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    Dear Eisley (four months)

    Dear Eisley,

    When you were just three days old, we took you to church. It was Easter Sunday, and although my body was achy and exhausted and my milk was coming in, I wanted nothing more than to worship God for the new life we have in Christ while holding you – precious new life in my arms. During the service, still riding high on the lingering adrenaline of labor and delivery and completely enamored by your little newborn self , I thought, “We must have another baby. We need four babies for sure.”

    Over the next two months that feeling changed. Your older sisters starting showing some angst over having a new sibling around, we moved to a new house, you went through the normal newborn stage where you have to be held at all times. The 3am feedings wore me down. There were many tears in our house. I would joke that someone was always crying… sometimes you, sometimes your sisters, sometimes me. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure I could handle more kids. You were a good baby – actually eating and sleeping fairly well – but the sheer weight of having three kids under age four felt too heavy to bear.

    Things smoothed out in month three. We got settled in our new house, traveled a bit as a family, you were consistently sleeping through the night, and taking a bottle easily (after a short strike the months prior). Micah and I began having the conversation again — do we want a 4th child? “Eisley is sooooo sweet,” we’d exclaim as we stared at you sleeping in your crib. “She’s just the best little baby,” we’d whisper over you as you nursed in our bed. Of course, we want another baby just like you.

    Now we are in month four, and our conversation has shifted again. Maybe you should be our last baby, for exactly the same reasons we would entertain having another. You are so sweet. Smiley all day, sleepy all night. You laugh at our antics, endure the aggressive hugs of your sisters, and have adapted just fine to having a nanny and taking a bottle on the days mom has to go to work. You love to be held by dad and fed by mom. You are living up to your name, which means “cheerful.” Maybe we should stop on a good note. The best note really. Everyone says you have to have one hard baby. One that throws you for a loop. You are proving them wrong, sweet girl. You are happy and easy, just like your sisters. Why not stop now and show the world that having a difficult baby may be the norm, but there are beautiful exceptions to that rule.

    It takes a darling little baby to make us waffle like we do. On the one hand, the thought of having a fourth child as happy and chubby as you sounds like a dream. On the other hand, why don’t we just soak in your sweet baby days and then move on to the next stage of running, talking, potty-trained, school-aged children and experience the adventures that lie ahead for our quiver-full of little ladies? Only time will tell, and until it does, we will enjoy this season our baby Eisley-girl. You teach us to savor and yearn, which is what this life is all about anyway — savoring the moment with gratitude and joy while yearning for a Kingdom yet to come.

    All my love,

    Mama

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    Eisley Avalon (months three and four)

    Growing // At twelve weeks of age, Eisley was 14 pounds, 13 oz. (95th%) and off-the-charts tall. She will get weighed again at her next well check (which I still need to schedule), but I’m guessing she is around 18 pounds now? I need to move her into 9 month clothes this week.
    Eating // Thankfully, Eisley is much more calm when nursing now and she is taking a bottle again. She eats every 2-3 hours throughout the day. It’s strange to think she’ll be starting solids relatively soon.
     
    Sleeping // Eisley typically takes a decent morning OR afternoon nap and then catnaps the rest of the day. She sleeps from about 9pm to 8am each night. Every once in a while, she’ll throw me for a loop and wake up at 6:30am, but she has also been known to sleep until 9am like a teenager. For the most part, I am able to wake up before her for coffee and Bible reading, which means I am starting to feel like my normal self-again after the postpartum haze.
    Doing // Eisley started giggling right at three months of age. She likes having her neck tickled and smiles all day long. She is still loving her play mat and it sitting in her baby bouncer less and less. We tried her in the Bumbo yesterday, but she’s still just a little too floppy for it. Our pool is finally warm enough for her, so we’ve taken her swimming a few times this past week.
    Loving // Baths, when dad holds her facing out, her play mat, walks in the stroller, being worn in the Solly or Ergo, sucking her thumb

    Tolerating// The swimming pool, wearing a life jacket on the ski boat

    Milestones // Visited Ga and Pa in Arizona, went camping in Orondo, went on Uncle Josh’s boat, went to Forest Home Family Camp, started laughing when tickled

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    Eisley Avalon: A Birth Story (Part II)

    Micah and I breezed through our four-minute, 4am commute the hospital and arrived to find triage calm and empty. They checked my fluids, inserted my IV (with one blown vein… gross!), and got me into my delivery room quickly.

    I was still contracting every 2-3 minutes and not in unbearable pain yet, but they told me the anesthesiologist was available whenever I wanted an epidural. I decided not to wait until I was miserable this time around. I was dilated to a 4 and thought maybe I could get an epidural and take a nap before delivery. I got my epidural around 6:30am, and then my doctor came in to check on me about an hour later. The nurse informed her that my water was not fully broken on one side, so my doctor broke the rest of my water. She then told my nurse she would be at the gym and to call her cell phone when it was time to deliver.

    At that point, both Micah and I tried to sleep. Micah was successful. I was not. Just as I was dozing off, I started to itch. I forgot that itching is a side effect of an epidural. I could sleep through it with Zianne, because I had such a long, exhausting labor. I didn’t have time to sleep with Talitha because by the time I got an epidural I was so far along and getting close to transition. This time around, I felt drowsy, but since I went into labor after three solid hours of sleep (ha!), I wasn’t exhausted enough to sleep through the itchy feeling.

    I finally surrendered the idea of sleep and started texting some friends and family with updates. I also agreed to a little Pitocin to speed up my now lagging contractions. Right then my friend Angie walked in. She recently became a doula and offered to attend our birth for free, as a gift to us and to gain experience in her practice. I had texted her right after I got my epidural, and she arrived on her own accord at the perfect time. Micah woke up from his nap, walked downstairs to find some breakfast, and Angie chatted with me to fill the time. The nurse came in to check me and said I was almost complete, at an 8 or a 9. She mentioned that my cervix hadn’t fully opened on the right side, so Angie suggested using the peanut ball. Although I had heard about this device in my labor classes long ago, I had never actually seen one. It is huge… and very effective.

    They slipped the giant apparatus between my knees and within four minutes I was commanding them to take it out. The baby was ready, and I could feel it. The nurse confirmed I had made it to a ten and decided we probably shouldn’t do practice pushes since this was my third baby and I was clearly ready to deliver. She turned off my Pitocin and ran off to call my doctor who said she would arrive in 15 minutes.

    My doctor’s 15 minutes ended up being 30 minutes. I waited and waited, so thankful to have an epidural. I could feel so much pressure during every contraction, and now I know why women without drugs have an overwhelming urge to push out their baby when the time has come. If not for the epidural, my nurse would have been delivering Eisley for sure.

    Finally, Dr. Lee ran into the room, counted out her supplies, propped my feet into stirrups, and it was time to go. I pushed through two contractions and noticed this growing pain, almost like a burning sensation. It didn’t feel like tearing, but it hurt pretty badly and felt nothing like my last two deliveries. By the third contraction, I started to feel upset. Something was burning me and no one could explain it. My doctor and the nurses were encouraging me casually to push, and I thought I probably had 10 or 20 minutes to go with this searing pain. On the fourth contraction, I started to cry until I heard the baby nurse suddenly change her inflection. “Push HARD!” Something about her tone convinced me to push a little harder and all of a sudden my doctor said, “The head is out!”

    “Praise the Lord,” I said under my breath, relieved that whatever pain I was experiencing was about to end. “Praise the Lord,” Angie whispered, more tenderly than me in that moment.

    Micah explained later that the widest part of Eisley’s head was coming out when I was writhing in pain. Why didn’t he or anyone else tell me that? I have no idea. The way my doctor and the nurse were talking in such subdued tones, I thought I had minutes upon minutes of pushing left. Thank God for the baby’s nurse whose little cheer at the end motivated me.

    With one more tiny push, our baby was out. I glanced down at her just as Micah told me it was a girl. Three girls! It seemed surprising and not surprising and perfect all at the same time.

    The rest of delivery was pretty seamless. A few tiny stitches, a babe who nursed for 40 minutes on her very first attempt. All the nurses and my doctor kept saying the same thing… “That’s a big baby!” “That’s a very big baby.” However, at our hospital they don’t weigh the baby until 60 minutes after birth to protect the golden hour of skin-to-skin contact. By the time, the nurse finally came in to weigh Eisley and do her other tests, everyone else had left. My doctor was gone, Angie was gone, even my nurse was off doing something else.  They put Eisley on the scale and I strained my eyes to see the digits across the room. “How big is she?” I asked. The nurse replied, “9 pounds, 4 ounces.”

    I was in disbelief. Big babies run in my family and Micah’s family, and I expected a baby in the mid to high 8 pound range, but never in my life did I think I’d have a baby over 9 pounds. Especially not a girl. Especially not before my due date. Now that she’s arrived, I’m pretty sure Eisley’s due date was off. We had no idea when we conceived, so our due date was based on an ultrasound where she measured 9 weeks and 2 days. Since she came out over nine pounds with slightly dry skin and fingernails so long they were breaking off, I am pretty sure she was actually closer to 41 weeks when she was born.

    Although I’m calling her Eisley in this post, I should note that she still didn’t have a name at this point. Micah held her after she was weighed and we whispered ideas about baby names as nurses moved in and out of our room. Since we didn’t have any family at the hospital with us, we didn’t feel as much pressure to decide on her name before anyone met her (like we did with Talitha). We went ahead and texted our families to say it was a girl and we weren’t sure of the name yet. When we made it to our recovery room, I wrote down all our possible girl names (three different first names with a variety of middle name options) and read the list out loud as Micah held our baby girl. We started leaning toward Eisley right away, but were uncertain of her middle name. Typically,  Micah likes our children to have “normal” middle names to make up for their “weird” first names, but this time around he surprised me.

    “I think I like Eisley Avalon the best,” he said.

    And with that, our precious third daughter had a name.

    The rest of our time in the hospital was relatively easy. Kayla brought the girls to meet their sister that afternoon, and we came home the very next day. It was Good Friday. We spent Easter weekend with a sleepy newborn, celebrating our new life in Christ and new life in our family as well.

    Postscript:

    *Eisley has a “stork bite” on her forehead and nose, which can be seen clearly in the above picture. When she first came out, the nurses weren’t sure if it was bruise from delivery or a birth mark of some sort. It was hard to tell since her skin and lungs and blood flow were all still adjusting to life outside the womb. The next day the pediatrician confirmed it’s a stork bite (medical name: nevus simplex), and said it should fade away in the next 12-18 months. In many cultures, stork bites are called “angel kisses” or “raspberries” and they are considered good luck.

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