What Could Be More Beautiful Than Real Life?

I am a portrait photographer.  I capture portraits of people to document periods of time in their lives, and I am blessed to work with really great clients.  Many of my clients have small children, and the antics in which we engage in order to achieve happy smiling faces from those small children are truly a sight to behold.  Sometimes I can plop a child or some children down and sing and dance my way into their hearts so that they will smile at my camera.  And sometimes I can’t.  When children are very small, especially before they begin to develop the ability to reason, it can be hard to squeeze a portrait out of them.

I think the idea of a portrait being this image of a person dressed in their best, smiling and posing is great – clearly, it’s what I do.  I love the smiling happy looking images of my family that are on my walls.  But sometimes commemorating the time in a happy smiling portrait just isn’t going to happen.  And you know what?  That is ok!  Because real life is beautiful, and it’s messy, and it’s hilarious, and it’s not usually dressed in it’s best with a big grin on its face.  I love to take photographs that feature a family looking awesome, but I love photographs that feature a family looking real as well.

Ashley had family in town recently and they wanted to get some photos.  Especially photos of all the little cousins.  Now ‘the cousins’ are five children under the age of four, but I was all about it!  I basically knew that I was not going to get a spectacular ‘portrait’ of these five children.  And I was right.  But I absolutely love these photos!  They tell a story about a family visit.  Where dinner was being prepared inside as I dragged people in stages out front to pose in front of the house.  Where the kids wouldn’t sit still, and we gave them candy and cookies to try to keep them happy.  Where Jane has scabs on her face because earlier that day she fell down.  Hard.  There will be more formal, posed portraits of these kids when they are older.  But this is real life right now.  Ashley’s kids are 3, 2, and 1, and her sister’s kids are 2, 1, and about to be born.  Life is crazy!  It’s not calm, organized or predictable.  It’s chaos.  It’s life.  And that is beautiful.  Because really, what could be more beautiful than real life?

 

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At Home With Ransom

My sweet Ransom is already almost five weeks old!  It has actually been a very lovely five weeks to tell you the truth.  This transition has been the easiest for me.  Going from footloose and fancy free to one baby is pretty challenging, just because everything is new.  Going from one to two is challenging because you have to learn how to juggle.  But going from two to three has really not been that hard.  I think there are several reasons for that, some that have to do with our specific circumstances, but over all I think it’s because we are confident in our parenting now.  We know what it’s like to have a newborn, we know how to juggle multiple kids, I know how breastfeeding works, I know what is normal and not normal for a baby, my big boys aren’t in diapers anymore etc etc.  And obviously it’s waaaaay easier to recover from a vaginal birth than from a c-section.  Hello!!!

Also I think with my first two, I was trying really hard to not miss a beat with life after giving birth to a certain extent.  I was trying to keep up with housework, get work done, get back into all of my church activities, get my baby to sleep through the night and look great at the same time.  This time is different.  This time it’s sweeter in a way because I’ve been wanting a baby for so long.  Because I’ve experienced loss.  Because I’m older and wiser.  This time I’m not in any hurry to do anything but enjoy this little guy.  This time I’m actually taking the age old advice to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’  I’m taking it easy and letting the dust pile up (and how how it has piled up) while I take naps and sit on the patio snuggling my baby.  Last week I didn’t even leave the house until Friday when we walked over to the neighborhood park to play.  Our friends completely surprised us by raising money to help us buy a car (seriously the shock of the century!!!), and we aren’t even rushing into that.  I’ve been waiting about four years to buy a minivan (never thought those words would come out of my mouth!) so I’m going to wait until just the right one comes along.

All that to say, it really has been a sweet and peaceful time for our family, and I am so thankful.  But don’t worry.  Today I was that parent at the pediatrician’s office who didn’t respond until the second time the nurse called my baby’s name.  It was one of those, “Gee when are that kid’s parents going to respond…Ooooh wait that’s me….” situations.  I actually blushed.

And now here are a ton of photos.  Because I’m a photographer, and I just had a baby.

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Handsome Ransom | Newborn Photography

When I went online to find advice from other photographers about photographing your own baby, most of the advice said ‘Don’t do it.’  Ha!  I didn’t really have a choice if I wanted newborn photography, so I just decided to make it super easy on myself and only do two basic set ups that didn’t require lots of work.  The first was in my office on my favorite yellow buffet, and the second was in his nursery.  And I gotta say, this guy was a champ!  Thank you Jesus for sending me a baby who was super cooperative for his newborn session!!  Since I’d rather be snuggling with that cute baby than typing here, I’ll make it short and sweet and leave you with these photos:-)

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Ransom’s {Crazy, Spiritual, VBA2C} Birth Story | Part I

As soon as I became pregnant with Ransom I started seeing numbers in threes.  Everywhere I went I’d see numbers in threes.  If I picked up my phone to look at something, the time was 2:22, or 4:44.  If I woke up in the night it was at 1:11.  If I looked at the page number in my book it was page 222.  Gas cost $3.33.  License plates would be XXX-444.  It was impossible to ignore.  Soon Jake started seeing numbers in threes as well!  So I talked to my friend Jeffie who is really big on numbers what she thought it meant.  She told me she heard two things, 1) Tic tac toe, three in a row! and 2) That God was lining things up for me.  At first the tic tac toe thing made me nervous – did that mean triplets?!  But when we found out he was a boy it made more sense.  Three boys!  After that, it was amazing how I would start to see my numbers in threes during moments of doubt or fear or worry.  It became my cue to take a deep breath and remember that God was lining things up for me no matter what the circumstances looked like in that particular moment.

Ransom was born on a Wednesday morning just after midnight.  The week before, I had been putting his car seat cover back on after washing and I thought to myself, “I remember Katie saying that this brand of car seat is especially good for tiny babies.”  Then I kinda shook my head and thought, “Why am I thinking that?  My babies aren’t small, and I’m probably going to deliver this guy at 40-41 weeks.  The full and then waning moon is supposed to be a few days after my due date, so that was when I assumed I would go into labor.  The waning moon tends to pull women who are ready into labor, I promise, it’s not a cooky hippie thing.  The Sunday before he was born, I went to church and thought, “Ok this is probably going to be the last Sunday I make it to church before he’s born.  I’m way too uncomfortable and I only have one nice outfit that still fits anyway.”

On Monday, I went to the chiropractor to try to get some relief from this awful pressure in my pelvis that had begun over the weekend, and which was causing my legs to swell up.  When Dr. Jim Bob walked into the room, he took one look at me and said, “Umm are you in labor or are you just miserable?”  Just miserable.  The next day I was even more miserable.  It was our anniversary and we were some kind of pathetic couple.  Jake had stayed home from work with a little stomach bug and I hadn’t slept hardly at all the past couple of nights and my legs were killing me.  I was supposed to have a maternity session with Coli of The Love Doves, but I asked her if we could try again next week because I was so miserable.

After a while I asked Ashley to come take the kids so we could rest and then head to my midwife appointment.  When she came over I was kind of weepy.  I had wanted to buy her some flowers and make a big deal out of asking her to be with me for Ransom’s birth.  I had been at her last birth and it was really special, and I wanted her there as part of my intercessory/cheerleading team.  I ended up crying on her shoulder telling her I’d love for her to be there, and that I wasn’t sure I was going to get any prettier or more energetic than I was at that moment (which was not pretty at all) the rest of this pregnancy.  After she left with the boys I started having thoughts like, “I should start packing my hospital bag.  I should make those bars that I wanted Jake to have to snack on during labor and hospital stay.  Maybe we should take the infant seat with us to this appointment.”  And then I would follow up with thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?  I’m only 37 weeks!  This is just me being miserable and wanting to be done.  Calm down.”  But I did pull a few things together and make those bars!

I was in no condition to drive myself to my midwife appointment, so it was a blessing in disguise that Jake had stayed home that day.  Fortunately by this time he was feeling better.  The week before I had asked him if he could come to my 37 week appointment so he could be there when we discussed the birth plan, but his schedule had already been set for the next week.  Stomach bug to the rescue!  It was a good thing he was there because…

As soon as we walked in and told them how miserable I was, my midwife Donnellyn and her assistants looked concerned.  Then they were really concerned when my blood pressure was 145/96 and there was lots of protein in my urine.  Now the birth plan up until that point had been that we would work through some very early labor at home, fairly quickly make our way to the birth center and then around 5-6cm transfer to Denton Presby to deliver with Dr. Cummings, with Donnellyn acting as my doula.  Dr. Cummings is one of the very few OB’s around who champions vaginal births after mulitple c-sections and I have had two.  Well, with my blood pressure as high as it was, she had to contact him right away.  While we waited for him to respond she drew some blood to send off for immediate testing and finished my normal appointment.  I was about 1cm dilated.

Let me pause here and say that she had done blood work the week before and it had come back with excellent results.  I wrote in my last pregnancy blog post that I went from never being so comfortable at that point in pregnancy, to never having been more miserable.  Y’all know I had followed a pristine diet and had made really excellent choices throughout the entire pregnancy.  I was managing stress very well, exercising and getting plenty of rest.  We were all floored that these signs of pre-ecclampsia were showing up out of the blue, especially since I never had any trouble in previous pregnancies when I wasn’t eating healthy or managing stress well!

Dr. Cummings told Donnellyn that I would need to come see him at 7:15 the next morning and not to expect to go home after that.  Unless something drastically changed, we were going to have a baby tomorrow!  I was ticked.  Here I had done everything in my power to be healthy and set myself up for a great natural birth, and now it looked like I was going to have to be induced or have another c-section.  Neither of those options were appealing to me at all.  I knew I could labor without an epidural on Pitocin, but I sure didn’t want to!  And I clearly did not want a third c-section.  Donnellyn sent us to the chiropractor to be adjusted again and then told me to go home, take a bath, eat some good protein and get in bed.  I called our parents and some friends on the way home.  We told everyone to pray that my blood pressure would go down – if it didn’t I wouldn’t be allowed to labor at all – and that I would go into labor on my own.  Ronna, who has been discipling me and loving me since I was 15 was confident that that was exactly what was going to happen.  She sent out an email to prayer warriors in the church, and posted on our Bible study Facebook page, and my dad sent an email out to our extended family.  Ashley got people from her church praying as well.  We were covered!  And we were seeing our numbers in threes left and right.  God was indeed lining things up.

When we got home, we discovered that Ashley had come back over with our boys while we were gone and had cleaned our whole house!  Before she knew what was going on!  And she had bought me Frozen!  My dad came for the boys so we could rest and get up early without any trouble, and I took my bath and got in bed with Frozen.  Jake was running around trying to wash my nursing bras and jammies, setting up the Pack n Play, packing clothes for himself and trying to find various baby items that we hadn’t gotten out yet.  I was still trying to process going from maternity photos today, baby in three more weeks to baby tomorrow.  About 8:00 that evening, we got a call from Donnellyn.

“I just got your labs back, and I need you to come up to the hospital just as quickly and calmly as you can.”

To be continued…

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Ransom’s {Crazy, Spiritual, VBA2C} Birth Story | Part II

Back when we named Ransom (go back and read about that if you haven’t already), we knew that Satan was not going to take the prophetic delcarations we were making over him lying down.  So, while we were not at all afraid, we were definitely on the lookout for how he might try to come against us.  We had been praying over me and over Ransom and had our spiritual eyes and ears open…

 

Jake was in the middle of trying to pack a hospital bag for the next morning while I was following orders to stay in bed when we got the phone call that we needed to check into the hospital right away.  The nursing clothes were about to go in the dryer, I was still trying to process what was happening, and still trying to help my husband assemble items as best I could by giving direction from bed.  When the call came, I was not ruffled.  I called my parents and Ashley, and assured them all that they didn’t need to come to the hospital immediately.  I assumed that they just wanted to monitor me over night before inducing me in the morning.  We left the house about 30 minutes later with the bare bones essentials of a hospital bag, with instructions for Ashley to bring the clean nursing jammies and bras out of the dryer to the hospital whenever she did come.  On the way to the hospital we prayed, listened to some Jeremy Shuck, and talked.  I told Jake that no matter how I needed to deliver this baby, I just wanted the whole thing to be a Holy Spirit party.  I was still kinda sad at the thought of being induced or having a c-section, but I just wanted Jesus to be all over it no matter what happened.

When we arrived, Donnellyn met me at the car with a wheelchair.  I kinda chuckled thinking, “Wow, they must really be concerned here!”  We checked in were taken back to the world’s coldest labor and delivery room where I was told to change into one of those icky hospital gowns.  Did I mention it was freezing?  I was begging for heated blankets upon heated blankets!  Dr. Cummings who was supposed to be my delivery doctor was out of town until the next morning, so one of his partners, Dr. Dooley came in and told me what we were all doing here at 9:30 on a Tuesday evening.

“Your labs and blood pressure and everything are signs that you have what’s called HELLP Syndrome, which can escalate very quickly and be very dangerous for you and the baby.  We don’t like to say things like this, but the truth is that if it escalates too much you could both die.”  I chuckled, “Well no one wants that do we?  Can I have another heated blanket?”  I was absolutely not ruffled, and neither was Jake.  This was absolutely spiritual, and I was absolutely not going to die.  Pu-lease.  I had been watching for the enemy to try to come in, and here he was.  He wasn’t going to win.  She went on to tell me that we had twelve hours to deliver this baby one way or the other.  But she took my blood pressure – it had gone down – and said that just because all of this was happening didn’t mean that I couldn’t still try for my VBAC!  However, they were going to have to start me on intravenous magnesium which would very likely counter affect labor and slow things down.  So we could try, but at the end of 12 hours, this baby had to come out.  And by that time, Dr. Cummings would be around.  I think everyone assumed that Dr. Dooley would get me going and that Dr. Cummings would still deliver me one way or the other.  While I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything was going to be fine and that the enemy was overdoing it here, I was perfectly willing to agree to a c-section if that is what needed to happen.  I could lose that battle in order to win the war if I needed to.  Dr. Dooley then told me that if I was a little bit more dilated than I had been that afternoon (1 cm) she would just break my water and not even start with Pitocin.  After she checked me, I was 3 cms, almost fully effaced and had even moved down a couple of stations since that afternoon!  I hope I’m getting my terms correct here, I need to go over the actual notes with Donnellyn :-).  Dr. Dooley broke my water, and a warm gush of liquid flowed all over me.  I laughed and said, “Aaaah that’s so warm!!!!  In fact, if y’all could just leave me sitting in this for a few minutes that would be great…”  Everyone laughed, which helped the tension in the room.  Did I mention it was cold in that room!?  The nurses were so cold that they went and prepped a warmer room so that they could be warmer!  When the doctor and nurses left the room, Donnellyn was practically bouncing up and down.  “I’m so excited that she’s going to let you try for your VBAC!!  I didn’t think that she would!!  And did you see your blood pressure!!!  It’s gone way down!!!”

Again, I wasn’t exactly looking at the clock, but about 20 minutes after she broke my water, I was instantly having contractions that I could not talk through.  People were talking to me, I was not answering.  The nurses had joked with me about not having a written birth plan and we had talked about writing it then and there.  That did not happen!  I was hooked up to all kinds of machines, and laying on my right side, but I couldn’t have moved or changed positions even if I wasn’t hooked up.  Ashley came in, I heard someone tell me she was there, I didn’t respond.  She and Jake might as well have not even been there, I could only look at Donnellyn and occasionally beg her to encourage me, or get me a cool cloth or a vomit bag (so long, dinner).  At some point I managed to turn on my Childbirth in the Glory album on my phone.  I was desperately trying to relax and get on top of these contractions, and I absolutely couldn’t.  They were coming way too fast, and sometimes one on top of the other.  When I had been in labor with Shep, I had absolutely no pain until I reached 7 cms, and then I labored for a good 10 or so hours after that with normal labor pain.  But it was much slower to build and I had had a great visualization going and had managed to do pretty well staying relaxed and in control for the most part till the very end.  After about an hour and half of this labor, I told Donnellyn that I could not do this.  I wanted off this train!  Where was the slow it down stuff they were supposed to be giving me?!?  None of this was going how I thought it would, and they were telling me twelve hours.  Forget this, there was NO way I could do twelve hours of this.  I told Donnellyn that I needed an epidural.  Donnellyn told me sweetly that I absolutely could have one and told the nurses when they came back in.  The nurse replied, “Oh she can’t have an epidural until she has had two bags of magnesium.”  I think I wailed something about a shot.  I was thinking, ‘GET ME OFF OF THIS TRAIN!’  Then I was thinking, ‘I sound like I’m in transition.  But I can’t be in transition already, it’s only been an hour and a half!!’  The nurse said she couldn’t give me a shot, but she could check my progress.  I’m not sure, but I think she and Donnellyn might have exchanged knowing glances, thinking the same thing that I had thought about being in transition.  Here I had come in as cool as a cucumber, not batted an eye when they told me I could die, and now I was acting like a crazy person.

The nurse checked me and said to Donnellyn, “Well you know what I’m going to say.  She’s complete!  Ten centimeters and at a {whatever} station and ready to push!”  Donnellyn was again ecstatic, “And did you see her blood pressure?” to me, “Honey your blood pressure has gone back down to it’s normal level all on it’s own during labor!!!  He’s this far away from coming out.  This is so wonderful Honey, this is just what you wanted!!!”  I wasn’t even excited!  I just turned to her and said, “Is it??”  Inside I’m thinking ‘WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?!  I WAS SUPPOSED TO TAKE MATERNITY PHOTOS TODAY!!!  HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?!?!’

They rolled me up to a pushing position and in a lucid moment I asked if anyone had called Coli, the birth photographer.  The ensuing scramble told me that they hadn’t.  I mean it had only been an hour and a half for pete’s sake, everyone was pretty shocked that I had gone all the way through the first stage of labor so quickly with no Pitocin and with magnesium.  I think I pushed for about 15 minutes, and even that left me thinking, ‘How in the world did I do this for so long with Shep?’  I had pushed for an hour with Shep before having an epidural and about two and a half more hours with the epidural!  This labor was so wildly different.

Never once in this process did I question whether or not I could actually push this baby out.  It was not even a concern.  I knew that my body was designed to bear and deliver babies, and bear and deliver it did.  Ransom Joseph Dreyer was born at 12:10 on Wednesday morning.  We had arrived at the hospital not even having contractions less than three hours before!  When they laid him on my chest, I was in so much shock all I could do was say, “Oh my gosh there’s a baby on my chest!  Oh my gosh there’s a baby on my chest!”  Over and over and over.

Sweet Coli arrived after it was over and took photos of us in our first moments with Ransom.

Before they left, Donnellyn and her assistant Lincey prayed over me.  We were on the same page about not agreeing with HELLP Syndrome, and it was awesome to know that someone else besides us got it.

I did have to spend the next three days in the hospital, the first 24 hours of which were on magnesium in a padded bed, hooked up to all kinds of stuff and getting blood work done every six hours.  They were worried I was going to have a seizure even though all of my levels continued to go back down.  When the nurse told me that, I rolled my eyes and told her I had absolutely no intention of having a siezure.  She was glad to hear it.  Various hospital staff that came in kept looking at me with wide eyes saying, “Oooh, you’re the one with HELLP Syndrome.  Wow.  I’m glad everything was ok!”  I just chuckled and rolled my eyes.  One nurse kept coming in looking at me like a ticking time bomb asking what my pain level was.  It was all very surreal, and I just wanted to get home as fast as I could!

In the end, Ransom’s birth was definitely a Holy Spirit party though not how I thought it would be!    This was a warfare birth, but we fought and we won.  All of the things we asked people to pray happened!  And there were lots of people praying.  My blood pressure went down on it’s own, and continued to go down.  After breaking my water, my body went into labor on its own.  And I was finally able to have my vaginal birth, even in the face of what seemed like really bad odds.  Donnellyn was right when she said that this was a great victory!

I have been hanging onto this verse originally written about Abraham and the birth of Isaac ever since I lost Molly almost two years ago.  I’m so very thankful to be living in its fulfillment.

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