You're two. Stop growing.

I read this CaringBridge entry a couple of days ago. It was written the evening of the day we left the hospital, coming home empty handed while our brand new baby girl slept in an incubator 15 minutes away with tubes down her throat...

This is her in those days:

And this is her almost two weeks ago, on her SECOND birthday:

Being the most sentimental person alive, you can imagine what these last few weeks have been like in my head...

But with the craze of Christmas, family visits and adding another child to our family all within one month of this girl's big day, I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and write about it... So. Both babies are sleeping, and this is my chance... Enjoy my mushy gushy sentiment, world!

Sweet TWO year old Mercy,

Ugh. I'm already crying.

Where do I even start? Watching you grow has made me grow, seeing bits of your precious personality emerge over the course of the last two years has been one of the best adventures of my life. Every day we see new little quirks and pieces of who you are now and who you are becoming. The journey we have been on with you has been more blessed than I could ever have imagined.

One of your nurses in the NICU told us a story one afternoon your daddy and I were visiting. She told us about how you FLIPPED your three pound little body over all on your own. She watched you do it. You were on your belly and you just stretched one of your little legs and somehow turned yourself over. You knew what you wanted.... That's what she told us that day. You know what you want... and you're gonna get it.

When I look at that picture of you in the NICU I don't even see a glimpse of who you are today, physically speaking... but when I remember those little bits of your personality coming out even in those teensy tiny days, I see so much of you. Girl, you KNOW what you want. In this house, that doesn't mean you're always gonna get what you want, but just like in the days of flipping yourself over and extubating yourself in your isolette, you have a strong opinion about what is right for you, and you are going to do your best to get it. That includes the sweetest, most pitiful crocodile tears, hugs, kisses, belly laughs, and the occasional tantrum.... Oh, you try your hardest, don't you? The best part is seeing your understanding grow. On one hand you know what you want, and on the other hand you trust your daddy and I very much to know what's right... and THAT is the greatest compliment.

I remember another day we visited you. As we approached your isolette, we just started giggling. You had wiggled your way completely off of the rolled up blanket keeping you in place. You were tucked all the way at the end of your little bed and as comfortable as ever. We used to just watch you wiggle and kick your little legs. You were so active even when you were so tiny. When we brought you home and would snuggle with you on the couch, you always found a way to wiggle your little body in the strangest positions. Always moving...

...and you're still always moving! My very favorite thing you do right now is run through the house yelling over and over, "I'm running! I'm running! I'm running!" Oh my goodness, I hope you still do that when you're 16. Please never stop dancing in the living room and spinning in circles in the kitchen, don't ever stop wiggling your little booty in the air when you're sound asleep. Don't grow out of peekaboo and eskimo kisses, the most adorable hide and seek I've ever played or singing Ariel and Scuttle ALL. DAY. LONG.

Watching you become YOU has been such a privilege. Seeing bits of me in you has made my heart complete. Watching you fearlessly reach for worms, frogs and lizards makes my heart happier than you'll ever know! Snuggling on the couch for some Disney classics is one of your very favorite things, and mine too, can we snuggle all day in front of the Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin for the rest of our lives? Please? I love when your hands get dirty and you stop what you're doing to stare at them. You stare at them in completely still silence until somebody cleans them or gives you something to clean them with. Girl, you get that from me. And I'm sorry for that one... but I also love it a little. ;)

Seeing bits of your daddy in you makes me fall in love with both of you more and more every day. Watching you sit on his lap and watch hours of football brings so much joy to my heart. You know a Clemson Tiger Paw and a Saints Fleur de Lis from a mile away, and your daddy couldn't be prouder. The joy in your eyes when you discovered your football decorated birthday party was too much. Your passion, endless energy, remarkable memory, attention to detail, you are your daddy's girl in so many ways.

I know the Lord is molding you into His image daily. Your two year old personality is just a tiny glimpse of who you are becoming, and that makes me so excited to know the woman you will be one day. Some of these things you got from us... your love of critters, mermaids, football... Even more fun has been seeing little bits of YOU come out. Pieces of the little girl He is growing you into.  YOU have so much love in your heart and such a desire to share that love and serve your friends and family in the sweetest two year old ways. Whether it's consoling your baby brother by bringing him your favorite toys, recognizing when any of us are upset and giving us the sweetest hugs and pats on the back, sharing your toys and presents with friends who visit, or the level of deep sadness you feel when anyone you love leaves our home, you are always sharing your heart and that is one of your most precious attributes.

You're getting so big, and even though I have banished the phrase "I can't wait" from my vocabulary, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see how you'll grow and what you'll be like a year from now. Each stage has been more fun and amazing than the last. I can't imagine life being more awesome than it is today, but I'm looking forward to seeing what this next year has in store for our little family of four! Thank you, my sweet Mercy girl, for physically defining what mercy is in your first days and continually reminding us of the grace we've been given in getting to be your mommy and daddy. We couldn't be more blessed and we couldn't love you more.

But for now, let's go ahead and stay two forever, ok?

Thanks. Love you.
--Your Mommy

NOT the enemy

Have I mentioned how much I love Mercy's birth story? It's one of my all time favorite stories to share and think about. Sometimes I cry when I go back there and I even love those tears.

Here's a quick catch up:

Mid-December, 2012 I developed a liver disease that affects 1 out of 1,000 pregnant woman. It causes severe itching and can cause preterm labor and even stillbirth after 36 weeks. I was officially diagnosed in early January and began weekly visits to the hospital for monitoring. Everything was normal.

Until it wasn't one day. 

On January 18, my blood pressure was crazy. I wish I could remember the numbers. NOT good. It was ok, they said, they were just going to figure some things out while I went downstairs for the ultrasound. NOT good.


amniotic fluid. NONE. The doctor was called. They said get here in two hours and he said he would be here in twenty minutes. This was serious. I was having a baby. Quick. And early.

Ten weeks early


I love it, y'all. Every detail of it. And I wish I could share every detail here because it was such an amazing and miraculous month leading up to these moments. The moments of her perfectly indescribable and beautifully ordained birth,

via cesarean section.

The details... the


. The


. The


. The

medical staff

. The way my husband held my hand and looked into my eyes with such confidence and love as the doctor brought our daughter painlessly and peacefully into the world. The quiet peep she made. The tears (mine) that ensued. The first time I laid eyes on her and fell so hard for her little two pound frame.

She came into the world peacefully, and those 30 minutes of painless {drugged up} anticipation before we heard her voice and saw her face were absolutely incredible. I remember every second like it was this morning. No doubt, this was how she was meant to enter our lives. Early, precious and perfect.

I remember being asked by a good friend early on in the pregnancy how I planned to deliver and being very confident about my answer: "However it ends up happening."

I explained that if I could deliver naturally, I'd do it, but that I was NOT against drugs if the pain was too much. And I'm a wimp. If I needed a c-section, I was ready and would not hesitate.

My experience was


the priority.

My child was.

When I was diagnosed with cholestasis of pregnancy, I was told we could try to induce 4-5 weeks early, but it would probably be wise to go ahead and schedule a c-section since this was my first and it would be so early. I began planning for the section, and I felt good about it.

C-sections get a bad rap...

I'm here to tell you, they are not the enemy. For Mercy and


other babies, they are the exact opposite of the enemy, they are the



Did I plan on having a c-section?

Not really, not at first anyway...

Was I devastated that it happened?

Not at all.

Was it 'normal?'

I don't know that I think childbirth in any form should be labeled 'normal.' After all, a living human is being brought

out of our bodies

, which is miraculous and amazing in every way. So, normal? Um, no.


If 'natural' is only an appropriate word to use for childbirth when drugs are not involved, then I guess my answer here has to be no as well...

Exactly as it was meant to be?

Absolutely, yes!



be cautious when talking about childbirth. The birth shaming is NOT acceptable. I am not usually easily offended, but find myself hurting and cringing a little when I hear others share how their 'normal' birth was the


incredible, how you could just tell their babies had no drugs in their bodies because they were so calm.

My daughter came into this world calmly. If things had not happened in the exact way they happened, I couldn't say that. I praise GOD for drugs and c-sections. I praise God for hospitals and doctors and the medical field that handled our surprise so beautifully. I praise God for His mercy and for our Mercy.

Perhaps the best plan for childbirth is no plan at all? Openness, readiness, and willingness. Drugs are ok, C-sections are not the enemy. You are doing yourself and your baby a disservice if your birth experience is for you and not your little one. Cherish whatever happens. Cherish God, who ordains whatever happens.

My opinions. I know you didn't ask. Your welcome. ;)

And here's a picture of my sweet Mercy just moments after our MOST incredible cesarean section.

How perfect is she????

Parent Confusion

It's the morning, I hear Mercy on the baby monitor. "Mama? Mama?"
I go get her, lay her on her changing table and begin to change her diaper. She reaches out to tickle me and starts giggling. She jabbers away while I change her diaper. Her daddy walks in and she points at him, "Mama! Mama!"
"That's not your mama, Mercy."

It's Sunday morning, we're at church. One of our sweet youth girls is hanging onto Mercy and she's eating a donut. She LOVES donuts. One of our sophomore boys looks over and waves at Mercy from a little ways away. She points at him, "Mama?"
"That's not your mama, Mercy."

We're strolling in the grocery store. Mercy is talking up a storm and enjoying all the activity and all the color on the aisles. A woman strolls by with her buggy and Mercy waves at her, "Mama!" Another woman walks by, "Mama?"
"That's not your mama, Mercy."
We stroll up to the cashier. She's sweet, she talks to Mercy and Mercy responds... "Mama!"

We're at Lowes, we need a new washer and we're just walking around waiting on a guy. Chris walks around a corner with Mercy. She sees a poster on the wall...

Come ON child!! Don't you know you only get one mama??? And it's not that race car driver on the poster. It's ME!! Like it or not, kid. You're stuck with me. Can I get some "mama" love?? Pleeease?

I have struggled with this. Every stranger on the street gets to be "mama." Not me. Maybe once a week or so. Maybe.

This has really gotten me thinking about why I have this inherent need to have this title.

I guess I need it because it's who I am. I need it because I carried this child, I cried by her bedside, I held her against my chest when she was just two pounds, I pumped for eight months for her, I cleaned her poop that shot three feet across the floor and onto our bed, I cleaned her spit up from INSIDE my mouth, I sat through endless hours of therapy learning new ways to teach her new skills, I snuggled her when she was sick, I held her tight when she was hurting, I cleaned vomit from her bed, her carseat, herself, at least 7 times in one day, I rocked her to sweet precious sleep, I sang to her and danced with her, I taught her how to say "mama." I loved her with my whole being, I will never stop loving her. She's part of who I am to my very core and I can't begin to imagine life not being her mama.

So is it too much to want that title? To claim it as my own? To be jealous for it?

I mean, I don't think it is.... I just... don't. 

But part of me keeps questioning the importance of that word. She knows who I am and she loves the living daylights of me. No question about that. When she gets hurt, I'm the one she comes to, when she's hungry she seeks me out, she reaches her arms up and stands on her tippy toes for me to scoop her up and squeeze her tight. She reaches for my hand when we're walking and she lays her head on my shoulder when she's sleepy. Shouldn't that be enough? Shouldn't that replace my need for this word?

I don't know... Should it? What do you think?

I'm honestly conflicted.

But I think I've come up with somewhat of an answer. And I think the answer is yes. I need to be "mama." I need that guy on the poster to be some guy on a poster, I need Chris to be daddy...

...and I need to be mama.

And I think my great desire for this comes straight from Him in who's image I was created.

I think many of us know who God is. Our Creator, our Savior, our Father. That's important, HE is important. ALL that He did to bring us into His family carries so much weight and is incredibly IMPORTANT. He asks us to call only Him our God, to only use His holy and perfect name when talking to Him or about Him. And come on, considering who He and and all He's done for us, don't you think His name is holy enough for us to hold it as precious and preserve it for HIM alone?

When I was carrying Mercy and my body was failing her, HE stepped in and saved her life. While I continually fell apart when she was just two pounds, HE gave me the strength to pick her up and hold her against my chest. When my body, again, was failing her and she was too weak to get the milk from me anyway, HE provided nutrients for her to grow. When she had just been home a little while and it looked like her little digestive system was shutting down and not doing its job, HE got it moving again, all over the floor and bed! HE provided us with the world's greatest occupational and speech therapists to help her learn new skills and words, HE created a strong bond between us even when we were separated for her first seven weeks of life outside the womb, HE taught her to dance and sing, I know I didn't! He gave me the capacity to love her and showed me what that means through the way He loves me, the way He sacrificed for me, the way He gave me the world even though I could never deserve it.

He is worthy. He is GOD.

NO question about that.

So as Mercy works out her parent confusion, may this be a reminder for ME to work out my parent confusion as well... When I'm hurt, my HE be the one I run to. When I'm hungry, may HE be the one I seek out. When I just need to be held, may I stand on my tippy toes reaching my arms toward HIM. May I hold onto His hand as I walk through each day and lay my head on His shoulder when I need rest. May He be my God, and nothing else. May He be the only one I ascribe His holy name to.

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
   my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop;
   with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect:
   The Lord’s word is flawless;
   he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
   And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
   and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
   he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
   my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
   and your right hand sustains me;
   your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
   so that my ankles do not give way.
Psalm 18:28-36

Just yesterday at the grocery store, while Mercy was very excitedly showing off her football balloon to the man behind us in the checkout line, she twisted her body and pointed at me. Still looking at this stranger, with her finger pointed at me she told him, "That's mama!" That's right, baby girl. Forever.

Development, parts 3, 4, 5 and 6

It's been over FOUR months since I've posted.

...and it's not that I don't have anything to say. Believe me, I have plenty to say.

I don't know. I have no excuses, just lack of consistency in my life I guess.

I'll try to do better!

...also, it's been over a YEAR since I've posted a new Development post! Remember how I was going to update every time we hit a new list of milestones with Mercy's occupational therapist?

Probably not, I've only done TWO and the last one was two Julys ago!

Consistency, people.

So, time to play catch up! We have passed up three lists and are now in list number six, the 12-15 month list. And actually, we're about 2 weeks past that list, but close enough!

I'll hit some of the high points from the three missed lists reeeal quickly:
4-6 Months

  • Holds own bottle - yep, it was really that long ago. now she's even holding her own sippie cup!
  • Stops activity when name called - it seemed like FOREVER before she knew her name. Then we realized we called her 'sweet girl,' 'baby girl,' 'sweetheart,' 'pretty,' etc. wayyyy more than we called her Mercy. Things have changed since that realization!

6-8 Months

  • Responds differently to family and strangers - nope. Never. She doesn't meet a stranger, never has. A time or two she's even walked up to complete strangers in random places with her arms raised for them to pick her up!
  • Crawl/creep - Mercy started crawling the week before thanksgiving, when she was ten months old... just a bit behind on this one.

9-11 Months - reading through these and realizing how many of these she's just starting and how adorable they are:

  • Poke with isolated index finger - just started doing this recently.
  • Imitate facial movements - She has been doing this for several weeks and it's absolutely amazingly fantastic.
  • Pull to stand - Mercy did this in December a week before Christmas at 11 months old! Right on time!
  • Understands "no" - don't remember when this happened, but she responds so well to "no."
  • Drooling decreased - Have I ever mentioned how much a I hate spit. I hate it. A lot. And Mercy has never been even a little bit of a drooler, so that's awesome.

And here we are! Yes, I know Mercy's actually 18 months, but if we're going by her adjusted age (which the OT says we'll do until she's two) she's just past 15 months, so here's the list!

12-15 Months - this is a looong list, so bear with me and I'll try hit the highlights here too!

  • Stands alone once placed - she did this on April 29th while her OT was here! Super exciting!
  • Puts objects in container - Favorite toy right now: plastic container with screw on lid, she puts toys in it and puts the lid on, then she takes the lid off and pull toys out. All. Day. Long.
  • Spontaneous sharing with adult - She has been sharing for several weeks now, but the sweetest thing she's shared (or tried to share) was her pacifier. She was in my lap just looking at me, she took it from her mouth and tried to shove it in mine. We were laughing, so funny! She LOVES that paci though, she doesn't get it very often when we're home, and she gave it up to share with me, and that is the sweetest thing.
  • Spoon feeds with spillage - she is so good at this! Started mid April and is getting better and better. She will NOT let us feed her anymore, little independent thing!
  • Drinks from open cup held - this is hilarious. She tries, she really does, and she ends up sopping wet every time.
  • Cooperates with toothbrushing - recently she has started smiling big with all her teeth showing for me to brush. So cute. She does it every time I mention the toothbrush!
  • Walks alone with few falls - her first steps were May 1st and they were the sweetest steps I've ever seen, but it wasn't until mid June that she really started moving. These days she's running everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
  • Scribbles spontaneously - Mercy has been showing her OT how she scribbles vertically. Jeanette (OT) says that's a 24 month skill!
  • Fusses to be changed - only when it's super messy. And the rest of this explanation is an entire other blog post.
  • Points to three named body parts - Over the summer she really got nose and bellybutton down! ...and the rest depend on which order I ask in.
  • Creeps upstairs - One of her favorites, up and down stairs!
  • Uses word/sign to express self - ahh words... She should be using somewhere between 10 and 20  words pretty consistently at this point... So. These are our words:

Aren't they fantastic?? I could listen to these two talk all day! As far as real words go... We're hearing "Wow" very often, every blue moon we hear mama and dada, she's used and retired several words: bye, joe, pretty, hi, woof, yeah, etc... We had an evaluation with the organization that provides our OT and they've decided Mercy is speech delayed. So over the last couple of months we've begun seeing a speech therapist, who, hopefully, we will continue to see until next April, when Mercy will age out of the program.

We feel sure that Mercy will be talking up a storm before then and none of us are worried about this delay. Just part of being a baby really, every baby reaches each of these milestones in there own time, preemie or not... nevertheless, we are very thankful for our new friend Paula and have already seen much improvement in Mercy's understanding of words, using signs, and trying new animal sounds, maybe even a couple new words!

Anyway, just wanted to update all of you on this little lady's progress! She's doing incredibly well, and we are so grateful for your continued love and interest in our family!