February Photos

I'm keeping things simple and just going to post some photo updates and direct you to them from here...

To see a bunch of photos from February (including Rowan's 6th birthday and Gideon's Baptism) at Flickr, go HERE to check them out.


Photo update

All I have time for right now is to post a link to flickr with a bunch of candid photos from this last month. So go HERE if you want to see some pics of Gideon as he's gotten a bit bigger!

We're fine over here, still enjoying Gideon---just tired, and enduring more crying than we had hoped with #3! I'll post a better update later :)


Gideon Joseph's Birth Day

(First a disclaimer: this is a long post! And I'm pretty upfront with my language about birth, you've been warned. You'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom for a link to more photos at flickr).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A few minutes after 2:00 AM I awoke with my first real contraction. My first reaction was a huge smile. Maybe this was finally it! I went to the bathroom and had a bit of diarrhea, another good sign! I knew that if labor was imminent, I should get some rest....so I tried to go back to bed. Another contraction followed in about 10 minutes....and after just that second one, I knew that this was it, and then the excitement prevented me from falling back asleep. Well, that and increasingly strong contractions! The contractions started coming about every five minutes, but I wanted to let Joe sleep as long as possible, so I didn't wake him just yet. The contractions were pretty manageable to breathe through while laying in bed.

About 3:15 I decided to wake Joe, the contractions were just so consistent and getting stronger. I roused him and said “I think we're going to meet our son today,” and he replied “huh?” and I had to repeat it 3 times before it sunk in! I had diarrhea a few more times but otherwise labored in bed....Joe and I both feeling eager and ready.

A little before 4:00 I started packing up a few things for the hospital and then called the nurse because my contractions were 2 and 3 minutes apart. Based on what I told her and it being my third baby, she told us to head right to the hospital. I called Joe's mom and asked them to come right away to stay with the girls...Joe took a shower and shaved, we finished gathering our things....with me stopping every few minutes to breathe through a contraction. I called my mom to let her know we would be leaving soon for the hospital and to be ready to meet us there. Joe's parents got to our house about 4:20....Joe packed the car and got it warmed up (it was a cold morning!)...and we left at 4:30. Riding in a car during labor is no fun—but we only had a short drive to St. Mary's and he dropped me off at Emergency to go park the van.

They took us to the labor and delivery floor and put us in a triage area. I was dreading triage, the place they put you to determine that you are, indeed, in labor....and sometimes make you stay in one place for 30 minutes or more with all the monitors on. I don't like to labor in one place. I want to be standing or on my hands and knees and moving in between. This triage experience was much better than with Piper's birth. The nurse really listened to me and allowed me to do whatever was most comfortable for me, and then expedited the whole process when she could tell that I was clearly in active labor. I was only dilated to a 2/3 when we first got there, but by the end of 30 minutes my contractions were getting more intense and I had dilated to a full 4.

So we got settled into a delivery room around 6:00...and my contractions continued to intensify. I went from mostly being able to breathe through them to really having to focus (and verbalize, and swear, and squeal) to get through them. The monitors were showing that my contractions never really let up, I wasn't getting full breaks between them....they would dip just a bit, but then go right back up. And that's just how it felt to me---like I wasn't getting a chance to recover.

I decided to get an epidural. I could write a whole lot about that decision for me, from the internal battle, to not feeling “tough enough”, to all the woman who I respect and admire who have had natural child births and this nagging guilt I feel for having anesthetized labors, but I'll save all that for another time.

What's important to say here is that when the anesthesiologist showed up at my room about 7:00, I wanted to kiss him on the lips. I was tired, hurting, and wanted relief. I wanted to be able to focus on the delivery and enjoy my baby's arrival....and I was not in a place of calm and presence to do it without the drugs. The relief from the epidural was nearly immediate. I felt so good.

When I got the epidural I was dilated to 6 or 7....and the nurse who was with us at that point told us AFTER I got the epidural that she didn't think there was going to be time. Things had started moving so fast, she thought I would completely dilate and just have to push. Then once I had the epidural, things slowed down just a bit. Which actually ended up being okay, because I had tested positive for Group B Strep (a common infection that women carry....asymptomatic in adults, but if transmitted to a newborn it can cause serious illnesses) and I was supposed to get two doses of antibiotics while in labor but before delivery. I had received one right away when I got to the hospital, but the next dose couldn't be given until 9:30. So with the epidural, even if I did fully dilate to a 10, they wanted me to sit tight and wait until 9:30 to get that last dose.

How strange to be going fast and furious towards delivery, in all kinds of pain....to suddenly be comfortable, laying in a bed, talking and laughing, and just waiting a few hours to be able to push! By this time my mom and Stacia had arrived and it was nice to have the company.

So I got that last dose of antibiotics a bit after 9:00 but then I was still only dilated to 8/9. Dr. Steen thought that my progress slowed because the baby was facing sideways (transverse) and the contractions were, in part, trying to get him positioned correctly. We had a few moments of worry, thinking about Rowan's birth and her eventual delivery all in the posterior position. Didn't want to do that again.

Dr. Steen broke my water when I was dilated to 10, then she had me turn on my side to try and get the baby to move into the right position. He did almost immediately! So about 10:15 everything was ready for me to push...except that my mom and Stacia had just left to go get some food in the cafeteria and we had to call them to return right away!...and then I could push. Dr. Steen got everything ready for the birth, a few more nurses came in and Joe got gloved up because he was planning to help deliver the baby.

So with my mom holding one leg, a nurse holding the other, Stacia taking pictures, and Joe at the foot of the bed with Dr. Steen, I started to push. I pushed through the first few contractions and they could see the head....making progress with each one. They reported that there was a little bit of hair! Just a few more contractions and I could feel the deep pressure of a head crowning. This was going so fast! These moments of pushing a baby into the world are simply amazing. I was so fully present and alert and aware and truly enjoying every part of what was happening.

The next push and his head was out. Then, with the doctor's hands guiding his, Joe was able to pull the baby out the rest of the way while I pushed. Joe said that it was amazing how much pressure he had to exert, that you would never think it was okay to pull on a baby's head/neck with that much force! But once his head and shoulder's were out, it was just moments later that Joe put him on my chest, all reddish purple and his back covered in vernix. I only pushed for a total of 8 minutes, and didn't tear at all, didn't even need one stitch! Amazing!

When Joe put the baby on my chest, and even with this being my third time around meeting a new child, the emotion was still overwhelming, still hard to describe in words. My child! My son!

I recognized him. Piper looked so different from Rowan at birth that it was a strange experience to meet her, who was she? But Gideon looked like ours, mostly because he reminded me so much of Piper! Like a bigger, boy version of Piper. We knew we were having a boy---but of course I still checked between his legs to be sure. And we had kept it a secret from everyone else, so we still had to “announce” it. Hello, Gideon, I said out loud. Our son!

There were an extra amount of tears at Gideon's arrival. I've seen Joe cry a lot this year. Seen him cry harder than I have ever seen before. And he's probably seen me cry in the last year, too, more than in our previous 14 years of knowing each other. But I have never seen him cry so hard in happiness. Not sure I've ever seen someone cry so hard for joy. And I'm sure I shed some tears at Rowan and Piper's births, but the floodgates really opened during this one.

Many of you know about the journey we've been on since January of last year. It has been a hard, painful year, full of some of the darkest moments I hope to ever endure. This year has also held times of grace and hope and deep joy. This pregnancy was not planned, and I spent much of the first part of it really struggling with not wanting to be pregnant, feeling like it was horrible timing and that the stress of pregnancy and a new baby were just going to be too much for us to handle. By my third trimester God had done a work in my heart and I felt ready and excited to have this baby. And Joe and I were in a good place, having done so much of the hard work of healing and reconciliation. I started to see that this child could mark a new beginning for all of us, coming during the first week of a new year, almost exactly a year after everything, and mark a time of fresh starts and second chances. Maybe not a timing I would have chosen, but one I am seeing as a part of God's mysterious, perfect plan, of which I can only see or understand a small part.

So at the moment of Gideon's birth, I was overcome with gratefulness. For how much I wanted this child, for how little ambivalence I felt about him, for how easy it was to love him. For his health and the easy delivery. And overcome with awe and gratefulness for how far we've been in a year, that Joe wanted this child, too, and loved him like he did.

We got to hold and examine Gideon for awhile, then they wanted to weigh and measure him and do a few of their hospital things. I agreed that they could take him, as long as it only took a few minutes! They weighed him and the scale showed 9 lbs 6 oz---exactly as big as Joe was at birth! Then they measured him (and Stacia told us later that the nurse actually re-measured him 3 times because she thought it must be wrong) and he was 23” long. A big, long baby! While they were doing the measurements I called Joe's mom, who was with Rowan and Piper, and reported the good news. Then I talked to Rowan. Rowan actually knew that we were having a boy and what we were going to name him---and she kept it a secret for months! We were so proud of her for not telling anyone. So I told her that her brother was here, that she could now tell anyone, and Joe held the phone by Gideon so she could hear him cry.

About an hour after his birth Rowan and Piper came up to see him. What a sweet time that was! So much joy to see those girls meet their new brother. Rowan has been through this before...but is a few years older and more mature now, tender and with it. Piper was a bit hesitant, she didn't want to get too close or hold him...but wanted to touch his head and talk sweetly to him. She has been calling him “my baby” or “my baby Gideon” for weeks already.

Looking at the pictures that Stacia took of those very first moments after birth and first holding Gideon....it's amazing how much blood, mucous, fluid, poop, vernix, and bodily stuff there is involved. It all looks kind of gross. And Gideon himself---his color is kind of off, he's all scrunched up and screaming, definitely not making his prettiest face. But at the moment that I first laid hands on him, the mess wasn't even a thought. Not even one bit yucky or alarming. I never even considered the gross stuff I might get on my hands or chest. I only had one overwhelming desire: to touch, to hold, to kiss, to know, to love this child. Pure love. All I saw was goodness, beauty. He was perfect to me.

And I can't help but think that's how God feels about us. We can be pretty gross creatures---full of yuckiness we'd rather not admit to ourselves or anyone else. Full of sin and selfishness. We're pretty messed up, red-faced and whiny. Why would God want anything to do with us? But that's just it: He made us. We are His. He wants to hold me with the same longing that I want to hold Gideon, no matter how ugly or dependent or gross I might be. And even more than that—He thinks I'm beautiful. That's the miracle of grace.

We've learned a lot about grace and forgiveness this year. Resisted it at times, both giving it and receiving it. Struggled through what it really looks like fleshed out in a human relationship. We've got a long ways to go, but this week I look into Gideon's eyes and know that grace looks something like this: a brand new baby, loved more than he knows: despite his neediness, his poopy diapers, his ridiculous schedule at night, his loud cries. This child is loved beyond reason, just for existing. It's how God feels about me. It's how He feels about Joe. It's how He feels about Rowan and Piper. It's how He feels about Gideon already.

Gideon is a gift of grace to us and a picture of grace for us.

As Pastor Dave always says, my prayer is that Gideon will grow up in the knowledge that while he is far more messed up than he may know, he is also infinitely more loved than he could possibly imagine.

To see a lot more pictures from Gideon's birth and the hospital, click HERE
You can click "slideshow" to see them all at once. A special thanks to my sister-in-law, Stacia, for taking all of the photos during labor, delivery, and afterward. It was a blessing to have her in the room with us AND have her take so many beautiful photos!


Piper is 2!

To Piper on your second birthday,

Piper Jane. Just saying your name makes me smile. Where do I start with you, child? You have changed so much in a year. You are bigger (33 pounds! 37 inches! That is actually off the charts, literally, in both weight and height), your hair is longer, you move around proficiently, you sleep through the night, and you talk.

You talk! We know what's going on inside your head now, and it is a delight to hear. The last few months have brought an onslaught of new words and combinations and sentences---every day it is something new, and you make us smile. You are more content with your world, too, because you can communicate so much better. There was a rough patch in there, around 15-18 months, where we endured a lot of whining and frustration from you. You had stuff to say but couldn't say it, I think. I'd be frustrated, too.

You are silly. It seems like you have a good sense of humor---at least when you look at us with your head completely still and those eyes darting around purposefully, they look to be filled with wisdom and understanding and humor. You make all of us laugh and you revel in it. Your latest thing has been putting your hand to your forehead and exclaiming “oh, man!”...over and over again, because we keep laughing.

You sing...your favorites are ABCs (which you demand that I sing every night before bed, like a lullaby), Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Away in a Manger (it is, after all, almost Christmas!) You can sing most of those songs on your own (with a few made up words)---but usually you want someone to join you, and you aren't shy about tapping my leg and saying “sing, mommy!” Sometimes you wake up in the morning, happy, and we can hear you singing in the crib. It's the best way to wake up. The other morning Rowan joined you in your crib in the morning, and your dad and I laid in bed listening to the two of you talking, singing, being sweet in the early morning hour. It made me feel so happy.

You have friends! And your play isn't just about claiming ownership of a toy or doing parallel play---you interact, love, hug, connect. We took care of the Kuiper boys every Tuesday this past year, and you have built a special friendship with Judah, who is 2 ½. “Judah is my buddy” you say. One of the most recent times we saw them, you announced “I so happy to see you!” as you gave him a hug. You are also friends with Jack, Ben, Hannah, your cousins. You seem to get it: these are people my size. My friends.

You love this new baby we have coming. I'm not always sure how much you understand about this baby---like that it will come OUT of my body in a matter of days, and will be moving in with us for good. What I do know is that you are very aware of my belly, and you talk to it tenderly, always calling it “my baby.” Today we were at the grocery store and out of the blue, from your seat in the cart, you just cradled and stroked my belly, talking closely and giving it kisses, “hi baby, I love you baby.” I do know that you love other babies in our life....we'll see how you feel about this one coming, who will forever usurp your position in this family. I'm eager to see you negotiate your way into the position of middle child.

This fall we've spent a lot of one-on-one time together because Rowan is in kindergarten three full days a week. Even though you ask all day long “where RoRo go?” and I know that you would prefer it if she never left us, I have enjoyed the time just with you. You have an attention span for reading books that is longer than mine. You are curious, engaging, easy to be around. Well, for the most part. If I have too much to do....if I've put you off one too many times with laundry or cooking or editing photos....you let me know. You are not a wallflower, that's for sure. You make your voice heard one way or the other. I always say that I'd rather my daughters be assertive---but sometimes you can be so demanding, child!

Oh, and sometimes you show that assertiveness with a bite. Not sure what to do about that one. Rowan never bit anything ever---so this is new territory for us. And it hasn't just been an experiment for you---you're pretty committed to the idea that biting will accomplish something. Or at least that it's a great way to express your frustration or anger or impatience. You've bitten several friends (hard) and Rowan has been on the receiving end of a half dozen bites, too. We've done everything we're supposed to---firm explanations, immediate consequences, time outs, apologies. None of it phases you much. And you say “I'm sorry, RoRo” so sweetly afterward that it breaks our hearts. And makes us a little annoyed. Then you bite her the next day. We're hoping that you grow out of it soon.

You walk into most situations with confidence. You love going to nursery and don't look back when we drop you off. You have no problem when I leave you with grandparents or someone else---you seem secure in yourself, secure in my love for you, secure in the knowledge that I will come back for you. You have a healthy dose of independence.

Some of your favorite things at 2: books, blocks, cars and trucks, puzzles, Rowan, babies, dolls, fruit snacks, church nursery, your paci (or papi, as you call it!), apple juice, yogurt in a tube, wrestling with daddy, swinging, singing, stickers, taking walks, playing at the park, swimming.

For these last days before our new baby comes, I am treasuring you as my baby, Piper. I have loved having you as my baby, my youngest. I know that in a short amount of time I will not be able to carry you as much...and even though my belly is big and you are a whopping 33 pounds, right now I just want you on my hip.

I want to snuggle you, hold you close, keep you right here. At just turned two. It's a good age. Will you just stay my baby a little while longer, so I can memorize everything, so I can be sure not to forget?

I love you, Piper Jane. How much do I love you? As you say to me now, “SO, SO much,” with your arms flung wide.

Yes, so so SO much.

Happy Birthday!


To see some more photos of Piper at 2 (and her big sister!) click HERE.


38 weeks

This pregnancy has just flown by! I guess it makes sense with a third baby--I'm pretty busy with the other two, time just goes so much faster.

I did make sure to stop and get some photos of the belly, though, just in time! My friend Jill Herweyer, who also took photos of me when I was about this pregnant with Piper, helped me out again and took some amazing shots of me and the girls yesterday. We had fun! I'm not used to being on the other side of the camera---but I know that I won't regret it.

Piper turns 2 tomorrow, then Christmas....so I'm just hoping that the baby waits until all those celebrations are done. I wouldn't mind going close to the full 40 weeks and having this child's birthday farther away from Christmas :)

I probably included too many photos here, but if you want to see a few more there is a set at Flickr that you can link to HERE.


More photo links

Seems like the only thing I can manage to blog these days is a link to photos. Oh well!

Here is a set on Flickr of pics from Sept/Oct: click HERE
First days of school and halloween!

And here is a random set of photos from our little point and shoot camera from July-Sept--lots of summer activities, the beach, the zoo, a concert, lots of Rowan's shots: click HERE.


Family Photos

We attempted some family photos a few weeks ago. Always fun to try and be the photographer and the mom :) Thanks to the tripod, interval timer, and Aunt Jenny and Kai getting our attention....we got a few!

You'll also notice in the photos that I have a little something growing in my belly :) Cebulski #3 will be making an appearance during the first weeks of 2011, right after Piper turns 2. Life is about to get crazy!

To see some more photos from our little shoot, click here.


One more photo link

Look at me!

Click here to see some photos of our annual week at Lake Michigan with the Hoeksema family in late June. There are some delicious photos of my sister Jenny and her son Kai, my brother Adam and his kids....and also a few shots of a visit from Jenny's birth mother and her daughter. It was the first time they all met, and we all got to be a part of it! Pretty special.

There, now if that didn't sell you to look at them, I don't know what will :)

July/August photos

Here I go!

Click here for photos from July/August 2010.

I'm practically all caught up!


More Photos!

I'm slowly getting there:

Here is a big ole photo update from May/June 2010:

Click here.

I'll be back later for July/August--then I'll be almost caught up!


Photo Update

Can it be? A new blog post?

I've been a bit distant lately from this family blog. So I am way behind in doing much of anything with personal photos.

I went through and put some on Flickr....going all the way back to January, ay caramba!

So here's a link to a flickr set from January and February:
click HERE.

Yes, Rowan turned 5 in February, and this set includes some birthday photos. Better late than never, right?

And here's a link to a set from March and April:
click HERE.

It's a bunch of random, every day photos...mixed in with a trip to FL that the girls and I took with some friends, little trips to the beach, and every day moments. They are all there. And hopefully they are mostly self-explanatory, because there is no way I can go back and fill in the gaps with actual posts. The pictures will have to do!


Rowan is 5!

(to see more photos of Rowan at 5, go to the photography blog here)

(This post is over a month late. Better late than never! I wanted to share parts of a letter I wrote to Rowan this year. It was kind of a long one this year, and I think she's old enough now that some of it I will leave personal.)

Rowan Joy, 2-21-2010

You are 5 today! I think about all the birthday letters I have written, and how I look forward to each one--they are like love letters, giving me a time to reflect on all of the things about you that I adore, and all the things in the last year that I see in you---growing you, changing you, forming your little heart.

I probably say this in every birthday letter, but it’s only because I feel it so strongly: I cannot believe I have a 5 year old! 5! That’s half way to 10, a quarter of the way to 20. It’s a big one. Like becoming a teenager, turning 21, entering your 30s. 5 fits in there. You are my oldest, my first. So I will always go through these milestones with you for the first time. There is something really special about that, child.

5 is far from being a baby or even a toddler. 5 is a girl. Not even a little girl. A girl. And I love the girl that you are.

You are very different from me. There have been a few times in the last weeks that you’ve exclaimed “mom, you just don’t understand me!” And I’ve thought….are we really starting this already? But I also smile, because you are right. I don’t always understand you. Sometimes I get impatient with you. Sometimes I don’t get your sensitivities, your deliberateness, your pickiness about clothes or food.

I might not always understand you, child, but I know you fully. And I love you fully. I couldn’t love you more, truly. When you smile at me, touch my face tenderly, tell me that you love me….it swells my heart to the point of bursting.

Rowan, you know what you want. You pick out your clothes each morning with certainty--and our only scuffles now come when you insist on wearing leggings with holes in the knees (because they have been worn so lovingly)…and I think that wherever we are going, requires un-holey clothing. We can usually figure it out.

You also know what you want to eat, and request things with specificity. Lunchables are your new answer to prayer: each item separated from each other in a divided plate, with a wrapped treat for dessert. It’s your heaven.

I love that you are sure of yourself in those ways. I admire your stubbornness, even when it irritates me. I look to your future and pray that you will stay a strong person, a strong woman. It will serve you well when life gets messy.

You have caught the love of words this year. I’ve decided not to push you on reading, but rather follow your lead and make sure you want to do it. You’ve figured out how to sound out so many words and letter combinations, and are writing several words on your own, too. I can’t wait to see you unlock the rest of the puzzle of reading and writing--you’re going to love it!

You have blossomed in your friendships this year. Last year, you mostly clung to my legs in new social settings…and even on our street, where you should have been getting comfortable with the kids and parents, you still seemed to hang back and not engage with the other kids. You’ve come out of your shell a bit---confidently crossing the street for playdates with Katie or Eden, staying outside by yourself to play with the neighborhood kids---it’s awesome to watch you make your way, interact, enjoy friendships. The people who you choose to surround yourself with are so important---I love watching you make decisions about who to hang around with, who you want to be close to.

You are curious about how things work--the earth, the stars, the human body. You ask good questions, and get excited about learning something new. You tell me, in a serious voice “I am very interested in how the human body works.” You have several kid encyclopedias (space, horses, sharks, insects)….and they are often your choice to read at bedtime. I’m not sure what I would do without google (probably just go to the library more often, which might be a good thing)…because it seems like almost daily, I have to google something to figure out how to answer one of your questions.

You care about how you look. This morning you dissolved in tears because your hair wasn’t laying just right. You check yourself out in the mirror. I’m trying to help you have a healthy perspective on beauty. You are beautiful and you always will be. I pray that you don’t hold it in too high esteem, that you don’t care about it too much.

I’m eager to watch your relationship with Piper this year. You told me recently that you wished she was still a newborn…I think you said this as she was getting into some of your toys in your room. Right now she isn’t much of a playmate…mostly just a threat, because she is very interested in all your toys, and she doesn’t have great judgment nor is she very careful. But I can already see her looking up to you, and I see the way you smile at her with tenderness, and enjoy her, and I overhear you telling her you love her….and I pray that you two will be good to each other, and maybe even eventually become good friends. The sound of you two laughing together…well, I honestly cannot think of a sound that brings me more pleasure.

I am proud of you, child. Proud of the girl you are and the girl you are becoming. I love you so much it hurts.

Happy 5th Birthday!