Sunday, January 7, 2018

Life with More

It's a Saturday. The house is somewhat clean, the dishes are done, the baby is napping (the other two are running errands with dad), my work to-do list looks manageable, I just pulled cookies out of the oven, and I'm feeling pretty accomplished. Like maybe I'm getting the hang of this mom-of-three thing for a minute. Don't blink, the moment won't last. And I say that with humor because, Murphy's Law, something is bound to go wrong.

Reagan is now six weeks old and I can say with confidence that adjusting to baby #3 is a lot easier than baby #1. Even with two older children to care for, the veteran mom knowledge really makes a difference. By 6 weeks with Cormac, I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed him (thanks to severe nipple damage likely caused by a lip-tie which was finally released around 6 weeks), I was living like a zombie surviving on minimal sleep, and I was just barely feeling ready to leave the house and run errands with a newborn. Flash forward 4 years, and I'm working part-time hours at home, shuttling all 3 children around pretty much wherever I need to go (or foregoing an errand until I can get childcare for at least 2), and most of the time managing to put dinner on the table and keep the toilets fairly sanitary. But don't be fooled, I definitely don't have it all together. There are more days now when I lose my temper and yell at the children or snap at my husband than there were with just one baby. Yes, the capacity for love expands exponentially with each child, but my capacity for patience seems to have dwindled. And that's even with lots of help!

I haven't started this new year with a long list of resolutions or big goals because, honestly, I've been too busy to think that far ahead. But I do know that I want to move through this year with more patience, more grace and a sense of balance in our family life. For as much as children learn in the first few years of their lives, I think their parents learn just as much, if not more. Parenting brings out your strengths... and weaknesses. Flaws are magnified in the light of little eyes. Mom guilt is real and there are some days that end in defeated tears, for everyone. Motherhood is a sanctifying process ("...but women will be saved through childbearing..." 1 Tim. 2:15), and I'm grateful to be experiencing it. And very conscious of how far I have to go. I've been so blessed, but that's still easy to lose sight of when you're busy crying over spilled milk (yes, it has literally happened).

Our pastor said something recently (in the middle of another long Sunday morning wrangling toddlers to sit still and shush up in the pews) that made my ears perk up. How do you know you're doing God's will? How do you know what His will really is? Well, up front, we don't. Only God knows that. But we know our purpose in life: "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (WSC). So, the surest way to know we are doing God's will is to ask if we are glorifying Him. When big decisions or changes come up and we question whether we are seeking His will, or questioning what He really intends in the midst of our struggle, boiling it down to the yes or no question, "Am I glorifying God?" seems to clarify a lot.

For me, as I start 2018 with a bigger family and a longer to-do list, I want to be asking myself that question more often and acting more consistently with the honest answer. Letting my selfishness or impatience get in the way of pivotal parenting moments is not glorifying to God. Greeting my husband at the end of the day with defeat and frustration is not glorifying to God (or edifying to my husband). Employing my skills and talents to help strangers or friends, educate my children and support my family is glorifying to God. Thinking less of myself and more of others is glorifying to God. And starting my day with a humble appeal to His throne of grace for the wisdom and strength to accomplish these things is essential.

So, what does life with more children look like? A few more broken moments... and a lot more grace.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Loving Lately: Mom of 3/Holiday Edition

These jeans are the ideal combination of comfort, style, and reasonable price point. They look and fit great, especially for this post-partum mom bod, and they are super comfortable with the elastic waistband. I've been a convert to high-waisted jeans in the last year or so (although, you won't see me tucking my shirts in) and these jeggings come up to just below my belly button. Best of all, they don't sag or stretch out, even after wearing a few days in a row! Which, obviously, is my modus operandi right now.

Christmas music is playing constantly in my house or car during this time of year. I love hearing seasonal tunes in the background throughout my day, and the collections by Windham Hill are lovely renderings of traditional favorites. Also, see below... I've been listening to this album on my Amazon Music account!

3. Technology, in general
And Amazon, specifically. I've ordered pretty much all of my Christmas presents here, as well as some new mom/baby essentials -- from diapers and wipes to nursing tanks and compression leggings. And you can't beat Prime 2-day shipping. We also use the Amazon Firestick with our television, and this means plenty of catching up on shows while I'm on "maternity leave"! My favorite shows lately have been Outlander, Poldark and Fixer Upper. I also love the Kindle app on my iPhone, since I enjoy reading during those late-night nursing sessions, and also the BabyHub app for tracking feedings.

4. All the coffee
Caffeine is a necessity when running on 2-3 hours of sleep at a time, and my older children are early risers, so dragging myself out of bed by 6am requires coffee ready in an instant. Pop a pod in the Keurig and we're ready to go! Once again, ordering through Amazon makes it super easy to keep these on hand!

I have all kinds of bag, purses, wallets, satchels and other carrying accessories (what woman doesn't!), but not all of them are "diaper friendly". This little organizer tote makes all the difference. Slide it into a regular purse or satchel, and suddenly it becomes a diaper bag! It also makes for much easier transition between purses -- mom's gotta stay stylish, you know. ;)

I enjoy lighting scented candles year-round, but something about the smell of a Christmas tree, gingerbread or peppermint permeating the house really gets me in the holiday mood. These cute little tins by Paddywax also make great gifts or stocking stuffers!

What are your favorites this time of year?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reagan Margaret: A Birth Story & A Name

And just like that, we're a family of five!

Little Miss Reagan Margaret made quite a precipitous appearance early last Tuesday morning, November 21st, 6:03am, weighing in at 7lbs 3oz, 20 inches long, with a full head of dark hair. She's been with us almost a week now, and we are enjoying getting to know her -- big brother Cormac and big sis Moira have been especially delightful in welcoming their baby sister and I am feeling particularly thankful this Thanksgiving season for the many, many blessings God has bestowed upon us!

As with my other two, I will share details of her birth below and some of the meaning and intent behind her name. If birth stories aren't your thing, skip to the naming details at the bottom of the post!

Reagan's Birth Story

I should preface this story by saying that all births (and babies) are different and I spent a good deal of energy throughout my pregnancy trying to prepare for the different possibilities of this birth. Just because my first two were early, didn't mean this one would be. Just because the first two deliveries went relatively quickly, didn't mean this one would. Yes, there is more likelihood that the latter would be true, but you just never know! When I got to 38 weeks in this pregnancy with no signs of labor, I was starting to feel a little anxious. Of course, I had not experienced any pre-labor signs with my previous two, so I was beginning to overanalyze every ache, pain, and pimple (since acne can be a sign of impending labor!). By the time my mother arrived the Thursday before Thanksgiving, I was beginning to resign myself to 40+ weeks of pregnancy. Despite all plans to the contrary, she had arrived after the birth of both Cormac and Moira since they were both early. Apparently, baby #3 was going to be more accommodating. 

We spent the weekend catching up and enjoying time with the older two children, trying to relax and not worry about when this baby would make an appearance. I'd been fighting a persistent cold for the previous two weeks, and feeling very pregnant, but keeping active was really the best way to stay distracted. The weather on Friday was perfect, so we went for a walk in the neighborhood and hung out at the playground. On Saturday, we enjoyed a visit to Cormac's favorite local destination, the train museum, then went to church as normal on Sunday where I fielded questions about the baby's questionably impending arrival. I woke up early on Monday morning with an annoying low back ache, feeling like I hadn't slept a wink. But we sent the children off to preschool as normal and ran errands, preparing food for the Thanksgiving parties at school on Tuesday and planning meals for the rest of the week. The backache persisted all day Monday, I had very little appetite, and I'll agree with my mother's assessment that I was feeling quite ornery, but I wasn't ready to chalk it up to anything other than the general physical and mental effects of being almost 40 weeks pregnant. By the end of the day, I was more than ready for a hot bath and early bedtime. We watched an episode of Outlander and I was out like a light by 9pm.

5 hours later, I was awake again. The backache seemed to have spread to my lower abdomen, but since I had experienced more Braxton Hicks contractions this pregnancy than previously, I wasn't sure if this was just another normal episode of late pregnancy insomnia. I changed positions and dozed off again. But by 2:30am, the sensation seemed to be more consistent than just Braxton Hicks and the wave-like grip of cramps was starting to seem familiar. But I tried to relax and get a little more sleep -- I was tempted to get out of bed and move around, but if this was the real deal, I figured rest would be best. I wasn't even ready to start timing to see if these were real contractions. As with my previous two deliveries, it takes a little convincing for me to acknowledge what's really happening!

When I finally pulled my phone off the nightstand and opened up the contraction timer app, they were already lasting about 1 minute and about 4 minutes apart. But they didn't seem that painful, so I wasn't convinced this was real active labor. At 3:30am, I got up to go to the bathroom -- and there was the bloody show. When I got back to the bed, I told Patrick I was having contractions and started puttering around getting my bag ready for the birth center. My water hadn't broken yet, for which I was grateful because this pregnancy I was Group B Strep positive and would need to go to the birth center right away for a dose of antibiotics. I padded down the hall to the guest room and let my mother know I was having regular contractions, then made a call to page the midwife. By now, it was 4:30am and I was still walking and talking through the ongoing contractions, which were still about 1 minute long and 4-5 minutes apart. I felt like I was in for a few more hours like this and was trying to mentally prepare for how I would fill the time. Movement and distraction, whether mental or physical, has always been a good tactic for me when in labor. I tend to prefer walking, rocking or some sort of movement through contractions. Nothing hurts worse for me than sitting still or lying down, so all this time I was walking through the house, up and down the stairs, generally staying in motion. 

When I heard back from the midwife on call, she was at the local hospital with another mother who was about to start pushing. She told me to head over to the birth center for a dose of antibiotics, and she would meet us there when the other baby was born. We left the house at 5:15am, the other two children still sleeping and my mother planning to take them to preschool in a few hours. She made a comment as we walked out the door that she expected the baby to be there by noon -- I wasn't so sure. The contractions on the 20-minute drive over to the birth center were strong enough to keep me quiet and concentrating, but not excruciating. We met the nurse there by 5:30am and she checked me right away: 6cm. We figured it would be at least a few more hours, but only long enough for one dose of antibiotics, so she wanted to start the IV in a larger vein since it would likely be removed soon. Or at least she tried to. Unable to get the vein in my left inner arm, she had to try several times (and waiting while I paced through a few contractions) to finally get the IV in my right arm. This was my first IV ever, in my life, and it was the worst. I'm not a fan of needles (one of the primary reasons natural births are my preference) and felt faint the entire time she was trying to get the needle in. Not to mention walking through contractions with an IV pole. But 10 minutes later it was out and I could move more freely again. The midwife on call was still helping with the other delivery, and so they called the midwife whose shift would start at 7am to come in a little early. She was already on her way by the time the nurse started the IV.

After the IV, the contractions weren't lasting as long but started coming closer together -- about 30 seconds every 3 minutes. I sat down on the toilet for a few minutes, and when I stood up there was another bloody show. All of the sudden, I felt the urge to push. Unlike previous births, this feeling was much more (upper) abdominal than (lower) pelvic and almost uncontrollable whether I was contracting or not. The nurse had started filling the tub about 10 minutes previously (she must have noticed something I hadn't) and I was standing by the tub groaning through a contraction when suddenly my water burst all over the floor. Just like in the movies. All of the sudden, I was really pushing. Patrick and the nurse rushed into the room and urged me into the tub. For some reason, I couldn't move. I couldn't stop pushing! I was standing right next to the tub, but could not force my legs into it. And I could literally feel the baby crowning. Plus, I was still mostly clothed, wearing a robe, camisole, and socks. The nurse finally got through to me, "Margaret, you need to get in the water!"

She must have pulled off my robe as I lifted my leg in and stooped to my knees in the water, still wearing socks and camisole -- and I'm pretty sure I was still pushing. Almost as soon as my lower half was submerged in the water, the baby was out. She slid right into my hands and I pulled her out of the water (the faucet was still running!). It happened so quickly, I could barely believe she was already in my arms! The midwife was nowhere in sight! The umbilical cord was looped around her little neck and the nurse helped me detangle it while Patrick managed to snap a few photos on his phone. The baby started squalling right away and I'm pretty sure I said, "Did that really just happen?" We had only been at the birth center for 30 minutes and she was here! Barely 4 hours into active labor. I still can't believe it. When the midwife finally came in, we were resting in the tub. I hadn't delivered the placenta yet but at this point there was no rush. They did give me a shot of petocin, just in case, to help stem what appeared to be a lot of bleeding. But one of the great things about being in a birth center is that there was no rush to take the baby and we enjoyed plenty of skin-to-skin time post birth and she was nursing within 10 minutes. We stayed in the water for probably 40 minutes after birth and moved to the bed a little later where she continued nursing while Patrick and I debated names and joked that he would be home in time for his previously scheduled haircut at 1pm. The birth center only required 4-6 hours stay post birth, and I was already eager to be home. 

My least favorite part of birth is the last bit: the repair (I've had tears with all three deliveries... ugh more needles), but was grateful to be distracted by the arrival of my favorite midwife who delivered Moira at the birth center almost 2 years ago. She regaled us with stories of her recent trip to Ireland while the other midwife stitched me up and Patrick held the baby, who was still yet to be named. We left the birth center by noon with our nameless baby girl, and were home in time for Cormac and Moira to arrive from preschool. They were delighted to meet her -- I'll never forget the looks on their faces when they asked to hold her. Cormac is the proud older brother, and Moira seems quite smitten with "her baby". 

Just a week later, I can still hardly believe she came so quickly -- and still 3 days early after I was so worried she would be late! I am grateful for a fast and smooth delivery, but next time I'm thinking I may have to just stay home and not leave the tub! ;)

What's in a Name: Reagan Margaret McCarthy

As with Cormac, it took us some time to decide on a name for this baby girl. We had debated names throughout my pregnancy, and joked that it would have been much easier it she were a boy (Declan Patrick was our top pick)! Patrick had his heart set on the name Saoirse, but I just couldn't get on board with something so unfamiliar to the American tongue. We did want an Irish name along the lines of Cormac and Moira, but we just couldn't agree. Reagan had not been my favorite all along, but it did seem to be the one we could compromise on. I knew I wanted Margaret for a middle name in honor of my grandmother (also my namesake) and it was a family name on Patrick's side as well. By the time she arrived, I was finally ready to go with Reagan... Patrick took a little more convincing. After nearly 24 hours of debating, I put my foot down with Reagan. And I have faith this little dark-haired beauty will live up to her name.

Reagan is an Irish name meaning "child of the king" or "little ruler", it can also mean "impetuous one". I expect our Reagan will embody all of these meanings; as the youngest, she is already making her voice heard! With each of my children, I have been impressed with a greater consciousness of the responsibility and privilege of parenting, and especially mothering, these little souls that God has given into my charge. They will always be my children, and I always their parent, but God is their Father first and foremost -- they belong to Him much more than me! Reagan's name embodies this quite literally: she is a child of the King of Kings. We claim this promise in the covenant of baptism, and it is a mysterious and wonderful gift that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us the gift of sonship through the mediation of His Son Jesus. My prayer is that all three of my children would come to know and rest in this promise!

1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
John 1:12"To them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
2 Corinthians 6:18"And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

Margaret is Reagan's middle name and, while not specifically Irish -- the origin is from the Latin word margarita meaning "pearl" -- it has a long history of use in Irish culture. This is a family name on both sides (obviously mine, my grandmother, and Patrick's great grandmother) and as I have considered its pairing with Reagan the parable of the pearl of great price came to mind:

Matthew 13:45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

As a child of the King, Reagan's life ought to be about seeking and promoting His kingdom -- counting it as more valuable than anything in this world. But this parable also illustrates the lengths to which our Savior Christ has gone for the redemption of His precious ones. "The Pearl presents a wonderful picture of the purchase of the church in preparation for the Kingdom of God." (

Reagan's name identifies her as a member of this Kingdom, a precious princess alongside fellow heirs in Christ. What is wonderful about this name meaning, similar to those of my other children, is that I didn't necessarily anticipate the full extent of the promise it would contain. I have considered the various meanings of their potential name for each of my children before they were born, but the relevance of each seems to become more complete after these littles ones arrive and my prayers over them become more specific. I continue to pray through the promises in the names of both Cormac and Moira. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given us in these precious little ones and what he continues to reveal to me about Himself through them!