Cora’s Birth Story: Part One

by Aquila Mendez-Valdez on July 21, 2014

Yup, you read that title right. Cora is now two and a half and I’m just now getting around to writing her birth story. Because a crazy thing happened after she was born. I was tired, and then REALLY tired, and then I finally got a chance to sleep, so I did, and then I woke up and she’s a toddler. Motherhood in a nutshell, y’all. But I feel I should still try and recall as much of her birth as possible, partly because I know if I can’t remember things two and a half years later, I DEFINITELY won’t be able to remember them in thirty years when Cora’s about to have her first baby and starts asking me a million questions. Therefore, here is her birth story, to be preserved in Internet glory forever.


{All Photos by Enrique Arellanos}

To start, you should probably know that Cora was a bit of a surprise.  We knew we wanted to have a family at some point, but we’d only been married for almost a year when we found out we were expecting.  I’ve often described the feeling when you discover you’re pregnant as feeling like you’ve been plopped on a runaway train.  It doesn’t matter what you do at that point, for the next nine months you are hurtling towards this momentous change in your life.  Ready or not, parenthood here you come.

To add more surprise to the mix, we decided not to find out if Cora was a boy or a girl.  My parents never found out with myself or any of my siblings, and Orlando and I felt this was one of the last great surprises you could have in life.  That being said, from a very early point in my pregnancy, I KNEW Cora was a girl.  I felt it in my bones, to the point where we didn’t have a legitimate boy name picked out even as I was going in to labor.  Speaking of which, let’s get to the labor part, shall we?


{Volleyball or Basketball? Girl or Boy? Who knows for sure? :) }

Cora was “due” on January 6, 2012, which just so happens to be my sister’s birthday.  My family made plans to come and visit us in San Antonio very close to my due date, but they were well aware that I wanted a natural birth, and induction would not be an option unless there was a true emergency.  So my due date came and went with not even so much as a contraction.  The majority of my family returned home, but my mom stayed behind, determined to be present for the birth of her first grandbaby.  Ready for the twist? Orlando was still in his basketball season in Mexico while all this was going on, so while he stole a few days away from the team to be in San Antonio for my due date, he was forced to return and continue the playoffs without a baby yet.  We had no idea where he would be when I went into labor, how quickly he would be able to get there, or if he would even make it in time.  My mom had crazy quick labors (like twenty minutes quick) so I was terrified I would be the same and Orlando would miss it.

By the grace of God, when I started feeling actual contractions and thinking it might be “go time” around Thursday, January 12th, Orlando was miraculously playing against a team in Nuevo Laredo, a border town only about two and a half hours from San Antonio. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if they would have been playing against a team that was a whole country and plane ride away.  I know it’s not all about us, but God knew what he was doing when he put Orlando with this team, playing against this rival just a quick drive away.

So was it time to go to the hospital? Call my OB/GYN? Here comes the next twist.  Orlando and I watched The Business of Being Born when I first discovered I was expecting and researched our options for a natural birth.  I knew my Mom had given birth to all of us naturally, but I was convinced that I could do it med-free, doctor-free, and hospital-free.  I’ve always been a feminist, but the documentary’s messages that women were meant to do this, that our bodies are perfectly strong and capable of doing this without unnecessary interventions rang true to me like almost nothing ever has.  We found the San Antonio Birth Center after interviewing a few other options throughout the city, and immediately felt at home.

If you’ve never been in a birth center, I can’t even describe to you the difference between a hospital and the oasis that this alternative space provides mothers.  To me, a hospital feels like a place for sick people, sterile, harsh, and cold.  The birth center, on the other hand, feels relaxing, comforting, and like your home away from home.  I also was blessed to have an amazing midwife, Jenny, who made us feel as if this was actually something we could do, not just a fantasy we watched in a documentary once.  Jenny, unfortunately, left the birth center during the middle of our pregnancy, but once again we were placed in the hands of a caring and kind woman named Jennifer Kelleher.  You know how sometimes you meet a doctor that just seems cold, callous, or like he’s just way too busy to look you in the eye and actually ask you how you’re doing? I’ve never met a midwife like that.  In fact, I would say they are the exact antithesis of that type of doctor.  I should probably write a whole other blog post on how much I loved the midwife/birth center experience, but for now let’s get back to the labor.

Now you’re probably wondering if it was time to rush to the birth center, or call the midwife.  I did call Jennifer, but her calm and collected response (it must be such a joy to work with frantic first time moms like me :) ) was to wait.  Hang out at home as long as possible, and just get in touch with what my body was doing.  Orlando was debating whether or not it was time to make the drive up, so there was no point in getting to the birth center to just turn around and wait for him.  I settled in with my trusty iPhone app to time my contractions and began my long, long journey of pre-labor.

My mom was right beside me through all of it, holding my hand, rubbing my back, and attending to my somewhat grumpy requests.  I was still able to talk and laugh through contractions, so we knew it wasn’t totally serious yet.  For whatever reasons, my contractions were consistently stronger at night, and the night of January 12th was no exception.  I really felt as though it might be time within a few hours.  A rushed call was made to Orlando, who immediately arranged for two of his best friends to make the drive to Nuevo Laredo to pick him up and bring him back to his laboring wife.  I should add that a middle of the night drive to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico is not necessarily something I would recommend for the average tourist.  It’s the kind of place where people don’t stay out on the streets past dark.  It’s not exactly safe, and I spent a good amount of the wee hours of the morning worrying if they would make it back alright.  When Orlando finally walked through the doors in the bright morning sunshine of Friday, January 13th, two things happened: my heart felt content and my contractions disappeared.

There I was, thinking this all-natural birth wasn’t so bad, the baby would be here before we knew it, and it appeared all my hard work had evaporated into thin air.  Looking back, I honestly think my body was sort of in a holding pattern, waiting for Orlando to get there, and then didn’t really know what to do with itself once he was present.  My weary mind was about to blow a gasket, so we decided the best option would be to walk around the pool and try to kickstart labor into high gear again.  I’ll never forget those hours of making laps while my mom timed contractions and Orlando talked me through each one.  I remember reading in my Birthing from Within book (which I HIGHLY recommend) that developing a mantra or chant to get yourself through a contraction helps some moms.  Turns out, I was one of those moms.  I would breathe through a contraction and softly repeat, “WE can do this. WE can do this.” Meaning, of course, the baby and I.  I wanted to think of us as a team, working together to bring life into the world.  The baby wasn’t hurting me on purpose, she just wanted to join us in the light.  The pain meant progress was being made to do just that.

When we headed back inside, contractions started to get even more intense, and I began to pace in the exact same pattern around the house each time.  I remember touching one particular wall in our kitchen each time, still chanting, “WE can do this.”  They say when you’re in “laborland”, you just have to go with what feels right to you at the time.  Whatever helps you cope through each pain.  It might seem weird afterwards or to others helping you, but it doesn’t matter in the moment.  By this time it was late afternoon, and I was beginning to feel worn down, mentally and physically.  I remember calling Jennifer every couple of hours, wondering if it was time yet, could I just go to the birth center already?  Each time she talked me down off a ledge and reminded me that if I was still capable of talking to her on the phone, I wasn’t there yet.  In the moment, this felt like the most frustrating experience to have to be patient when I was in so much pain.  Looking back, I can see that she was just keeping me in my happy place a little longer.  At home, I could eat, drink, and talk with friends and family. I could still do that at the birth center, but then it would be game time.  Then the pressure would be on to have this baby NOW.

By about 7:30 pm on Friday, January 13th, I was miserable.  I couldn’t talk jovially anymore, I didn’t want to open my eyes through contractions, and I couldn’t manage the pain in a comfortable position anymore.  Then, as the contractions were relentlessly bearing down on me, I threw up and peed my pants at the same time.  Yup, TMI, I know. But I think that was the distinct moment when I realized I didn’t care who tried to stop me, I needed to get to that birth center NOW.  My mother (or Orlando? I don’t remember) cleaned up the mess, we told Jennifer we were on our way come hell or high water, and we got the car packed up and ready to go.

There was just one last thing we had to do.  Friends of ours had said before they drove to the hospital, they had a special song that they danced to as husband and wife right before they took off to become a family of three.  I thought that was the most adorable thing I had ever heard, so I planned on Orlando and I dancing to Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson.  If you’ve never heard it, prepare for a bawl fest.  That’s one of the memories I will cherish the most from my entire labor.  Standing with my husband in our living room, stopping every so often for a contraction, and swaying back and forth to savor the last moment we were just the two of us.  I love that this song doesn’t shy away from the tough part of love.  We knew we were about to have our lives turned upside down.  But as Andrew says, “in the face of all this chaos maybe I can dance with you.”

So we danced, and then we drove off to meet our first born child. Part two coming soon. :)





P.S. This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click, I may be compensated.  Thanks for supporting Haute in Texas!


Nailed it: Jamberry Review & Giveaway

by Aquila Mendez-Valdez on July 14, 2014

Have you ever met a little girl who didn’t like to have her nails perfectly painted and manicured? No? You apparently never met me as a youngster. Although I preferred to have my toes a pretty shade of pink back in the day, my fingernails were a different story entirely.  My main source of blame lies with playing sports.  There is absolutely no point in putting effort towards your nail beds when they’re just going to get banged up on the volleyball court or bitten off in the middle of game five.

When my collegiate playing career ended, I finally had a chance to feel a bit more girly in the nail department without fear of having them shredded by a block.  The problem was (and is), that I’m still terrible at actually taking care of my nails the right way.  I prefer a quick swipe of a few layers of color, rather than the whole process of cuticle care, shaping, base coat, color, top coat, on and on.  So when Kassi with Jamberry nails approached me to give their nail sheets a try, I have to say I was intrigued by the process.  The designs are basically stickers you “cure” on to your nail beds with heat in the comfort of your own home.  Check out my favorite designs below:


The sheets are mailed to you in a little envelope, and you can also purchase additional materials for applying them through Jamberry as well.  For the purpose of my trial, I simply used my own equipment and blow dryer to apply the pretty coral polka dots Kassi chose for me.  The entire process took me about 20 minutes, which isn’t bad considering it was my first go around.  From watching the video tutorials, it would appear that it becomes much, much easier the more you practice.  Here’s the good and the not-so-hot when it comes to Jamberry, in my personal opinion:


- There are a TON of cute designs, and obviously some prints that simply wouldn’t be possible with regular nail polish.

- For a perfectionist like me, I like that the stripe, chevron, or polka dot designs are crystal clear, without having to worry about irregularities.

- There’s no drying time like nail polish.  Once they’re cured to your nails, you’re free to do as you please.

- No stinky nail polish smell laying around for days afterwards.

- Removal was as simple as peeling them off.


- While the final look was cute, I found the nails a bit difficult to apply, especially since you have to stick them on without touching them with your fingers, cut them down to size, heat them, then file them down to fit your nail.  As I  mentioned, it would take some practice to get really good at it, and of course this may have just been my personal experience.

- Right after I finished applying the nails, I went and washed the car, cleaned a sink full of dishes, and chased after a toddler for an entire weekend.  Needless to say, my designs were pretty much shot by about Tuesday of the following week.  I’m sure I was harder on my nails than most, but they were fun while they lasted! IMG_8278

Isn’t the pattern Kassi chose for me adorable?! I thought taking a shot of them with my fashion Bible was both appropriate and color coordinating.  I got lots of compliments on the nails while they lasted, and some people actually thought I had painted on the polka dots! Not so much, but I’ll take that as a compliment to my non-existent creative skills!

To browse the entire collection of nail designs, visit Kassi’s page here. To enter to win your favorite one (she’s letting you choose – yippee!) enter the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway




P.S. I was given a complimentary sample of Jamberry nail designs to try in exchange for this review.  Don’t worry though, all opinions are my own!


True Beauty: Emily Reynolds of Defining Delicious

by Aquila Mendez-Valdez on July 11, 2014

Today is a rejuvenation of our old True Beauty series.  Whereas in the past we’ve featured businesses, nonprofits, and similar organizations, we are somewhat shifting our focus to feature influential women in Texas instead.  We’ll take a peek inside their closets, their minds, and their hearts to find out exactly what makes them truly passionate. [click to continue…]

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Cured and A Summer Dress

July 7, 2014

Happy belated 4th of July y’all! This weekend was the time to celebrate all that makes America great, and I’ve got two specific things I love about the red, white, and blue for you today.  Meat and a summer dress.  Stay with me here.  For my birthday a few weeks ago, I already told you […]

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An Anniversary Getaway at The Houstonian

June 30, 2014

My parents have taken a trip for just the two of them near their anniversary every year that I can remember.  Sometimes it’s just a quick road trip, other times they jet off to somewhere warm and romantic.  Regardless, it made an impact on me growing up to see them taking time for each other […]

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Slice of Summer Fashion Show

June 27, 2014

The Slice of Summer Fashion Show presented by The Art Institute of San Antonio was the best of summer, all rolled in to one chic package.  The evening began with a presentation of student’s work in the fashion illustration and design classes, along with the two collections from graduating designers at the Art Institute.  The […]

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The Alchemist

June 23, 2014

I recently finished reading The Alchemist, and I highly, highly recommend it for just about every person on the planet. It was just mind-blowing quote after mind-blowing quote, and I felt like I needed to highlight every word. I’ve only been 27 for a few weeks, but I already feel a shift in my attitude […]

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4 Reasons Why Being Married to a Metrosexual Man is the Best

June 19, 2014

  {You see that guy up there? He’s mine. All mine. } Today is our 4th wedding anniversary, and although last year I wrote a mushy gushy love post detailing how much I adore my husband, this year I thought I would lighten it up a bit.  I still get the warm and fuzzies around him, […]

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It’s a Sweet Life.

June 16, 2014

June is an insanely busy time for our family.  We’ve got my birthday, Father’s Day, and our wedding anniversary all jam-packed into a few short weeks, and it’s easy to feel  undeservedly blessed for all  the wonderful people in my life.  I was contemplating the craziness that is my life last Friday and decided I […]

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H&M Grand Opening in San Antonio!

June 11, 2014

My favorite mall in San Antonio is hands down La Cantera.  To the point where we chose our house partially based on its proximity to all that La Cantera and the Rim has to offer.  Call me a mall rat, but it also happens to be a downright beautiful place.  Now there’s going to be […]

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