2015 Year-In-Review

After a ridiculously insane and overwhelming 2014, we were desperately in need of a calmer 2015. Thankfully, 2015 delivered such a year (for the most part). Praise God!

Here are the most noteworthy things that characterized 2015:


After my church hired me in April of 2014 as the database administrator, I soon realized how lacking the software we were using was. After annoying the crap out of my boss about it and doing lots of research, we decided to switch to a different database software. It was exciting to switch to a better software, but it gave me and my supervisor (and lots of others) a boatload of work!

So, the first half of 2015 was super busy at work and pretty stressful for a couple of months as we approached the data migration and immediately after the transfer. That last sentence already got way too nerdy, so I won’t bore with further details 🙂 It was intense. But awesome. My face broke out a lot due to stress. But the end result was so much better. The end.


Caleb turned 4! He had a great party with lots of friends from church:

And he woke up on his birthday to the most epic streamer obstacle course (which he navigated with Olympian-like skill…didn’t even knock a single one down):


He also had a fun celebration at preschool:



  • My sisters and niece paid us a fun visit:
  • Later in the month, our long-time friends, the Cooks, also paid us a fun visit:
  • On June 30th, I turned 30…my “golden” birthday! I had a great time celebrating with coworkers, and later with Sean:


  • Evie Love turned 2! We invited two of her best girlfriends from church to celebrate – Kaia and Atley:
  • We visited my family in southern CA and had a great time, as always (minus the multiple times Evie barfed all over the car on the drive down. I just gagged recalling the experience). No pics captured of that awesomeness, but we did get these:
  • After a lot of thought and prayer, I made the tough decision to leave my job at church. During my 18 months working there, I experienced many great things, learned so much, and contributed a lot. However, I wanted to spend more time with my kiddos, as well as pursue a dream of mine to start an online business. I miss all the wonderful people I worked with, but I do think it was the right decision.


  • Sean and I celebrated our 8th anniversary, which I just realized we still have yet to celebrate…
  • Caleb began his second and last year of preschool:


  • Sean was promoted to a lead engineer role at work – a great accomplishment!
  • And, of course, the most exciting event of September was becoming pregnant with our third kiddo! Hmmm, maybe we did celebrate our 8th anniversary, after all 😉 We meant to take our standard “excited-to-find-out-we’re-pregnant” pic, but yeah…that never happened. Also, I informed Sean of the news via text. Sorry, Seth. We really do love you, I promise. #thirdchildproblems
The super creative text Sean received ;)
The super creative text Sean received


  • We took Evie to the cleft clinic for her 2-year-old checkup. She had her speech and hearing tested and passed with flying colors! We weren’t concerned, but it was still nice to confirm that everything looked good. And following up on last year’s recap post, God obviously has a sense of humor because Evie is not missing a tooth – in fact, she grew TWO teeth where she should only have one! A problem that will certainly be much easier to correct than a missing tooth, thankfully. Woop!
  • We spent 10 days in Hawaii with Sean’s fam, compliments of Nana and Pop Pop 🙂 It was beautiful and the kids had so much fun!
  • With obnoxious (yet predictable) timing, morning sickness set in while in HI and kicked off the typical 3 months of first trimester hell. At least for me, pregnancy hormones are no joke and always work me over. So, for the last few months of the year, I became pretty depressed which is normal for me during pregnancy. This round, I also felt especially worn down, wrangling two “spirited” children, while growing a third. I didn’t get out much, avoided interacting with people, and wasn’t very productive (aside from growing a human…ya know, no big deal).
  • At the end of the month, we said goodbye to “GG” (Great Grandma Jane). It is sad we won’t see her on Earth again, but she lived a very long, well-spent life and we know she’s in Heaven now. She was so wonderful with the kids and we’ll always cherish these great memories and photos:


  • Sean finished relandscaping (is that a word? It is now) our front yard, which was a project that spanned many months and was a great feat! It was a crazy amount of work and he did such an awesome job:
  • We visited my family for Thanksgiving:


We spread the news of our new mini human with this fun announcement:



And here are some various other memories from the year:


Favorite family photo of the year on Easter
Favorite family photo of the year on Easter


And most hilarious photo of the year goes to Drew's gut and Evie's face in this pic
And most hilarious photo of the year goes to Drew’s gut and Evie’s face in this pic

Looking back on the year-in-review post from 2014 and reading the goals I made for 2015, I would say I mostly failed. Ha! I guess they were a tad too ambitious. There’s always 2016. Wait – nope, we’re already more than halfway through 2016 and I’m still failing. Crap. I’ll definitely have to pull the I-grew-a-freaking-human-from-scratch card here. 2017?? Maybe? Obviously, I am very determined. To be continued…

2014 Year-In-Review
2013 Year-In-Review
2012 Year-In-Review
2011 Year-In-Review

2014 Year-In-Review

Our 2014 was um, interesting and humbling to say the least. I’m pretty sure I cried more in 2014 than the previous 9 years combined…and I can’t even use pregnancy to justify it! Not one to be undermined by previous years, 2014 ranks right up there in “eventfulness.” There were many challenges, but many blessings and celebrations as well. God has been faithful and good to us. He taught us a lot this year. It was a year of refinement, self-discovery, and growth. It was a year we became intimately acquainted with our human failings, and experienced what a mess we really are. It was terribly painful at times and there were plenty of moments I wanted to give up, but I know we are better, stronger, more Godly people because of the difficulties. Above all, it was a year our need for Jesus was made abundantly clear.

We wrapped up 2014 the same way we entered it…feeling broken and burnt out. Yet despite these feelings, I am filled with so much hope and excitement for 2015, as well as an appreciation for all that 2014 was. “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:7-9…our theme Bible verses for the year).

Since a lot happened this year (and none of which I blogged about previously), this post is long. If you are interested in all the details and up for a challenge, be my guest to read the whole enchilada 🙂


Evie was still recovering from surgery. Even though we were five weeks out and she had mostly healed physically, I’m certain she was still experiencing psychological and emotional trauma from it (as were we, ha)! She continued to be quite fussy, and also decided napping was for weaker babies. With no breaks or alone time during the day from caring for an irritable 5-month-old and a “spirited” 2-year-old, and enduring week after week, after terrible week of doing the cry-it-out method (literally the worst thing I’ve ever had to do as a parent so far), this introverted mama was exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and beginning to go a little wacky in the head.

I couldn’t get through a day without crying (which is super unlike me), and I felt so anxious all the time from listening to Evie scream. It reached a tipping point one afternoon, when the intensity and relentlessness of the previous five months caught up to me and resulted in a panic attack (for the first time in 9 years). It was rough, and I felt SO helpless. I had tried every trick in the book with no success, and was at a total loss how I could help her. I felt incompetent as a mom and at my wits end.

Just as I was coming to terms with the probability of an eteFELKERrnally no-napping crabby baby, I figured out at the end of January (by nothing short of divine intervention!) that Evie would nap in her car seat in her room. In my personal opinion, this discovery was on par with electricity or gravity. Maybe even better. I regained a piece of lost sanity back at that point, which was such a relief! My younger sister also visited in January, and she was an amazing help:



That piece of sanity I regained was short-lived, when at the beginning of February,
we found ourselves in a messy situation after attempting to show the love of Christ to a woman by allowing her to stay in our extra room. This story could be three blog posts by itself, so I will attempt to keep it brief. In October 2013, we were connected to a woman in need of housing via a mutual friend, who knew we had offered a room to someone in need before. Despite the awful timing (Evie was about to have surgery), we agreed to it because we felt bad for her in her current situation and wanted to help, so we offered the room at a low rate.

The first time she owed rent, it was late and short. We agreed to excuse it, provided she work with us on learning how to budget and develop better financial habits. She agreed, so we created a budget with her, helped her fill out her w-4’s correctly to adjust her tax withholding, offered suggestions on how to spend money more wisely, and encouraged her to get a second job (all in the midst of the insanity of Evie’s recovery from surgery)!! Despite this assistance, her irresponsible behavior, deception, and outright lies continued over the next couple months. It became apparent to us she had a mentality of entitlement, and eventually unearthed she had a history and ongoing pattern of taking advantage of caring people.

Long story short, we asked her to leave in the beginning of February. Over the next week, she sent me a barrage of text messages accusing me of all sorts of terrible things, refused to leave, refused to pay money owed, threatened to sue, and challenged me to try and have her removed. I kept my responses short and civil, we filled out all the proper legal paperwork, and gave her until March 3rd to vacate. Fortunately, she ultimately realized she had to comply, but it made for an extremely stressful month. Sean and I had difficulty sleeping knowing we had a hostile housemate and two young kids in our home, we felt incredibly uncomfortable in our own space, and I felt like a terrible mom because I was so distracted and consumed by the situation. It was the biggest relief when she moved out!


A few days after our housemate left, I applied for a job managing the database at our church, Cornerstone Fellowship. Prior to having kids, I wasn’t sure if I wanted or would have the “right” opportunity to work outside the home while my children were little. After Caleb was born and we left staff with Cru and moved to Livermore, I had periodically considered working at our church, but the timing and job availability wasn’t right up until that point. There were many factors involved in the decision to apply for the position at that time, and after a thorough evaluation, I decided to put myself out there and go for it! I actually wasn’t confident at all I would get the job, since Cornerstone is a big church and there were a lot of applicants (and I had not worked outside the home in a few years).

We also enjoyed a visit from “GG” (Sean’s grandma) this month:

IMG_2014-03-09-9999_21 cropped



I continued the interview process for the database position into April, and after five (!!) interviews, I was offered the job! Over the previous 5 weeks I had wrestled with the decision and prayed a *ton* for God’s guidance, especially since it was a 40-hour-a-week job and would be a huge change for our family. I asked God to simply take me out of the running if it was not His will for us, which seemed easy enough for Him to do. He never did – even with a very large number of applicants – so I felt that was confirmation of His approval and provision, and I took the job! My first day was April 15th:


My “commute” is 8 minutes, my kiddos are cared for on-site as part of the children’s ministry, both of them have bonded with the other staff kids, I work with awesome people, I get to play a role in something that is super meaningful, the job is less boring than it sounds, and I have since been able to reduce my hours to 32. …And my unofficial title is “madmin” (master admin). A pretty sweet gig, I would say!!!

Caleb and his buddies
Evie and her best friend…cracking each other up 🙂

Aside from beginning to work outside the home, my crazy boy turned 3 at the end of April! We had fun surprising him the morning of his birthday:

Obstacle Course!
Obstacle Course!
Filled his room with balloons (a fave) while he slept

And he had a super fun birthday party:


IMG_2014-04-26-9999_40 cropped
He still talks about the “shoe pinata”

And got a trampoline as our gift to him:


…And he took his first trip to the ER (for an injury) on Easter, after puncturing his head down to the bone on a sharp point on our banister:

He was impressively brave!


May and June were somewhat less eventful months, mostly characterized by the adjustment to working outside the home full-time after spending the previous three years staying at home with the kiddos. We all got sick a lot over the summer (I guess a fun side-effect of your kids being in child care)…one time of which involved vomiting *all over* the bathroom of our best friends’ hotel room, after assuring them I was feeling better and up for a visit. It was pretty embarrassing. Fortunately, they believe in forgiveness and we’re still friends 🙂 I don’t know why I have a knack for such things…I think it must be genetic. Sorry I don’t have a pic of that.

These months were also really fun with adventures in potty training…sorry I don’t have a pic of that either. Best advice I was given: this is no time to be cheap…just throw out the underwear!! Three months and countless poo clean-ups later, we were finally victorious! I would definitely say potty training is my next most despised parenting duty, right after baby sleep training.

In less bodily fluidy news, Sean turned the big 3-0 on May 7th:


And in June, we celebrated my brother-in-law graduating from our Alma mater, UCSB:


Where we found ourselves when Caleb became bored with the graduation – the benefits of UCSB 🙂

IMG_2014-06-14-9999_79 cropped

I think Caleb has some Uncle Drew in him 😉

It was fun to visit, but also bittersweet considering the tragedy that happened there a few weeks prior. It hit close to home, since UCSB and Isla Vista hold a very special place in my heart – it’s where I became a Christian, met Sean, and made a lot of great friends.

Evie also began walking at the end of the month:



In July, we went down to So Cal to visit my fam for a week, which was great and better told in pictures:

IMG_2014-07-04-9999_68 cropped
4th of July
One of those Duck Dynasty guys kidnapping Evie…actually no, that’s just crazy Uncle Jake
IMG_2014-07-04-9999_382 cropped
Nothing like crushing your 3-year-old at a game of chicken fight…he didn’t want to play after that, haha!

IMG_2014-07-04-9999_311 cropped

A picture of Uncle Matt’s biceps…I think Evie’s in there somewhere too 😉
Celebrating Caleb’s 3rd birthday late and Evie’s 1st birthday early
Picnic at the park
IMG_1413 cropped
Mud park
In his element
Birth Buddies

Evie also began sleeping through the night this month (at nearly a year old), which was a much anticipated milestone! And just to balance out the awesomeness of getting seven straight hours of sleep again, at the end of the month, Sean had an extremely stressful situation happen at work, which triggered an intense battle with anxiety over the next several months. Those months were a really, really hard time for our entire family, and many tears were shed as Sean dealt with the situation and personal difficulties it sparked. As an unforeseen side effect, it also brought some relational issues to the surface, and it was our toughest season in 7 years of marriage (actually, the only tough season maritally I can recall).

Throughout this trial, the Lord was right there with us showing us needed areas of growth in our relationships with Him, each other, and individually. During those months we were forced to simplify our lives, as God brought us back to some basics. We learned so much during that time, and I am so thankful God carried us through and ultimately drew us closer to Him and each other. He is faithful and awesome like that! (And I am so glad to be past it now).


Evangeline Love turned 1!


And got a ‘tude with it!
IMG_2014-08-02-9999_141 cropped
…And a streak of mischief to follow in big brother’s footsteps (notice her fingers in Caleb’s ear – it’s why she’s so happy in this picture)

IMG_2014-08-01-9999_19 cropped


Caleb started preschool:

IMG_1251 cropped

We began a new Life Group/Bible study with our good friends, the Shooks:

Our 'Friendsgiving' get together at the beginning of November
Our ‘Friendsgiving’ get-together at the beginning of November

I also weaned Evie this month, which was pretty huge and freeing for me since she refused to ever take a bottle. I used a baby app to log almost every nursing session (I don’t really know why, I guess I just got in the habit), and the stats the app generated still blow my mind! In 13 months, I nursed her 2,481 times, for an average time of 1 hr and 40 minutes per day. This amounts to a total nursing time of close to 28 days, or 672 hours. That’s nearly an entire MONTH in 13 that I solely spent nursing. That’s pretty incredible!!

In September, I also learned my Myers-Briggs personality type – INFJ (less than 2% of the population, the rarest type). I’m sure you’re wondering why I thought this was significant enough to include here, and I know this sounds crazy, but this discovery seriously revolutionized my life. As I delved into reading about this personality type that describes me to a T, I learned so much about myself that my brain was constantly exploding with epiphanies. Why I do the things I do, think the way I think, or struggle with the things I struggle with finally made so much more sense to me.

It was also helpful for me to realize there aren’t many people who share my personality type, which is why I often feel “abnormal” and misunderstood. Conversely, it was encouraging to discover there are at least some people out there like me, which was normalizing and made me feel known and understood. This self-discovery has empowered me and changed how I view myself, and has helped me be more comfortable in my shoes and who God made me to be! And now I feel slightly less insane 🙂


At the end of October, I celebrated 10 years of being a follower of Jesus. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long…I can still vividly remember that time of my life and the circumstances that led me to make that decision a decade ago (which you can read more about here). I think it was the only time in my life that could match 2014 in tear drop count. It was a painful decision that came at high cost (in my perspective at the time), but it was the best and most important decision I’ve ever made in my life.

From time to time, I think about who I would be now and what my current situation would look like had I not made that life-changing decision, and I am so glad I made the choices I did, despite hardship and opposition. Philippians 3:7 – “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Knowing God and choosing to follow Him is a game changer – if you don’t know Him, I encourage you to read the book of John in the Bible, get acquainted with the Gospel, do some research, and make a choice for yourself!


In November, Sean’s anxiety struggles finally began to subside after a very long and trying few months. It was a huge relief and burden lifted, all praise to God! No sooner did that happen, did I encounter a stressful situation at my work. I won’t go into detail about it, but it was super overwhelming and anxiety-producing for me, and greatly impacted my emotional, mental, and physical health.

As a much needed and encouraging break from the tough things happening at work, we visited my family for Thanksgiving:

IMG_1871 cropped




IMG_2066 cropped

And I was especially blessed to meet and spend time with my 3-week-old niece, Eden Nazir’ah, who honored me with the brand new title of “Auntie” 🙂 Grammie couldn’t keep Eden and Evie’s names straight 😉



In the first half of December, I continued to be all-consumed by the difficulties at work. To my relief, the situation improved by halfway through the month. I think I had a 2-second breather from that, when we were surprised by the discovery at Evie’s first dental appointment that it’s likely she’s missing her top and bottom lateral incisors on her cleft side. We will know for sure by the time she turns 2, but if this is the case, she will wear retainers with false teeth until she reaches a certain age and gets permanent implants. I was pretty upset and sad for her at first, but I am still hopeful and praying they will come in. And even if they don’t, I realize it’s not the end of the world! Thankfully we ended this month by celebrating Jesus’ birth, which redeemed it 🙂


…Oh and in the midst of the year’s never-ending chaos, we somehow thought it would be a good idea to do work on the master bedroom, downstairs bathroom, and living room, plus build a shed and huge play set. Why!?!? Because we’re straight up ridiculous, that’s why.

Sean and Caleb building the playset

My hope and prayer for 2015 is a slower, restful, less crises-filled year. We decided to step down from all optional commitments, and plan to focus on our personal health this next year. It sounds pretty selfish, but I think experiencing periods of focused rest is important. We can’t expect to pour into others if we ourselves are running on empty. With that said, here are my 7 goals for 2015:

  • Pursue well-rounded health and achieve consistency with essential spiritual and physical disciplines (this is really 10 goals wrapped in 1, ha)!
  • Kick some bad habits I’ve had since childhood (this will probably be the toughest one to master on the list)
  • Improve in disciplining consistently and following through with consequences
  • Pursue a dream of mine
  • Invest in friendships
  • Find a mentor
  • Get better at relaxing and having fun…seriously

To 2015!!!


2013 Recap
2012 Recap
2011 Recap



2013 Year-In-Review

Yeah, yeah, I am well aware it is the middle of August 2014, and this is the type of post that should be written the first week of January, but I am coming to terms with the fact that this is what life is like with two littles…always 7 months behind on, well, everything. This includes vehicle registration renewals, which as it turns out, come with some regrettably hefty late fees. Yikes! So, not being one to leave started projects unfinished (no matter how inappropriately timed), here are the 15 most memorable happenings of 2013 for the Felker fam:

1. I was neurotic pregnant the first seven months (which I blogged about at 16 weeks and 37 weeks). As we all know, I simply *adore* the state of pregnancy.

2. When it became apparent we could no longer keep Caleb caged in his crib any longer at 22 months (a sad, sad day), I willed myself to do something other than eat half-baked chocolate chip cookies and watch the train wreck of a sociology experiment (better known as ‘the Bachelor’) in my spare time. We finally cleaned out the-room-of-which-we-did-not-speak (i.e. it was filled to the brim with stuff), and transformed it into Caleb’s new “big boy” room. And when I say “we,” I definitely mean Sean.


3. We finally traded in our dumb phones for smart phones, bringing us into the modern age.

4. Discovered Evie’s sex in an unconventional way, and had a lot of fun with it 🙂


5. Caleb entered the terrible twos, and had I written this post back in January, I would have said that parenting a 2-year-old is a task no human being should be subjected to. But now, I scoff at my naiveté, as I have since been enlightened and know that the terrible twos pale greatly in comparison to the terrorist threes. Before the negative press begins in regards to these comments, I do try to maintain a balanced perspective, and I do love Caleb and who God made him very much, which I wrote a little about here.

Caleb's 2nd Birthday Party
Caleb’s 2nd Birthday Party


And on his actual birthday, Caleb wanted everyone to know he’s sexy and he knows it:

6. Evangeline Love Felker was born on August 1st at 4:08 pm at Kaiser Antioch Medical Center. She was 19.5 inches and weighed a whopping 8 lbs. 11 oz. (thanks, dear daughter, you know how much I LOVE birthing GARGANTUAN babies), which confusingly took her entire first year to double (for reference, most babies double their birth weight by 4 months). But hey, at least I didn’t give birth to her on the side of the road, or barf all over the car due to her father’s poor culinary discretion. You can read her eventful birth story here.


7. Bought our first car ever – a minivan – reversing any coolness factor we may have gained by purchasing smart phones.

IMG_2013-08-28-9062 cropped

8. Evie had cleft lip surgery on November 21st, which commenced what easily ranks in the top 3 hardest months of my entire life. I tried to think of a way to spin this one humorously, but it’s still just too soon. Too soon.


9. Caleb said and did a lot of crazy stuff, which I’m sure took years off my life, and will all be avenged when we recount them on the day of his wedding.


10. I led a women’s Bible study and formed close relationships with some incredible women, who have continued to be a blessing in my life.

bible study ladies cropped

11. Fun family visits:

12. Took Caleb’s pacifier away. He stopped sleeping. Gave it back. Took Caleb’s pacifier away…again. He stopped sleeping…again. Gave it back…again. If I was sent to a deserted island with my children, and I had to choose between bringing Sean or a pacifier, I’d go with the paci. Just kidding, I would take Sean, but his first task before searching for food or water would be to fabricate a paci and a couple of spares. Seriously, I would cut off my right pinky for paci. I legitimately wonder what they did back in the olden days before pacis. You know, in all honestly, I’m almost positive the invention of pacifiers is the reason child mortality rates have declined so significantly in modern times.

He'll never know I love this paci more than he does
He’ll never know I love this paci more than he does

13. Did lots of exciting outings, celebrations, and activities:

14. Three of my blog posts: “It’s a…,” “Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures,” and “Days 6-10 Post-Surgery Update,” reached over 500 hits each in 2013, which practically makes this blog famous. Fo’ real. Digital copies of my autograph are available upon request, however, my schedule is booked in regards to speaking engagements at this time.

15. And finally, this picture won best family photo of the year:

A true gem
A true gem

Evangeline’s Birth Story: The Womb that Cried Baby

According to my early ultrasounds, Evie’s due date was July 29th. According to my calculations, it was July 26th. But then, I figured her due date was actually July 18th, because Caleb was born eight days early, so obviously she would come early too. So you can just imagine my surprise horror when July 18th passed, then July 26th, and then (gasp!) July 29th. Apparently what baby #1 does has no bearing on what baby #2 does – so I learned – and Evie’s birth story could not have been more different to Caleb’s.

Even though Evie arrived “late,” the last month or so of my pregnancy was far from uneventful. At 35 weeks pregnant, I began experiencing painful contractions (not braxton hicks). The first time they began I was at church, and they lasted a couple hours, so I legitimately thought she could be arriving that day. Since I was only 35 weeks, I was completely unprepared, so I rushed home after church to pack bags and get things ready for her. However, by the time I finished getting ready, the contractions had disappeared…and thus began a long 5+ weeks, and the sub-title of this post: “The Womb that Cried Baby,” or alternatively, “my ridiculous 5-week-long labor.”

These on and off again contractions continued sporadically over the next few weeks. Then on July 17th (2 weeks and a day before she was born), while I was at church again (what’s up with that?), they started up yet again, but seemed a bit stronger. Because it was nearing rush hour (meaning if we didn’t leave soon, it could take us up to an hour and a half to get to the hospital), I called Sean and told him I wasn’t sure if it was time yet, but that we should just head out there to avoid getting stuck in traffic. So we made the 45-minute drive out to Antioch, and walked around the lobby to see if my contractions progressed. After 6 hours of consistent contractions, they disappeared again. Poof. I was disappointed and exhausted, but we turned it into a date night at Red Robin, so all was redeemed 🙂

After that day, the contractions came more frequently. About every other day, I had relatively strong, consistent contractions lasting 4-6 hours in the dead of night, that had me preparing for the hospital and thinking: “today is the day!” However, they always vanished by morning, leaving me exhausted from no sleep and super frustrated. It felt like I was on a crazy, totally unpredictable roller coaster ride!

Exactly one week before Evie’s birth, I had a check-up and was 2 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and she was literally 1/4 of an inch from crowning. I had so much pressure on my pelvis, it felt like I could sneeze and she would shoot out. If you know what prairie doggin’ means, that is literally what it felt like, baby style. It was terribly uncomfortable. Every time I saw my OB, she kept reassuring me – “it really should be any day now,” and then was surprised when I showed up for yet another appointment, and another.

So, the contractions just kept coming and going, as did Evie’s official due date. Three days past her due date, I went in for another OB appointment. My doctor checked me, and even after an entire week of contractions, my stats were the same. The SAME!!! I fought back tears, as she asked me if I wanted to schedule an induction. Flashing a Benjamin out of my purse, I eagerly said yes, most definitely…can my little friend convince you to do it today? (That may or may not have happened, my mommy brain doesn’t remember). She scheduled me for an induction on August 5th (not quite that same day, but I took it).

Leaving the office, I felt so depressed. I know that sounds entirely pathetic, but I was just so frustrated, confused, and exhausted after weeks and weeks of non-committal contractions (and let’s not forget I was pregnant, and overdue at that, which = totally unstable). I called Sean at 10:30 am, and had a complete meltdown. At this point, Evie was 2 weeks late in my book, which is like 2 months in pregnant time. Pregnancy is particularly difficult on my body, and the thought of even one more day sounded impossible. I recall praying in the car: “God, you could make her come right now if you wanted to, and it seems so inconsequential when she comes since she’s full-term, so why can’t it be now??” After a good 5-minute cry and deliberate attempt to release it to God, I pulled myself together and drove home.

An hour-and-a-half later, at noon, contractions began again. “Here we go again,” I thought. Not wanting to get my hopes up again for the umpteenth time, I tried to ignore them and just go about my day. However, by 12:30, they were becoming stronger than they had ever been before, so I called Sean and told him to be on call, since I was worried about getting stuck in traffic. I told him not to come home yet, though, because there had been so many false alarms, and it was likely another one.

Over the next 30 minutes, the contractions ramped up so quickly to a level at which I knew it was time to go to the hospital, so I called Sean at 1 pm and told him to come home right away. (Sidenote: Anyone else think it non-coincidental that I went into labor an hour-and-a-half after having the epic parking lot meltdown? Pretty sure Someone⇑wanted me to stop being so controlling and let it go, let it go and give it all over to Him. Lesson learned). Sean arrived home, we grabbed our things, and left for the hospital at 1:45. Sean hadn’t eaten lunch yet, so he grabbed some leftover pizza from the fridge to eat on the way. We drove about 10 seconds before I politely irritably informed him I could not stand the smell of the pizza. In my mind, that meant he should throw the pizza in the trunk of the car to eat later. In his mind, it meant he should throw it onto our neighbor’s sidewalk. ??? He jumped back in the car, exclaimed “sorry neighbor!”, and we drove off. I love my husband 🙂

Fortunately, we left just before rush hour, so it took just 45 minutes to get to the hospital. My contractions were pretty intense, and Sean made fun of me for most of the way, because he said I sounded ridiculous. At least, that’s how I remember it. In his defense, I did sound ridiculous. Probably the best way to describe the noise I made during each contraction was a semi-melodic voice warm up exercise for a group of tone deaf ogres that rose in intensity and volume every few minutes (Sean’s description) 🙂

We arrived at the hospital, and I was admitted to triage around 2:30 pm. I remember a nurse saying something that implied she didn’t think I was very far along, which I gave a big harumph to in my head. I did all the standard stuff – peed in a cup, answered a million questions, and was examined. The nurse said I was 4-5 cm dilated, and I would be admitted. I was ecstatic at this news (as ecstatic as anyone can be in labor), because that was exactly where I was hoping to be – far enough I would be admitted and not sent back home (like my experience with Caleb), but not so far I couldn’t get an epidural (which I knew from experience, I definitely wanted).

I was transferred to a birthing room around 3 pm, and my contractions were very intense at that point. For some reason I could not wrap my mind around, the nurse’s began asking me the exact same questions I had just been asked in the triage room, but because my contractions were so intense, Sean was answering for me because I was totally unable. Since it was clear I couldn’t answer them, they said they’d resume asking the questions after I got the epidural.

The anesthesiologist (who looked to be about 13-years-old, but who am I to judge), arrived around 3:30 pm, and began the process of inserting the epidural. It was extremely difficult for me to keep still as he inserted the needle, because my contractions were so painful and coming so fast. After 3 attempts, yes THREE (do you know how big those needles are???), he finally got it placed by 3:45 pm.

Ten minutes later, at 3:55 pm, they asked if I could feel the epidural kicking in, and I said I couldn’t. They adjusted the dosage, and told me it could be another 20 minutes before it did its job. A couple minutes later, I felt like I had to push, so I told the nurse. She basically dismissed me, and said: “oh, some women feel that way during the contractions, but it’s not really time yet…but I can check you if you want.” To that I replied: “no, really, I have to push…check me.” Well, she checked, and subsequently panicked as she called the appropriate personnel in, because like I said…I really, actually had to push!

The nurse told me to wait, which could be likened to instructing someone to hit the brakes on a car that has flown off the edge of a cliff. Not gonna help. So I started pushing. As the nurse scrambled to get everything in place, I pushed about 5 times, and out she came. We didn’t even have our camera, video camera, or bags with us, because Sean had planned to go grab them from the car once the epidural kicked in, when things weren’t so intense and I didn’t need him right by my side. My water never broke during labor, so she started coming out inside the amniotic sac, which the delivery nurse (who showed up in the nick of time), was pretty excited about since it’s not something they see very often. The sac burst on her way out, so unfortunately, we didn’t make headlines for a baby born inside the amniotic sac 🙂

Evangeline Love Felker made her grand entrance at 4:08 pm on August 1st, 2013, and she was beautiful. Like I wrote in the post I did detailing her cleft adventures, I noticed something was wrong with her lip right away, but I really didn’t care. We cuddled, and it was wonderful. I tore like I had after delivering Caleb (but not as bad, the nurse said it was nearly a second degree, and she could tell my previous tear was nearly a third degree). She stitched me up, and in an oh-so-timely fashion, the epidural kicked in at about 4:15 pm…7 minutes after I delivered Evie. Served. In fact, double served, because then I was stuck in bed until the epidural wore off since my legs didn’t work – ha! And we never did get to all those questions they were supposed to ask…





So, my entire “active” labor was a total of 4 hours, and I was in the birthing room for only a little over an hour before Evie’s arrival! I suppose it makes sense that once the ball truly got rolling it all happened so fast, since I had practically been in labor for 5 weeks! It was the shortest, longest labor ever. We called all the grandparent’s to announce the news of her arrival, and a short while later, Pop Pop, Nana, and big brother Caleb came to meet her:


Giving Evie a kiss
Probably scheming
A perfectly accurate portrayal of their relationship from day 1. They love each other and thinks the other is absolutely hilarious 🙂

Overall, I would say my labor and delivery experience at Kaiser Antioch was positive…the only major negative was the epidural. I don’t know if my nurse was inexperienced or what, but in retrospect, she really should have checked how dilated I was immediately before the epidural was administered, because I must have been 8-9 cm at that point, and the strength/frequency of my contractions should have tipped her off to that (and epidurals are not supposed to be given that late in labor). Not only was it super awesome to have a huge needle stuck in my back 3 times for medicine that didn’t take affect until after I had already given birth, but the following day, of all the places I could be hurting, the epidural locations on my back were the most sore. So yeeeeah, if we ever have another bio kiddo, I definitely do NOT want an epidural. Noooo thank you. Funny how my attitude on that one did a complete 180…after Caleb’s birth, I thought maybe God had given them as a concession to womankind after realizing the “painful childbearing” curse was a tad bit unequal to men’s “you must work to eat your food” curse 😉

Speaking of Caleb’s birth, I wrote down a few of the interesting differences between the two labors and deliveries. Caleb was born within 48 hours of the first painful contractions I ever felt, and Evie was born more than 5 weeks after the first painful contractions I felt. Definitely set me up for some misguided expectations for round 2! 🙂 With Caleb, my active labor was like a marathon, and with Evie, my active labor was like a sprint. And since my active labor with her was so short, I felt much better physically after Evie’s delivery, than I did after my 19-hour labor with Caleb (which left me feeling like I had been mauled by a bear…then hit by a bus). Getting an epidural when I was in labor with Caleb was a life saver, and getting it with Evie was a total bust. And just in case you’re wondering, given the choice between a marathon labor with an epidural, or a sprint labor without an epidural (like you get a choice, ha!) I would unquestionably pick a sprint labor without an epidural.

The remainder of our hospital stay was also much smoother than with Caleb – I could understand my nurses, I had a private room, Sean was able to stay with me, Evie took much better to breastfeeding (even with a cleft lip), Sean was much less anxious, my body was less jacked up, I felt more confident in my parenting abilities since I was no longer a rookie, I could hang a “do not disturb” sign on my door whenever I wanted, and the hospital even brought us a celebratory dinner. Now that’s what I’m talking about. And when we came home, we weren’t living in an apartment complex full of partying college students!! So all in all, I was very grateful for a much better experience the second time around…despite Evie’s leisurely, tardy arrival. It’s ok, I get it…she’s a female. Just preparing us for the next 18 years 🙂

Click here to read more about Evie’s subsequent cleft experiences, or here to read Caleb’s birth story!

Evie’s Surgery Day Recap

The morning of Evie’s surgery was dark, cold, and rainy. She was required to fast four hours prior to check-in, so I broke a cardinal parenting rule and woke a sleeping baby at 3 am to nurse one last time. I fell back in bed at 3:30, and woke again at 4:45. Sean and I fumbled to get dressed and gathered some last-minute items, then were off to Oakland Kaiser hospital at 5:30 am. We were silent as we drove along in the dark, and my thoughts began to drift to irrational worst-case scenarios. I finally broke the silence with: “what if Evie dies today?” Sean quickly replied: “She’s not going to die today. Everything will be fine.”

There was less traffic than anticipated on the drive there, so we arrived at the hospital early. This was a good thing, since we weren’t sure where we were going. Just as we left cover of the parking garage, we realized we had conveniently left our umbrella in the car. A moment very similar to this, then ensued:

So we forged ahead, and I’m sure we were quite the sight as we jogged towards the hospital – toting three large bags and a baby in tow. After waiting at the longest cross-walk in all of history, we eventually made it into the hospital only slightly wet. We found the ambulatory surgery unit, signed in, and found a seat in the packed, dingy waiting room. We drank some coffee and attempted to relax (ha!), when a woman struck up conversation with us. (Not that this was a bad thing, I’m just not typically a lively conversationalist at 7 in the morning). She asked what everyone *always* asks us – “is she your first?” I guess people assume she must be, since I am informed ad nauseam I don’t look a day past 16. She then recounted an entire Modern Family episode – I really can’t remember why – and we smiled and nodded, smiled and nodded.

After what felt like an eternity, we were summoned to the check-in office. We signed a bunch of paperwork acknowledging possibility of death, dismemberment, irreversible damage, lingering PTSD, etc. etc. etc., and then we were off to weigh Evie and change her into the 10-sizes-too-big hospital-issued gown. She weighed 12 lbs 5 oz, which placed her in the 20th percentile, down from the 90th percentile at birth (I unequivocally blame her birth weight on the daily half-baked chocolate chip cookies I consumed in abnormally large quantities while pregnant, haha).

Next, we transferred to a pre-op area, and answered a million questions. My personal favorites: “does she smoke?”, “does she drink alcohol?”, and “any custody issues?” After the long interview, we waited for her plastic surgeon and anesthesiologist to come brief us. Evie was surprisingly calm during the wait, considering she hadn’t nursed in five hours and I imagine was very hungry. Even though Evie couldn’t use words, she’s a smart girl and figured out another way to communicate exactly what she thought about the impending ordeal:

Waiting, waiting
Daddy love
Last smile we got for days :(
Last smile we got for a while 🙁
Last smile I gave for awhile too, ha!

Eventually, Dr. Yokoo and the anesthesiologist came by to ask if we had any questions and to provide more information. The anesthesiologist assured us it was more likely for us to have been in a car accident on the drive to the hospital than for something to go wrong with anesthesia, so that made me feel better (except then I worried about crashing on the way home). They left to prepare for Evie’s surgery, and in the meantime, she passed out:

This is the last moment I remember her as an “easy/mellow” baby!

A short while later, a nurse came and escorted us to the double doors leading into the hallway of the operating rooms. We each gave Evie one last kiss and squeeze and said goodbye. Emotionally, we had been ok up until that point, but as we watched the doors close and little Evie disappear down the hallway, a switch flipped in mere seconds and the tears instantly welled up in our eyes. I can’t explain why, it was just really distressing to watch a stranger carry away our baby girl. Shoot, if it was that traumatic to release a child for a relatively non life-threatening surgery, I hope to never know what it feels like for one that is. Ugh, no parent should ever EVER have to go through that!!!

We sat down to pray together and regain our composure, then wandered aimlessly up and down the same hallway for five minutes, as we attempted to figure out how to get to the hospital’s lobby. We must have looked highly suspicious to anyone watching on a security cam – haha! We eventually made it, dropped off our bags, and I immediately left to find the hospital’s lactation room because it was time to pump.

I was informed the room was on the administrative 12th floor, but after walking the hallways multiple times, I could not find it anywhere. I stopped to ask a man who worked at the hospital where it was, and he said he didn’t think they had one. He flagged down another man, who flagged down another man, and all three stared at me blankly while I explained that I was searching for the lactation room. The three adamantly agreed one did not exist, and boisterously shared a good laugh about how absurd that would be. They eventually pulled themselves together long enough to suggest I try the labor and delivery floor. Good thing I’m not easily embarrassed by awkward situations, because I probably would have melted into the floor.

In the nick of time, a woman was walking by who must have heard our conversation and scolded them, snapping: “state law requires every workplace to provide a room for breastfeeding mothers to pump…it’s on the 11th floor.” She rolled her eyes, grabbed my arm, and took me down a flight of stairs and showed me the room. She asked if I worked at the hospital, and I said no, I was there because my 3-month-old daughter was having a cleft lip repair. I think she could sense I might burst into tears at any moment, so she pulled me in for a big bear hug and gave me her phone number in case I needed anything. I think she might have been an angel…a big, sassy angel 😉

After my pumping adventure, I returned to the lobby, and Sean and I waited together for the remaining 2 hours. While we waited, we talked on the phone with Caleb and Nana, which was really nice because it got our mind off the surgery for a little. Caleb was having a blast with Nana – splashing in puddles and getting really muddy…pretty typical 🙂 There was another family waiting next to us who we had seen in the surgery waiting room upstairs. From what we gathered, their young son (maybe 7 or 8 years?) was undergoing brain surgery…a 24-hour operation. I really felt for them.

I kept anxiously looking at the clock, and just before noon, a messenger came over to inform us Evie’s surgery was finished, and we could go up to see her. When we walked into the large recovery room with multiple beds, I could hear Evie crying. My heart skipped a few beats, and I quickened my pace. I had expected her to wake from the anesthesia groggy and lethargic (not upset), so I was concerned. When we arrived at her side, I barely heard Dr. Yokoo say the operation had gone well, before the small crowd of medical professionals gathered by her crib were all telling me she was hungry and wanted to eat. Everything was a blur after that as I jumped into action – I quickly sat down, whipped out the goods (so much for privacy!), and fought with all the tubes and cords attached to her as I tried to maneuver her into the correct position.

What resulted next was so sad and pathetic, it made me tear up again. Evie was obviously starving, but because her surgeon gave her mouth a nerve block, she couldn’t close her lips to latch on, and her tongue was completely numb as well. She kept trying and just couldn’t do it, making her increasingly frustrated, and crying harder and harder. I felt so powerless to help her 🙁

It was obvious that Evie was not capable of breastfeeding yet, so we retrieved the milk I pumped earlier and began syringe feeding her (i.e. basically squirting milk down her throat). Once we did that, she calmed down a bit, which was a huge relief. Since she didn’t eat well right off the bat, we were transferred to the pediatrics floor, in case we needed to stay overnight.

When we arrived at our shared room, there was already two women there with a toddler boy, who appeared to have been there awhile. As we situated ourselves, a doctor walked in to talk to them, and the first thing I heard out of his mouth was: “your son’s rare infection disease…” Wait, WHAT!?!?! I literally froze in place, and thought: “ummm, should we be sharing a room with this boy??” It would seem I do not have the best of luck with shared hospital rooms, haha!

As it turned out, the boy had a surgery and the wound got infected, but it wasn’t contagious. It was actually a really sad situation – he was obviously in a lot of pain from all his groans and cries, he also had down syndrome, and his mother was quite belligerent with the medical professionals who came in and out, and the other woman in the room who was the boy’s grandmother. We really didn’t have to think long about whether we wanted to stay the night or not! :/

Over the next few hours, we syringe-fed Evie nearly continuously, and she took 5 ounces which was commendable. Soon after we had arrived at the pediatrics room, I needed to pump again, so I hopped up on the middle bed right next to her crib, since there was limited seating in the room. Evie’s nurse had left the room, and when she returned I was seriously reprimanded for sitting on a “clean” bed, which she lamented would now need to be changed. Geesh, sorry…and thanks for the heads up!

In the pediatrics recovery room, taking a break from syringe feeding
She was so miserable :/
Her whole face was terribly swollen

After a few hours in the recovery room, I attempted to nurse Evie again, and this time she did much better. The nerve block had worn off just enough to regain function of her mouth/lips/tongue, but was still keeping her pain mostly at bay. It was slow going, but I was encouraged she was able to breastfeed at all. Since Evie did a decent job nursing, her nurse decided she could be discharged. By this point we were exhausted and ready to go home, so we were happy to receive this news.

We picked up her medicine in the pharmacy, and left the hospital. Predictably, we got lost and couldn’t figure out where we parked (I think we must be directionally challenged), so we walked in a circle around the hospital until we finally found it (this time, hauling 5 bags and a baby)! Sweating bullets, we loaded up the car, and as we were leaving the parking garage, we got stuck at the automated parking machine because it wouldn’t accept our ticket. We motioned for every car behind us to go around, backed up, and re-parked so Sean could go back in the building to get help from someone. I really think we should have our own reality TV show…it would be awesome. Just kidding, it would actually be super boring.

We eventually made it home after a delightful trip in rush-hour traffic and a record-breaking wait at Chipotle, and then the real fun began…

Next post:

First Day Post-Surgery Update


Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures

1 Month Post-Surgery Update

Life is finally returning to a manageable state! Evie still isn’t napping well and is fussy often, but I think this is more a function of her age, than anything surgery-related at this point. In the last week or so I began sleep training, because I decided enough time had passed since the surgery and she is now developmentally old enough for it. I’m sure those of you without kids are thinking: “what? you have to train a baby to sleep??” Yep, those little stinkers don’t come pre-trained to do anything…except maybe how to drive their parents mad 🙂 Essentially, sleep training is allowing her to “cry it out,” and helping her learn how to self-soothe and get to sleep on her own (and back to sleep when she stirs), without my help. I’ll be honest, sleep training is probably my least favorite part of parenting (that I’ve come across thus far). Listening to a baby cry is the worst kind of torture for me…I would take Caleb’s shenanigans any day over listening to her cry, no contest. However, I do think the cry-it-out method is the best tactic (especially with two kids…is anything else even practical)?? I hate doing it, but I know it’s best for her (and us) in the long run.

So all in all, things are much better than they were. I’m glad Evie won’t remember any of this nightmare, because I think Sean and I will always have lingering PTSD from the experience!! (Speaking of nightmares, I actually had one last night about the whole ordeal)! Thankfully, the worst is behind us, and life is “normalizing.” I will still write a post about the day of her surgery, but the following is a hodgepodge of final thoughts about the experience, that I haven’t yet expressed:

I wish the operation was performed earlier in her life – closer to when she was 10-weeks-old, which is a standard age for lip repair. Or at the very least, sooner (it was originally scheduled for two weeks prior, when she was 14 weeks). I think the surgery wouldn’t have upset her so much when she was less cognitively developed, aware of her surroundings, and mobile (i.e. hadn’t begun rolling yet).

Sean and I have been speculating that Evie’s strong emotional reaction to her surgery may be an indicator of what her personality will be like. I’m wondering if she will be a sensitive girl, who appreciates routine and predictability, and has difficulty adjusting and adapting to new situations. Or perhaps she will struggle with anxiety – which would not be surprising – because the apple never falls far from the tree 🙂 I guess we will have to wait and see if our inklings are correct!

If we could rewind time and do it all over again, we would have administered her medication very differently. She was on the Tylenol w/codeine for 5 days, and we should have only given it for a day or two at most, and then switched to alternating between Ibuprofen and regular Tylenol. In the ER, we were instructed to take her off the Tylenol w/codeine completely (without substituting regular Tylenol), but the Ibuprofen alone was clearly not enough to manage her pain, which is why we put her back on the Tyco. In retrospect, though, I think regular Tylenol and Ibuprofen would have been sufficient. This way, we could have avoided the whole constipation debacle, and she wouldn’t have been so zombified for as long as she was.

Finally, we want to thank our family and friends who prayed, helped with Caleb, and brought meals, coffee, treats, and care packages. The first 3 weeks post-surgery easily ranks in the top five most difficult experiences in my life, and you were a lifeline for us. I really don’t think we could have survived without you, and we are SO grateful for your love and support. We hope we can bless you in return in the future when you find yourselves in a season of need.Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Photos taken this morning:

Looks even better than a week-and-a-half ago!
Her lip looks even better than it did a week-and-a-half ago!
I finally rubbed off the stubborn stitch under her nose last night, but there's still a couple on her lip
I finally rubbed off the stubborn stitch at the base of her nose last night, but there’s still a couple on her lip


Cute girl :)
Cute girl 🙂
As usual, big brother had to crash the photo shoot :)
As usual, big brother had to crash the photo shoot 🙂
But Evie got him back by pulling his hair. And so the sibling rivalry begins!
…But she got him back by pulling his hair. And so the sibling rivalry begins!
We started the silicone gel strips today to assist with healing, which we'll apply for a few months.
We started the silicone gel strips today to assist with healing, which we’ll apply for a few months (that is, if we can figure out how to get them to stay on…why do we keep getting instructed to do impossible tasks!?!)
This is Evie's "I'm going to get you back for all this torture when I'm 13" face, haha!
This is Evie’s “I’m going to get you back for all this torture when I’m 13” face, haha!

Previous posts:

Evie’s Surgery Day Recap
First Day Post-Surgery Update
Second Day Post-Surgery Update
Third Day Post-Surgery Update
Fourth Day Post-Surgery Update
Fifth Day Post-Surgery Update
Days 6-10 Post-Surgery Update
3 Week Post-Surgery Update
1 Month Post-Surgery Update


Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures

Schooled by a 2-Year-Old

Last night, we managed to get out of the house and go to the Christmas worship night at church. We nearly aborted mission at the last-minute, because I knew an event like this would be really difficult with the kiddos. We decided to push through and go, because it is the only church-wide event all year (that I’m aware of), that children are allowed to attend, and I really wanted Caleb to experience worship as a church community. Sean front-packed Evie, and she did better than expected because she was mesmerized by the lights and sounds, but Caleb was as crazy as anticipated 🙂 I spent the first 30 minutes chasing him as he ran down rows of chairs, dancing with him in the back, and full-body tackling him before he could run up the stairs into the stadium seating. (I was sorely mistaken when I chose to take Caleb, thinking he would be easier on me physically than holding Evie the entire time – ha)!  I contemplated leaving with him on several occasions, but I really didn’t want to, since 1. It had been a month-and-a-half since we had gone to church due to Evie’s surgery and I really missed worship, and 2. I didn’t want to take away a unique opportunity for Caleb to experience God.

Our friend Becky was singing in the choir and Caleb wanted to see her, so I decided to take him up closer to the stage (I know…a highly risky move). I noticed some empty seats in the front row on the far right side (I thought he might be more engaged if we were closer to the action), so I sat down with him and bear-hugged him so he couldn’t escape for half the time, and jumped him up and down on my legs the other half (not so easy anymore at 2.64 years). It was exhausting, I was obviously more focused on keeping him under control than singing, and I kept wondering if he was bothering other people and making it difficult for them to worship.

After each song (and even during songs), Caleb clapped loudly and woo-hooed in the highest-pitched woo-hoo I’ve ever heard…it was really quite impressive (it was like a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but higher…back me up on this one, Bauer’s). He also kept turning around to loudly exclaim: “mama, we’re saying hallelujah!” After each disruption, I half-smiled nervously, glanced around to see if anyone noticed (they did), and sternly whispered to him – “Caleb, please stop [fill in the blank].” But in the midst of the chaos, God spoke to me through scripture. He said – “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). After all, we were there to celebrate BABY Jesus. I also felt Him impress upon me: Melissa, I know your attention is split and you can’t quietly focus, reflect, and worship Me like you once could before children, but I accept your worship just the same. You are doing your best to give what you have to Me, and I am loved through your love for this boy…and let the boy worship!

After that, I tried not to care what other people might be thinking, and I clapped, sang, waved my arms, and hollered as loudly as I could with Caleb. It was pretty cool, and my throat hurt afterward 🙂 Life is so different now with kids, and God is constantly redefining and teaching me what it looks like to be in relationship with Him in the throes of life with littles. All I can say is – I’m sure glad God is a God of patience, grace, and understanding, because I definitely don’t have it figured out. I love God, I love my crazy boy, and I love that I got schooled by him through his reckless abandon, as he praised God in his special 2-year-old way!

He passed out on his floor afterwards...didn't even make it to the bed :)
He passed out on his floor afterwards…didn’t even make it into bed 🙂

3 Week Post-Surgery Update

One of these days I’ll master the art of short updates and publishing them in a timely manner (yeah right), but until then (never), I apologize. If you want the cliff notes version, you can just read the first line of the next paragraph 🙂

This past week-and-a-half was another roller coaster ride, but overall, things are improving. Sunday and Monday (12/1 and 12/2), were equally as intense as the previous days, with Evie’s nap strike continuing and crying for most of the day. On Tuesday, we went to her post-op appointment with her surgeon, and that marked a turning point. Dr. Yokoo said her lip is looking great and healing as it should, so that was good news. Since that appointment, we have been applying vaseline to her scar and massaging it throughout the day, so it will continue to heal well. Dr. Yokoo also instructed us to pull down on her lip periodically since it will naturally pull up, but Evie is adamantly opposed to such torture (go figure), so we have all but abandoned that. As soon as all her stitches fall out (there’s still a few stubborn ones), we’ll apply silicone gel sheets to her lip over the next few months, to assist with healing as well.

The even better news we received at that appointment, was permission to ditch the much-loathed (by all!) arm restraints. Sean thinks we should keep them to show her, but I just want to burn them. Evie was obviously pleased by this, and immediately stuck her fingers in her mouth and began sucking, which made her a happy girl. On our way back to the car, she spontaneously laughed, and we’re pretty positive it was an expression of uncontainable glee over her regained freedom!

During the appointment, we also spoke with Dr. Yokoo at length about her sleeping difficulties and fussiness, and she thought Evie is simply reacting to her world getting turned upside down and dealing with a traumatic event, is uncomfortable, and just plain mad/upset. She did not think it could be due to any lingering neurological effects of the drugs or an unknown medical issue (which has since been confirmed by Evie’s anesthesiologist, pediatrician, and my uncle who is a retired psychiatrist…I like to cover my bases :)). Dr. Yokoo said Evie’s reaction to surgery is unusual, but not rare (although it is more common after cleft palate repair, not lip repair). She also speculated that Evie was highly irritated by the arm restraints (she had just learned to roll before surgery, and wasn’t able to for almost two weeks), and Dr. Yokoo also thought she was hampered by the inability to soothe herself in the ways she was accustomed to (i.e. sucking on her hands/using a pacifier). I really didn’t think Evie was old enough to be capable of such complex emotions, but I guess I underestimated her emotional maturity! 😉 Dr. Yokoo did not think her disposition was anything we needed to worry about, and thought it would pass within a couple of weeks.

The remainder of Tuesday was a bit better than the previous days since Evie actually fell asleep in the car to and from the appointment in Richmond, but still difficult with fussiness. Even though she had use of her arms back, she had lost her ability to roll, which really frustrated her. It was really kind of sad that she had regressed developmentally due to the surgery. She has since relearned how to roll – which is a very good thing – since it is a particularly useful skill in this household to successfully dodge flying objects hurled by big brother!

Wednesday was a day of blessings. When we woke up, our heater, (which Sean had been climbing into the attic to restart manually on a near daily basis), finally stopped working altogether. We had already ordered the broken part, but it wasn’t set to arrive until Friday. And lucky us, a cold front was rolling in that day, and the temperature dropped to 26 degrees that night. Sean tried his best to fix it, but to no avail. We began praying that God would fix it. And praying and praying. After that, Sean decided to try one last-ditch effort and MacGyver’ed it – bypassing the electronics and safety shut-downs – and it worked! Not only did it work on Wednesday, but it kept running until we received the replacement part on Friday, and Sean was able to fully fix it. Praise Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide)!

That afternoon, Sean had to go back to work…which I was dreading. At that point, Evie had not taken a nap in an entire week that was not facilitated by a car ride, being held/rocked, or using me as a human pacifier (and even in these cases, she only slept for 45 minutes, max). I knew it was not practical to continue these nap-inducing tactics once I was on my own with both kiddos, so once again, I prayed and asked God to help her nap on her own. I laid her in the swing, and she fell asleep…and stayed asleep for 2 hours! It was an even bigger miracle than the heater working! 🙂 Her afternoon nap didn’t go as well, but I was so stoked on the first nap, I didn’t care. A friend also came to help that day, and we were surprised with not just one, but two meals that night, which was amazing!

Now Thursday…well, Thursday was a doozy. Evie had become hoarse on the previous Sunday evening, and I figured it was due to screaming for four days non-stop. However, her voice was still hoarse by Wednesday afternoon, even though she had cried less on Tuesday and Wednesday (and it really seemed to me her voice should have recovered by then, if the hoarseness was due to voice overuse). I began wondering if Evie was sick (even though she was not exhibiting any sick symptoms), so I took her to the pediatrician Thursday morning. The doctor (not her usual one), checked her from head to toe, and determined she was not sick – her lungs, throat, and ears looked fine. She thought the hoarseness could be due to Evie’s crying, or possibly due to her vocal cords getting damaged from intubation during surgery. She told me not to worry about it unless it wasn’t going away, because that could mean Evie had polyps on her vocal cords. I had no idea what “polyps” were (hopefully I’m not the only one here), so I pressed her for more information. She began describing what they are (small growths), which sounded scary enough to me, and stopped mid-sentence to say – “I shouldn’t have said that…I don’t know why I said that.” For any doctor or doctor-in-training reading this, don’t ever say that to a patient or their parent. Just don’t. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss!

It was difficult to concentrate after that, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the scary growths Evie might have on her vocal cords. I fought back tears as I left, thinking to myself – “I just can’t handle one more thing right now.” When I got home, I researched all about vocal cord polyps and how they are fixed…which is via surgery. At this moment in time, the term surgery is a curse word to me, and I think I just about had a heart attack. My mother-in-law was at my house watching Caleb, and when she asked how the appointment went, I pretty much lost it. I just felt so beat up by the previous two weeks, dealing with one issue after another, that it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. These so-called “polyps” weren’t even a for sure thing, but I couldn’t even handle the possibility of them.

Searching for answers as to the cause of her hoarseness, I emailed the anesthesiologist who participated in Evie’s surgery to ask if her vocal cords could have been damaged due to intubation (a known risk). When Sean came home from work, I told him what the pediatrician had said, (which he took really well), and we prayed together for Evie’s hoarseness to resolve itself. I received an email back from the anesthesiologist just a few hours after messaging her (pretty amazing!), and she said she did not think it was due to the intubation, because the timing was not right (the hoarseness would have shown up earlier), and thought it was more likely due to Evie’s obscene amount of crying. After putting more rational thought into it, what the anesthesiologist said made a lot of sense, and I agreed with her. I was relieved the hoarseness was not due to intubation, but still concerned that it might not be temporary, and what that would mean. Exhausted, and feeling like I got hit by a bus due to a day’s worth of extreme muscle tension, I collapsed into bed at 8 pm with Evie, which is probably the earliest I have gone to bed since I was 10. What a day.

After more prayer and some decent rest (I say decent, because I probably could have slept for 24 hours straight), I felt better. It really is amazing how a new day can bring new perspective. I decided to give it over to God, and not worry about it. It took longer than it should have to arrive there, but I know this is a growth area for me, and longer is better than not at all. So long story long, I calmed down about it, and Evie’s voice is better now (the hoarseness comes and goes depending on how much she’s been crying, which tells me it is definitely a temporary condition due to excessive crying as I had originally suspected, and truly nothing to be concerned about). And even if it had turned out that she did have polyps and needed surgery, I know it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Bringing us to the present, the past week or so has been about the same in terms of Evie’s behavior. She is still experiencing a lot of difficulty sleeping and is fussy often, but is definitely screaming much less than the five days prior (thank the good Lord)!! Fortunately, last Friday brought an epiphany for me. When Evie first began her epic freak-out, I had emailed my cousin to ask if she had experienced anything similar with her daughter after the surgeries her daughter had early on in life. She said no, but thought what I was describing didn’t sound too different from how all her kids acted around four months of age. What she said got me thinking back to when Caleb was 4 months old, (which strangely feels like an eternity ago), and I vaguely recalled that he also struggled with napping and was pretty fussy at 4 months too.

Up until that point, I had only considered that Evie’s disposition could be related to the surgery, and had not considered that her developmental age could be a factor. Rather than googling “fussiness after surgery” and the like, I googled “4 month sleep problems.” I came across this article about 4 month sleep regression, and as I read it, it sounded eerily familiar. Know why? Because I realized I read that same article when Caleb was 4 months old, and I was trying to figure out what was wrong with him – haha! Darn mom-affected amnesia gets me every time – I could swear the part of my brain responsible for memories was irreversibly damaged when I gave birth to Caleb. Granted, I don’t think his behavior at 4 months was quite as ridiculous, which is probably why I don’t remember it as well either.

I had Sean read the article, and after discussing it more, we theorized that what we have on our hands is the result of a perfect storm. We think Evie’s experience with a traumatic event (surgery, being drugged, and all the issues that followed with dehydration and constipation), mixed with her developmental age of 4 months, created a monster. Lol! Just kidding. Not a monster…just a very irritable, tired, confused, upset, and frustrated little girl. Poor baby 🙁

This breakthrough has been a relief to me, because I’m no longer wondering if she’s suffering from PTSD, or if the surgery provoked multiple personality disorder in her – haha! Obviously I’m exaggerating, but I really was concerned that something was seriously wrong by the way she was acting and how many weeks it was lasting, and now I believe her crazy disposition at the moment is normal, albeit elevated due to atypical circumstances. As the surgery gets further behind us and she simultaneously grows older, I know things will get better and better. I mean, they have to…I really don’t think I’ll be ok with her sleeping in our bed until she’s 18 😉 So at the moment, it is still difficult – and I even shed a few tears again yesterday (during the whole 15 minutes I had to myself the entire day), because I think my kiddos were in cahoots to see who could break me first. Thankfully, after some prayer, a refreshing shower, and Dad to the rescue, I was (and am) feeling optimistic. But let’s just be honest, I am looking forward to moving past this stage and restoring some semblance of normalcy again 🙂

Photos taken last Thursday (12/5), 2 Weeks Post-Op:






Photos taken yesterday (12/10):





Photos taken this morning at 3 Weeks Post-Op:


I think her lip is looking great!
I think her lip is looking great, even though it’s starting to pull up some

Next post:

1 Month Post-Surgery Update


Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures

Days 6-10 Post-Surgery Update

[FYI – I wrote this update last night with a few corrections this morning…but it’s taken me until past 3 pm today to find a moment to add the pictures on at the bottom and publish the post. So far, today has been similar to the last few.]

In my latest update on Tuesday, Evie was doing much better and it had been our best day by far. Wednesday during the day was pretty good as well, but things took a turn for the worst on Wednesday evening, and since then it’s been frustrating at best, ulcer-inducing at worst (haha)! She’s back to eating normally which is a blessing, (if not more than she was pre-surgery), but now we are dealing with an entirely different set of problems than before. If I could time travel and go back in time one week, I probably would chuckle and say to myself: “self, if you think this is hard…you just wait and see what’s coming…” (well, except for the dehydration/ER visit – that was pretty awful). By the way, if the thought of poop makes you squeamish, this is most definitely not the post for you.

In Tuesday’s update, I mentioned she was constipated, a fun side-effect of the codeine (…love how one solution to the pain problem just leads to another pain problem). By Wednesday night, Evie still had not passed a bowel movement – making it five days since her last one. We tried to get things moving by syringe-feeding water to her per her doctor’s instructions, and even tried homeopathic remedies such as a baking soda bath, but nothing helped. She was obviously cramping and uncomfortable, but we were still holding out hope that she would have a huge blow-out at any minute.

Sean finally bounced Evie to sleep at 11 pm, and we went to bed immediately after that. 30 minutes later, she woke up crying and in pain. We did more research on infant constipation online, and found suggestions to pump her legs and push down on her belly, 3 finger-lengths below her belly button. The leg pumping seemed to relieve some discomfort for a short time, but eventually, she became more and more upset. In our research, we read that as a last resort, an infant glycerin suppository could be used. We concurred we had arrived at the “last resort” point, so at 1:30 am on Thanksgiving morning, I searched for 24-hour pharmacies in our area. It took awhile to find one, and the closest pharmacy was 20 minutes away at a hospital.

As I bemoaned waiting another hour to relieve Evie’s pain, (in the middle of the night, nonetheless), I suddenly remembered we might still have adult suppositories – thanks to one of my many lovely issues while pregnant with Caleb 🙂 Sean checked, and we still had them. I conducted further research online, and found the ones we had were identical in composition to the infant ones – we just needed to cut it in 1/4. So we cut it, prayed we weren’t poisoning her (ha!), and did the deed. One minute later, (no exaggeration), she began pooping. Seriously, that stuff is magic. I don’t know how it works (nor do I really care to know), but wow, probably top 5 inventions of all time. And just because it’s hilarious, I have to share an excerpt we read on infant constipation from a professional, reputable site:

Infants normally work really hard to have a bowel movement, so straining at the stool isn’t necessarily alarming, even when the infant cries or gets red in the face. For an infant to have a bowel movement is a major effort, and it shows. Just try to poop lying on your back and you’ll get the picture. Actually, don’t really do that. Imagining it should be enough.

After the suppository got her system moving again, I really thought we were in the clear. Unfortunately, this was not the case…I suppose one suppository was not enough to rival five days of back-log. So, maybe it’s only in the top 10 inventions of all time. In any case, they’ve done amazing things for our family 😉 Over the next 24 hours, she continued to have cramps and pass gas often…and pooped five times. I guess that’s one for each day she missed.

Rewinding a tad, on Thanksgiving morning, we finally got her back to sleep around 2:30 am, and went back to sleep ourselves…until 5:15 am when Caleb woke up crying and yelling for dada, because he couldn’t find his blankie and puppy. So on all accounts, a really solid way to begin Thanksgiving.  I think our thankful hearts were being put to the test 🙂 Evie was up nursing when Caleb woke up, and went back to sleep for only a couple more hours after that. For the rest of the day, she was generally fussy, cried on and off, and refused to nap. At one point, Sean was at the store and I needed to shower, so I put her in the swing. She was ok at first, but after I got the shower going (of course), she began screaming her head off and I couldn’t do anything about it…I felt so bad for her.

I nearly abandoned attending Thanksgiving dinner at Sean’s parents house because she was so fussy, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not being with family on Thanksgiving. On our drive over to their house, Evie screamed while Caleb screamed at Evie to stop crying. I wish I took a video of the insanity, because it was just one of those moments that was too good to be true, but my brain just doesn’t work that fast on a few hours of sleep. I’m glad I went, and everyone took turns holding her and helping with Caleb so we could have a break. A good portion of our Thanksgiving dinner conversation revolved around poop and suppositories, so that was awesome too. I don’t know what you were thankful for on Thanksgiving this year, but baby poop was at the top of my list. I am not joking…at one point during the day I literally shouted: “thank you Jesus!” 🙂

The past three nights were an improvement over Wednesday night in terms of getting her to sleep and getting some sleep ourselves, (so long as we let her sleep in bed with us…which we’ve never done before). However, since Thursday, she has been crying a good portion of the day, needs to be held and bounced constantly (which still doesn’t guarantee she’ll stop crying half the time), and is refusing to nap. Her constipation was resolved by Thursday night, so that is no longer an issue. I have been googling up a storm, and we are at a total loss for nailing down what is bothering her at this point. We talked to a doctor on the phone, and she had no idea either. She’s not sick, her lip is not infected, she’s not teething, she’s not constipated, she’s eating much better, and she’s not dehydrated.

I read that the Ibuprofen/Tylenol could be upsetting her stomach, so we stopped giving those entirely Friday night, but it doesn’t seem to have improved (or worsened) her behavior. My three best guesses at this point are: 1. neurological side-effects from the anesthesia (resulting in sensory-overload and difficulty sleeping), 2. psychological side-effects from surgery (resulting in clinginess and general fussiness), and/or 3. not being able to offer her a pacifier to soothe herself. Maybe it’s just one, or a combo of all three… or an unknown 4th possibility…but who really knows, since she can’t talk to us!!! She has cried more in the last 3 days than her first 4 months combined. Her current disposition is so unlike the mellow baby we knew…it’s disconcerting. I’m seriously wondering if the surgery and all the drugs damaged her psychologically, or if something serious is going on medically and we just don’t know what it is. I’m pretty sure one of the worst feelings in the world is watching your child suffer and not knowing what is bothering them, if it’s serious (or will just pass with time), and how to alleviate it.

So, let me paint you a picture of my current wonderful mess. Aside from Thanksgiving, I haven’t dressed myself in over a week, the house is a mess, we’re eating meals while standing and bouncing her, we’re only eating said meals because people are bringing them to us, I’m pretty sure my back has a few stress fractures by now, I think Caleb feels abandoned by me (at bed time last night he informed me he’d rather have a different mommy), and I’m showering just often enough to avoid an infectious disease. Fortunately, in all the madness, I have not lost my awesome sense of humor 😉

I was really expecting things to be much better at the one-week point, but as I prefaced this post, it’s actually more grueling now since she is requiring *constant* attention (she slept a lot for the first five days post-surgery since the codeine knocked her out, so at least that provided us with breaks…even though the feeding/medicine schedule was demanding). I was re-reading her discharge paperwork last night, and it confirmed that most babies are back to their usual selves by one week post-surgery…sooo ???? I know I have SO much in my life to be thankful for, and I’m really glad she is doing better with nursing and there is no major concern like dehydration (that we know of), but we are getting put through the wringer and w-o-r-k-e-d worked.

Not to toot my own horn, but I would say patience is one of my stronger suits, and my patience (in my own strength), is no match for this. There is nothing quite like a baby screaming in my ear for hours on end that raises my pulse off the charts, slowly seeps my will to live, and makes me more inclined to ram my head into a wall (some sarcasm there…some). She’s been crying so much I’ve even begun to hallucinate…even when she’s not crying, all I hear is crying…it just. won’t. stop. Sean is supposed to go back to work tomorrow, and as things stand, I am nowhere near capable of handling Evie on my own, let alone Evie AND Caleb. Aaaand the heater stops working on a daily basis :/

I haven’t been able to write an update in days because there have been no breaks…I was only able to write this because Caleb was in bed and Sean was holding Evie, so I could do something for a couple of hours that brings me joy. Writing about all these experiences is therapeutic and life-giving for me…it helps my introverted-self recharge, process everything, and adjust my perspective (and coincidentally, allows me to keep family and friends informed on how things are going).

We need Jesus and we desperately need prayer. I cannot overemphasize this enough!! We feel so helpless and weak. 2nd Corinthians 12:9 – “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” This has been an extremely stretching experience, and we need to rely on God to handle it well, and with thankful hearts (1 Thess. 5:16-18)…because we just can’t do it in our own strength.

Some pictures from earlier today:

4 months old today!
4 months old today!
Her nasty bandage finally came off today and we can actually see what her lip looks like
Her nasty bandage finally came off today and we can actually see what her lip looks like
We got a few smiles out of her...
We got a few smiles out of her…
...Before it quickly degraded into this. Sad...
…Before it quickly degraded into this. Sad…
Because Caleb can't handle not being the center of attention and demanded he take a turn :)
And then this happened because Caleb can’t handle not being the center of attention and demanded he take a turn 🙂
This picture was taken at 11 am and Caleb still did not have clothes on...which was only half our fault.
This picture was taken at 11 am and Caleb still did not have clothes on…which was only half our fault.
A good candid shot, ha!
A good candid shot, ha!

Next post:

3 Week Post-Surgery Update


Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures

Fifth Day Post-Surgery Update

Last night and today were the best by a mile. We have completely weaned Evie off the codeine, hooray! It took longer than I originally expected, but that’s ok. Now she is exclusively taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol, which we’ll slowly wean her off of as well. I think she is eating more than yesterday (it’s hard to know the exact amount since she’s breastfeeding), but it is still taking her a long time to eat. I’m sure she’ll get faster as each day passes. It is still a demanding schedule administering her medications and nursing her around the clock, but I’m hoping this schedule only lasts a few more days. Sadly, she hasn’t had a bowel movement in four days (a side effect of codeine is constipation), so poor girl is having cramps. I never thought I would say this (ever ever), but hopefully she has a huge blow-out soon! Thankfully, I’m feeling better today, so I think my physical ailments must have been fatigue and/or stress-related. As always, continued prayers are welcomed 🙂

Today’s photos:

We finally have our smiley girl back!
We finally have our smiley girl back!
I've missed her sweet smiles.
I’ve missed her sweet smiles.


We’re seeing her “la la land” face less and less
She got to take a relaxing bath today :)
She got to take a relaxing bath today 🙂
Had to throw in a cute pic of Caleb, just cause :)
Had to throw in a cute pic of Caleb, just cause 🙂
Caleb thought Evie was feeling left out, so he decided to give dad a fat lip too, haha! Jk...it was an accident...but poor dad.
Caleb thought Evie was feeling left out, so he decided to give dad a fat lip too, haha! Jk…it was an accident…but poor dad.

Next post:

Days 6-10 Post-Surgery Update


Out of Cleft Field: Evie’s Cleft Adventures