Letter to Mary Mac

emersonTo my sweet littlest girl, Mary McLain,

Today at 10:38AM marks the time one year ago when you entered our world and changed our lives forever.  Although I carried you in my tummy for nine months, we hoped for you and prayed for you much longer.

On the day you were born, your daddy and I were so ready to meet you.  We were also very excited for you to meet your big sister, Emmy, whom we knew would be your biggest fan.  (It took her a little bit, but this did eventually come true!) We were admitted to the hospital for our repeat c-section that morning.  We were quite surprised you made it to our c-section date as you had grown so large we were certain you’d ran out of room! But this was not the case.  You were quite comfortable in my womb. Our obstetrician and surgeon, Dr. Bernstein, was exceptional that morning.  We chose to deliver you at a larger facility where a NICU was accessible, especially after I developed gestational diabetes and I knew there was a chance you’d need some extra care after birth. I remember distinctly the moment I walked into the OR suite, and my entire body was shaking from anxiety.  I kept taking deep breaths and praying for the Lord to give me peace. And, my prayers were quickly answered. The anesthesiologist entered the room with his medical student, and they began the procedure.  As it turns out, information had already circulated around our medical team that your mommy is a PA, and so they were all “on their toes” according to our sweet nurse, Kim.  I was so happy our anesthesiologist had a student and that he apparently enjoyed teaching. His instruction kept me distracted from my anxiety and reminded me that I was in great hands!

Soon after the spinal, your daddy and Dr. Bernstein entered the suite and before I knew it, the incision was made. Just five minutes later, you arrived, crying the most beautiful (loud) cries! After hearing the wonderful words “It’s a girl!” we then began hearing guesses of your birth weight by all the nurses and Dr. Bernstein.  Needless to say, you were a sweet, BIG, bundle of joy from the beginning!  Soon after your assessment by the NICU team, you were placed on my chest for skin-to-skin while they closed my incision. Daddy also got his turn to hold his second baby girl, and we were both crying happy tears that you were finally here with us!

You did so well transitioning after birth that you didn’t need a NICU visit! I was so incredibly grateful for this.  The three of us – me, you, and your daddy – all got to spend a wonderful 3 hours together in recovery while we waited for a room.  I think this was one of the greatest blessings we received after your birth.   This time allowed the three of us to bond and get to know one another in such a special way. Your grandparents, however, were a bit anxious in waiting so long to see you. Which was understandable! So our sweet nurse allowed them to come back and meet you in recovery.  It was so precious to me to witness your daddy announcing your name and that you were a precious little GIRL to them! Everyone was, and continues to be, so elated to have two sweet girls.

Your birth is special and unique, just like you are.  But your big sister did give you and your mommy and daddy a wonderful gift — the gift of experience. We knew a little more of what to expect when you were born, and this gave us a peace and joy that I can hardly put into words. I truly believe this experience allowed us to take better care of you AND resulted in a much, much easier recovery for me this time around.  I am eternally grateful to your big sister for giving that to us!  And, speaking of your big sister, I have to tell you just how excited she was to meet you in that hospital. It did take her a little longer than we expected to accept the idea that you would be coming home with us. But, after she realized you were, in fact, here to stay, she quickly began embracing her special purpose in your life as your one and only big sister. She quickly became my little helper and anytime you would reward her efforts with a smile or laugh, I could see her affection for you grow.  Watching you two interact has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.  You and Emmy will always be sisters. Nothing can or will ever change that, and I pray fervently that the Lord blesses your relationship. I pray that you love each other fiercely, protect each other always, and keep each other rooted in relationship with the One who made you.

We were able to spend a precious, unforgettable extended maternity leave together as mommy worked only part-time after you turned 12 weeks old and up until you turned 9 months old.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this time and the ability to enjoy you as an infant.  Your daddy worked hard to ensure I could stay home with you as long as possible and I am so grateful he did.  We spent many days lounging around the house, doing tummy time, running errands together, or visiting your sweet daddy.  All of your days as an infant have been a joy to me. You have been the sweetest, most laid-back baby and such a wonderful addition to our family.  I am so looking forward to all the days ahead with you, my precious girl.

Darling Mary Mac, I have been given the enormous task and greatest blessing to mother you and your sweet sister, Emmy Mae. I will not always get everything just right as your mom. But I can tell you something I do know without a shadow of doubt.  I know that your biggest dreams, greatest aspirations, and highest ambitions will one day come to fruition.  I know this not because I believe in the many fairy tales I will read to you. I know this not because you and Emmy will work hard to accomplish these dreams, although that will certainly be a vital part of the process.  I know this to be true because I have seen this done in my own life, through the guidance, prayerful discernment and daily pursuit of our Heavenly Father’s will. If I can teach you anything as your mom, I want you to know that I have achieved and received NOTHING without HIS hand in mine, every step of the way on this incredibly journey. It is my heart’s greatest desire that you and Emmy both commit yourselves to the Lord and seek His purpose for your lives, the one He has designed especially for you!

My precious Mary Mac, when you were still growing in my tummy, I had a lovely patient tell me what I already knew about you: The Lord has a great plan for your life.  I have known for a long time that the Lord was birthing more than a baby when He gave you to me. I have no idea what He has in store for us and His kingdom through you, but I cannot wait to stand beside you, encouraging you and loving you all the way.  You are a perfect Child of God, Mary McLain.  I love how the Message reads Romans 12:2. It says, “Place Your Life Before God. 12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”  Mary Mac, Let these words mean more to you than writing in a book.  Let them lead you, instruct you, admonish you, and guide you in your life and your spiritual walk with Christ.

I am so thankful you are mine, Mary Mac. May you always feel the warmth, happiness, and LOVE you bring to us and to everyone around you for all of your days.  Happy FIRST birthday, sweet girl.  We cannot wait to celebrate this birthday and many, many more with you. I love you more than words can ever say!

With all my love,







Photography by Cynthia Rose Photography

Four Months

Miss Mary Mac turned four-months-old on December 25, 2016!  This year, Christmas was extra special with our newest babe here.  Just two days before Christmas of 2015, we had our first positive pregnancy test.  I had prayed that we would get pregnant before Christmas last year and the Lord blessed us with an answered prayer. :)  We were so grateful to have our wonderful Christmas present from 2015 here with us at Christmas 2016! Having Mary Mac here with us happy and healthy made celebrating our Savior’s birth all the more meaningful and special. It is my steadfast prayer that each of our girls come to know and love our Lord Jesus Christ and tell others about His Love for us all as well.

Before Christmas, Miss Mary Mac did a lot of growing from 3-4months.  She started interacting more and more with her big sister and was a wonderful side kick to all the lovely holiday gatherings.  She even made the trip to Raleigh to see her first ballet performance with the Carolina Ballet, the Nutcracker.  She also made her own on-stage debut as Baby Jesus in the Christmas play at church.  Her big sister had the very same role in 2013, and she was perfect, just as her big sis had been as well.  We also enjoyed getting to see friends and family for the holidays and especially enjoyed seeing our good friends, the Johnsons.  Their son is only 11 days younger than Mary Mac and seeing the two of them interacting was sooooooo sweet!! I’d be lying if I said I don’t hope those two end up marrying each other some day. ;)

Miss Mary Mac met Santa twice this year, once at the church play and again at Bass Pro Shops as is tradition now.  She wasn’t the least bit bothered by meeting the big man in red and I think she actually helped her big sister be less afraid as a result.  She started showing quite an interest in her fingers and thumbs and began showing signs of teething this month. Lots of drool, loose stools, irritability and fussiness was more commonplace for our normally laid-back girl.  She continues to sleep fairly well for us and we keep praying this is a continued trend. I do love watching her eyes light up when Emmy enters the room and I love that Emmy asks to see her little sissy first thing in the morning. I pray they grow to be very close as sisters and develop a bond with Christ and each other.

Weight: 16lbs, 4.5oz

Length: 25 inches

Likes: Watching her big sister’s every move, strolling around in the car seat or baby bjorn, being close, mama’s milk :)

Dislikes: Tummy time still isn’t our favorite although we are certainly getting better at it!  Being left alone, even if mommy just needs a potty break, is becoming not-ok in the eyes of MM. ;) She did get shots at her 4 month visit and that is never fun. Her daddy took her to this visit, though so I didn’t have to watch this time. :)

Sizes: Size 3 diapers!! Still squeezing into some 6 months clothing but starting to feel a little more comfortable in 6/9 months.

Sweet memories:  Mary Mac still loves bath time, and even if her teeth are giving her a fit she still barely fusses over anything.  She has the best laugh and loves anyone who will try to make her smile.  Her daddy puts her to bed every night and they have their own sweet routine together.  He holds her a certain way in the rocker and makes sure she is comfortable every night before she drifts off to sleep.  I am so grateful to have married such a kind, loving man who has easily extended that same love to our daughters. I don’t ever do enough to tell him or show him how much I appreciate him, but I really, really do.  He is amazing to us!

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Meeting Miss Mary Mac

Sometime in September of 2015, Dustin and I both felt the time had come to welcome a new member to our family. We weren’t entirely sure if that new member should be a dog or human, but eventually decided on human after Emmy started asking for “a new brother or sister.”  I remember praying that we would be pregnant by Christmas, and just when I thought that wouldn’t be happening, I had my first positive pregnancy test after putting Emmy to bed on December 23rd.  I remember walking into the living room where Dustin was watching TV and just holding the test, smiling a big (probably very goofy) smile. We sat in awe and cried together and thought about the tiny being growing inside my belly while I marveled at the Lord’s perfect timing and thanked him for this wonderful gift — just in time for Christmas.

On August 25th, 2016 we finally got to meet our sweet little blessing in person. After much debate in my heart and prayerful consideration, we decided to deliver her via repeat c-section.  I was so hopeful to be able to attempt a vaginal delivery after the cesarean I had with Emmy, given an incredibly difficult recovery wrought with difficulties galore.  However, our sweet one decided to grow and grow and GROW in my belly and at 37 weeks was measuring 9lbs and 4 oz, considerably larger than I felt was reasonable to safely consider a vaginal delivery after c-section.  And every day leading up to our scheduled c-section date became more and more difficult, both physically and emotionally as I  waited for her arrival.

In the days before my surgery, I had done my best to prepare Emmy for what was to come. I told her about the hospital stay, and how the baby will be “cut” from my tummy, and mommy needing lots of rest and care after the surgery. Her little face was so sad when I told her about the surgery, and she kept saying “but I don’t want them to cut you” and repeatedly said “but I will be at the hospital for your ‘surgy,’ right mommy?” On the day of the surgery, she was quite the little trooper. Dustin and I drove up to Raleigh around 6am to be there at 715am, so we let her sleep and her Grand and Daf came to get her dressed and bring her to the hospital. Dustin and I listened to Elevation Worship’s Here as in Heaven CD the entire trip. I needed it to try and relieve some of the anxiety I had about what was about to occur, and I do think it helped a bit.

When we arrived to the hospital, Dustin covered us in prayer and I tried to remain calm.  To say that I was nervous about the surgery (and primarily, recovery) would be a major understatement. I think knowing what to expect this time was both a blessing and a curse. Fortunately, we were greeted in the L&D triage room by a cheerful, wonderful nurse named Kim.  Although this was a repeat section, I was relieved by her calm demeanor and walking us through everything that was to come.  Within what seemed like only minutes, I was in my gown, IV started, waiting to meet our little one.  Emmy came in to wish me good luck and I savored my last few minutes with her as an only child.  I knew she had no idea how her world was about to change and while this made me a little sad, I was also excited to bring a sibling into this world for her to grow up with and enjoy.

Finally, it was time to make the quick walk to the OR suite.  After saying a temporary goodbye to Dustin, I had to walk into an OR as a patient for the first since graduating PA school.  I have to say, I would MUCH rather have been on the OTHER side of that table in that moment.  I was amazed at how scary an OR can be as a patient, considering just a year ago I would walk in as a student ready to assist on any and all cases with an enormous amount of calm and confidence.  It was startling, to say the least.  Regardless, my experiences in the OR definitely did give me a sense of reassurance. I repeatedly told myself that my medical team is experienced and prepared to perform my surgery with no issues, and there would be nothing to worry about.  I still shook like crazy (thanks to anesthesia AND my anxiety) and had to engage in breathing techniques over and over to keep my composure. But at this point, everyone in the room knew I was a PA and I definitely didn’t want to have a freak out in front of other medical professionals. : )  And so I sat, as calmly as I could, while the anesthesiologist administered my spinal.  I tried to stay distracted and found myself enjoying his teaching to the student CRNA and being thankful, again, that I was delivering at a teaching hospital.  I instantly remembered the warm sensation from my first spinal and moments later the surgeon was in, curtain was up, and I heard “incision time 1033.” Dustin was finally back by my side and just five minutes later, at 1038, we heard the first strong, beautiful cries of our baby girl. We both instantly started crying, and then laughing as everyone in the room started taking guesses at how much our sweet girl would weigh. Dr. B suggested at least 11lbs and when she weighed in at 10lbs, 4 oz he “demanded a recount.”  Everyone was commenting on how big and beautiful she is. I remember looking through tears over at the warmer as the NICU team assessed my sweet girl and and finally brought her to me for skin to skin. I was so surprised they offered to do this as it was not an option at my first c-section. (They also offered for Dustin to cut the umbilical cord, which was not offered at our first c-section either.)  Dustin got to hold our sweet girl while they closed my incision and I was so relieved to have the surgery coming to a close.  Our sweet nurse wheeled me out and into recovery where Dustin and I spent nearly 3 hours alone together with our newest member of Team Gurley. It was such a sweet and special time for us to relax, nap, nurse, and bond with our darling girl.  Of course, we weren’t supposed to be in recovery for that long as we were waiting for a room to open, much to the chagrin of our family. After the 2.5 hour mark, our nurse offered  to allow our families to come back to recovery to meet their newest granddaughter.  The wait was excruciating for everyone as we still had not revealed the baby’s gender. We had so much fun filming their responses as Dustin was finally able to say “It’s a girl!”

My recovery went very well and we are so enjoying our sweet, newest member.  Mary McLain is an absolute doll and I can’t imagine life without her.  I am so thankful the Lord chose to place her in our family and look forward to watching my two sweet girls grow up together as sisters!


Mary McLain

August 25, 2016 | 10:38AM | 22 1/2 inches

11 Unforgettable Months

I’m officially done with PA school and trying to get caught up with Emmy’s “month-by-month” first year posts.  This is the final monthly post and the next will be her first birthday party post. These next two posts are long overdue, but Emmy is still cute as ever in the pictures! :)

Emmy turned 11 months old on September 17th. Here’s what happened during her last month as a “baby”!

Emmy had a fun month living it up as a sweet little baby. I know she will always be my “baby” but she sure did do some growing during her 11th month! I spent her 11th month on surgery rotation, which made the month go by even more quickly! We had a ton of fun planning her first birthday party and Emmy had a wonderful time celebrating!

Before her first birthday, Emmy and I attended a sweet baby shower for the fourth (yes, FOUR!) baby to be born in my PA school program! Yes, we have been a fertile group (some might even argue “crazy” would be a better descriptor)! There are 40 people in my class, and Emmy was the second baby born out of our group. If you include our two faculty members (one of which is my adviser who had her baby 6 short weeks before I gave birth to Emmy) who had babies during school, we have had SIX PA babies with one more due in MARCH!! And of all seven babies, only TWO have been girls! (And we ALL went to the same OB/GYN office, too!) So Emmy and I were very excited to attend Elise’s shower for Baby M who also happens to be a little girl :) Baby M is joining a very special group and we are so excited to meet her soon!

At the shower, Emmy loved playing with little Timothy, who is six months older than her. I have relied on his mommy so much for help/guidance when I found out I was pregnant with her during school, and she has been my first resource for basically everything “baby” ever since. It was so sweet to watch our now toddlers playing together. :) We have prayed fervently over these babies and I love seeing them thriving and seeing us near the END of PA school, finally!

Also of note, Emmy had her first little temper tantrum during this month. I remember being so startled when I saw her sitting on the floor playing nicely then all of a sudden, she threw her head down to the floor in front of her and sobbed uncontrollably when I said “no, no” as she put a piece of dirt in her mouth. I wasn’t sure what the heck to do and as I was still considering my options, she picked herself up and walked away as if nothing had happened. Yep. That was fun. We had further discipline issues when Emmy realized she could bang her blocks on our glass screen door and make a very loud noise. She did it a couple times, I told her no, and she stopped. For about 5 seconds. Then she watched for my reaction as she banged the blocks again. So I took the two blocks from her. Cue: 2nd temper tantrum. What happened next was a bit of a surprise – she stopped crying, stood up, and walked over to her toy box and proceeded to remove two more blocks and went right back to banging on the glass. I was torn between being proud of her problem-solving skills and dismayed because she clearly defied my directions. Something tells me I may be feeling that same paradox of emotion for the next 18 years….

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EM @ 11 Months

Weight: 24.5 lbs

Firsts: Temper tantrums, first trip to the Wayne County Regional Fair, FIRST STEPS! We had been watching this girl pulling up on the couch and taking baby steps all along the length of the couch for several weeks now. She decided to take her first steps at daycare, but we were so lucky to have such wonderful teachers with a cell phone video always nearby. They sent us a quick video of her first steps at daycare. I am so grateful for the attention and love she receives at WCS when I can’t be there myself. LOVE that daycare!

Sizes: Still in 12-18 months clothes. Diapers: Size 5

Likes: Emmy started eating lots of new things this month and basically eats whatever we eat. She does (somehow) already know what dessert is and looks like, though. She gets excited and kicks her little feet when she sees something with pretty icing or anything gooey. She also loves big white marshmallows. She loves marshmallows so much, that one day she found a bag of cotton balls and got so excited… She eagerly shoved the bag in my direction and made grunting noises (translated means: OPEN! OPEN!) and so I did. She quickly stuffed one inside her mouth and I will never forget the LOOK of disappointment she had when she realized this particular big white ball was NOT the edible kind and she spit it back out!! LOL :)

Dislikes: Being told “no” and cold baby wipes! She is a picky wee one. :)



Christmas 2014 in Pictures

I have so many drafts of posts in process (including Emmy’s 11 months and 12 months posts) but I wanted to get this special post up. We have enjoyed Christmas 2014 so very much, and we are SO thankful for everything that has transpired this season and every day in 2014. It has been an incredibly challenging, but also very rewarding and wonderful year. So I wanted to do a quick “post in pictures” of all our happenings from December 9 through to the New Year!

December 9, 2014 – I completed and passed my final summative piece of PA school, confirming my ability to walk with my class during graduation and long white coat ceremonies, despite having one rotation left. THIS was a very big deal to me – I started with my class in August 2012, and I was determined to walk with them at graduation, even though I had to take some time off for maternity leave. And it worked out that way, Praise God! Before the official ceremonies, we celebrated as a class at Raleigh Brewing Co. complete with pizza and a slideshow!
1December 12-13, 2014 – Long White Coat Ceremony & PA Program Graduation
The long awaited day had finally arrived when I would receive my Long white coat.  I’ve come a long way since getting my Short white coat in August 2012!  I had no idea I would be graduating with a 14-month-old when I started this program but I am so thankful for HIS plans for me! :)

2December 14, 2014 – We played at Carter’s Playce for my nephew Dane’s 5th birthday party! Emmy insisted on sitting at the table with the big kids. She is so growny! The next day, we picked out a tree from the Country fruit stand and then had major toddler meltdowns with the strands of lights during the decorating process.  We also had some fun with them, too. :)

3December 18. 2014 – We had a family fun day! We started out the day in Bass Pro Shops to get our picture taken with Santa.  This was our third attempt at meeting/sitting with Santa, and it was the third time Emmy hated it!  Bless her heart. She loved the shopping though, and tried to pick up a little electric four wheeler all by herself. Tough Girl!


After Bass Pro shops, we headed to Marbles Kids Museum!  It was Emmy’s first trip to Marbles, and she loved it!  She especially loved the little mini corvette, the bassinets with the babies and blankets (she kept taking wrapping them up) and the painting area!

5Since this was my first time to marbles, I had no idea that Keith Norval painted the stools in the creative arts area! I LOVE him and even own one of his pieces!


The following days were filled with more shopping, taking home our sweet crafts from daycare, our first Christmas celebration at the Pearson Open House and mommy practicing some of her clinical skills on Emmy.

6December 21, 2014 – Emmy was an angel in the church Christmas play.  Last year she was Baby Jesus.  We were even more proud of this year’s performance!

IMG_0656December 24, 2014 – We celebrated Christmas Eve with Gigi, Aunt Lindsey, Scott, cousins Karis and Brannon, Aunt Joanna and Uncle Drake and then Christmas Eve night we celebrated with the Sullivan clan!  It was such a fun day/night and Emmy loved all the attention, food, and time with family.  I loved seeing Dustin’s face as he opened a new lens from his mom!  He got so excited and was completely surprised.  The best :)

7December 25, 2014 – Merry Christmas!  We celebrated with our little family by opening gifts and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, then we went to my parent’s for lunch and dinner.  Emmy had so much fun playing with her cousin Dane!

8December 26-28, 2014 – We went to the Valley Creek Lights show in Clayton and Emmy was mesmerized! We also spent the days after Christmas lounging, spending time with family, and celebrating cousin North’s baby dedication! We even got a chance to cook some of the ribeye steaks we won in Dirty Santa :)


We have loved these last few days together before going back to my FINAL rotation and back to work for Dustin.  I’ve had two additional job interviews during my time off so I’m praying for that situation as well!  We spent New Years Eve riding around on our new golf cart (so fun) and went to dinner at Kobe where Emmy devoured her hibachi chicken and shrimp.  She is a good little eater!  I also cherish the time we spent with friends over the holidays, including my dear friends Matt and Amy who live in Baltimore but were in town for the holidays, and my sweet friend Averi and her almost one-year-old Georgia Mac!

1011In many ways I am sad to see this year go.  I loved watching Emmy grow up from a baby to a little toddler over the last few months and I am going to miss these milestones, for sure.  But we also look forward to what 2015 will bring and pray for health, happiness and a peace that can only come from Jesus!