weekly pinspiration

i havent been posting about these as regularly as i should, but dont think for a minute that that means i am not using the wonderland of pinterest to bring my favorite ideas from around the internet to life.

a rundown. here we go!

i about swooned when i saw these pumpkin pie croissants and had to have them on my eat me! food board. easy, holiday, yummy, perfect.

not mine. picture and recipe source.

i made these as an appetizer for the dukes family thanksgiving.

my thoughts: much tinier than they look in the picture (you cut each dough triangle in two). not nearly as sweet as i wanted. not super easy to roll up prettily. i dont really care about them looking bad, but they MUST taste good. we counteracted the sweet issue by dipping and double dipping every bite into the sugar and spices mix.

we made 16 of these for a house of 11 hungry people and there were about 6 left over. not a great statistic. bum out. i think this is a great idea though and could be redeemed with a little tinkering with the filling ingredients. it was just way too "pumpkin" and not enough "pie." i give it a 5 out of 10.


when the fabulous ashley ann showed off her house rules print, i was coveting hard core. not only is it a great looking print, but the rules would fit our family perfectly. it went onto my dream house board.

then i realized that it was only $25 on etsy (though i think it has gone up to $30). hooray! i waited for a few more scarf orders to come in and then used those profits to purchase our own print with white on black (which i like less overall, but goes better in our house/cave).

a major michael's sale and coupons produces a big frame for this bad boy, and now it is featured prominently on our living room wall. i LOVE IT!

before layla's birthday party

a few asides:

1. yes we got a big flatscreen. i relented to this purchase because it frees up tons of floor space having the TV mounted now. since our living room is also our dining room and playroom, we NEED all the space we can get since we will not be moving any time soon (thanks a million, capitalism!! haha j/k). we got a sick sale and 3 years no interest. we love it. the kids have a little ikea table that they eat at now!

2. yes, that IS a finished quilt. my first ever. more on that soon.

3. i made those flaggy buntings for layla out of the same material as her quilt. i have declared anna maria horner's good folks line to be layla's official fabric collection. i mean who doesn't have an official fabric line? it's like a birthstone or a middle name? those flags took about 3 hours because i am stupid. so they will be at EVERY one of her parties forever and ever, amen.


i have loved these cheap-y, easy little fabric-covered cork boards for a long time. i even picked up a three pack of the cork circle trivets from ikea months ago. i finally pinned the tutorial to my "must make" board to remind myself to just do it.

well, do it i did! i picked some of my favorite rich yellow fabrics, and thumbtacked those sukers down.

the tricky thing that the tutorial doesnt cover was mounting these circle beauties. you're just dealing with a cork disc, so there's not really hanging hardware included.

i opted to hot glue a few more flat-topped thumbtacks (the same ones used to mount the fabric) to the back and just tack each circle to the wall. we will see how this mounting solution holds up to use (if i can bring myself to actually use them...they are so cute and pristine without notes on them).

the space formerly known as the dining room that is now my sewing area.


another pin from the must make board was this handy diaper strap tutorial. after my babies are a few months old, i am SO ready to be liberated from the diaper bag. i love this little adjustable velcro strap which holds a few diapers and a pack of wipes with no fuss. just drop the bundle in your purse and pray for no blowouts!

i made a few for gifts and added them to a gift set in my etsy shop. i am thinking of making a version that has a little wrist strap sewn in so that you could go totally hands free when you need to change a babe while you're out.

happy ernie not included.


finally from my outfits i couldnt pull off board is a fashion pin brought to life. i lamented loudly when i first saw these taupe moto style buckle boots on pinterest for just $37 and realized that they didnt have my size. i was jonesing for some mid-height, non-brown boots.

over the thanksgiving break i was mindlessly internetting around (must stop wasting hours of my life like that) and i realized they had my size back in stock. i used almost all of my monthly clothes budget and snapped these suckers up.

the shipping was SO fast all the way from california and i really love the boots. especially with my gray skinny jeans. they run about a half-size big and the soles are rock hard, but i just wear warm boot-socks and threw in a pair of old tennis shoe insoles and now they are perfection.

kicked up on my desk at work. total badass? maybe, just maybe. but probably not.

there's a happy bunch of november pinning from me to you. have yall made any pin projects come to life lately? i'd love to stalk up on some if you leave me a link!

dont forget to enter the nourish $20 giveaway. it will close tomorrow!


a new soapbox

i am not a crunchy hippie anti-chemical lady. i so wish i was, but i am just not. before i had kids, i had visions of being miss cloth diapers, chemical-free, organic everything.

in reality: there are 3 unopened packs of biodegradable diapers in our "garage sale" pile. we tried one with judah and they were AWFUL compared to evil, toxic, nature-bomb pampers. i realized we couldnt do cloth diapering be cause our kids go to preschool/daycare. and while i did manage to buy only organic jarred baby food for both kids, it was mostly because i stocked up during BOGO sales and used coupons...otherwise, i can just never justfy the extra cost to myself.

my parents became all-organic a few years back, and have loudly and often touted the benefits of this lifestyle. i have seen movies, read many articles and even a few books about the chemicals and crap in our food, homes and cleaning products and i cringe dutifully at the yucky stuff that's out there and vow to never go back.

but you know me (do you know me? hi, i'm keight), i have a hard time with moderation. i tend to go all or nothing. and with this thing, the all was just too much for me to think about, keep up with for longer than 10 minutes, and afford. so i landed on almost nothing.

my big argument is usually, "well i ate/drank/used all that stuff all of my life and i am okay." but the fact is that i am still in my 20's and who knows how any of those things might play out in my health in the future.

so here i am. knowing that there is probably a more natural and less chemical-soaked way of living, but kind of copping out and being too lazy/cheap to really be vigilant about it.

but some things are too big and glaring to ignore.

my buddy raechel took over a small business in october, Nourish Organics. she and another member of our half-marathon team, her cousin-in-law olivia, adopted this awesome, thriving, business when its creator found it was taking too much time away from her family. it actually used to be "nourish baby organics," but the girls decided that everyone's skin deserves yummy, natural, safe products...not just the babes!

so when rae announced her new ownership of the business, i wanted to support her loud and proud, so i made an order of all the bath washes. there was a big sale, i got free delivery since i was going to see raechel soon, but mostly i just wanted to support my friend in her new endeavor. i thought that would probably be the last time i bought anything since we have a stockpile of coupon'd un-organic washes and soaps that we use daily.

i figured that these smelly-good washes from Nourish would just be for special occasions. i.e. pre-business time for the grown ups or for if the kids were extra stinky.

and then this article came across my radar a few weeks ago. the hugely iconic and trusted (used by us since birth on both kiddos) johnson & johnson's baby shampoo was found to have a few known carcinogens in it. okay! so, you probably wont catch me grinding my own flaxseed meal or milking free-range goats, but i DO draw the line at rubbing cancer goo into my children's scalps.

i just kept thinking about their soft spots and how fast the chemicals probably traveled to their brains without the resistance of cranial bone! it makes me a little sick.

my attempt at conveying "eighty-sixed" using the few remaining characters from our bath toy set.

so! it looks like buying organic shampoos and washes wont be such an exception going forward, after all.

so when raechel asked if i would like to do a review and giveaway of some Nourish stuff, i was all on board now that i really feel convicted about using organic products to clean my family.

since i already had all 3 washes and and lavender oil (which i won by running 93 miles in a month for our race-training), raechel sent me the coconut and eucalyptus balms to try.

so when you add these to the washes i had and the lavender oil that i won for running 92 miles in july for race training, i have almost the entire line of products.

here's my take:

Nourish is a great looking, well thought out, designed and presented product. the washes came shrink-wrapped with screw-on caps and had the pumps included separately in the box to avoid explosions or leakage in transit.

all of the packaging and materials are so slick and awesome that i feel like i will never want to throw them out. i plan to accommodate this urge by becoming a very specific kind of hoarder.


lavender-i genuinely didnt like it at first. it has a strong smell when you're using it that reminds me of evergreens. but i totally changed my opinion when i washed layla with it out of necessity one day and i realized that when it dries the scent is not christmas tree-ish at all. the smell that lasts on your skin is actually really delicate and floral yummy. i use this one when i want to smell girly and pretty. layla gets this one during her few and far between baths and she will still smell great DAYS later.

coconut-first off, you HAVE to shake this one before you use it like the directions say. it separates into two different liquids when it sits. this one is SO coconut and tropical smelling that i was almost hesitant to use it in the fall for fear of clashing seasonality, but use it i did. it too smells way stronger in the tub than on your skin later on. i use this to wash judah's hair (and my whole self) and it works great as a shampoo on his lush locks. it does make me want to eat my own skin when i get out of the tub though. consider yourself warned.

sweet orange- probably my favorite of all. this one smells amazing start to finish. plain and simple. i am a citrus kind of gal and this one just nails it. this one works on the whole family since it's just clean and crisp and not gender-specific.

and they just came out with a peppermint wash that i dont have (yet). it's limited time only, for the holidays, and i cant wait to get my hands on it. i LOVE peppermint! and that red label is calling to me.


the eucalyptus balm is billed as a chest rub, a la vick's, but i seriously cant restrict it to just that. it smells so farking amazing that i just want to rub it all over my person. i had to write raechel to make sure that it was okay to use everywhere and not just on the chest. it doesnt have that crazy overwhelming menthol feel/smell that most chest rubs have--this is the most relaxing, gentle, calming smell known to man. rubbing it on my hands and feet is like a mini spa day. confession: i rub it on the inside of my nostrils like a big freak just so i can smell it for as long as possible. i want to apply this directly to my brain.

the coconut balm is a warm little tropical getaway. i used it on judah's winter chapped cheeks and a few random patches of dry skin on layla and they disappeared straight away. its not greasy, the only thing it leaves behind is moisturized skin and smell-good goodness.

the only cons of the balms are that i wish they came in large sized tubs as well. i find myself wanting to stick all of my fingers in to scoop out the treasure and with the little pots they come in now, i can only get one or two.

so here's my verdict:

i really wanted to go with "A-plus" but i didnt have the letters for it.

raechel and olivia are in a giving mood. here's what they are lavishing upon you:

DISCOUNT (valid now through friday 12/2):

everyone will get 15% OFF your entire Nourish Organics order when you enter the code dukes15 at checkout

like this!:

GIVEAWAY (ends at noon on thursday, 12/1)

one lucky reader of putapuredukes will win a $20 store credit to Nourish!

to enter: you MUST be a follower of this blog (using the widget in the top right sidebar) and leave a comment on this post telling me which product in the Nourish shop you are drooling over most.

*if you win the drawing and are not an official follower i will have to pick another winner. dont let this happen to you! sorry i am a greedy stickler!*

only one entry per person. i will announce the winner on thursday morning.

the (well-nourished) end


what my name tag said

several people spotted my name sticker in the double braided scarf tutorial and noticed that it said some extra stuff. kudos to you, the hawk-eyed. i myself LOVE to look for background/unintended objects in the pictures that people post online, so it seems i am in good company.

here's the pic:

and here is a close up of the name tag:

keight dukes
(not my usual eye)

this was the name tag i wore at jesse's 10 year high school reunion. jesse felt the need to be class president his senior year, so there was no escaping attending this awk-fest as he was in charge of getting it planned (luckily a few amazing chicas stepped up to do the planning RIGHT or we would have just all met up at chickfila or something).

my only goal was to at least live up to the promise of 2001's jesse, who was voted mr. best-all-around and expected to do great things--aka a hot wife-- in his adult life.

fun fact: my friend natalie, who attended high school with jesse, told me that some girls used to sport the W.W.J.D. bracelets (what would jesus do), but that for their purposes, the acronym meant, "we want jesse dukes."

so i wanted to do the best i could with my post-babies/lazy-tending self. if i couldn't get, "oh jesse's wife is HOT," i wanted to at least avoid, "oh, that doesnt add up. she had to have tricked him into getting her pregnant or something."

instead, the unexpected third option presented itself as, "what the hell is wrong with your eye?"

yes, i got one of these. (and i am nervous that i have freakish eyebrows or something all of a sudden and now they're close up on the internet)

they are officially called subconjunctival hemmorages. but i have always called them "strawberry eye jam."

they are harmless and show up for no reason (though vigorous coughing, lifting or vomiting can cause them...i was doing none of those). i was sitting at work on the friday before the reunion and i got up to go to the bathroom. my coworker goes, "you have something on your eye." i thought she meant like mascara or a pen mark. i went and looked in the mirror and was horrified.

the funny thing is, i have seen people get these before and i am always so judge-y and overly grossed out. even though i know it's not anyone's fault, i have always secretly thought, "sick! you look like a violent minotaur. just do everyone a favor and stay inside until that mess gets better because you are offending my soul walking around like that."

so, perfect. i get my first ocular dollop of strawberry jam in my life the day before i need to look super hot to justify having this smoking-fine, talented, amazing man of a husband.

i think i feared they might annul our marriage at this reunion if i was found to be lacking.

so when we arrived, i had to be insecure girl who beats everyone to the critical punch:

jesse: hi former classmate, this is my wife, keight.

classmate: hi, nice to meet you.

keight: my eye isnt normally like this. i'm not a devil rage-a-holic or anything like that. this isnt stigmata. it will go away in time. nice to meet you. i'm totally normal.

i got tired of this after about 4 rounds and so i just amended my name tag to include this fun fact. psychotic, i know.

most folks noticed the name tag way more than the eye. the lights were dim and i wore a dress that was the exact same color as the jam so that it could just maybe be some lint or thread that had gotten away from the mothership and curled up in my eye white. so many people said, "oh i would have never noticed." that's what i would have said too while thinking, "sick! dont point that thing at me!"

nobody questioned my union with jesse or declared me unfit in the category of hotness to be his wife.

so yeah, i must have made a pretty awesome and totally normal impression. though that might have been because i made jesse ask all the pregnant attendees to give him their drink tickets so i could have more wine. i was voted "wittiest" and "life of the party" in my senior class, not "most mature" and "classiest." so i am living up to and surpassing a whole different set of expectations.

thus goes the story of the name tag.

hey, you asked.


he "bunnied"

i wasnt really paying attention to judah.

i was working on my laptop and he just kept saying, "judah make bunny," and, "my bunnied," over and over again. he was sitting on the potty watching TV so i figured it was something to do with whatever was on the screen.

nope. it was actually just as he promised (warning: contains brief, necessary, hilarious, poopy content.)

i dont know if i am more impressed with his manufacture or identification of the bunny. i do know that i scared the junk out of both kids when i first understood what he had done/said and BUSTED out laughing. it was all i could do to get the camera up and get him to say it again without layla trying to climb in and pet the bunny.

flushing this was somewhat traumatic for him. "whey mah bunnied go?"


sealed with a kiss

you guys are unreal. i am buckling under how humbled i am by your words, comments, emails, texts and PRAYERS. but the cool thing about being humbled by love is that it actually takes weight OFF of shoulders rather than burdening them; so i guess i am not buckling under, but being buoyed upward.

i went back and read tuesday's post and cringed at how badly that COULD have been taken. instead of my normal editing and proofreading, i just shot the vomit straight out of my fingertips without looking back. i wasnt being careful not to offend, wasn't being sensitive to anyone but myself. it was yucky and selfish and it is exactly where i was.

it could have come across that i was calling my wonderful friends greedy leeches who never invest in me. that i was accusing anyone who emails me of siphoning my plasma to sell to blood banks just so they can buy pool noodles to flog me with. that i was taking for granted my healthy, perfect, beloved children and husband.

of course, that wasn't where i was coming from, but if you've been around blog-land (and sadly, especially jesus-y mommy blog land), you know there are people out there who habitually misinterpret motives and intentions and feel hurt or angered or offended by them. there even seem to be those who not only misinterpret, but just don't care to look for your good/real motives, and seem to actively look for and project negative motives onto honest, raw posts like these.

so after realizing how my words could have been taken, i was then immediately overwhelmed with how they were taken. those of you who have reached out to me all really heard my heart, despite the fact that it would have been very easy not to.

thank you. thanks for not condemning me when my crappy outlook might have given you reason to. thank you for your prayers...they were felt. including a freakish "coincidence" that involved me falling, crying, into jesse's arms at a local mcdonalds and ended with a great reconciliation (we are still both so run down, but at least we are on the same team again...what a difference a teammate makes).

you were so very encouraging. you gave me insight i couldnt find in my dark dungeon hole, perspective i couldnt see with the monster of despair up in my grill, camaraderie in this battle that i was sure i was all alone in. you gave me ideas (a list! love it),virtual hugs, and grace...such grace.

thank you for being the body of christ. for being him to me. i'm just sure of the fact that he was using yall to, like the song says, throw me a line, come break the quiet, and surround me with the rush of angels wings (which is a touch christianese for my normal taste in lyrics, but is hitting the spot here).

thank you for shining your light so i could see him.

turns out that even though i am almost always too busy to go anywhere but work and home these days, i still actually am living in a type of community with friends. on the internet! yes, that sounds about 49 frizskillion times lamer than it actually feels in my heart, and no, i will not play world of warcraft with you.

thank you for letting me be transparent and honest and raw even when it doesn't look good or isnt pin-worthy. thank you for welcoming that. i dont do guile, and aside from that, i dont even have the self-editing genes that it takes to be the kind of blogger who only pops in to share the good and pretty (though i LOVE those blogs lots and 100% see why they would want it that way).

though i will always be honest and authentic on here, sometimes i don't even have the self-awareness to have sorted through everything myself and to even know if what i am sharing is really the issue. people are complex. knowing and relating to anyone is tough, but i am learning that the same is equally, if not more so, true about knowing ourselves. thanks for letting me dump the dirty laundry in this space while jesus and i sort and wash it.

i feel better. not great and not cured, but so much more hopeful. nothing is worse than feeling like you are in a bad place and won't ever get out. thank you so much for helping me see that even though i may be in a tough patch right now, it's not forever, and we're not alone.

yall are rad-faces. i wish i could give you all a big hug. instead, please accept a kiss:



you know the rock that fell to the bottom to then become rock bottom? well i got hit by that rock when it landed and i am sub-rock bottom right now.

i dont want to just be a whiny baby and complain, because even feeling like this, i have tremendous amounts to be grateful for and i AM. but i am also sub-rock bottom. it can be both. because i say so.

do you ever feel like you are failing at every single personal relationship you are in? like you want to quit the human race. that's me.

i get up to go to work. i wont see my kids for almost 12 hours. i walk in as jesse is changing layla. i say, "hey judah boy! how'd you sleep, buddy?" he tells me he pooped in his pants and follows that up with, "mommy go away," and points to the door.

it's like getting punched in the stomach and i am too empty to even begin to deal with that one. i turn around to leave, smile at layla and give her a hug. i think she smiles back at me.

i dont say a word to jesse because we are in some god awful fight that is not really a fight but is some form of walking marriage cancer where we both are bleeding out and have nothing to give each other but both still need so much. when you have cancer, your body sometimes cant even handle a tiny cold. a stupid fight or disagreement becomes a full blown meltdown of all systems. there is no time or energy to fix it, so you just ignore it and limp on. after all, there are pants full of poop that wont empty themselves.

as i walk back down the hall i hear judah get up and slam the door behind me; shutting me out. that sound and that image of the door slamming me out is a knife to the gut. i get in my car and go to work. that was the entirety of my family time until 4 pm when the kids will wake up from their naps and jesse will be gone out giving guitar lessons so that we can pay our bills.

i have unanswered emails, comments, facebook messages. people who need and want things from me. i have scads of outstanding orders and a totally broken sewing machine. jesse and i have 9 cavities between us and i also need a dental procedure that is going to cost thousands. that is precious rare resources of money, time off work, time away from important stuff, so that i can have the pleasure of getting my teeth and bones drilled on.

i am signed up for a half marathon in december. i havent run in over a week. i paid money and have run hundreds of miles in preparation for this event that it looks like i might not even be physically prepared to finish. we use precious free babysitting so that we can drive 14 hours to pay money to run this race, but it just makes us even more busy and get even more behind emotionally and relationally and physically.

it feels like everybody and everything in my life needs something from me right now, but i am not living in community or being refilled with or by any of them. not my husband, not my kids, not my friends, not my church, not my family, not my hobbies. it's no one's fault (or it is our own for over-extending ourselves). it's just the place we are in right now. i know jesse feels the same way about his life right now so he cant give either, the kids ONLY take because that is what kids do--they dont give back, we are geographically far from most of our best friends and dont have the time or freedom to be with the ones who are close in any meaningful way, church is wonderful but is only one hour and a whole lot of stress and prep to get the kids ready just to be there (and to jesse, it is his job).

we are universal donors right now and we are dying for a transfusion.

i KNOW the answer of course. the answer is jesus. and there's some really cool thing i could do with keeping the blood metaphor up and talking about jesus's blood and how it revives, but i just dont feel like it. because i'm failing hard at that relationship too.

yes, i know better. i know all the truths about how it will get better, how we are so blessed, how we will come out of this stronger, but honestly? they just sound like lame-ass trite platitudes to my ears right now.

i just dont feel like it. all i want to do is cry and sleep and not have to be a grown up. (is that like THE pre-screening indicator of clinical depression? awesome. add that to the list of "shit i dont have time for"). i cant even think of a fairy tale ending that would or could pull us out right now. a million dollars? a live-in nanny? 5 extra hours per day? i dont think any of those would fix the real problem here.

i am painstakingly choosing to have faith through this. my god, i dont feel it at all; i don't feel anything, but i am declaring the truth that jesus is still here in this and that he has overcome the world.

this is probably my most favorite jesus song ever. it has a bitching tear-jerker of a light-brite stop motion video (good videos dont exist in christian music typically) for it too, but it's the lyrics that seem to be one of the only things that are able to pierce this nasty dementor fog of hopelessness and my utterly overcome heart and remind me of him and his light. it is my mantra right now; my please jesus, let this be true scrap of wreckage that i am clinging to.

Send me a sign
A hint, a whisper
Throw me a line
'Cause I am listening

Come break the quiet
Breathe your awakening
Bring me to life
'Cause I am fading

Surround me with the rush of angels' wings

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel love
Can You overcome this heart that's overcome?

You sent a sign
A hint, a whisper
Human divine
Heaven is listening

Death laid love quiet
Yet in the night a stirring

All around the rush of angels

Oh, the wonder of the greatest love has come

Shine Your light so all can see it
Lift it up, 'cause the whole world needs it
Love has come, what joy to hear it
He has overcome
He has overcome


can you guess how old i am today?

oh sweet daughter of ours.

you are our lay-lay, layla boo, cutie pie, cuuuuuutie pah, sweet angel pie, baby layla, stinkerbell, big lady, miss lady, sis, lay-lee girl, lah-lah, patty dukes (when you give us one of your signature poopie diapers that look just like a burger).

but above all, you are our LAYLA EMBRY, our beautiful burning light.

we are so happy you joined us 365 days ago. you have filled our house and our hearts with a unique joy that we never knew before: the joy of YOU!

happy birthday, sweet, precious, perfect little girl. we love you hard.


layla's birth: my version

layla's been on this side of my cervix for 51.5 weeks now. i figure i should probably give my own account of how she crossed over. i was planning to go after jesse, but he is really busy with work right now. so i am cutting in line.

we had two previous versions of layla's birth here on the blog. one by my L&D nurse and friend, adrienne, who has given birth to her 3 kids all naturally, and who i met during judah's labor. she actually delivered judah when my OB wasn't there in time. read her version here

and then the other version was given to us by the intrepid lena, one of my best friends, one of my kids' godmothers, and a lady who doesn't want kids for a long time and who wants an epidural the moment her egg is fertilized (NO shame in that game). she was taking pictures of the birth for us and trying not to get murdered by me for popping her gum during contractions. her version is here.

ok let's do this thing. (warning: this is MY point of view from inside MY head and MY body. my language is salty and descriptions may be too graphic for some. i want to remember and record my labor as authentically as possible for me and my family, so if you are easily offended, stop here. but if you want even MORE of this stuff...here is my account of judah's birth.)

when last you heard from my cervix, it was friday, november 12th, the day before my due date, i was more pregnant than i had ever been before (judah was a week early), and i found out i was 4cm dilated. seriously?! pregnancy is the only condition in which walking around with an organ gaping open 2 inches in considered just fine! rub some dirt on it and walk it off. (ed: do not rub dirt on your cervix).

that night, after judah went to bed, i fully embraced the old wives' tale and made us some eggplant parmesan from scratch. it was really yummy, but did not immediately work.

golden hotness. which, incidentally, is what i call brad pitt.

gooey yum-yums. which, incidentally, is what i call my placenta!

on saturday, my due date, we were meeting my parents in atlanta to have lunch and give them judah. he was spending the night with them. i have no idea what we did the rest of that day. i do remember at this point just giving in to the possibility that layla could be 2 weeks late.

surrendered to this notion.

the last picture of judah as an only child.

on sunday morning, jesse left around 7:30 to head to church for band practice. at 8:30 i was awakened by a pinchy feeling in my repro's. it wasn't braxton hicks, and it wasn't how i remembered working contractions to feel either. it went away after a little while. i got up and peed for the 11th time that morning and got back in bed.

but despite being mega-pregga tired, i couldnt fall back asleep. the pinches kept starting up and were uncomfortable enough to keep me awake. i felt my pulse quicken and it sunk in that it might actually be happening. today might be layla's birthday.

nothing can really prepare you for this moment. you dream about it, picture it, long for it. if you've had kids before, you probably expect it to happen similarly to the previous one(s). but despite 9 months of achy, bloated, emotional, miserable, nonstop impatient expectation and looking-forward, you are still utterly surprised and caught off guard upon finding yourself IN the moment.

first emotion: excitement--holy cow! i am going to meet this baby! second emotion: fear--holy shit! i have to push a human out of me today, and i am trying to do it with no drugs.

my first impulse is to rally the troops (remember, i am all alone at home and jesse is at work worship leading until noon); to call jesse and adrienne and lena and the grandparents and get everyone in place. but then i balk. CRAP! what if it's a false alarm?!?! and i get everyone excited and change their plans for nothing?!? i really dont want that.

so i keep it to myself. i get out of bed and walk around, scared as hell of the pinches turning into my painful old friends, contractions, but moreso just wanting to meet my baby and not be pregnant anymore.

the pinches begin to resolve themselves into grabbing, deep pains. i am willing them to really take my breath away, which i tell myself will mean they are working harder and accomplishing more, and that this is real, but they just dont hurt that bad. but, oh hey, they are coming every 4 or 5 minutes.

i go from being terrified of a false alarm, to insanely envisioning my future article in parents magazine where i tell the world how i was so scared of crying wolf that i waited too and long ended up giving birth by myself in the dogs' kennel in the garage (why did i crawl in there?!?! i dont even know!!!). there would be a photo spread of me and layla lounging on the cedar bedding with a pink sign on the cage door that says, "it's a girl!" on news stands today only in my crazy head.

rationality had packed it's bags and flown south for the winter at this point. it would not be back soon.

ok, so enough solo act. i called jesse and was really calm and just said, tell the rest of the band that the backup plan may need to go into action today. but stay there and keep practicing, just keep your phone on.

i call adrienne. she and her husband are on their way to something in atlanta. now i am really scared of ruining her day and trip for nothing, but i SO need her there if it is real. i tell her what is happening and she keeps me talking. i know she is testing me to see if i can talk through the contractions because, if you can, they arent serious enough to definitely be real yet.

i am going to be honest here, they didnt hurt that bad at this point, but i still stopped talking during them so that she would come anyway. she says she is turning around and calling the hospital to swap shifts with someone (um, do people like her really exist? how amazing is she and how blessed are we to get her in our lives?!?!). thank goodness it wasn't saturday, because adrienne is jewish and cannot work on the sabbath. she told me which of my 5 doctors was on call, and it was the least favorable to natural birth one. bummer.

i called jesse at about 9:30 and said i think this is the real thing. but i didnt want to ruin the music, so i said, just come home and get me and then we'll head to the hospital at 10:45. the church is on the way, you can just leave me in the parking lot, run in and do your set while i labor for 20 minutes outside and then we'll head on. ("hi, you've reached rational thinking, we are on vacation and unreachable indefinitely. please leave a message and we'll get back to you after this baby comes out.")

i start packing our bags. this was good because we had NOTHING packed and were total slackers, so this distracted me, kept me moving, and killed a lot of time.

jesse got home, informed me that the rest of the band said we were crackheads and sent him home for good, threatening him with bodily harm if he dared to come back and sing while his laboring wife waited in the car. looking back, i am glad this happened because explaining to my church friends what was going on as they headed indoors and saw me in the parking lot would have been annoying. "oh, hi, fellow churchgoers! what, me? i'm fine! think i just got some bad communion and need to walk it off! oh that? why, that's just a baby arm hanging out of me. enjoy the service!"

with everything packed, i laid back down to work through some more contractions with jesse. they were starting to get pretty uncomfortable so we practiced some of the stuff that had worked well with judah's labor: hand or foot massage. jesse kept timing each one. they were lasting longer but also slowing down and coming farther apart.

at 11, we decided to just head out. we called lena and told her to meet us at the hospital. we took the final weekly belly picture for 40 weeks using our rotting jack-o-lantern. we even set up the camera on a stool with a timer to take a family picture.

in LABOR! that's layla in there, in her birthday suit getting ready for her party.

sick nasty face is a great sign that its a woman's time to give birth. this is real.

i forgot how god awful contractions while seated and seat-belted are. i remembered on the way that i hadnt eaten since dinner the night before, and didnt want to enter this athletic endeavor with no fuel. however, i didnt want anything in my stomach to potentially poop out while pushing or to throw up and make a big mess of when the pain got real bad. i sagely settled on mcdonalds. i got a wildberry smoothie and stole and snarfed a couple of jesse's fries.

we pulled into the hospital at 11:30. it was a stunningly gorgeous day and i wanted to spend as much of my labor as i could out in this instead of in the scary, sterile hospital room.

this was the sky overhead on the day layla was born!

adrienne called to say she was already inside and getting ready for us. i paced the parking lot, leaned on our car during contractions and forced down smoothie during the breaks.

walking it out.

wildberry loading

contracting on our car

we headed inside at noon.

jesse with all the bags. i was busy carrying other things.

aside: you wont hear me talking much about jesse and what all he did and was for me during this process. i assure you that it isnt because he wasnt a perfect coach, supporter, doula (doulo?), encourager and partner. it is simply because i was so internally tuned that i couldnt really give conscious thought to anything but my body. but he was everything for me. you can see from the pictures just how active an engaged he was every step of the way. this man has never come up short for me, and this was no different. he's my lobster.

we got checked in. i bid a sad farewell to my clothes and put on the horrendous hospital gown and mesh panties. we were in the exact same room that i had delivered judah in. i stared hatefully at the wall where i had thrown up and passed out after starting pitocin with him, praying this time would be different.

looking hot and skeptical(?) in my haute coture for gravids.

working through a medium-intensity contraction on the detested wall. i hate that damn smiley pain chart. my pain level during labor = skull and crossbones smiley! this time i just asked adrienne if i could rip the signs down rather than squeezing between them. i'm a seasoned veteran.

i answered a million questions, got my first in-labor pelvic check by adrienne (i forgot how awful those are. ice pick to to the gonads, anyone?) and she told me that actually the MOST favorable towards natural birth doctor was on call after all. it was a doctor i had only seen once, but i had liked her and her tiny hands.

it was almost 1 pm when dr. C showed up. with judah, my water was broken when i got to the hospital so i knew there was no turning me loose: i was there until i produced a baby. adrienne told her about my contractions, that my water was intact and said i was dilated to a 5 (i think she kind of fudged this and i was actually still a 4).

i told her that my birth plan was essentially to, "give birth as if it was 1000 years ago, except for in a hospital, just in case." so my jaw hit the ground when the doctor responded, "well if you wont let us intervene or do pitocin, and you dont show progression, i am going to have to send you home. i cant just let you stay here and do nothing. this isnt a hotel."

hahahahaha. i wanted to say to this adorable, brilliant, sharply dressed little doctor, "BITCH, PLEASE! did you just give a laboring mary the 'no room in the inn' line?" the thought of being sent home at this point, with painful regular contractions coming and at 5 cm dilated rocked my world.

they wouldnt LET me leave when i had judah, and now they were going to kick me out. i understand this logic and the insurance and hospital policies, but i hate how the prevalent birthing system today puts pressure on women and their bodies to work on a timeframe. and if you arent "fast enough," you have to allow synthetic chemicals to do the progressing for you (pitocin is the man-made form of the contraction hormone) or leave. at this point, i was thinking i would rather be in a hotel. or even a bethlehem stable. at least the cattle would be too busy lowing to shove chemicals in my veins. and THIS was the doctor most down with natural birth!

we asked for an hour. if i hadnt progressed on my own at that point, we would take it from there. i didnt even consider that reality. i had been taking evening primrose faithfully and believed adrienne's assurances that it makes your cervix mush so that when the contractions start, they work efficiently and fast and with little resistance.

side-laying. trying to relax and melt into the bed. not easy when your uterus is juicing itself.

things began to get rough. walking around was over with, i was in bed, on my side and totally still, trying to relax through each contraction. it was so quiet in our room. staying still while adrienne placed my IV port was torture. i could hear the click of our camera in lena's hands, smelled my favorite scent of eucalyptus lotion as jesse rubbed my hands and feet during the worst ones.

time reduced itself to little 4 minute intervals. 3 minutes of freedom, one endless minute of pressure and pain so intense that it became hard to think.

adding some needle-y fun to the mix!

jesse being awesome. fleece socks because i was freezing and then burning up in turns.

just after 2pm adrienne came to check me. this was it. if i (somehow, despite dozens of contractions and so much work) hadn't progressed, i would have to consider pitocin, which i had vowed after judah to never take again, or be sent home, which would literally have been impossible at this point.

modesty is a funny thing. despite getting to the point where i really didnt care if half the world saw my junk during judah's delivery and the aftermath, slowly that goes away and my stuff becomes my own once more, with only jesse to see it, and then only on fridays, under cover of darkness and after 2 glasses of pink wine. (jokes...have you seen that guy? waffle house hours of operation apply).

so when adrienne checked me the first time, i made sure that lena got out of the line of fire and that a sheet covered me up. the last thing i wanted was to sear off her corneas and make her institute abstinence in her marriage. i mean, she is a BFF, but its one thing to share makeup tips and have brunch, and it is QUITE another to expose your entire laboring vag in the stark, sober, light of day.

well it was a grand indicator of how deep into labor i had ventured that when adrienne came to check me this time, i didnt give a rip. i was sweating and hot at this point and wouldnt tolerate a sheet over me. i may have spared a fleeting thought for, "sorry, lena! i havent been able to see or even reach down there in weeks...the hedges may need pruning!...also, there may be a family of chipmunks in residence for all i know."

as SOON as adrienne bumped up against my cervix, she started laughing, "7 centimeters. i told you evening primrose works." YES! almost 3 cm in an hour. there was no turning back. nobody puts babymama in a corner! or on the street! or on pitocin again!

since i was at 7, adrienne went to call dr. C so she could head back to the hospital (why are these doctors leaving!?!?). i secretly hoped that this one would be late like dr. B was with judah, and adrienne would get to deliver again, since i wasnt too fond of this new OB who tried to evict me on to the mean streets with my gooey yum-yums about to slide right out.

around this time is when things got CUH-RAY-ZAY up in this biz-nitch.

and it is at this point that i owe pitocin an apology. dont get me wrong, i still hate that vile juice and think it is often used unnecessarily these days. but with judah, i blamed all of the horrendous pain from 7cm to birth on the pitocin. as soon as that junk hit my system, all hell broke loose in the pain department. i went from what i thought was an 8 on the pain scale (based on all previous pain in my life) straight to a recalibration that involved me straddling the number 10 like it was violent bucking bull. i assumed it was the chemical that did this. but, as i would find out at this point in layla's birth, it wasn't the pitocin that caused the pain...this was simply transition. pitocin just got me to transition faster.

transition is the part of labor between the first stage (contractions, dilation) and the second stage (pushing and birth). contractions become longer, harder and closer together. it is the part of labor that you see and hear about most often because it is by far the most dramatic. any screaming, sweating, shrieking, husband-cursing woman you have ever seen depicted on TV or in a movie is trying to portray transition. she is doing a shitty job. halle berry herself climbing up my vaginal canal and delivering an oscar-caliber performance would probably tickle compared to actual transition.

my transition started at about 2:30 pm. i know exactly the contraction it was on. up until that one, they had been awful, but i was still sort of in my right mind (rational thought was on vacation still, but was checking its email every once in a while). i had been trying different positions in bed, but by focusing, i was able to stay still and quiet and breathe deeply through them.

trying to be up on all fours. this was the last position i would try before i could not longer move. i did put the sheet up again because that view would have been too much for anyone.

when transition began, i celebrated by barfing. as that contraction fired up, i remember thinking that i was losing all control. i had been boogie boarding along on the waves of pain up until then, exercising lots of effort and balance to stay atop each one, but all of a sudden i had been rolled by a tsunami and was just getting pummeled and drowning under the pain. i couldnt form coherent thoughts. i could no longer stay still and was writhing around in bed, eyes rolling crazily and moaning. i started heaving. adrienne, being THE most amazing nurse, somehow knew what was coming and at the exact moment, reached from behind me and held a barfy cup to my mouth, catching my little french fry kayaks as they plummeted over their wildberry smoothie waterfall. (vomiting and engaging your ab muscles during a full blown transitional contraction might be the worst sensation i have ever encountered...and there would be lots to choose from this day).

 jesse's clothes, my bed, my gown, and layla all silently thanked her for saving them from a future of having that stuff all over them. i simply gurgled, "mmmh hmm, splurm gork," and went back to my slow death.

adrienne was watching me from behind. still not sure where she produced that barf cup from. holy thigh meat.

the next few contractions i thought would kill me. since i never got my cattle in a stable like the real mary, i took over the lowing duties, moaning, "NOOOOOOO," in some pathetic inhuman voice with every one.

during the breaks, i tried to prepare myself by thinking up things to get me through the next one, things to focus on during the contraction. i would tell myself to hold on to jesus' love for me, or to picture layla in the little onesie i had made her, finally in my arms. but then the contraction would hit and holding on to those--or any-- coherent thoughts was like trying to keep a candle lit in a tornado.

i was not even on the same planet as him.

during this, someone came in and started making an ungodly racket. it sounded like they were erecting an aluminum shed in my room. i could just barely gasp, "chuddafuhkup" (translation: "quiet, please") and then jesse/adrienne/lena finally got the construction crew's attention and asked them to shut off their jackhammer.

to be fair, i think it was just one nice lady, changing the trash out or setting up something for delivery, but in my mind it was a buzzsaw on my cerebellum wielded by the harpy of hades herself.

the chick on the left was the noise maker. glad lena caught the culprit in action!

at 3 pm i said, screw natural birth, screw being tough, screw it all! give me an epidural. if it was as easy as pushing a button on the wall, i would have had 182 epidurals at this point. i told adrienne that i couldnt do this any more and i wanted drugs, in my spine, NOW!

adrienne: "that's great, that means you're close. when a woman starts doubting herself, she is almost through the worst of it."

me: "i dont think you understand, i said, [unintelligible orc-speak]"

she said she could and would do it, but it would take about 30 minutes to get me ready for it with fluids, and to get the anesthesiologist in, and that layla would probably be here before then. but there is no reasoning with a woman in transition (rational thought was on a sunset booze cruise). as far as i knew or saw, this was an everlasting hell with no end. in 30 minutes i would surely be dead; eaten by my evil uterus. i think i just moaned in response. adrienne, knowing that i really did want a natural birth, just took my moan as a go-ahead to keep helping me and jesse through each contraction.

she checked me again and i was at a full 8 approaching 9. after a few more contractions, i said again, "i really want an epidural. i cant do this." adrienne humored me and started running the fluids into my port to prepare for an epidural and said she would call for it.

then she warned me i would have to stay perfectly still while he placed the epidural, and at that news, i wanted to die. i knew i couldnt do it and would end up paralyzing myself by thrashing around with a needle in my spinal column. i weighed the pros and cons of being paralyzed for life versus one more of these contractions. somewhere during that process (paralyzation was winning), she called dr C. and told her to come to the room for delivery.

the birthing team and equipment starting filing in. i remembered this moment from judah's birth and knew that those people come in at the very end of the action. but i was so confused. i pitied these poor people who thought a baby was coming soon. didnt they know that i was a condemned woman and would be doing this for eternity? there was no baby coming, just more and more pain.

at 3:20 all of a sudden i said, "i need to poop!" somewhere in a forgotten recess, my rational mind--which had been hijacked on its booze cruise by somali pirates, tied up, gagged and stuffed into a bilge closet to be replaced by insane laboring rabid wookie brain--knew that the feeling of pooping actually meant that it was time to push. but crazyhead was adamant, NO I JUST NEED TO HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT, YALL! excuse me real quick while i just tiptoeto the ladies'. BRB!

feeling like you have to go #2 while you are in the worst pain of your life is horrendous. you're working on getting this human out of you and then some egomaniacal meal you ate 24 hours ago just thinks it can cut in line?!?! step off, turd!

luckily i was in too much pain to do more than squeak, "eeee, poop!" and ask where the hell my epidural was, and adrienne knew i was really just sooooper close. she told me i was feeling the urge to push, but i needed to wait to dilate a little bit more and to wait for the doctor. i think my exact mental response was, "mmmkay, fuck that. no pushing OR waiting. where is my epidural, woman? once i have that, yall can shimmy up there yourselves and carry layla out."

she also said that since my water still hadnt broken, i might want to consider letting dr. C do it, despite the fact that is was an intervention. sometimes that can bump you from a 9 to a 10 in a snap. sweet moses, layla was still in her water balloon?!?! i had a vision of birthing her still in her amniotic sac and could only conjure up images of the humans in their little orbs in the matrix. i had not wanted any interventions, but since water breaking was done long ago and fit into my stupid "1000 years ago" birth plan, i said, "ok, maybe. but where IS she?!?"

i think the jig was finally up when i asked again at 9 cm for my epidural. where IS that anesthesiologist? and why are we keeping these doctors so far away? i saw jesse and adrienne sort of smile indulgently at me and laugh to each other over my bed. my thoughts, "oh look at the non-laboring people. so rational. so happy! laughing at me like a child! how DARE they!?! he's probably making out with her between contractions because she's all cute in her scrubs and hasn't vomited on herself or or spoken orc today." the truth of the matter was that doctors don't really administer epidurals when you have a baby hanging out of you, and the people with remaining braincells all knew this even if i refused to see truth.

pushing contractions are the WORST. all the pain of transition contractions is still there, but now you have the added bonus of what feels like a steel-encased scud missile trying to launch itself out of your butt. my body started pushing for me involuntarily. adrienne told me to try to hold up and wait for the doctor, that she was on the floor, but was changing clothes. holy shit, how hard it is to put on scrubs?!?!

a little after 3:30 dr. C finally came in. she was so cute and tiny and calm. it was hard to stay mad at her for making me wait (or for that little scene where she threatened to kick me out of the hospital? oh, that? i'd almost forgotten all about that....water under the bridge, i say.). she sat down at the foot of my bed like a college gal pal.

she checked me (it felt like adding her stirring my insides with chopsticks to the fun mix of sensations i already had going on), smiled and said i was completely dilated with just the hint of a lip.

now, i know what youre thinking, "just a hint of a lip?" no, no, there was plenty of lip all up over that room, i assure you (just ask lena's repressed memories!), but this was a cervical lip. i was like 9.5 cm and just the tiniest bit of a rim of cervix remained. sometimes if you push with this, you can irritate the cervix and cause it to swell, which makes things harder. she said that breaking my water would probably help.

at this point, i was so far gone with pain and pooping urges and a bowling ball gamboling merrily in my colon that bursting a 9 month old water balloon inside me was all like, "yawn...whatever", and i said what the hell, go for it.

dr. C brandishing the AMNIHOOK!

she stuck a little plastic crochet hook looking thing up there. i felt a little tug/pop like she had snagged it on a balloon (she had), and...nothing happened. no expected gush. dr. C said, "your baby's head is so far down that all the fluid is behind her. when you push her out, it will all follow. i am going to get wet."

i had enough sense about me to at least enjoy the thought of that. "ha HA! try to put me out on the streets? i'll show you. take that!" *super soaker montage rolls*

you best lay down your little blue slip n slide! things about to get straight liquefied up in your zone, doc!

so at this point i was still thinking i was waiting for the go-ahead to push because of the cervical lip remaining, but it was oh-so-unbearable to resist. so i was trying to kind of sneakily push (even though i clearly wasnt sneaking anything by anyone since jesse and adrienne were holding my legs in pushing position). since i got judah out in like 3 or 4 total pushes, i was thinking i would just end this thing before anyone could tell me not to. but it was so lame. nothing was happening. i just felt like i was pooping. (side note, i would find out from jesse approximately 2 months later that i HAD actually pooped at this point. good to know. i am retroactively mortified. i doubt any embarrassment would have even been felt at that point, but if anything could do it, it would be having about 7 people, including 2 friends and your husband, watch poop come out of you in full light).

probably pooping. (this is the last picture where my stomach actually looks totally pregnant...crazy!)

after each of these half-hearted sneaky pushes i kept looking down at dr C. sort of wishfully expecting her to just be holding a baby. she was just patiently sitting down there on the foot of my bed.

with no baby.

i assumed i had lost my pushing mojo. everyone had been so impressed by my getting judah out in 3 pushes that i had held onto that as a given for this birth. like some people are tall or can flip their eyelids, but i am just a gifted pusher, right? but maybe it was the pitocin that had made me a pushing all-star with judah and i was really going to be stuck doing this for 2 hours! sweet death.

sneaky pushing. you can clearly see that my heart is not in it.

things were getting so painful and stretchy down there that i thought dr. C was reaching into me at one point, and i asked her or yelled at her about it. she lifted her hands and showed me that she wasn't touching me.

ah yes, ye old ring of fire.

it's like the entire mechanism of your vagina gets so pushed down upon and stretched out that it is all one millimeter thin and about to assplode into shreds. layla was ready to straight blow this pop stand.
the next thing i remember i was like, "ok, yall, this sucks! when can i really push?" and jesse, adrienne and dr. C all said, "NOW!" in a way that told me that maybe i had missed them saying to go ahead and really push the first 1 or 2 times. holy cow, i was out of it. i think jesse got down by my face and told me, "she's right there!" i couldnt believe it. i was like, "you can see her?" and he said, "YES! she's so close."

oh. okay then. well, in that case, game on.
the pain of these contractions and her emergence was so brutally intense on so many levels that i really felt like i was pushing myself to my own destruction. it was almost like it would be too much to get this far into the pain and have to come back down and face it again, so the easier thing would be to plunge headfirst into deeper, deepest pain until i just burst through onto the other side...possibly dead (seriously this is how bad it felt).

one way or another, this was my last gasp.

i grabbed onto jesse as my other half and faithful birth partner, and waited for the next contraction.
you can take away my rational mind, but nothing will make me forget what this man means to me. here we go...

at 3:42 pm with one epic mega-push--the first one that i gave all my effort to--which i felt every micrometer of and threatened to explode me from pubic bone to whaletail, i pushed layla out into the world.


adrienne rushes to the computer to note the time of birth, dr. C catches layla, jesse's sees his daughter's birth, and i am suddenly in no pain. i am so relieved, so exhausted, so spent. i am utterly out of it. i can only think, "it's over."

then they hand me my daughter.

as you can see, i am a mess. that thing that i wail/cry is, "it's over." this was our baby, but my body was reeling and going into shock, my mind was trying to grasp the fact that i was holding my daughter while still recovering from the barrage of pain signals it had been drowning in, and i was freaking out because she was silent and so purple. on top of this, my heart was storming in with a crazy amount of love for our daughter and trying to be fully present and unfurled in this moment. it was too much.

it took layla awhile to cry and adrienne preferred to take her over to the neonatal nurse on the other side of the room. this rattled me too, since i had planned to keep the cord attached and hold her for a long time after birth.

in the remainder of that video (which i clipped out), you hear me say, "this is a dream. is this not happening, really?" because i seriously cant believe that my seemingly endless labor is over (in reality, the truly hard part was less than 4 hours). and then when they take layla to the nurse and they tell me she is fine, while layla wails and shows off her lungs, you can hear me whine, "it's over. i dont have to do that anymore!" i distinctly remember the happiness of that thought overshadowing everything. that no more pain was coming. the boogey man was really gone for good.

dr. C delivered the placenta and showed it to me (so weird! so cool! an indispensable organ created just for layla and disposable as soon as she doesnt need it any more. farewell gooey yum-yums!). i also learned that i had almost no tear to speak of. she started mashing aggressively on my abdomen to get my uterus to contract and begin shrinking back to normal size which would also stop the bleeding from the placental detachment. (those contractions are nothing compared to labor, but are painful for a few days after birth. every time i would breastfeed they'd fire up because nursing releases the same hormone that tells the uterus to contract and get small now that the baby is out and its work is done. but just like i had heard, they were way more painful than the after-pains felt with the first baby.)

strangely, despite my brain taking forever to really absorb reality and catch up, my body was ready to go very soon after birth. and after a few minutes, the navy came and rescued rational thought from its captivity.

it was over, i had done it in the exact 1000-years-ago style that i had intended to, and my baby was here! well, not here, over there, being given oxygen and chatting with daddy. i didnt need to be afraid of someone coming in, calling for a do-over and making me go through labor again. i could just focus on this awesome perfect new life! give me that baby!!!

he's done for.

10 minutes after i had handed her over, they brought her back to me. i had torn off my crusty, wet, bloody hospital gown and re-bunched my hair (rationality is gooood). my brain was fully engaged and in love. she was neon red, the way fresh newborns are, fuzzy and crinkle-faced. she looked nothing like judah had. she was not pampers-model cute, but she was utterly perfect. and i knew the cuteness would come (she has NOT disappointed in that area).

she breastfed like a champ from the get go and got a little irate when i pulled her off to readjust:

freaking indignant! i LOVE this. it is so her. she knows what she wants.

an hour after birth, while she was getting washed and tagged and footprinted, i got out of bed and walked to the bathroom to put on some makeup. i had hated how i looked in all of judah's birth pictures. i had come out of anesthesia from having my 4th degree tear repaired in an O.R. straight to meet him and have all the family pictures taken without ever seeing the wreck i was. so i vowed to look somewhat presentable this time.

and with judah, i didnt attempt to walk for over 24 hours because of the tear and repair, and even then it was painful and scary. but this time was like nothing. it was so easy.

i had just pushed a human out of my body through crippling pain which prevented me from even thinking, and yet i was able to walk around on my own an hour later (i guess i could have done it sooner too). the human body is amazing.

like nothing had happened and the stork had just dropped this happy bundle into our life. pain? what pain?

i have thought of a dozen different ways to end this story: talking about natural birth in general, why we chose it, why it worked well for us, what layla meant to our family, how much we love her, how we would do future births if there are any. but those arent really what this story was about. it was my version of the story of how layla embry went from the baby i was pregnant with to the daughter in my arms. the first of her many stories.

so i will just end it here:

the beginning.

judah's birth story here