Happy 4 Weeks, Carter!

Here are a few pictures I promised...

This picture reminds me a lot of a baby picture of my sister, Courtney.

He has recently become a fan of the paci. This has been especially helpful in soothing him, as we discovered he has acid reflux. He has just started taking Zantac, so we'll see how that goes. I really didn't want him to start medicines so young, but neither did I want his esophogas to become damaged. He doesn't seem to be in as much pain as he was several days ago, thank goodness!

The lighting isn't great in this picture, but he always looks so serious so I loved capturing more of his personality in this one.
Okay, back to serious.

I got this idea from several friends of photographing Carter every month next to this bear so we can compare his growth. (I know his pants look pretty high up...all of his pants are too big still!)

Happy 4 Weeks, Carter! We love you dearly!

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Laundry and Lullabies

Carter is 4 weeks today! Looking over the pictures from this past month, I am amazed at how much he has already grown and changed. He is definitely getting some chubby little cheeks! I can’t help missing those first few days when he was so new and tiny, but I love anticipating his daily progress and growth.

Those who know me know that I thrive on juggling many activities and constantly being on- the-go. We all joked that motherhood would be the only way to slow me down. I worried a bit, as I am sure my friends and family did as well, that I might go stir-crazy being at home all day. That I might find the daily cycle of feeding and changing diapers to be monotonous. That I might discover motherhood to be different from the glorified image and expectations I have had in my mind for years. That I might be…well, disappointed.

What I have, in fact, discovered over the last four weeks is that I must be exactly where God wants me to be.

I spent Saturday simply taking care of Carter and doing seven loads of laundry (yes, I really did let it pile up that high!) And I unexplainably felt a deep sense of joy in these simple duties. Scott said this past weekend that he has never seen me this happy. Is it that this sweet baby boy has completed me or brought ultimate joy? No, I don’t believe that’s it. While we prayed desperately for a child, and while I absolutely adore my son, I believe the reason I am so full of peace and contentment is that I am finally where God presently wants me to be. I am no longer skipping between God’s path and my own. I have surrendered this stage to Christ, and I am looking to Him for guidance not just on a weekly or daily basis, but moment by moment. This doesn’t mean my life is suddenly perfect. I still feel exhausted many days. I have doubts about whether I am being the best mother I can be and making the right decisions for Carter’s sake. I still struggle to find balance with regard to spending time with Scott and with God. Concerns still weigh on my mind and heart. But I am finally taking time to be still, to rest. I no longer have an agenda other than meeting Carter’s and Scott’s needs. I don’t think I ever realized before now how selfish and self-focused I can typically be. What freedom there is in putting “me” aside and actually living out God’s will at this stage of my life.

A couple of years ago, I began viewing life in terms of seasons. It is much easier (and less overwhelming) to commit to a responsibility or activity for a specific season of time. Or to embrace change as a new season. Like all changes and new experiences, this early phase of motherhood is a season. I will likely find myself returning the focus to myself in months to come. I will be worrying about my post-pregnancy body (okay, so that’s already happened), comparing my mothering “techniques” to others, pursuing my dream of writing and speaking to young women, trying to revive a social life, and so on. The awe of bringing a child into this world will cease, daily stresses of life will begin to mount, and I will probably begin to chart my own path once again.
I pray that you, as my friends and family, will hold me accountable when the “old” me begins to seep in. I pray that you will boldly remind me to be still. I pray that this blog entry will guide me back to the truth that God’s will is always far better than I could ever dream up myself. That when I am at the center of His will, even laundry and dirty diapers can make me feel like I am on top of the world.

When I sat down to update the blog, I certainly didn’t intend to pour all of this out. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable and to share my heart. One more thing before I close, the whole reason I began this post…. I have been trying to sing to Carter as much as possible despite the fact that I am tone deaf. (Carter doesn’t seem to care – at least not yet.) It never fails, however, that as soon as I launch into singing, I forget all of the lullabies and sweet songs that I know are packed into my memory somewhere. So I need your help. What are your favorite songs to sing to your children? Also, I never learned many hymns growing up and would love to teach some to Carter. Please share any hymns you love (I do have a hymnal.) There are so many, I don’t even know where to begin. Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

(Check back in a few hours for new pictures. I have to upload them from our desktop computer.)

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About two years ago, a friend from Auburn started her own photography business. She specializes in photographing babies and children. Using natural light, she captures wonderful candid moments and the essence of each individual's personality. Check out her website: www.andreayoungphotography.com.

Although she lives in Roswell, Georgia, Andrea made a special trip to Birmingham last week to take these sweet pictures of Carter. The session was done a day before Carter's 2-week birthday. Below is a link to the slideshow which will be up only for the next 6-8 weeks. I apologize if it seems like I am innundating you with pictures...we are proud parents, of course, but we're mainly posting these for friends and family that are not able to see him in person. Enjoy!


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Sharing the Burden

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last week. After all, what else is there to do when you’re up feeding your child in the dark for a few hours every night? As I mentioned in my very first post, one reason I have entered the blogging world is to motivate myself to continue writing, even during these busy, early months of motherhood. When I have recurring thoughts, I often begin “writing” in my head. And if I don’t get my thoughts down on paper soon after, I seem to lose the words. So, this post is simply an expression of my recent late-night ponderings. I can’t guarantee that anything I write is worth reading, but writing is therapeutic for me and an activity I must actively engage in if I want to prevent my writing skills from rusting.

Over the last three weeks, there have been some moments while holding Carter that I still have a hard time believing he is mine. On several occasions, I have been overcome with gratitude, and I hope that I will not quickly take him for granted. In all of our joy, I have not forgotten the parenthood trials that others are presently facing. One courageous couple, Boothe and Conor Farley (fellow Auburn grads), lost their baby girl a few months ago to a chromosomal disease called Trisomy-18. Copeland Fair was on this earth for a mere eight days but left an imprint on the hearts of thousands that will last for eternity. When I check on Carter late at night to make sure he’s still breathing, I frequently feel a twinge of sorrow as I try to imagine how the Farleys were able to endure Copeland’s blue spells and eventually let her go. I continue to read Boothe’s blog and pray for her family as they mourn the loss of their sweet girl and look to God for the next step.

Another couple, Danny and Emily Giffin, just took their son home after a 6 week stay in NICU. Danny was in seminary with me, and baby Britton was due just four days after Carter. After a placental abruption, emergency c-section, and two resuscitations, Britton miraculously survived and escaped severe brain damage despite his heart having stopped for more than eight minutes. For the first week of Britton’s life, his parents were not even able to hold him. I can barely stand to put Carter down. I can't imagine not being able to cuddle with him, particularly in those first few days of his life. Thankfully, Britton beat the odds, surprised the medical staff, and is a living example of a true miracle! Challenges may lie ahead for the Giffin family, but God has clearly equipped them to handle whatever arises.

Finally, a sorority sister from Auburn, Rachel Rikard, was diagnosed last month with non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma, just two days after giving birth to her daughter, Claire. She is now undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Rachel is handling the treatments well, and the tumor has shrunk tremendously. However, I can only imagine how challenging it must be to balance motherhood and the effects of chemotherapy.

In each of these situations, the individuals have weighed on my heart. I have struggled to know what to say to offer encouragement or hope. My heart has ached for them, and I have shed tears on several occasions in response to the difficulties they face. Words seem inadequate to express my sorrow for their trials, my hope for their futures, and my admiration for their transparency and their faith. But if there is anything I learned from my own difficulties of losing two babies through miscarriages, it has been a new approach to ministry and a changed response to others’ trials through simple expression of sorrow and validation of feelings.

Following the loss of our babies, well-meaning individuals offered words that seemed far from comforting. Trite consolations such as “you’ll have a baby someday” or “it’s all in God’s timing” were well-intentioned but ill-received. I felt like people were minimizing our loss rather than validating the depth of our pain. As a result, I felt alone in my circumstances. One of the most comforting comments I received was an honest and simplistic confession: “Kelley, I don’t know what to say. I am just so sorry.” I have gradually realized that our culture tends to avoid pain. We push people to move forward before they can process their emotions or circumstances. Particularly in Christian circles, people throw around Bible verses as if they are a fix-all. Just hear the Word, and it will solve all your problems. The reality is that God’s word offers truth, perspective, and hope, but it does not eliminate pain or suffering. Authentic Christianity isn’t covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but allowing a hurting, unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God.

In reading Boothe Blanton Farley’s blog, I believe she touched the most people when she was vulnerable and transparent with her anger and pain. The responses from those who validated her feelings were refreshing, and I would venture to say, most comforting. Scripture and positive thoughts are no doubt helpful and uplifting, but they should never be offered without careful thought and sensitivity to the timing and circumstances. Authenticity on both sides seems to facilitate deeper healing because the individuals refuse to glaze over the pain.

We all have trials we are currently facing or desires left unfulfilled. It’s easy to tell each other to "simply have faith." When words don’t come easily, we reach for the traditional consolations, believing that those over-used words are at least better than saying nothing at all.

Being real and authentic is not easy. But it reveals the strength that comes from helping each other share the burden. Contrary to popular Christian assertions, desire or pain is not weakness. Faith is not a substitute for desire but rather a complement. It is the two dynamics working together that allow us to persevere and grow in faith and holiness. In validating each other's pain or desires, we experience vulnerability that eventually leads to freedom. And as Paul teaches in 1 Peter 1:7, it's the endurance of longing, not the avoidance of our hearts' suffering, that has the opportunity to prove our faith genuine.

*Please consider lifting up in prayer the families mentioned. You can read their stories on the blogs and site below:

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The paparazzi strikes again...

Here are some pictures from the past week...the post to come later today.

In red and white for Valentine's Day. The Scotts sent this Rhodes onesie (Scott's alma mater).
Proud papa!

Saying his bedtime prayers....

Carter meets his great grandmother, Mama!

Mama sang to all of her grandchildren and her 9 great grandchildren before Carter. I have waited for years for her to rock my child and sing to him! I'll post a video later of this sweet time.

Carter and Aunt Coco

Our little prince in his frog hooded towel after a bath.

Our first outing! We went to Courtney's kitchen shower on Sunday, February 17th. Carter was so well behaved!

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New Discoveries

Today, Carter is 2 weeks old! And sadly, it's been an entire week since I have posted any pictures or notes. I am so sorry. Who knew time could fly by so quickly when you're at home all day???

Carter continues to be a very sweet and calm baby. I know that he could change any day, but we are thankful for his mild temperament, however long it lasts. I haven't had much time to write, but below are some reflections from my first two weeks of motherhood. I am sure these ten aspects will change and evolve as Carter grows and new challenges arise. To all of you who are parents, feel free to post any words of wisdom from your own experiences! :)

5 Aspects of Parenthood I Love Most:

1. Locking eyes with my son and sensing he knows who I am
2. Seeing my husband as a devoted, gentle, and nurturing father
3. Reveling in the miraculous fact that I am able to sustain another life solely through my own body's provisions
4. Finding joy and wonder in simple moments and milestones
5. Realizing that I am capable of putting another's needs (even basic ones such as eating) before my own...and that I enjoy it.

5 Biggest Challenges (So Far) of Parenthood:
1. Keeping my priorities in line - God first, my husband second, Carter third, and so on. It's very easy to let Carter take the top spot.
2. Sleeping in 2-3 hours shifts
3. Getting personal things done (i.e. reading, returning emails and calls, running errands, blogging, etc.)
4. Spending quality time with Scott
5. Resuming any sense of normalcy (or, I suppose, establishing the "new" sense of normalcy)

A few pictures from the past week:

Carter finds his thumb for the first time!

You wouldn't know it from this picture, but Carter really likes bathtime.
He loves to sleep with his arms above his head, just like his mommy.

Must be having sweet dreams.

Carter's 1st Kiss: When he's hungry, he likes to "kiss" mommy's or daddy's cheeks. My mom caught this on camera the other day when he kept pecking me. :)

Aunt Julie smocked this gorgeous day gown for her nephew.

Just don't call it a dress in front of Scott. :)

Since my post last week, we visited the pediatrician for Carter's 1 week check up. He had regained his birth weight plus a few ounces and grew 1/2 inch. During the last few days, his newborn clothes have begun to look small on him, so he must be steadily growing!

Thanks for checking in on us!

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Happy 1 Week, Carter!

Pictures of Carter one week from his birth:

We let him nap this morning with his arms free rather than swaddled. He loves to have his hands up by his face. We even have pictures of this position from our 4D ultrasound!

Carter in his bassinet at 7:30 am this morning...exactly one week since he was born.

Here is a video of Carter's first case of the hiccups outside the womb. He used to get them 3-4x a day when I was pregnant with him. They are so cute!

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Glancing Back

It’s hard to believe that this time last week, Scott and I were heading to the hospital. As I look back at the course of events on that day, I laugh at the irony of the outcome.

As you may recall, I wrote on Sunday the 27th that it was challenging for me to deal with my impatience and not know when Carter would arrive. On Monday morning at our 39 week appointment, Scott and I were stunned when our doctor said we could induce Tuesday morning. We walked out of the office with excitement and shock, repeatedly saying to each other, “We’re going to have a baby tomorrow!” In just a few moments, we had transitioned from “the waiting game” to essentially planning the birth of our child! I laughed thinking, “God really does know me!” My mom and I spent the rest of the day making last minute preparations while Scott worked furiously at the office to wrap up some projects. My only hesitation about the “planned” delivery was that I had hoped to go into labor on my own and had some fears about the complications that can arise from being induced.

About noon that same day, I began having some contractions but didn’t take much notice since they were not very painful. After a suggestion that I time the contractions, I realized that they were 10 minutes apart. By 5 pm, they were 5-6 minutes apart but still remained mild in intensity. We called our doctor when the contractions reached 3 minutes apart, and he told us to go on to the hospital. At this point, it dawned on me that I might not make it until my inducement the next day.

While the contractions remained close together, I did not go into “full-fledged labor” (the nurses define this as contractions that you can’t talk through) until around 11 pm. At 7:30 am Tuesday morning, an hour after I was supposed to be admitted for inducement, our son Carter was born! That was when I thought, “Wow, God knows me better than I know myself." In an ironic twist, He had allowed us to prepare for Carter’s arrival while still surprising us and granting my desire to begin the process of labor naturally. God has been faithful during this journey in more ways than one, and He always surprises me with His attention to even the smallest details and desires.

One of the greatest blessings of Carter’s birth was having our O.B. (and member of our church), Dr. Billy Johnson, deliver him. I began seeing Dr. Johnson after our second miscarriage, and he has been so supportive, encouraging, and prayerful throughout the last 13 months. Several weeks ago, he had given us his cell number and said he would do whatever he could to deliver our baby if he was not on call when we went into labor. While he planned to come in Tuesday morning for my inducement, he certainly did not bank on getting a call to come in at 1:00 am because I was progressing on my own. He got out of bed and came to St. Vincent’s in the middle of the night just so he could go through this final step of the pregnancy process with us. He is not only a wonderful doctor but a servant of Christ, and we couldn’t be more grateful for all he has done for us!

Dr. Johnson came to visit us both days in the hospital.

The last few days have been filled with utter joy. Scott said earlier today, “It’s amazing how someone so small can change your world so quickly.” Both of us can’t hold him, kiss him, or stare at him enough. Things as seemingly trivial as his facial expressions awe us! As a new mother, I am also learning more about myself. I wrote last week that I am always impatient to move on to the next phase of life. Yet, I am having so much fun with our sweet newborn that I wish we could freeze time. I know it will be fun to watch Carter grow and develop, but he is so innocent and sweet at this stage. For perhaps the first time in my life, I am completely content where I am and relish every moment of this stage of Carter’s life!

I have always been fascinated with time. It amazes me how quickly time slips by and yet I am often saddened by its passing.
Tomorrow, Carter will be one week old! I can’t seem to grasp that it has been a whole week since his birth day, and I sometimes wish I could go back and relive the whole experience. I suppose I feel I will lose the memories, or at the least the intensity of the emotions, as time puts distance between that precious day and the present. I have never been able to fully express my perception of time, but author Sheldon Vanauken explained it perfectly in A Severe Mercy. He wrote, "Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest? It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity..... Heaven is, indeed, home."

I suppose that the joy Scott and I presently feel with the addition of Carter to our lives is just a glimpse of the joy we will experience when we reach heaven. I long to hold onto these moments because I am experiencing a love I have never felt before. I am sure God has much more to reveal to us through our son, and I look forward to each new lesson. In the meantime, we are so grateful to all of you for celebrating Carter’s life with us.

A few pictures from the weekend:

Papa (my dad, Bob Brown) finally got to meet his grandson when he got into town Saturday morning.
Scott's twin brother, Stuart, drove in from Atlanta on Friday to spend some quality time with his nephew.
Carter loved meeting his Uncle Stuart and Aunt Noelle and hopes they'll come back to Birmingham very soon to visit!

Uncle Stuart holding Carter who is sporting his Auburn hat that Stu and Noelle picked out. He also has matching AU socks in which he will walk all over the elephant rug. :)

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