Delilah Dior Dominica
A woman's journey exploring her passion for Faith, fashion and travel.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Good Ol' Days

“I wish there was a way of knowing you’re in the good ol’ days before they’re gone.”
-Andy Bernard

I just spent the last eight months in the good old days. I recognized them coming before they began and saw the end approaching long before it came. In the spring of last year, I started to feel a sort of unrest. I was three months pregnant with Kaya, feeling unplugged and disconnected in Virginia and for the first time since moving to our home six years ago, it just wasn't feeling like home. We moved to Virginia when Oshiomogho signed with the Redskins and once he retired we really had no reason to be there anymore, except every time we started talking about moving we stared at our roots there, deep and wide, and realized they were too firmly planted to just yank out. 

On a quick business trip to Dallas years before, O looked at me and said "I think we're gonna live here one day.” Two years later my parents and three of my siblings moved to Dallas. Fast forward to now- My parents, my sister and brothe-in-law live in Dallas and I have three siblings, a nice and two cousins just two hours away in Waco. The statement made by my husband four years ago rings in my head on the regular, because how strange is it that the worlds most calculated man decides he wants to live in a place he's never been (outside of the football stadium) after one day of visiting? And how much stranger, even, does that become when said worlds most calculated man's in-laws move to said city out of nowhere? Taking cues from the sudden gaping hole in Virginia and stronger urge than ever to raise my babies surrounded by family, a highly unlikely idea formed in my heart, was approved by my mind and blurted out of my mouth. When Oshiomogho and I finished working out in our basement one night and we're stretching (a.k.a. panting in exhaustion on my part).. I placed a hand on my pregnant belly, looked at him and said “Can I ask you something? I know this is crazy and unnecessary and completely unrealistic but what do you think about moving to Dallas to have the baby?”

Worlds most calculated man looked at me with a smile and said, "I've actually been thinking the same thing." I was absolutely shocked, but you know when a plan that had about a .06% of success gets confirmed? It's just too good. I knew at this point the Lord had set this time apart for us to have a once in a lifetime chance. There were plenty of times between that day and the day we would make the temporary move five months later where we doubted our decision. We started focusing on things like not having a pediatrician or a midwife or any of those super important and pretty standard necessities when you’re 8 months pregnant. When my dad got a coaching job for the L.A. Rams and we realized my parents would be out of there home for the majority of football season it was confirmation again. We’d move in their house, have the baby, look after the home while they were away and soak up as much family time as possible until football season ended. My mom would fly back home at least every other week to help with the babies and just be the best mom in the world. It also gave us an opportunity to “try out” a city that was put on our hearts all those years ago. 

We moved and settled in, the Lord was so kind and so gracious to us, leading us every step of the way to a new birthing center and midwife, a new doula, a wonderful homeopathic pediatrician and an awesome children’s dentist. My siblings came up from Waco often and we saw my sister Brooke and her husband “Uncle Ice” (Oshiolema’s favorite person on the planet outside of his baby sister) at least three times a week. We were all on baby watch come September as Oshiolema was 2 weeks early and this baby had beens sitting low low loowww for months. My mom was only in Dallas for a few days and precisely two days before her flight back to L.A. and exactly one week before my due date, standing in church on Sunday, I knew today was the day. I labored slowly and quietly for the evening, watching football with family and being weepy about how life was about to change. Full on labor came on fast and furious, much unlike my 24 hour equally slow and intense labor last time around. My husband sent out the “it’s time” text to our family and everyone made their way to the birth center, including my baby sister who drove at lightning speed from Waco at 3am. I realized something while sitting in that birthing tub leaning over the edge. Two of my sisters were in the room giving me sips of ginger-ale and putting a cool rag on my forehead, my brother in law was downstairs patiently and anxiously waiting, my mom was home caring for my son and this was everything I dreamed it’d be. God led us to Dallas, God was faithful. 

Our children were so blessed by our time in Texas, from the endless spring weather allowing us to play outside every single day to the gift of a house full of people just about every weekend, abundant laughter and new experiences that have forever formed our little family. While it’s not time yet to stay, it couldn’t have been harder to go. Sometimes home doesn’t feel like home anymore after you leave the good ol’ days.

We spent three days last week journeying home and let me tell you, with a three day road trip with a toddler and a nursing infant BOTH with yucky colds-the cards were stacked against us. There were some get-me-out-of-here-this-second moments due to Keogena just plain despising her car seat most of the time, but it actually was wonderful. Looking in the backseat to see my toddler playing with his stickers, a truck and a slinky simultaneously and my baby girl happily sucking on a teething toy just about pushed me to my max capacity of love and contentment. (also, Oshiolema saying "It's okay, Princess, don't cry, just be happy!" Will never, ever get old.) Our time in Dallas shaped us, but no matter where we are, this is it. This is our team. And these are the days.

The movers arrived two days after us and just unloaded our last box, adding far too many boxes to the overstuffed to-do list. I need to Spring Clean. I need to move all my son’s things from the nursery to his new big boy room and make the nursery baby-girl acceptable. When we left home in July, I was eight months pregnant with an 18 month old baby boy and a mystery new baby distracting me from being fully present here. We opened the door with an incredibly grown up two year old and a daughter that had never been here before. It was equal parts surreal and beautiful. 

If you need us, we will be unpacking. And decorating. And running to Target and Whole Foods over.and.over. And whimpering because Whole 30 is kind of a bummer and I just really want a cookie. Though it’s time to move on and start a whole new chapter, that last one was pretty stinkin’ great. Thanks for the memories, Dallas. 

And who would I be if I didn't leave you with way too many photos? Let's watch my babies grow up, and cry together, shall we? Let's start with July and end with March...get a cup of coffee or something. It's a doozy.

One week before moving to Dallas

Moving Day! After 30 flights, somebody finally got his first pair of wings! (He was so proud. Also, look how little and precious he is!)

the day we found our birth center..the porch swings really sealed the deal.

 happy halloween!

my sleepy two month old baby girl

are you so impressed by our self timer christmas morning photo? such high quality. so professional. 

this kid had his heart set on being potty trained before his second birthday- probably because he saw one too many "baby" diapers and wanted to be a big kid. 
what a champ.

 big brother turned 2 January 14th! I went to town with the moon theme.

 (my sister brooke made this goodbye cake for us...vegan and all.)

and this was taken yesterday, so we have reached the end. p.s.those matching sweatshirts are the type of thing that my mama heart finds most precious in the world. 

these are the days.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why I'm giving up Social Media for Lent

My phone was packed to the brim with birth videos, screenshots of dream bathrooms and toddler voice videos that hadn't been backed up for nearly nine months. It finally waved the white flag and for whatever reason, I had peace. I was devastated when the sweet teenager at Apple told me there was nothing he could do to recover anything from the device, but instead of questioning his effort and skill (not my proudest attributes) I kindly accepted the news and believed wholeheartedly I'd get those images back. Much to my surprise, though, I didn't miss the actual phone itself one single bit. 

In that moment I trusted the Lord was showing me something. It has been 8 days since I've had a phone to carry around and I have experienced unrivaled freedom and contentment. I still can access social media on my iPad but there has been a literal weight lifted just from being "off the grid." When I'm outside playing with my babes, I'm present. When I'm on a walk, I'm present. When I'm driving or at the store or on a date, I'm present. And it hit me somewhere between day one and day eight that I was way more distracted than I thought. I admire my friends that can not look at their phone for days. So many people don't struggle with this whatsoever. And while with a toddler and infant I certainly am slower to return texts, emails and phone calls but somehow I seem to have no problem at all checking Instagram and Pinterest far too many times a day. Social Media presents us with so many wonderful things from inspiration to connection and while it isn't inherently bad, it does have the potential to bring about jealousy, false connection, covetous hearts, distraction, deception, pride and all those other buzz words in me that just aren't lovely. 

My two greatest personal challenges with social media and blogs are: One, at the end of the day, I don't like the way they me feel. Distracted from what really matters and laser focused on what doesn't, filled with pride and yet filled with insecurity and in a constant state of comparison... it's self promotion at its core. I want to be seen as funny and beautiful and such a great homemaker and the best mom and a hot caring wife but those should all be inward goals lifted up to the Lord not outward goals lifted up to "followers."  TwoI don't use the word hate often, it's harsh and gritty but I can honestly say I hate looking up from scrolling or typing on my phone to see my son had been trying to get my attention. I feel like a fraud when I ruin a moment to setup a photo shoot in hopes of recreating something genuine to post a photo of it and caption it for Instagram. I realize and ignore far too often the fact that I'm missing it sometimes. I am missing genuine authentic moments and opportunities to grow with my husband and friends and oh man, my sweet babies. If you have kids, like me, you see the daily tug of war between wanting to completely check out in front of a screen of any kind (or all kinds thankyouverymuch) and wanting to put it away because you want to be equal parts present and a good example. It's hard not to want to zone out at times on a job as all-encompassing as motherhood! But the best way I know how to make decisions is to treat others the way I want to be treated, and since becoming a Mama the best way I know how to parent is to live the life I want my babies to live

I am fiercely protective over my son only watching one program a day after breakfast and not letting him have any other screen time. Why? Because when an episode of his beloved Bubble Guppies used to end he would cry. Like, bawl his eyes out. Because of the full blown earth-shattering tantrum that played out after a YouTube video of row row row your boat was over. And because I know ever since I got that Motorola brick phone in seventh grade just for emergencies, It had a hold on me. Like a gravitational pull. I couldn't text, had no internet and had to keep it on a basket on the countertop whenever I walked through the front door of our house but I could play snake and stare at that screen long and hard, obsessing over nothing. I felt instantly that I needed it. I went twelve years without it and within a month of having it, that phone was part of me. When I look around at my peers I'm faced with the fact that we are a generation of screen addicts. If our kids start as young as the age of one  needing a screen for entertainment/pacifying/distraction, we are giving them no chance. They won't know how to use their imagination to pass time, how to process emotions through conversations with mommy and daddy and Jesus or how to learn the discipline and self control it takes to just have to sit still sometimes. I can't teach my babies what I haven't mastered in myself, so I'm on a mission to master this.

The same day my phone died a sad death, I ordered a book called "Hands Free Mama" and I've enjoyed every word so far. Truth be told, for nearly a year I only went on social media on the weekends. It was wonderful. Before that I had given up social media, blogs and online shopping for chunks of time pretty regularly. Then my second pregnancy happened and I needed a distraction during those long hard days. Then newborn-hood happened and I needed entertainment while nursing. Then life happened and I'm on my phone more than I'd like to be and I wrestle with it on the regular because while everyone has different calling and convictions, I know the Lord is calling me to find quiet, to be present and be intentional with my time. (I often realize this as I'm holding my iPad in my hand, my laptop in my lap while staring at the TV.)  So when it came time to decide what I wanted to offer up to the Lord for Lent, the phone that had already imploded popped into my mind. Honestly, I thought "no, that's too hard. Too much. I'm rebranding my blog, I need to be posting great photos and liking photos and growing my following! " And that, friends, is exactly how you know you've chosen the right thing to give up for Lent. That thing that is too hard and too much with too great a hold on you is usually precisely what needs to be let go. And so I'm letting it go. 

I'll still be posting here so check back periodically, but in the meantime I'd love to know, what are you planning on giving up for Lent tomorrow? Is anyone else feeling too strong of a pull to their phones? I plan on diving into His Word in a new, rich way during this time. My goal is to read more books, spend more time playing on the floor with my babies and and writing. I pray these 40 days teach me to dedicate my days to the Lord and offer up those moments where I'm seeking approval or affirmation or distraction to Him and find all that He has for me instead. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Diastasis Recti

At my final postpartum check I explained I was having significantly more back pain than my usual herniated disc related pain and somehow felt my workouts were making me look pregnant rather than fit. My midwife had me lay on my back and felt around my abdomen and told me I have a significant separation at 2+ inches apart called Diastasis Recti.  I learned this is what "mom pooch" is- abs muscles separated and literally creating a bulge of tissue between them. I was healthy and active during my pregnany, but I had no idea many of the exercises I was doing actually made me more susceptible to abdominal separation after I had the baby. The most likely cause in my situation, however, was getting pregnant after having my first baby before my abdominal muscles had time to heal and fully come back together. 

Every postpartum exercise I had been doing was on the no-no list (like push, ups, burpees, planks and such) and I am re-learning how to exercise, stand, carry my babies and sit in hopes of bringing them as close as possible before the next pregnancy.  I'm bummed to say the least, but this is my reality. To be honest, my most whiny inner self is just really frustrated about not being able to do what I want to do. I like to lift heavy. I like to sprint. I like throwing weight around. I've always had to be cautious with my back but in these past three years of growing and nursing babies have been such a challenge for my physical make up. 

I've gained about 40lbs with both pregnancies and while I'm a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, I just knew something was off with my core. Thankfully I have a dear friend who had twins and was pregnant again when they were just 8 months old. She also has Diastasis Recti and has given me hope as well as advice for maintaining healing. So, Who shares this same struggle with me? What physical therapy/exercise/stretches do you find helpful? How did you close the gap? I know the only way to permanently close it is plastic surgery but that is strictly after the last baby and frankly, at 26 years old I just want to be strong without waiting for the growing babies season of my life to be over to walk in confidence. Please share your story with me!  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Postpartum Essentials

Now that our sweet Kaya girl is three months old, I officially feel like I'm out of the postpartum phase. Obviously I won't be completely back to normal for about six-nine more months but I am so much more my usual self. I have been pregnant or nursing since the Spring of 2014 so it's been a long time since I haven't had to think about how what I do, wear or apply affects my babies.

Those first few weeks postpartum are such a crazy, overwhelming, blissful, beautiful and hideous time. Learning how to care for a new baby while learning how to care for your new body is a challenge like none other. Couple that with the unpredictable hormone high and lows and you've got a recipe for potential disaster. I was fortunate to have a much quicker recovery with baby number two than I had with my firstborn and I attribute the ease and joy of this postpartum period to these items (...and no third degree tear. and Jesus.)

1. Hydroflask
Water is so essential for postpartum recovery and especially for breastfeeding. As nursing mamas, our milk supply is a direct reflection of our water intake but ever since my first pregnancy I can only stomach ice cold water. I can put ice cold water in my bottle at bedtime and when I wake up, it’s the exact same temperature. Magic. I’m a huge water guzzler as it is and this 60oz water bottle keeps me in check every day. I try to drink at least two daily, but my goal is three. 

2. Natural Skin Care
As I mentioned before, I have been sharing my body for nearly three years and I always do my best to be conscious of that. This means sticking to a natural skincare regime as best I can. Something like this charcoal soap bar is gentle yet powerful and will get the job done while nursing.

3. Honest Diaper Bag backpack
I love my Louis Vuitton Never-Full and Marc Jacobs diaper bag but having a toddler and newborn to lug things around for was a bit of a game changer. As usual, Honest seems to have thought of everything with this bag. Chasing after a toddler makes a backpack pretty essential and the amount of pockets makes packing the large amount of new baby must haves organized. Bonus: one of the zipper compartments is insulated for keeping snacks (string cheese in our case) cool. 

4. Milk Snob nursing cover
Oh man. Sometimes I feel bad for the first-time-mom version of myself. I can't even tell you how many times I excused myself from the table/theatre/store/room to go nurse in the hallway/bathroom stall/dressing room. I was so willing to make myself incredibly uncomfortable in exchange for making people more comfortable. Turns out, most people don't care at all that you're nursing. As a matter of fact, most people hardly even NOTICE I'm nursing half the time. Sneaking away to nurse in a too-small bathroom stall just isn't an option with a toddler but I do try to be as modest as possible. Enter the Milk Snob nursing cover. I love that this isn't an apron style so it is full coverage making it easy to walk around and nurse with no discomfort. It also doubles as a perfect carseat cover to block out light and people who want to touch your baby's hands in those first weeks. (Why, people? Please don't be that person.) 

5. Exfoliating scrub
Breastfeeding is drying. So drying. I find my skin and scalp so dry in the first months of nursing until my body and hormones adjust a bit. Using an all-natural scrub at least once a week helps bring back the glow and hydration of my skin.

6. Dark colored lightweight robe
Nothing feels better than that first week after baby than pajamas or a robe. I recommend a dark color for obvious reasons and a lightweight jersey because all the hormones=all the sweat.

7. Vegan Protein Powder
It's just plain hard to stay in great nutrition after having a baby. You are exhausted and normally anything that is quick and easy will pass as your meal. I make an effort to have one protein shake a day to ensure I'm getting the nutrients my baby, and my body, need. Keogena struggles with reflux so I have been dairy free for the past month and will continue until she is well into eating solids to ensure she's as comfortable as possible. Thankfully, there are many dairy-free and fully vegan options in the protein powder world. 

8. Brow Pencil
Maybe it's just me, but If I were stuck on a desert island and could only bring five items, a brow pencil would make the list. It's all I need to feel put together and makes all the difference in those early postpartum weeks when no makeup and glasses are in constant rotation. 

9. Essential Oils
Essential oils are something I became passionate about during my first pregnancy and the love for them has only grown in each phase of Motherhood, both for my own body and my babies. My favorites for postpartum are OnGuard on the bottoms of my feet to keep from catching toddler colds, Serenity and Balance for fighting those baby blues and general feelings of being overwhelmed, and diffusing Lavender for a comforting scent that makes me feel peaceful. 

10. Slip-on Shoes 
All about the Birkenstocks post-partum.

11. Sitz Bath Spray
My postpartum lady parts situation was pretty wonderful this time around but with an all natural birth, things are bound to be a little sore and I did have a couple stitches. This spray coupled with the mamas bottom rub and some tucks pads for good measure were a magical combination I used religiously the first two weeks

12. Solly Baby Wrap
I cannot say enough good things about this wrap. It is my number one. My VIP. My MVP. It's the very best.  I loved the solly baby wrap the first time around but I didn’t wear Oshiolema often as a newborn (outside of traveling) simply because I didn’t really need to. As a mom of two under two, however, things have changed. I wear Keogena at LEAST once a day. I wear her in the grocery store so Oshiolema can sit in the cart, I wear her to cook dinner since its her witching hour (and her big brother’s too), I wear her when she wants to be bounced but I have too much to do…this little lady loves her wrap and I never tire of having her snuggled on me. Since she won't take a bottle yet, she is with me pretty much 24/7 and I couldn't do it without this thing. 

13. Mother Tucker leggings 
My stomach after labor is just so loose and flabby feeling that anything I can get my hands on to keep things in place counts as a winner in my book. These leggings have such a firm, tightening waistband that I preferred them over any other garment. A long flow top with these leggings stood as my wardrobe for the first month. 

Not pictured but extremely important are:

Placenta Pills:

Probably my number one essential Postpartum item. I am a big believer in all the benefits of soaking up all the nutrients from our placenta after birth. I genuinely noticed a difference when I didn’t take the proper dose or when I forgot the to take my pills in the later weeks after baby. Also, I had such a surge of energy while taking these pills to the point where I actually had to cut back the dose for a couple days! I have chosen the raw encapsulation method for both pregnancies only because I was told it helped with the taste. I have to say, with my first birth I was hesitant to take the pills out of fear of tasting, well, placenta. In both postpartum periods I’ve never tasted a thing which makes life wonderful.
Mothers Milk Tea/More Milk Plus Pills:
These milk increasing methods tend to make Keogena gassy but work immediately if I notice a drop in my milk supply. 
Bravado Nursing Cami:
I have tried many, MANY nursing camis and this one is the most efficient, most comfortable and most flattering in my opinion.
And the most unglamorous but most important items are:
Depends for the first few days ( I know, I know..I thought the same thing you're thinking. But I didn't do this last time but tried it out this time around and was so impressed.)
Always Infinity Pads for weeks 2-4
Peri Bottle for the first couple weeks
Dermoplast is a magic numbing spray that I use overtime I use the restroom until I don't feel the need to anymore.

Most Importantly but probably the most overlooked: REST.
There is such a pressure to rush into busy and fit and recovered as early as possible. Last time I had so much healing to do that rushing wasn't an option. Because I felt so great this time, I made the mistake of working out too soon and caused way more harm than good. Don't set yourself back to reach some impossible (and invisible) standard. Snuggle your baby. Sleep. Eat good food. The laundry, cleaning, gym and anything else can wait. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Warby Parker Winter Arrivals

When Warby Parker, a brand renowned for changing the glasses game, inspired me to review their new Winter collection, I was thrilled. I have been a long-time fan of the brand and somehow never knew they came out with season collections tied to current trends. I am more than impressed with their new specs and can’t wait to get my hand on a few, namely the ‘Louise’ ‘Percey’ and ‘Goodney’ styles. As someone who has been wearing glasses since the Second Grade, I view them as an accessory rather than just necessity. I wear glasses at least three days out of the week so I need them to make a statement but to also be practical.   

If there is one out of the box it-color this season, it’s pink. Shades ranging from nude to dusty rose are popping up everywhere and it’s the trend I most look forward to trying. The Louise glasses fit everything I look for in a pair of glasses. 

Neutral two-toned styles are perfect for Winter and the Percey style fit right in. The shape is a flattering nod to vintage frames while still being modern enough to be taken seriously.

Tortoise frames will never go out of style in my book. The Goodney shape is just too good. Warby Parker nailed the balance of thick and thin with these frames replacing the typical honey-orange tinged shade of typical tortoise with more muted tones in nude shades make these glasses a standout for me. 

Louise image roundup: image via Zimmerman. earrings. shoes.pants.sweater. purse.
Percey image roundup: image via Popsugar. necklace. scarf. boots.sweater.
Goodney image roundup: art via Ethan Cook. hat. watch. sweater. flats.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Welcome, Keogena

Keogena Na'Airah Lynelle Atogwe
7lb  20 1/2"
September 12 2016
one day old

Hi, friends! Our sweet Keogena (Kay-oh-geh-nuh with a hard "g") is one month old and we feel like we've known her for a lifetime. She is the perfect addition to our family and we can't get enough of her newborn snuggles. Now that I know just how fast it goes, I'm savoring every moment of her being this small, snuggly and sleepy. In both of my pregnancies, the thing that most helped me prepare for natural labor was reading positive natural birth stories. I wanted to share mine while it's still fresh to encourage anyone who had a first birth that didn't go as planned that there is hope for the birth of your dreams.

A few days before Oshiolema's first birthday, I stood in my bathroom holding a Clear Blue pregnancy test that read "Pregnant." We were absolutely thrilled, especially since just one week before my husband and I had both just gotten a word from the Lord separately on the same day that our verse for the year was Isaiah 43:19. This verse reads, "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway in the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." When we heard those words, we knew He was talking about my next pregnancy and labor. Our first ultrasound revealed a little Lima bean with a flickering heartbeat that stole ours immediately. They declared September 14th the due date and sent us on our way. I had a little extra pep in my step just thinking of how wonderful and dreamy this pregnancy would be. I mean, God had specifically said He was doing a new thing- a new thing in my mind meant "a much easier thing." Oh how wrong I was. This pregnancy was much harder on my body than the first-partially because my body didn't have much recovery time and partially because baby chose to sit extremely low for the entire pregnancy. This left me with alarming vericose veins, swollen discs in my back and round ligament pain rivaling even my worst sports injuries. I had a week long battle with food poisoning cooked up by the devil himself. We had lots of traveling to do and each flight took a serious toll. It was a daily battle to hold tightly to the word the Lord gave us, "behold, I am doing a new thing..." Shouldn't the new thing be a better thing? I often wondered. But I knew that word wasn't written on our heart to trick us or give us false hope. He is faithful to do what He promised. Fast forward seven long months to find a very pregnant mama packing up boxes for a temporary move to Dallas. 

At 35 weeks pregnant I was scrambling to find a midwife, pediatrician and doula in a new city. We didn't have a doula for my first birth and despite my husband being the absolute best birth coach imaginable, we felt we could really use some extra cushion just for added comfort from an expert in natural birth since my ultimate goals were to not have extensive tearing again as well as to shorten labor. Once all those things were in place I felt my whole body exhale. Since Oshiolema was two weeks early and this baby had been perfectly low and in position for labor for weeks already, we were sure I wouldn't make it to 37 weeks. Well we were wrong. My before baby bucket list ended at 37 weeks so each day past it felt like the longest day of all time. My Braxton hicks contractions were nearly as painful as the real thing and kept me on my toes. The day I hit 38 weeks my whole family made the hour and a half drive down to Waco for my baby brothers Baylor game. Within an hour of them leaving, I had my first big contraction. I was had intense cramping, got the chills and became pathetically emotional-bursting into tears when my son gave me a hug and feeling both nostalgic for a time when it was just us with no thought I'd a new baby and so ready to meet our new team member. I called my mom crying to let her know this was it. They left at half time, I let my doula know all that was going on and following her instruction I crawled into bed and kept timing contractions. Strangely enough, they never followed a pattern and after a few hours they stopped altogether. This was my first night of false labor. This pattern repeated every day for the next week leaving me angry, exhausted until finally I just set up camp in self pity. I had the same due date as many friends and one by one, everyone had their baby. By the end I would bitterly let everyone know, "just in case you're wondering, SHE HAD HER BABY TOO." My husband started singing his own rendition of -- "you went and saved the best for last" on a daily basis. (you should go listen to that song. you're welcome.)

her last day in this big ol' pregnant belly

I woke up Sunday September 11th with more energy than usual. We went to church and I found myself sitting through some of the worship because my belly felt heavier than ever. I noticed my contractions coming more frequently than usual but at this point I refused to pay any attention to them. This continued though the rest of the service, through oshiolema's time at the playground and through the afternoon and evening football games. Oshiomogho noticed a change in me and started timing contractions, finding they were perfectly ten minutes apart. They grew a bit stronger but stayed about the same time frame apart. Since my water broke well before I was in real labor last pregnancy, I was struggling to know how I would "know" this was really it. I didn't believe I was in labor, but all the signs were there and thankfully, Oshiomogho was more in tune with me than I was. He told me to get in bed and try to rest through them as he continued to time each one and comfort me with the labor techniques we learned last time around. After a couple hours I simply couldn't rest anymore and each contraction, while still manageable, took all my focus and effort to get through. In the next couple hours things got real. I only felt comfortable hunched over and my contractions were steadily four minutes apart. We texted our doula, Signe, and said it was time. 

She arrived an hour later and for whatever reason Oshiolema woke up screaming for Mommy at this point. This is extremely rare and I truly believe babies know when their Momma is in labor. My labor stalled from distraction and I remember feeling so badly for calling Signe and actually started to believe this was another case of false labor (really, Jill?!) I told her she could go rest on the couch and we'd let her know when things picked up again. Thankfully, once he fell back asleep my contractions returned to four minutes apart and quickly progressed to three minutes apart. After one serious "I will have this baby here on the toilet" contraction, Oshiomogho ran to tell Signe things were changing. All she had to do was look at me and hear my sounds through three back to back contractions and she said calmly but sternly "we need to get in the car." We woke my mom up to give her the baby monitor and the address to the birth center to bring Oshiolema the next day and for some reason it didn't feel real until that moment. We were having our baby and our first baby was going to become a big brother. Oshiomogho finished packing the birth bags that had been packed (and mocking me for a month at this point) and we were off. 

I have to admit, I was terrified to get in the car. My contractions were incredibly intense and only about two positions made them feel manageable. Unsurprisingly, in Gods sweetness and tenderness, I didn't have a single contraction for the 20 minute drive to the birth center. We listened to worship loudly, talked and laughed...and the moment we arrived at 3:30am my contractions resumed. My sister Brooke and her husband Matthew met us there which was so sweet. Matthew stayed downstairs and rested on the couches and Brooke was in the room the whole time, helping and supporting like a champ. I labored for an hour or so, and just like last time the only thing that would get me through each contraction was visualizing my body opening, doing the deep belly breathing I'd practiced the whole pregnancy and tuning out everything but my breath. Finally, it was time to get in the tub. I labored in the tub for my last birth but because I got in too early, labor stalled heavily and I had to get out. This the, I was set on a water birth and had been looking forward to that warm tub since the moment I realized this was really labor. My youngest sister, Becky, had been waiting for "the call" since she moved back to Waco for school and she started the drive back up to Dallas immediately when she got the news. She arrived about an hour before it was time to push which was so special for all of us. At 6:30, I knew it was time. I was exhausted and nauseous but felt so ready and so strong. A series of the most empowering worship songs came on just at that moment and my husband and I were actually singing and worshipping as I was pushing. The presence of God was so powerful through the entire labor, it was everything I dreamed it would be. At 6:50am after a few long pushes, I felt the greatest relief unlike anything else in the world and as I was catching my breath I heard my husband yell "it's a girl!!!" Everyone was bawling, my heart was soaring and the moment I meet my babies will always be some of the most powerful moments of my life. She had an unusually short cord so I couldn't hold her to my chest for a while, but I rested her in my legs in the water and admired this little lady that shared my body for ten months; partially in disbelief that she was mine and partially feeling like I've known her my whole life. She is breathtaking. I kept repeating "we did it" and "it's over" for the entire time I stayed in that tub. It's so surreal, the birth of your baby. It brings such an abrupt ending to such a long and transformative period of your life and immediately starts a new chapter. The switch from pregnancy to parenting is so fast and such a great picture of the selflessness needed to take this job on. 

I laid there on the bed with my love and my sweet nursing baby and was filled to overflowing with praise and gratitude. The Lord said He was doing a new thing and He meant every breath of that truth. I was laughing uncontrollably, walking around, eating graham crackers and sipping pineapple juice an hour after birth. I was giddy at the thought of how "myself" I felt. All the pain and trays and fear of my first birth washed away. Yes, it is a pain that can't be described. Yes, the ring of fire is real and intense. Yes, pushing a baby out of your body is not something one considers breezy, but now when I think of labor I think of this bliss that followed and I can't help but smile. He is so good. 

One of the best parts of the morning was when my mom brought our sweet boy to the birth center. I made sure daddy was holding Kaya so my arms were free to hold him and in he ran with a little gift bag for "our baby," grinning from ear to ear. He was, of course, a little tornado on the bed pointing out all of her body parts and smothering her in kisses. I'll cherish this moment forever- our first moments as a family of four. He absolutely adores his baby sister, his "Daya," and they're best friends already..she just doesn't know it yet(: My mom spent a few moments with her third grand baby and took Oshiolema home for his nap and believe it or not, after a little snooze for my love and a nursing session for me we headed home as well. We spent a total of seven hours in that sweet birth center. My mom had decorated the house in pink as soon as she heard the news and we knew we wanted to have a little "birthday party" mostly for Oshiolema to celebrate and understand how special the day was. We lit a candle on a cupcake, sang Happy Birth-Day to Kaya and said a little prayer. This day is one of my favorites in my 26 years of life so far, I love my Team. 

Im so thankful to my doula and midwives for helping me prepare my body for the marathon of labor. I'm incredibly thankful to my husband for staying sane for both of us in those last few weeks of pregnancy-being a rock of positivity, compliments, bad jokes and full of faith. He is my forever best friend that I get to make and raise babies just doesn't get any better. And most of all, I'm thankful to the Lord. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9) and He knew just what needed to happen in this pregnancy to have the birth I envisioned. I pray in moments of doubt or fear or mistrust that I'd always look back on this day and feel just as loved by the King of Kings as I do now.

I am a bloated, sweaty, puffy, zombie-like mess in this video but it is a treasured possession. Even through the ugliest parts, birth is such a beautiful thing. Without further ado, Keogena Na'Airah Lynette Atogwe. Her name means "Beautiful girl who Seeks the Lord." 

Welcome to the World, Keogena from Jill Atogwe on Vimeo.

Monday, August 1, 2016

If Legs Could Talk

For a huge chunk of my life, people used to look at my legs and say "you must be an athlete." If you were to find a photo of me at age five you would see there is a hint of she-hulk in my blood. I was strong from the start with a six pack rippling through my pink leotard and biceps completely ruining my chances with that third grade crush. Even from a young age I wanted to hide certain body parts, very aware that I didn't look like the girls in the Limited Too catalog. These legs, however, always gave me away. I never got used to them-all sharp angles and bulky muscles and a calf muscle that was one part genetics and two parts hard work. They were the product of years upon years of go. Sprinting and dead lifting and squatting and ladder jumping and bleacher running and blocking and on your mark, get set, go. They stood strong and powerful-yet never quite graceful-through dance and cheerleading. These legs happily put muscle to use in soccer, lacrosse and basketball. They were put to the ultimate test in track and undoubtedly the only part of my body that allowed me to survive a college volleyball career. When my neck gave in, my back quit, my shoulder refused and my wrists caved, my legs only grew stronger. For 24 years of my life, I wished I had legs people would look at and say, "are you a model?" or "how long have you been dancing?" I have spent my time since leaving team sports trying to lengthen and elongate muscles to finally escape the legs that make finding the right skinny jeans something like finding a bobby pin when you really need one. I have been trying to change my legs since the moment I realized they didn't need to say "athlete" anymore. I had given up that title and wanted to take on a new one. Casual Pilates partaker? Daily jogger? Healthy but normal? The world was my oyster. This was my chance; my legs could say anything I wanted them to. 

As I write this, my right leg is propped up on a pillow with a surging dull ache and bruise like soreness. A cocktail of water retention and third trimester weight gain create a light padding of soft flesh from top to toe.  Varicose veins run from the base of my calf and wrap all the way up the thigh like purple and green ivy mimicking a snake slowly squeezing and trapping its prey. For this leg, I've been prescribed a routine of careful activity but not too much activity and plenty of rest but not too much rest. They are confined to long, thick, poorly ventilated compression tights and hidden under maxi dresses for the majority of the time. When they are free, however, I no longer hear questions like "what sport do you play?" More often than not its, "does that hurt?" 

Now, when people look at my legs, they will know I am a mother. They will see the tiny fireworks of purple dancing across the backs of my knees and know I have carried life. The swelling should go down, they tell me. You can get surgery, they say. The excess weight will be worked away. The shape will return. They may even rival the strength of their former days. I am confident of this. But I know deep down these legs of mine will never be the same, and for some reason, typing that sentence and swallowing down the acceptance of it has made me cry. Not for the vanity of it all, no it's something deeper. It's skipping the goodbyes thinking you're leaving something to come right back to it only to find out you'll never see it again. 

Motherhood changes us in every possible way, and even if we wanted to go back to exactly who we were once we shed every last pregnancy pound, once our babies are old enough that our wardrobe doesn't have to be limited to stain resistant and nursing friendly, once our swollen faces have returned to normal and our sweet babies sleep long enough through the night that we actually look human the next morning; once every last physical sign of carrying a baby is gone, we realize motherhood is actually written all over us. It's a truth that can be hard to swallow sometimes--especially if, like me, you're not the "I have earned my stripes! I am mother, hear me roar!" type. I can, however, say without even a trace of doubt that when people look at me I want to beam from the inside out with the two things that have changed my life: One, I am a child of God. Daughter of the Most High, saved by Amazing Grace. And two, I am a mother. 

My legs will tell my story.