July 26, 2014

...& then there were 3 ♥

Hello, everyone! First of all, without further ado, we want to present our sweet daughter, Ryenne Ashley Kauwela Graef, born on July 1, 2014. at 9:24 in the morning weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces and 20.5 inches long!
Only minutes old - Ryenne holding Daddy's finger while the doctors and nurses assessed her
It has been such a joy getting to know this tiny person over the past three weeks. It is still mind blowing for David and me to look at this baby and realize that she is really ours! Obviously we are biased, but we believe Ryenne Ashley is the sweetest baby girl. She has captured our hearts with her tiny fingers, fuzzy head of hair, sweet smile, and already-developing personality. We are so in love and so, so, so thankful for this blessing.
A little about her name:
Ryenne is pronounced the same as the name "Ryan." I've loved this name for a while now, and when I mentioned it to David months ago he loved it too. There's something beautiful about taking a masculine-intended name and going against the grain with it ;) David insisted that baby Graef have two first names like her mommy, and so we paired "Ryenne" with my sister's name, "Ashley," and there you have it! I have so many special memories with my sister and I thought that those needed to somehow live on through my own little girl. Although we kept baby Graef's name a secret from most people, Ash was one of two that got to find out early because I wanted to make sure she was ok with not being the only Ashley in our family anymore ;) She was more than ok with it!
Unlike my first names which are always paired, we want Ryenne to have the choice of keeping them together or separate, so feel free to call her "Ryenne" or "Ryenne Ashley."
"Kauwela" is the Hawaiian word for "summer" and literally means "the hot season." Not only was this little girl born at the peak of summer and on a beautiful summery day, but David and I have SO many endless summer memories and so it seemed fitting to give her a name with a meaning that is also so significant to us :)
Well, now this is the part that has delayed this blog post for so long! It would be easy enough to post a picture of our little girl introducing her to everyone, but it is quite another task to attempt to tackle the story of her birth! For starters, I was so blessed with an amazing, easy, healthy pregnancy for all 40 weeks and five days, and I think because of that, it didn't ever really occur to me that labor could be a completely different story. It wasn't that I was underestimating the contractions, "ring of fire," or the sheer unparalleled nature of the event, it was just that I expected it to be "normal:" several hours of contractions which gradually increase, then a couple hours of pushing and voila! Meet baby Ryenne! Not to mention I was totally hoping to do this completely natural and intervention-free. Both of these expectations, however, were VERY far from what actually ended up happening.
After a lot of thought, I've decided to not go public with the details of Ryenne's birth story because it was such a vulnerable and personal experience. It just seems a little too heavy to post something like that on a blog entry for anyone and everyone to see. Honestly, you don't know how many times I've written out what exactly I want to say about Ryenne's birth story, but there is seriously SO much that happened, that I always end up deleting it and starting over. So, I think what I've decided is to keep her story private - at least off of cyberspace - and instead to focus on the amazing way that God saw us through it all.
As many of you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram, Ryenne Ashley was born with respiratory issues that took her into the NICU for the first few days of her life. I don't know if any of you have been through a similar experience with your own child, but I really can't explain how it feels to see your newborn baby hooked up to monitors, IVs, oxygen, etc., and being cared for by well-meaning nurses who tend to your child while you sleep in another room, aching to be holding your baby and showing her that this new big world really isn't full of blue gloved hands, sharp needles, continuous beeping from monitors, and hours and hours of lying alone in a plastic bassinet. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, if not the hardest, but I really believe that looking back on it is much harder than when we were going through it at the time. God seriously gave me and David just the right amount of grace and peace to handle each of the seven days we were in the hospital with Ryenne, and everyday was a gift as He continued to carry her through. Slowly by slowly the little air pocket that was causing so much distress in Ryenne's lungs dissolved on its own, and over the next several days she was successfully weaned off of all the cords, wires, and monitors. There were so many times that things could have regressed instead of progressed, but God was so good to us in bringing her through each obstacle. By the time we left the hospital on Monday, July 7th, Ryenne Ashley was a healthy, breathing, healed baby! All glory goes to God!!!
I want to be clear that we know that there are trials that are much, much more difficult than what we have experienced - for example, I can't imagine being the parents of the countless preemie babies that we saw lying there day after day in the NICU. Those babies have been there for weeks, not days. We definitely consider ourselves blessed to have our healthy little girl home with us now! And despite the fact that Ryenne's birth story ended up being so incredibly different than what we imagined, we were assured all along that God was with us and seeing us through every step of the way. I know that I would have despaired if it wasn't for His grace.
Anyway, this is getting too heavy! We are now HOME and have been home for two whole weeks with our precious baby girl. She brightens our lives so immensely, and it is amazing how everyday we seem to fall more and more in love with her as we get to know her better and better. It is such an honor to be her parents!
By the way, I can't explain just how thankful I am to have had David holding my hand throughout this new journey of parenthood. He was there selflessly supporting me through the contractions and labor pains, he was there in the hospital praying with me when I would lose focus and begin to worry about what would happen to our baby girl, he was there driving our new family of three home from the hospital the day we all got discharged, he is there holding Ryenne Ashley in the middle of the night so I can get a little sleep, he is there working hard every night to provide for us... those are just a FEW examples to say: I couldn't do any of this without David. I am so, so thankful for this man. Throughout our relationship, it is so beautiful to see how "love" takes on a deeper, fuller, richer meaning with each new phase of life. When people only dabble in the dating aspect of love, they are missing out so much on the depth that "love" takes on when you plan a wedding together, or go through a pregnancy together, or raise a baby together. Okay, okay *End rant* The point is, I LOVE YOU DAVID GRAEF AND I LOVE LIFE WITH YOU!
THANK YOU to those of you who came alongside of us through this rocky start to parenthood and were  praying, praying, praying without ceasing for me, David, and Ryenne. I know that without your prayers things could have gone very differently! Our God DOES answer prayer!
Please keep praying for us as we continue to tackle this new chapter in life - "Parenthood!"
Much love,
David, Randie Megan, & Ryenne Ashley

Prayer Requests:
- David and I are moving to our new one bedroom apartment on July 31st (on-campus married housing at Moody Bible Institute)! We have a LOT of packing to do between now and then! Please pray that everything goes smoothly and that we all transition well as we move into the city. We are SO going to miss our beautiful apartment here on Marine Drive!
- David's family is headed back to Romania! David's dad and sister are already there, and his mom is going to join them in a couple weeks after spending some time with her granddaughter and helping us pack up. Please pray for them as they adjust back to Romania and jump right into ministry!

In the hospital - both of us EXHAUSTED from no sleep for two nights
Family of 3 - Holding Ryenne Ashley for the first time
First kisses
BIG family reunion before the Graefs headed back to Romania!

The growing family :)
7/26 - Home with our healthy, growing baby girl! Already looked after by our amazing God!

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