Category: Family…

Our First Bump in the Road of Parenting…

This is likely going to be long, but it is mostly for our benefit anyway because I want to remember everything that has happened thus far in case we need to recount it later.

The first five months of Tori’s life were so joyful, despite her hatred of sleep for the first three months and my accompanying sleep deprivation. She was rarely fussy – only when super tired – and she smiled and talked all the time. She was meeting and even exceeding expectations in terms of milestones. I posted photos and videos frequently because she just kept getting cuter and cuter.

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In the middle of January I began to notice a change in her demeanor. She was extra fussy and had gone back to not sleeping much at all. She was clingy and I couldn’t put her down for more than a couple of minutes, if that. She had also started to have “volcanoes” again after eating – where she would throw everything back up all over me.

I was admittedly frustrated with it all because I couldn’t shower, cook, eat, or anything else without her crying because I wasn’t holding her. I didn’t think about the possibility that she wasn’t feeling well. This has been my first experience with feeling “mommy guilt” because I had no idea that she was not feeling well.

There are ranges for each milestone and I hadn’t worried about the fact that she wasn’t even trying to meet some of them yet. But when I started to see friends post photos and videos of their babies, close in age to Tori and some younger than her, achieving milestones that she hadn’t yet even attempted, I started to wonder.

One day I realized that I hadn’t seen her smile or heard her talk in about two weeks. I joked with Brennan that we must not be funny anymore because she just wasn’t laughing or smiling.

I looked back through my videos and the last one of her talking and smiling was on December 29th. I read online that babies will often stop talking when they are working on another milestone or when teething, so I didn’t think much about it during those two weeks. But, combined with her other behavior changes, it was time to call the doctor.

Brennan and I had just been talking about how she felt heavier and we were so thrilled to see her growing since she had been so petite thus far. So, when the nurse came to weigh her at our appointment and she had only gained two ounces the month prior, I started to be afraid. My five month old only weighed 11lbs 9 oz.

The doctor reweighed her to verify the unbelievable number on the scale, and it was accurate. He did the rest of the measurements and found that her head had continued to grow – meaning that her brain was getting the nutrients it needed – even though the body growth had slowed. Her body was now in the 2nd percentile and her head was in the 97th.

As I described her behavior and symptoms, he suggested that we try reflux medicine as everything pointed to an acid reflux issue. It appeared that she was only eating enough to get the hunger pains to go away, explaining the lack of weight gain and her frequent feedings. It also explained the rest of the behavior changes so well.

He wrote a prescription for baby Zantac. He said it could take 7- 10 days to take effect and up to two weeks to see a change in behavior. He said if the meds didn’t work, he wanted to have an MRI of her head done to address the lack of development and the regression of talking and smiling.

I left the appointment feeling encouraged because the diagnosis made sense, but I still had doubts and found myself worrying that something else was wrong.

The next day, she had an upper G.I. study at the hospital and everything looked good.

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I am not a worrier or a fearful person at all. But, around day 7 of the medicine, with no changes or improvement in behavior, fear began to take over. My brain kept thinking about the what-ifs, the worst possible scenarios. I found myself in tears at one point thinking about losing her to whatever this could be. I had to pray and pray to fight the fearful thoughts in my mind.

One thing that has surprised me about motherhood is the depth of my emotions in regards to and love for Tori. It has driven me to prayer more than anything ever has. I combatted the fear with prayer and with truth – that God is sovereign and in control – but also knew I needed to take action.

Around day 8, I really started to question the effectiveness of the medicine because she still seemed to be miserable. I also continued to sense that something more was going on. But, since she was sleeping a bit better and had been slightly less fussy since we started the meds, I waited it out.

By day 13, I knew I had to make another appointment because she seemed to be in real pain now, and the sound of her cry had changed. She was also waking up with a cry that sounded like she was either having a nightmare or in extreme pain.

This brings us to yesterday. I took her in to the doctor and she was crying when the doctor came into the room.

As he listened to her, he said she definitely was in pain. He did her measurements again and found that she had only gained an ounce in two weeks, despite the fact that we had started to introduce solid food at his suggestion.

After listening to my observations and listening to Tori, he is now convinced that she is indeed in pain, and he thinks that it’s from migraine-like headaches that are possibly being caused from fluid on the skull. This would explain her getting mad and then throwing up, too, because she is feeling nauseated. And who wants to learn or try new things with a migraine?

The doctor said that this all makes sense with the jump in her head size that happened at two months. We had an ultrasound of her head then to check the fluid levels and everything was fine.

He also said that there is part of her soft spot that is a strange shape which usually indicates a fluid issue. He said this doesn’t normally show up until 6 to 9 months, which would explain this so suddenly occurring as well. He said this would also explain not eating very much because she’s in pain, as well as missing the milestones lately.

We have an appointment with a neuroscientist on Tuesday to hopefully get an MRI – for which she will have to be sedated. This is our way of getting around the ridiculous wait time to have one done at Hershey Med (May 6!).

I didn’t think to ask what the next step would be if the doctor is right, which I now think was wise. I have stayed away from Google and refuse to look this up. I am not thinking about anything except for bringing comfort to Tori as we wait.

I feel so much more at peace now, even though I should probably be freaking out. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit nudging me and helping me see that I needed to pursue testing and treatment for her. Of course, once we know the results and the course of action to be taken, I may freak out. But, for now, “it is well with my soul.”

We are choosing to trust God in all of this and praying for relief for our precious baby. We know that she is being prayed for by hundreds of people and we feel so supported by our church. They are bringing us meals for the next week to ease the burden of cooking during this troubling time. ❤️ Such a wonderful and humbling blessing.

We are also thankful that it seems like she has only been in pain for one month and not six.

Please pray with us and for us. Pray for quick answers, for healing, for comfort for Tori, for wisdom for Brennan and me, and for the Lord’s leading in all of this.

This parenting gig is not for sissies.

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Taking Care of Baby for Free

Note: just because we have made these choices doesn’t mean that we are judging those who don’t! All parents have to make the decisions that work best for their family.

The number one thing I have heard about raising kids is how expensive it is. Between diapers, formula, wipes, etc. it can really add up during the first few years of life. On average, parents who choose (or need to use) formula will spend thousands of dollars just to feed their baby. Diapers on average will cost $3,000 per child from birth to potty training. I don’t have links to prove this, but I have heard these stats enough to believe them.

When we found out that we were pregnant, we knew that I would stay at home with the baby (and all future children), which would mean a slight loss of income. So, being the frugal person that I am, I began to research ways that we could save money and still make life great for our children so that our budget would not be greatly impacted.

By cloth diapering, using cloth wipes, and breastfeeding, we spend very little, if any, money on our baby each month.

IMG_3535.JPGIf you had asked me a few years ago if I would ever cloth diaper, I would have said no! It sounded awful and like so much work. However, I have several friends who have cloth diapered and they blogged about their experiences. As I read their blogs, I realized that this was absolutely what we needed – and wanted – to do.

We spent less than $300 up front for our cloth diapers. We have 21 diapers and at least 20 extra liners. Since they need to be washed every 2-3 days anyway, it’s the perfect amount of diapers for one child.

Because Tori is exclusively breastfed (which is also free), washing the diapers is simple: you put them right into the washer. The poop of breastfed babies is water soluble (and doesn’t stink!), so you just do a cold rinse cycle and then add your detergent and wash on hot. So while we have increased our water bill by about $4 per month, we are saving so much more than that!

In addition, Brennan’s step-mom and her daughter-in-law made us cloth wipes for our baby shower. Again, never thought I would use cloth wipes! They are so wonderful and so good for baby’s skin, though! No chemicals, no waste, and you wash them with the diapers. Even our pediatrician said to not use disposable wipes because of the chemicals.

Tori rarely has any diaper rash and she seems to prefer cloth to disposables based upon her demeanor during diaper changes. We do use disposables at times and have them on hand for babysitters who may be uncomfortable with cloth.IMG_3532.JPG

The best part about using cloth is that these will last until she is 35 lbs, and we can use them for all of our children! That means a savings of $11,700 if we have the four kids we would like to have! Granted, if the next baby is born before Tori is potty trained we may need to buy a few more, but we are still saving thousands of dollars.

Kids don’t have to be expensive. It’s all about what your priorities are, I think. You can choose to use disposables, which are easy and convenient, but expensive, or you can choose cloth, which require a little bit more effort and time but save thousands of dollars. We have chosen to save money while also keeping our daughter’s skin away from chemicals, and it is working well for us.

What steps have you taken to save money while raising children?

 

 

Book Review: Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions

Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson is an essential read for any parent. Parents are the first people that their kids will talk to (in most cases) about things they encounter in life, and this book gives age-appropriate responses based on what the Bible says about each topic in an effort to help you adequately answer their questions.

What I loved the most about this book was the fact that they chose some of the hardest questions children might ask and they tackled them thoroughly – questions about divorce, sexuality, death, suffering, etc. I want to be prepared when our children ask us questions like these, and I know this book will be a fantastic resource.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Teachable Moments: Using Everyday Encounters with Media and Culture to Instill Conscience, Character, and Faith

“There’s no way to avoid the intrusion of popular culture into our homes and families, but we don’t have to let these instances exploit and influence our children. Instead, we can use those unplanned opportunities to instill conscience, character, and faith into the hearts and minds of the children God has entrusted to our care.” (pg. 2)

In this day and age, you can’t be too careful when it comes to the things to which children are exposed. The battle to protect their innocence is a difficult one to fight. This book by Marybeth Hicks is invaluable! While I am a few years away from having to put the teachings of this book into practice, it’s definitely not too soon to start preparing for what’s ahead.

More than ever, kids are exposed to content and concepts in the media and the surrounding world that go directly against the Bible and Christian values. How can parents use these instances as opportunities to teach? This book breaks it down in clear language and talks about areas such as media, school, friends, sports, family, and the real world and how you can use these situations to build character in your child.

I especially enjoyed the chapter about media because it is an ever-growing part of everyday life. More than ever, people are connected to screens (whether through smartphones, television, etc.), and it’s increasingly difficult to avoid exposure. I agree wholeheartedly with this quote: “As Christians, we’re called to integrate our media consumption into our lives in ways that support our faith and values, and not as a perpetual temptation or an avenue of corruption.” (pg. 61) After reading this chapter, I feel better equipped to teach our daughter when the time comes.

It’s incredibly important to guard the hearts and minds of our children until they are old enough to maturely handle the content, and this book provides great advice about how to accomplish that. If you’re a parent of children under the age of 18, I highly recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book from Howard Books in exchange for my honest review.

Introducing Victoria

DSC_5506Nine days ago our lives truly changed forever. Little Miss Brackbill made her appearance after 20 hours of labor and finally a c-section. Nothing went as we had planned or hoped, but ultimately what matters is that she is healthy and happy and here with us.

I was induced at 12pm on July 29th with “the gel” and began having contractions at home by 1pm. My water broke around 3:30pm so we headed to the hospital where they confirmed that I was indeed in labor and was at 3cm. We were taken to our labor and delivery room around 6:30pm and the “fun” really began there.

I had planned to have a completely natural birth – no medicine or interventions – and I successfully labored for ten hours that way. However, around 11pm I decided to ask for pain medication as I was exhausted, hungry, and in so much pain (obviously). I had another dose around 1am and then finally caved and asked for an epidural around 3am. I was only at 6cm and the contractions were getting to be too much for me. I cried when I made that decision because it was definitely not what I had ever wanted, but I am so glad that I opted to have one – I went from 6cm to 9.5cm in an hour after the epidural was in place! Had my labor been shorter, I think I could have made it naturally…but it was just too much.

They allowed me to rest until 6:30am, which was wonderful except for the few moments of fear when I woke up surrounded by nurses who were flipping me over on my side and wouldn’t explain what was going on. My blood pressure had dropped and so had Tori’s heart rate, apparently, but they were able to resolve that quickly.

We began pushing at 6:30am. For two hours, I attempted to push with no success. Finally, at 8:30am, my doctor said that a c-section was necessary because the baby wasn’t going to fit through the birth canal. They had suspected early on that my birth canal might be “narrow” but this confirmed the suspicion.

At this point, I was so exhausted that I welcomed the decision, though I was again disappointed because I hadn’t been able to deliver her naturally. However, Brennan was (as always) a wonderful support and he reminded me that it doesn’t matter how she comes out, just that she does.

012b63d38c09c6be0095e0f2a8dd64e83b1077b798Tori was born at 9:25am and I was in recovery by 11am, I think. I didn’t get to hold her until about an hour after her birth because my arms were numb from the anesthesia. But, Brennan was able to be with her the whole time after birth, following her around as she was weighed and measured, and then doing “skin-to-skin” time with her since I was unable to do so. I am so thankful for those first couple of days where he was able to be her main caretaker – what a great bonding experience for them!

We chose to keep her name a secret for many reasons, and it was such fun to finally reveal her name to our family and friends. We chose Victoria because it means “victorious” and we know that with Jesus she will be victorious. We chose Ruth to honor one of her great-grandmothers – my mom’s mom – someone who has been such an incredible part of my life and such a great example of what it means to be a godly woman. We chose to give her a “nickname” from birth because we love the name Tori, and now she’ll really know when she’s in trouble 😉

 

I was discharged at my request after 48 hours as I was feeling great but also knew that I would rest far better at home. I only took pain medications (1/4 of the recommended dosage, even) for two days at home and haven’t been on anything since. I praise the Lord for a mostly painless recovery, even though I know I still have to take it easy and I still have 4.5 weeks to go before being fully released. I didn’t know beforehand that I wouldn’t be allowed to walk up or down stairs, so I’m confined to one floor of our house at this point (unless I walk around the house to get into the basement). This does mean that I can’t do laundry, however 😉 Not so bad.

My parents have been here since her birthday and will be here for another eight days. They have been a tremendous support to Brennan, Tori, and me, and it has been so nice to have them here to spend time with their first grandchild.

Tori is adjusting to life on earth fairly well, though we’ve had a few rough and sleepless nights. However, she’s learning and so are we, and we just keep reminding ourselves that this will get better, and that these days are precious and numbered.  Someday we’ll look back and think that this was the easy time in life 🙂

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Book Review: Parenting the Wholehearted Child by Jeannie Cunnion

In just a week or so, we will become parents for the first time. In the past few months, I’ve been trying to glean as much wisdom as possible before embarking on this journey, and Parenting the Wholehearted Child has proven to be an excellent resource and one that I will keep on my bookshelf for years to come.

There is so much pressure on mothers today to raise the “perfect” children. I’m not on Pinterest (intentionally), but I’ve heard many of my friends complain that they just can’t meet the standards of perfection that are displayed there by seeming “super moms” who can be creative, raise perfect children, keep their house perfectly clean, etc. We’ve somehow created this need to be a perfect parent instead of focusing on instilling important values within our children. These unreasonable standards for perfection are overwhelming and unattainable.

So while shame was brewing on the inside, performance was reigning on the outside, and my worth was becoming more and more dependent on who people thought I was instead of on who God says I am in Christ (p. 23).

This book focuses on parenting with grace, unconditional love, and authenticity. The author discusses the importance of raising wholehearted children, not perfect ones:

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My copy is filled with underlines and I even took pictures of some of my favorite quotes so that they’d be readily available when I need them. It’s filled with practical wisdom! Some of the broader topics covered are: Imperfect Parents, Perfect Grace, Experiencing a Vibrant Friendship with Jesus, Growing in Christlike Character, and Leading with Love Unconditional.

If you are desiring to raise children who love God, love others, and live in grace, pick up this book. I know it will be one that I return to over and over again as I learn how to be a wholehearted parent.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

First Pregnancy: 37 Weeks!

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It seems so surreal that we are already nearing the end of this pregnancy. After today, she can come at ANY time.

The nursery is ready, the car seat is installed, and the hospital bag is packed. We have taken our childbirth and breastfeeding classes and have one more “newborn care” class tomorrow.

This begins my last week of work, and that is definitely a bittersweet feeling. I have so enjoyed my position (and co-workers) at the Dearden House over the past ten months, but I am really looking forward to beginning the most important job that I will ever have: wife and mother.

I jokingly say that I’m about to become “Director of Operations at the Brackbill Homestead” because that makes it sound more official and “important” in the world’s terms, but titles don’t matter. I’m simply excited to be able to have the opportunity to stay at home and raise our daughter (and future children), even though I know it will be incredibly challenging at times and I’m not sure how well I will do. I am going to take it one day at a time, relying on the Lord’s wisdom to guide me through this journey of parenthood, alongside my husband.

As far as the pregnancy itself is going, everything is fine, despite my designation as “high risk” at this point. They had me start a small injection of insulin last week, at dinner, to try to lower my fasting numbers, and it has lowered them somewhat (still not “within the criteria” though). After my first day of using the insulin I dropped the bottle (which cost $100 out of our HSA) and it shattered. I was so upset. Thankfully we got another one the next morning (for another $100), and I only missed one day. I have to watch for low blood sugar now because the nutritionist said it is a high possibility for me since my blood sugar numbers aren’t high to begin with…so that’s been yet another thing to monitor.

They think the baby is already 7lbs 7oz (as of 07/02/14), and I still have “too much” amniotic fluid, but my fluid numbers aren’t that high (they want you to be at 25 at delivery and I am at 29), and I’ve heard that they tend to overestimate the size of the baby. The next growth ultrasound is on July 21.

I am increasingly frustrated with going to the doctor twice a week, with having to eat on a schedule/take insulin, and with the twice-a-week “non-stress tests” (which are stressful for me because our baby likes to sleep during them). I am averaging two ultrasounds (technically called “biophysical profiles”) a week because she won’t wake up for the NSTs. The doc says that babies have 20 minute sleep cycles, but ours definitely sleeps for an hour and then is active for an hour. She’s already unique 🙂

But, all of this frustration is also making me more and more ready for her to vacate and join our family, so there are positives to this. 🙂 I also am able to see her face twice a week, which most parents don’t get to do, so I try to focus on that and not be frustrated by the extra time those seemingly useless ultrasounds take (often making me late for work).

photo 1While I am a little sad that the days of it just being Brennan and me are numbered, I also know that she is going to bring such joy and richness to our lives, and that our love for her and for each other is only going to grow. I can’t wait to see how parenthood changes us and how God will use this in our lives to help us grow.

Please pray with us that she will come on her own in the next two weeks so that they won’t induce me (which is what they say will be necessary). Please also pray that she remains head-down so that they will not have to do a c-section on July 29th, as currently scheduled.

First Pregnancy: 35 Weeks and Counting…

Amazingly enough, we’re already at the end of this pregnancy! It has flown by so quickly and I can’t believe that she’ll be here in 2-4 weeks.

Here are some pictures from the past few weeks since the last post:

Everything is going well with the pregnancy, despite the fact that I am considered to be “high-risk” at this point. I have that “title” simply because I have gestational diabetes (which is pretty well under control) and because my amniotic fluid level is high (though it fluctuates every week and right now it’s normal).

Because of this, I have to go to the doctor twice a week for a “non-stress test” or NST (where they check the baby’s movement compared to her heart rate, a test for which she must be awake and moving – which has proved to be a challenge), and a once a week “amniotic fluid index” or AFI, (where they check to see how much amniotic fluid I currently have via ultrasound). There is no concern at this point because everything is under control, thankfully. It’s all just precaution (but still frustrating because of all of the appointments). The only plus to all of this is that I get to see her face every week – something most mothers don’t get to do. I posted some of those pictures above – baby girl doesn’t like to be bothered during her sleeping 😉

I have another “growth ultrasound” tomorrow to estimate how big they think she is, which will help determine the new due date. At this point, if she doesn’t come on her own by July 27th (39 weeks), they will induce me.

Thanks to my wonderful friends Ashleigh and Cheyenne, the nursery is completely finished and we are ready for her arrival! We spent Saturday morning going through clothing, doing all the laundry, organizing, and decorating. It feels SO great to have her room done weeks ahead of time.

Overall, I still feel fantastic. In fact, I have felt SO good during pregnancy that I’m almost sad that it’s about to be over. I haven’t had any headaches during pregnancy, which is SO unusual for me. I praise the Lord for allowing me to have an easy pregnancy (despite all of the doctor’s appointments that drive me crazy)! I have only gained 27-29 lbs, and that fluctuates from week to week. Not going to complain 🙂

I still can’t believe we’re having a baby THIS month. Not months from now. Soon. We’re definitely ready to meet her and see her little personality! ❤

First Pregnancy: 32 Weeks and Counting…

10320414_10100203948552830_3245351653827089556_nAs of tomorrow, I will be eight months pregnant. EIGHT MONTHS. Out of ten. That means that in less than two months, we will be parents. We will have a baby girl to care for and keep alive 😉 Our lives are about to completely change whether we are ready or not!

I am so thankful that this has been an incredibly easy pregnancy. I do not take this for granted, as I know that so many women are miserable the entire time. I have had maybe a handful of days that were uncomfortable or miserable, and that has mostly been slight hip pain (and mostly at night). God has been so gracious to me throughout the past eight months!

I have learned to manage my gestational diabetes fairly well. I am on medication to try to bring down my fasting blood sugar numbers and thankfully haven’t yet experienced many side effects from the medicine. I’ve found that I can get away with far more than I had imagined and I’m learning what spikes my blood sugar and what doesn’t. Sonic’s sugar-free slushies have helped with my sweet tooth cravings 🙂

I have only gained 25 lbs thus far and hopefully won’t gain more than 5 more thanks to the gestational diabetes rules. 🙂

Our baby is currently 4lbs, 13oz from their best guess and she is a healthy weight. Depending on how much she grows, it is likely that they won’t let me go past 39 weeks (July 27). She is very active and sometimes I wonder if she’s dancing in there! She is still “breech” but has plenty of time to turn over, thankfully. This mama is hoping for a completely natural birth, so she needs to cooperate 🙂 Haha.

10256843_10100203665564940_7227908944016164964_oLast week, Brennan and I went on our “baby-moon” to San Antonio and had a wonderful time. We made sure to balance the need for rest/relaxation with exploring the area and I think we did pretty well. We spent a day in Austin, as well, and we saw the State Capitol and the Lyndon Johnson Library/Museum, both of which were worthwhile visits. The heat was a little much for me, which I know must be due to pregnancy (and the fact that PA hasn’t had any heat yet this year) because it doesn’t usually bother me very much.

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It was so wonderful to spend some much-needed time together before our baby comes. We’ve both been working as much as possible, leaving very little free time to just hang out together; to have six days together was a true blessing! I’m so thankful that we are truly best-friends and that we never get tired of each other. Brennan is an incredible blessing and has taken extra good care of me during pregnancy. So blessed ❤

 

 

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When we got home, we realized that we spent less than we had budgeted on our trip (and on car repairs), so we were able to purchase our stroller/car seat off of our baby registry! This was the most important thing left on our registry, as we need to be able to bring her home from the hospital 🙂 The rest of the items we can get as we need them, but this one had to be purchased. The only other thing we need to get in the next two months is the glider that we registered for so that I have a comfy place to feed our baby. Other than that, I think we’re ready for her to arrive!

I still can’t believe that we’re about to be the parents of a baby girl. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, to observe her little personality, and to be in awe of the miracle that God is giving us through her.

Preparing a Place for Our Baby…Part Two

In my last post, I showed pictures of the progress we’d made on the baby’s room.

We had a lot of work to do between refinishing the floors and painting every inch of the room, but it’s DONE! My mom flew out from California for a week to help us with the painting and other preparations, and we are so thankful for her time and effort. The end result is a drastic difference from what we started with – though that wasn’t hard to achieve 😉 We still have things to do, such as hanging decorations on the walls, but the majority of it is done and we have about three months to organize and prepare for her arrival.

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We were SO blessed at our baby shower and were especially thankful to receive her crib! What a relief it is to have it in our home, assembled and ready for her! It is beautiful and we are so excited to have it already. There are still things that we need to purchase, like the stroller/car seat, but having the crib now relieves a great burden.

I’m 28.5 weeks pregnant, so she can come as soon as 9 weeks from now, which is crazy. This pregnancy has flown by and I can’t believe we’re 9-12 weeks away from meeting her!