Embracing The Master’s Brush

imagesZCCLK33Q Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Well, this week I tackled painting for the first time in eleven years.

We’re not talking Pablo Picasso painting—I’ve never been quite brave enough to tackle that—but the humdrum, slap-paint-on-a-wall kind of painting that had me kneeling over a bucket of Benjamin Moore classic cornsilk on Tuesday, feeling like I might faint.

You see, the last time I painted I was seventeen years old. I was in Bogota, Colombia, working with the Petersheim family (my husband and I weren’t even dating back then) to transform an entire floor of an orphanage with a few cans of oily green paint.

Within three days, I was so covered with green that I resembled the Wicked Witch of the West, and the walls looked even worse than I did.

Afterward, I did a kindness for humanity and hung my paint brush up for—what I believed was—good. Some people just don’t have the knack for painting, and I was one of them.

But last week, knack or not, necessity made me tackle painting again.

My husband is in the midst of putting closets in the “master” bedroom of our solar-powered house. And then he is going to put a bathroom downstairs, so we’re not constantly lugging a thirty pound toddler up and down them for every hint of a tinkle.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a long time before my husband can tackle superfluous to-do’s, such as my rabid need to paint our stairs green.

So, on Monday I went to Home Depot and picked out my paint. On Tuesday, while both my girls were napping, I taped off the trim and used a butter knife to pop the top on my can of cornsilk.

Then, paintbrush in hand, I stared down at my tray of smooth yellow and tried to understand how to get it on the wall. My husband chose this moment to clomp downstairs.

I said, “I think my heart might explode.”

He glanced over at me, pulling his toboggan hat down over his ears. “Why?”

“What if I mess up?”

He shrugged, pulling on his gloves. “Then we’ll just paint over it again.”

My husband’s main motivation for saying this was, no doubt, the fact that he wanted to go hunting and figured he’d prefer to fix whatever mistakes I made while he was gone rather than giving up his limited time in the woods.

Still, he made it all seem so simple. If I messed up, we could just paint over it again.

Over the past two weeks, there have been moments I’ve feared that we’ve “messed up” by moving twelve hours away from our families.

These are often the moments I’m also missing my dryer and my predictable thermostat. My garbage disposal and my granite countertops. My soaking tub with its endless supply of hot water and my closet that was so deep, walking through it felt like I might wander into Narnia.

But then I realize that God is present even in those moments when I’m staring down at my tray of paint, trying to figure out how to slap the next layer on my life’s wall.

We can make mistakes that are almost impossible to cover up, and yet I don’t believe God wants His children to be debilitated by so much fear that we never accept change.

He wants us to embrace the full palette of our years, using them for His honor and glory, so that when we come to the end of our life, we can see every stroke of the Master’s brush.

What changes would you make to your life’s palette if you knew that you couldn’t “mess up”?


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Marriage: Handle With Care

HANDLE-WITH-CARE-International-Safe-Handling-Label This week, I thought I became a widow.

My husband and father-in-law were outside, jacking up the shipping container holding almost all our worldly possessions, when I heard a tremendous crash.

I was in the midst of packing my closet, and I just stood there with a peasant top draped over my hands, frozen, knowing that within the next few minutes I would learn if either my husband or father-in-law had been under the numerous tons of weight when the container obliterated the cinder blocks beneath it….

Finish reading the post here: http://www.southernbelleviewdaily.com/marriage-handle-with-care/


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Conquering Fear In An Unsettled World

c7dd244f43f70427df385d82ecdff0d8 Our toddler began screaming the instant our minivan entered the darkened tunnel of the car wash.

Her head thrashed from side to side, as she tried to anticipate the monster’s assault.

Eyes welling, she was on the verge of really cutting loose when my husband batted his hand against the glass, where the “monster” was reaching out its tentacles, and laughed.

“Silly!” he said. “That’s so silly!”

He did this over and over again: as the water sprayed and foam splattered, as the gigantic mop head dragged across the top of the vehicle like a mutant spider, as the dryer howled.

Our toddler smiled, though tears stilled pooled in her eyes.

She extended her dimpled hand toward the glass and laughed. She started saying, “Silly! Silly!”

The irrational fear had lost its power and, watching her, I saw a picture of myself.

I am especially susceptible to irrational fear after the birth of a child. My newborn looks at our world through such unsullied eyes, and I want to keep her and her older sister from being exposed to pain.

Hence, this week’s far-from-silly headlines—Ebola, ISIS, deleterious strains of flu—have caused me to thrash from side to side, trying to anticipate our world’s next monstrous assault.

Determined to conquer fear, as I do not want my children to learn from my example, I traced the tentacles back to their root and realized that my fear comes from lack of control over death.

I want to know my children will live long enough to grow old. I want to know they will die happy and warm, with their own children, and their children’s children, holding hands around their beds.

And yet I cannot know this.

And it’s the “not knowing” that makes me feel so desperate. That causes me to scan headlines and read articles and scour grocery carts with sanitizing wipes and glower at people who dare cough within a hundred feet of my newborn child.

My best friend was in town this week to help me pack, and I asked how she conquered fear, for she stared death in the face when she was diagnosed with cancer at only twenty-two years old.

“I didn’t dwell on it,” she said, using a freckled finger as a placeholder in her book. “Fear did nothing to increase my quality of life.”

She was in the midst of reading C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, and she reminded me of everything he had gone through in his life: losing his mother to cancer when he was a young boy, marrying in middle age only to lose his wife, Joy, to the same dreaded disease.

Without facing hardships, C.S. Lewis wouldn’t have been a writer of such range and depth. Without having faced hardships of her own, my best friend wouldn’t be able to counsel me about life.

Therefore, if my children live lives exempt of hardship like this mama heart wishes, they will not have the same depth of character as those who have walked rockier paths.

So I must trust God to give me wisdom to raise these beautiful daughters of mine into women who do not fear the unknown, but embrace life . . . regardless if it’s a journey of hardship or ease.

Have you ever struggled with fear? How did you overcome it?


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A Sign To A Woman Who’s Given Up On Signs

imagesE9BIYJRW Somewhere between graduating from college and giving birth to my first child, many of my life’s questions were answered, and so I stopped searching the cosmos for signs.

If the light turned green before I had to tap my brake, it meant I was supposed to join the Peace Corps.

If a street name matched the name of someone I liked, it meant we were supposed to get married.

If I saw 11:11 on my cell phone twice in one day, it meant my best friend was going to beat cancer.

I cannot say that I was searching for God’s will for my life by putting out a fleece; moreover, I was searching for confirmation for my own will.

You see, I already had plans; I just needed God to sign off on them.

As I grew older, I began to see the flaw in my thinking.

God, no doubt, does speak to us by using signs. In the book of Daniel, he literally wrote on the wall.

Therefore, I believe it is better to be overly attuned to his still, small voice than to plug our ears like a stubborn child.

However, riddled with fear of making the wrong decision (and, honestly, of losing control), I would put out so many If this happens, then’s that my every movement was stunted . . . stagnated.

And then I married my husband, who is the counter opposite of me in countless ways.

His love of moving—and my despising it—is definitely one of them.

These past few weeks we’ve been preparing for our move to a solar-powered farm in Wisconsin, my husband’s been on a drifter’s high: organizing, trimming down excess, packing boxes and stacking them in our shipping container that’s parked smack-dab next to the carport (you might be a redneck if . . .).

Meanwhile, I’ve been vacillating between euphoria (I am Pioneer Woman, hear me roar!) and paranoia (The only way I’m gonna survive this winter is to triple my weight in cheese curds so I can keep warm!).

The other day, I was gravitating toward this latter exclamatory sentence when I took a walk with my newborn and my toddler.

More often than not, my toddler makes the three-mile trek feel like parental boot camp: Water? Snacks? Bankie? Fowers? Cows? (I’m supposed to produce each of these within seconds or else.)

Before children, these daily walks doubled as my time to contemplate life and pour out my heart to God.

But somehow, that day, I found time to commune with my Creator while also peeling off the wrapper on a granola bar, picking “fowers,” and popping a pacifier back in my newborn baby’s mouth.

My request was simple: God, I want a sign.

Not only a sign that our family was on the right track, but a sign that God was there.

Then I looked down and saw a buckeye—a round dark orb that looks and feels like polished wood.

I have been collecting buckeyes for years, long before I knew there was any superstition involved.

I smiled to myself, hit the brake on the stroller, bent down and retrieved the buckeye. Slipping it into my pocket, I felt like that little nut was God’s way of reaffirming that he did see me, a slightly frazzled nut, taking a long walk on a short leash of patience.

And then, on our lane that I’ve been walking daily for three years, I saw another buckeye. And another. And another. I walked over and crouched slightly, cupping my newborn’s head in the sling.

The ground was positively littered with them.

So I did what any respectable mother of two does when she comes upon a harvest of buckeyes: I got down on my hands and knees and filled the pockets of my jeans. When they became too full, I filled the top of the stroller.

I freed my toddler from her straps, and she helped me. Together, we knelt in the damp grass as the autumn sun set over the mountains and gathered the nuts—a sign to a woman who’d given up on signs that God still answers our smallest requests in abundance.

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Does God speak to you through signs? If so, please share!


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Embarking On “The Great Perhaps”

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Packing this week for our move to a solar-powered farm in Wisconsin, I discovered a clear freezer bag stuffed with emails to and from my long-distance fiance; emails that I had printed off in my dorm room before I graduated from college.

I remember the day I printed them off. I knew my student account was going to be deactivated, and I didn’t want to lose that priceless cyber exchange.

However, the act of printing them out seemed unnecessary. I never believed I could forget the emails. I had, of course, committed them to memory by rereading them countless times.

But memory, as we all know, is a fickle thing, even if a heart remains true.

Seven years after I sent those emails—and received them—I knelt on the carpet before a plastic tote, read the neat black font composing our modern love letters, and realized I’d forgotten every single one.

We’d written out lists of what we loved about each other, and I found myself laughing at how schmaltzy we were back then (“I love that you rub my feet with minty lotion”), or how some things haven’t changed (“I love how you worry that I don’t wash the pesticides from my fruit”).

I won’t lie: a part of me mourned that young couple who had a whole galaxy of life around them, and yet acted as if they were the only planets in orbit.

I wondered, holding that email, how we could start afresh again, focus on each other again, even after two children and six years of marriage.

So, on our way out for “date night” last night, which consisted of Blue Coast burritos, groceries, and then a Starbucks pit stop, I asked my husband what were his best and worst moments.

He looked at me quizzically, surely wondering what thought process had conjured the question. And I had to give credit where credit was do.

It came from the book I was reading, Looking For Alaska, by John Green: the gritty young adult author who also wrote the maudlin blockbuster, The Fault In Our Stars.

Tapping the steering wheel, my husband contemplated my question. He said that he loved our wedding, which surprised me, since it was one of the longest (and sometimes most stressful) days of our lives.

He said he loved snorkeling when we were on our honeymoon in Kauai. He loved (and hated) the day that he missed the trophy White Tail with his bow.

He told me the hardest day of his life, and then I shared the best day of mine, which—when I thought about it—was actually the same day as his: our wedding day, which took place on September 27, 2008, on a horse ranch in Tennessee.

“I loved giving birth, too,” I said. “Though I enjoyed this second birth better than the first one.”

My husband shook his head. “I only enjoyed it once it was over, and I knew everyone was okay. Isn’t it crazy how the worst days are often also the best?”

I thought about it a moment and knew that what he said was true.

Just as my best day consisted of a collage of moments, my worst day was hard to define.

It was either the day my friend died from a heart attack at twenty-one, or the day—almost a year ago now—that we miscarried at ten weeks.

“You were there for both,” I said, glancing over at him.

His hazel eyes crinkled at the corners, though his smile remained bittersweet. “That’s marriage,” he said. “We’re there for the best and worst moments.”

Right now, as I’m typing this, it’s our anniversary.

The washer is madly spinning a load of whites; my toddler is singing the Veggie Tales theme song during naptime; my newborn is stretched across the nursing pillow in my lap; the kitchen table has a centerpiece of Scotch bubble wrap we purchased last night at Sam’s to wrap our wedding china that we never use; a Strawberry Short Cake princess dress is draped over the African drum we’ve turned into a coffee table, along with a black fedora that makes our toddler look a little like a tyrant, despite her wealth of loose, dark-blond curls.

My husband should be returning soon with another load of boxes so we can continue boxing up the contents of our six years of conjoined life.

Tears distort the fall-gold leaves falling outside, and my heart beats high inside my ribs, a ballad of both dread and anticipation.

I know that the next step of our marriage journey is going to be a beautiful, messy collage of best and worst moments, but I cannot imagine anyone else I’d like to take the journey with, embarking into what author John Green calls “The Great Perhaps” . . . side by side.

Did you ever embark on a major life change that left you apprehensive and excited at the same time? Please share!


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Our Big News

images As I went through my closet today, culling dresses with yellow sequins and stiff crinoline slips and stacking them on a pile for Goodwill, I thought of that quote by the hippie transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”

I figure I must be on the right track if my future endeavor is not requiring me to purchase new clothes; rather, our future hobbit-sized house is requiring me to downsize my wardrobe.

You read that right: in one month, our family of four is moving to a quaint solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin.

It’s all right if you think we’re crazy; I think we’re pretty crazy, too.

I may gravitate toward the bright patterns of a Gypsy, but in truth I am about as free-spirited as a rock.

I could live in the same house all my life. Eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. Use the same feather pillow every night until it cushions my head as efficiently as a piece of notebook paper.

And yet, my husband and I are at the crucial point in our lives where the decisions we make now are far easier than they will be in the next ten years (i.e.: when our toddler becomes a teenager).

We are both self-employed and therefore can work anywhere we choose.

So why choose to remain in the same place?

This decision may seem spur of the moment, but the process has almost taken two years.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA We debated on Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin.

However, like the fabled bowl of porridge, something was always off.

Montana was too cold. Idaho was too far from our family in Tennessee. Wisconsin wasn’t quite as cold as Montana, and it was near my husband’s extended family, who I adore like my own.

But we could never find a place to live.

Then, this spring, my husband and I visited a solar-powered farm located five miles from his family. I admit that I wasn’t too impressed with the hobbit-sized house until I saw the pink peonies and raw honey on the countertop, the upstairs hardwood floor painted cool aqua, the windows opening up to the English garden hemming in the rolling pasture below.

Untitled I started falling in love with the land and the dwelling when the owner—so obviously heartbroken to leave her home—and I stood on a crest and ate a handful of tiny strawberries plucked from her garden. As she showed me her patch of rhubarb with its clutches of brilliant garnet stalks. As she showed me the cherry trees hanging heavy with fruit.

There is, no doubt, work to be done. The barn (like something out of a classic movie—rooster weathervane and all) needs painted.

There is only one closet in the entire house (hence downsizing my wardrobe) that, when we saw it, was stuffed full of thick skeins of earth-toned wool.

6424821_orig My 6’1’’ husband is going to have to squat while taking a shower or else start loving baths (trust me: he is not a bath guy).

The pantry isn’t finished but has a great soapstone sink. The floor is uneven because the owners wanted to keep the original hardwood at any cost, and we’re not even sure if we’re going to be able to fit our bedroom suite up the stairs and so might end up sleeping on a blow up mattress until kingdom come.

And yet, despite it all—all the apprehension regarding leaving our families, trying to get this southern belle acclimated to a new environment right before winter hits, having a newborn and a toddler trapped in a hobbit house while the snow piles up outside—I am excited.

And I am terrified.

But I was equally excited and terrified to get married and to have babies, and these major changes have enriched my life in ways I could have never foreseen.

imagesVLPGU7G1 So I pray this journey, living in our little solar-powered house in dairy-farming country, will bring our family closer together while enriching our lives in ways we could have also never foreseen.

If not, well, I may be spending the winter wrapped in flannel and parked under a Vitamin D lamp. ;)

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This week only (9/28-10/4) my sophomore novel, The Midwife, is only $2.99 on Kindle and Nook. Click here to follow the link!

“The work of a master storyteller.” ~The Christian Manifesto 4 1/2 stars

“Petersheim is an amazing new author.” ~RT Reviews 4 1/2 stars

“When I forget where I am and instead think I am in this world that the book brings to life, I know it’s a good one!” ~Fiction Addict


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Five Things I’m Determined To Do Differently With My Second-Born

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This week, tending my newborn daughter in the small hours, I contemplated everything I did with my firstborn that I would like to do differently with my second. Miraculously, I only came up with a list of five. If you’d like to add to it, please share!

1. Let her use a pacifier.

I was adamant, from the moment my firstborn daughter popped out, that I did not want her to use a pacifier. I believed that if she was making a sucking motion, she needed to be eating, and I might miss this nonverbal cue that she was starving to death if her sweet little rosebud mouth was corked by a Gumdrop pacifier.

Now, I’m contemplating taking stock in those things.

2. Not obsess about her gaining weight.

My husband and I have a home video of our firstborn daughter when she was about eight months old. She was sprawled across the floor in our bedroom while wriggling her head back and forth across the ridges of the hardwood.

My husband zoomed in on her rounded tummy, straining against the bird-covered material of her shirt, and said, “And here mama’s worried that you’re getting skinny.”

Tis true: I worried myself sick that my child wasn’t getting enough. Therefore, I fattened her up to the point she could barely move. If our second born is a little more petite, I am not going to panic and try to make her look like a mini Michelin man with hair.

3. Pace myself.

Routine-oriented to a fault, I acted like I’d been shot out of a cannon after the birth of my firstborn daughter. I wanted everything the same as before: the house just as clean, the fridge just as stocked, my daily word count reached.

Now, I am still just as OCD about keeping the floor grit-free of coffee grounds and the left bathroom sink wiped down of my husband’s pepperings of beard hair, but I’ve also given myself a mandatory naptime, which is the same time my toddler goes down for her nap.

I usually just nurse my newborn to sleep and then put her in her bassinet before closing my eyes for thirty minutes. However, those thirty minutes help clear my head and give me the strength to tackle the rest of the day.

4. Not panic if it takes a while for my husband and me to find our equilibrium again.

In the weeks following a birth, my husband and I are both so sleep-deprived that we switch from spending quality time with each other to basic survival mode.

The past two nights, for instance, we’ve both crawled into bed—on opposite sides of the co-sleeper—and said “I love you” and gripped hands over the sleeping form of our child.

It certainly wasn’t a passionate good night kiss, but it was a way to reconnect after an arduous day and to let each other know that we’re in this together—for rest or for sleep-deprivation.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of my main struggles, as a parent, is my inflexibility.

Children oftentimes cannot be confined to a schedule, and I have to train myself to be okay with that. The other night, I was trying to sweep the floor when my (previously potty-trained) toddler had an accident all over it.

Meanwhile, my newborn was starting to awaken for her three-hour cluster nursing session, and I found myself starting to panic. So I put the broom down, and my husband and I cleaned up the puddle on the floor, then I fed my daughter.

The discarded pile of dirt was in the laundry room the next morning, but nobody knew it but me. Whenever I start twitching, needing to “conquer” my to-do list, I remember this poem, and it puts everything into perspective. I hope it helps you, too!

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Readers, let me hear from you: how did you parent your second child differently than your first?


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My Laptop Graveyard

crashedagain I silently cried in eighth grade while staring at the blank computer monitor because I didn’t know how to turn it on.

By my junior year of high school, I knew how to turn the computer on, but that was about it.

Two advanced students rotated in and out as my tutor. I still could barely keep up with the influx of knowledge that just plum baffled me.

I purchased a laptop with my graduation money (a Toshiba) but had no idea what to do with it. I toted it to and from my college classes, figuring it would give me some academic validity along with my purple, heart-dangle glasses (don’t ask).

I killed the laptop within the year, mainly because I would forget it was in my backpack and then chuck it across the room.

I double-majored in English and communication arts with a creative writing emphasis, so there was no shying away from writing papers. And to write papers, I needed to use a computer.

I still remember the day I discovered how to use a jump drive; you would’ve thought, from my elation, that I’d invented the epidural or sliced bread.

But then, my senior year of college, I took a computer class that required us to build a website from scratch.

My skin gets peppered with dots just thinking about it.

I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out this acronym called HTML, but it was no use. I was floundering and my professor knew it. He asked if he could look at my laptop—to see if he could fix the problem—and then his eyes spun behind his glasses as he looked at my disorganized folders.

“You’re not very linearly-minded, are you?” he asked.

No, I’m not, which works great for writing a novel but not so great for understanding technology.

Case in point: my laptop crashed this week, and I hadn’t backed up the edits on my manuscript since I turned it in to my publisher in June.

I tried popping out the battery and turning it on in safe mode, but beyond hitting it with a hammer or pushing all the keys at once, I was at a loss.

So I opened the cupboard and took out my HP, figuring I could at least work on blog posts and essays while my other computer figured out if it was going to give up the ghost or keep coming back for more.

Last night, however, I really felt like multi-tasking.

I was going to get a bowl full of coconut chocolate ice-cream with fresh raspberries, light some candles, and finish watching Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version) while wedging my nine-month-pregnant self in the bathtub.

But since we don’t have a TV, I use my laptop to play DVDs.

My Dell laptop was at the computer doctor, and my HP had mysteriously lost the ability to play DVDs around the same time it went flying off the treadmill this winter and split apart along the side.

So I again popped open the door to the cupboard and took out my other Dell laptop, which I got as a replacement after I killed my Toshiba in college.

My husband looked at my assortment of mangled laptops and laughed. “How many do you have?!”

“It’s like a laptop graveyard, isn’t it?” I said and then scooped up the Dell and took it to the bathroom.

“Don’t get it wet,” my husband called after me.

“It’s half-dead anyway,” I said.

“Then at least don’t drop the cord in the water.”

I reassured him that I wouldn’t, but once I was all settled in—condensation dripping down the mirror, candles flickering, and my bowl of ice-cream just perfectly melted—the DVD still would not play.

I popped it out, popped it back in, and considered dropping it on the floor to see if that would set things right, but then finally I just sighed and reached for my book.

Technology has just never been my thing.

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How about you? Do you love technology or hate it?


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Madeleine’s Birth Story

IMG_2196 Just like in the movies, the night I went into labor began with a storm.

Swirling gray and pink clouds were studded with bolts of lightning that had me scurrying—as much as someone nine months pregnant can scurry—up our gravel lane toward the house.

I sensed something shifting in the atmosphere as much as I could sense a shifting in my womb, and I wondered if the next time I walked that lane I would be walking it as a mother of two.

I was right.

My contractions started around nine-o’clock. I will never forget that sense of anticipation: cuddled beneath the warm covers with my husband sleeping beside me and my eldest daughter in the nursery next door as my youngest daughter was still safely cocooned inside my womb.

My husband, always a light sleeper, woke up when I started timing my contractions. He tossed some t-shirts and jeans into a backpack in preparation to go to the hospital.

Around thirty minutes later, I was standing at the end of the bed, swaying slightly to the metronome of my contractions as the rain lashed the French doors, when my husband told me a tree had fallen across the road and was keeping his sister from reaching our house.

By the time my sister-in-law arrived to watch our toddler, I was in shushing mode, meaning that no one could speak while I was having a contraction.

She took one look at me and agreed that it was time to go to the hospital.

I hemmed and hawed and dragged my feet while slowly packing toiletries in a bag.

My first delivery had been anything but idyllic, and I was not eager to repeat the process of interventions that stole a majority of the joy surrounding my firstborn daughter’s birth.

I had six contractions during the twenty-five minute drive, but I was so aware of the scent of the storm. Of the black sheen on the rain-polished streets. Of the ruby glow of the stop lights that were stopping no one but us.

I told my husband that they were just going to send me home—that I wasn’t actually in labor.

I was wrong.

I was already four centimeters dilated when I arrived at 1 o’clock, and my contractions were consistent, dilating my body a centimeter an hour.

IMG_2191 Around four, I told my nurse that I thought I might be in transition.

She grinned and said, “You’re too smiley.”

I thought to myself, You just don’t know me. I’m always smiley. I’ll be this smiley when I give birth.

Well, I was sure wrong about that, too.

By six, I was sweating and trembling and all but foaming at the mouth. I would move from the birthing ball, to the floor, to hands and knees on the bed. With every contraction, my husband put counter pressure on my lower back, and my nurse gripped my hands and helped me breathe.

When she had to leave for a few minutes, I asked my mother-in-law if she could be my breathing coach. She stepped right in and gripped my hands and breathed with me.

It was such a beautiful experience to have the support of my family, even as I was aware of going through some of the most intense pain of my life.

At 6:30, my bag of waters still had not broken. Because my doctor was scheduled to deliver a C-section at 7:30, she wasn’t sure if she could make it to pop my water, not to mention deliver my baby. Another doctor from the same practice—who I couldn’t’ve picked out of a crowd since we’d never met—was going to delivery my baby.

I was disappointed, to say the least.

But then, I heard the squeak of rubber-soled shoes across tile, and when I glanced up from a contraction—my sweaty bangs hanging in my eyes—I saw my doctor, a heroine in green scrubs.

She kindly waited for me to get through another contraction before popping my bag of waters. I thought the pain would increase after that, but instead I felt the most wonderful relief. I sighed and then groaned low in my throat.

Nobody was prepared for me to start pushing—most of all me. The doctor and nurses flew into action. I pushed and then felt resistance. I screamed, “I don’t know how to push!”

They reassured me that I did, and I pushed again. They told me my daughter was crowning, but I knew it without being told.

The doctor mentioned to the nurse that the shoulder was stuck. I felt her adjust the shoulder. They asked me to push again, and then the body slipped out.

The epidural I received during my previous birth had left me feeling so groggy, and my legs like slabs of cold beef, that I didn’t feel very present for the birth at all, which was my greatest incentive for going natural this time around.

Now, under those lights, I was aware of everything: of the blessed cacophony of my second daughter’s first cry, of the doctor kneading my womb after I delivered the placenta, of my husband kissing me on the forehead with tears in his eyes.

And I knew, staring up at him and then down at our perfect daughter cradled in my arms, that being a mother to two little girls was going to be one of the greatest joys of my life.

This time, finally, I was right.

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Do you have a unique birth experience (good or bad) that you’d like to share? Please do!


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Road Trips, Pregnancy, And Fortune Cookie Wisdom

images Flare ups of Braxton Hicks prevented us from traveling far on what was to be my last road trip before my daughter’s birth. But I reasoned that since it had taken me twenty-four hours to give birth the first time, I could certainly drive for an hour before fearing that I was going to give birth in the back of the minivan with my gob-smacked toddler as my audience.

So my mother, my best friend, my firstborn daughter, and I left my home at eleven and started driving up the mountain toward Rugby, Tennessee: a quaint Victoria village. The village itself is small. If you sneeze or yawn while driving down Rugby Highway, you are bound to miss it, so it didn’t take long for us to surmise that the village was closed.

I pulled over at the welcome center, just to be sure, but the tour guide confirmed my suspicions. It was lunchtime, and one hour before my daughter’s nap. She was also refusing to use the public restroom or the portable potty chair that I keep in the back of the minivan to make myself feel better about not putting her in Pull-Ups on trips.

Crossing my fingers that my toddler could hold it for a few more miles, we loaded everyone up and punched the city into the GPS that would lead us toward a restaurant recommended by the Rugby tour guide. We traversed the switch backing roads. I missed my turn and slammed on my brakes without checking my rearview mirror, almost getting rear-ended by a small red car whose driver was gracious enough not to honk at me.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination and tried the back door of the restaurant/boutique. It was locked. I held my daughter’s hand and waddled through a small park toward the front. The lights were off; the restaurant/boutique recommended by the Rugby tour guide was also closed.

Stomach growling, sweaty, holding the hand of a now tired toddler in need of a loo, we loaded up again and tried to find a restaurant smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

I pulled into one café and went to check it out while everyone else stayed in the car. The bell jangled above me. I blinked against the gloom compared to the impossible August brilliance outside. My skin was immediately coated with grease, and there were balled napkins and crinkled paper straw covers scattered across the dirty tiled floor.

I turned without making eye contact and walked back out.

In a mostly abandoned strip mall we saw a sign for a Chinese buffet that looked like they might have cat heads in the bins out back. My best friend clambered out of the vehicle. “Don’t make eye contact!” I yelled as the van door slid shut behind her.

She came back a minute later and shrugged. We walked inside, having driven two and a half hours to do nothing but eat at a knockoff Chinese buffet. The waitress led us to a table and took our drink orders. I was glancing around and cringing, contemplating how to spray everything down with a cloud of Lysol without making it obvious, when my toddler licked the table top.

“Children have excellent immune systems,” my best friend soothed, just as my toddler turned and licked the high chair for good measure.

I screeched, and my mother laughed so hard that she spewed water from her cup all over my daughter. My daughter looked up at her grandmother, frowned, and patted her shirt front. “Wet!” she cried. “Wet!”

We all laughed until we cried.

Thirty minutes later, our bodies digesting a diet of fried rice and MSG, I cracked open my fortune cookie and read, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.”

I tucked the slip of paper into my wallet and knew that I would always remember—and cherish—my final road trip before my second daughter’s birth because of all the detours on the way to our destination.

Have you ever taken a road trip that “flopped” but was somehow more enjoyable than if everything had gone according to plan?


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