Cora’s birth, and our crazy life

Cora Jill <3

This winter our quiet Texas life was swept up into a tornado of major life changes. We moved to a rural town in CA (to a home sight unseen, in a snowy mountain community, where we knew no one and neither of us had ever been). Bradley started a new job. I needed to find healthcare (in a medically underserved community) weeks before our third child’s arrival. Caring for our family alone is a full day’s work-add to it this, fulfilling 1k orders, and traveling for Christmas… Life felt messy.  

This time of uncertainty broke me down. Nothing-besides the things we know matter-our faith, our marriage, our family-was certain. 

Would we be OK? Weeks passed. Things came together only to fall apart again, in new ways, and come together again. 

I love to plan and organize-I’m good at it! But so much was unknown and out of my control. I wrestled with interior abandonment of will. I cried, a lot. I also knew this was another trial made perfectly for us and our family’s path to holiness, an opportunity for grace. I asked the Lord to break me down and build me back up anew in grace.

3k books delivered to our 2BR apartment – such a fun, wild adventure!

After a few weeks of packing, fulfilling our Kickstarter (we’re so grateful!), visiting family for the holidays (such great time in Maryland!), and moving (Bradley did this on his own while I nursed sick kiddos in Maryland), we finally settled in Mammoth Lakes, CA. The result wasn’t perfect, but the dust did indeed settle. It seemed we’d even have a week or two in our new little home before baby arrived. Cool!  

Settle. Nest. Breathe. NOPE. 

When I said “snowy” I wasn’t kidding, y’all.

At 38 weeks pregnant, we met our only option for delivering Cora in town. The doctor’s demeanor made us cringe in terrible discomfort. Brad and I walked out of that appointment confident it wasn’t an option for us.

That night I researched and found Tree of Life Birth Center. It was a perfect match for my birth philosophy AND in-network with our insurance. I couldn’t believe it! It was 6-hours away from our home in Mammoth, but only 15-minutes from my in-laws in San Diego (who always welcome us). The thought of uprooting again was rough, but the only way to welcome Cora into the world the peaceful and natural way we desired.

We drove down right away, met the midwives and four days later delivered our sweet baby girl. 

It was the perfect birth. 

Cora, four-hours-old, at the birth center
with labor’s BFF-thee tub- on the far-left
8lb 11oz of pure sweetness

Active labor was four beautiful, intense, and peaceful hours. I spent them all in the warm (huge) birthing tub. Bradley and my midwife, Michelle, were nearby. They offered affirmation, changed the Hypnobabies tapes, kept the water warm, prayed the Rosary (Bradley), pressed cool compresses onto my forehead and neck, brought me water, and checked Cora’s heartbeat. Their support enhanced my relaxation and my laboring was completely undisturbed. 

I wasn’t once told-nor was it even suggested-to move into another position. I listened to my body and focused on complete relaxation with every surge. During “transition”, I vomited several times and began to doubt that I could do this myself. 

(My first two, Eve and Ronan, were also born naturally with midwives, but with direction, which I know now is unnecessary and causes unneeded fear and pain. Not all midwives are equally natural in their philosophies- my midwife with Ronan broke my bag of waters when I wasn’t progressing as quickly as she wanted, and with both babes pushing was coached.) 

“I can’t.” I told them in desperation.

They held my hands. They told me, “ You can.” 

They breathed confidence back into me.

“I can. I can.” I repeated aloud.

Michelle reassured me of my desires for this birth and that I would know when it was time. And, wow, I knew. There was nothing stronger than my instinct of how, where, and when.

With Bradley’s hands on my shoulders, in 30-seconds of powerful pushing, Cora was born into the water.

“Catch your baby!” Michelle called from the other side of the tub. My first instruction. 

I caught her and brought her to my chest. Bradley and my midwife wrapped her onto me in a towel. We cried. 

Cora was born in the tub near the Pacific in Encinitas, CA, at 12:59 AM. She’s our little water girl, born January 27th.

We have a photo of Bradley and I at the moment she was born. It’s 12:59 and we’re facing each other with no baby in sight. She was born in the second half of that moment. It happened so quick and with such power. We have another photo at 1:01- we’re on the opposite side of the tub with Cora wrapped up in our arms. 

Birthing uninterrupted and undisturbed shook me. It empowered me with the confidence that I was made for this. For this and for days beyond- I was ready to mother my child in this world to Heaven. 

We prayed in thanksgiving for her life and our family. And we’ve prayed in thanksgiving everyday since. 

Back at Bradley’s parent’s, 12-hours old
Eve, Cora, and Ronan- the crew

I thought traveling for the birth was the end of this unexpected-major-life-changes saga. I wouldn’t think or even wish the absolute end of our trials, but I thought maybe it was the end of this one crazy chapter. I thought now we’d have a little reprieve and time to settle in our new home. 

Ha, ha. 

San Diego, you’re not so bad a place to stay
Man of the house while Dad was away

One day before we planned to return home our pediatrician advised us to stay for six weeks. Cora’s lungs needed time to develop before working to acclimate to over 8k feet elevation in Mammoth. With plans broken down again, we prayed and trusted that this hard was also good.

Bradley left for work the next day and I stayed with the kids. My in-laws and great friends Mel and Cullen helped so much. (Cooking! Naps! Babysitting! Laughs! Laundry! Coffee dates! Library trips!) That time away from home and mothering my (sick and tired) toddlers WITH a sweet (and sick) newborn and WITHOUT Bradley, was restless but the challenges renewed me in the mother I long to be for my children. 

Lots of trips to TJs, lots of “you’ve got your hands full” comments
Exhaustion on Ash Wednesday
Anew! Claimed for Christ

Now, finally, we’re home. We’ve been here for one week, and it’s so freaking incredible!!!!!!!!! To be together! ANEW! With our sweet Cora. 

My mom came out for a few awesome days. We spent our time playing around the house, on gondola rides, with kiddos skiing (and us sunbathing), taking in the views (pinch me, I still can’t believe we live here), Mom cooking lots of our favorites to freeze for later, and visiting. 

Mama Cool, aka wonderwife, aka #MOMBOSS- she’s rad

Today Eve is in ski lessons (which are FREE with Bradley’s job), Ronan is skiing with Bradley, and I’m in the lodge drinking a latte with my sleeping babe beside me. 

Life is good. 

We’re so grateful.

We can’t wait to see what happens NEXT. 

Our Marathon Babe Story!

[Not realizing yet what Bradley is doing…]

[…oh, yes! Baby!!]

I’m so excited to finally share our marathon babe story!

Three days before the marathon we found out we’re expecting! I’d been feeling off for a week or so – at nights I’d feel so overheated that I couldn’t sleep without our little fan pointed 6-in from my face. (Ha! It’s funny now.) Emotionally, I felt a bit off and I’d even say “crazy.” (Also, funny now. I seriously Google’d “13 months postpartum, feeling crazy.” Thank you BabyCenter for answering all my 3am Google inquiries)  So, on May 31st (which I realized later was the Feast of the Visitation), I rolled out of bed and took a test.

We used NFP since Ronan and May was our first month “trying.” Even still, I was so shocked, excited, and overjoyed when I saw the positive result! I really admire all the cute pregnancy reveals women do for their partners and I’ve dreamed up many a times how I’d do it for Bradley. If you know us though, you know we aren’t ones to hold in news that makes us so freaking happy. I told him almost right away at our kitchen table (so I made it an impressive 10-minutes without telling him), over breakfast with Evey and Ronan.

I said something like, “I love our two year spacing. And I love how our birthday are four months in a row.” Bradley is 2/9; I’m 3/22; Ronan is 4/21; Eve is 5/28. I continued, “I think that’s all going to be messed up now with our next baby.” He didn’t say anything. Babies are a hot topic over here, so it wasn’t unusual for me to bring it up. I added, “Now, we will have two February birthdays!” Brad lit up, “Are you pregnant?!?!”

:) As it turns out our third child is due on the day we were engaged, February 2. Eve was born two days early and Ronan was six days early. So, we could easily have a January baby! Then we’d be back to our one birthday a month pattern starting in January now :) It’s the little things when it comes to family planning ;) (This is a joke; I really don’t care that much; I just think it’s fun.)

Then came the whole marathon question. Was it safe for me to run pregnant? During training, I unknowingly ran 13.1 and 20-miles pregnant and without water. Plus, I ran in the 100F Texas heat with the kids in the double stroller! A cool San Diego 26.2 miles with water and medical stations would be easier then wrangling two kids around Costco. Right?

I called my OBGYN to see what he thought and he agreed – it was safe, I’d done the train, my body was ready, and I was good to go! His only concern was dehydration – so, I planned to prioritize walking at every water station to drink as much as I could.

On race morning, we woke up at 4am. Luckily my shoes, which had been lost with my luggage by our airline, arrived at 1am that morning! As I ate breakfast and got dressed Ronan wouldn’t go back down to sleep. Despite my many attempts to rock and nurse him, he was UP! So, at 5am we woke up our sister Meaghan to come lay with Evey and I buckled Ronan into the car to nurse him on the drive downtown. Our awesome sister Annie dropped us off a few blocks from the starting line and took care of our little ones for the next 5 hours. (THANK YOU, AWESOME FAMILY!!)

[Little Bro Noah! So excited walking to the start!]

We started the race with our family group. There was so much adrenaline and excitement! I was a little nervous. I still wondered, “could I really do this?” Soon enough, we all went our different planned paces but Katrina and I ran together the whole way. At one point I started “seeing stars”, so moving forward at each water station I’d grab a water in each hand and she grab and extra for me. This helped, and I stayed hydrated the whole way.

In the end, we achieved our goal of running the entire race without walking! (I don’t count walking for 20/15-secs to drink water as walking.) On the hills and the last 10 miles we passed walkers the whole time. In parts, we were the only ones still running for as far as we could see (especially on the hills). It felt good and was a huge personal accomplishment to push through without slowing down.

My sister Katrina was such an encouragement, helping us to stay positive the entire 26.2 miles. We never hit the dreaded wall! I know I couldn’t of done it without her.

Our families met us afterwards at a San Diego brewery. Ronan nursed while I chugged water and fought off some serious nausea. (I couldn’t manage food yet.) My in-laws have a huge big family van that lets you feel EVERY BUMP. I get carsick on a normal day, and I was in the back row of said van. So, .5 miles from home  my brother Noah held a bag to me (thank you Target for making such thick plastic shopping bags!) and rubbed my back while I vomited the complete contents of my stomach.  (TMI?) Noah, you’re a good, good brother.

[Post-race selfie and HOLY TAN LINES. We forgot to apply SPF because it was 4am and the wasn’t up yet. Duh, dur, duh, dumb.]

That day we rested up and I limped around. I napped, we swam, and that night we celebrated with a feast at our favorite Mexican spot, all passing out as soon as we got home.

[Off to dinner celebration in my #1 fave puke spot but feeling better now with Noah, Eve, and Adley.]

The following day I wasn’t sore?! This made me feel really good about the baby and not pushing it too hard while still achieving our goal.

During the race, Katrina and I kept saying “one and done!” It sounds negative, but it truly was so encouraging to know I’d never have to do this again and it’d be over soon enough. Today though, I look back on how exciting it was. I’m not crossing it out forever as a possibility. I wonder if maybe one day, after my baby years (…or decades, LOLZ), when I have time to really commit to training, I’d do it again.

It was special to run with our little marathon babe! What a sweet little running companion. At 11-weeks, we heard his or her heartbeat for the first time and saw him or her moving all around. Eve tells us all the time she’s having a baby sister and wonders if my belly is going to get “as high as the sky!?” On the other hand, I’m convinced we’re having a boy and haven’t thought much of girl names at all. We will find out in six months because we aren’t finding out the gender this time! (For Eve and Ronan we found out.)

Boy or girl, we can’t wait to welcome him or her into our family. Thank you for sharing in our excitement for this little life. <3 :)

summer travels update

Sammy, my twelve y/o brother, leaned over our rental’s center console to feed me another bite of his orange chicken. It was 11:30 PM and our California road trip was almost complete. My kids were in and out of sleep (i.e., crying on and off) and – after a fun-packed but sleepless week of travel –  I welcomed any processed food to help me keep my tired eyes open. Anyways, Panda is one of Brad’s favorite fast foods. And I really missed him.

Sam was out in San Diego for almost three weeks. Each day we relished in summer fun – lots of swimming, kids everywhere, California sights, mosquito bites, and good food.

Bradley is at home in San Antonio – working. Boooooo. He came out for the marathon. He toughed it out through a few different injuries to finish the half with little-no training. (He has a strong will and can push himself to do anything.) We’re hoping he can make it out for a little bit of this Maryland trip. We’ll see, I guess.

Conor Daniel and Ronan Daniel – matching after Sunday Mass, named after their grandpa Papa Harrington, and – let it be known – “God is [their] judge!”

Noah, my biggest little bro, and Adley made it out for a few days too! They ran the half too. Bradley ran into Noah several miles in, and they finished the race together. We had the best time showing off San Diego and our favorite Mexican cuisine! Best memory was lounging around the fire pit recounting family stories and discussing the end of the world. (Still smiling typing this out weeks after the fact.)

Katrina and I ran a full marathon together – holding hands as we crossed the finish. During the hardest parts (those San Diego hills!) we prayed a rosary and the parts of the Divine Mercy Chaplet that we could remember. I offered up each mile for a sibling. I can barely believe I have 25 (and growing with in-laws)! I’m still debating if it’s worth the THIRTY dollar to purchase this photograph. But I mean, come on, smiles + perfectly in stride with a San Diego view. Not bad for mile 14.

Eve has her “Darbie” as her travel companion. (Darbie = what she calls her Barbie doll.) This summer we’re traveling for two months. She thrives on these trips – living up the fun with her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Her time with Elise is the best of  all. Those two are little bestie-cousin-sisters. They laugh hysterically, break stuff, yell, fight,  hug it out, dance, and play house. I never had cousins growing up, so it’s extra cool to witness their laughs and love.

Julianne (my goddaughter!!!!!) visited San Diego and I was able to kiss her sweet little face and hang out with her super cool mom, Kaitlin. :)

Anne hosted my chillens and brothers up in Berkeley for a few nights. I was excited to show Sammy where I used to live! And show the kids, even though they won’t remember (well, Evey might… vaguely…), where Dad played rugby (Go Bears!), Mom worked, Mom + Dad got engaged, and the blue corner home covered in flowers, where I lived! We saw some dear friends – Theresa and Megan in San Francisco and the Kraft family in Sacramento. It was a busy sleepless trip, and I’m definitely still recovering, but it was awesome.

Have I mentioned being tired yet in this post? ;)

Theresa’s visit was perfectly timed with NAP-TIME. We walked down Telegraph in Berkeley to one of my favorite thrift shops. We walked in figuring we’d just browse. An hour later, we strutted out with bags full – we both SCORED BIG-TIME!!! I bought three beautiful 70’s skirts (two pictured in this post) and a funky cotton, also 70’s, maxi. Theresa scored two awesome blouses and a pair of soft denim overalls that I’m still guilting her into giving to me (because they are PERFECTION).

Atticus was born two days before we left, so, I was able to visit Cullen at the Naval Hospital. Such a special experience and my first time (I’m sure it won’t be the last!) visiting a mama friend in the hospital to welcome her child. This was especially cool because Cullen and I are constantly moving but never living in the same place. I’m lucky to have a life FILLED WITH BABIES :)

Poppop Cooley picked us up from BWI at 5AM local time. Even that early, he parks and comes in. He grabs the carseats and luggage – always taking the best care of his kids and grandkids. We’re beat after our redeye flight, but it went super well, all things considered.

Ronan and I napped for the majority of the morning, but Eve, wired from the excitement of seeing her Cooley family opted to head to VBS with my sisters, brother, and Mom. I don’t know how, but she made it to 2PM in good spirits, even without sleeping the night before.

Molly (10), Jorgi (8), and Nonna set up a grocery store and doll house for Eve and Ronan. It’s adorable! Ellie (15) is playing with Eve now. She’s being very patient with here too because apparently Eve thinks chunking the darbies around the room violently is hilarious.

This time with our families is the best. It’s freaking hard traveling and getting out of routines. I’m super tired (but also hopeful we can establish some healthy sleep schedules for our next SIX weeks here). It’s also THE BEST.

The only thing that would make this better is: 1) We get Dad Brad here.  2) We get the Harrington-Cooley families in the same place + we do this all the time = we have the fullest life!


This post is brought to you by Mama Cool who came to a tired daughter’s rescue this morning and suggested I give myself a break. So, here I am with my iced coffee in a little hometown coffee shop writing, praying, and refreshing! Thanks, Mom <3