Matt's Corner

Finn Jameson Mueller

I will forever remember Finn’s birth with immense fondness; our first moments with him full of love and joy and awe and wonder and oh-my-goodness he’s so fresh from being passed from the hands of Jesus into my very own.  Superfluously, the days surrounding Finn Jameson- his fun and lighthearted entrance, his slightly chaotic, yet peaceful homecoming and the warmth of the days following, will forever remain on the highlight reel of life.

As I write this, he is almost eleven months old- but the voracity of light and tenderness surrounding Mr. Finn Jameson, as he took his very first breaths and lived his first days on this earth still simmer at the surface, almost palpable.  Finn, I want you to know, always, how wanted and cherished and loved you are.  Even now, the recollection of our first moments together evoke such gut-wrenching, wonderful love, I almost forget the rest. 

But as for the details:

After a series of incredible blue skies and warm, sunshiny days, Friday, 1.15.2016, dawned grey, threatening rain.

Be as the drizzle may, nothing could dampen the flood of aloha in my heart as mom’s plane landed onto these beautifully unparalleled, (though soggy) Hawaiian shores.  No sooner had we deposited her bag into the trunk than were off- in search of a quiet, cozy table to gather around and a simmering plate of eggplant parmesan (because, yes, at 9 months pregnant, I quickly digress to anything, including old wives tales, which heralds itself as the “bringer of babies”).  The zesty Italian dish had yet to hit my bloodstream when I saw that it was already time for Matt and I to begin making our way to our 3:30pm doctor’s appointment.

Good news.  I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced.  I was ready.  They stripped my membranes.

It was just Matt and I, on the car ride home.  I vividly remember waiting at the Kamehameha stoplight to make that familiar left-hand turn onto Kaneohe Bay Drive, watching the rain hit the windshield, and asking Matt if he remembered how Ryker was born on the brightest, clearest of Hawaiian days.  Then joking that, if perhaps, Finn was born on this gloomy, vacillating Hawaiian day we could liken them to Thor and Loki.  He actually laughed and I was pretty proud of my comic book reference. 

That evening I sat on the couch with mom, talking without pause through tired eyes.

It was just after 8pm, with everyone already tucked up in bed, when I first began walking the same seven strides of a dark living room- contractions had riotously commenced.  It didn’t take long before I found myself keeled-over the island, simply trying to breathe.   

From time to time, I tried to lie down, craving the comfort of our bed, but movement seemed a familiar friend, helping me weather the storm.  So in and out of the master I went.  Matt contemplated the couch to try and log some shut eye- bad idea.  Terrible actually.

Eventually the wave-like rocking of my contractions were solidly 3-4 minutes apart, crashing and leaving me breathless.

We left Ryker, sleeping soundly in his crib, in the care of his Mimi, and snuck out.

Snuck out without a working gate key, mind you- in the pitch black of night, with a seizing basketball for a belly.  I tried to convey to Matt how I felt about jumping over the top of condo gates when I couldn’t see or breathe, but I all could manage to mutter was “I think my pubic bone just split apart.”  

At 11:30pm I was admitted to Queens.  The monitor confirmed my contractions were intense and consistently 3-4 minutes apart.  I was now 4cm.

Hunched over the hospital bed I didn’t even notice the nurse had admitted us to room 1027.  Honestly I didn’t even know the significance of that room- till my husband repeatedly insisted that this was, no doubt, the exact same room where, less than two years ago, Ryker was born.  He was 100% correct.

I simply wanted to keep doing what was working at home- walk the halls, stop, lean, just breathe, setting myself a goal of 1:15am.  I can’t, however, remember if I made it because Matt was already craving relief and urging me to call the anesthesiologist.  I do remember tears pricking my eyelids as contractions just kept coming and continued to elevate.  So, whatever the time, we called for the epidural and I simultaneously gulped down every single protein bar Matt could scavenge from the vending machine three floors down. 

I didn’t have much hope for pain relief.  During the marathon of Ryker’s birth I had three separate epidurals, given by three different doctors, and they all failed- miserably they all, very much, failed.

Enter Dr. Chow, who stood there for an eternity of a good fifteen minutes, staring at my scantily-gowned anatomy, talking backstory and small talk with my husband- I did my very best to sit still and not emphatically insist he hurry up. 

At 2:30am he had the epidural in and medical grade tape plastered over practically every visible surface of my back.  He ordered me to keep sitting upright, because gravity, and relayed to my husband that he set the drip to his new “experimental program.” Yes, he said the words “experimental” and “trial” and something about my rhomboids and placement; then told me relief would come. 

Which it did not.  Instead there was the most intense back pain of my entire life; I was certain I was doomed.  I was about to have the epidural taken out and just give up on the rest of my entire life, when Dr. Chow returned, calmly made adjustments, allowed me to lay down and gave me a bolus of anesthesia- which must have gone straight to the bloodstream, because oh-my-word-just-wow. 

In reality, breaking waves of pain had only been at me for a few hours- nonetheless, relief felt like oxygen and the seismic, seemingly intolerable agony of contractions quietly subsided and quickly drifted into background subtly. 

It was now a sunny 7am Saturday morning and I was so happy (SO HAPPY). 

I could breathe.  I could relax.  I could nap.
What is this- get ready to have a baby whilst taking a nap?  I’m in love. 

Unfortunately, this newfound nectar-of-goodness steadily and progressively slowed down my contractions.  At 11am the nurses decided I’d had enough of the la-vida-loca happy-baby-mama life and Doctor B ordered up a dose Pitocin.  I fortified myself with a chai latte. 

Mom arrived at 11:30am- her sweet spirit breathing gentleness and compassion and a smile into our day.

We were now two-stepping this strange dance of Pitocin to encourage my contractions and epidural to combat the pain- but we began to make progress.  Contractions picked up.  Anticipation rose to the surface.  My husband’s laughter made me brave. 

There was loud Irish music and hula dancing, and laughing and the taking of bets.

Around 2:30pm, the epidural could no longer evaporate the pain away.  There was still Irish music and more hula dancing, but there was now also breathing and rocking.

At 3pm Doctor B checked me and my water audibly broke with a pop.  The contractions transitioned and within fifteen minutes I was at a 10.

Before I could catch my breath or get my mind around the fact that this was actually it, everyone was telling me to push.  I kept telling them I didn’t remember how.  Everyone was talking at once, I just wanted a hot minute to take a breath.  They said I was doing it right, keep going.  It must have been true because about 5 pushes later, there he was-

Mr. Finn Jameson, fresh from heaven, snuggled right in, skin to skin, heart to heart, steeling himself against the outside world all wrapped in my arms.

I breathed it all in. Basked in the joy of it all.  Thanked his Maker. Held him close.  Whispered hello.  Delighted in how he twisted his tiniest of fingers around mine. Smiled as he opened his eyes to the beauty and harshness of this new world we would weather together.  Love overflowed.  Right there in the very same room we fought so hard to meet his brother in.  We lingered together, the three of us, and love spilled over in a way I can’t put words to.  We lingered longer and waterfalls of love and tremendous joy spilled up and over our hearts, splashing rivers of thankfulness and awe over everything, drenching our hearts in worship and soaking each of us with the truth that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the (good, good) Father…” 

You are deeply loved Finn Jameson, always and forever.

Photo's by: Annie Groves Photography     

Symptom Showcase Showdown / Mueller Mystery Plague of April 2014 {the backlogs}

When I was 16 I was in an auto accident and hospitalized for almost two weeks.  Lots of things were broken.

When I was 17 I fell off my horse and broke my jaw and had my mouth wired shut.

And for the last 11 years I’ve, thankfully, stayed out of the doctor’s office.  I may have raided my parent’s antibiotics stash over the years, but, mercifully, I’ve stayed out of the doctor’s office.

So while I did have my share of sickness and broken bones in my younger years, I must tell you, they pale in comparison to the illnesses I have lived through in my tenure as a mother.
The 64 hour labor and seven day hospital stay was only the beginning.

Sidenote:  I pretty much coasted through pregnancy.  Yes, there was the icky 16 weeks of nausea, but for the most part a healthy, happy pregnancy.  Heck, the only reason I quite running at 33 weeks, was because I would literally have to make three bathroom stops in five miles.  So I resorted to power walking, which worked out much better for my baby-bouncing-on-bladder problems.  

So like I was saying, you already know how the delivery went.

Days later we were home.  Bewildered, first time parents, content to be soaking in those precious moments as a family with Mr. Ryker John- loving him more each day. 
Within the first 24 hours of being home, I spiked a 101+ fever and pretty much had to turn around and go right back to the doctor.  They gave me a Z-pack and sent me home.  Over the next couple days I began to get better.

Matt came home from the hospital with a rash. It ran up both sides of his ribcage, but didn’t bother him; so we assumed there was a simple explanation- like the hospital’s sheets/detergent.  However, even after a few days at home, it still hadn’t faded one bit.  
About a week later my mom left.  (Hardest goodbye ever, by the way) 

Cue ominous theme music.

Matt and I had no idea what we were in for next.  We could call it the Symptom Showcase Showdown- in which contestants compete to see who feels the worst.  Or we could call it the Mueller Mystery Plague of April 2014.   

Either way, it had been about two weeks (give or take) since we were discharged from the hospital.  We were new parents:  drained from a hard delivery and multiple interrupted nights in the hospital and also, (if I haven’t already mentioned it) sleep-deprived.  I think that’s the hardest part, by-the-way, the consistent lack of sleep.  Which, coming from me- a person who can run on very little sleep- says a lot.   But, it is hard to recover from anything when you’re not sleeping through the night (like you didn’t already know that).  And, bless his lil heart, Ryker John was only waking up once in the middle of the night.  So yes, for as hard as he was to get into this world, he was also pretty much a dream baby. 

But back to our epidemic…

Strangely enough, I can remember my first episode happened on a Friday night.  I woke up around midnight “on fire.”  My stomach was itching like crazy and (did I already say) it felt like my whole body was on fire. 

I flicked on the lights. 

o.m.gee  … Cue my eyes adjusting to the light and the fuzz fading from the edges.  Ah!  Is that me?  Ah!

O.M.Gee !!! …  Cue the panic


He stumbled in.  Only to find me completely naked, examining the raised, size-of-dinner-plate hives, emanating in all directions from my torso.  Raised red welts everywhere.  Incredulous and scary- looking.

I don’t really want your skin to touch my skin kind of scary. 

His eyes grew big.  And then he asked an onslaught of questions:  What did you eat? Where did you go?  What did you touch?  What did you wear?  …
He ordered me into the shower, if something external had caused it that would surely help.  And then he left at 1 am to go and get whatever itching/rash cream the pharmacist would recommend for a nursing mom. 

It was a real treat.  Make that thing #4793 on the list of things you never imagine, as you walk down the aisle in the beautiful white dress looking like a fairy princess, your husband will have to do for you.

Two days later the welt-hives had faded and were almost gone.  We thought we had nailed down the culprit. 

I had switched our laundry detergent that very week.  It was the only thing we could come up with.  So I threw out the almost-full tub I had stocked up on prior to baby’s arrival and bought the liquid gain we had been using for years.  Then I rewashed all our bedding and clothes and towels etc… 

Because having a new, tiny human that somehow triples your laundry wasn’t enough… and because I didn’t have enough to do and learn and google as a first time mom…  and because I needed something else to keep me from ever taking a nap…

Phew.  No hives at the end of 48 hours.  Tonight I will blissfully NOT be woken up at midnight on fire with welt-hives and in need of a cold shower.

Or not.  I woke up at 1am.  And wished I had woken up at 12am because this time hives had spread everywhere, even on my face.  Which confirmed all my suspicions, I am going to die. 

So, in the middle of the night, like a rational sane person, I sent a most horrendous selfie to my mom.     

It gets worse. 

Enter Matt’s worst gastrointestinal nightmare.  He hobbled in the door late the next morning from work.  I knew it was bad when, my husband who doesn’t take sick days, walked in and collapsed.  He said it hurt to sit.  He said it hurt to stand.  So he curled up in a ball and laid there.  As a first time mom with everything falling apart, I had a lot of sympathy-  Indeed, in my exorbitant compassion, I actually allowed him to “just lay there.” 

I will spare you the details of the next 24 hours, but I will tell you that in three days he lost 11 pounds (because, yes, we weighed him).

Matt was obviously home sick the following day. 

And I knew we were all really going to die when I, who sat nursing our sweet little boy with fiery, red welts all over my body, asked Matt if he could by chance grab me a burp cloth.  He didn’t answer out loud, but I watched as he crawled to the closet, reached up to get the item, sank back down onto all fours and crawled back.  Yes, death was imminent.
In any case, the Symptom Showcase Showdown / Mueller Mystery Plague of April 2014 caused me to scour the Internet for answers.

I consulted Google, just knowing there was at least a 95 percent chance that a severe outbreak of hives is a symptom of cancer.  Because Google loves nothing more than a cancer diagnosis. 

So I didn’t have liver cancer, but I was on the verge of scurvy. 

Beyond that, were Matt and I’s symptoms related?  They couldn’t be.  They had to be… ? … Death…

So we laid in bed, dying, holding our phones, google-ing how to cure scabies, when I remember we did finally come up with one plausible condition: “we must be allergic to our own baby”…

We laughed then, but really… he was one thing that we knew without question that had changed.

At one point, we called our uncle, who legitimately is a genius doctor in Washington.  He said we should definitely go to the doctor.  Now.  There was also talk about Matt having a parasite and me not getting it till later due to my recent Z pack and having a completely different rash/reaction.

We made separate trips to urgent care.  So someone could stay home with Ryke, because clearly we were first time parents (duh) and, as such, couldn’t take him with us.  So what could have been a one hour trip because a four hour venture.

Matt went first.  The doctor’s conclusion: the rash would go away on its own, no big deal, also, take some probiotics for the stomach bug.  She then called us later that same day and order him to be tested for a parasite (I’ll spare you the details of that procedure).

I went second.  She took one look at my rash and said something to the effect of, and I quote:  “Oh honey I’m so sorry.  That looks terrible.  And painful.  It looks fungal.  But the only way it could be fungal and have spread so fast is if you had full blown HIV.” 

There was definitely some shock value, but sitting there I quickly dismissed the comment.  I hate, hate, hate, needles.  There was no way.  Ever.  End of story.  She prescribed me aloe for my welt-hives.  And told me not to take Benadryl or anything of the like.

So I went home.  Back to bed.  Back to Google.  And laying there, her words began to haunt me.  HIV?  I was just in the hospital having a baby?  They poked me with lots of needles.  How many needles had there even been, I tried to count. 
Now I will really, really never sleep.  Ever again. 

So I sent Matt to go buy a HIV test for me. 

They cost over $50.00 by the way.  And I have visual no proof, but I’m pretty sure he crawled to the car, through the store, to the counter and back to the car on all fours.

Also, I do not have AIDS.  Or HIV. 
But clearly, I was literally losing my ever-loving-mind.

Matt’s test results also came back.  No parasite.

Eventually Matt could eat again.  And keep in in his system.  Four weeks later he woke up and his rash was gone. 

I saw an allergist.  I found out I’m severely allergic to sesame seeds and gluten.  I didn’t believe him when he told me. I’ve had a stomach of rock my entire life and personally believe the gluten free fad to be unhealthy for anyone that doesn’t genuinely have celiac disease.   So I made the doctor do the blood work twice.  Yes, you read that right.  I almost passed out both times, but I was determined to not be allergic to gluten and as such asked for the repeat test, which included drawing an additional four vials of blood.  And even though I couldn’t carry my own baby out to the car after the trauma of a blood draw, sadly, the results remained the same.  The doctor informed me that having a baby can do that.  So I asked him if I could reverse my newfound allergies by having a second baby.  He said maybe.  So at least there’s that. 

It literally took us a month to get better after welcoming Mr. Ryker John. 

But you know what.  Somewhere amidst all the hives and fire skin and fever and Google diagnosis and doctor’s visits and blood draws and midnight runs to the store for more drugs I simply stopped and stared at Ryker.

We sat together in our rocking chair, he and I.  I stared down at the boy in my arms and really looked at him.  He was perfect.  He was fragile and helpless and beautiful.  I had no idea what was happening.  To Me.  To Matt.  No idea at all.  I had no control.  I couldn’t make myself better.  I couldn’t protect him.  But oh how I wanted to.  How I needed that precious lil boy to stay healthy.  And in that moment something beautiful happened. I was filled with wonder at this amazing gift the Lord had given.  At the fact that God created and cast a life into being.  A Soul.  Entrusted to me.  I remember something shifting in my heart.  For the first time, I really saw the small world I held in my arms, and I celebrated the God who made him and called him good.  And, in that moment, I was at peace with being his mother and him being my son.

a mother's journey {the backlogs}

this post was originally written  March 13th 2014, almost a year ago

Disclaimer:  this is my story.  I do not intend to be offensive, but sin is offensive and my sin materialized on this page may offend you.  I recognize that children are a “gift” from the Lord and understand that many couples struggle with infertility and others carry deep scars of children taken too soon.  So again, I reiterate, this is my story and I share it to tell of “what the Lord as done.”  Because even as I chose to walk “through the valley of the shadow of death,” He was “with me,”  “He restores my soul.”  He gently guided me “in the path of righteousness for His name sake,” and because now surely I know “my cup overflows,” just as surely as “His goodness and loving-kindness follow me all the days of my life.”

I remember starting down at those 4 blue “positive” lines like it was yesterday.

NO WAY. NOT HAPPENING.  This HAS to be a faulty test.

By the time Matt came around the corner, tears were already streaming down my face and I rapidly approaching hysteria.  He moved to take a step toward me and all I could say was, “I NEED you to leave RIGHT NOW; go get me a different brand- no make that four different brands.”

He was wise enough to know that was exactly what I needed in that moment and so he left.

I paced the kitchen a few times, unraveling more and more with each second.  Somewhere deep inside, I knew this was really happening

Not knowing where else to turn and about to altogether burst, I called mom.  No answer.  I dialed her again, still no answer.  

So I called my dad, so he could get mom. 

“How’s my girl?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but all I could manage was uncontrollable sobs.  Finally, I managed a weak, “I need to talk to mom.” 

“I’m already getting in my car, I’m two minutes away.  I don’t know why she didn’t answer, but stay on the phone with me.” 

I couldn’t stop crying. 

“Is there anything I can do for you?” 
“Is Matt ok?”
“He’s fine.”
“Are you ok.” 
I realized then he was probably driving way over the speed limit and assuming the worst…

So I simply blurted out, “Dad I’m pregnant!”
He broke the silence.
Chuckling, he casually replied, “Well what are you crying for?” 

To which I gave no answer.  But I just may have cracked a smile (thanks dad).

“That’s great news honey!” 
He had arrived at home.
“I’m going to hand the phone to your mom so you can talk to her.”
I’m sure she was confused to hear her daughter sobbing into the phone and her husband simultaneously shouting “woo-hoo’s” behind her as he walked away.

“Sorry, I just saw you called.” 
More crying.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m pregnant.”

She spent the next ten minutes speaking truth into me, truth I so desperately needed.  Reminding me that this was a “gift” that the Lord was entrusting to with.  Reassuring me that God was giving us His best.  Reminding me that the Lord was blessing us.  And of the amazing faithfulness of my Savior, who had never once let me down...

Matt walked through the front door. 

Four tests later, we had four positive results.

I came into the kitchen and finally got around to pouring myself that first cup of morning coffee.  Sipping it I began to cry again, I didn’t make decaf.

Matt rounded the corner.

“Can I give you a hug?”

He wrestled me into his arms and bear hugged me anyways.

“Can I pray for you?”

He put his hand over mine and prayed for me anyways.

My husband is perfect for me.

That afternoon we went to the beach.

And I wish I could say that the Lord instantaneously changed the desires of my heart.  But that would be a lie.  I didn’t want children.  I was mad.  Pregnancy felt like something done to me, without my permission.  I confess that a few days passed before I even made the move to crack my Bible open.  Because, like Jonah, I just knew the Lord would do what He said he would do and change my heart—but, in my sin, I didn’t want Him too.  Instead I went for long runs along the coast, letting my anger push me till I collapsed.  I laid awake at night and sleep evaded me.  When I did manage to finally drift off to sleep my dreams were plagued by sin and selfishness.  As for my thought life, it was too dark to put on paper.  And then there was the guilt.  The guilt of my sin, of not seeking the Lord, of knowing I was wrong, of not wanting to allow Scripture to change me, of my thoughts.  Who had I become?  Is this really who I am?  How did I get here?  My “old man” had never felt more alive; though declared dead, when Christ redeemed me, it felt like he opened the coffin, stood in front of me (and behind) absolutely demanding to be heard. 

Matt was a rock for me.  He loved me through it.  He allowed me to wrestle with my sin.  He didn’t try to fix me.  He didn’t preach at me.  And in the face of my anger, he would gently remind me that I already knew the truth.  He trusted Christ to do the work.  And he never stopped reminding me that I wasn’t alone. 

God did the same.  There were specific moments, despite my sin, where something amazing would happen, and I would, in that moment, fully realize that it was a gift from Him.  One day it brought me to tears, because I, of all people, knew how horrible the depths of my sin.  And I couldn’t fathom that he could still openly love me as I actively chose sin, which I knew grieved Him deeply.  The next day I opened my Bible.

And God did more.  He changes hearts.

This pregnancy has been a journey for me.  A roller-coaster of feigning baby excitement and smiling for the sake of others, and genuine excitement over this new little life that the Lord is entrusting to us.  I can’t tell you exactly when the dark days lifted. 

I can tell you that, though the battles lesser, there were still moments, even at nine months I felt only sadness over the fact that soon it would no longer be just Matt and I. To which Matt would just smile and remind me that it will be better.

I can tell you that the Lord is still changing my heart.

I’m writing this nine days out from Ryker’s due date and I can also tell you that I truly cannot wait to meet him.  I really mean it, I can’t wait to meet our first-born son.


Obviously, I didn’t get around to posting this when it was written last March.  And today, Ryker John is almost 11 months old.  And I must tell you, that if we knew what God knows we would ask exactly for what he gives. 

Matt was right, it is better.  Hands-down, no question, so much better. 

I share this to tell of “what the Lord as done.”  Because even as I chose to walk “through the valley of the shadow of death,” He was “with me,”  “He restores my soul.”  He gently guided me “in the path of righteousness for His name sake,” and because now surely I know “my cup overflows,” just as surely as “His goodness and loving-kindness follow me all the days of my life.”

I must also tell you, I absolutely LOVE being Ryker’s mom.  So much so that this lady who genuinely wanted zero kids, now wants four!  But more on that later… 

Photos by Annie Groves and Kacey Luvi

the one day all I really wanted was a burger {the backlogs}

Most times, when heading out for a lunch or dinner date with my man, I don’t know exactly where it is that I really want to eat.

However, I always seem to know where it is I don’t want to go.

And thus, when leaving for an eatery date with my man, he typically suggests three places and I will tell him where it is that I do not want to go.

That was not the case when driving home from church on July 14th when I told him I absolutely NEEDED a Jr. Whopper from Burger King (what I really wanted was an In & Out burger, animal style…  but, very sadly, they have not yet come to Oahu and as such I named the only other burger place I knew of).

I think he almost unintentionally stopped the car on the freeway, while turning to stare at me...”

But then he just laughed and said, “Danielle you’re pregnant.”

“Because I want a burger?”

“No, because we’ve been married almost 8 years and you’ve never had such a request.”

Side-note: just because I don’t request fast food does not mean I can’t easily eat my weight at Taco Bell.

Sometime in the next week the boy and I made a bet and I lost, which meant I had no choice other than to take a pregnancy test

Let me just say, over the last 8 years, I’ve taken hundreds of tests and they’ve always read “negative.”

I was expecting the same result when I woke up on Saturday, July 7th to follow through with my lost bet...

I even remember thinking, here’s to (literally) flushing another $10.00 down the toilet.

Clearly I was in for the surprise of my life…

photo by Annie Groves