Latkes & Lumpia

We celebrated the last night of Hanukkah last night and are eagerly awaiting Christmas. Christmas is a huge deal for Filipinos and actually Christmas Eve was our big night to celebrate vs Christmas Day. I grew up with so many fond memories of a huge Christmas Eve party (Noche Buena) with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Going to church then partying back at a relative’s house. There was always dancing, plenty of food, and possibly some karaoke. Then we would open our Christmas presents once it was midnight. I miss those huge celebrations and family gatherings but now that I have my own children we get to create our own family traditions. My husband and I have learned to weave in all the best things about our different cultures, faiths, childhood memories, along with fun new traditions.

Latkes & Lumpia

Celebrating involves food, lots of it. I’ve hosted a couple of Hanukkah dinners now. If you know me, you know I don’t cook. I leave that up to the experts and just pick up food from some of our favorite local places or rely on my dad or sister to cook. Latkes are part of our Hanukkah dinners and I read that traditional foods fried in oil are served to represent the holy oil in the temple. Luckily Filipinos are all about that fried goodness too. No Filipino party is complete without lumpias! If you haven’t had a lumpia yet, it is a thin eggroll usually filled with minced meat and veggies. When you are Filipino and your husband is Jewish, you get latkes and lumpia for the holiday dinner, along with brisket, pancit (Filipino noodle dish), matzo ball soup, and garlic rice. It’s quite the international spread.

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Latkes, lumpia, matzo ball soup, and donuts subbing in for sufganiyah.
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Fruit menorah

Church & the Menorah

We don’t go to midnight mass anymore since that would be a disaster with kids but we do typically go to the Children’s mass on Christmas Eve with my parents. During the eight nights of Hanukkah we light the candles together as a family as my husband recites the blessings. Our daughter loves lighting the candles and likes to sing the blessings in her best attempt at Hebrew.

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Santa and Presents

We take Santa pictures each year and with the exception of the first year, we have always seen the same Santa at the 900 North Michigan Shoppes. He’s the sweetest santa and it’s so fun to see the difference from year to year. My sister and I never really grew up believing in Santa Claus. I guess being Catholic we focused more on it being the birth of Jesus and I remember seeing old home videos with my sister and I singing happy birthday to Jesus with our tinsel covered tree in the background. Even now I don’t really think my daughter believes in the concept of Santa. I don’t wrap presents delivered from Santa. If she’s getting a good gift, she’s going to know it came from us. We like to do all the fun Santa activities because it’s festive.

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Filipino Santa Klaus with a parol.

Chrismukkah decor

We have our tree up usually before Thanksgiving and up until New Year’s Day so that we can enjoy our tree up as long as we can. Since our daughter goes to a school focused on world-mindedness and dual-language immersion, she learns about different holiday traditions. She has come home with a Star of David made out of popsicle sticks and has learned how to sing the Dreidel song in Japanese. She’s getting really good at spinning the dreidel and is a chocolate fiend with the gelt (chocolate coins). We also put up our Christmas parol, which is a star-shaped lantern typically made of capiz or bamboo. We hang our parol in our front window and if you’re ever in the Philippines you’ll see so many parols outside of everyone’s homes. The parol is meant to guide the Three Kings to the manger, just as the Star of Bethlehem did in the Nativity Story.

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Menorah ornament and Parol ornament

Our Ohana’s New Traditions

We recently watched Wicked and one of our traditions is to watch a Broadway musical or a ballet. We have been doing this since my little one was 1 year old, her first show was Elf the Musical. For the last two years, we’ve seen The Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker on Christmas Eve, but this year I don’t think baby boy can hang for a three hour ballet. I think the hubs is happy we are breaking that Christmas Eve tradition. We check out the Christmas lights at Lincoln Park’s Zoo Lights each year, go to the German Christmas market (Christkindlmarket) in the loop, decorate gingerbread houses and enjoy afternoon tea at one of the nearby hotels.

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Boo asked for tickets to Wicked for her Hanukkah/Christmas gift this year.

It’s so fun to come up with new family traditions that are our own and so nice to be able to weave in all the memories from my childhood. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year and now my husband and I have found a way to incorporate the best of both worlds. My Christmases in the past were always spent in 75 degree weather in southern California, now living in Chicago the snow makes for the dreamy White Christmas I always imagined. The holiday season is all about love, family, food, and celebration. It’s even more magical now through the eyes of my two little ones.

From our ohana to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Everything.

xoxo – The Prets

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Photo by: TK Photography

Thanksgiving from California to Ohio

Growing up I saw images of Thanksgiving on television and in movies of these small families getting together at the dinner table, eating turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes  with gravy, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Everyone sat at the table with their nice sweaters while the dad carves the turkey. I always thought it must be nice to have a dinner like that. However, Thanksgiving for Filipino families was entirely different. Our family hosted Thanksgiving most years but it didn’t look anything like those Norman Rockwell pictures. Instead our long dining table was piled with traditional Filipino dishes of pancit, lumpia, pan de sal and ham. It was always more of a potluck and a plethora of all kinds of multicultural food rather than a big turkey bird with sides. Actually most of our Thanksgiving celebrations didn’t even involve a turkey since Filipinos aren’t big on turkey. We didn’t sit around the table because there was no way 50 Filipinos plus all of our extended friends and family could sit at one table together. Instead we were all gathered in different areas of the house- the backyard, the living room, the family room, dining room and the kitchen. We didn’t have fall colors or wear sweaters when it was 80 degrees in Southern California.

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Some of the cousins from my mom’s side of the family.

Now that I’m married, I’ve spent four Thanksgivings in Ohio. Thanksgiving looks, feels, and tastes different. There are vibrant red and orange leaves falling off trees, crisp cool weather and definitely a big Thanksgiving turkey with all the traditional American sides. There’s lots of football watching and the whole family gathers around to watch Ohio State v Michigan in their Michigan gear. (Which by the way I had no idea about any of this until I met my husband). It is an authentic American experience.

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True autumn colors in Cincy, Ohio

Although the celebrations are different I think the reasoning behind the celebrations are similar. We all come together on Thanksgiving to spend time with family and relatives. Being married for over a year now I’ve realized that our interfaith, interracial marriage really works for us. Being Filipino and Catholic, Christmas is the real deal for us. We put up our tree and decorations before Thanksgiving and I can’t wait  get into the holiday spirit!  Thanksgiving will always be spent in Ohio with my husband’s family and Christmas will always be spent with my family in Chicago. I will say that Christmas is when I really notice the difference of not having all my relatives around. We aren’t traveling from house to house and rushing off from place to place to see more relatives. I don’t have all my cousins, aunts (titas) and uncles (titos) around for the holidays and I truly miss them all. But now my family is starting to create our own traditions. That to me is what the holidays are all about, creating traditions to celebrate with each passing year and building memories with loved ones.

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Our family of four on Thanksgiving day.

 

 

Have Kids Will Travel

Our ohana took our first family vacation last week. I was nervous about taking our 4 month old on his first flight across country. I was even more stressed out about all the baby gear I would have to bring. I felt like I would be packing up our whole house for this family vacation. Traveling in general stresses me out. My husband on the other hand travels all the time so traveling with all of us in tow definitely slows down his usual travel process. In the end it all worked out,our travels were smooth and we all had an amazing vacation together. I thought I’d breakdown all the planning that was happening in my head so that I could remind myself how I did it the first time and hopefully have a few helpful tips for my mom friends that are getting ready to travel for the holidays. final1510938870610

Packing

I absolutely loathe packing! I think the super organized part of me hates taking things out of place. Now that I have 2 kids, packing is even more involved. To keep myself organized I place all clothes, toiletries, shoes in their designated spacepaks and “go clean” bags. Years ago I discovered these Flight 001 travel bags when watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel.  Now it is what I gift to all my family members for their travels. I love that the spacepaks have a side for dirty clothes and clean clothes. Maybe it’s an Asian thing but I absolutely can not stand shoes touching stuff in the suitcase and  or dirty clothes touching clean clothes.I put each shoe in separate spacepaks and always separate the dirty from the clean stuff. I had spacepacks for the hubs, myself, my daughter and baby boy. Since we were staying at a family member’s house I knew I could do laundry and not have to pack less. The Dapple laundry sheets were convenient to pack and travel friendly since they are concentrated laundry sheets.20171031_203940.jpg

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Departure

I went back and forth on my decision to take our huge Austlen Entourage stroller. It is marketed as a travel stroller but the stroller is pretty heavy at over 45 pounds with all the accessories. I was worried that it would get damaged in flight especially since Austlen doesn’t offer a stroller bag yet. Despite all that, I decided to take it through the airport and gate check it. I purchased the cheap red “gate check” double stroller bag for under $20 and it did the job of keeping the stroller from getting dirty. I’m so glad we decided to gate check the stroller because it was really nice to be able to wheel both kids and the carry-on luggage (diaper bags and backpacks) through the terminals. Since our stroller was too large to put on the x-ray machine at TSA, I just wheeled it through while I was babywearing my little one. I also brought our car seat through and had that attached on our stroller. We checked in our daughter’s convertible car seat that was in a padded car seat bag with backpack straps.20171103_093430.jpg

In-flight entertainment

Luckily our flight was not full. Once we were at  the counter gate we were told that we would be able to bring our infant car seat on board and have a seat for the baby. Score on the free seat!  Entertaining the 4 month old was easy because all he wanted to do was eat or sleep and breastfeeding makes the eating part even easier. My daughter has traveled twice to the Philippines, a grueling  20+ hours from Chicago, so I have become pretty good at finding ways to keep her entertained in flight. When my daughter was a toddler, I used to gift wrap her toys and pack them in her backpack so she’d keep herself busy just unwrapping toys she already had.  Now that she is 5, I came prepared with crayons, coloring books, activity books, magnetic blocks, and of course the iPad. We have a RAVPower filehub to play all the movies we have stored in a flashdrive.  I always pack headphones for the little so she can listen to music or watch movies and I also packed noise canceling headphones for baby to help drown out all the noise. Lastly, the most essential thing to bring- lots and lots of snacks for the whole family to make sure no one gets hangry. You just never know if there are flight delays.20171103_112240

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Arrival  

This is where the Austlen Entourage stroller really came in to play. The stroller has a 150 pound cargo limit. Baby was strapped into his carseat still while we loaded the suitcases on to the stroller. Walking from baggage claim to our rental car was totally doable with the 2 kids, 2 car seats and 4 suitcases. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard work traveling with kids but I don’t want it to stop us from taking vacations.  

We are traveling again next week for Thanksgiving but this time it’s a 5-6 hour roadtrip. Wish us luck!

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Exploring the World Through Books

When I was a kid, I’d stay up late in bed just to read. I read The Boxcar Children, The Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, and anything Judy Blume. But most of the books I read didn’t have characters that looked like me. There wasn’t a ton of diversity in my book selections. Thankfully there is so much more diversity that you see in books nowadays.

I want my kids to love reading as much as I do and I want them to be exposed to all the beautiful unique cultures in the world. With my kids being half Filipino and half white, it’s important for me that they know about the Filipino culture and their Filipino roots. Fortunately my five year old has been to the Philippines twice and we plan to bring baby boy once he’s a little older and can handle the 18+ hour flight. We try to pick up a new book about the city, state, country we visited every time we travel. When we can’t travel, I think reading about a place or culture is the next best thing.

We have a ton of books at home and I feel like you can never have too many books! I especially love to buy books that teach kindness, inclusion, empowerment and an appreciation for diversity. Here are just a few of the books that are focused on diversity. Since it’s the last day of Filipino-American History month I thought I’d focus on the book we’ve been reading this month, “Filipino Friends.” Some of the  diversity books from our home collection.

This book, “Filipino Friends” By Liana Romulo and Corazon Dandan-Albano was given to us as a gift from a friend. It’s such a great book to teach children about the Philippines. But the book teaches more than just about the country, it also teaches about the Filipino culture, family structure, food, customs, traditions, numbers, words, and songs.A great way to learn about food, culture and language.

The illustrations are super cute and the pictures have the Tagalog words labeled to help introduce the language. It’s a great way for not only my daughter to learn more about her heritage and the Tagalog language but also for my husband to learn as well. She loves the song in the book, “Bahay Kubo” which translates to nipa hut. She memorized it quickly and sings it all the time now. It’s such a great book for Filipino-Americans and really for anyone wanting to learn more about the Filipino culture. Stay tuned to hear our reviews about other books from our book collection. A fun way to learn Tagalog

 

5 Reasons to Travel to the Philippines

This past year I got involved in Toastmasters International and love it. I do a lot of presenting and facilitating for work so I thought it would be a great way for me to work on my speaking skills. Last year I also gave my first Matron of Honor speech at my sister’s wedding so I wanted to make sure I was extra prepared. I was determined to complete my first Toastmasters manual before having baby boy this summer, so I went consistently and did one speech per month and earned my Competent Communicator certificate a few weeks before I gave birth. One of the projects I had to complete was called “Persuade with Power.” I had to give a speech that would persuade the audience to do something. I decided to give my speech on the “5 reasons you should travel to the Philippines.” I knew no one in my club had ever been to the Philippines so I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight the beauty of the Philippines.

So where is the Philippines? It’s on the continent of Asia  in the western Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago of over 7,100 islands.

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View from the plane overlooking Boracay, Philippines

5 Reasons you should travel to the Philippines:

  1. Paradise beaches and islands. The Philippines has the most beautiful beaches and many of the beaches of the Philippines are rated as the top 10 beaches in the world. The beaches have powder-fine white sand and clear turquoise blue waters. The views are incredibly gorgeous and the marine life is extremely diverse. The beaches in the Philippines are one of the best assets of the island country.

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    Boracay, Philippines
  2. Food and drinks. The cuisine in the Philippines is a mix of Spanish, Chinese, and American food. The food is always super flavorful and Filipinos are all about those sauces and spices. Some of the most popular dishes are often meat dishes, such as adobo. But if you don’t eat meat there is an endless amount of delicious seafood. Whether you are on the beach or in the city, you’ll find local street food. Banana cue is one of my favorites. It’s deep fried bananas caramelized in sugar. The fruit is the food I look most forward to whenever I am there. I think the best mangoes come from the Philippines. No where else are the mangoes as incredibly sweet and delicious as they are there.

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    Boodle Fight in Taal, Batangas, Philippines
  3. Relax & rejuvenate. With so many beautiful beaches and so much good food, there’s nothing better than just relaxing.  You can get an hour long massage for 350 Pesos/hour at most of the places which is around 8 US dollars.  The massages, the beaches, and the incredible hospitality of everyone in the Philippines makes it the perfect place to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul.

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    Where I got a relaxing massage in Punta Fuego, Batangas, Philippines 
  4. No language barrier. Over 90% of the country speaks English and it is the official language of the government and the preference for written communication. The official language, Tagalog, shares the same alphabet we use in English with a few differences so this makes it easy to read signs when traveling.

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    Sign outside Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines
  5. The culture. The tourism slogan for the Philippines is “it’s more fun in the Philippines.” Filipinos are extremely hospitable and always offering you food to eat and a place to stay so you will always feel welcome wherever you go. Forbes listed the Philippines as one of the world’s friendliest cities in the world. There is such a mix of so many different cultures that make up the Filipino culture. You can see a lot of the influence of the Spanish and American culture. There is so much history to encounter throughout the Philippines from the remnants of World War II to the cross that Ferdinand Magellan brought with him when he brought Catholicism to the islands. The food, loyalty to family, love for music, dancing, and food make the Philippines one big celebration all the time.

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    Calle Crisologo.. A UNESCO heritage site. Spanish colonial street in Vigan, Philippines

So if you are considering where to travel next, I hope I’ve persuaded you to consider the Philippines. It’s more fun in the Philippines!

 

 

Surviving the Newborn Days

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Photography: Simply by Suzy

Baby boy is officially an infant today which marks the end the newborn stage. Everyone talks about how parents are zombies and how rough those first few months can be with a newborn. It is hard and my husband and I were extremely tired. But to add on to the sleepless nights, my husband and I happened to sell our home, look for a new place to live, and move all within the first few weeks of our newborn’s life. It was stressful to say the least but we’ve made it this far and I am finally starting to feel like my old self again. I know every parent and every newborn is different and you have to find what works for you but here is how I survive the newborn days.

  1. Understand the “fourth trimester.” It is no coincidence that the Family Medical Leave Act in the US is 12 weeks long. There are three trimesters during pregnancy but there is really another trimester out of utero that happens. When my husband and I became frustrated we had to remind each other of the fourth trimester and understand that it would take time for baby boy to transition into the world. We knew that we couldn’t expect to be on a schedule or a routine or expect baby boy to sleep through the night when he was just learning how to adjust to all that was around him.
  2. Recreate the womb. Baby was all cozy and comfy in the dark, warm womb and now had to adjust to all these new sounds, sights, smells, and sensations. So whenever we wanted to help baby soothe, we would take him into the dark bathroom, sit on an exercise ball to bounce, and turn on white noise. We bought a Baby Shusher to have one that was convenient to take in to different rooms in the house, in the car, and on the go.
  3. Get help with breastfeeding. I was fortunate enough to breastfeed my firstborn until past 2, 27 months to be exact (yes I did extended breastfeeding but we will get to that in a later blog post). But breastfeeding was extremely difficult for me the first time around. I had low milk supply and had to supplement at the hospital and in the first month of my daughter’s life. I hired a Lactation Consultant and seeked help through drop-in clinics at my local baby store and that made a huge difference. This time around I used the same Lactation Consultant and was prepared for the challenges that come with breastfeeding. I kept telling myself that I was producing enough milk for my baby and trusted my body to do so. But I also had all my breastfeeding necessities ready and I felt much more prepared. I take Malungay supplements which are pills that are made of malungay leaves, which is an indigenous plant in the Philippines. I try to eat food that supports lactation too such as oats, nuts, and my recent new find is oatmilk which I add to my lattes at my local coffeeshop. One last little trick I have is I use this silicone hands free pump. While I’m nursing baby boy on one side, I pop this on the other side to collect milk. Whether it’s a teaspoon or 2 oz, it’s all liquid gold that I collect and store.
  4. Find time for yourself and for each other. It can be a little difficult to find time for yourself with two kids but my husband and I found little ways to help each other. There were days when he would take our daughter to the park for a couple of hours so I could rest at home with the baby. There were other times that I went to the nail salon with my daughter just so we could squeeze in a little pampering and mommy-daughter time. My husband and I were open about communicating when we were struggling and when we needed help. Resentment can build up quickly, especially when you pile on sleep deprivation so my husband and I made sure to acknowledge and appreciate each other. Having a baby is a huge transition. It was a huge life change for me, my husband, and our daughter. We tried to prepare our daughter for the life transition and found ways that were developmentally appropriate for her age.  We read lots of books about becoming a big sister but we also explained that there would be enough love to go around. I always call my daughter, “my heart” so I kept reminding her that when her baby brother arrives my heart would grow bigger and there would be enough love for both of them. We still find ways for her to have daddy-daughter time or mommy-daughter time so she still gets our undivided attention.
  5. It Take a Village. It really does take a village to raise a child. I am fortunate enough to have both my parents and sister here to help us out. But with my firstborn I didn’t ask for help enough. I thought that being a good mom meant figuring it all out and handling it on my own. Now that I know better, I’m not afraid to ask for help. Our first night home from the hospital, my sister (@roxypopzchicago) cooked dinner for us and it was so nice to have a home cooked meal. I also asked my parents and sister for help when I needed someone to help entertain our daughter or allow me to sneak in a quick nap. When my in-laws came in to visit from Ohio they took our daughter for some one-on-one time and then watched both kids so my husband and I could have our first date night. I also reached out to my other mom friends whenever I had a question or concern and I wanted to know that I was there for them too. The newborn days can feel so lonely and isolating when you are couped up at home alone, so I found my village (my friends and family) and I relied on them heavily.  

I am amazed at how much love and support I have received in bringing our baby boy into the world. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner in parenthood and life. This time around I just keep reminding myself to be kind to myself and give myself time to heal. I understand that I won’t physically “bounce back” to my pre-pregnant self overnight and that’s alright. It was all worth it to grow and create this beautiful baby boy.

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Photography: Rachel B Photo

 

True Tales of Labor & Delivery: A Great Support System

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I recently gave birth to my second baby. I had both births unmedicated with the help of a doula, midwife, essential oils, and meditation. I’m sure at this point most people cue up the drum circle or envision me birthing in an ocean or barn somewhere unconventional but I had my baby in a hospital just as most people do.

Everyone told me that labor and delivery time is cut in half with each subsequent birth and boy were they right. I went to bed the night before my due date and at 1:15 am woke up because my water broke. I wasn’t sure if we should try to labor at home but the contractions were coming on strong and frequently so we decided to go straight to the hospital. Fortunately for us my sister was close by and rushed over to watch our daughter. At 3 am I was 6 cm dilated at triage and I was immediately sent up to L&D. I planned for a water birth so the attendants were filling up the tub but my labor was progressing quickly and my blood pressure was abnormally high.

I was in so much pain I didn’t think I could endure it but before I knew it I was on the hospital bed at 10 cm dilated with my husband at my head, my doula on the right side, L&D nurse on the left, and my midwife ready to catch our baby. I felt so supported and encouraged with my birth team telling me I could do it. My husband (first time dad) was unbelievably supportive and comforting throughout the whole birth. He said all the right things and kept telling me how much he loved me and how we would soon be meeting our son. My doula, Mayra from Third Coast Birth, was not only physically supportive through the pain but emotionally supportive. I remember myself saying, amidst the tears, “I can’t do this anymore” but she assured me that I was already doing it and I was nearly there. My L&D nurse helped coach me through the pain and I felt comforted throughout labor knowing that she was constantly monitoring me and my baby. My midwife, Meredith, at the Northwestern Midwives Group was phenomenal. She kept me focused and told me exactly what to do. She wanted to me to channel my energy and use the moans to push the baby out at just the right time, which avoided any tearing. I recall her saying to tuck my pelvis under, curve my back and push from my throat down. Suddenly I heard my husband through tears say, “I see our son!”

At 4:57 am we met our sweet baby J, born on 7/10 at 7 lbs 10 oz. I felt so empowered and so grateful to my body and my whole birth team. I kept saying thank you over and over again to my husband, nurse, doula and midwife because they made me believe in myself and helped me bring our baby into the world. I felt so present during the entire birth and I am still in awe of the way it all happened. I didn’t get the water birth as planned but it turned out just beautifully. Later that morning our daughter arrived and it was love at first sight. I swear I felt my heart double in size.

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This blog post was featured on Bump Club and Beyond’s Blog: True Tales of Labor Delivery