Friday, May 22, 2015

Valor and the white chair

valor zeal at 0 months
Here's to launching the series of Valor's monthly photos, similar to how I documented Serene's growth during the first year of her life. Valor was but few days old in this picture that was taken two weeks ago; I already feel like he is no longer as teeny. Nevertheless, I anticipate seeing how he grows and develops each successive month. In case you missed it, see his introduction to the world and his birth story. Happy weekending, all!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The beginning of a new season

valor at 1 week in moses basket
creation station
serene at 19 months and valor at 1 week
moses basket in dining room
valor's first bath
serene at 19 months
valor's first bath
serene at 19 months
valor's first bath
serene at 19 months and valor at 1 week
valor's first bath
alex and valor at 1 week
serene at 19 months
valor at 1 week in moses basket
serene at 19 months
These days are melting into an indistinguishable blur. Two-week-old Valor naturally believes he's still in utero. Therefore, he has a proclivity for staying awake all night long and has taken us along for the ride. I'm nursing him around the clock so when I'm not taking intermittent one to two hour naps, I'm stumbling about like a zombie, unable to differentiate between night and day. However, such is to be expected which make the newborn days seem easier, but simultaneously harder because we also have a toddler vying for our energy. Thankfully, Alex reminds me this is but a fleeting season. Perhaps this is a consequence of my sleep-deprivation, but I'm finding that these days emit an ephemeral, iridescent sheen. The photos above were taken of simple, ordinary moments at home last week. Though far from glamorous, they are reminiscent of so much of God's kindness to us in one another. Our days are essentially replete with His abounding goodness. This is the beginning of a new season of life, and as we establish a new rhythm, I'm praying God grants me the grace to cherish it. After all, everyone says it only gets better from here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Her new baby

serene and her baby doll
serene's doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and her baby doll
serene and valor on his first day home
serene and her baby doll
I mentioned here that we got Serene a gift to help with her transition into big sisterhood. Because Serene is fond of babies, getting her her very own baby seemed timely since her mama would be coming home with a new baby. She has a couple of baby softies that she loves, but Alex requested a vinyl doll that would appear more realistic. I felt it was important for Serene to have a doll that looked like her so I hunted for an Asian baby doll. Despite a glaring absence of Asian-looking dolls in stores and a sparse selection online, I finally found one I felt was just right on an early education supply site that specializes in multicultural toys. I planned to make doll clothing and accessories since it didn't come with any, and ended up sewing only a cloth diaper and another accessory by the time Valor arrived. Perhaps I'll make Serene's doll an outfit someday in the future, but for now, a cloth diaper, a swaddling blanket, and a bottle will suffice.

We gave the baby doll to Serene during Valor's first full day at home. Her face lit up and she squealed, "Baby!" She was thoroughly thrilled and loved it right away. She has been captivated by her new role as a little mama who takes care of her baby: hugging her, patting her on the back, feeding her, holding her, swaddling her, playing with her, and kissing her on the head. It is a sweet sight to behold - nearly as heart-melting as her consistent affection towards Valor in these early days, which is what Alex and I hoped the doll would help foster all along.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Celebrating motherhood

valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old and serene at 19 months on mother's day 2015
valor at 6 days old on mother's day 2015
Hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating the mothers in your life over the weekend! I am thankful to have a mom, a mama-in-law, a grandmama, mother figures, spiritual mothers, and mommy friends in my life, all who are amazing examples of strength and sacrifice. A mother's heart is something special, and I am so grateful I have the privilege of being a mama too. This year, I got to celebrate Mother's Day with two babies. Though I often fail and love my little family imperfectly, I am reminded of abounding grace in the gospel. There is nothing like motherhood (and wifehood) to humble my selfishness and pride. It is a beautiful gift. I am beyond blessed to be Serene Joy and Valor Zeal's mama.

Our Mother's Day Sunday was a sweet and simple one. I had been craving chocolate-covered strawberries, so Alex surprised me in the morning with a slew of them. He has been the most supportive husband and daddy, managing household chores, running errands, and taking care of Serene so I can nurse Valor around the clock and attempt to rest and recover during these early days of his life. I'm so grateful for Alex; he leads and provides for our family so that I'm able to savor motherhood. Valor was six days old on Sunday, and I told Alex I just wanted pictures with the babies for Mother's Day. Photos are so special to me, and I am so glad we get to capture these sweet and fleeting moments (even if Serene wasn't in the mood for picture-taking). I am astounded at how children grow so quickly when I look at these pictures of Serene and Valor together. Serene looks so big compared to her brother although they are but 19 months apart. All the more reason to cherish every stage of our kiddos' lives, for we are often reminded that though the days may seem long at times, the years are short. Our time with them is a precious gift; Alex and I pray we are good stewards of it as we strive to love and disciple them in the Lord by His grace alone.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Valor Zeal's birth

valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
valor zeal's birth
Backtracking to one week ago when Valor Zeal was born:

I went to bed on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 11:00pm with faint contractions. Practice (Braxton Hicks) contractions had been part of the bedtime routine the past few weeks, so they did not strike me as out of the normal. Before that night, I had been able to sleep through them because they eventually faded away. This night was different. I couldn't sleep soundly because they seemed to occur consistently. I woke up around 6:30am the following morning and shook Alex awake. "I've had contractions the whole night," I told him. "But they're not painful. Maybe they'll go away." Alex wasn't convinced. "Do you remember what happened the last time you said that?" he asked. "You ended up waiting too long and we barely got to the hospital in time for you to give birth to Serene." He had a point. He began timing my contractions for the next hour. They were happening every 3-4 minutes for a minute each. "But they're not painful. Just uncomfortable," I repeated. I told him I wanted to wait until my doctor's appointment that morning at 10:45am. The doctor could check me then and confirm whether I was actually in labor. I didn't want to go to the hospital and be wrong. I was 37 weeks pregnant that day, and it felt a little early to actually be in labor. Alex called Labor & Delivery for advice. They said it was up to us - we could go in to get checked, or I could wait until my doctor's appointment. I proceeded to brush my teeth and get ready. The contractions were still coming every 3-4 minutes but as 8:00am approached, they grew stronger. Meaner. "Okay," I told Alex. "Let's go to the hospital to get checked." Serene woke up then. We got ready in a jiffy and headed out. Alex was a basket of nerves. "I have to get you to the hospital," he said tensely as he drove. "Don't worry," I said. "I think we have time." The contractions were intensifying. The 20 minute drive seemed longer than it actually was.

We checked into Labor & Delivery around 8:15am. Alex's brother met us there so he could watch Serene while we waited to see if we'd get admitted. "I think I might be in labor," I told the registration clerk. I held onto the counter for support when a contraction hit. The clerk was thoroughly unfazed. Registration seemed to drag on. Peeing in a cup and waiting for a nurse to diagnose me took forever. "This is my second baby," I informed the nurse when she finally appeared. "My first came within an hour and a half of getting to the hospital." Things seemed to speed up from there. They whisked me into a delivery room, where I changed into the hospital gown and lied down on the bed to get my cervix checked. I was wincing a little through the contractions now. "You're 5 cm," the nurse said. "What?!" I exclaimed. I did not expect to be 5 cm already. "Can I get an epidural right away?" I asked as the nurses strapped the fetal heart rate monitor onto my belly and hooked me up to an IV. "I didn't have time to get one with my first. I really want the epidural." I knew that they hadn't done my lab work, which they required, plus an additional three hours for the results before they could administer the epidural. I had a feeling I wouldn't have time to get one. I wasn't yelping through the contractions yet, but my breathing was more labored now.

God totally showered mercy upon me, because the anesthesiologist excused the lab work prerequisite and administered the epidural right away once he learned how quickly my first labor progressed. He inserted the needle into my back at around 9:45am, and the epidural kicked in within 30 minutes. All I could feel was slight pressure when contractions hit now. It was the strangest feeling. By 10:30am, I couldn't feel if contractions were coming at all. I couldn't feel pressure. I couldn't even feel sensation in my feet and legs. They just felt as heavy as a ton of bricks. Alex kept laughing at me. "You're so relaxed," he marveled, shaking his head. "What a world of difference from the first time around." "I love the epidural," I said with a huge silly grin on my face. I couldn't believe I couldn't feel the contractions anymore. "Am I still even having contractions?" I asked the anesthesiologist when he came in to check on me. "Yes," he replied. "They're more spaced out now, about 5-7 minutes apart. The epidural can slow things down a bit." I didn't mind. I wouldn't be hollering through the pain, thanks to the helpful epidural. The midwife came in to check my cervix at 11:45am. I was 7 cm. Another check at 2:30pm and I was 8-9 cm. My contractions had been getting closer all afternoon, according to the fetal monitor. The midwife also reported that my bag of water had been bulging for the past few hours. She broke it then. "You should be ready to push soon," she said.

While we were waiting for me to dilate that afternoon, Alex was getting restless. "Are we just supposed to wait?" he asked. "Why is this so slow?" I laughed. Our experience with Serene's birth caused him to think that babies customarily come within an hour and a half of arriving at the hospital. I told him I didn't think I was progressing slowly, just slower than I did with Serene. Which was an answered prayer because I received an epidural in time.

At around 4pm, I sensed the familiar urge to push. The midwife entered the room around 4:30pm and propped my numbed legs up on the stirrups and prepared for the birth. "Am I going to tear? Or are you going to cut me?" I asked anxiously. I hoped not to receive an episiotomy again. The midwife assured me they typically don't do episiotomies at this hospital. "And I sure hope you don't tear," she said. "Now hold onto your legs as a lever and push with all your might," she instructed me. I gripped Alex's hand and pushed with all my might. "Okay, stop!" she exclaimed. "That's it?" I asked, confused. "Wow, you're fast. You did great. Don't push anymore or he'll fall out," she joked. "Okay, let's nudge him out just a bit more," she said after a few minutes. "Give me a couple more pushes." I heeded her command and at 4:46pm on Monday, May 4th, 2015, Valor Zeal entered the world, wailing and flailing his limbs, weighing 6 lbs 9 oz and 19 1/2 inches long. Alex cut his umbilical cord and then the midwife plopped him onto my chest for immediate skin-to-skin bonding while she repaired minimal tearing.

Valor's birth story is much different from Serene's, but the aftermath is just as beautiful. Once I held Valor in my arms, tears welled up in my eyes. "Hi," I whispered to him, sniffling, as he laid on my chest, still and content. "You are fearfully and wonderfully made." A deep-seated, all-consuming love for our new baby engulfed me as I marveled at his tiny features, his wee hands and feet, his sweet littleness. Before Valor arrived, I wondered how I could love another baby as much as I love Serene. But now I know that my mama's heart grows ever more to love this new baby with all my being. I love him so, more than I can articulate. What an undeserved blessing to be loaned such precious gifts in our children. Alex and I have an awesome God. We are so thankful for His kindness towards us in forging and growing our little family.

I documented Valor's birth for our family's memory's sake; thank you for reading if you have made it this far since this post is replete with details resulting from a sentimental mama's heart. Many thanks to dear and talented Ruby for snapping the beautiful photos above for us, which were taken the morning after Valor's birth (once I got to put on a little makeup and take my hair out of a bun).

We wanted to have photos not only of when Valor was born, but also of when Serene met her baby brother for the first time. Alex brought her in that morning to meet Valor. "Mama!" she exclaimed when she saw me in the room. I hadn't seen her in what seemed like forever. "Hi baby," I smiled. "Come meet your baby brother." "Baby!" she announced when she saw the teeny person in my arms. "Yeah, that's the baby," Alex affirmed. "Do you want to say hi to the baby?" "Yeah," she answered as Alex brought her to the hospital bed where we were. She started whimpering. She did not want to be on the strange, unfamiliar bed. After a minute or two of hugs from her mama and encouragement from her daddy to hug and kiss the baby, she warmed up and obliged to our first pictures as a family of four. Since then, she has been nothing but full of affection towards Valor, but that shall be elaborated on in a future post.