Jude's Birth Story

Jude Christopher Swift joined our family bright and early on Saturday April 13th at 2:12 am after just about an hour of labor. (Yes. An hour! Talk about a Swift baby)! He is now three weeks old and we are absolutely in love with the little man that he is. He is our easiest baby thus far. He eats well, sleeps well and doesn't stir when the sister's cry or the dog barks. He is amazing.

Jude came fast and furious in the middle of the night. In some ways I feel like I was in labor with him for weeks, having had contractions much earlier than I had with either of the girls and yet his labor was still quite a surprise, happening so quickly! 

His due date was April 16th. On the last night of March I lost my mucous plug (something that happened on the evenings I went into labor with both of the girls). I went to bed that night fully expecting to wake up in labor a few hours later. Instead, I woke up to April Fool's day and feeling like my son had April Fool'sed me. 

Later that week he fooled us again when I awoke to what I thought was active labor-- contractions every four or five minutes for about two hours-- only to have them stop after we had called the grandparents and our doula.

Instead, Jude the Dude took his time picking the day but came out in a hot second once he was ready.

I woke up at 12:50 am on April 13th with painful contractions two minutes apart. Not wanting to cause another false alarm, I hopped in the tub before we called our family and doula. After just a few minutes in the tub my contractions jumped to a minute apart. Not only that, but I felt my first urge to push, which is a scary feeling when you're at home in the tub and not planning to have a home birth. Right away we called my sister, who just so happened to be in Tulsa for the Snoop Dog concert (thank you, Snoop!), and she headed over.

Both of the girls' labors were really similar. With Eliza I awoke in the middle of the night with painful contractions and labored at home for all but an hour of her 7.5 hour labor. With Lindie, I again awoke in the middle of the night to not quite as painful contractions that eventually became painful contractions and labored at home for all but an hour of her 6.5 hour labor. With both girls I felt like we had enough time to get to the hospital and be ready.

But with Jude I knew things were progressing more quickly and it scared me. After everything with Lindie, I did not want to have a home birth or have a baby in the car. I wanted to deliver my baby safely at the hospital, and I started to worry we might not make it.

My sister arrived around 1:40 am and Chris and I headed to the hospital immediately. Just as with the girls, I labored in the passenger seat on hands and knees while Chris drove like a mad-man to the hospital. The only difference this time was I was legitimately scared I was going to birth him in the car, so I was a bit more hostile toward my husband. (I only remember dropping the F-bomb once, but Chris says it happened three times and in a pretty aggressive manner. He's forgiven me for that and, to be fair, he did make a wrong turn).

We arrived to an empty hospital entrance. Chris helped me out of the car and into the hospital doors. All the while, I stopped during each contraction to get on my hands and knees and labor through them. Once we realized there was nobody in sight, he ran ahead to find a wheelchair while I made my way toward Labor and Delivery. I labored on the sidewalk outside the entrance of the hospital. I labored a few times in the middle of the white linoleum hospital hallway floor, and I even labored on hands and knees in the elevator riding up to the second floor. Once we reached the second floor, however, there were a few nurses running our way. (Later one of the nurses told me that they had gotten a call from security saying that "there was a lady about to have a baby in the hallway" and "to send someone down").

Once we got to a room they checked me to see how dilated I was and sure enough I was dilated 10 cm and fully effaced! Ready to go! While they prepped everything for delivery, I labored through what felt like the most intense contractions of all my children. I remember the nurses being so kind and encouraging and telling me how great I was doing. I also remember thinking I never wanted to birth a child again. (It's amazing how quickly that changes)!

After a few minutes the urge to push became unbearable. I told the nurses that he was coming and I needed to push. Although my doctor hadn't yet arrived (I had only been in the hospital for a few minutes at this time), the doctor on-call was in the room. Just after telling the nurses I was ready, my water broke. Again I said, "I'm going to push!" Following my lead, the nurses helped me to get into position and I started pushing. I pushed once and Chris remembers seeing hair. I pushed a second time and Chris said he saw the back of Jude's head. Finally, I pushed a third time and out he came, all 7 pounds, 10 ounces and 20.5 inches of him! And only 14 minutes after arriving at the hospital! Phew!

The first thing I remember about Jude was that he was crying. Eliza cried right away, but Lindie did not. Jude was like his biggest sis and cried right out of the womb. To me that was a good sign.

But before I even got a good look at him (literally before I even got to double check that he was in fact a boy and had a penis) they told me he was covered in meconium and likely had swallowed some. Instead of delaying the cord clamping like I had wanted, they urgently cut the cord and whisked him away to the NICU with Chris. 

This is where I am so grateful for all the experience I've had as a Mama leading up to this point. Had Jude been my first kid or had Jude come before Lindie, hearing them tell me that he was covered in meconium and needed to go to the NICU would have terrified me. I would have worried about the skin to skin bonding time we would be missing. I would have thought about all the worst case scenarios and would have imagined them all happening to Jude. But instead, I felt a weird sense of calm.

Months before Jude was born, in my first trimester and before we even knew Jude was a boy, the Lord gave me the name "Noah" when praying over him. At first when I heard "Noah" I thought that meant it was going to be his name. But after re-reading the story of Noah in Genesis, I noticed that Noah's Dad named him Noah because he would be a "relief" to their family. From that point on I was convinced that the Lord was using the name Noah to encourage me that Jude would be a "relief" to our family. So when the high-risk doctor asked us to come back a second time in the second trimester because of some "concern" and months later when he was born covered in meconium and needed to be whisked away to the NICU, I wasn't broken because I believed he would be okay. I had a weird sense of calm because I was convinced the Lord had assured me all would be well.

The hardest part of it all was not being able to hold him right away. Even though he was born around 2am I didn't get to hold him until after 7:30am. But once I did, it was bliss!

Jude had a short NICU stay. Pretty quickly they were able to remove the meconium from his lungs and by Sunday he was off CPAP and beginning to breastfeed. Before we knew it, the staff was preparing his discharge papers and we were discharged after just two days in the hospital. Praise. The. Lord!

I feel so blessed for it all. For the sweet boy the Lord has gifted our family, for his health and the peace the Lord gave me through it all, even for the NICU experience-- I am grateful-- because both his and Lindie's NICU experiences help me to better understand other Mamas and families whose birth experiences are not always ideal.

Thank you Lord for our sweet little man! We love him dearly!

You've Got This Mama, Too on AMAZON!

It's launch day for You've Got This Mama, Too, which means you can head over to Amazon to get your copy! If you already purchased a signed copy from me, thank you! I appreciate your love and support.

(If you would prefer a signed copy over one from Amazon, I still have some of my personal books left. Just shoot me an email aimeelaurenswift@gmail.com and I can get one to ya)!

Lindie Fern turns TWO!

A few weekends ago we celebrated little Lindie Fern's second birthday with a small family party.
I still cannot believe she is TWO.
In some ways, we feel like she should be 10 because we feel like we've aged 10 years since she was born! (Seriously, gray hairs)! But in other ways we feel like it's flown by and (like all parents) wonder where the time went.
I've said before that one of my favorite things about Lindie having Down syndrome is that I get my baby longer. Each developmental stage and milestone lingers and most of the time I love that. I mean, who wouldn't want time to slow down so they can enjoy their children longer?

I really do think that's one of the sweet gems of having a child with Down syndrome!
At two Lindie weighs about 17 pounds. She eats mostly pureed foods and has been not using the g-tube for about a month! (She does still have it, but we're hoping they take it out in May). She loves to crawl all over the living room and is beginning to discover crawling down the hallway to other rooms and into the kitchen. She loves music, her big sister, Beat Belle, Fisher Price Pup & Sis toys and chasing the Shark robot around while it vacuums. She does not love loud noises, being the center of attention, being taken away from Mama and getting in her carseat. She says "Dada, Mama (when she's really sad or wants something), Yaya (Eliza), All Done and Yes. She loves bath time, which is usually the only time she is willing to drink water. She keeps Mama busy with at least 4 therapy appointments a week + usually another appointment or two for something else. She is pure joy with a little bit of spice, which is why Big Sister has nicknamed her "Spicy Lindie."

We love you Spicy Lindie!

Eliza (my little family event planner) picked the theme for Lindie's birthday- 
RAINBOW! She had so much fun helping me pick out ideas on Pinterest and putting them into action. Here's some of my favorite shots from her party.
Since Lindie LOVES Beat Belle, we also incorporated her into the decor. Eliza & Chris even drew and colored a life-size Beat Belle for Lindie to keep!
 Eliza hand-painted rainbows on all the party favor bags and painted other rainbows to hang up around the house. I love all her personal flair with each rainbow!
We also made sure all the food was rainbow themed as well.
Which felt a little silly because Lindie doesn't even eat any of these foods, but oh well!
My favorite part was making the Rainbow Cake out of cupcakes. I was really hopeful Lindie would actually eat one this year (she hates sweets) but she threw it on the ground. They were pretty anyway.

 Thank you to all our family who joined us to celebrate Lindie's second birthday! We had so much fun!

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Ashley Tillinghast

Ashley is Mama to Willow, who has Down syndrome. Ashley, her husband Stephen and Willow live in a small town in Northern California.

Willow is a beautiful 10 month old baby girl-- full of smiles and laughs! She is very empathetic, has a great sense of humor, and loves to experience new things.
Ashley's words:

"Our birth and diagnosis story has definitely had the most impact on me so far in our journey with Down Syndrome. I just finished putting it all to words over on my blog- so instead, I'd like to share something that I've learned this past year that I feel really passionate about: the importance of language. We received Willow's diagnosis when she was 2 weeks old- and honestly, I had never thought about Down Syndrome before. I was so uninformed about the diagnosis, and was so scared about what that meant for my girl. Because I was a fresh mama, (those first few weeks/months are so emotionally and physically intense) I sort of just 'went with the wave' of pediatricians and nurses advice and input on Down Syndrome. And... it wasn't very positive input. As I started to get to know my new baby girl- I realized she wasn't anything like they told me she 'should be'. She was much more than 'Down Syndrome' in every way possible- she was beautiful, she was determined, she was strong, and she was fierce. When you start out at 3 pounds, I think you've got to be a little fierce! Advocating for 'People First Language' has been the area that has meant the most to me so far on our journey: language is so powerful and important! I've heard my daughter referred to as the "Down's Baby" or the "Special Needs Baby", rather than, "A baby who has Down syndrome". She is so much more than her diagnosis- and it's important to recognize people before their diagnosis/abilities, in the way that we speak about all people. "Words are powerful; Old, inaccurate, and inappropriate descriptors perpetuate negative stereotypes and attitudinal barriers. When we describe people by their labels of medical diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals." (Taken from https://www.thearc.org) So, I hope to encourage anyone who may read this- to use language carefully. I've linked a website that has some great information on People First Language below if you want to check it out." The Arc People First Language Web Page
How does Willow bring you JOY?

Willow brings me joy each day! It has been so much fun watching her discover how her body moves- she's discovered her fingers and toes- started to bend her knees and use her legs much more, and is even working on sitting up unassisted! I've realized that we have found so much more joy along the journey to get to the milestone- than evaluating which milestone's she's meeting. She also has the most incredible laugh, which brings me unmatched joy each and every day!

Thank you so much for sharing, Ashley! To follow Ashley & Willow visit her BLOG or INSTA.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Sarah Teed

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  Psalm 139:13-16
"I was 37 when I found out I was pregnant with my third child, William.  Because I was older, I knew that I had an increased risk of having a child with Down Syndrome and prayed throughout my pregnancy for the health and safety of my baby.  When it came time to do the normal pre-natal testing for spina bifida and Down Syndrome at 16 weeks, I declined because I knew that I would not choose to abort the pregnancy if the results came back positive.  Thus, when Will was born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, I had no idea that he had Down Syndrome. It took our pediatrician about 4-5 weeks to make a firm diagnosis. When we received the news that genetic testing had determined that Will did have Down Syndrome, we went through a period of grief and mourning the death of the dreams and expectations that we had for him.  However, we had much to be thankful for in the midst of this difficult news – Will was very healthy and did not have the heart problems usually associated with Down Syndrome. We had lots of family and friends that loved, encouraged, supported, and prayed for us during that time of adjustment. They also continually reminded us that God had not made a mistake and that He would bless us through William.  God had placed William in our family and we knew in our hearts that he was a gift just as precious as our normal children and that God would give us the strength and grace we needed to love, parent, and provide for him – whatever his unique needs were.
Our lives were turned upside down at first while we adjusted to our new normal of a child with special needs. I unexpectedly had this new responsibility of accommodating Will’s out-of-town therapy needs for his developmental, physical, and speech delays while still parenting two other children, being a wife to a very busy husband, and taking care of a home.  However, our family soon adapted to our new routine and Will quickly became a beloved and meaningful part of our family and did everything we did from going out to eat, to church, to athletic events, and to Bible Study. Our new life had many challenges to overcome but much joy as well. Our family developed new priorities and God taught us much through William, and still does.  He helped us see that our worth, as God’s creation, is independent of any disabilities we might have and that we should not value people based on worldly standards. We are surrounded by a world that values physical beauty, athleticism, talent, and intellectual ability. If you do not possess these qualities, you are invisible and marginalized in our culture. William is none of these but he is happy, loving and funny in his own unique way and a tremendous joy and blessing to our family and community.  
William is now 19 years old and has an engaging personality, a great sense of humor, is very active, and never meets a stranger. He is energized by doing things and connecting with people and enjoys an activity the most if he can do it with someone else.  He loves the piano and all kinds of music and loves to dance. He also loves to swim, tube at the lake, ride bikes, play basketball, rake leaves, build chains with links, play cards and dominoes, and work puzzles. His grandmother adores him and loves for him to visit her on weekends where they enjoy going out to eat, going to church, and playing with links, cards and dominoes.  I can’t go anywhere in town without people coming up to Will to give him a hug and share a kind word. My elderly parents are in a local assisted living facility and Will’s daily visits are the highlight of their day! Will has his own unique personality just like the rest of us and it brings me so much joy every day to see how his fun and loving personality brightens the lives of those around him.  His smile, hugs, dancing, and excitement over making a very long chain, tubing behind the boat, and jumping off of the diving board, warm my heart with joy. You can make him happy by simply giving him a bottle of his favorite blue Gatorade to drink. He is unaffected by the cares and stresses of this world. There is much to be valued in, and learned from, his simple life with simple wants, needs and expectations.  
The most important thing any of us can do is to let God reveal His glory through our lives and gifts.  God never promised us that our lives in this fallen world would be easy and struggle free. He did, however, promise to be with us. (Psalm 23)  In the midst of our challenges and struggles, God calls us to respond in a Christ-like way that draws us and others closer to Him, matures our faith, and brings Him Glory and Honor.  Although I often fall short of this high calling, God has taught me much through William about trust, patience, obedience, and finding joy, in the midst of worldly imperfection. God has used Will to reveal himself to us and give us new insight into what really matters in life. Will has made our family, as well as the world around him, more loving, compassionate, kind, caring, patient, and selfless.  
Galatians 5:6(b) says The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” God has poured out His abundant love on Will through our family, friends, church, and community; and in return, God has poured out His love on us through Will.  While Will may be “disabled” by the world’s standards, he was created in God’s image and God is “able” to use William, with his disability, to bless others and teach us about God’s unconditional love, compassion, and patience. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor. 1:27
Will was fearfully and wonderfully made by God and all of his days were ordained by Him and written in His book before he was conceived. Psalm 139:13-16  I am eternally grateful to God for William and the joy it is to parent him and be loved by him.  I cannot imagine my life or family without Will and cherish and celebrate every day God gives me with him!"

Thank you so much for sharing Sarah. Your words and Will's story are so profound. So thankful for that!

To follow Sarah & Will, visit her Instagram & Twitter.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Hollyce Hammond


Hollyce is an work-at-home Mama to Hudson, Tyler & Emily. She loves sharing about her specially blended family and Down syndrome, among other things, over at her blog, Holding Moonbeams, and her Insta. She also teaches stroller based fitness classes for FIT4MOM.

Hudson, who has Down syndrome is 17 months old. He is a big time flirt and little charmer, blowing kisses and waving to everyone. He's a hard worker - always pushing himself; but when he's done, all he wants is a good cuddle. His smile is warm and lights up his whole face. Hudson is curious about the world; he wants to touch, taste, and smell everything. His real sweet spot is a love for people. Hudson also loves music - dancing, swaying, bouncing, playing instruments. His favorite song is "I Like It" by Cardi B!
Hollyce's words:

I knew a girl when I was younger - I had no idea she had Down syndrome - but what I remember about her is that she was JOYFUL. I'd see her at an annual dance I attended with my father and think - I want to be like her - bright, smiling, friendly, warm, and kind. Looking back now with Hudson's diagnosis, God has preparing my heart to be his mom for a long time. But this has also been a learning journey for me; I didn't know much about Down syndrome, I had quite a bit of catching up to do. What does the diagnosis mean for Hudson? Will he go to school with other typical kids? Will he find a life partner to love and cherish? Will he hold a job and live independently? What I've come to learn is that EVERY PARENT has these worries; while certain challenges are more 'likely' with a Ds diagnosis, there is always worry that you are doing "enough" for your child and that they will grow up to be a loving, compassionate, valuable member of society. The most important traits Hudson have taught me in his 17 months on this earth are the following (and they are important whether you have zero children, 20 children, or live in Antartica):

  • Patience - everyone is traveling their own journey and figuring things out at their own patience. Extend some grace to others.
  • Gratitude - each day has its own challenges and blessings. Be thankful for both!
  • Acceptance - who said life has to happen according to your terms? As a Believer, it was never in my control anyway. I have to accept that certain things in life have to unfold according to His plan - not mama Hollyce's :)
  • Mindfulness - be present. Enjoy the moment. You will miss these pieces of life as they pass you. Love on those around you and give freely and openly.
How does Hudson bring you JOY?

"Hudson sees the world differently - and in a much more beautiful way than those of us 'typical' folks who worry about things that are out of our control or are so stuck in the past that we can never move forward. Hudson brings light to every situation by embracing whatever he is doing and taking everything in. It's also through his love of people that I realize how Hudson will INFLUENCE this world. It's not through being President of the USA (not that it's the most coveted job these days) or CEO of a Fortune 500 organization. It won't be through the tasks and responsibilities he completes and it won't be through financial gains or losses. Hudson will impact the world through spreading his heart full of love and compassion - through people. Even thinking about that moves me to tears. Hudson will love so fiercely and deeply that he will bring happiness to people we haven't even met yet! What an unbelievable gift that is for a human being to give to another."

Thank you so much for sharing, Hollyce! So refreshing to be reminded of all those things. <3

To follow Hollyce & Hudson, visit her BLOG or INSTA.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Sarah Szuminski


Sarah is Mama to Hazel, who has Down syndrome. She is an Early Childhood Special Educator turned Early Childhood Special Educator at home Mama! She loves sharing her life with her hubby and Hazel on Instagram and especially loves to share how she does this at home with a fun "therapy meets play" focus. 

"Hazel just turned two and a half. She is determined, feisty, hilarious, and the best thing that ever happened to her Dad and I."

Sarah's words:

"We knew Hazel would be born with Down syndrome before she was born. The second half of my pregnancy was filled with doctor's appointments, anxiety, and lots and lots of tears. Hazel took her sweet time arriving earth side but as soon as she was placed in my arms, I felt the most profound sense of peace. Here was my baby, absolutely perfect and exactly who she is supposed to be. Hazel runs into every room waving, blowing kisses, and asking for high fives. She brings smiles to every long line and quiet elevator just by being her. She inspires me to be more myself and to see the worth in everyone I encounter."

How does Hazel bring you JOY?

"I stay home with Hazel after years of working with young children of all abilities. I was so worried being home with her would be boring. Instead, I find SO much joy in helping her meet milestones and in creating learning activities for her. She loves to paint and draw and play with her baby dolls. Every day she wakes up ready to learn and is so very persistent in all she does."

Sarah, you are rockin' this motherhood thing and are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing, friend!

To follow Sarah & Hazel, visit them on Instagram HERE.
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