Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Missing Link? I Think Not.

Last weekend, a friend blessed us with use of free passes to The Creation Museum outside of Cincinnati. Abigail had Friday off of school for Parent-Teacher conferences, so we decided to do a little inexpensive overnight trip for some family fun.

Molly is now seven weeks old, and as is usually the case with little babies, we get lots of smiles and oooohs and ahhhs when we are out in public. I am totally biased and think she is incredibly beautiful, as any good mother should think of her child, so I'm never surprised by the attention she gets (even though I know it is par for the newborn course). As we walked around the museum, we would hear mothers softly comment to their husbands or children, "Ooooh, look at how tiny she is! What a sweetheart!" or a grandmother would smile that sweet smile that new babies usually attract.

There was one grandmother in particular who seemed to have a fascination with our little family. We were going through the exhibits at about the same pace and kept stopping around the same spots to look at the displays or to read words on the walls. At each spot, she would make a comment to Paul or myself.

"Ohhh, sweet. How old is your baby?"
"She will be seven weeks tomorrow."
"Oh, and big sisters, too?"
"Yes, she's girl number three!"
"Are you going to try for a boy?"
"Oh, I don't know. Not sure what we are going to do next. (Laughing) A little brother wouldn't stand a chance with these three. He would be dressed like a princess all the time."
"Oh, no. Your husband would make sure he was a real boy."
(That comment could be a whole separate blog post unto itself....)

Pleasantries over. On to the next room. I stopped to read and explain something to Abigail. Grandma was standing nearby again. She commented on how she liked my necklace, which has three charms with each girl's name and birthstone. I thanked her kindly and moved on to the next room.

A few minutes later, she walked up to me again. Wow, this sweet lady just really had to think our family over.

"Honey, I will pray that God gives you a boy. Your husband needs a boy. I know God knows who you are, and I will pray for a boy for your family."

Wow. I just, um....wow. Not one to always think quickly on my feet or to start a verbal debate with a well-intentioned grandmother in the middle of a display about Noah's flood, I just smiled and said thank you and walked on to the rest of my little crew. Of course, I gave Paul a good chuckle, eye roll, and thoughts on that last bit of conversation. Sometimes I believe God gave me Paul to save a lot of well-meaning strangers from what I really think of their opinion.

Here's the thing. Yes, we have joked about Paul's need for a boy in our house. It's what families do. Whether we are right or wrong in that joking is really on us to decide....it's our joke, our little funny when the estrogen flows a little too freely in our house. And no, we do not yet know what the completion of our family will look like. It could very-well be completed now, but we have not yet seen if that is the case in a short seven weeks. It's future could involve one more pregnancy or adding to our family through adoption. There may be a boy in our future, there may be more girls. We are totally content in this moment with only God seeing that completed family photo for us. And let the record show that my husband even said the words to me after that grandmother's conversation that if we do have more children, he would be fine to have another girl. He likes girls. They are fun. And we do not take it as some strange quirk or coincidence that the Lord has seen it fit to give us girls.

No matter whether our family is completed for the future or not remains to be seen. But our family is complete in this moment. We are not lacking or unfulfilled in any way, shape, or form for not having a son. Our daughters are precious to us. They are wholly loved. We feel great purpose in the task of raising daughters. We consider ourselves fully blessed for the ability to have children at all.

So, thank you, Grandmother at The Creation Museum. Pray whatever you see fit to pray. But know that I am not praying for a son. I'm praying for God to help us to parent our daughters very, very well, that they may be world-changing, beautiful-feet-walking, Jesus-loving, mighty and humble women.

Monday, September 9, 2013

That. Was. CRAZY.

This is the story of Molly Jean's arrival. It will probably take longer for me to type it than it did to happen in real time.

Yesterday, I felt pretty good. I stayed home from church with Abigail during the morning because she had been sick and we were trying to make sure she was fully virus-free before heading back into the public. We had a pretty normal Sunday afternoon, at lunch, the girls and I made soft ginger cookies to take to the nurses (hopefully within the next couple of days), and I napped from 4:00-5:30. Our kitty, Cammie, curled up under then blanket up close to me, with her head right next to where Molly's head would have been. I've always heard animals can sense what is about to happen, so I choose to call my cat a genius whom I should have paid closer attention to.

I woke at 5:30. Paul had gone over to church for a Deacons' meeting before evening services. I felt a little "blah" when I woke up, having a dull headache and just feeling like I ate way too many soft ginger cookies. Because I had. Paul would be at church roughly from 6:00-7:00 p.m. for evening service, and I was home with the girls.

At 6:53, I felt my first contraction. I had had some sporadic contractions Friday night, but they were high across my belly. Samantha, my doula, had said they were probably "warm-up" contractions, and that the real ones would be lower down and feel more like cramps. When I had it, I knew immediately that it was a real one. I leaned against the kitchen counter and took some deep breaths until it passed, about a minute later. Paul got home shortly after this one, and I kind of nonchalantly said, "It's probably nothing, but I had a real contraction a few minutes ago. No big deal, we will just wait and see." He decided to run to the store to get some snacks for us to take to the hospital....for those long hours of labor we expected to be ahead of us. I had not made any dinner yet, so he also was going to pick up some Subway. I had another contraction at 20 minutes later, and decided to call Samantha just to give her the heads up. As I talked to her, I felt another one. I tried to calmly say, "Hang on just a minute" and then breathe. Each time I would feel one coming, I would stand up and lean against the wall, counter, table, whatever was nearby and breathe.

My mind was thinking, Yep. Just as I thought. I am totally forgetting everything Samantha taught us. Good thing she is coming to the hospital. Shouldn't I be squatting...or bouncing on a ball...or rocking? Breathe, breathe, breathe....

Samantha told me to check in with her a little later to let her know how they were doing. I then called my mom to tell her I had had a few contractions that were about 20 minutes apart. I had started to write them down at this point. While talking on the phone to my mom, I had two more contractions that had jumped to about 11 minutes apart.

Wait a minute. I thought it would go 20 minutes, 19, 18, 17, etc. You mean they can make that big of a jump? That can't be right. Maybe they get random for a while, like it will be 20 minutes, then 11, then back up to 15. Breathe, breathe, lean against the wall, breathe....

My mom, who will now be called The Woman I Should Listen to Always and Do What She Says, said, "Those weren't 20 minutes. I think you need to call Tammy to come be with the girls and you need to get ready to go." And I was still trying to act calm and said, "Okay, I will call her and go shower and get ready. I'm not worried." I called our friend Tammy and said, "Hey, it might not be anything, but I've been having some pretty strong contractions for an hour or so now. Don't rush or anything, but could you maybe come be with the girls?" She said she would head over. Oh yeah, laboring during bedtime makes things a little crazy, too....at least for my husband.

I got in the shower to get cleaned up and I think had one contraction in the shower. By this point, they were coming about 6 or 7 minutes apart. I was realizing this was probably not going to slow down at this point. I showered much faster than normal. I got out and dressed, and dried my hair really quick (it usually only takes a few minutes to dry). I had to shut off the hair dryer twice to breathe through a contraction. I also put on make-up. Yes, I did. In hindsight, probably not the best decision, but whatever, everyone has their moments of vanity and I wanted to not look scary in pictures. The funny thing was, the contractions were so close and intense, but when they passed, I would feel fine and think I can at least put on some eyeliner... Paul was all over the place getting things in the van, getting the girls settled, getting instructions to Tammy. Then he would come in and see me breathing through it against the sink and would rub my back and then be off and going again. He said he had told the girls what all was happening and I just needed to go kiss them and say bye. They were ecstatic that it was time for Molly to come and that Miss Tammy was there at bedtime...how fun for them!!

We got to the van and I had that first thought of I don't think I can make it all the way to the hospital, which is a good 25 minutes from our house. Getting in the van was too big a chore at that point. I laid a towel across my lap in case my water should break on the way. I closed my eyes and breathed the entire way. My breathing was hard, and would intensify when a contraction hit. Paul put some worship music on the radio, and we mostly drove in silence, or he would say encouraging things to me. At one point I opened my eyes and realized we were about half-way there, and I thought Oh, Sweet Lord, we are not going to make it. I said at that point to Paul that I really didn't want to have this baby in the van...because that suddenly seemed very possible. Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart at this time, and Samantha had texted to say she would meet us there. My thoughts were all over the place and I was trying to calm myself with positive things, but would interrupt myself.

I am calm. God with with me and I am safe. My body is a flower opening up to allow this baby to come. No, wait. Close, flower. It's not time to open yet, you can't open yet!! I am calm. Breathe, breathe, breathe. My body is doing what God made it to do. No, body, don't do what God made you to do until you get to the hospital. I am grasping at straws right now. Oh Lord, this hurts. Pound the window with my fist. 

Paul pulled up to the hospital entrance and got a wheelchair for me. When I got up from my seat in the van, I told him it felt better to stand than sit, so I would just hang on to the wheelchair and walk. A guy came out the entrance for a smoke break and watched me as I bent over the chair and breathed through another contraction. I really wanted him to go away and stop watching me. We walked in and I may have had to stop at one point between the van and Labor and Delivery. Paul had called ahead so they knew we were coming. We went through the doors and got to the nurses desk. I was pretty much in a constant breathing hard state by this point.
"Are you the ones who called, Dr. C's patient?"
They quickly assessed that I needed to go straight to a L&D room. They told me to get in the wheelchair and they would push me. (This conversation was all very intense and fast) I shook my head. "I can't sit. I gotta...stand...Oh, I gotta push!"
They tried again to get me in the wheelchair, and then we just took off toward the room. I called back, "My doula's coming! Her name's Samantha!"
We got into the room and they directed me to get on the bed. I kicked off my shoes in case my water broke. I told them I could NOT get on the bed. I couldn't have willed myself to do that for a million dollars.
"You NEED to get up on the bed."
I got to the edge of the bed and leaned my hands down on it. "I can't! I GOTTA PUUUSH!!!" Water gushed down on the floor like someone had just launched a water balloon directly at my feet. Someone pulled my bottom clothes down. I could feel her sliding out.
All I could think was, I have to stop. This has to slow down. I could hear them saying, "You have to push! Just push!"
"No, I can't!"
Paul said, "Honey, her head is out, you just have to push."
When I looked down between my legs, all I saw was a clamped and cut umbilical cord. Molly was across the room and I had not even seen her yet. I had not even looked at any of the nurses faces, or even Paul's, since we walked in the building. I was breathing hard and said, "Oh....wait...I wanted to wait til the umbilical cord stopped pulsing...."
Paul said, "Honey, it's okay. It's too late and it's done. Molly's here and she's fine."

They helped me into bed to check me over. A doctor came in and introduced himself. He was not my doctor, nor was he the on-call doctor. We found out later he was a resident doctor, and I'm pretty sure he was just as surprised by all of this as we had been. Samantha came in right after him, and we all laughed and hugged and recapped the entire crazy story. The entire thing lasted (central time) from 6:53 to 10:10.

What a story you have, Molly Jean. What a crazy, wonderful story. Thank you for giving me the birth experience I wanted....or at least the one you knew I could handle. Your daddy and I love you, sweet girl.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

40 Weeks, 3 Days

Well. This is a new experience for me. This is officially the longest I have ever been pregnant. I was induced with both girls right around 39 weeks (plus a day or two). I've never made it to my due date. Our doula, Samantha, gave the GENIUS advice that if I made it to 40 weeks, I needed to celebrate somehow. And that every day that I go past 40 weeks should also include a small treat of some kind. This gives me something to look forward to instead of just focusing on how bummed I am that baby girl isn't here yet.

So, when I reached my due date last Thursday, I got my much-needed pedicure and a Mocha cookies and cream milkshake from Chick-Fil-A (ohmygoodnesstheyaresogoodIhighlyrecommendone). Unfortunately, I also had a sick girl at home from school for a couple of days, so my next treat on Friday was spending time with her...but SO good and SO needed. Abigail and I are very similar personalities in a lot of ways, and we can easily start acting like a married couple who hasn't had a date night in a long time and start constantly butting heads. The best cure for us, always has been, is to have some one-on-one time together. So Paul and Sadie went to the high school football game Friday night, and Abigail and I stayed home and made cookies, watched a movie, and snuggled (Physical Touch, or snuggling, in Abigail terms, is HIGH on her Love Languages). Yesterday, my treat was getting out for a bit to go to prenatal yoga (led by my amazing doula) and enjoying an iced mocha afterward.

Needless to say, I could really get used to this "little treat for Amy every day" thing.

Honestly, I am content with this experience. I am (mostly) content to not be in labor yet. Of course it is uncomfortable, and of course I am sleeping fitfully each night and waking too many times to go to the bathroom. I mean, it's still 40 weeks +++, so I'm not jiving myself. But overall, I feel fine. I want her to come when she is ready. I want to be patient. I want this experience to be new.

A couple of days ago, this song popped into my head as I was going about the house. And this sums it up....He will make this entire experience beautiful...in HIS time.

In His time, In His Time
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As your teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say 
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your Time
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring 
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing 
In Your time

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nine Months of Quiet

Things have been pretty quiet around this ol' blog for a while. There are multiple reasons for that, mostly being bloggy burnout and being pregnant with baby #3. I am 39 weeks pregnant today, due September 5th with our third girl. We are excited to be on the brink of welcoming a new little one into our arms, hearts, and home. Our girls are ready (especially Abigail, who is in full-on babysitting mode already). Mainly, if nothing else but for my own recording, I want to get down where we are at this point as we approach our first time planning a natural childbirth. Yep...I used the "N" word.

Abigail and Sadie were both born through induction, and I had epidurals both times. I loved giving birth to my girls, and neither one would I consider any type of bad or traumatic birth experience at all. Actually, they both went quite smoothly. With Abigail, I had a condition called PUPPP, which is kind of like your body having an allergic reaction to your pregnancy (I'm sure there is a much better medical definition, but this is easiest). PUPPP equals insane (INSANE) itching that starts on your belly (like most pregnancies) but quickly escalates to constantly wanting to claw your skin off as it becomes covered in hives and spreads to your arms, legs, soles of feet, palms of hands...pretty much everywhere except your face, thank goodness. There is really nothing effective you can take for the itching, and believe me, I tried. The only thing that makes it go away is to have the baby. So, my doctor at the time (we lived in a different city then) thought it would be a good reason to induce me, simply for my own relief. She didn't rush me into a decision, but after about a week of mulling it over and wishing I could soak in a bath of ice and oatmeal 24/7, I decided to go for it. For a first-time birth, it went fairly easily at about 11 hours. I did choose an epidural at some point (7 years later, details are hazy) around the time they broke my water and my contractions got really intense.

With Sadie, we were in a different city, different doctor, different hospital. Admittedly, I just gave up when I hit 39 weeks. There was no reason for me to need to be induced. It was convenient for us and for the doctor. He was more than happy to schedule me for the next morning, and in we went. It was nice to get  then-4-year-old Abigail settled at my parents the night before and not feel like we would freak her out at any point. Our doctor was efficient to say the least. Don't get me wrong, he was very nice and we liked his personality a lot. And Sadie's birth went very fast and easy. I was hooked up to the Pitocin, had my water broken, and given my epidural all within 30 minutes. I literally never felt one contraction with Sadie. Not one. and within four hours, she was here. At the time, Paul and I were totally on board with all of it, and were just glad to have a healthy baby so quickly. But over time, as I have reflected back on it, I almost feel like I "missed" Sadie's birth. Like, I didn't feel any of it, didn't give a second thought to anything. Not that any mom is dying to feel contractions or pain, but it's almost like it was some quick dream and that my body wasn't really a part of the equation.

So, when I got pregnant this time and started thinking through what I liked before or what I would like differently, my thought was this: We get one birth story with our children. Only one time to feel those feelings, to experience this amazing passage from inside our body to outside world. And I didn't want to be in a race to just get through it as fast as I could. Yes, I have gotten many of the lighthearted "You're crazy" comments from women who have been there and can't believe I would "want the pain." It's not that I "want the pain", it's that I want to experience this one moment in it's fullness. I want to see how my body goes into labor without help from medicine. I want to see how my spirit leans on the Lord when the pain gets hard. I want to work as a team with my husband to do this together, not to look at him from my hospital bed and say in that floaty post-epidural voice, "I can't feel a THING." (Words I have said both times).

We have been meeting with a doula throughout the last few months, and she will attend the birth with us. I look forward to having a team of encouragers to get through this together. I've told them, "Trust me, I know the sweet, sweet relief an epidural can bring. I know how awesome it feels. So please, encourage me to keep going." I've kind of felt like a natural birth junkie through this process...I've learned so many new things that I would have thought I had figured out by now. I've been watching documentaries and reading books by Ina May Gaskin and I have seen more pictures of naked women giving birth in all of their natural glory than I ever thought I would (and still don't totally LOVE to see). Oh, and we will still be at the hospital with a doctor.

I know that things don't always go as planned. I know that birth plans get changed and that babies don't always arrive they way you would expect. I know there are a lot of unknowns, and Paul and I are not unbending. We know there may be something we have to bend and flex and change from what our wishes are. But we also know that having a plan in place now, and having educated ourselves, and having resolve ahead of time will give us a greater likelihood of having a really cool natural birth story.

Like a friend at church said (whose son is in upper 20s), "You're just doing it like all of us had to do it then. Everyone now wants to schedule and control every little thing, but we didn't have those choices. We just had our babies." So, I know I am in the company of generations of women who have done it this way, whether by choice or not. And I feel quite excited for what this little girl's story will be.