Introducing Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

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Book Review: Be the Dad She Needs You to Be

Because we are about to have a baby girl any day now, I thought this was a perfect book to pick up for my husband to read. This review is from his perspective.

Be the Dad She Needs You to Be by Dr. Kevin Leman describes many specific situations where simply being present isn’t enough. You have to know your daughter(s) in ways that you never thought necessary, and this can be difficult for men because men don’t always naturally think like women. One of the greatest examples given is in regards to the drama that girls tend to gravitate toward; he emphasizes the importance of keeping your cool and listening, because sometimes that is all she needs you to do.

I loved the number of suggestions and personal examples that he gives throughout the book, and especially the stories from other people about how his teachings have worked well with raising their daughters.

I think it will help me be a better father in the sense that I can be very selfish, as we all can, and I might not naturally think of a lot of things that my daughter is going to need. This book was very blunt and clear about how to discipline, set boundaries, etc. Ultimately, this book reminded me that a daughter needs a dad who is very involved, and that can be the very thing that sets her up for success in this world.

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

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Book Review: Woman of Courage

Woman of Courage, by Wanda E. Brunstetter, is set in pre-Civil War America.  It is a tale of a young Quaker woman named Amanda Pearson, who, after being rejected by her fiancé, decides to set out on a cross-country journey from New York to Oregon Territory to become a missionary to the Nez Perce Indians.

Along her journey she suffers personal losses, a near fatal injury and is rescued by a man named Buck McFadden.  McFadden takes her to another trappers cabin where Amanda meets a young Indian woman and her white, trapper husband.

As she recovers from her injuries, she is able to share the love of Christ with each of them. The book ends with Amanda eventually completing her journey to the Oregon territory, with some surprising twists along the way.

While I did not care for some of the twists, I cannot deny Ms. Brunstetter’s ability to keep the story flowing and the reader interested.  She weaves a dramatic tale of loss, gain and learning to trust in the Lord Jesus.

I received a copy of this book from Handlehar Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to my friend Ashleigh for this great review!

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Book Review: Knowing God by Name by David Wilkerson

Knowing someone’s name doesn’t tell you anything about who they are inside; rather, you have to get to know them to discover their character and personality. The same applies to God – we have to know Him in order to know who He is and what He is like.

Knowing God by Name: Names of God That Bring Hope and Healing provides commentary on many of the Hebrew names of God that are seen throughout the Bible – names that describe His character and reveal part of who He is in ways that we can understand. These names were shown in action, not just in words:

He did not try to reveal Himself by announcing to Abraham or Moses: “The following names describe my nature…Now go and learn these and discover who I am.” These Hebrew expressions do describe the wondrous glories and provisions that are wrapped up in our Lord’s character, but God revealed these aspects of His nature by actually doing for His people what He proclaimed Himself to be. Time and again He saw His children’s need, foresaw the enemy’s strategy against them and intervened supernaturally on their behalf (p. 10).

I was familiar with many of the names mentioned in this book, but there were many that I had never heard before! I really liked the way that the author set up each chapter, starting with the story in the Bible where the name is most found and ending with how this particular name can provide hope in our lives. My only dislike was the author’s use of the King James Version whenever he quoted Scripture, but that is my personal preference.

Read this book and discover for yourself more about the Lord’s character as He reveals it throughout His Word.

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

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Book Review: Parenting the Wholehearted Child by Jeannie Cunnion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: I Like Giving by Brad Formsma

When I was given the chance to review this book, I immediately accepted! My husband and I both love to give whenever possible, so I couldn’t wait to see what this book offered. I came away with a greater determination to give whenever possible and to encourage others to live a generous life.

I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life alternates between powerful true stories of creative giving and lessons that discuss how giving affects us and those around us, whether we realize it or not. It is filled with practical ideas of how you can live a generous life – and not all of them involve money!

Among other things, the author emphasizes that giving is something that you get to do, not something that you have to do. He also talks about how to raise kids who have a sensitivity to meeting the needs of others – and as a soon-to-be parent, I especially loved those lessons!

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes:

Before we became givers, our lives were pretty empty. We were living the American Dream and were good at it, but it turned out to be more of a nightmare than a dream. Ultimately, it was superficial. When your life is just about your next restaurant dinner, the next remodeling project, or the next lifestyle upgrade, it’s not that rich. Sure, money can buy things, but money can’t buy joy. Joy doesn’t come from filling your life with stuff. Joy comes from giving your life away (p. 20).

…what we’ve learned has convinced us that giving is absolutely essential to life. If you’re not experiencing happiness and satisfaction in your life, giving to others could be the one thing that turns that around. Not only does it result in a healthier, happier you, but it creates a better world for all of us. Because here’s the problem: we live in a world that sends us mixed messages. On one hand, we’re told to work hard and compete and position ourselves in a fast-moving work environment so we can make as much money as possible and get ahead. On the other hand, we sit in churches or go to fund-raisers where we are asked to be generous. We are bombarded with billboards that tell us we need to be less selfish, that we need to give back or feel guilty about how many people live on less than one dollar a day. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves in a lose-lose situation. I believe there’s another way – a better way. Living generously is about giving your life to other people so that everything you do – whether it is your work, your charitable giving, or your contribution to your neighborhood – becomes both a gift to others and rewarding for yourself (pp. 24-25).

If you feel like something is missing in your life, I’d encourage you to pick up this book and give a generous lifestyle a try. If you already love to give, this book will renew that love of giving and provide you with even more ideas for how to serve others!

You can read chapter one here!

I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook Press in exchange for my honest review. 

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First Pregnancy: 37 Weeks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Pregnancy: 35 Weeks and Counting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still can’t believe we’re having a baby THIS month. Not months from now. Soon. We’re definitely ready to meet her and see her little personality! <3

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Book Review: Chateau of Secrets

Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson is a fascinating historical fiction novel with two connected stories, occurring seventy years apart, being told a chapter at a time. One story takes place in France in the 1940s, during WWII; the other takes place in 2014 in Richmond, VA and eventually in France as well.

Chloe’s life isn’t going exactly as she had imagined – her fiance isn’t the person she thought he was, and her family’s history is filled with mysteries that her grandmother continues to reference vaguely in her dementia. Chloe has an opportunity to go to France to help with a documentary being made which includes stories from her family’s chateau near Normandy, and while she is there she begins to unlock the secrets of her grandmother’s involvement in WWII.

I really enjoyed this book! It kept my attention throughout; and, because each story was told in alternating chapters, the suspense continued to build as the stories became increasingly intertwined. It’s a beautiful story of redemption, of grace, of standing up for what is right no matter the consequences. It also gives a glimpse into what life was like in Nazi-occupied France during WWII – a perspective that is not frequently discussed. We must never forget what happened to the Jewish people during this terrible war, and fiction like this helps to remind us.

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

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Easily Offended…

of·fend·ed (əˈfendid) adjective: resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.

Of all the things that bother me about the way our culture in America has changed during my lifetime, the tendency to be so easily offended is probably at the top of my list. It’s something I don’t understand, and, unfortunately, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

You don’t dare say something that might “offend” anyone, even if it is the truth. This goes hand-in-hand with our culture’s lawsuit mentality – another thing that drives me crazy. People live their lives in fear that they might accidentally say or do something that someone will sue them over, and it has become absolutely ridiculous.

I worked in the political arena – as a volunteer and as an employee – for several years, and I saw this all the time. In the political world, people allow party lines to be roadblocks to open communication. In the legislature, simply knowing that a bill was written by someone of the opposite party can mean that it won’t pass, despite its merit and worth to society. People choose to be offended simply because someone sees something differently than they do. This is especially amusing because our culture says that everything is relative…

One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from the movie The American President – which is one of my favorite movies of all time.

‘America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”‘
– The American President

Our Founding Fathers didn’t agree on everything, but they didn’t let these differences prevent them from coming up with solutions. They had reasonable discourse, even if heated at times, and they were respectful of different ideas (as evidenced in many documents from that time). They realized that we all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas, and all of them are worthy of consideration. If we all thought the same way and believed the same things, life would be incredibly boring and we would have nothing to discuss. Yet, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully dialogue and discuss issues with the intent of truly learning from the other side.

Our country was founded on the concepts of several freedoms, one being the Freedom of Speech – and that freedom only works if you are willing to respectfully listen to those who disagree with you (as the quote above says). History aside, this is a significant problem in our culture today.

In terms of the Freedom of Religion, the best example I can come up with at the moment is Christmas: Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is a religious holiday – more specifically, a Christian holiday. But, don’t you dare mention Jesus or have a Nativity scene set up to celebrate, because you might offend someone.

Yes, I realize our culture has largely changed Christmas into a secular holiday as well and has made it all about gifts and Santa and whatever else, but it is supposed to be about JESUS. It’s not called “Christmas Vacation” anymore in schools because you might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday (which, really, is a very small amount of people since it has become so secularized). People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” for the same reason (even though holiday comes from “holy day” so it’s essentially the same thing). When did we become so sensitive, and why?

This is something I simply cannot understand, because I have never been offended by a Jewish menorah or Star of David. I have never been offended by Kwanzaa or Ramadan. I have never tried to secularize these holidays so that I can benefit from the celebrations. Why? I recognize the right of these groups to celebrate what they believe in openly and publicly. As long as what they are doing is not destructive or harmful, then why does it matter what they celebrate? It doesn’t. So why are Christians and Christian holidays singled out as being so offensive?

From a theological standpoint, I understand why people are offended by Jesus. The Gospel offends because it acknowledges sin in our lives and we don’t like to be told that we are wrong. There is also a very real enemy who roams around the earth trying to turn people against Jesus. I get all of that. But it seems like the only religion that brings offense in our culture is Christianity. 

I maintain that it is a choice to be offended. It is a choice to refuse to listen to the other side of the issue and discuss things rationally. And the root of this is selfishness - “it’s all about me, so don’t you dare do anything that I don’t like.” We have forgotten how to love our neighbors. We have forgotten that each person has value and deserves to be respected. We have forgotten that there’s a huge difference between tolerance (“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with“) and acceptance, and we let our emotions and selfishness rule our behavior.

This is a dangerous path and if we don’t take the time to instill within the younger generations what true tolerance is, and encourage them to not be easily offended, things are only going to be worse in the future.

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