A thank-you note for a priceless gift.

Cody and I have some fantastic friends- I could write blog after blog about all the wonderful people we have in our lives. But this post is about one couple in particular- Jason and Jessica Williams- who have been so thoughtful, supportive and generous to us as we have prepared for and entered into this new season of our lives.

I found out that I was pregnant on May 13, 2009. Before I even knew I was pregnant, somehow Jessica knew right away- so in a sense, she was the first to know! I woke up that morning feeling very fatigued and kind of shaky, and because when I was in college I was borderline anemic, I thought that maybe that was the issue. Since we had moved to the same part of town as the Williams, I sent Jessica a message asking if they had a good family doctor she could recommend. Her response? "ARE YOU PREGNANT?!!!!" Ha! Furthest thing from my mind, and by the way, ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?!!!! I assured her that the idea was absurd and she was entirely crazy, but when I recalled all of the bread pudding I had consumed in recent weeks at work, and I realized that the idea may, in fact, have some merit. That afternoon, two pregnancy tests indeed confirmed my status as a mom-to-be, and I sent Jessica a message telling her that she was right. And we were so freaked out and PLEASE PRAY FOR US. Hard.

I was immediately met with the most amazing support from this dear friend who had recently ventured into new mommyhood herself. She came along side me and promised me that not only would everything be absolutely amazing when our little one arrives, but that if we needed anything, she and her hubby were there for us. Our lives had followed parallel paths in so many ways and it was exciting- and reassuring- to have someone to share the journey with.

As Cody and I were getting ready to start a new chapter of our lives, the Williams were starting a new venture of their own as photographers. Because they were just starting out, they offered to do a shoot with us to build their portfolio, and also offered to do my maternity photos and, if I wanted, birth photos as well. Little did any of us know that their business would literally skyrocket within weeks- I also had no idea the precious treasure they were so generously giving us: our new baby's life in pictures. So here are a few of my favorites from start to finish.

Exactly one month after learning we were expecting, we had our first photo shoot:

Alley 54
Alley 17
Alley 26
Alley 34
Alley 43
Alley 50
Alley 58
Alley 11

Thanksgiving weekend we did our maternity shoot:

Alleys Maternity 1
Alleys Maternity 10
Alleys Maternity 21
Alleys Maternity 28
Alleys Maternity 34
Alleys Maternity 41
Alleys Maternity 58
Alleys Maternity 67

Jessica surprised me by taking pictures at my baby shower as well! Thoughtfully planned by my BFF Amber and Kelly:

Alley Baby Shower 1 
Alley Baby Shower 6 
Alley Baby Shower 10
Alley Baby Shower 15
Alley Baby Shower 30
Alley Baby Shower 20

Alley Baby Shower 22
Alley Baby Shower 33
Alley Baby Shower 40
Alley Baby Shower 51
Alley Baby Shower 56
Alley Baby Shower 57
Alley Baby Shower 58
Alley Baby Shower 8

Then, when Linnea decided to arrive early, Jessica was there to shoot the first pictures ever taken of her:

Alley Delivery-2
Alley Delivery-10
Alley Delivery-17
Alley Delivery-38
Alley Delivery-42
Alley Delivery-56
Alley Delivery-57
Alley Delivery-58
Alley Delivery-71
Alley Delivery-74
Alley Delivery-80
Alley Delivery-88
Alley Delivery-93
Alley Delivery-94

And finally… the newborn photos, taken by Jason:

Linnea Alley-4
Linnea Alley-16
Linnea Alley-18
Linnea Alley-24
Linnea Alley-27
Linnea Alley-30
Linnea Alley-32
Linnea Alley-42
Linnea Alley-45
Linnea Alley-49
Linnea Alley-51
Linnea Alley-56
Linnea Alley-58
Linnea Alley-69

Linnea Alley-68

Jay and Jess-

You are an amazing, inspirational team as photographers, parents, and husband and wife. Thank you so much for these precious moments you captured for us. We will cherish them- and your friendship, wherever God leads you- always.

With love,

The Alley Family.

A surprise birthday gift for my hubby.

So remember in my last post how the doctor said that I had a good ten days before Elska made her debut? 

Turns out she was WAY off.

December 22 started out like every other day. Woke up, made hot chocolate, ate cereal. Went to work for a few hours. Ate lunch after my shift. It was then that things began to change.

I worked a five hour shift at Liberty Market and had some mild cramping and back pain all day, but with no contractions- something I attributed simply to pre-labor pains. There was nothing excruciating about it and I was able to work through it without any interruptions. A friend of mine warned me that she felt something very similar to that when she was pregnant, and it turned out that she was in the beginning stages of back labor. To which I replied, "Yeah, but this isn't so bad, and anyway my doctor said I have ten days or more, so there's just no way I'm starting labor. This is just pre-labor." Her response: "Uh huh."

After my shift ended at 2:30, I sat at the pizza bar and began eating a salad, when suddenly I felt the beginning of a contraction- no big deal, I had been having those for a couple weeks now- but this one began with pretty gnarly pain in my back that moved around to my front. "WOO!" I said. "This is different." A couple of guys that were working there stopped what they were doing and asked me if I was OK. I told them, "Sure, yeah, I'm fine………… Uhhh….. Hmm." About ten minutes later, it happened again. And again a little less than ten minutes later. 

"Welp… gotta go," I said as I abruptly exited the building to head home. I called my husband and told him that I wasn't really sure what was going on, but that I was having painful contractions, and gee, this is new, we should probably call the doctor when I get home to find out what is going on. I hated the idea of being that first-time mom who thinks that any pain means I'm going into labor, but when I had four more contractions on my fifteen minute drive home, I knew there was some major shifting going on in my body.

Before I continue, let me just say for the record that we were so completely unprepared for our child to arrive that particular day and FOR THIS I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY. All I've been hearing this whole time is that I'm so neurotic and my hormones are making me more ridiculous than usual about getting things done and there's no rush, we still have time and BLAH BLAH BLAH. To that I say, I TOLD YOU SO. Nobody listens to the crazy pregnant lady until the contractions start coming three weeks early and crap! We aren't packed for the hospital! And who is staying with the dogs! Do we have a pediatrician! And is the dresser done yet because the baby's clothes were never washed because we have nowhere to put them! And why of all days does the house look like a tornado went through it and I AM IN NO SHAPE TO CLEAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW!

"Oh, you're probably just dehydrated," said the nurse over the phone. "Drink some water, and if it doesn't calm down in a half hour, head in to the hospital and they'll check you out." Two hours of excruciating contractions and one long, hot shower later, we managed to pack our bag, throw our poor dogs in their cages and head to the hospital in the pouring rain. We checked in and were sent to triage, where I was hooked up to all sorts of fun monitors and my dilation progress was checked. I was at a whopping 2 cm. Further along than the day before at my checkup, but what I was really thinking was ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! An hour later I had progressed to 3.5 cm, but the doctor still seemed to think that I was just dehydrated and needed to walk around the hospital floor for an hour, freezing my butt off and sucking down ice-cold water in order to hydrate my suddenly temperamental uterus. After several knock-me-to-the-floor contractions and one promise to my sweet, patient husband that I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN, I learned the sad news that I had in fact made no progress over that fun hour and they were sending me home. With an Ambien (prescription sleeping pill) and a pain pill, only one of which worked, and to narrow things down for you it was NOT the pain pill. It was 10:00 p.m. 

Before we even got home I was completely knocked out. The best part was that I was dead asleep for about three minutes at a time, since I would wake up with every contraction and those came along about every four minutes. Yep. Awesome. I vaguely remember my other half getting into bed, turning out the light, and not long after that waking up to a contraction accompanied by my water breaking, i.e. a giant gush coming out of my pants and running down my leg. YES, THIS IS CLEARLY A DEHYDRATION ISSUE. Good Lord. Like I said, no one listens to the crazy pregnant lady.

So around 11:00, we went back to the hospital. I marched my half-asleep butt in there and said, "Epidural. NOW." But much to my chagrin, it was a rainy night, and apparently when the barometric pressure drops, everyone who could possibly go into labor does exactly that. At this point I was dilated to a five, still half asleep through the whole thing with no relief from the back labor I was having. An hour later, I was at a seven, and an hour after that I was at an eight. The nurse, Holly, was doing everything she could to get an anethesiologist in the room but had no luck whatsoever. By the time he showed up, I was at a nine (out of 10, mind you), and all he could give me was a spinal block. Which, honestly, didn't do anything to help the situation other than numb my legs and slow down my contractions, after which I promptly passed out cold and all the nurses left the room. Shortly before 3:00 a.m., I woke up thinking I was peeing all over the nurse. I immediately began apologizing profusely (and I also apologized afterward) but fortunately and unbeknownst to me there was a catheter involved. All I can tell you is that there is nothing dignifying about childbirth.

Pushing commenced in one form or another. I was told not to push and no matter how hard I tried not to push my body was simply doing whatever it wanted- mainly pushing. Finally the doctor arrived and I got the green light to start pushing and what a bizarre process. I kept getting told to push as if I was making a bowel movement (I would consider this the Mother of All Bowel Movements), so I would try that and I just wasn't sure I was doing it right because NOTHING was happening. I had a whole cheering squad of nurses in there telling me I was doing great and making progress but I couldn't feel any progress at all, but I could definitely feel everything since the pain meds had long since worn off. I saw the doctor sitting there with a syringe and had no idea what she was doing and I didn't really care. Turns out she had to make a little more room for baby to come out and boy was she smart not to tell me. I would have FREAKED OUT, and I already couldn't control my breathing and consequently was donning a super sexy oxygen mask (giving my dear friend Jessica from Session Nine a whole lot to work with for our birth pictures, I'm sure).

Looking back, everything happened so incredibly fast. At 3:50 a.m., on Wednesday, December 23, 2009- Cody's 30th birthday- our daughter Linnea Joelle was born. She weighed six pounds even, was 19 inches long, and was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. She has her dad's eyelashes and a full head of blonde hair and my long fingers and skis for feet. I had no idea how much she would change everything in my world- not just my priorities, but everything- from how I view my relationships, to how I spend my time, to valuing what is truly important and making life count. 

I had grand visions of the perfect birth- it would be Cody and me, in the zone, focused on each other, fully present and in the moment. It was nothing like that at all. But when all is said and done, none of that matters. I have a healthy, precious little angel that I get to hold in my arms, to love and raise up with my husband, a whole new adventure we can share together. Labor was hard, but it could have been worse. And who knows, maybe we will do this again. After all, when you look at her little face, it's easy to understand why moms forget the aches and pains of pregnancy and childbirth and want to do it all over again.



The birth dilemma.

Now that I am a full 17 weeks along in my pregnancy (for you normal people, that is roughly the equivalent of four months… twenty weeks marking the halfway point), I am starting to consider the type of birth I want to have. My doctor(s) have not broached this subject with me yet, but thanks to the shenanigans of Dooce and the birth story of her second child, I'm becoming increasingly intrigued by the idea of attempting a natural birth. I use the word attempting very generously, because there are no words to describe the fear that I have of this whole process. I cannot guarantee that I'm not going to chicken out at the last minute, throw caution to the wind and snatch the doctor by her scrubs demanding that they shove the giant epidural needle up my spine FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I'd like to think that this is a fear I share with most pregnant first-timers out there, perhaps with the exception of my mom who claims that giving birth was the most easy thing she has ever done. And I was born breech! You must take into consideration the fact that she is a tough Icelandic Viking woman, and she gained 60 pounds during her pregnancy eating nothing but oranges, all of which fell off almost immediately after giving birth and she went back to looking like the supermodel that she is. My dad totally scored.

The one birth-related question I did sneak in at my last visit was whether the odds of me carrying a breech child are higher since I was born breech and so was my mom. The doctor said that it has nothing to do with genetics, but more with the build of the woman's body than anything. She said that if I'm built more like my dad's side of the family I may be in the clear. Good to know since I'm built EXACTLY like my mom, who is built EXACTLY like my grandmother. Awesome.

So despite the fact that back in the dark ages of maternal medicine when breech babies were delivered vaginally, and came out perfectly normal (I mean, how am I not the picture of normal? Why the funny look on your face?), the chances of me being able to deliver my baby, should he/she turn out to be breech, without a c-section are slim to none. While I do unabashedly question my level of pain tolerance in the throes of labor, there is a huge part of me that feels like I will be missing out should I not be able to deliver my baby naturally and epidural-free. Women have been doing this FOREVER, with no medical intervention (did I mention FOREVER?), so why the heck can't I do it too? I'm scared to death but more than that I want to experience the hormone-induced high and full awareness that so many women who give birth naturally describe. 

I'm not gonna lie, come labor time, I could totally think the pregnant me was absolutely out of her mind thinking this ever should have been done without the assistance of an epidural. The pain is going to be horrendous, I know, but I dealt with some pretty outrageous stomach cramps in my track days that still go down in the record books as the worst pain ever. Granted, those plagued me for an hour at a time, not so many hours that it almost equals an entire day. 

I'm doing my research though, and I want some opinions from the moms out there. Tell me what you know, what you experienced, what you believe about the state of maternal medicine today, and share advice. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but in light of that, I want to be as educated as possible as I approach that day in January when our little one comes into this world, one way or another.