Eleanor's birth

Eleanor was born at home. I guess the pictures of her on my bed, only hours old kind of gave it away. It was a very personal decision for us, and one that we didn't share with many people before her birth. We researched and read, then pondered, prayed and searched our souls to find that a home birth was the right thing for this baby and this mother. Uncharacteristically, once our decision was made, I never had a moment's doubt that everything would be great, and it was....

On Sunday, May 15th, Brigham was baptized (and I'll write that story soon!). We'd had an incredibly busy weekend, to end an already packed month. Little Eric ran a local kids 3K on Saturday morning, beating the little girl across the street by a hair's breadth, to his very great relief. Then we headed to the bowling alley for Brigham's birthday party- cake and icecream getting ground into someone else's carpet- worth every penny. In the evening we put on our best and sent Marley across the street so we could attend the Atlanta Boy Choir's spring concert, featuring (he was the main feature to us, at least:) little Eric. So after the baptism on Sunday night, I said to several people, "Phew! Now I'm ready to have this baby."

Sure enough, soon after going to bed Sunday night contractions began dragging me from sleep. About 2 A.M. sleep ceded the battle and I got up to check email and let it sink in that our baby was finally on his or her way. At 3:30 I woke Eric up and we passed the wee hours of the morning tidying up the house, doing laundry and making lunches for the boys. At 6:00 I called Claudia, our midwife and told her I was in labor. She must have thought I was a little too calm, because she said she'd call me back after her shower and coffee. I was worried about traffic, and on that second call I was a little more firm, telling her, "I really think you should come".

She got on her way while Eric woke the boys up for school, telling them they would have a new sibling by the end of the day. They came into the living room, sleepy-eyed and bewildered. I'm not sure what they were expecting, but they seemed relieved to see a normal-looking me lying on the couch, smiling. Claudia arrived just as they walked out the door to school.

I moved to my bed while she set up shop and Eric got Marley up and ready to go next door. He lifted her on to the bed and she gave me a gentle hug and kiss. Claudia checked me and I was dilated to 5 cm, which disappointed me, because I felt like I'd moved past that point. But I reminded myself that sometimes the body takes a while to register the work it's been doing, and I'd probably get to a 10 pretty quickly from there.

Claudia's assistant, Audrey arrived and, per my wishes, the two of them sat in the living room and read while I laid on my side in bed and breathed through contractions. Eric was there next to me, looking appropriately concerned and jumping up to get me whatever I asked for. Mostly, all I wanted was quiet, calm and him. Claudia and Audrey would come in every thirty minutes to check the baby's heart rate. Claudia told me I needed to let her know when a contraction began, because I was so quiet and still- I silently thanked my hypnobabies training for that little ego boost:).

Sometime after 10 I called for Claudia to come in the room because I felt like I might be wanting to push soon. She checked me and sure enough, I was 9.5 cm dilated and cleared to go ahead whenever I felt the urge. Urge is not quite the word to describe what I feel when having a baby- it's more like an all-encompassing compulsion the strength of a thousand boa constrictors. I pushed gently through a few contractions and mistakenly though that maybe I'd be able to "breathe the baby out", as they advise in hypnobabies. That hope was crushed by the next contraction, which was long and accompanied by some sort of howl that I'm sure all the neighbors heard. I felt that old familiar burning and heard a sudden commotion as Claudia, Audrey and Eric (who was holding my leg) all realized the head was about to come out. I was urged to "slow it way down" so I wouldn't tear, so on the next contraction I did my very best to breath and not push so hard, which resulted in more interesting sound effects for the neighbors, but didn't stop the baby's head. Right away I heard a cry, and everyone started laughing, saying, "That's what you call a 10 on the the apgar scale!" Another huge push and suddenly I was holding my purple, slippery, angry-looking baby. Eric told me it was a girl, and I just couldn't believe it. TWO DAUGHTERS!!! A SISTER FOR MARLEY!!! In that moment I felt like I had everything I could ever ask for.

Once the placenta was out, Eric walked over to the school to tell the boys they had a new sister. They both wanted to cut the chord, so they held the scissors together and did it in sync- a sweet moment. While Audrey examined the placenta, she explained to them what it was and how it had kept their sister alive while she was inside me. Some people might think that's gross, but I loved seeing that my boys still had that wonderful curiosity intrinsic to childhood and didn't seem to notice the gross factor at all.

It was....perfect. That's all I can think to say about it.


Gee, we think she's swell!!

Eleanor Kathryn Aldrich
Born May 16th, 2011
8 lbs. 0 oz.


Temple thoughts

Eric and his family after being sealed in the Seattle temple.

Last Sunday the Atlanta temple was rededicated. It had been closed for two years for renovations, and for two weeks before the rededication, it was open to the public. Normally, even members of our church can only enter after age twelve, and if they're living certain key principles, so this was a special opportunity for us to take friends, neighbors and our kids to see the inside of a place that holds sacred meaning for us.

We went to the open house on a very crowded Thursday evening. I think we arrived at 6:45 or so and didn't get inside the temple until after 8:00, thanks to my total failure to remember that I actually have a good excuse to request a handicapped spot (and Mormons, bless them, are so wonderful to pregnant women). We had brought our three children, our neighbor's 9-year-old son (who is a member) and our wonderful neighbor across the street and her three daughters (who aren't).

At the Washington, D.C. temple with our friend Kadest, from Ethiopia, just after we were married.

The tour started with a video explaining some of why we hold temples so sacred and as I sat next to my neighbor, a newly-single mom, I had a flash-back to what it felt like for me, twelve years ago, to hear Mormons talk about their families. My parents were in the middle of an unpleasant divorce, and thoughts of eternal bonds and loving homes were like water to my parched sixteen-year-old soul. Oh how I wanted those things for myself.

Now they're mine, and though the hard work and sacrifices required were more than I'd bargained for, so too have been the joys. As I sat in that crowded chapel next to my neighbor, I knew she could feel the same promise I had felt more than a decade ago.

At the Nauvoo temple open house with 6-month-old Eric.

Inside the temple was crowded and chaotic, not at all how we're used to experiencing it. There were so many people there that night that tour groups and guides went out the window and we were left to navigate the rooms and crowds at will. The children were so excited, they couldn't keep their hands off anything. They touched the crystals dangling from the wall sconces, the stained glass windows, the leather benches, the hand-stitched lace altar-covers, the gilt frames of the paintings- all of it. And I let them- knowing that volunteers would painstakingly clean every surface before the prophet's arrival in a few days, and knowing too that the Savior must be smiling down at all this energy, exuberance and wonder in his normally hushed house.

We came to the sealing room, where couples are married for eternity, and showed them the mirrors reflecting into each other. When the boys sat down to rest for a minute on the couch at the front of the room, I told them that the next time they sit on one of those couches might be their wedding day.

Over the following days I thought constantly of my little eternal family- what they mean to me and what I mean to them. During runs through the park and evenings at the kitchen sink the spirit taught me something I hope I'll never forget: that it is not my privilege, or my responsibility to shape or mold these children I've been given. They are themselves, whole and complete, and my imperfect intentions and limited understanding have no business weighing them down. Rather, my opportunity as mother and wife is to shape this family, the bonds between the five (almost six!) of us, and to nurture and influence the feelings of love we have for one another. It's through that influence that my impact on their lives can and should manifest itself.

The temple is quiet now, the fingerprints gone, the frames straightened and the sconces gleaming. There are countless lessons left for me to learn within its sacred walls, but I'll keep close the one that came amidst the crowds and the laughter of my children.