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Welcome, Amos Elliott! // His Birth Story

I am sitting here in bed beside my sleeping newborn, sipping my second cup of coffee, listening to my mom play with Forest upstairs, unable to believe this is my life! I have absolutely nothing to do, nowhere to be, not a thing more important in this world than to sit right here and soak this in. What a glorious, unsurpassable, and fleeting privilege. The labor is finished. The joy is so sweet.

Before these days fly by too quickly, I wanted to capture them in the way I have before — with the story of our new baby’s birth and first days at home.

(Gil’s birth story is here. Forest’s birth story is here. And Lena was born before this blog began!)

39 weeks!

Those who follow me on Instagram will know that our fourth baby’s due date came and went without event. My mom went home that morning after waiting with us for two days, I took the kids to their last day of VBS at Portico Church, and then Forest and I walked for the 3 hours of VBS… trying to get things started!

I felt frequent, painless contractions, but I’d been feeling them for weeks. My membranes had been stripped for the second time the day before and my midwife had exclaimed that I was “four centimeters but I can stretch you to six!” so it seemed like something could happen any minute.

But it didn’t.

The afternoon passed. I cooked what I referred to as “my last supper” (aka the last meal I wanted to cook for a long time, if I had a choice) and invited my in-laws and brother-in-law over for BBQ chicken and cornbread. We ate out on the porch, me feeling hot and exhausted, uncertain how much longer I would be in this limbo.

Later that evening, around 9pm, I felt like maybe my water had broken, but it was such a small amount of clear fluid that it seemed unlikely. I’ve always had my water broken at the hospital right before each delivery, so I didn’t really know what the experience would be like. Birth is such a unique experience each time, even your fourth time around.

Eventually I called the midwife on call and told her I thought my water had broken, and after talking to me for a while, she surmised I probably had a “high leak,” meaning the bag had broken but would just trickle for hours, and also she wasn’t entirely sure it had broken at all. Elliott and I watched the last episode of C.B. Strike while we waited, and when the leaking didn’t seem to continue, we called the midwife and decided to come in the next morning after a night of rest. More than anything I hoped that labor would start naturally in the night and I wouldn’t need to be induced.

I didn’t rest well that night, of course, and the leaking continued. Also… no contractions. At all.

The next morning I checked in with the midwife on call and made a plan to come in around 9am. We ate a huge, delicious breakfast of blueberry pancakes with my in-laws and then left our three children in their capable hands. Around 9am, Elliott and I finished packing our bags (just in case) and drove to the hospital holding hands… probably to have a baby.

Driving to the hospital to have a baby!

All was quiet on the L&D unit; we seemed to be almost the only patients there. We settled into a triage room, and our midwife did a couple of tests to see if my water really had broken. Yes, it had! So now I needed to get some antibiotics (due to being GBS positive), and after 4 hours she planned to start some pitocin to help the baby move down, then break my water, and then have the baby.

Settling into the labor and delivery room… always a surreal experience.

It was now around 10:30am. I got an IV, moved into a regular L&D room (the nicest on the unit, and with a tub–that I would never use!), and met my nurse, a peaceful, kind woman. She started my antibiotics, and my midwife started some aromatherapy as well, which was a relaxing touch.  

A little light reading while in labor. This book is HILARIOUS, highly recommend!

Meanwhile, two things started happening. The first was that I was having contractions now that were 3-5 minutes apart, and were growing slightly painful. Around 12pm, the contractions picked up, and I was now having to breathe through them. My nurse changed the position of the bed so that it was like a giant chair, and we talked between the contractions, which were about 3 minutes apart now.

The second issue was that the baby’s heart rate had gone up, and was now consistently 190 beats/minute (when it should be 140s-150s). My midwife was getting concerned, so she gave me a bolus of fluid and also brought the attending MD on call in to meet me just in case things got more serious. She also finished breaking my water (there was a pocket of water around the baby’s head), which would certainly speed up labor.

I got up to use the bathroom and saw what I thought was meconium (baby poop) in the toilet. This shows the baby is probably in distress and needs to be born quickly to prevent infection and aspiration of the meconium. I reported this to my midwife, who thought it was unlikely, but checked.

I was right, unfortunately.

(I learned later that this was a pretty tenuous time, and I was beginning to be in danger of a c-section because of the baby’s distress.)

Meanwhile, after using the bathroom and having my water broken, the contractions had really picked up. I have never had an epidural, but after my midwife checked me right then and said I was still only 8cm, I started to think about asking for one. I thought I still had a ways to go, and it also always takes me a while to push because I don’t have that classic “urge to push” that so many women do. I thought I had at least an hour of misery still ahead of me. I’ve done this same thing three times already, and I knew so well that harrowing tunnel of pain that I had to get through in order to have a baby. For a few moments, it seemed more than I could bear again. I said the words in my head, trying them out, imagining me saying them out loud. “Can I have an epidural?”

However, when the next contraction hit, I decided to push just to do something through the pain, and I could feel the baby begin to move. I tried again as my midwife hastily pulled on her sterile gloves and gown. Then I pushed again, and my midwife told me firmly that I needed to do that once more right now. Elliott told me later this was because the baby’s head had already been born, and I had no idea. I buckled down and did what she said, pushing with all my might, and our baby was born in a glorious, familiar rush into the world.

Elliott soothing our baby while the NICU team worked on him. He was so responsive to Elliott’s voice–became so calm when Elliott talked and said “shh”!

They immediately put him up on my chest and everyone started rubbing and patting him because, terrifyingly, he looked pretty gray. He also wasn’t crying out or opening his eyes like all my babies have done right away. I could hear the charge nurse saying, “Come on, baby. Hmm, I don’t like this.”

Knowing he needed to be skin to skin, I opened my floral robe, only to remember I’d kept on a cute nursing nightgown… everything had happened too quickly to change into a hospital gown! Word to the wise: forgo cute and be prepared.

Elliott and I were thankful, in awe, and slightly worried all at once. He was here! He was definitely a boy! He had all 10 fingers and all 10 toes, and a mop of dark brown hair, and he looked so much like his siblings right away. Our baby, on my chest, in our arms! It is miraculous and insane and glorious that we have been given this unbelievable gift–a child, a baby, our own flesh and blood–not once, not twice, but four times now. Thanks be to God!

But even as we gasped and marveled and touched him for the first time, the medical team was getting increasingly concerned. After a few minutes of rubbing him on my chest, they whisked him away onto the baby warmer right as the Pediatric team from the NICU finally strolled in, shocked to find the baby had already been born. They went to work suctioning his throat and nose and watching him, and eventually he pinked up, but he was still breathing very very quickly (about 90-110 breaths/minute when the acceptable average is 40-60). His oxygen saturation was now consistently in the low 90s, but would often drop to 85-89%. (Although the acceptable average for babies is 85-95%, the ideal in all humans is 98-100%.) When they did give him back to me, I tried to get him to nurse, but unlike all my other babies, he didn’t seem to have any interest. He was just too exhausted from breathing.

After nursing him for the first time — so thankful he’s doing better!

An hour went by of observation, snuggling skin to skin, and monitoring. Finally, after about two hours, his breathing rate had slowed down a little, and he seemed more relaxed, less strained. Our baby was able to nurse, and I was so relieved and thankful to see him respond and latch on. I’ve always nursed my babies within minutes of birth and been so thankful to see their reflexes kick in to nurture themselves. The relief was all the sweeter this time after waiting a couple of hours.

Around 4:30 the nurses felt comfortable enough with his breathing to put him through the distress of his first shots and weighing and measuring him. We were all astonished to learn that he was a hefty 8lbs 13.6oz! Almost 9lbs! Lena was 8lbs 4oz (two days late), Gil was 8lbs 3oz (5 days early), and Forest was a little peanut at 7lbs 7oz on his due date. Where did this huge baby come from?! Everyone was assuming he’d be smaller since he was so active in utero and even turned sideways two weeks before his due date. Athletic little guy, beefing up in there!

Elliott’s Father’s Day gift… a day early

Elliott went out to get me a snack and came back with a huge mocha from the coffee stand where I used to get mochas between nursing school classes in college. I hadn’t had one in years but so many memories came rushing back! He was also bearing two slices of pizza and a giant M&M brownie. Food never tasted so good. Our nurse nodded in pleased approval as Elliott fed me the pizza and I nursed our precious newborn. All as it should be!

Around 6pm the medical team gave the OK for us to move from the L&D unit to the postpartum unit, which also meant that our little boy didn’t have to go to the NICU. Sweet relief! I was feeling great at this point, so I walked over to the unit instead of riding in a wheelchair. Little did I know I had a lot of walking and time on my feet ahead of me.

We basked in the spacious beauty of the postpartum room, something we’d been looking forward to for months. The huge windows looked out over UVA, and we had a stunning view of the Rotunda, St. Paul’s steeple, and even glimpses of the Corner. Elliott left for about an hour to pick up a huge celebratory sushi dinner and a bottle of Flying Fox sparkling wine that we’d been chilling in the fridge since our babymoon.

Beautiful postpartum room at UVA.

And now, dear readers, I’m going to take a break here. I’ll be back soon with the rest of our hospital story, as things took a turn for the worse right after this and there is much more to tell! To be continued later this week…

5 :: in Uncategorized

Elliott’s First Book — and a Giveaway to Win Your Copy!

FullSizeRender(4) I’m so excited to share some big news with you today: my husband’s first book was just published!

Elliott has been working on this novel since before Gil was born, beginning with weekend mornings and workday evenings in Sicily when he would quietly close the bedroom door for a few hours, turn off the internet on his computer, and write. Even though it was a long, long road to get to this point — a published novel!!! — he never lost that gleam of excitement in his eye. He had a story, a good story, and he couldn’t wait to get it on paper and out into the world.

So what is the story? Cole McBride, a Special Forces veterinarian, is in the Congo doing research when he discovers a family of gorillas suffering from an unknown illness. With his beautiful South African coworker, he cares for an orphaned gorilla suffering from the illness, and then learns that a nearby aid hospital just admitted a patient with a strangely similar human case. Cole realizes he’s in a race against time to discover the virus’s origins and to stop it from spreading around the world. His journey spans the globe from Iran to Washington, D.C., and leads up to a white-knuckle 4th of July finale.

The Chimera Sequence falls squarely into the thriller category, and it is much more interesting and a lot harder to put down than most of the books I recommended last week! The book has been extremely well-received since it was released a few weeks ago: he has 44 reviews on Amazon (4.7 stars!), 32 reviews on Audible (4.2 stars), and 24 reviews on Goodreads (4.47 stars).

Yes, it’s on Audible, too, and he got an amazing narrator to read the book — just in case audio books are more your speed!

Every step along the way, Elliott has made thousands of decisions about exactly how this book should look, from each word on the page to the font to the cover design to the author photograph. And for each and every decision, he’s turned to me and asked my opinion, or asked for my help. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times we examined another draft of the cover together before he ultimately decided to change one more thing! It was truly amazing to be by his side for all of it, to edit the first rough draft, to take his author photo for the back cover, to hold the first proof in my hands.

Bit by bit, I watched my husband craft a beautiful thing. He was a perfectionist about it, thoughtful and meticulous, and I watched his stamina and dedication with awe. Even now, when I see copies in our house, I’m amazed that he did this and it’s finished. The book is beautiful, and we’re so proud of him and of it!

The_Chimera_Sequence_Elliott_Garber copy

And now it’s your turn! Would you like to win a copy, signed by the author himself? Just comment on this post for a chance to win! If you’d like to earn extra entries, you can share this blog post (or a link to Elliott’s book) on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another social media platform, and let me know that you did so in a comment.

Winner will be chosen next Wednesday, Sept 30, at midnight and announced the next morning. Good luck and happy reading!!!

69 :: in Uncategorized

On Becca’s Bookshelf // February Edition

Recently Updated250 Don’t you love how I stuck those wonderful children’s books in there? ;) I thought that might make some of you smile! And since they took more than 10 minutes to read aloud to my daughter, I decided to count them so that I can remember some of the sweetest things I read in 2015.

Here’s the rundown of what I read in February:

  • Burial Rights by Hannah Kent — My Australian friend Clare wrote to me, wondering if I’d heard of this novel. “It is one the best books I have read in a long time.” With a recommendation like that, I put it on hold at the library right away. And Clare was right! It is based on the true story of a young Icelandic woman who is involved in the murder of three men, and she was the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland in the early 1800s. The author first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir when she was a high school exchange student in Iceland, and — at the age of 28 — she published this fictionalized account. It is a breathtaking debut and has received critical acclaim around the world. I loved this window into a frozen, unknown land through Kent’s beautiful writing. — 4 stars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White — I think Lena (who will be four next month) was still too young to appreciate the beauty and complexity of this book. However, she still enjoyed the story, and the book dazzled me. I loved the raw honesty about life and death and growing up, and the last lines brought tears to my eyes. If you need a refreshing dip back into the simpler, black-and-white world of childhood, I would highly recommend reading this book again. And if you have a mature four-year-old or older, drop everything and read this aloud with him or her! — 5 stars
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart — I picked up this book and literally couldn’t put it down until I turned the last page at 1am. Gripping and shocking and desperate and sad, but also beautiful and tender. You will enjoy it if you love New England summers, young adult fiction, and reading about the real, raw pain underneath the smooth surface of a person. Gut-wrenching, so be prepared for a hard story and incredible plot twists. — 3 stars
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink Dense and intense! It is the story of one hospital during Hurricane Katrina where one doctor and two nurses (and maybe others) euthanized several very sick patients. The story is, of course, much more convoluted than that, and it is fascinating to see media, morals, and medicine collide in the smarmy wake that Katrina left behind. Make sure you’re up for 450 pages of detailed, vibrant reporting about medical ethics, disaster management, and legal quandaries. 4 stars
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod — I already shared part of this book here and gave away a copy of it with the author, so you know I enjoyed it! Paris Letters isn’t for everyone, though. Janice is telling her own story, and some may find her narrative style heavy-handed and her life choices questionable, much like Lunch in Paris. Still, I was inspired that she made her dreams come true (to quit her job and travel the world) and still dreamier things followed (like her very own wedding in Paris). — 4 stars
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder Better than I ever remembered. What beautiful, simple, soothing writing about a sliver of time in American history. Lena and I snuggled under blankets and traveled back in time into the cold Big Woods, where Ma churned butter and Pa played his fiddle and Laura and Mary learned about sugar snow and hog killing and harvest time.  These books are such a gift to subsequent generations, and I can’t wait to read them aloud for years with my children. — 5 stars

Have you read any of these books? Any other suggestions for this little book-loving community on this blog? You have already suggested some wonderful ones… thank you!

23 :: in good reads, On Becca’s Bookshelf, Uncategorized

My Favorite Blogs!

Recently Updated258

Recently my friend Jenn asked if I’d do a roundup of my favorite blogs, mostly because she wanted to know some of the resources that have shaped my views about marriage, parenting, and hospitality. It’s always fun to know what inspires your friends, don’t you think?

Well, I thought about it, and I realized I don’t read very many blogs that specifically address any of these things. I don’t read blogs that are faith-based, and I don’t read blogs that take themselves very seriously. However, all of the blogs I do read tend to have common themes that influence my marriage, parenting, and hospitality. Those themes are:

Life is brutal and beautiful (thank you, Glennon), your husband is your best friend, your kids deserve your respect and your adoration, and the happiest place in the world is [often] a dinner table with friends and family.

The really deep stuff — the nuts and bolts and wisdom of parenting, marriage, and opening up your home — I find in great books, wise friends, and my own husband. Probably you’d say the same? (But if you do know good blogs for these things, please share!)

So anyway, without further ado, my favorite blogs:

Motherhood is Crazy (& Wonderful)

Camp Patton, aka Grace, for her ability to make me laugh till I cry. She’s a young mom of soon-to-be five (!!!) kids and wife to a medical resident, and her life revolves around feeding her children and going to Costco in order to feed said children. She has admirable fashion sense and flair for the dramatic, and her posts are always the first I read. This is one of my favorite posts by her. Her Instagram is fun too.

Love Taza because hers was the first blog I ever read regularly and because we lived on Capitol Hill together with our baby daughters at the same time (although I didn’t find that out till after the fact…). She’s sunny and kind and loves being a mother, which is refreshing as well as inspiring. Plus it’s fun to get an inside view into a family’s life in NYC.

Kate Baer for her amazing monthly music playlists, her honest writing about motherhood and womanhood, her short and poignant posts (definitely not my strong suit!), and her pretty Instagram feed. She challenges me.

Tulips & Flightsuits because Mary is a fellow UVA grad and a military wife, and because she writes so beautifully about what is good and true in this life. She doesn’t blog often because she just had her second baby, but whatever she writes strikes a chord. Her archives of her newlywed life are so fun, too!

Glennon of Momastery because of this. And this. And THIS.

Life is Lovely

Dear Friend for the beauty in Anna’s soul that infuses her blog and pictures and clothing and home decor and life! Hers is my favorite Instagram feed, maybe because she lives in Boston. She’s getting married in June!

Reading My Tea Leaves for Erin’s focus on simple, beautiful objects and clearing out flashy clutter. She lives with her husband in a tiny apartment in NYC and just had a baby, and I really respect a lot of the choices she makes about “things.”

Tales of Me and the Husband because Bridget also has great taste and honest words. More points for Boston, too!

Accomplished Women

Modern Mrs. Darcy, aka Anne, because her tagline (“redefining the accomplished woman”) is so awesome and so broad, as is her blog. However, she focuses primarily on books, and her recommendations are spot on. She’s never led me astray in what to read, and my reading list is heavily populated by her favorites now.

A Cup of Jo because it’s like reading a smart but relevant women’s lifestyle magazine in tiny doses every day.

Putting Me Together for her budget-friendly style advice and clothing round-ups.

So Creative!

The Purl Bee because everything they make is so gorgeous and — usually — so simple. Their abundant free patterns for knitting, sewing, quilting, and embroidery make them my #1 resource for patterns and inspiration.

Camellia Fiber Company because her knitting is everything that knitting should be: warm, beautiful, homespun, and filled with love.

(I do not read one single cooking/foodie blog. Bad or good?!)

Friendly Hall of Fame

Our Beautiful Mess which belongs to our favorites, the Arthur family. Her weekly portraits of her children are a labor of love and capture their personalities so well!

Joy of Jo which belongs to my dear friend Johanna, who just started a cooking blog with delicious, homegrown recipes.

Flourish by Esther which belongs to lovely Esther, a magnificent photographer and deep, thoughtful soul.

Journeys of Jax and Oliver which belongs to my college friend Jen. She has beautifully chronicled her son’s successful recovery from scoliosis!

Jumbled Up Joy which belongs to my internet friend Joy, homeschooling mother of soon-to-be FIVE and the first person I’d want to see in Hawaii.

Live in Love and Love to Live which belongs to another internet friend, Carrie, who is raising her family in Mexico, and blogging beautifully about it, too!

Happily Married… to the Cows! Alica lives on a farm in Amish Country in Pennsylvania, and some days I want her life and some days I don’t. ;) She blogs faithfully and honestly about life on a small dairy farm.

… and more that I know I’m missing! … and there are so many friends out there that I wish would blog!

But are blogs becoming a thing of the past? Maybe…? Do you read fewer blogs than you used to? I’ve been wondering this lately.

Curious to hear your thoughts and your favorite blogs!

19 :: in Uncategorized

Hello, Coronado!


The days are zipping by at a fantastic rate, and before I know it… we will have lived in California for one month! September 7, I’m looking at you. The days have been long but this month has been short.

In an attempt to chronicle these early days, I went through a bunch of photos on my phone (including some from my Instagram), and thought I’d share the highlights with you all today. Come take a walk down memory lane…


My mom and dad arrived the same day we did, and my mom took this photo of us before one of our first walks around our neighborhood. That’s the entrance to our house; I shared a lot of photos of it here. We’re living in a beautiful little town on an island called Coronado, which is located just off the coast of San Diego. Elliott is only 1.5 miles from work, which is also in Coronado.


First things first: we bought a car! We had done a little research and knew we wanted a Honda Odyssey (MINIVAN… ack!!!) so we have room for visitors, friends, and family. As you can see, we put our money where our mouth was the very first time we drove our car. Hi, Mom and Dad!


L: Some things are the same no matter where you live, like your baby in his highchair eating yogurt. I love the simplicity and familiarity of this scene.

R: The same weekend we moved in, our friends John and Mari visited with their son. Lena pulled them around the driveway in one of the many boxes we have around here…


L: We baked cookies and took them to our neighbors which is a great way to make friends! There are a bunch of kids on our block, and we’re excited to get to know them better.

R: Later that week my mom, the kids, and I took my first trip to Target since we moved back, and my mom treated me to a macchiato and the kids to cake pops! Man oh man, those things are delish.


My mom, the kids, and I spent hours walking around Coronado and admiring houses. This one on Olive Ave might be my favorite (but its neighbor comes in a close second). That garden!


Annnnnd the car already has problems. So humbling! So frustrating! Honda said it was their fault due to an issue in the engine and fixed it for us, but the fixing took five days and a rental car.


One night in August, the Coronado Library hosted a pirate party for local families. The kids decorated pirate hats, played games, grilled hot dogs, decorated cupcakes, and danced to a pirate band. I think I officially fell in love with Coronado that night.


Speaking of the library, this happened the next morning. I arrived at 9:50, but the library didn’t open till 10. I watched in awe as a huge crowd — at least 75 people — gathered outside the doors, waiting for the stroke of 10. Obviously it’s a well-loved, beautiful resource for many, many people in this town. I’m definitely one of them; I’ve been to the library almost every day since we got here!


Little Italy Farmers’ Market and breakfast burritos. All more delicious than I could imagine.


On our first trip to the beach, we found an injured cormorant. Elliott the Veternarian-slash-Hero called Wildlife Animal Rescue and then showed them how to gently capture and carry the bird away.


Another day, another beach. This time we were invited for dinner at a friends’ oceanfront house. I love these kids!


L: Lena taking selfies to send to one of her aunts and uncles.

R: Gil in front of the “tea house,” the little studio in our house’s backyard where my dad will be staying every month. He works outside San Diego and spends a part of each month here, even though he and my mom live in Virginia. More details in this post. We’re so excited about this!


Gil fell off the couch and seemed to have a lot of pain near his shoulder, and the kids’ new pediatrician confirmed that he’d broken his collarbone. This photo was taken during the three hours (!) we spent in the clinic that morning getting x-rays and waiting for results. I blew up two gloves and tied them together as a toy, which amused the kids for exactly 10 minutes of those three hours.


L: Marmee and Grampa (Elliott’s parents) came to visit as well! We loved our peaceful week with them, and Lena was especially grateful for a constant playmate. Lena worked on this bead design with Marmee for hours and hours, and they were so proud when they finally finished it!

R: Gil gets my locked phone and somehow manages to have conversations with Siri and take pictures of it.


Elliott is embarking on a new adventure as an urban gardener. He ordered six of these planters and set them up with tomatoes, strawberries, beans, and squash. So far I’m a huge fan of how neat and clean they are on our balcony, and we’re excited to begin harvesting this fall!


L: With access to such a huge library, I’ve been going crazy reading so many books I’ve waited so long to read. This particular one wasn’t great literature, but I ate it up in a day. Here are more books I’ve read and loved lately.

R: Every Sunday evening in the summer, Coronado hosts a concert in the park. We’ve gone to every one that we can, and it’s totally heart-warming to see the whole town picnicking on blankets, dancing by the pavilion, and savoring summertime together.


Everyone is loving our new house, including our Maine Coon, Siena.


L: Playground straight out of paradise.

R: Lena continues to love puzzles, putting them together completely independently and then turning to me with glowing pride.


And lastly, I’ve started running again. After three years of living in a tiny Italian town where jogging was impossible due to narrow streets and nonexistent sidewalks, it’s so refreshing to go for a run outside. I caught this sunrise last week by the bay. Who wouldn’t want to get up for that?!


And now you know a little (or too much…) about our new life here. Thanks for sticking with me through all the photos and stories! Catch you again here later this week, I hope. ;)

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19 :: in Coronado, family, life lately, moving in, Uncategorized

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