Welcome to the world Georgia Quinn.

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. like we typically do. The night before I was in quite a bit of pain. Del and I were in the middle of arguing about nothing, and every time he’d state his case the baby would make a sharp move that caused me to cringe. “She seems to only be moving when I say what I think,” he joked.

On my morning walk I started timing my contractions. Braxton Hicks seems to be something that my body loves (although I’m not as big of a fan). The week prior I thought I was going into labor because I was having contractions three minutes apart for an hour – and then they just stopped. But from 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., they went from every eight minutes or so, down to seven, then ranged between four to six minutes.

Around 7:00 a.m. I told Del to pack the car. We had a 9:00 a.m. check up with my obstetrician, so we were weighing whether to go to the hospital’s labor floor or go to the doctor’s appointment. We opted to go to the doctor’s appointment early.

Del’s mom has been watching Carly, and she came over at 8:00 a.m. I wasn’t sure if I was really in labor or if it was Braxton Hicks. But at one point Del was taking a very long time to pack something in the car. Instinctually I yelled, “You need to hurry up because we have to go!”

On the walk into the obstetrician’s office I had to stop walking when I had a contraction. When they did the COVID screening at the front door they asked if I needed a wheelchair. Every woman was giving me the look of “Girl, you’re in labor.”

My obstetrician did the normal checkup. He checked to see how dilated and effaced I was and said, “No change since last week.” In that moment I thought Braxton Hicks was going to drive me to insanity. Then a contraction hit me, and my obstetrician said “I was just kidding. You are five cm dilated and we’re admitting you right now.”

They wheeled me to the labor floor. They got the usual IVs going and did all the paperwork. And then my body took over.

After 45 minutes I told our nurse that within the next three contractions I was going to deliver the baby. I told her to call our doctor now and get him in here.

I did one more contraction and knew I was closer. I did another and I knew I was closer still. I asked her to check whether I was at 10 cm, and she said with one more contraction I probably would be. The last contraction took hold and the doctor walked in. He checked me over and said, “You’re ready to have this baby.”

From the time the doctor walked in to the time he left – it took nineteen minutes. I pushed twice. Before I pushed the first time they did a quick reminder of what I had to do. I repeated it back and gave it everything I had. While pushing out I let out a gigantic scream. To which the doctor replied, “You held that note a long time.” I waited for the next contraction to hit and then did one more amazing push.

Georgia Quinn Belcher came into this world at 11:09am. She is perfect. Dark hair, silver eyes, and my chin.

They handed her to me and she breastfed right away. My greatest fear is that she would not eat well, and God decided to settle that for me right away. Its a gift for which I’ll always be grateful.

Through this experience I learned how amazing my body is. I told everyone my due date of July 2nd was wrong and I was going to give birth sooner. I was right.

When I doubted whether my Braxton Hicks were real contractions, my instincts took over and told Del to pack the car faster.

When they asked if I wanted pain meds I said no. First of all, I’m not sure they could have gotten them to me fast enough. Second, my body told me I could do this. I went through 10+ years of severe neck pain. I knew I could handle a few hours of labor.

I knew she’d be there in three contractions and she was.

I knew I could push her out quickly and I did.

My body has a history of trauma. Trauma from others, trauma from accidents. Sometimes I’m frustrated at my high cortisol levels and the fact that I feel everything. However, all of those moments led me to this one. They have put me so in touch with my body that my labor was nothing short of a very fast miracle (Why have a meeting that could have been an email?).

Once again God made a beautiful thing out of me.

Welcome to the world Georgia Quinn Belcher. Our down to earth queen. The fifth in a line of amazing George’s. You will take hold of this world and make it better. You will be fast and furious, and your father and I can’t wait to help you get there.

A letter to Baby Belcher II

Baby Belcher two. Our precious, strong, fiery child. We are excited to meet you. We dream of who you will become, and we talk about how we can help you get there. When daddy and I go on walks we both dream you will have dark eyes and dark hair, like mommy. We imagine a quiet child, with fire deep in her belly. A good fire, yearning to take lead.

Dear child, you are coming into the world at a tough time.

A few months ago, a big sickness hit the whole world. To keep each other safe, we stayed inside for a long time. We tried to only go outside for food or if we really needed to get something. It was a scary time for the whole world, and many people got very sick. Many more people lost jobs, and homes.

More of the world also learned that people with darker skin are not always treated well or fairly. A man named Mr. Floyd was killed by a police officer, mostly because Mr. Floyd’s skin color was different. Because the whole world had just sat together in sickness, we finally saw this event differently. People from all over our country stood together to say, “Stop treating people this way because they look different.”

I wish I could lie and tell you you’re being born during a time of peace. I guess, in a way, you are. Mommy, daddy, and Carly have had many peaceful moments at home. However, many more big and small people are fighting. A few great leaders have helped along the way, but other big leaders have made these days harder and longer than necessary.

The truth is, little girl, right now the world is on fire. It burns with sick people, mean people, and with years of those with less yearning for more.

My little girl, do not fear the fire. See it, listen to it, and learn to dance with it. Take it in your hands, and use it to make our world better for as many people as possible. Be a queen. Lead. Listen. Be humble. And see that after the fire and smoke – there will be great stillness.

Daddy and I will lead you through the stillness. But it’s your job to take charge on the other side. Take hold of this earth, replenish it, and subdue it. Your time is today, and it always will be.

Maternity pictures

It has been very strange being pregnant the last few months. A pandemic, protests, a continent on fire, and so much more I’m simply forgetting in this moment.

To be honest, it’s scary thinking about giving birth mid-pandemic. I worry that in my last few weeks I may get sick, and have to be separated from a newborn. Our family has gone to great lengths to stay safe. We’ve bought all of our food online, we haven’t hung out at anyone’s house, and we’re wearing masks wherever we go. If you had told me in 2020 we would be living through a pandemic I’m not sure I would have believed you. I studied the Spanish flu in school, never thinking I’d see parallels of it in my own lifetime.

We have also been incredibly fortunate in many ways. Del and I have both been able to work from home. At work I’ve been thrust into data on the pandemic. It’s both stressful and fascinating. Del’s parents moved to Jackson right before the pandemic hit. Grammy has been able to watch Carly since schools and daycares are closed. I’m incredibly grateful for this extra time we have had with family.

Tomorrow I’ll be 38 weeks pregnant. I got Carly out of bed today and sat with her. I looked at her and cried, thinking that it wasn’t long before she was no longer our only child. I’m going to miss all of the time we had with just her. Thank you Carly for teaching me how to be a mommy. You are more than I ever dreamed.

Yet, we’re also incredibly excited for our second child to come into this world. I’m sure there will be difficult times, but I know there were also be so much joy. Who doesn’t love baby snuggles?

Like we were able to do with Carly, my talented husband Del took maternity photos. A COVID maternity photoshoot. Although it’s hard to tell, downtown Jackson is fairly empty. Even though it’s empty, it sure is beautiful.

Dear Baby Belcher two, we are all excited to meet you soon.

On breastfeeding…

Three weeks – that was my goal.

I work in health care, and you can’t fart around a hospital when you’re pregnant without someone gushing over the benefits of breastfeeding. To get more information, I took a breastfeeding class. After releasing the rainbows and butterflies, the instructor (who was very helpful) told us the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding. In addition to better immunity for your baby, losing pregnancy pounds faster, and solving world peace, breastfeeding was a bonding experience for you and your newborn.

I’m realistic and pragmatic. While the instructor assured me that breastfeeding would reduce the impacts of climate change, my female friends had different experiences. One friend had a surplus of milk, and built a stockpile in her freezer. However, another had to pump for an hour to squeeze out a few mere ounces. Some women I knew LOVED breastfeeding, and successfully fed their child for over a year! Others, flat out hated it. Sore nipples, biting, latch issues, clogged ducts, mastitis, no support at work, the time commitment, and mastitis.

I told myself I would try breastfeeding for three weeks. I would give it my all, and if I hated it we’d switch to formula (thank God for formula!). When Carly did not latch the first five days, I almost quit. My life was: try to latch for an hour, then manually express for thirty minutes, then formula, and then repeat. Day four I had a mental breakdown and was googling “Am I insane?” Thankfully on day six, my milk came in, and Carly decided to latch. Then, I spent the next eight weeks teaching her how to eat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a little – repeat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a bit more – repeat. Breastfeeding became my full time job, and mostly, I loved it.

There were not butterflies or rainbows, but the pride I felt at feeding our daughter from my body was like nothing else. When Del went back to work after week two I sent him pictures of Carly eating. My child latched to my body was beautiful. My body kept, and has been keeping, her alive.

Then, I went back to work. I am grateful for the time I had at home, but I have always known I was going to be a working mother. My work days have been without a break and without end. Get to work, pump and email, work, pump, work, email, pump. I hook up, eat lunch, and check emails. I bought a $70 pump/laptop bag to haul all of my stuff around. My entire work calendar is blocked off for pumping time, and my team knows when I need to take thirty minutes to pump.

Breastfeeding takes a village. For me to have the time to feed Carly, Del took over most of the housework for a few weeks. And after giving birth my back went out, so my mom stayed for five weeks to hand me Carly between feedings. Without Del or my mom, I would have failed. At work, my co-workers are incredibly supportive. They move meetings around my schedule, and help me find a space to pump if I need it.

With a lot of support, I’ve made it nine months. Nine wonderful, glorious, difficult, beautiful, exhausting, thrilling, calorie burning, I eat so much food, and drink so much water, months. Breastfeeding and pumping is not as hard as people said it would be – it’s harder. The sacrifice of time, energy, and your body is exhausting. Yet, I made it this far off of…. I don’t even know how. I think I am just too tired to think of something else.

When I think of how long I did it, it’s one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud. I did it! I feel like I deserve a little party or something. I kept Carly alive off breast milk for nine months. Although she has had a cold since August (daycare – le sigh) she is healthy and chunky. Although I have days where I want to just quit and throw my pump – I don’t (yet).

This morning Carly and I had our little time together. I hold her close to my body, she latches on, and we sit there in beautiful peace. I feel her snugly body, and the Oxytocin rushes from head to toe. I look down at her, and she looks up at me. Sometimes she giggles, sometimes she bites, but mostly – she just eats.

We did it, Carly, Del, the village, and I. Nine whole months. We did it.

On PTSD…

In kindergarten we had a special speaker come in to talk to us about good and bad touching. We were told to just say no, and that if an adult touched us in a bad spot to tell our parents or someone we trusted. At five I remember thinking, “But, they’re adults.” Although I could not vocalize it then, I remember knowing that older people have more power. What our kindergarten teacher did not know, was that I was already a victim of an adult’s power move.

Instead of leaving the talk feeling safe I remember feeling guilty. Perhaps if I had said no that would have worked? Perhaps if I had just told an adult sooner that would have done something. At five, I knew power, and guilt, and that sometimes evil people win – and there is nothing we can do about it.

I started seeing a counselor two months ago. Since having Carly I have been having panic attacks at work and at home. I will get an email, my heart will start racing, and a panic attack begins. I had one last week driving to work when I got stuck in traffic, and I had another two days ago when my husband tried to help me when I was cooking.

Post traumatic stress disorder.

My entire life I assumed I was a naturally anxious person, and felt bad about my reactions to every day scenarios. I thought I was weak for my little freak outs. I get up at 5am, never miss a day of working out, chart my day religiously, and organize my world to a meticulous degree.

Having a baby has a way of throwing off your game. I knew going into parenthood I would need to get better at adapting to the unexpected. My friends kindly joke that I’m going to have to learn to be better at letting go of my plans (they’re right).

But let’s be fair here.

Some people get the glorious luxury of traveling through most of their lives thinking the world is a safe place. Many people get to go to age thirty before they find out about things that go bump in the night.

I was five. What they stole from me was more than innocence. They stole, for the rest of my life, that feeling of safety that allows most people to float through the world with a deep sense of trust that everything will be ok.

For the last 20+ years I have not operated in the mind set of “everything will be ok.” I operate in the mindset of “Have a back-up plan for your back-up plan.” In my patterns and plans I have found safety. I use to feel like a terrible person for being so well planned. Friends are comfortable with adapting and going with the flow. When others change plans on me it sends my heart racing.

But how could my heart not race? There was a time when the world was safe, and that was unfairly stolen. Not knowing what else to do, my beautiful and adaptive mind created a universe where I could live safely. My spreadsheets kept me warm at night. My charts tucked me into bed. When I look back at what I created without knowing why, I stand in awe of myself.

But then – Carly happened.

I look at Carly and see the world as it should be. Her world is safe, everything is new, and no one wants to hurt her. Seeing lights turn on is a magical event that for which we should charge admission. I want to be better, so Carly can keep seeing the world in a safe way that I can hardly remember experiencing. My old patterns (sigh) – I’m working to let them go.

I am trying to plan less, and be more free. I am trying to adapt when all I want to do is hide in the closet, because no one can hurt me when the doors close. Life does not exist in the dark where no one can hurt us. Life exists where there is light. Slowly but surely, I’m flicking the switches to turn the light back on. And I have sweet little Carly for showing me that everything will be ok.

Give me grace to get there. Help me to trust that this world can be safe.

On the end of maternity leave…

I’m going back to work Thursday, July 5th after twelve weeks of maternity leave. Over the last few days I’ve felt every stage of grief. On Monday and Tuesday I called my mom sobbing with mom guilt. I thought about asking my boss whether I could take off Fridays, or work from home on Thursdays. Then, yesterday, I was so burned out I felt like I could start working at 8am and feel 100% okay.

This leave is coming to an end. It’s been wonderful, and stressful, and full of life. There has been poop, pee, spit-up, giggles and glorious snuggles. As I move back into working I thought it would be cathartic to write about what I will miss and what is coming next. When I volunteered at hospice (yes – tragic) they taught us to always say good-bye when we left a room. Although no one is dying, we are moving from the “mommy is always with me” stage to the “daycare time!” stage.

This blog is dedicated to saying good-bye to old things, and saying hello to new things.

Good-bye 24/7 Carly time. Without a doubt, I will miss our snuggles, naps, and cute poops. Carly – I love you so!

Hello 30 minutes of eating lunch!

Good-bye 8+ times a day breastfeeding. Although, I will miss Carly’s constant warmth and sweet suckling sounds. However – we still have mornings and nights.

Hello to (some) body freedom!

Good-bye raw fingers from Desitin applications, wiping, and “I seriously JUST changed you.”

Hello to missing changing diapers three times in a row. Carly’s chunky baby butt is just the cutest!

Good-bye to morning stroller walks. I’ll miss these the most. Watching Carly’s sweet face as we walk around our neighborhood is the best.

Hello adult conversation! My how I’ve missed you. Vocab, words, thoughts, oh my!

Good-bye seeing everything new Carly does. Another person will see it first, and that breaks my heart.

Hello mental challenges… my my how I love thee. Coordination. Formuli. Brain gymnastics – my sweet love.

Good-bye knowing Carly is unlikely to get sick at home with mommy.

Hello colds, ear infections, and a slew of weird S#$& from daycare. But also hello to an immune system that is learning to survive. This will suck, but we can do this. Kids get sick. A lot.

Good-bye safety of mommy’s perfect schedule (Ug). We worked so hard on this. Carly is sleeping well and growing so big. Pray we adapt well.

Hello socialization. Carly is going to get to meet so many people! She’s in a safe place with people who dedicate their lives to loving children. Hello to meeting more little friends we can hang out with. We’re going to learn so much from each other.

Good-bye taking a gazillion photos a day. Now it’ll just be a few hundred.

Hello to getting photos every day from daycare. I hope they take good pictures!

Good-bye mommy guilt over…. everything. Hello new mommy guilt over…. who knows? If the FDA makes a drug for mommy guilt I’ll line up to buy it.

Hello to a new trust. Trust in daycare. Trust in daddy. Trust in myself. Trust in God that we’ll all be ok. It’ll be ok. It’ll be ok.

Good-bye to whatever I’ve forgotten to mention.

Hello to those things I can never see or imagine.

Good-bye maternity leave. Hello career and daycare. I am so thankful for this leave, what I’ve learned, and my time with Carly. May we greet what is next with grace, endurance, love, and humor.

On stopping…

I’m good at doing things. I mean, I’m good at getting things done. If asked whether I would want to nap or do stuff – I would pick doing stuff 99% of the time.

There’s a lot of stuff you need to do before you have a baby. For planners like me, it’s a great time for checklists and ideas. As 20 weeks turned into 25, and 30 into 35, we are now at week 47. I am not certain when the “to-do-list” should have everything checked off, but my lists are all done.

The house is spotless, the go bag is packed, the pediatrician is selected and 100 kegels a day. I have checked to do lists, and I cannot find anything left on any of them.

All that is left now – is stopping. When I typed the word ‘stopping’ I started to cry.

I have not stopped…. ever. Yes, I know new motherhood will be a time of big change. I know I will get less sleep, I will be tired, and life will be hard for a while. I have always expected my life to be difficult, so the majority of the time I come out surprised that I made it through. I’m not 18 and having a baby. I’m 32, and I listen to my friends. I’m not expecting roses and candy; I’m expecting a new life.

I think of all the times I probably should have stopped and looked around and enjoyed the moment. I probably should have rested for a moment after grad school, but instead I started working full-time. A doctor would have likely told me that I should not work out after I hurt my knee doing split squats, but why would I stop when the pain was only a nine? I started working as soon as I could, while playing sports and running clubs. Since I was a teenager, I have been moving and doing.

In a moment of silence this morning, a rarity for me, I took a moment to look around and see what my life has become. My family is humble, and it feels arrogant to list my accomplishments. Yet, I’m 32 with a fantastic husband, amazing house, great job, and I made it through most of pregnancy at a healthy weight. I earned my MA at age 23, I’m on the board of a local non-profit where I just redid an entire website, and I have the most amazing group of lady friends I could ever wish for. Most importantly, my husband, myself, and our incoming baby are healthy. The grace of God got me here. Oh yes, and sacrifice, hard work, eating well, exercise, not being an ass-bag, and making good life choices. I’m scared that if I say out loud how happy I am with my life it could all be taken away. So rather than stop and acknowledge where I am – I keep going.

When it comes to babies, babies stop. They live, they breathe, they eat, they poop, and they stop. They have no skills for working, no muscles for moving, and no grasp of how to talk. I believe this is as God intended. My list and my life, for this season, will stop just to do this one thing. All I need to do is take care of this precious life that God has given us. I’m terrified to stop, and grateful for the opportunity to learn what our life with a baby will become. I’m open to what is next, and terrified.

There is nothing left to do, but to stop.