I posted a couple pictures on my Facebook fan-page on Friday evening. Kelly's friend Julie made the best comment ever:
Congratulations Kelly! Take it from me, a 6-pack family is the best! All the best to you and baby Millie :)
I like that! A six-pack family, indeed!
Thank you, again, Andy and Kelly for inviting me into your lives for this intimate moment as you welcomed your sweet angel into this world!
You can read their birth story after the images below.
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Kelly was induced early in the morning. The plan was to wait for their text and I'd head over to the hospital. Knowing that Kelly's past two deliveries were complicated (and that I live 25 minutes from the hospital), I thought it might be best to head over to the hospital early and wait there instead. I feared I might not have the luxury of a leisurely drive - especially with Milly being baby #4. I had been praying for Kelly - for a safe delivery and healthy baby and mommy. Through those prayers, I have no doubts that God nudged me out the door earlier than I would have, because I made it just in time!
When I arrived to the hospital Kelly suggested I come up to the room and check out the lighting. (As a talented photographer herself, she understood how helpful that would be.) She figured she still had a while to go yet, so I had decided I would just wait in the lobby for her text after seeing the room.
Wouldn't you know (while I'm adjusting the shades to the window), Kelly pushes for the first time!!!
Behind me I hear the nurse announce, "She's got hair!"
There had been no cries from Kelly. No sweat. No tears. Not one verbal signal from Kelly that Milly was on her way out! (I don't remember being that calm during my births!)
It was time!
The nurse quickly called for the doctor (and for Andy who had run out to get a quick bite to eat).
Kelly did great! She held out until everyone was present - as calm as could be. God worked it all out! Everyone arrived just in time.
Present in the room were Andy, his mom, the nurses, the doctor, and the NICU staff (who were required to be on hand due to Kelly's last birthing experience). Kelly's dad and mom came with Andy and Kelly's three children right after Milly was born.
Everyone assumed their positions. I took my lead from the nursing staff and stood where they suggested I would be out of everyone's way. The doctor suited up. Andy was by Kelly's side. No sooner had the doctor sat down when Milly decided it was time for her to join the party. Literally. Kelly pushed (for only the second time), and Milly was born.
Milly's shrill cry filled the room - the first of Kelly's babies to cry at birth.
Tears of joy streamed down Kelly and Andy's faces as they embraced the baby they had anticipated for so long.
No sooner had the nurses laid Milly on Kelly's chest when they noticed Milly's cry had stopped. I learned later that Kelly was nerve-wracked as the NICU staff whisked Milly away to the corner of the room to deep-suction Milly's lungs. I was so busy following Milly around that I never realized the problem the doctors were working so diligently to correct. Minutes must have seemed like hours as Kelly waited for them to finally deliver her newly swaddled (and perfectly healthy) baby to her arms.
All was well again in the world! Back in mommy's arms, baby Milly began the work of learning how to nourish herself from her mother's milk. She was a natural! (And a frequent eater, I might add!)
God is so gracious!
What followed next gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Kelly's parents entered the room with Mara, Luke, and Parker - all following excitedly (yet timidly) behind. What precious tenderness I witnessed as each little one welcomed their newest sibling into their family. What priceless looks of expectation as they tiptoed up to mommy's side. What looks of wonder as they saw Milly for the first time.
It was breathtaking!
I found myself in tears many times over.
At one point, I overheard Andy say to himself (something to the affect of), "I will never regret having a fourth child."
The love and tenderness continued. First to hold baby Milly was the newest "Big Brother", Parker. Luke's turn was next. Mara, visibly struggling (but very patiently), waited her turn. Daddy got his turn after that.
Oh, the joy, as Daddy hugged his two little girls for the first time!
There's something dear about the love of a daddy for his little girls that tugs at my heart every time I witness it. Later, I almost lost it when I heard Andy call across the room to Mara and say, "Mara! I love you!" She looked at him. She KNEW it was true - and smiled the biggest smile before returning her attention back to her new little sister in her mother's arms.
What a gift! This love that Kelly and Andy give so liberally to their children. With that kind of love and support behind them, the sky's the limit for these four little wonders!
And I witnessed that day that a parent never stops loving their children and holding them dear - even when they are grown and having children of their own. Andy's mom choked up when she saw her son (once the newborn she welcomed into the world), place a loving hand on the top of his new baby daughter's head. She confessed to me later what a difficult emotion it is for a parent to experience.
He's still her baby!
Later I saw the same emotions expressed by Kelly's mom and dad. The room could not have been more full of love and compassion!
And speaking of love and compassion. God's provision for this family was exquisite! His grace and timing were perfect. I learned that Kelly's mom had just finished her last round of radiation for breast cancer just one week ago. God gave her the strength (and the health) to be present for the birth of her daughter's fourth child. He made it possible for her to be there in loving support!
Kelly's mom gave her a special gift as well - a beautiful bracelet with the word EXPECT incorporated into the design.
With God in our lives. We can expect his blessings to abound. Even in the midst of struggles and trials in life, he is there for us at every moment. Just like this family is there for one another.
Love is a powerful thing! It is meant to be shared with others. Meant to guide one toward greatness. Meant to lead them into life with confidence and strength. Meant to nourish and protect. This family is overflowing with that kind of love - guided by their heavenly Father - WHO IS LOVE - and who loves each and every one of us infinitely and completly.
God calls parents to love their children. God calls children to love their siblings. God calls grandparents to love their children and their children's children. God even calls nurses and doctors to love their patients...and photographers to love their clients.
Who is God calling you to love today?