrasing are mine.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ten Things No One Told Me...

For someone who's been around about a bazillion pregnant women in her lifetime, I quickly found out a few things I didn't know about pregnancy. Most of them are not fun things, so I'm glad someone kept them a secret from me. Others, I heard about but didn't really believe. Still, others, are amazing that I wouldn't have believed even if someone HAD told me!

Oh, and I guess I should say that dudes probably shouldn't read this. :)

1. Snotty nose - I figured women who had issues with congestion during pregnancy just had a cold that never went away. Boy was I wrong! With increased blood flow and an increased intake of fluids, my nose has become a mucous factory. Occasionally, the drainage actually makes me nauseated in the mornings which is a whole different issue about which I can do practically nothing... except maybe invest in Kleenex.

2. Poor sleep - I thought you were supposed to sleep like a baby until your baby arrives!!! No one told me that problems with sleep could start in the first trimester. At first, waking up for frequent potty breaks was what did me in. Now I am just plain uncomfortable. But, it is a little blessing because I really do think I am being prepared for when Maleah arrives! It won't be such a huge shock to only get a few hours of truly restful sleep.

3. Constipation - I had NO clue about this one! Honestly. It started pretty early on, but got worse as I started taking Zofran. Thankfully it hasn't hit me as bad as some women, but it is still pretty darn annoying.

4. Struggles with gaining weight - I mean, I thought pregnancy was my golden ticket to the Smorgasbord of All Things Delicious. Wrong-O. From weeks 5-13, just eating a bowl or two of rice was a major accomplishment. Even though my appetite is back (and morning sickness is gone), I am still not putting on weight like should. I'm just going to try to alter my diet and hope I've gained at least four pounds by September 20 (my next appointment). Lots of women lose weight in the beginning, so that doesn't concern me anymore. It's just whether or not I can steadily put on weight. And most women laugh and say "What a nice problem to have..." except that it's not nice! So far Maleah is doing just fine despite my issues, so that makes me feel more at ease.

5. Heart palpitations - Another shocker! Had NO clue this was even common until it happened to me two days in a row and I finally allowed myself to google it! I was in bed one night and my heart went through three cycles of palpitations. There was no pain and they stopped after the third, so I just told myself not to worry. Then it happened again the next day. So, I looked it up - (which normally I try to avoid googling anything related to pregnancy b/c other moms like to freak  you out!!!) - heart palpitations are tee-totally normal! As long as they don't last too long and don't cause any pain, there's no need for alarm. I also didn't realize how HARD my heart would be pounding. Sometimes I can even hear the beats in my head!

6. In-N-Out Doctor's visits - You mean my OB doesn't want to spend 20 minutes talking to me about all the things I have experienced over the past four weeks?? And she doesn't even want to do an EXAM every visit!? (Honestly, this has been a huge relief!!!!)

7. Back pain - This one is similar to sleep problems - I knew this was coming, but I didn't realize it would be so soon. My back has been acting up since around 11 or 12 weeks - ever since I had to start sleeping on my side. I have scoliosis, so it's super uncomfortable to sleep on my side and leaves my back aching for the rest of the day. I can't use a heating pad and don't like Tylenol (Ibuprofen is usually my pain relief BFF!), so I just request a lot of massages. :)

8. Bella band - I didn't know this existed until my cousin Holly let me borrow hers!! It has been a budget-saver, since I really don't want to go drop loads of cash on maternity clothes. (Okay, I want to drop loads of cash on maternity clothes but I don't have loads of cash to drop on maternity clothes.) Now that I've "popped," it doesn't really work well on jeans b/c the pressure of the fabric pushes against my oh-so-sensitive tummy. Dress pants + Bella Band = me likey.

9. Forgetting I'm pregnant - There are times I totally forget I'm pregnant. It's so weird. I don't even know how to explain it!!!

10. Instantly in love - People definitely told me about this one, and I knew it was true... but I didn't know how true it was!!! At first, I was in love with those two little pink lines on the HPT. Then I was in love with the gray blob they told me was a baby. Then I was in love with a little creature that looked like an alien. And now I'm in love with a little girl I've yet to meet. It's amazing how much more in love I am with Blake, too. Knowing that he is our baby girl's daddy and knowing how much HE loves her just makes my heart swell!

So, there's my ten things no one told me about pregnancy. Did you have any surprises during your first pregnancy??

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Baby Ball: Week 18

I guess I don't have to name these posts "Baby Ball" anymore!! After about 6 oz of Mountain Dew and half a Krispy Kreme donut, Baby Ball was moving around like crazy and cooperated like a good little.... GIRL! :)

This post may be a little disorganized because I want to try to answer the questions people have already asked us, and this post is probably going to be VERY long... but I KNOW what everyone really wants to see are her very first pictures:


Maleah Kathryn Ball
Due January 27, 2013
Current Length: Approx. 6 inches head to booty
Current Weight: 7 oz


    

Here you can see the back of her head and her spine, and those little ridges are her tiny ribs!


Her little profile!

    

This is Daddy's favorite picture. She's looking right at the camera. Mama still thinks it's a little creepy! 


The "potty shot"!! One of MANY she was so eager to give! I just love this picture because her little legs look like frog's legs! 


Still in shock that we are the parents of a little GIRL!

I was SO worried that our baby wouldn't cooperate for the 3 o'clock appointment. I was MOST concerned with whether or not she was healthy, so I just reminded myself all day that I just needed to be content with finding out if our baby was okay - we could find out the gender later if we needed to. Three of my cousins recently had shy babies at their afternoon anatomy scans, so I kept preparing myself for the let-down. But, as soon as the tech put the ultrasound wand on my belly, Maleah was moving and wiggling and flipping around like CRAZY! And she gave us several glimpses of her girly parts! So much so that we actually didn't get a lot of still photos of her other parts!! In the video they gave us, we can see her little toes and fingers and can see her stretch out and curl up, flip, kick, and wave. We've only watched the video 4 times so far... ;) 

It took only about 45 seconds for the tech to say, "It's a girl!" I know my jaw dropped, and I'm certain Blake's did too! I said, "Are you SURE!?!?" Blake and I just KNEW it was a boy. For a few weeks early on, I thought it was a girl because I was so sick and the heart rate was high. But, once I wasn't sick anymore, I just had a gut feeling it was a boy! So, needless to say, we were completely shocked. During the ultrasound, I just kept looking at Blake and looking at the screen in complete disbelief that WE are having a GIRL. We had already bought a few boy outfits on clearance!!! I had already picked out boy bedding, boy outfits, boy STUFF. But... it didn't take long to get excited about picking out GIRL stuff!!! We obviously would have been happy either way, we couldn't help but laugh that Surprise Baby surprised us again! 

She looked perfect. No signs of anything to worry about. Her little heart looked great, her spine was the most beautiful spine I've ever seen (not to mention the ONLY spine I've ever seen!), and that little brain is probably halfway filled already with Daddy's history stories. She measured right on track for her gestational age and Dr. Ray said we can see her again in about 2 months if we choose to do the 3D/4D scan! 

Our families are THRILLED! Most of Blake's family thought it was a boy, just like we did! My mom PRAYED we were having a girl because she already has two ALL BOY grandsons. She was over-the-moon excited and honored that Maleah is named after her...

...so, about Maleah's name! I'm just going to make a LONG story as short as I can: Blake and I decided to choose names several weeks ago. Our boy name was easy because we had talked about it before we even got married (I'll have to save it for later!). All I knew about a girl was that I really wanted her to have my mom's initials (MK - her name is Mary Kathryn). Originally, I thought I'd want to name her Morgan Kate. But, one day the name Maleah popped into my head - it was a name I have always liked, I just hadn't thought about it in a while. I texted Blake and asked if he even liked it and he said yes! I'm all about name meanings, so I looked it up and found that Maleah is a variation of the name "Mary" - my mom's first name!!! It also plays on my sister's name, "Leigh". So, it's like killing three birds with two names! We get to honor my mom, my sister, and me (since my first name is Kathryn) with this sweet little name for our sweet baby girl!

We are already SO in love with her and we are completely in awe of what a gift she is. The best way to describe how I feel is "unworthy". I pray for her (and us!) constantly; not only praying for her health, but also praying for the woman she is going to become. As soon as the idea of having a girl settled with me, I thought, "I have to start praying Proverbs 31 over her!". Blake and I believe Psalm 129, which says, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are children born in one's youth... blessed is he whose quiver is full of them." We are not a Quiver-full couple in the "traditional" sense of the word, but we do believe that God will give us the number of children that will make our "quiver" full. And it is our job to sharpen our children and set them out, like arrows, in the direction God is calling them. It is a huge responsibility, and we are just completely honored to be given this opportunity. 

I can't wait to see this little girl in person, but until then, I am just enjoying letting her grow!

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Now for the boring part: about ME! :) 

Quick update on pregnancy: 
- At one day shy of 18 weeks, I am feeling really great! I have FINALLY gotten back up to my pre-pregnancy weight and will hopefully gain weight steadily from here on out. I was really proud when I got on the scale and saw those magic numbers! I don't wish morning sickness on ANYBODY, but if you have it, I pray Zofran works for you the way it has worked for me! 

- My appetite is great! The only MAJOR food "group" I can't eat = SWEETS! It gets worse every day. Somehow chocolate Teddy Grahams are okay, but anything sweeter than that is just plain gross. I wish this is how I felt about sweets when I'm not pregnant!

- The little bump is ever-growing and is still very low (which makes me look like I'm carrying a boy!), but it's starting to move upwards as well as out, if that makes sense. For my birthday, I got a pair of maternity jeans, two dresses, and two shirts from Motherhood. I can wear most of my old shirts, but most of my jeans are goners. I can still wear dress pants with the Bella Band, but the pressure it puts on my stomach when I wear jeans is too uncomfortable now. 

That's all, folks!!! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Crybaby

I've always been known to be sentimental, sensitive, emotional... it's a good thing, and it comes straight from my Granddaddy who, as tough as he was, got choked up over just about anything! My little heart is just so tender and it doesn't take much to get the tears a-flowin'. It's easiest to turn on the "water works" (as my dad always called them!) when I'm singing - particularly singing to or about our Heavenly Father. There is just something sweet about worshiping the Lord through song, singing with a congregation of believers, and singing with conviction when the words just fit life so perfectly.

There are some classic themes within songs we sing at church that are almost guaranteed to make me cry:

- Jesus as a tiny baby (this is #1 on the list for inducing tears!)
- Jesus dying on the Cross for my/our/your sins
- Seeing God's glory in Heaven
- God's faithfulness
- The presence of the Holy Spirit
- Jesus coming back
- The awesomeness of God's love for His children
- God's provisions
- John the Baptist (really, I can't explain that one)
- Mary, mother of Jesus
- Trusting the Lord
- Jesus clothing us in His righteousness
- Thankfulness for all God has done
- Any song with the words "Holy," "Lord," and "Almighty"
- God's gracious mercy
- John the Baptist (really don't understand that one!)
- The names of God/Jesus
- Praise in the midst of trouble/sorrow
- Any song calling God "everlasting"

So, basically, any church/worship music makes me misty-eyed!!! But, there is one song that - in all seriousness - has been on my heart lately. The words just keep replaying in my head:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever

"A Mighty Fortress is Our God"

Just let 'em sink in for a moment and you might find yourself needing a Kleenex. His truth abides even through the midst of Death. There's just nothing better than that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In Plenty or In Want

God's Word has this strange tendency to linger. You read a passage, a verse, a story, and weeks later it is still with you. Whatever you read pops back up in conversation, in your thoughts, during your prayers... and at some point, you take notice and realize that He is doing this purposefully.

I don't want to go into long, boring details - I'm sure once you read this story, you can put the puzzle pieces together yourself. But this passage is such a beautiful picture of God's faithfulness to those who give all they have to Him.

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath
1 Kings 17:7-16
Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the Lord came to him:  “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”  So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”  As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.


I hope to be more like this widow. She was obedient even though she was afraid. I often think that the best times for me to give - and I don't just mean financially - are when we have extra. Extra time, extra energy, extra money. But I find the times when I am most satisfied with serving the Lord are when it hurts to give. When I am tired, when I am poor, when I am spent. And maybe those times are when He is most satisfied with me.

It is a scary prayer to pray, but I do pray that God teaches us to give even during our own times of need. When we could easily say that we are the ones in need of rest, in need of peace, in need of an extra few dollars. He will be faithful to grant us what we truly do need, just as he did with the Widow of Zarephath. 

Philippians 4:12 - "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Thought in His Mind

Blake and I are getting very excited about our anatomy scan next Thursday!! It's the day we will get to see Baby Ball's spine and brain and we pray that he/she is growing into a healthy little person. We also hope that we'll get to see if this baby is a boy or a girl. Everyone says your connection with the baby grows so much more after you know if it's a he or a she. We are looking forward to calling it by its name and praying for the little boy or girl that God has blessed us with to raise. 

As we ate dinner Monday night, I asked Blake what he thought his favorite part about being a parent would be. I already had an answer, and I had a hunch what his might be - which was, of course, how much he is looking forward to teaching our children things. About the world, about God, about music. My answer was similar - I am looking forward to watching our children experience life. Watching them smile out of pure joy, watching them (this is so sad!) experience heartbreak, watching them grow into people with dreams and hopes. But before I answered, I said, "Well, the obvious answer is watching our child accept salvation and learn to love and serve God."

In our household, I would hope that would go without saying. Obviously Blake and I are eager to teach our children about the Lord and we desperately want to see them come to salvation, be baptized, and live lives of service to Him.

And that process starts now. Through our prayers, through surrounding our baby with Scripture, through our own relationships with our Savior.

This means that I already have to let go of my child and relinquish him or her to our Father. I have to trust in His sovereign plans for Baby Ball. He has already created this child in His image and He has already laid forth the path our child will take. We just need to do our part in steering this baby towards God's calling.

And today, the reality of God's love hit me through a random quote from George McDonald (mentor to C.S. Lewis) I found on Pinterest (go figure!). Not just for our baby, but for me, for Blake, for you, for your family. That He thought of us, He formed us, He planned for us, and He gave us Life. Just to know that He thought of me reminds me of just how deeply He loves me. Just to know that He formed this baby reminds me of how much He loves our child - even more than we already could.

Whatever it is that God has created this little one to be, I pray that God will give us the wisdom as parents to guide him or her to that life He has ordained. It is the biggest challenge in life I can possibly imagine, but I know He will guide me all the way.

"I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking." - George MacDonald

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." - Jeremiah 1:5

Monday, August 6, 2012

Life in Heaven

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." ~ Revelation 21:22-23

I like this little life I have here on earth, but imagining living an eternal life of worship and service in Heaven makes me very excited. Yesterday, Dr. McKee's sermon was on just that - life in Heaven. There are lots of different ideas about what Heaven will be like. The Bible tells us about its opulence and grandeur, and many people look forward to reveling in its beauty. The Bible tells us about the others who are there, and many anticipate reuniting with their loved ones. The Bible tells us about rewards and crowns, and many daydream about what jewels they will receive.

But when you read verses like Revelation 21:22-23, the reminder that God himself will be our treasure is hard to miss. He will be our reward, and we will live to worship and serve him forever. How amazing is that? Heaven will be majestic because of the glory of God, not because of its gates of pearl or streets of gold or the Saints or the Angels. It will be beautiful simply because God is there.

A little glimpse of Heaven is a great way to start the week! :)


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Baby Ball: 15 Weeks

Our appointment was just over an hour ago and I CAN NOT WAIT to post this update because I am just SO excited! It took the nurse less than a minute to find the heartbeat on the Doppler, and Baby Ball's heartbeat was going strong at 148 bpm and it was, as usual, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard!! And we get to go back in THREE SHORT WEEKS for the anatomy scan! I am excited to see Baby Ball's development and, of course, to (hopefully) find out if it's a he or a she!

It's been an interesting four weeks as I've transitioned from the first trimester to the second, and here are a few notable events during the past month (prepare yourself for an unprecedented amount of exclamation marks):

- Morning sickness has practically disappeared! I started feeling better around week 12, and have only had small, short bouts of nausea since. Some days I still need Zofran, but I just start out with taking a half tablet and it usually does the trick! I also have a lot more energy and have been MUCH more active than in weeks 7-12!

- The absence of morning sickness has meant that I've gained back 2 of the 7 pounds I lost! I can eat BEEF again! (Hallelujah, praise the Lord!) Other foods that have made a comeback: apples, bananas, yogurt, lettuce (hellllooooo, salad!), and COFFEE (1/2 caff). The one lingering aversion I have is pork chops! So strange.

- Some of the things I've been highly interested in eating lately: a bacon cheeseburger, apples and cheddar cheese wrapped in a tortilla, lots of yogurt and milk, spicy food, junk food (maybe for the calories??). 

- I'm still wearing my regular clothes, although sometimes I have to wear a Bella Band with my pants. A lot of my pants and skirts were actually loose, so now I am just growing into them! I think my stomach has grown about 3-4 inches, but I didn't measure it before pregnancy so I'm really not sure, but it's definitely rounded out much more than usual.

A little bump at 14 weeks. 

- We've decided on names and nursery themes for each gender. Most everyone still thinks it's a boy. I thought it was a girl for a while because I kept having dreams it was a girl, but now I'm not so sure!

- My back has been hurting a lot. I have scoliosis in two places and the addition of belly weight plus strange sleeping positions is putting pressure in all the wrong places!

- We got our first baby item! Blake's mom got us a Fisher Price baby swing from a friend who was getting rid of it - and she got it for quite a steal! Blake and I have already tested it and listened to all the little songs and watched it swing! Just six more months and there will be a tiny baby enjoying it!!

- This past Sunday I was writing in my journal during church and noticed that I dated the page "1-29-13" instead of "7-29-12". Haha! BB's due date is 1-27-13.  I looked back in my journal and realized I'd been doing it the past few days!! I guess I am excited about January!

That's about it for Week 15! We are just gliding along and trying to soak up every moment of pregnancy. Hopefully my next post will include the words "he" or "she" instead of "it" and a new ultrasound picture! Blake will also start his last semester of classes for his PhD program in just a few weeks. This is an exciting time because we know that the end is drawing near! Thanks for checking in on Baby Ball's development. We can't wait for the next appointment!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things For Which I am Thankful

When life is crazy and confusing, it's nice to just stop and think about all the things there are to be thankful for in my life and in this beautiful world. The past few days have been very emotionally draining. My flesh wants be angry with God, to find him guilty of forgetting about little old me and my need for a job. But my Spirit knows that this is the time to worship Him, to recount His blessings, and to rest in His goodness.

So, I started thinking about things for which I am thankful. And I wanted to share. :)

1. The not-so-great insurance I have. It may be not-so-great, but at least I have something to help with the cost of pregnancy. 
2. Bethel Church's worship albums. And hymns. 
3. Daydreams of holding our new baby in just six short months and singing the sweet words of those songs and hymns over that tiny little life. 
4. The way God instantly begins moving when I finally submit my will to His.
5. A husband who dotes on me (spoils me may be more accurate).
6. The affection of my furry babies. :) 
7. The encouragement, prayers, and support of friends in a time when it feels like life is against me.
8. Uno. Even though I lose almost every game. 
9. Coffee. Well, Zofran first, then coffee. 
10. Time to rest, time to breathe, time to reflect. 

I'll stop at 10 today because I'm tempted to write that I'm thankful for my DVR, which has kept me company in the wee hours of the morning when I can't sleep. Okay, okay.

11. The DVR, which keeps me company in the wee hours of the morning when I can't sleep. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ."