Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chantzlyn's Birth Story- Part 1

I'm so excited to finally get to sit down and write this post.  It has taken me weeks at different points in time to sit down and get this all out.  It's a long one, so brace yourself {and this is only part 1- I had to divide it up}.

It has been something that has been on my heart and mind since the day we got to meet our sweet Chantzlyn Hope.  It is a day I will forever treasure.  I hate that my fall and winter schedule was so crazy {between photo sessions, edits, holidays, and just life with four precious girls} and time is just now allowing me to sit down and write this all out.

First off, if you missed Chantzlyn's pre-birth story, you should click HERE and read that first to be caught up.

So,Wednesday, October 7th Jess was to be at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene at 5:00am to check in to be induced.  Lantz and I showed up at 5:00 to be there with her when she checked in.  When we got there though, she had already checked into her room and was already in her hospital gown working on paperwork with her dad, Calvin, right by her side.

Sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 that morning the nurses got Jess's IV going & pitocin started. Of course being in Abilene meant that it was like an unwritten rule that Lantz and I needed to eat breakfast burritos at La Popular... but, really the unwritten rule is for me, and Lantz simply goes along with it.  {Seriously though, I do love me some La Popular!}  So.... Lantz headed to La Popular which was so conveniently just right across the street from the hospital, to bring back some breakfast while the nurses got things going for Jess.  The funny thing was that while Lantz left our birth photographer, Micah, called me to let me know she was eating breakfast at La Popular and then was headed over. Ha! I told her she might bump into Lantz there. :)

So Micah, our birth photographer, showed up at about 6:45 or 7:00am to be with us for the day.  Let me just take a moment and tell you how amazing this woman of God truly is....

First off, when Lantz and I first met Jess I asked her if she'd consider having a birth photographer present during the birth.  I wanted so desperately to have this moment etched into history and have it so well documented so that when Chantzlyn got old enough and started asking questions she would have pictures to show the love that was present from the moment (but really before) she entered this world.  I wanted Jess to have pictures to look back on so that she could see God's hand in her story and she could see the strength and beauty that filled her on that special day.  And of course I wanted these pictures to show the love story of our family being completed by God Himself.  I also wanted to have pictures in case there was some chance that Jess went into labor and I was in McKinney and didn't make it in town in time for the birth, that at least I'd have pictures of the whole event.... But luckily we know that wasn't the case!

But back to Micah.... I have no doubt that the Lord led us straight to her. Jess and I began to search high and low for the perfect photographer for our special day and for our special baby girl.  There were several leads and several options that seemed to come to fruition, but something kept tugging at my heart when I saw Micah's work.... and then once I spoke to her, I felt something so convicting inside.  I just couldn't shake that she was supposed to be with us on that day.  Our conversation was so seasoned with grace and love and the Lord, and my heart felt immediately drawn to her.  And she was clearly INSANELY talented.  All it took was one browse of her website to look at her work and I was completely SOLD.

Micah was unsure about it all at first because her heart beats for engagement and wedding photography.  But this is what drew me to her even more.... she is in the business to tell love stories and that was exactly what I wanted her to do.  I wanted so desperately for her to be able to "tell" Chantzlyn's love story.  A story with a birth mother who loved her more than anything in the world... so much love that she was willing to bless our family with our fourth daughter.  The love story of her birth grandparents who loved their daughter and granddaughter with such a love that they helped bring Chantzlyn to us.  A love story of Chantzlyn's half brother meeting her for the first time.  A love story of Chantzlyn's sisters and grandparents who came all the way to Abilene for the special day and waited so patiently to meet her.  And our love story of us getting to meet our 4th daughter for the first time and finally feeling as though our family is complete....Really God's love story for all of us in bringing all of our families together.

Micah and Jess had the chance to meet up and get to know one another.  I told Jess that in the end I just wanted her to be comfortable and at ease and have peace with whichever photographer we decided on.  I was so excited when Jess said that she liked Micah and would be happy and comfortable with her there. Micah and talked again about what our expectations were and she spent some time in prayer about the possible birth photography.  I was so excited and beyond thrilled when she said that she would do the pictures for us!

This sweet lady's talent is unmatched and I couldn't have imagined anyone else there with us on that special day.  You will see from the pictures below that her work did more than we could have ever imagined.... that she completely and 100% was able to capture the love that day.  Her presence with us was peaceful and she brought a Christian love to the table that I know we all benefitted from that day.  I will take a second to say that if you are in the Abilene area and you or someone you know needs a wedding photographer or someone to do your engagements then you should definitely contact her.  She also has a super fun photo booth that you could set up at any social gathering or event for an extra fun time.  Click HERE to go to her website and check out all her work.

Also around 7:00 Jess got her nurse that would be with us all day, and you'll never guess who it was!  Jess's sweet, sweet nurse from Friday, Stephanie!  {You can read about her in Chantzln's pre-birth story HERE.} It was so great that another familiar face was with us.  Stephanie provided amazing care to Jess and friendship to all of us the whole time and again proved that God had gone before all of us to bring the very best for Chantzlyn and Jess.

Somewhere around 7:15 to 7:30 Jess's doctor comes by to check in on her, pray with us all, and break her water.  Did you catch that?! ... To pray with us.  I was so impressed by Dr. Tadvick.  I was blessed to go to a few of Jess's doctor's appointments and so I got a chance to meet him before the birth. Jess told me that he prayed for her at every appointment!  I LOVE that!  How many doctors do you know that do that?! Again, God's hand at work again in bringing Chantzlyn into this world and to remind Jess of HIS great love for her.

Jess got an epidural around 8:00 and so we all had to leave the room for that.  Unfortunately, her first epidural was a bit of a miss and didn't work all the way and so shortly thereafter she had to have another one. I don't envy that at all.  I also had to have two epidurals with both Kennedie & Sawyer Sue because they missed my spine.  My heart was sad for Jess to have to go through it twice, but she is so brave and did great.  After the second one she was doing much better.

Sometime in that morning time frame - maybe around 9:00am- Jess's mom, Gail, came up to the hospital too.  She had to get Brayden, Jess's son off to school.

Shortly thereafter was a bit of a rough patch to the day for me.  The head nurse and lactation consultant came in and asked how Chantzlyn was going to be fed.  Jess and I both smiled and were proud to say that I was going to be able to breastfeed her.  I had worked hard continuing to breastfeed Preslee specifically to keep my milk in for Chantzlyn.  It was a dream of mine to be able to breastfeed our adopted child just like I did the other three.  It was one of the best moments ever when we first met Jess for her to actually ask me if I'd consider breastfeeding Chantzlyn before I ever brought the subject up.  I almost burst into tears with excitement when she expressed her feelings of wanting the best for Chantzlyn and her believing that it was best for me to breastfeed her.  The Lord truly had His hand in all of this even down to the small things.

So, when the head nurse and lactation consultant found out I was to breast feed Chantzlyn they didn't react how we thought they would.  It actually turned sour and they went on to explain that that would be against hospital regulations because my milk hadn't been tested and the hospital couldn't be held responsible if something was wrong with my milk.  They said that Jess could pump and I could feed or we could get milk for the breastmilk bank, but I that I couldn't feed her.  In the moment it all sounded very mater-of-fact and my whole world came crashing down.

I had looked forward to having that immediate connection to Chantzlyn since I didn't carry her in my womb.  It was something that I truly longed for and words can't express the hurt that I felt in that moment.  It may sound strange, but I felt like the world was coming crashing down on me.  My emotions were already super sensitive and on edge with the whole adoption process.  All it took was that conversation to get my tears flowing without a stop in mind.

Everyone took to my defense and it is a moment that I look back on fondly.  Jess, her parents, and Lantz all started questioning this and trying to help find a solution.  We all begged to talk to someone higher in the hospital and began trying to come up with a solution that allowed me to breastfeed my sweet girl.

Coincidently Micah, our photographer, had stepped out to actually go pump because she too was breastfeeding her baby who was at home.  She came back in the room and caught the last bit of tears on my part and was a little lost on what happened.  We caught her up to speed and she was so sweet to start asking the same questions we were and trying to help us solve the problem.

The next part of the day we all just hung out together in Jess's room.  Throughout the day Jess, Lantz and I caught little cat naps. Also, I must say that all day up to this point, and the rest of the day our phones dinged with encouragement from family and friends who were texting us wanting to know what was happening and also to send us messages of love and encouragement.  It was also fun to see different people post selfies in their green "Chose Hope" shirts in support.  And it was neat that Calvin and Gail both wore theirs that day in the hospital to show support.  Lantz and I had planned on wearing ours, but they didn't get to us until after we had left for Abilene.

Gail, being the sweet person she is, eventually took down lunch orders from all of us for McAlister's Deli and soon headed off to retrieve lunch.  (Poor Jess couldn't eat so we of course took turns eating in the waiting room so as to not torture her.)

A little after noon the day brightened back up when the lead nurse and the lactation consultant came back in the room with some news.  They talked to someone in the legal department from the hospital and it was determined that as long as Jess and I both signed papers that we wouldn't hold the hospital liable if something was wrong with my breastmilk and it hurt Chantzlyn somehow.  Of course then tears of joy overflowed & we all celebrated a little after we gladly signed the papers!  It was such a relief!

In between all of this Jess's blood pressure kept dropping causing her to fall asleep on and off and her dad kept having to get the nurses to help her- trying different positions, using a big peanut shaped contraption, or giving her medicine.

About 1:15 the nurses decided to try moving Jess off of her back to her hands and knees because she hadn't dilated past a 3 and wasn't progressing at all at this point in time, and so they were trying to get her into active labor. This really got the ball going!  She progressed from a 3 to a 9.5 in just an hour and a half! Whoa!

Clearly Dr. Tadvick was called, and they moved Jess back over and prepped her for delivery around 2:45pm. Lantz left the room in all of this and wouldn't return until our daughter was born.  We were all hoping that the doctor was going to make it in time and laughing and joking that he better hurry at the rate she was progressing!

Not long after 3:15, Dr. Tadvick made it in the room full of smiles and an optimistic attitude!  He was ready to help bring Chantzlyn into this world to meet all of us! Around 3:20 Jess's contractions really started to pick up full force and she starts pushing.  She was amazing.  She was so strong and so brave.  I was so blessed that she let me be apart of that moment-- of the whole day, really.  I couldn't have been any more humbled knowing she let me be apart of this special time.  It was so different to be on the other side of birthing and yet so similar.

At this point my emotions are at full force as well and I can't stop crying because there are so many things I'm feeling that I can't even explain-- I was excited, anxious, nervous, scared, honored, sad and joyful.  I was a hot mess!

At 3:47pm my beautiful 4th daughter was born.... my sweet and perfect Chantzlyn Hope Howard.
There are no words to describe it! As the doctor held up my daughter I feel even more in love!

I could barely see though, because tears wouldn't stop filling my eyes!  A few seconds felt like hours as I caught first sight of my daughter.  She was all gooped up with all kinds of "cheese" and she was gorgeous!!! It was a moment I will never forget.

The doctor asked who was cutting the umbilical cord and Jess said that I was!  I kinda panicked and got excited all at the same time because I had never done that before!  It was new territory for me!  I'm pretty sure I could barely get the scissors around the cord from not being able to see through my tears and my hands shaking so much.  Plus, that cord is much stronger than you think it would be. I felt like I was sawing it to get it to cut.  It felt like it took me forever.   (I'm pretty sure Dr. Tadvick had to be laughing at me- thinking I should just cut the thing already! Lol!)

They placed Chantzlyn on Jess's chest (something we talked about that morning).  It was a beautiful moment between the two of them... one of love and joy.

It was so precious... but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you it scared me to death.  My heart was in my throat as I thought about Jess seeing this beautiful baby girl for the first time and seeing the love overwhelm her.  Would she change her mind? It was a question that haunted me the next two days in the hospital....All I have to do is think of that moment even to this day sitting here in front of my computer and the tears consume me and my heart aches to the core as those feelings come back.  The Lord held me in that moment.... He had to have because I don't know how else I stood there... watching my daughter with the one woman who I knew loved her as much as I did.  I was so scared because I loved so much and so deeply already.

The nurses soon took Chantzlyn to the warmer to start checking her vitals and start the clean up process.  I kept hold of Jess's hand wanting so desperately for her to know how much I loved her too and wanted to support her and be her friend.  As I held her hand, I watched as they carried part of my heart across the room to that warmer.  Again, the Lord held me in that moment.  HE reminded me of the love that I had developed for Jess and of our friendship and for Jess needing to know and feel  HIS love and the Holy Spirit consumed me with patience as I waited to hold my daughter.

In time, when the Spirit nudged me, I walked to that warmer and met my daughter face to face for the first time.  And as she took hold of my finger with her tiny little hand, a love flooded me like never before and I knew that my heart would never be the same again. I wanted to scoop her up and nuzzle her and tell her how long I had waited to meet her and how much I loved her, but again- the Spirit provided patience as I let the nurses do their job and also as I was mindful of Jess and her feelings.

There is so, so, so much more, but the rest of the story is "to be continued"at this point, but below are some of the pictures that Micah captured of the day described up until this point.

There were over 500 beautiful pictures-- each one with it's own piece of the story  that I treasure from that day.  To say that Micah did an amazing job would be an understatement.  {Again, click HERE to go to her website and check out all her amazing work.}Needless to say I wanted to share all 500 pictures, but I don't think that's a good idea on this blog. I had to break Chantzlyn's birthing story up into multiple blogs because the story is so long and there truly are so many pictures that I want to share.   Stay tuned for the rest of the story and also for more gorgeous pictures.

{Since writing this post I have written the second part of this story.  Click HERE to read part two & to see more beautiful pictures.}


  1. beautiful! brought tears to my eyes!

  2. Oh Jessica I could just feel all the emotion you and Lantz were feeling n your written words. That baby is blessed to be a part of you wonderful family filled with so much love. Love you and so happy for you.

  3. Yes, I'm definitely crying. Birth does that to a mama :) So excited to hear the rest!