Monday, April 30, 2012

Dear Ava,

Hey little miss. Can I tell you a secret?

You are so loved. 

Okay, okay...that's not even kind of a secret. :) Your Dad, big brother Brooks, and I absolutely adore you.

And let me share with you something that I know you love and love to be held. That little photo shoot above didn't last long before you were back in my arms.  Swaddling you up and giving you a binky to put you to sleep just doesn't cut it. Not even the swing.  I will admit, when we go places you're pretty good in your carseat, so thank you for that! :)  But overall, you are in my arms most of the day.  And then Daddy's arms when he gets home. May sound cheesy, but I think you like to be close to the sound of our hearts...  Whatever the reason, I really love it.  I probably should be better at letting you learn to sleep on your own. But the selfish part of me wants to soak up every bit of you while you're sill small. And don't worry, I still manage with one arm. ;)  While you're snuggled up in my left arm, my right arm cooks, puts on make up (except eyeliner, you'll learn one day that would take magic. haha), plays ball with your brother, feeds me, cleans up, and types on the computer (yep, even this letter).

Before I know it, you'll be putting yourself to sleep off in for now, I'll rock you and hold you as much as you need.

Stay tiny just a bit longer baby girl.  I love you Ava!


PS - Lately when I'm nursing you, you've been reaching your little hand up and holding on to the collar of my shirts. Keep it up. I can't get enough. :)

Spiritual Health:
Read and loved every word of the First Presidency's message for April... 
"'He Is Risen'--A Prophet's Testimony"
“At the last moment, [Christ] could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us.... He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation." --President Thomas S. Monson

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The day we met Ava...

I should have been sleeping, but I wanted to write Ava's birth story while it was still clear and fresh in my mind.  I really couldn't sleep anyway...I was on this happy-high from finally being able to meet, hold, and love on our baby I'd been carrying for 40 weeks. :)  This past week I took time here and there to make some corrections, and loved recounting the day we met our Ava girl.

Written: Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Tuesday night Adam and I went to bed just before 11:00pm. We fell sleep hoping and praying this would be the last night before meeting our baby. If the baby didn't come Wednesday the plan was that at 6:30am on Thursday morning my doctor would break my water to help things move along. But I can't even say how many prayers were said that this little baby would come on its own. I so badly wanted the birth to start and end as naturally as possible.  But being that we made it to the hospital to have our son Brooks with only 25 minutes to spare, and my water didn't break 'til I was pushing, I had decided, if needs be, it would be okay that they broke my water to ensure I'd be at the hospital when this baby came.

Not much more than an hour after falling asleep, I got up to go to the bathroom. The past few weeks my nights had included at least 3 bathroom trips, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. But when 5am rolled around and I had been getting up to go every 30-45 minutes or so, with some nice little contractions on my walk from my bed to the lou, I was getting really discouraged. “Why can I not get some decent sleep tonight? I need it so, so badly.” Now looking back, those contractions were not exactly little. I must have physically and mentally tuned them out because I just wanted to get to the bathroom, do my thing, then get back to bed without really waking up.
Well, at 5:22am I really woke up and realized I was breathing with my lips pursed to get through a contractionI've got to time this thing, I thought. It lasted about 30 seconds. Then another followed right behind it less than 5 minutes later. I waited for one more…it came. This is it!

I knew we’d be calling Adam’s sweet Mom to come and stay with Brooks while we went to the hospital, so I got up and went into the kitchen…set out some cheerios, oatmeal, brown sugar, bananas, bread, the toaster, and bowls…that way she’d have plenty of options for what to give Little B for breakfast when he woke up. :) Then I grabbed a fresh pair of Little B's jeans from the dryer and his “BIG brother” t-shirt for her to dress him in when they’d come to the hospital.

Around 5:45am I went back to our bedroom, looked at my sweet husband sleeping in bed, then gave his arm a good squeeze and said, in the most excited whisper ever, “Adam, Adam this is happening!”
He looked at me with drowsy eyes, then threw back his covers and got right up. Adam texted my doctor, then gathered some personal things while calling his parents, and I added some last minute items to my packed hospital bag and freshened up. I also called Adam’s sweet cousin Malissa to let her know I was having contractions and this was really happening…she would be helping photograph the birth story of this baby, and said she’d be out the door in minutes to meet us there. By this time, I was still having strong contractions 4-5 minutes apart…very similar to the ones I had at home just before Brooks’ birth; I felt best walking around, on my tip toes, with my hands on my hips, and taking deep breaths in and out, in and out.

Mama Kjar arrived just after 6:00am. We explained a few things with Brooks’ schedule, and gave her lots of hugs in between…I hope I told her “thank you” enough. It felt wonderful to know our little boy would be in the good and loving hands of his Grandma Kjar as we left, for who knew how long, to go have this baby.

On our drive to the hospital, which is just a short 15 minutes away (we got there in 10, thank goodness because having to sit through three contractions was horrible) Adam and I held hands. Sorry love if I held a little tighter than normal. ;) Oh I love that man. And I was so grateful I knew he’d be with me every step of the way to get our baby here. We talked about how we couldn't wait to finally find out if we'll have a little Boston or Ava...and guessed what time he or she would be born.  I think I said 9:52am and he said 9:30-something. With my other available hand, I texted my Mom and Dad to let them know the exciting news that we were on our way to the hospital!…I didn’t call them because my Mom was planning to leave later that morning to make the long drive from Washington to Utah, and she needed her rest, but I knew I’d call after we got checked-in and knew how far I had progressed.

At about 6:25am we arrived at the hospital. It's hard to describe the feelings I had as we pulled in. Mostly I felt completely exhilarated...we were here to have our baby! :)  But of course, because I'm a worrier, thoughts of it not happening the way I hoped or planned crept in my mind, or much worse, that there would be complications with the baby.  I had to push those negative thoughts out though and just remember that I can do this!  My body was meant for this, and soon the pain would be over and my baby would be in my arms.  If there were complications, we were surrounded by knowledgeable nurses and doctors. And what ever was meant to happen, would happen.  I said a tiny prayer for strength and comfort, and I got the most overwhelming feeling of my Savior's love for me and this baby.

Adam parked the car and seconds later I finished a contraction, so I knew I’d have at least a couple minutes of “rest” to be able to walk up to the labor and delivery floor. We took the elevator up, and when we reached the nurses' desk one of them said with a smile, “Oh! Your doctor beat you hear.” That made made me feel so relieved because Dr. Meek barely made it to deliver Brooks; our fault, not his. We walked to the delivery room, and after taking a "before" photo of my pregnant belly, I changed into my hospital gown and got hooked-up to the monitors so we could hear the baby’s heartbeat (best. sound. ever.).  The nurse then checked me. “Oh wow. Yep, you’re a 7.” YES! This really was happening!! Adam and I looked at each other with probably the cheesiest, happiest smiles, because we knew we were going to meet our baby boy or girl, and soon! The smile on my face quickly changed and I closed my eyes and grabbed onto Adam's arm and the rail on the bed as I breathed through a very hard contraction. In through the nose, out through the mouth…in through the nose, out through the mouth. Long, steady breaths and remembering that there would be an end to this pain helped me stay in control as the contractions got harder and closer together. 

Then Malissa arrived! “I’m a seven!” I told her. And, like my reply to the news, she said, “YES!” and quickly took out her camera and lenses…it felt so nice to know Adam and I could just do our thing and know she’d be capturing such incredible moments that hadn’t even happened, but we knew were going to be so precious to us.

In between a set of contractions, I asked Adam to grab my phone so I could call my Mom. With tears in my eyes (the very best kind of tears) I told her the status, how happy I was, and how grateful I was that she was coming...but also wishing she could be there at the hospital. She said she'd be praying for me, and I can't say how much that meant. Then came more contractions. Laying slightly on my side in the hospital bed felt best, gripping Adam’s hand/arm, and continuing to take long, deep breathes….pushing the air through my pursed lips. I had to remember that as each contraction came, each would goyou can do this Haley.

It was just before 7:00am at this point, and Dr. Meek arrived at the door of the room. “I told you,” he said with a wink of his eye. At our appointment the day before, he assured me that even though we had a future date scheduled to break my water, (um, the NEXT day) the baby would come before. I was so grateful he was right. And I was even more grateful my prayers happened to match up with Heavenly Father's plan for our baby.

He checked me and I was at a 9. More progression…more contractions...grateful for both because they were helping my body get this baby here!  At this point my water still hadn't broke.  I did not want to a human super-soaker, which is what would've happened again if it held 'til I was pushing, so my doctor broke my water. And not more than a few seconds after, I felt intense pressure and wanted to bare down. “I think I need to push,” I said. 

Dr. Meek and the two nurses assured me that was good, and to yes, go with that feeling. I pushed with everything I had, trying my best to remember to push “down low” instead of from my head. With my first birth that resulted in some major popping of blood vessels in my forehead, which did. not. feel. good. As Adam stayed by my side, he was my rock, one of the nurses counted to 10 as I pushed, then she’d say, “Breathe! And 10 more!” Oh I was grateful for that, but goodness I forgot how hard it is to push!  I personally felt a mix of frustration and empowerment. “Heavenly Father please give me strength to get this baby out and into my arms!” I thought. Then, more pressure came…and with it another set of pushes. Adam and my doctor encouraged me saying, “You can do it, you're so strong. You can do it!” 

After that second set I said, practically begging, “Can you see the head??!
Oh Yes!” was the reply.  Okay…now I wanted to see that head (I have to admit I'm not one to use the mirrors they offer)…come on Haley, be strongAt the end of the third set of pushes our baby’s head came out. (So much respect goes out to women who push for long lengths of time!) 

What an indescribable feeling.Is the baby out?? Should I push??” (I had done this before, yet I still somehow felt so fresh and new with the experience that I found I was asking lots of questions). “No, no. Hold on!” They sucked out our baby’s nose and mouth and then told me to breathe and get ready for one. more. push. And out our baby came…March 21st at 7:24am…oh the bliss. The most euphoric feeling washed over my entire body...the pressure was gone and our baby was here! Then I heard, “IT’S A GIRL!” And again, Adam said, “IT’S A GIRL!” We had a daughter!! Our Ava was here.

I sat up, and in one quick motion unsnapped the top part of my hospital gown and extended my arms out to her. “I want to hold her.” One of the nurses then replied to my request with something about her needing to be cleaned up first…“I don’t care,” I said. And Dr. Meek put her on my chest…oh she was so tiny, so precious...half Adam, half me.  Fresh from Heaven, what a miracle. Looking at her and looking at Adam was all I could do. My heart was just so happy. I loved her. Oh I loved her. And my heart was already thanking a loving Heavenly Father for letting me watch over her.

Dr. Meek let Adam and I have our sweet, indescribable time with our new daughter. What a spirit she had.

 Then said, “Do you want to cut the cord Adam?” I handed her back to Dr. Meek, and he held her as Adam cut that miraculous, life-giving thread that connected us. Bitter-sweet.

I laid back down. The nurses took her over to be weighed, and Adam followed, staying close to his little girl. I watched, and then was told I needed to push one last time to get the placenta out. Not fun, but it's all part of the gig, and was much easier than the previous pushes.  “She’s the same as Brooks!” Our sweet Ava weighed 7 lbs 10 oz, just like her older brother when he was born. We all had a good little laugh. :) And she was just a half inch shorter, at 20.5 inches.

I wanted to nurse Ava as soon as I could, and the nurses were so sweet to let us take our time and soak up our fresh new daughter, just the three of us. Loved every minute. What a miracle nursing is, and what a precious time it was to bond with my new baby girl.  I was so grateful she latched right on and started drinking away...of course that didn't last too long before she got oh-so sleepy. ;) 

Once we decided she had had a good enough feeding, Adam took our little girl to the nursery where she'd get her first bath.  I stayed in the delivery room (needed to get stitched up because I tore in a few spots, ouch), so I am beyond grateful to Malissa for capturing the next few images. I treasure each one of my tender husband and his baby girl.

They wrapped Ava up, nice and snug, and brought her back to the delivery room just as I was being wheeled to the hospital room we'd be staying in for the next two days. She had been with me, really with me, for the past 40 weeks, so I missed her terribly during that short 30 minutes or so of being apart! To see her again made my heart skip a beat. And it was still sinking in that our sweet babe, previously in my belly, was a girl the whole time...we had a daughter.  

Ava was in a hurry to get here.  Her birth still feels like a miraculous dream to me. No matter how babies arrive, it is always a miracle. I just feel incredibly blessed her birth happened so smoothly. I love being a woman. My body worked hard, and helped get my little girl into my arms. I felt the love of a watchful Heavenly Father the whole time... and now she is here, and she is healthy. Oh I could not be happier. It has just been one day and I've already loved soaking up her warm spirit. Ava has a very calm (or sleepy;) demeanor, and these eyes that capture your heart. And my heart is hers. I may have just met Ava, but I feel like I knew her. People were right when they said that your heart grows with love and makes room for your second (and third, etc.) child.  It's a unique love, just for her. And I know she's going to fit just perfectly into our new family of four.

We love you Ava girl.

** Photo credit to Malissa Mabey Photography

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The only thing...

 ...more beautiful than last night's incredible sunset is
the way he looks at her.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dear Brooks,

When you first met your baby sister you were kind of out of your element..neither Dad or I had been home that morning to get you out of your crib (so grateful to Grandma Kjar who was there though). And when you came to the hospital it was a new, strange environment to say the least. You really were not interested in baby Ava, and that was okay. You wanted to either dance and color with Daddy, or snuggle and play with me (and the room's phone;) in my hospital bed. :) But it was in my bed, the second day at the hospital, that you gave her a kiss! The sweetest kiss on her tiny head, I'll never forget it.

Upon getting home, Daddy and I would talk about "baby sister Ava" (before she was born we would talk about "baby," so it was fun to have a name with it) and encourage you to give her hugs and kisses...but you mostly wanted to just look at her, and maybe give her a light kiss on the top of her head or tickle her toes every once in a while when I'd pull her feet out of her sleeper. "Ticka, ticka, ticka, tickoo!" we'd say together. It was beyond adorable! I'd offer for you to hold her and every time you'd decline, which was, again, absolutely okay. I didn't want to push anything faster than what you were comfortable with.

Well, this past Monday night Dad came home from cheering on Uncle Ben at the Olympic Trials in Iowa City all were SO excited to see him at the airport! I think it was a miracle you went to bed that night in your own crib, you were glued to him the second he had you in his arms at the airport. ;) The next morning you came into our bedroom, I was just finishing nursing Ava, and you said, "Babyyyyy!" in your most adorable, excited voice. Daddy offered for you to hold her and you got the biggest smile on your face!

You sat at the head of the bed and held your baby sister for the first time.

Oh I'm smiling just typing this! Dad and I asked where her nose, eyes, ears, teeth (or lack there of), chin, and cheeks were...and you pointed each, tiny feature out. Oh I was one proud Mama! I think you first held Ava that morning because you wanted to show off to Dad what a good big brother you are to her...I know you're sweet to her, because you see your Daddy be sweet to her, and to me. I'm lucky to have such tender, loving boys in my life! And since that morning, multiple times a day you'll come up to me when I have her, and you'll put your little, but strong arms out and and say "Baby, baby." Then I proceed to melt into a puddle, then of course let you hold her to your heart's content. ;)

I'm so impressed to see what a sweet, tender big brother you're becoming. You've handled this transition so far SO WELL. I love you sweet boy. Keep up the awesome big brother love, Ava is lucky to have you!!

Love always,

PS - Here are some photos of you & Aves...those sweet moments are dear to my heart :)
Wish I knew what you were thinking right the, peaking at your new baby sister... 
"Ticka, ticka, ticka, tickoo!"

Sweet morning together before General Conference...
At Ava's 2-week check-up...pointing out little sister's nose :)
Kisses in Mama & Daddy's bed...
Sharing your apple ;)
First time holding her! You were so tender...
Kisses on the couch!
Love your hand on her friends :)

PPS - These pictures are from a little mommy-son date we went on a few weeks ago. Love that you were wearing your "big brother" shirt. :) Sweet Grandma Stum stayed home with Ava, while you and I went out to enjoy the sun and some yummy frozen yogurt. I love our time together Brooks! And I could've eaten you instead of the fro-yo, you were just too sweet eating with 2 spoons. ;)

Spiritual Health:
Read "He Lives! The Witness of Ladder-day Prophets" from the March 2008 Ensign.  An incredible article from one of my favorite Ensign issues! The testimony excerpt that touched me most when I read it was by David O. McKay:
‘How can we know the way?’ asked Thomas, as he sat with his fellow apostles and their Lord at the table after the supper on the memorable night of betrayal; and Christ’s divine answer was: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. …’ (John 14:5–6.) And so he is! He is the source of our comfort, the inspiration of our life, the author of our salvation. If we want to know our relationship to God, we go to Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A walk to the park, chicken curry pasta salad, cute kids, sidewalk chalk, dandelions, lots of ants, great friends...

...that's what our afternoon was filled with.

Thanks Kira for bringing lunch!
(I ate her d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s chicken curry pasta salad before I could even get a picture. Just thinking about it now is making my stomach rumble ;)  

Today has been a good day, a very good day.  Now off to get a snack ready for Brooks when he wakes up from his nap...he must have grown an inch, he's been asleep for over 3 hours!

Spiritual Health:
Oh it's been way too long since I've done Personal Progress!  Loved the value experience I worked on today while Brooks has napped and I nursed Ava :)  It was the Faith Value Experience #2...I read Alma 56:45–48 and 57:21 (love the mothers of Helaman's stripling warriors!) and I'm going to call my Mom tonight and ask about her thoughts on the qualities a woman needs in order to teach children to have faith and to base their decisions on gospel truths. Can't wait to talk with her, she always has incredible thoughts and advice on spiritual topics :)
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