Monday, October 21, 2013

An Introduction


At the time my last post, full of pregnancy updates, went up (I'd scheduled it ahead of time), I was in labor!  Baby Aaron Tobias was born last Wednesday morning after, unbeknownst to me, I arrived at the hospital fully dilated and ready to push!




It's love, you guys.  Amongst the difficulties of adjusting to nursing and an entirely different sleeping schedule, there've been more incredibly sweet moments that I can count.  We are so blissfully undeserving of this blessing.  Please pray to St. Gianna for our new little family!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pregnancy Updates


I'm 39 weeks now!  My little one, who is seriously not feeling little at all these days (hello there, tiny, cute foot lodged in my rib cage), weighs over 7.5 pounds now, according to my books (Andrew's family has a history of 10+ pound babies, and I was 8 myself, so I'm trying to avoid the anxiety of actually knowing my baby's size right now). He's behaving pretty much like he will as a newborn--sucking his thumb, spending longer times sleeping, and practicing inhaling and exhaling like a champ.  We are getting more and more excited to meet him and I've been amazed with how my heart just continues to grow and be pierced with love for someone I haven't even laid eyes on yet!  

A few friends had been asking me if I'd had any Braxton-Hicks contractions yet, and since I didn't know what to expect (ha), I could honestly say I wasn't sure if I'd experienced them or not.  A few weeks ago, my doubts were put to rest when I stood up at work and got a really strong, menstrual cramp-ish feeling that lasted about a minute.  I was convinced, for a moment, I was going into labor!  

Then, a few nights ago on the home front, I started having a few actual contractions that came and went for most of the night, around the same time all the mucus and fluids decided to show themselves (thanks, NFP, for letting me actually get excited about mucus).  I stayed home from work yesterday, but did make it to my already scheduled appointment with the midwife.  According to her, the hormones that cause labor are at their highest levels between midnight and 5:00 a.m.--that definitely sounded like my case!  She recommended just keeping up with my routine until things seem to progress or intensify, so who knows what could happen in the next few days or so! 

Although I don't have any expectations or preconceptions of how Andrew and I will be together while I'm giving birth, I've had a strong sense lately that it's going to feel like the most major thing we've ever done.  Stating the obvious, maybe, but it's just some sort of feeling on a deeper level than I've had before now.  My husband is such a great dad already, talking constantly to our son and taking care of me (and by extension, him) so wonderfully.  I know I'm about to fall way deeper in love in a completely new way.  Here are a few photo updates!



This picture is from 32 weeks, I think.  Which is to say, my belly is even bigger now...


...See?  37 weeks.



 I've loved getting all of the sweet little baby clothes and things ready!


Apple picking with Andrew's family, as my husband teaches his son how to flex.


My friend Beth is 6 weeks behind me, and it's been so wonderful sharing our pregnancies!  Here we are with our friend Teresa at my baby shower...


...and at hers!


And now my bag is packed and all that feels left to do is wait to hold this sweet baby in my arms!  Pray for me, please!







Monday, October 14, 2013

Veritas: Jared and Rebekah, Part 2


{real life love}

Did you catch the first part of Jared and Rebekah's love story last month?  When last they were on the blog, they'd begun a wonderful relationship through letters, but after officially dating for a while, Rebekah felt uncertain of Jared's interest.  After some searching and prayer, he committed himself to pursuing and romancing her.  Read on for what happened next!

Love, love love the pure joy in their wedding exit!
We lived in a new rhythm. Jared did his best (which was quite a bit) to sweep me off my feet, while I tried to relax and let things unfold on their own time. We went to church and family functions together, did a lot of "everyday life" together. On Wednesdays, I would come to his house and cook dinner, and then we would go to the young adults' group at our church.

Everything felt more natural now. We meshed in ways we never had before, and the emotional awkwardness disappeared as we both felt free to express how much we liked one another. Days when I didn't talk to Jared felt somehow flat. I loved it.

Late one August Wednesday, driving home from church in the still summer dark, I asked myself The Question. It was the one I had been asking myself all summer. What if Jared and I broke up? Whenever I had considered this before, I had felt peace. No sense of heartbreak. Sure I would be sad, but I'd get over it pretty easily, I thought.

Now I asked again. What if Jared and I were to break up? Could I do it?

The suddenness of the response punched the air from my lungs.

NO.

I clutched the steering wheel, unable to breath for a moment, unable to think for a moment more. Then again the answer came: NO WAY. Stunned, I vibrated between joy and panic. The answer was unmistakable. If I had to say goodbye? If my future didn't include him? Oh God, I would feel like part of me had died, I truly would. My chest hurt just thinking about it. I had never wanted anything as much as I wanted to be Jared's wife at that moment. This is from you, isn't it? What I asked for? Love without any doubts?

It was. Just like the beginning of our courtship, I felt absolutely certain of my answer and had no need to reason myself into a conclusion. I had pitched smack into a certainty: I loved Jared and I wanted to marry him. The end. And I never asked myself The Question again.

My mom always told me that when I fell in love, I would know it. She was--as usual--right. 


By the end of September, Jared had a full-time job and I would have bet my boots that he was going to propose. Eventually. In the meantime I was delighted to stay as I was: completely twitterpated. How wonderful to finally know how I felt. 


On the night of October 1st, 2010, just before I went to bed, my mom asked me how I felt about my relationship with Jared. Of course, she was well aware of the fact that I had fallen in love-- I doubt that was a mystery to anyone at that point. But she wanted to hear my thoughts on the future.

I told her, "I am sure Jared's going to ask me, but I don't think it will be for a while. Probably the end of November, at the earliest. I'm not expecting anything."


Famous last words.

The next morning, I was watching Jared's two young nieces (I'll admit that by then, I thought of them as my nieces too). My plan was to be at their house all day. Around noon we were just finishing up lunch when I heard a knock at the front door. I walked over and peeked through the window. There was Jared, with a rather sheepish grin on his face. What in the world? He's supposed to be at work.

I opened the door and let my boyfriend in. Our nieces were of course very pleased to see him, and demanded that he read them a book before naptime. Once I had put the youngest one to bed, Jared announced, "I'm taking you on a date."

"Hold on! What about the girls?"

"I've got a replacement coming." Sure enough, one of Jared's brothers showed up and shooed us out the door.


I had been too befuddled by Jared's sudden appearance to reflect, but once in the car, my curiosity kicked in. Having convinced myself that he would under no circumstances propose until late November, that possibility figured only briefly in my speculations. Besides, Jared liked surprising me. An elaborate plot such as this would not be unheard of.

I soon figured out that we were going to Longwood Gardens. Jared had never been there, but we had been talking about going for a while; I was delighted to realize that he had gone ahead and planned a trip. Of course he was not going to propose there, no way, even though it would be the perfect place to do it so this was just going to be a really special date.

I honestly don't know how I refrained from collapsing under the weight of the obvious. But I did. We arrived at Longwood and I was still certain there would be no ring that day.

As we got out of the car, Jared grabbed a large backpack. "Sweatshirt," he mumbled. "And a water bottle." I rolled my eyes-- whatever, boyfriend. I was determined to enjoy our visit and show Jared all of my favorite places. We wandered through the beech woods for a while, then turned up towards the meadow. There's a nice view and a bench just before the treeline. I stood looking out at the golden, grassy expanse, with Jared right behind me.

"Ah, do you want to sit down a while?"

It finally hit me.

"Suuuure."

There was a letter and a poem. "Remember when I brought you a white rose on our first date?" he asked. "That was for purity and friendship. Well, now I'm giving you red ones, because I love you. One for each month we've been together. Here's one for January, here's one for February . . ."

Oh, so that's what was in the backpack. By the time he had given me all nine, I don't know what I looked like, but I felt radiant; it was the first time Jared had told me that he loved me and those words held incredible power. (They still do.)

"I don't have a rose for October." He reached deep inside his backpack, pulled out a tiny velvet box, and grinned. "But I do have this."

So he asked. I took a long breath and looked into his eyes. I said yes.


After Jared slid the ring onto my finger, we just sat there a few minutes, too happy for more words. The first thing Jared asked, then, was when I wanted to get married. Cut to the chase, why don't you! I suggested January. We knew our wedding had to be over a college break, since we had quite a few friends and family members at school. We ended up settling on January 2, exactly three months from the day Jared proposed.

Not long to plan a wedding, but we weren't doing it alone. Our families pitched in to help and were marvelously supportive through the whole thing. Mostly, it was fun, despite the inevitable snags and worries.  I tried to view the wedding as a big party, a celebration of what God had done. That perspective relieved the stress and increased my enjoyment of the whole process. Those three months could have become an emotional nightmare, but by God's grace, they didn't.

Our wedding day approached and our excitement rose. My parents' house was jam-packed with party paraphernalia; I made dozens of meatballs and cranberry bars; Mom filled urns and pitchers with gorgeous flowers. Jared and I drove to the airport to pick up several out-of-town wedding guests, glad for the excuse to be alone for a couple of hours.


On the morning of our wedding, I got up fairly early. My youngest brother woke up around the same time. We spent some quiet minutes together, making breakfast and talking. It was odd, eating fried eggs and toast in the big echoing dining room, knowing that I would never do this quite the same way again.

Then the morning's business of beautification got underway. My aunt worked miracles with a curling iron and hairspray, while a friend from church applied makeup. Once I was all dolled up, I drove with our photographers to the bed and breakfast where the reception would take place later that day. I didn't feel nervous at all, partially because the day had been planned so well, and partially because I knew that Jared was waiting for me, and what could possibly make me nervous then? I was going to see my man!

When we arrived, I asked the photographers to wait outside for fifteen minutes; Jared and I had decided to have our first kiss that morning, without the entire world (well, 120 wedding guests) awkwardly watching. It was a very smart decision. And that's all I'll say about that.


Almost time.

Our moms and all of my bridesmaids spent several minutes praying for me. Then we went to line up outside of the sanctuary. As I took my dad's arm, I started to shake. It was a bit surreal, on the verge of terrifying, that I was actually going to walk down the aisle in front of everybody, stand at the front of the church, and enter the most important covenant I'd ever make on earth. Even though I was more excited for this than anything in my life so far, there was that inevitable moment when I thought, Good Lord, what am I doing?!

I felt dizzy. I felt, for the first and last time, unsure.

Then we started walking and the fright dropped away. I know there were people all around, standing up, taking pictures, grinning, but Jared was really the only thing I saw.

Everything went according to plan. To this day I cannot think of a single thing I would have changed about our wedding ceremony. It was beautiful, filled with Scripture and music. I  can still remember what our pastor said in his short sermon.  At the end, we walked out to Marvin Gaye's “Ain't No Mountain High Enough”-- that kicked off the rest of the afternoon and evening, and it was party time. Music played by talented friends, poetry and prayer, swing dancing, beautiful flowers, abundant laughter. Finally becoming Jared's wife. Truly the most perfect day of my life.

Life since then has been pretty wonderful too. I won't call marriage a total bed of roses--well, actually I will, because roses have thorns. We've had arguments, walked through infertility, struggled to communicate, gone nearly batty over a crying newborn. But we have also grown in our affection for one another. We both believe that marriage has been nothing but a blessing, even the hard parts. Jared has helped me to love God more and to understand myself better, and I hope that I have helped him too. This January we'll celebrate our fourth anniversary. The following March will be our little girl's first birthday. Who knows what might come next?

I love Rebekah's thoughts that happily ever after is so much more than the perfect ending, but the roses with the thorns.  Beautiful, no?  

Want to share your love story on Captive the Heart?  Email me at stephanie.captivetheheart@gmail.com!





Friday, October 4, 2013

My Spirit Rejoices: Alabaster


{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}



Have you ever seen a new bride and groom wash each other's feet during their wedding ceremony or reception?  Personally, I'm not for symbolic rituals like foot-washing or unity candles since, to me, there's no reason for a symbol when a Catholic Mass has a sacramental reality instead, but even so, the beauty of the idea is undeniable.


Alabaster by Rend Collective Experiment expresses this sense of loving service so beautifully.  "My lips," they sing, "so lost for words, will kiss your feet."  It's a song about brokenness made whole, which might not seem like the most wedding-y sentiment off the bat, but I think being healed and brought to a deeper love, by Love Himself, is as romantic as it gets.  It would make a wonderful Mass prelude or communion meditation!  Listen to the song here.

What do you think?  Any opinions on additions to the liturgy?



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rite Resources: Underneath Your Clothes, Part 2



Did you catch my post on lingerie a while back?  There's a wealth of pretty things out there, but I also get that sometimes practicality takes priority; namely, under your wedding dress.  My dress was a strapless ballgown with a separate, poofy crinoline that went underneath; picking out undies that blended in wasn't too difficult, but every gown is a little different, obviously, and comes with different needs.  Here's what, in my opinion, makes for an easy time of dress shopping and, eventually, getting dressed on your big day:
  • Convertible bra: I'm pretty sure you can buy ones now that are configurable in like 500 different ways; no joke.  Kind of intimidating, but a good thing, I think, when it comes to adjusting your straps in a way that exactly fits the neckline and back of your dress with no peeking.  If you're not sure yet whether you'll wear a strapless dress or one with straps, a convertible bra seems like a more versatile option, since you can always just take the straps off if you need to.
  • By the way, if you do go strapless, the best bra advice I ever got: I used to make sure my strapless bras were super snug and were always hooked on the smallest closure, until I read (before my wedding, thankfully) that the reason girls find strapless bras so darn uncomfortable is that most of us are wearing the wrong size.  The article I read suggested buying strapless bras in the same size as you'd normally wear, set on a comfortable, not overly tight, closure--evidently, that was the secret to not having your bra ride up and down or leave marks.  Lo and behold, it was true!  Once I bought one in my normal size, it felt exactly like I was wearing a regular bra with straps, nice and supportive and natural.  The one I wore on my wedding day didn't budge once, even through a night of dancing, and wasn't uncomfy in the least.
  • Alternatively: My friend Beth had a bra sewn into the front of her wedding gown and said she really enjoyed the peace of mind of not having to think about it at all during the day.  Easy!
  • Nude undies: If, like me, your dress has a thicker additional layer that goes underneath the lining, the color of your underwear probably doesn't matter much (mine were my something blue!).  But if not, a seamless pair in lace or microfiber that matches your skin disappears under light-colored clothes, which is particularly great when you're dress shopping and trying on different fabrics and skirt styles .  As an avid wearer of white shorts and jeans, I'd just recommend avoiding white undies; they show through everything!
  • An additional piece of unsolicited advice: While I have to give the disclaimer that I've never actually worn them, I've always had a strong suspicion that Spanx are manufactured in the ninth circle of hell.  Feel free to debate me (seriously), but my thinking is that if something I want to wear requires suctioning down my flesh, I must not actually want to wear it that badly.  If you're fuller figured or are concerned with lumps and bumps in general with the dress you've chosen, a professional lingerie fitting at a department store can help you find correct sizes for everything, which friends tell me makes a huge difference in how your clothes look, or wear a slip, both of which can eliminate the need for shapewear.
So, have you been there?  Share your best advice for keeping your undies under wraps, and be sure to check out Mary's blog, which is chock full of advice on personal style and figure flattery!

Lastly, though they have nothing at all to do with the other unmentionables, I'd love to hear your take on garters.  I didn't wear one because we weren't planning to include a garter toss at our reception, but in hindsight, I kind of wish I had worn one anyway, just for tradition's sake and to keep for my own memories.  

P.S. Happy belated feast of St. Therese!  You can read last year's reflection on her intercession in my relationship, one of my all-time favorite posts, here.

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