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On Becoming a Parent

So here we are, almost two months since my last post.  Motherhood is clearly getting all of my time and energy right now.  I don’t know how all those professional blogging moms do it.  But in any case, I know that I need to get back at it because I tend to use this blog as a journal (slash recipe book), and I know that I need to get my thoughts and stories of parenthood out before I forget them.  And I have some funny stories.  But I will try to spread them out over a few posts…I don’t want to spoil the surprise too soon or make this post drag on.  For now, this is what I have:

We celebrated the birth of our sweet Hadley on September 27, 2013, four days after my due date.  I thankfully had an easy labor, probably around eight hours total from when it began at home to when we had Hadley at the hospital.

On the left is my very last belly picture with Hadley, taken on her due date (September 23).  On the right is our very first family picture, taken just four days later.

On the left is my very last belly picture with Hadley, taken on her due date (September 23). On the right is our very first family picture, taken just four days later.

I wish I could find the words to describe what Craig and I felt when Hadley was born.  Unfortunately, there are no words that I know that could possibly describe something so miraculous.  If I ever come up with the words, I will let you know.  But I know that I am not alone when I say that when, after all the anticipation, you finally get to see this baby that you have been waiting for, the love that comes over you is unbelievable.  And you look at this little baby and think There is just no way something so perfect could be an accident or a coincidence or anything else.  Only God could create something – someone – so amazing.  I also remember thinking that it was so crazy how this sweet little 7lb 2oz baby was the size of a sesame seed when Craig and I found out about her.  I mean, think about how incredible that is for a moment.  It emphasizes in my mind that life definitely begins at conception, because that tiny little “sesame seed” was actually beautiful baby.

Hadley is nine days old in this picture.

Hadley is nine days old in this picture.  We had our newborn pictures done by Tickled Blue Photography.  Please visit the website and check out the other awesome photos Jodi has taken of babies and families.  She is seriously so talented and wonderful to work with.  You definitely need to consider Tickled Blue if you live in the Charleston area!

Becoming parents has been the most rewarding challenge Craig and I have ever faced.  The highs and lows of emotions are changing constantly with the adjustment.  Sleep deprivation can get pretty insane, and I doubt our condo will ever be really clean again (not that a spotless condo was a common occurrence before).  There have definitely already been moments where I think I can’t handle this.  But then, you look down at your precious baby, your gift from God, and the frustration and doubt and anxiety all go away, because, “Look at this perfect little baby.  I couldn’t be happier.”  And the first real smile…wow…it’s like God timed it for when he knows that parents are hitting their limit of the most overwhelmed they have ever felt, and all of a sudden your baby says, ” I love you so much, and I think you are the best parents in the world.”

So, yeah, parenthood is crazy.  It can be crazy exciting and crazy overwhelming.  It can be crazy frustrating and crazy amazing.  And Craig and I have only been at it for less than two months!  I know there is so much more to learn and experience as a parent, and I truly can’t wait!

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Thoughts as We Wait on Hadley

This is it…we have made it to the end.  I will be officially 40 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow.  I can’t believe it!  I am SO beyond eager to meet sweet Hadley, I just wish she could be born NOW.  I keep reminding myself that she will come when she is ready, but I don’t know that it’s really keeping me from driving myself insane.  What a waiting game this is!

My mind keeps flashing back to the quiet Saturday morning, when I took a pregnancy test while Craig was taking Jada outside because I figured I was just going to be disappointed by the negative result and didn’t see the point in getting Craig’s hopes up for no reason.  I was obviously wrong, and in an instant, everything changed.  It is funny how a little blue line can have so much power over your future.  We have spent nine months since that January morning preparing for our baby’s arrival, although I highly doubt anyone can every truly be prepared for parenthood.

I remember some people telling Craig and I that we shouldn’t get married right when I graduated college…that we should wait a few years.  We were told that we were too young, and that it was a bad idea to try to balance a marriage while Craig was in medical school.  And now, here we are, getting ready to not just “balance a marriage,” but to start a family when Craig still has almost two years left in medical school.  But the truth is, there will never be a perfect time to get married or to start a family.  If we had decided to wait for the perfect time, we would be waiting forever.  Yeah, medical school takes up a ton of time, and it’s not always easy on us.  But you know what?  Residency takes up more time than medical school.  And fellowships take up more time than residency.

So Craig and I made the decision to not wait for a more convenient time, but to jump into this adventure together.  God has gotten us where we are now, and through Him, we will be the best parents we can be.

So, as we enjoy our last few days as just Craig, Ashley, and Jada, here is a look through my pregnancy, complete with a growing belly, a baby shower, and a finally complete nursery.

So excited to find out we are expecting a baby!  Yes, I peed on that stick...get over it.

So excited to find out we are expecting a baby! Yes, I peed on that stick…get over it.

Growing Belly

Growing Belly!

Some wonderful friends back in Georgia hosted a baby shower for me when Craig and I were visiting.  I was 27 weeks pregnant.  I seriously couldn't have imagined a more beautiful, perfect shower.

Some wonderful friends back in Georgia hosted a baby shower for me when Craig and I were visiting. I was 27 weeks pregnant. I seriously couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful, perfect shower.

We also had some maternity photos taken by an awesome photographer down here in Charleston (HannahLane Photography)!  Hannah was such a pleasure to work with, and she did an awesome job.  These are just a few of my favorites.

We also had some maternity photos taken by an awesome photographer down here in Charleston (HannahLane Photography)! Hannah was such a pleasure to work with, and she did an awesome job. These are just a few of my favorites.

Hadley's Nursery

I LOVE Hadley’s Nursery! My parents did such an incredible job. I love the soothing colors mixed with different patterns and textures. This is fit for a princess!

Hadley's Nursery Collage

Love the chandelier above the rocker, the monogram above the bed, and the awesome shelves above the dresser. Have I mentioned how incredibly talented my parents are?! Now if only some of that talent could get passed down to me…

The “Reveal”

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Craig and I were so ready for my twenty week appointment last week!  They were going to be doing the big ultrasound where they check for any malformations and find out the gender of the baby.  Craig was so excited!  He couldn’t wait to see the “live feed” of our sweet baby.  I was mostly anxious.  I was so scared that they would tell me there was some sort of malformation with our baby, but my wonderful husband assured me everything would be ok.  And it was.  Our baby is as healthy as can be.  Praise God!

Oh, and guess what else!  We are having a baby girl!  We didn’t really care too much one way or the other what we were having as long as the baby was healthy, but I knew that Craig kind of wanted a girl first.  He is over the moon excited!  So many people had told us they were 90-100% “certain” (except apparently not) we were having a boy, that Craig and I were both in shock at first.  In fact, I made the ultrasound tech take a second picture to double check.  It is definitely a girl, and I can’t wait to meet her!

After our appointment, Craig and I stopped at the store to pick up a cute little girly onesie.  MUCH to my parents’ dismay, I refused to tell them separately on the phone what we were having, and I decided they would have to skype with us that evening when they were both home from work to find out.  My mom was dying…she wanted my dad to leave work early that day, but he was unable to.  So my mom had to wait.  It. was. rough.  Yet, somehow, she made it through. 😉 We showed my parents the onesie that night one skype (my mom was shocked, as she was one of the 90%-certain-it’s-a-boy people), and then we called Craig’s parents to tell them.  What an exciting night!  Beyond that, we worked hard to mostly keep to ourselves what we were having, because we knew that we would be taking “gender announcement” pics with my parents that weekend when we saw them in Greenville.  Craig and I were heading up there for his grandfather’s 90th birthday party on Saturday, so my parents and twin brother met us for lunch on Sunday before we had to head back to Charleston.

The pictures turned out adorable, and it was awesome to get to announce to everyone on Mother’s Day what we are having.

"Daddy's Little Princess" and pink onesie

IMG_3506 IMG_3507 IMG_3513 IMG_3526

Craig and I are so excited to meet our little Hadley Elyse!  We already love her so much, and I know that love is only going to continue to grow with each passing day!  I guess it’s time to start getting our place together and baby-ready!  Everything seems so much more real now that we are beyond the halfway point, we know what we are having, and we already have a name for her…so if this doesn’t kick me into nesting mode, I don’t know what will!  I ordered a crib for our sweet Hadley this morning, so that’s a start!  Now we just have to focus on getting Craig through USMLE Step 1 (his boards exam all students have to take after their second year of medical school), and then we can really get to work!  Craig has claimed our guest room as his “boards study cave” for now, but it’s going to be looking more and more like a nursery pretty soon!  I am visiting my parents over Memorial Day this year, so we will hopefully go fabric shopping while I am up there.  I can’t wait!

Zuppa Toscana Soup

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A Delicious (Better Than?) Olive Garden Copycat

Zuppa Toscana Soup

My first trimester of pregnancy was rough, but it wasn’t just tough on me.  It was definitely tough on Craig, too, and I know we were both counting down the days until it ended.  For starters, the nausea was almost unending, and if there was even a brief moment I didn’t feel totally sick, I was worried something was wrong with the baby (I will make sure to relish those brief moments the next time I am pregnant).  And O-M-G I cannot believe how exhausting it is to grow a baby!  I pulled more all-nighters than anyone I know in college, and that exhaustion seriously cannot compare to the first trimester of pregnancy.  I am now a believer that the only people who will ever know the true meaning of the word “exhaustion” are woman who have dealt with this first trimester symptom.

Craig was definitely a trooper through my first trimester.  He found time to pick up around our place and do dishes and laundry, plus he never complained about my insane napping schedule on top of needing nine hours of sleep each night.  He also never complained about the fact that we were eating pasta for probably between seven and ten meals a week because it was the easiest thing on my stomach.  And when boiling pasta became to daunting of a task for me (it takes a lot of energy to watch the water get hot and occasionally stir!), Craig took over that task, as well.  And somehow he also managed to dominate that block’s exam in med school!

Cooking and baking were just not happening during the first trimester, so when it finally came to a close at the end of March and I was starting to feel a little bit more like myself again, I decided we needed to celebrate with something new and delicious!  But what?  We had a cold front coming in, so I knew that this would probably be my last chance to cook a yummy wintry meal.  Then I remembered my trip to Ohio a month an a half earlier to visit family.  (Thankfully, my morning sickness did not start until the day after I got back to Charleston from that trip.)

It was FREEZING up in Ohio, and it snowed for most of our visit.  One afternoon my mom, aunt, cousin, and I couldn’t decide what to do for lunch.  We ended up at Olive Garden, and I had not clue what to order (it’s not somewhere I get to go often since it is mostly Craig-unfriendly).  My cousin and aunt suggested the unending soup and salad, but I couldn’t decide on the soup.  Everyone offered to me what their favorites were, when the waiter mentioned that I could always start with one type of soup and then choose another type of soup after that.  What a perfect solution for indecisive Ashley!  I started with the Zuppa Toscana soup and would move onto another type of soup after that…at least that was what I thought before I tried the soup.  It was so amazing!  I don’t remember if I had two or three bowls of it.  Yum, yum, yum!

Here are just a few snapshots from the Ohio weather we had during our visit. Our Charleston “cold fronts” have nothing on this!

Fast forward to the end of my first trimester, and I knew this soup would be the perfect celebratory I-can-cook-and-eat-normal-food-again-plus-we-have-a-cold-front meal.  I just had to figure out how to make it Craig-friendly.  So, after some researching, I based this recipe on one that I found from food.com, but I made quite a few changes based on reviews.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2 or 3 medium to large potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 strips of cooked bacon
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 cups of kale (veins removed and sliced thin, like ribbons)
  • 32 oz of chicken broth (one standard sized carton)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
    • To make Craig-friendly (dairy-free) half and half, buy a can of coconut milk and let it chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.  It will separate into a cream on top and watery stuff on bottom.  Then, open the can and use a spoon to skim the coconut cream off the top.  Mix together equal parts coconut cream and plain soy milk (3/4 cup of each for this recipe).

Directions

  1. Remove the sausage from its casing.  Cut into 1/2 to 1-ish inch pieces, and then brown the meat.  Set the browned sausage aside the whatever stockpot you will be using for the soup.
  2. Chop up your bacon, and put that in the stockpot, as well.
  3. Sauté the onions, and add to the stockpot.
  4. Slice up your potatoes into skinny little pieces, leaving the skin on, and toss into the stockpot.
  5. Add your chicken broth, water, and minced garlic to the pot.  Boil the ingredients in the pot for about thirty minutes, or  until the potato pieces are tender.
  6. Add the kale and half and half, mix everything together, and let the soup simmer for about another fifteen minutes.
  7. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana Soup - Delicious!

Exciting News from the McKs…

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Well, Craig and I certainly have a big year ahead.  Craig will be finishing up his second year of medical school this spring, and then he has to take Step 1 of the Boards!  He will spend five or so weeks studying just about twelve or so hours a day in preparation.  It does not sound like fun to me, but I know Craig is going to rock it!

After Craig’s Boards, he will get a few days off for us to do something fun together (he scheduled to take his exam a few days early so that we could have some time) before starting his third year in medical school!  No more summer vacations for Craig!  But third year will be very exciting, because Craig finally gets to spend some real time in the hospital doing rotations.  The first two years of medical school are generally spent in the classroom setting, while the last two years are spent in the hospital.  I know Craig is excited and ready for the change.

But all of that news pales in comparison to the real news we have…so I will let this picture do the talking…

Sitting in a Tree

Hmmm…what comes at the end of the song?  Oh, right!  “Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”

It’s true, Craig and I are expecting our first baby!  Baby McK is due in September of this year, and we could NOT be more excited!

We took that picture while my parents were in town this past weekend.  My dad made the chalkboard with wood, some chalkboard paint, and a rope.  My mom wrote on the board with chalkboard markers.  It turned out so cute!  Of course, they are ridiculously creative, so the adorableness should be no surprise to me.

Aside from their jobs (my mom is a teacher and my dad owns a business with my uncle), my parents do some interior decorating on the side… “for fun.”  So of course, my parents are CRAZY-EXCITED to do a nursery for their very first grandbaby, and that is why this next picture was also so necessary…

Nursery Under Construction

My mom and her friend designed the sign together, and then my mom had it printed at a store in Georgia before my parents came down to visit.  I thought this one also turned out super cute!  This room is currently a guest room slash our condo “annex,” where we have piles of boxes that we still need to go through, so it really will be a disaster zone to get this room baby-ready.  But we are all up for the challenge!

And of course, what good would my parents’ trip to beautiful Charleston be without a trip to the beach?  So we obviously had to take this picture as well…

Baby Sandals!

We are clearly very excited for the changes ahead of us this year, but that’s not to say we are not still a little bit like, “Whoa…is this for real?” Our first doctor appointment was about a week and a half ago, and they did an ultrasound while we were there.  That’s when the whole situation got “really real” for us.  We saw the tiny little baby’s heart beating at 188 beats per minute, and we were in love.  So crazy that we can see the heart beat so early on, but it gives such value to the fact that this is not a “thing.”  It is a baby…a human life that is growing inside of me, and it is the best and craziest news ever!

So here is our “Holy crap, I guess this is for real” picture, followed by a couple of our “There’s a baby in your belly!” pictures…

Craziness!

There's a Baby in Your Belly!

There's a Baby in There!

There are so many changes and challenges ahead for our little growing McKinney family.  We are thrilled with this blessing, and we pray every day for health for our baby and for guidance as we figure out what exactly it means for us to be parents.  It’s certainly not going to be easy, especially with Craig being gone at the hospital more over the next two years, but we know that we can do it.  We are trying our best to lean on God throughout this whole process, and we have been so blessed with support from family and friends.

Yes, it is definitely going to be a chaotic year, but I have a feeling that is might just be our best year yet! 🙂

Our First Ultrasound of Sweet Baby McK

(UPDATE: Click here to find out what we are having!)

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