Search Results for: label/Friends

The Friend I Want to Be: Hallmark

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

In my teens, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was homeschooled, a bit sheltered and the closest I came to sleepovers were the ones I read about in Seventeen magazine where pictures of pretty girls with pretty teeth, painting each others’ nails, piqued my interest of a more social world. I met a couple girls in college with whom I really clicked, but I lived with my grandparents off campus from a small Christian school that breathed dorm life, prayer partners and residence halls that served as sorority letters. If you lived in Muffit Hall, you were practically an Alpha Delta Pi. I lived in the back left bedroom off my grandpa and grandma’s hallway—where doilies adorned my dresser tops and the echo of laughter and teenage conversation was replaced with the static of my grandpa’s nightly ham radio broadcasts.

And for the record, if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s not that I yearned for friends. I had them; they just weren’t my age. I worked in the Cardiology department of a hospital all through college and, along with a useful vocabulary of medical terms (“Print off his echo report, see if he had a thalium stress and send those cath films over to Royal Oak, Stat!”), I also acquired a nice handful of middle-aged women who served as both second mothers and good friends. I cried on their shoulders, pocketed their advice after bad dates and listened to them talk about their own kids who were thriving in college—lining up spring break trips and dog-earring cute bridesmaid dresses for the next of their friends to be married. Me? I was finishing term papers for Old Testament Studies, skipping required chapel visits and spending my weekends driving my busted-up station wagon (The Staysh) over to my sister’s house to live vicariously through her family. My friend Roberta (yes, who was over 50) used to tease me that if I didn’t get out there and meet some girls my age, someday when I got married I’d have an aisle full of bridesmaids all fifty and older—in mauve boleros and calf-length skirts.

And then I moved to Florida—the state that, I was convinced, had a population ratio of 200 old people for every young person. I was sure my someday wedding had expanded from fifty-year-old, bolero-wearing bridesmaids to an aisle full of walkers and nude orthopedic shoes with black knee socks.

But no. I met friends. Lots of them. Friends that taught me how to be a friend. Friends I would need a few years down the road when I couldn’t cope on my own. Friends that numbed my cravings for home and family—because they became home and family.

I’ve read enough parenting tips on raising girls to know it’s not recommended that you encourage talk of “best” friends because “best” just gets you into trouble and, like playing ball in the house never ends up good, publicly claiming someone as your “best friend” just sends another girl crying and crossing you off her birthday party list. But listen, this chick is my best friend.

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And so are a lot of other girls I love. But I’m going to throw the term “best” around for a bit because it’s a well-earned adjective for my friend Heidi whose warm eyes and friendly smile should appear under “friend” in Wikipedia. So should her tomato mozzarella Paninis and the way she genuinely kisses your kids and treats them like her own.

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Or the tone of her voice when she she’s sitting next to you, holding you, hugging you, telling you it’s going to be okay when your world has just been rocked. Or the loyalty and dedication in her eyes when you tell her certainly she’s tired and needs to go home, and she firmly replies…

I’m not leaving you. I promise I’m not leaving.

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I want to be this friend. And though I sometimes fall short and kick myself for going too long before e-mailing someone back or sending a birthday card or going out of my way to let someone know what they mean to me, I am learning. I am learning how to be a good friend because my friends show me how.

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And so, I’ve compiled a few admirable characteristics from the friends I know. Fool-proof tips of friendship that have changed me, supported me, made me feel loved and taught me how to be a friend—a really good one.

The Friend I Want to Be



Be Vulnerable.


You know that feeling when a friend calls you and she’s crying and needs you, and you say just the right thing to make it better? I love that. I always feel honored when a friend chooses me to share vulnerabilities. There is a level of trust and loyalty that strengthens a friendship. But it goes both ways. Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned that when I genuinely share my heart—the good, the bad, the insecurities, the weaknesses, the moments of despair—it is welcomed by my friends. Women seek to relate to each other. We feel safe and free and challenged to be real when we realize others share moments like ours. The most beautiful moments I’ve shared with friends are always the raw and vulnerable ones. Alright, second beer on the dance floor with our hands in the air to Don’t Stop Believin’ is pretty beautiful too.

Tell them you love them.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment, the long phone call, the big thing that happens that draws the “I love yous” from near and far. Be random, be honest, be a good friend and blurt out nice things when you think of them. Text them after your friends leave your house—things like “Dude, you always amaze me with how well you listen” or “I watched you today with your son and I just wanted to let you know I think you are an incredible mama.” Or simply “I love you—just thought you should know.” It means the world to anyone who hears it.

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Remember little details.

I’m always shocked when someone remembers something I said in passing. Like that I love sunflowers or Lebanese food or plain M&Ms. And months go by and then I have a bad day and someone shows up with sunflowers and Lebanese food and a bag of M&Ms. Because good friends stash away those details until they’re needed. And knowing someone’s favorite candy bar? It’s Friend Ammo. This, you should know. And how do you know these things? Well that’s the next tip.

Really Listen.

I’m not the best listener, I’ll be honest. And it’s hard today with cell phones and texting and thinking about that really cool thing I’m gonna say back when you finish saying what you’re saying. But good friends listen. They don’t just talk about their own stories. They ask questions about their friends’ lives and genuinely listen for their response. I’m getting better, and knowing how good it feels when someone is obviously listening to me and genuinely interested makes me want to do it even more.



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Celebrate Successes.

It’s a given that you show up and support a friend during hard times. But when things are going great—when she nailed that big project, landed her favorite job, got recognized for something she felt passionate about—it’s still important to be there, cheering on your friend and letting her know you share her happiness.

Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Numbah.

How silly I was to think I didn’t have many friends back in the day—just because the ones I had weren’t my age. Friendships don’t need EHarmony questionnaires pairing you with people who share your interests and fall in your age box. Some of my best friends are twice my age, and their wisdom and experience dissolves the many years between us. And let me tell you, Nana Kate can shake her groove thing just as good as the rest of us.

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I have friends that are very different from me—some with no kids, some with grandkids, some who do laundry every Tuesday and never have piles of clothes perched on their couch cushions.

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Dot never says a word when she uses my laundry piles for arm rests.



I need them. I learn from them. I love them.

There are more tips, more admirable qualities that take the spotlight when my friends step onto the stage and remind me with their performance to love like I’ve been loved. I fall short at times and have to challenge myself to love better, to gossip less, to at least post a “Happy Birthday” to a Facebook wall or send a text of “I know we haven’t talked but I’m thinking about you.” To make more efforts to hug their kids, praise their accomplishments, or pick up their favorite candy bar. But there’s time to improve. And many years before I rock out my bolero and calf-length skirt. I think it will have glitter. Yes, I’m pretty sure of that.

Tonight, I am grateful for my friends and what they’ve taught me.



What do you love most about your friends? Is there something a friend did for you that you’ll never forget–something that taught you how to be a better friend? I’d love to hear the qualities you most admire in your friends, and Hallmark would too. If you’d like, please share a story or endearing friend characteristic in the comments.

To see all Life is a Special Occasion posts from this blog, click HERE.

Make Way for Friends: Hallmark

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

I have this dream of the perfect friend date.
In my mind, it will happen soon.
They’re all there–all the friends that mean the world to me. Especially the ones that don’t know it.
And on this date, I get to spend an infinite amount of time with each and every one of them. I have a hand-written bulleted list of all the things each friend brings to my life, and I present it to them in an envelope I’ve illustrated with funny comics of the two of us together and the funny memories we share. They’ll laugh at first and then they’ll read my list. They’ll be amazed because all the things they’ve ever done for me? I remember it all. They’ll walk away feeling special and inspired and they’ll go home and tell their husbands, “She appreciates me. She even remembered that time I told her to wipe the lipstick off her teeth. She made me feel so loved.”

I wish this could happen. I really do. Because I do remember. And I always harbor a bit of you-could-do-better guilt for not living up to my expectations of loving and recognizing and honoring my friends like I really want to. There just isn’t time.

I think in this enterprising, demanding time of life when kids and family and paying bills are our obvious priorities, we constantly make efforts to trim off excess responsibilities. When we’re busy and stressed, we lighten the load of our ship by jettisoning things that aren’t necessary in our schedule–T.V., naps, long showers. I think sometimes though, in “Time Triage,” we cast off necessary things, thinking the trade-off preserves more family time. Sadly, precious time with friends is one of these.

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Let me tell you something. Friends. Should. Never. Be. Abandoned. If your ship needs to drop weight, throw the clothes overboard. Chuck your cell phone. Hell, get rid of necessary food. But friends? They are the life raft on the ship. The one with the big yellow sticker that says “Do Not Tamper.” And, God forbid, if your ship ever goes down…you need them.

Out of the kajillion blessings Nella’s birth experience brought to our life, one of the most treasured is my deepened recognition of the value of friends. Those pretty orange life rafts that served as decoration, fun, company–well, when the ship is in jeopardy, guess what? They inflate, just like they promise. They hold you up and take you to dry land, and if you’ve ever experienced it, you know never ever to take a friend for granted again.

Easier said than done. There’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it, and the reality of life with jobs and kids and families truly means time with friends is going to suffer. But I’m not letting it go down out without a fight. Nuh-uh.

Behold, a Tip Guide for The Fight:
Making Time for Friends

1. Get Creative.
Sure, I envision Brett watching the kids while I’m cozied up in a bar booth, hugged by friends on all sides and we are laughing and sipping and leaving with the promise to meet up–same time, same place–next week. This is a four-leaf clover discovery though, a lucky encounter cherished on rare occasions. In the meantime, we have to get crafty for enjoying each others’ company. Which is why I like to kill two birds with one stone–turn necessary activities like grocery shopping or carpooling to a birthday party into meaningful friend time.

We “Target Alert” each other. A simple text dispatched to friends: “Hitting Target in five minutes. You in?” And being that a trip to Target is always on the to-do list, more often than not the response of friends is something along the lines of “Meet you in the dollar section.”

And if you haven’t experienced it, Synchronized Grocery Shopping is right up there with dinners and happy hours and perfectly planned events.

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Heidi and I do it all the time–strolling through aisles, cart to cart, throwing embarrassing things into each other’s baskets, planning each other’s dinner menus, catching up on important matters of business.

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2. Incorporate the Kids
Some of my favorite friend moments have been nothing more than two of us, cross-legged on a kids’ bedroom rug, talking about life while we watch our kids smear chap stick on each other or play dolls.

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Park dates turn into afternoon parties when more mamas are present and, while kids are climbing and swinging and sliding, we stretch out on a blanket and dream. And someday, when life is even crazier, we will talk about how great it was when getting together was as easy as an all call to the playground or a pow wow on a bedroom rug.

3. Lower Expectations
I love to entertain friends, but I’ve built up in my mind that it has to be perfect–that I can’t invite people to my home unless the floors are mopped and candles are flickering and the oven’s about to ding in thirty seconds, perfectly timing hot coffee cake for arriving guests.

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This is my friend Dede’s house. She lives across the street and yes, her house always looks like this.

If this was the case, I’d never see friends. I’ve learned good friendships come with vulnerability, and some of the most beautiful conversations can indeed happen while sitting on top of two-day old smashed laundry.

This moment? It will not be forgotten.

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This is my house. I live across from Dede and yes, my house always looks like this. Okay a lot of the time.

Invite them over. Mi casa, su casa, Baby.

4. Get it on the calendar.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve excitedly planned a night out, a trip to the movies, etc. and never followed through. We’ll talk on the phone and say things like “Girls night next week, right?” and we answer, “Absolutely, can’t wait,” but next week means nothing unless it has a date on it. Unless it’s been typed into a phone calendar with an alarm the day before and a back-up alarm the day of. Time with friends is worth the effort of purposely planning dates. Better yet, make a reoccurring plan and stick to it.

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Every Sunday morning, I have coffee with my friend Wylie. It is a given–something I look forward to all week.

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Tuesdays are lunch with my friend Andrea after ballet and Fridays are afternoons with Dot. We do our best not to cancel, and when we have to, we feel the loss.

If we can make time to show up for doctor appointments, hair cuts and ballet class, surely we can pencil in a good renewing moment with friends.

5. Desperate Measures
If it’s been a long time since I’ve contacted a friend or I feel like I haven’t done a good job at showing interest in her life or asking how things are going, sometimes I feel guilty and deal with it by further avoidance. Being forthright and honest is always the best medicine. Sometimes, it feels good to pick up the phone and call. To leave an “I’ve been thinking about you” message on a Facebook wall. To text a funny picture to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. Or sometimes a simple apology. “I’ve been busy, I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you.” The best kind of friends are like a cactus–they don’t take much “work” to grow and are easy to maintain, but even a cactus needs a little water now and then.

Desperate measures mean spontaneity. Call your friend and tell her to drop everything and meet you at Starbucks. Get your kids in the car and invite your neighbor to the park with you. Text an all-call for sunset on the beach, or knock on your friend’s door in your pajamas late at night and tell her you need a chat.

Speaking of, one of my favorite friend moments lately? Pajama dates. When kids are asleep and the moon is bright and I’m about to go to bed…but no. There’s an opportunity to nurture a friendship. A quick dash across the street to Dede’s house. Because finding time for friends means searching for any available pockets of time. And I guarantee you, that fireside chat last night was far more replenishing than the sleep I missed.

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Someday, I will plan that perfect date. But for now, I will continue to make efforts and find ways to nurture my friendships because they are a valuable part of my life.

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Do you have any creative ways for fitting in time with friends? Any memorable traditions that you make efforts to maintain? Hallmark and I would love to know how you make time for your friends. Do tell.

Nella Cordelia: A Birth Story


Nella Fantasia (translated from Italian)

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of souls that are always free
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy I see a bright world,
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that float.

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That blows into the city, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul


Cordelia: Dorothy Cordelia, my dear loving grandma, who taught me more about life than she could have ever known.

This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write in my entire life. The hardest and yet the most beautiful. As I even just begin to type here, late, in the dark in my room alone with my girls sleeping next to me, their little faces barely visible from the glow of the the same candles that flickered in a very special room one week ago, my heart starts aching thinking of where I was at exactly this moment last week.

A week. How can it already have been a week? I’ve thought a million times what I’m going to write here and how I’m going to begin and what order I’ll put it in and I think I’ve been so afraid to come back here…so afraid of not doing justice this very precious night…of leaving something out…of attaching simple words to an event that is so far from simple, it might just not be possible. But I need to get it out. I don’t know how it’s going to come or if it will make sense, but I’m just going to write. And when I get stuck, I will pick up this tiny blessed life beside me and hold her tight. I will breathe her in and remember…

Oh, here it goes.
The story of our daughter’s birth.

This is Nella’s Story.

I turned 31 on December 29…exactly a month ago. We went to dinner with friends the evening before and as we left, we saw the new bookstore nearby welcomingly lit up. I had told Brett I didn’t need anything this year for my birthday as Christmas had just passed, but at the sight of the bookstore, I remembered a book I had read about from another photographer. As we walked by, I told Brett I changed my mind. I wanted a book, and I wanted it…tonight. So we ventured in, and he played with Lainey downstairs while I wandered up in the self-help section, thumbing through titles until I landed on the only copy of the book…A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.

Later at home, we put Lainey to bed and I drew a bath and climbed in with my big pregnant belly, my new book and a highlighter. And I read. And read. And read. Underlining, highlighting, starring paragraphs and quotes and words that moved me hard. I warmed the water about a trillion times and pruned my skin to raisins, but I could not stop reading. It turned into a three hour bath followed by another hour or so of reading in my bed. By the end of the book, I was inspired. Inspired to write a new story for our life…inspired to face challenges and leave my comfort zone and go through hard things because that is what turns the screenplays of our lives from boring to Oscar-worthy. And, to be honest, in my mind, our uncomfortable challenge was the changes in our life with Brett’s job and having him away from home. Little did I know.

Fast forward.

Last Thursday, Brett & I teased all day that we were so ready for this baby, she had to either come Thursday or Friday. Every time he called me from work, he told me I should be out jogging. I didn’t jog, but I did walk like crazy, trailing Lainey through the streets of our neighborhood in a stroller, thinking, “These might be the last moments with my only daughter alone.” And Thursday night, the pains started coming…nothing horribly uncomfortable but some significant cramps that were semi-regular and popped up several times through the night. By morning, I had several that were 15-20 minutes apart, and my doctor, convinced I would go fast once I was in full swing, suggested I go to the hospital within a few hours. I remember getting off the phone and it hit me. Today was going to be the day. It was surreal. I texted my friends. Called my family. And began the last steps in the ever long process of saying goodbye to my ‘only child.’ She wanted her face painted like a kitty and, although I was excited to pack up and head to the hospital, I savored every brush stroke of those last moments with my big girl.

I called my friend, Katie, in Fort Lauderdale. I met Katie the night Lainey was born as she was the delivery nurse…and we have since been forever friends. She promised me she wanted to be present for all my babies’ births, so she high-tailed it over I-75 after my call to get there in time.

It was strange. It seemed so real and yet I had dreamed of this moment for so long, it seemed a bit like a dream as well. It all just hit me…we had waited for this. Wanting a second child. Losing a pregnancy. Getting pregnant. The horrible night I thought it was all ending and the trip to the E.R. where we saw that little heartbeat. Waiting and preparing and finally, these last weeks, having everything just…perfect. The birth music ready to go, the blankets I had made packed and ready, the coming home outfit, the big sister crown for Lainey, the nightgown I had bought just for the occasion…what I would wear holding my daughter the first night I rocked her to sleep. Even the favors I hand-designed and tied every ribbon on were lined and stacked in a box, ready to pass out the moment the room flooded with visitors. My heart could hardly hold the excitement, and I will never ever forget what it feels like to long for your baby being handed in your arms the last few days of your pregnancy…it’s so real, you can touch it.

We said goodbye to Lainey as we left her with Grandma and headed to the hospital where I was quickly instructed to drop trou and gown up. I slipped the white ruffled skirt and black shirt I wore into a plastic belongings bag. Days later, just the sight of these clothes–the ones I wore during my excitement and happiness…during those last ‘happy’ moments before my life was changed–would bring pain. I think Heidi finally hid the bag because it made me cry every time.

The early stages of labor were perfectly beautiful. Nothing hurt that bad, I had the anticipation of this eutopian experience ahead of me, Brett was chill, and my girlfriends started trickling in the room. We actually played a game…the “if you could…” cards I had packed in my bag for this very purpose. I had it perfectly planned, and it was going just as I had imagined…but better.

By 2:00, my water had been broken and my contractions were in full force. The room was full of excitement and laughter. I chatted with my girlfriends until a contraction came on where I shifted gears, “ow-ow-ow-ow-ow’d” my way through it (and cursed), and came out of it as fast as I went in, picking up the conversation where we left off. I checked to make sure Brett was okay. Several of my girlfriends were headed out for a birthday party but, with news of my status, they all huddled into the room, dressed to the nines, before their night out to check on me. I liked the commotion…I loved the anticipation. I loved the feeling of people waiting anxiously for our baby. It felt special. …and we were so ready.

Two hours went by and I was off the wall in pain, begging for anesthesia to get in with an epidural. They were tied up, and so I cursed them too. Little did I know, I was a 9. This is where things begin to get hazy. It all just happened so fast. I remember anesthesia walking in to give me an epidural, Brett getting uneasy, girlfriends talking me through it, my pediatrician stopping in to say ‘hi’ during her rounds, and my obstetrician walking in and gowning up. This was it. With Lainey, it took forever and here I was, just hours after walking in this place, and they were going to tell me to push. They were going to tell me ‘just one more’ and then suddenly my life was going to change.

I couldn’t grasp it even then. It was all just happening so fast and I wanted to savor it. I looked around the room and tried to take it in…the candles, the music, the lavender oil I brought that wafted through the room and calmed the tension. And then I remember just speaking to myself. You are about to meet your daughter. You are about to be changed for good.

At this moment, I heard the sounds of our birth song begin to fill the room…When You Love Someone.

And I began to cry.

My husband, my friends, my dad, my nurses…all of them smiling…cameras flashing…

One more push.

Oh, this is so hard…

I pushed. I pushed and watched as the tiniest little body came out of me, arms flailing, lungs wailing…and then, they put her in my arms.

…and I knew.

I knew the minute I saw her that she had Down Syndrome and nobody else did. I held her and cried. Cried and panned the room to meet eyes with anyone that would tell me she didn’t have it. I held her and looked at her like she wasn’t my baby and tried to take it in. And all I can remember of these moments is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over…she locked eyes with mine and stared…bore holes into my soul.

Love me. Love me. I’m not what you expected, but oh, please love me.

That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.

I don’t remember a lot here. My friends have filled me in, but I feel like I was in a black hole. I know I held her. I know I kissed her. I know I begged every power in the world that this wasn’t happening…that she was normal, but I knew in my soul exactly what this was.

She was scooped off my chest and taken to the warming bed where nurses nervously smiled as they checked her over. I wanted someone to tell me what was going on…I kept asking if she was okay, and they told me she was fine. She was crying and pink and just perfectly healthy. I wanted to say the words, but couldn’t. So, I asked why her nose was smooshed…why she looked funny. And because she came out posterior and so quickly, many people in the room honestly thought she’d look a little different in an hour or so. But I knew. I cried and cried while everyone smiled and took pictures of her, like nothing was wrong. I kept crying and asking, “Is there something you aren’t telling me?” …and they just kept smiling.

At this point, I have believed until recently that the pediatrician came in right away and told me the news. But because I was so confused and emotional and haven’t slept much in a week, I am told it wasn’t right away. The nurses apparently called my pediatrician in for ‘D.S. suspicions.’ And during this hour, I was handed back my daughter as if everything was okay.

When I think about this time later, I have cried and cried wondering what I did. Did she feel love? Did I kiss her? Did I hold her and tell her ‘happy birthday’ and smother her with happy tears? My friends in the room smile when I ask this and promise me I did. They said I couldn’t stop kissing her. And while I held her, the room went on. Someone popped champagne and poured glasses and a toast was raised…”To Nella!” while I sat, confused, trying to take it in.

…and I am so very blessed my beautiful photographer friends, Laura and Heidi, were there to capture every single moment. They never stopped shooting…there are over 2000 images from the delivery and they have helped me relive the beauty. This photo is so beautiful to me…because it speaks with emotion. This is how I felt while everyone carried on for me.

I remember feeling….nothing. As if I literally left my body for a bit.

But they said I kissed her. They said I loved her. They said I was a mama.

I remember my pediatrician suddenly walking in and my heart sank a bit…I knew. “Why is she here?” I asked. And they told me she was just checking the baby out. Which she did. And then the room grew quiet and everyone was asked to leave. I started shaking. I knew it was coming. The tears. The twisting in my stomach that they were about to rock my world.

Brett stood behind me, stroking my hair and my nurse friends, Dot and Katie, stayed on either side of the bed. And it happened.

My pediatrician snuggled Nella up in a blanket and handed her to me…and she knelt down next to my bed so that she could look up at me…not down. She smiled so warmly and held my hand so tight. And she never took her eyes off mine. We had been through a lot together with Lainey’s jaundice and I have spent many tearful conversations with her over the course of these two and a half years. She is an amazing pediatrician. But at this moment, she became more than that. She was our friend as she beautifully shared the news.

I need to tell you something.

…and I cried hard… “I know what you’re going to say.”

She smiled again and squeezed my hand a little tighter.

The first thing I’m going to tell you is that your daughter is beautiful and perfect.

…and I cried harder.

…but there are some features that lead me to believe she may have Down Syndrome.

Finally, someone said it.

I felt hot tears stream down and fall on my baby’s face. My beautiful, perfect daughter. I was scared to look up at Brett, so I didn’t. I just kissed her.

And then, Dr. Foley added…

…but, Kelle….she is beautiful. and perfect.

I asked for my dad to be let back in the room. And when he walked in, I cried again. They think she has Down Syndrome.

And he smiled as his eyes welled up with tears and he said, “That’s okay. We love her.” He scooped her up and I asked him to say a prayer. And there, in the delivery room where moments earlier she entered the world, we huddled around my bed…Brett still stroking my hair, Katie crying on one side, Dot on the other and Dr. Foley kneeled down beside my bed. He prayed and thanked God for giving us Nella and thanked him for the wonderful things he had planned for us. For our family. For Nella. Amen.

Dr. Foley hugged me and told me she got to hold her for her examination, but now she wanted to hold her just for some snuggles. And she did. I will always remember her compassion and know there is no one else that could do a better job sharing this challenging journey with us.

Katie asked if I wanted to nurse Nella, and I did. Another dreamy moment I had always anticipated and yet it felt so different this time. But I remember her latching right on and sucking away with no hesitation and looking at her, completely accepting me as her mama and snuggling in to the only one she’s ever known and I felt so completley guilty that I didn’t feel the same. I felt love, yes. I just kept envisioning this other baby…the one that I felt died the moment I realized it wasn’t what I expected. But the nursing…oh, the nursing…how incredibly bonding it’s been. The single most beautiful link I’ve had to falling in love with this blessed angel. And, look…I smiled. I don’t remember smiling, but…I smiled.

The hallway was still filled with everyone who was waiting…and there are stories from our other wonderful friends and family of what happened behind those walls while they waited. All I know is that there was more love in that birthing center than the place could hold. As anxious eyes re-entered the room, I held my baby and told them all, crying, what we had been told. I knew there was a stream of friends ready to come and celebrate and I wanted them all to be told before they came in. I couldn’t emotionally handle telling anyone and yet, strangely, I wanted people to know as soon as possible because I knew I needed the troops…I was falling, sliding, tunneling into a black hole and I needed as much love as possible to keep me up.

I just remember happiness. From everyone. All of the blessed souls in that room celebrated as if there was nothing but joy. Everyone knew…and there were a few puffy eyes, but mostly, it was pure happiness. More friends trickled in. More smiles. More toasts. And hugs with no words…hugs like I’ve never felt. Ones that spoke volumes…arms pulled tightly around my neck, lips pressed against my forehead and bodies that shook with sobs…sobs that told me they felt it too…they felt my pain and they wanted to take it away.

And Brett…well, he never left our girl’s side. He was quiet through this all, and I’m not sure I’ll ever know what he felt, but I know the daddy of our babies, and I know he knows nothing but to love them with all his heart. And he did from the very start.

As soon as the epidural wore off, I wanted my own nightgown. They were going to take me to our new room upstairs, and I was ready for a new start. Everyone carried our stuff up and waited for us. And then…the moment I always talk about…the moment they put you in that wheelchair and place the baby in your arms…and stroll you through the hallways to your room while onlookers smile and wish they were you. It’s so strange, but I barely remember it.

I remember arriving to our room and being told Lainey was on her way. And I cried new tears…I hadn’t even thought about how this would impact Lainey…what she would think…how her life would be different…how every beautiful vision I had of two sisters growing up together, grown-up phone calls, advice-giving, cooking together, shopping…everything would be different. Numbness started leaving my heart and sheer pain started settling in.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry when Lainey gets here.

…and then I’ll never forget her face…her cute outfit someone put her in…her eyes when she walked into that room, and the way she tried to hide her excitement with her shy smile.

I will never forget the day my girl became a big sister.

I will never forget the moment her little sister was placed in her arms. I watched in agony…in tears…in admiration as my little girl taught me how to love. She showed me what unconditional love looks like…what the absence of stereotypes feels like…she was…

…proud.

…and that was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I needed that.

As darkness set in that night and people started trickling out, I felt paranoid. So completely afraid because I knew with darkness…with the absence of everyone celebrating…the grief would come. I could feel it coming…and it hurt so, so, so very bad.

I wanted Lainey to go home with Brett. My heart was in a million pieces and wanted to be with her, and if I couldn’t, I wanted him there. And so he left…with the little girl that completed my world, and I was left in the hospital with my two amazing, wonderful friends who will never ever know how special they are because of what they did for me that night. And they heard and saw things no one else will ever know, but I could have never made it through the night without them.

I think I cried for seven hours straight. It was gut-wrenching pain. I held Nella and I kissed her but I literally writhed in emotional pain on that bed in the dark with our candles and my friends by my side until the sun came up. I remember trying to sleep and then feeling it come on again…and I’d start shaking, and they’d both jump up and hug me from either side, Nella smooshed between the four of us. I begged for morning, even once mistaking a street light for sunlight and turning on the lights only to find it was 3 a.m. and I still had to make it through the night.

I can’t explain that evening. And I suppose it’s horrible to say you spent the first night your daughter was born in that state of agony, but I know it was necessary for me to move on to where I am today. And, knowing where I am today and how much I love this soul, how much I know she was meant for me and I am meant for her, knowing the crazy way our souls have intertwined and grown into each other, I can say all this now. It’s hard, but it’s real, and we all have feelings. We live them, we breathe them, we go through them and soon they dissolve into new feelings. So, here I go.

I cried out that I wanted to leave her and run away. I wanted to take Lainey and my perfect world and this perfect love I had built with my two-year old and our cupcake-baking days and our art projects and our beautiful bond and I wanted to run like hell. I wanted to be pregnant again. I wanted to be pregnant so bad. I wanted it to be the morning she was born again…when I was happy and excited and when I wore the white ruffled skirt and black shirt and put it in the belongings bag knowing joy was to come. I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back.

I moaned in pain and through it all, this little breath of heaven needed me. I cried while I nursed her. I cried while I held her. I cried while I pulled my nightgown off just so I could lie her body on my naked skin and pray that I felt a bond. I literally writhed in emotional pain for hours. And Heidi and Katie saw parts of me no one else have seen. My eyes were so swollen, Heidi said I looked like Rocky…like someone beat the hell out of my face and then cut little slits for eyes. It was that bad.

…and then morning came. …and with it, hope.

There is so much more I could write…and I will…in chapters of our book.

My sister arrived the next day and revolutionized the place with her “I Have a Dream” speech. She told me I swallowed the blue pill. She told me I could never go back. But that I held a key to a door that no one else does. And, with tears in her eyes, she excitedly and passionately told me how lucky I was. She told me that I was chosen and that it is the most special thing in the world. She told me it was going to be just fine.

And she was so right.

The day after Nella was born, I fell in love hard. I knew she was mine. I knew we were destined to be together. I knew she was the baby all along that grew in my beautiful round tummy…the one I thought I almost lost…the one that I proudly rubbed when people told me how beautiful that belly was. It was. It was Nella all along.

A huge turning point for me was when my sister published my blog entry and an outpouring of love turned on. I had no idea. None. I had no idea you all were out there. And the words you all said…I believed them. And maybe I believed them all along, but to hear them when I needed them…you all empowered me. And my friends and family…oh, they’ll never ever know how special they are to me. I’ve never felt so loved. You all truly gave me your hearts to borrow while mine was breaking. And you loved my baby. You loved her so good. You’re not her mama and yet you washed her with tears when you held her. You kissed her. When she cried in the middle of the night and I needed some blessed sleep, you rigged up the jaundice lights against the nurse’s orders, put your sunglasses on and took turns sleeping in a chair just to hold her.

You promised to be there on this journey and that alone means more than we can ever tell you. To be loved…is the greatest feeling one can ever feel.

Over the course of the next several days, things just became beautiful. I cried, yes…but they soon turned to tears of joy. I felt lucky. I felt happy. And I felt that I didn’t want to run away with Lainey anymore…and if I did, I was taking my bunny with me.

When Lainey was in the hospital with jaundice, I remember hugging Brett and crying. I told him if God would make her better, I’d do anything. I’d live in a box, I’d sell everything we had, I’d be happy with nothing…just make her better. When she did get better, that feeling of raw gratitude was real, but it wasn’t long before real life set in and I was complaning once again about the dirty grout in our cheap tile and how much I wanted wood floors.

I’ve often thought about how quickly that feeling left because we have a perfect, healthy little girl running around that erases all the painful memories of when we thought something might be seriously wrong.

I felt that feeling again last week. And as the pain has slowly disipated, I’ve realized…I will always be reminded. My Nella, my special little bunny, my beautiful perfect yet unique girl will be my constant reminder in life. That it’s not about wood floors. No, life is about love and truly experiencing the beauty we are meant to know.

And so, we came home…happy. In fact, walking out of the hospital with our new baby girl and our proud new big girl, all crowned up, gripping the handle of the carseat with Daddy…it was just how I had imagined it.

Life moves on. And there have been lots of tears since. There will be. But, there is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel privileged. I feel there is a story so beautiful in store…and we get to live it. Wow.

The story has begun…

Page by Page…

(First “Well Baby” Visit…Dr. Foley, we love you.)

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love her. I wouldn’t trade her for the world, and y’all can have that heart you let me borrow back. My broken heart has been healed…and if you held her, you’d know what I mean.

photographed by my dear friend, heidi

My Girls. I am complete.

There’s been so much wonder I’ve wanted to share…but I knew I had to tell her story first. More to come…we’ve been taking lots of pictures and loving the beauty of life…and the funny…and the hectic…it’s been crazy.

…but beautiful.

I did it. I told our bunny’s story.