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We welcomed our fifth baby, Calvin Gardner Murch, on July 26 at 7:12pm. He weighed in at a shocking 10lbs., 15oz. and measured 22 3/4" long!

My contractions started Tuesday morning, the 25th, a little after 6am. All day Tuesday I had contractions every 20-30 minutes and they increased in intensity throughout the day, while staying pretty far apart. I was in touch with my midwife throughout the day and figured things would pick up in the evening and I'd have the baby overnight.

Around 8:00, I had one particularly strong contraction and things seemed to pick up from there. We started setting up the tub and got the kids ready for bed, planning for them to leave with my mother-in-law first thing in the morning if Baby hadn't made his appearance by then.

My sister-in-law who was coming for the birth got to our house around 9. We all hung out for a little bit and then Ben and I went to bed. I had strong contractions throughout the night, but they were all over the place. Some lasted almost 2 minutes, some were only 30 seconds. They were 8 minutes apart and they were 30 minutes apart and everywhere in between.

Finally at 3am, I got in touch with my midwife. I was frustrated because things weren't developing into any consistent pattern, which I knew I needed, but they were moving along enough that I couldn't get much sleep. She suggested doing the stairs for half an hour in case there was a positioning issue that was keeping labor from progressing. I did that and my contractions got closer together. They were 7-8 minutes apart, and just under a minute. I did have a couple contractions that came one on top of the other, so we decided Leslie (my midwife) should go ahead and come. She and Dorcas (the precious assistant who has come to all four of my home births!) and things pretty much stayed as they were for several hours.

When Josephine woke up, we decided to let her nurse and see if that would help with contractions. Nursing her brought on the most intensely painful and long contractions I'd had. The problem was, I couldn't handle holding her and working through them, so I couldn't keep it up. It hurt her feelings when I'd set her down for each contraction.

Some time around 8 or 9, things seemed to fizzle out completely. We decided to spend a couple of hours trying to stimulate contractions but first, Leslie wanted to check me. I was at 4cm and 75% effaced, but she was easily able to stretch me to 6. We discovered the reason for my stop and go labor (and also an explanation for the back labor I'd started experiencing)--Baby was posterior, something we hadn't realized before this point. His head wasn't putting direct pressure on my cervix; it was off center.

For an hour, I took tinctures, used the breast pump, and did the stairs. It accomplished almost nothing. I was feeling really discouraged! We decided the midwife and assistant would leave and I'd just go about my day. They did work on my belly with the rebozo for a little while before they left, hoping to encourage Baby into a good position. I had some stronger and closer contractions afterwords, but still nothing super consistent.

I spent the next couple hours walking around my house and resting. My contractions got really intense, but they were still quite far apart and I didn't feel like I was making much progress. My sister-in-law was in contact with my midwife and she suggested some different laboring positions to help with the back labor, which was becoming really difficult to manage. The change in positions (chest on my bed with my rear end sticking up, if you're curious) helped with the back labor and my contractions got closer together--about 10 minutes apart instead of 20.

She also suggested a chiropractic adjustment and even maybe some acupuncture to see if the baby would get into a better position. My chiropractor is just 2 minutes away from home, so I thought about going in. The thought of having contractions in his office was super unappealing, so I asked Ben to call and see if there was any chance Dr. J. would do a house call for me. He said yes and was here within a few minutes. This was about 4:15. I still can't believe he did that for me and am so, so thankful for his kindness!

He adjusted my lower back, did acupuncture to encourage contractions, and also worked with a couple ligaments on my belly to encourage the little man to turn out of his posterior position.

As soon as Dr. J. left, my contractions picked up. For an hour I walked around the house and up and down the stairs and I had contractions every four to five minutes. Much to my relief, the back labor was significantly better too! I was so encouraged!

And then they stopped.

I was so bummed. I sat down and as soon as I was sitting I realized how exhausted I was. Since I wasn't having contractions anyway, Ben encouraged me to lay down. I fell asleep for 20 minutes.

And I woke up to a contraction that lasted four whole minutes. It was uncomfortable but actually pretty manageable.

Shortly after that, I had another one.

And then another one. And this time I felt like I had to push!

Our midwife wasn't here. The tub wasn't the right temperature. I freaked out a little bit. Ben was totally calm about delivering the baby, and I just knew I desperately wanted to be in the water (which we weren't comfortable with until Leslie was here).

I got in the shower for a little while and then moved to the bed and then just sat in the bathroom. Finally Leslie was here, the tub was the right temperature, and I was able to climb in.

The water was so relaxing. I expected to start pushing right away, but I just wasn't ready so I waited. After several minutes and a few contractions, it was time. I don't remember how many times I pushed, but after a couple pushes, his [BIG] head was born. At this point, Leslie expressed surprise at how large he was and suggested I get into a squat to accommodate his body. I was able to reach down and feel his head while I waited for another contraction. The time in between was so calm and quiet. With the next contraction, I pushed but he didn't come out. Next contraction, I gave a long, hard push and my sweet boy was born into my arms.  Pushing took right about 5 minutes and gratefully I had no tearing even though Calvin was such a big baby.

All-in-all, Calvin's birth was a really good experience. The hardest part of labor didn't last that long and pushing wasn't bad. The most difficult part was being awake for nearly 40 hours straight. I think I needed that 20 minute nap at the end to have the strength to actually get my baby out!
We love our sweet boy and are adjusting pretty well to life as a family of seven. <3
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Dear Josephine,

I missed your first birthday by 8 months. I've gotten slack over the last couple of years with getting birthday letters written on time and I'm sorry. Even though we're now closer to your second birthday than your first, I wanted to write you a letter anyway.

My sweet girl, you were our long awaited baby. For about a year, I was too sick to conceive, and over time the Lord brought healing to my body and He gave you to us. I was so excited to find out you were on the way, and Daddy and I were both completely in love with you the moment you were born. We still are. In fact, we might spoil you a tiny bit too much. You almost always get a little taste of whatever we're eating because we can't resist your, "A bite? P'eas?!"

I think being a more experienced mama has helped me cherish and savor each stage of your babyhood a little extra. Seeing how fast my babies have grown up has reminded me to slow down. We've spent countless hours snuggling. I love to stop and look into your eyes and listen to the sweet things you say and the words you mispronounce. I love to follow you when you take me by the hand to show me something.

You are such a girl. You get excited about"I wor," ("I wor" = "I wear" = "my clothes") and, "woos. (shoes)" You carry three "beebees" around with you all day long and take such good care of them. You rock and shush them. I love finding them tucked in carefully with blankets around the house. You always tell them, "Nigh-nigh, bee-bee," and tuck them in with a kiss.

Really, you're still a baby yourself, but you get very excited over real babies too--especially your cousin, Gracie. You love holding her. "I wold, Mama?"

I'm hoping your fascination with and excitement over babies will help you with your transition into life as a big sister here in the next couple of weeks. You are so attached to me, I sometimes worry how you'll do with having to share me with someone who needs me even more than you do!

Even though you're so little, you've already become a good helper around the house. You throw away trash without being asked, and you're usually really good about picking up your toys and putting them away where they belong. This is a blessing for your mama!

You do have a stubborn side, for sure, and have started experimenting with telling mama and daddy, "Nnnnnnnnnnnnnno!" Hopefully you'll learn quickly that this approach doesn't work out well.

For the last few weeks, your older siblings have been out of town at Grandma and Grandpa's house. At first, you missed them horribly--especially Katie. Over time you've adjusted, and I think we've both really enjoyed the one-on-one time we've had together. You've been my little buddy. We've done everything together. And it's been sweet. Tonight you fell asleep snuggled up in bed with me, and I just laid there for a while taking you in before I moved you to your bed. I love your sweet baby cheeks and your pudgy little body in footie pajamas. When Calvin is born, I know you'll seem so grown up--and I'm not sure when you'll next fall asleep in mama's arms.

Sweet Josephine, I love you. I love your sweet little voice and the way you smile and giggle. I love how you always want to hold my hand going up and down the stairs ("Hannay?"). I love the way you love your baby dolls. I love how excited you get when Daddy comes home and how you always ask him for a kiss when he's leaving. I have so many moments I wish I could just bottle up and save, so many facial expressions and cute things I want to remember forever. Just like Katie, Benjamin, and Joshua, you're going to grow up on me too. Next thing I know you'll be losing teeth and learning how to read. And then someday you'll probably get married and have a baby of your own.

Even though part of me wishes you'd just stay little forever, I know you won't. And when it comes down to it, I wouldn't actually want you to. That's not why I have babies. I have babies so they'll grow into young men and women who love the Lord and work to advance His Kingdom. That's really what every moment we have together is about--loving you and pointing you to the God Who loves you infinitely more than I ever could. My prayer for you now is the same as it has been since I knew you were a speck in my belly. I pray that you will love the Lord faithfully, even as a child, even now, and serve Him all your days in whatever He calls you to.
Happy First Birthday 8 months late.
Love,
Mama
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At Chipotle for your birthday lunch
Dear Katie,

When Joshua's birthday rolled around, I realized that in the midst of first trimester haze, I neglected to write you a letter on your 6th birthday.

Now it's been over seven months since you turned six. I'm so sorry this letter is so late, sweet girl. I guess better late than never is still true.

It's crazy to me that it's been six entire years since I held you for the first time! I look at you and am daily amazed at how grown up you are. After mothering only very young children for so long, it's incredible to me that my daughter is old enough to have mature conversations. I love talking with you and hearing about what you have on your mind and what you think about the world.

You still have quite the strong will. It frequently gets you into trouble, but I believe that as the Lord continues to work in you, your strong will is a trait that will serve you and Christ's Kingdom well one day. Despite your strong will, you have such a soft and tender heart. You are quick to apologize sincerely when you've behaved poorly, and you're often very sweet and motherly with the boys (though you do your share of buggjng them too!).

It has been just precious to see you with your new baby sister. You are so excited to have another girl in the family and I can't wait to see the friendship between the two of you blossom as the years go by. Your reaction to the news at our gender ultrasound in May was just precious--you literally jumped up and down and cheered for joy as soon as you heard.

You are well on your way to completing first grade. Reading has really clicked for you and you've taken off! Truthfully, though, you'd much rather play outside than do school.

You've also become such a good helper around the house. You and your brothers clean up your room and the living room every day, and you have taken it upon yourself to clear and wash the dining room table as well. With a new baby in the house and Daddy working the hours he works, the extra help from y'all is such a blessing!

Since your birthday, you've lost three teeth and one more is about ready to fall out. You're concerned you look goofy, but I think you look adorable.

As most little girls your age, you are enthralled by all things princess-y. You still love playing with dolls. Despite being such a girly girl, you still love watching Superhero cartoons and playing cars, planes, and trains with your brothers. I think it's a good mix, personally!

Katie Lee, you are so precious to me. I love you more than you can fathom and I'm so blessed to be your mama, your teacher, and your friend. I hope the Lord will help me do better with all of those things as each year passes.

I pray that the Lord will see fit to grant you repentance and faith even now as a young child. May you serve Him faithfully all your days and teach many others to do the same!
Love,
Mama
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