Friday, December 30, 2011

Grasping the Gift

I wrote this post a week or so before Christmas and then forgot to post it.  It is still relevant...and maybe even more so as we look at the new year ahead.

Christmas is breathing down our necks and we are getting in the Christmas spirit.  We are listening to Christmas music, making cookies, talking about’s birthday, etc.

Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child is fun, but to be honest, I am searching for something bigger this year. 

I feel like it is a point in my life where if I didn’t know the whole story, if I hadn’t read the Bib.le and understood the big picture, I would have trouble rejoicing fully in what this time of year means.  I find myself relating a lot to the disciples or others who struggled to grasp the fullness of because the Big Picture wasn’t in full color for them yet. 

Thankfully for me, I DO see the Big Picture and am finding deep joy in that these days.  I am craving victory these days, promises of eternal glory, words of redemption. 

No guilt in life, no fear in death. 
This is the power of Christ in me. 
From life’s first cry to final breath, 
Jesus commands my destiny.

These words have been on repeat in my brain for the last few weeks and I am working
hard to understand them and put them into practice. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand them perfectly…

Or do I?

I look at my life some days and I am not so sure. I am deeply challenged by those lyrics in these days.

We are at another point of transition in our lives and it is a little exhausting to say the least.  Some days, it seems like it would be easiest just to throw in the towel, to pack up and go home…but even when the temptation is strong, that option doesn’t sit well with me.

And that is where the conflict comes.

I think we are in a sort of grieving process…

Each day that goes by, each hardship that we weather, each relationship we build, makes us fall in love with this place and this life even more.  Some days are doozies, but they leave us profoundly grateful for how God shows His faithfulness. We are continually amazed that He gives us the privilege of joining Him in this work.  We are certain that He is not done with these people and this country, no matter how hopeless it seems and how discouraging the news gets.  Closer to home, we are more and more certain each day that our work in this country is not finished, even though our family is growing, the future seems grim and the road ahead looks impossibly steep at times. 

And you know what?  For as much as I rejoice in that passion and conviction, I also inwardly curse it.

Because it hurts.

It hurts us; it is not easy to deal with poverty and corruption and war and insecurity on a daily basis. It is not easy to deal with the ugliness of life and sin that rears its ugly head in such glaring ways. It is not easy (in some ways) to raise our son in such a challenging environment. It is not easy to try to explain to people back home the passion we have for what God is doing here amongst a people that they usually have already written off as a lost cause.

It hurts our families; they miss us, they worry about us, they miss holidays together, they miss seeing Little t grow up, they hear the news, they get grief from other people, they are stretched.

No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me.

I find myself guilty a lot. 

Little t grows up far from his grandparents and they miss him terribly. 

We have amazing support from people, but sometimes feel like we have very little tangible progress to show for it and wonder if that causes people to doubt our work as much as we do some days.  

We go home to have a baby and leave behind a very small foreign team that will have to work hard to keep things here afloat.  

We make a decision to not come back to M-ville if no other families are here, putting the project in jeopardy and possibly closing the region.  

We leave to go home and angel khAla is out of work.  

Angel khAla is potentially out of work and will have to marry off her daughter (who desperately doesn’t want to get married) in order to put food on the table. 

So many things weigh heavily on my heart in these days and yet the words of that song play on and on. 

No guilt in life, no fear in death. 
This is the power of Christ in me.
 From life’s first cry to final breath, 
Jesus commands my destiny.

How can I doubt God’s plans? How can I question His ability to lead and guide us to where is best?  How can I feel guilty for the passion and conviction He has given me to work and serve in this place?
We are so thankful for united hearts at this time and we both firmly believe that God has us here for now.  This Christmas season, I am grasping the Gift of Hope that comes through  He came as a baby…seemingly innocent and weak. But oh the power that lay in that stable! The grave could not keep Him and that is the power of Christ in me. 
No guilt in life, no fear in death.
This is the power of Christ in me.
Those words of Truth are my gift this Christmas season…so timely and profound.  They indeed will set me free. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

For This We Long...

It has been a good morning of Christmas here in M-ville. We all slept in, hung out in p.j.'s, made french toast (with bread made from scratch), bacon and coffee for breakfast, talked to family on Skype, opened presents, etc.

We are now working hard for our Christmas meal celebration with our teammates tonight...more gifts and laughter and good food.  It's been a great day.

I listened to this song again the other day and the words keep rolling around in my head. It isn't a Christmas song but the message really resonates with me these days. I find myself grateful that THIS is the meaning of this season.  The little tiny baby didn't come to be innocent or cute or tiny forever...He came to bring hope and healing to a lost and broken world.

I hope that this Christmas has been one of wonder for you. A wonder that goes beyond lights and cookies and carols, even beyond the manger. I hope and pr.ay that you have been struck by the wonder of the Cross, the Gift that has brought us hope and life.  What joy and peace we have because of Him! In spite of all of the grossness of this world we live in hope that there will be a day of healing and restoration.  I can't wait!  Hope you can't either.

There Will Be A Day: Jeremy Camp

try to hold on to this world with everything I have 
But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that tries to grab 
The many trials that seem to never end, 
His word declares this truth, 
that we will enter in this rest with wonders anew 

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings 
That there will be a place with no more suffering 

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears 
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face 
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always 

I know the journey seems so long 
You feel your walking on your own 
But there has never been a step 
Where you’ve walked out all alone 

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart 
Cause joy and peace he brings 
And the beauty that’s in store 
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting 

I can’t wait until that day where the very one I’ve lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced 
To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery this is why this is why I sing….

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears 
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face 

There will be a day, He’ll wipe away the stains, He’ll wipe away the tears, He’ll wipe away the tears…..there will be a day.

Christmas in Lal 2007

Friday, December 23, 2011

Final Reflections on Little t's Birth

Sorry I am slow in finishing up reflections on Little t's birth...we have had internet issues here...Here are some final reflections I wanted to share.

Two years ago, I held my first child for the first time after a whirlwind labor and delivery.  I had been waiting 8 months for this moment, but still was not ready for the weight and beauty of him being placed on my chest.  There he was, in all of his sticky glory, much much larger than life. 
It blows me away to watch him now and realize how far we have come.  He socialized like a pro with a group of 15 adults tonight; ate chips, danced to Michael Jackson, gave kisses and said goodbye to every single person at the end of the night.  He is such a little man and it makes me smile big. 
He has taught me so much and I am so thankful for that.  So much patience and humility and grace have been lacking in my life. Each day with him I am reminded of how much better/more loving/nicer/gentler I could be…especially if I gained a lot more of that patience and humility and grace. 
I can definitely say that parenting is nothing that I thought it would be.  It is better in so many ways, but has completely destroyed me in others.  Our flexible, adventurous ways have routinely been put on a halt for a child who craves order and consistency and his own bed.  My drive toward perfectionism has been dashed as each day he messes up the norm (I think usually on purpose just to irk me) and makes me put my perfect ideas and plans on hold for what really is…a beautiful mess. 
As I reflect on these two years, there are too many lessons and thoughts to share here, but I wanted to quickly share my reflections from the days after Little t was born…being that it is Christmas and they were so significant to me at the time. I find myself reflecting on them often these days. 
As you read in Little t’s birth story here, here and here, things didn’t exactly go as planned. That was hard for us.  As deliriously happy as we were to have our beautiful boy with us, wrapping our head around reality was a challenge.  Suddenly, we had to come up with baby stuff (all of ours was 13 hours away), we had to deal with the nightmare of hospital billing and insurance, we had to find a place to live, we had to try to get into the Christmas spirit, and not to mention deal with a baby who wasn’t getting the hang of nursing and was slow take a bottle.
10 very stress-filled days spent in the hospital with our baby boy in the nursery wasn’t exactly in my ideal birth story.  I found myself discouraged and defiant and tired (so very tired)….and sad.  I felt like a failure as a mother – I couldn’t figure out to how to nurse the kid and even when I did consent to giving him a bottle he couldn’t take that.  One of the two times that I left the hospital in those 10 days, the nurse called to say that Little t had woken up early and was screaming hungry.  She wanted permission to start his bottle early and then I could try to nurse him when I got there.  I missed the call.  She was not happy, Little t was not happy, I felt awful. 
Every three hours one or both of us would walk down to the nursery to feed Little t. Sometimes at night I would have A.P. go and I would just pump and go back to bed instead of both nursing him and pumping (an ordeal that took about 1 ½ hours…leaving me about an hour to sleep before I woke up to do it again).  We were so tired, but determined to get the kid to eat. Eventually he came around and slowly began to take the bottle and nurse.
In those days I thought a lot about Mary. It was Christmas, after all and that is what you do, right? I found myself relating a lot to her situation.  So alone and clueless. stuck in a strange land, trying to get the hang of this Mom thing.  I found myself identifying with her in that it wasn’t exactly the way I had planned to welcome my first child into the world. I kinda doubt that as she grew up playing house, she role-played getting pregnant out of wedlock (by God, no less) traveling by donkey to some strange land and giving birth without any family around in a stable. Maybe she did have a vivid imagination though… I know that ‘her soul magnifies the Lord’, but part of me has to think that the human part of her wondered what she had gotten herself into.

The more I reflected on this, the more bitter I became about it. I mean, really.  Haven’t I done enough already?  We work where we work and sacrifice a lot to do it.  We love it and find great joy in what we do, but it is still hard.  Shouldn’t I have at least earned a good/easy labor and delivery (I got that) and adjustment into life with this kid?  I was a little irked at God to be honest.  Where was the break I felt I deserved for being a good person, for being someone who serves Him, for being…me. 
As the days passed and I wore a path in the carpet between my hospital room and the nursery, the plight of Mary haunted me all the more.  The more I thought about her, the more God brought the faces of women from this country to mind. A thought began to pester me. 
“Why, T do you think you deserve any better than these women? Why should you get an easy, clean, fancy birth and then skip home with your perfect baby while they struggle to survive and count it a miracle if their children live past a few days?  What makes you so special?”

God deeply broke me in those days as I realized my vulnerability and who I really was.  He spoke to me a lot about walls I had put up around myself. These walls were mental/emotional/psychological and in essence put up to create distance between me and the very women who were my neighbors and potential friends.  He reminded me of times when I had acted better than them…usually without even consciously doing it. 
I began to realize that the beauty of Mary was that she was an ordinary woman and God used her because of that…not in spite of that.  As I sat there in that hospital, at one of the most broken and vulnerable points of my life, God began to speak Truth about my situation. Yes it was hard and frustrating and discouraging, but it also gave me something.
It deepened my story and my experience. The wounds weren’t something to cover up, but to share with others and make efforts to pursue healing together.  God began to help me realize that those days were a gift to me in order to better serve.  I could now cry tears of pain and frustration along-side mothers and know what they were going through.  My tears would no longer be sorrow only felt for them, but sorrow shared with them. For that I became deeply grateful.
And God also used that time to show me hope.  God seemed to say, “take your broken pieces and help others mend. Use this time to not only weep with other women, but help them find healing. Take every tidbit you have learned in late night feedings, with the lactation consultant, in the books you have read and put it into practice for those who can’t do it themselves.”  My deep interest in women’s health and midwifery was opened up to include breastfeeding as well. Obviously, I need a LOT more training and experience to adequately help, but I do what I can and look forward to getting more training in the future. 
I look back on the first few months of Little t’s life and am profoundly grateful for them. They were so painful and vulnerable and intimate. I was humbled deeply and challenged to the core. 

Please don’t read this and hear me saying, “waah, waah, woe is me! My life has been terrible.” I really hope it doesn’t come off as that.  I know that our situation was nothing compared to the pain that others go through.  I sit here fully acknowledging that when I talk about being able to weep with women because I have experienced what they are going through, my experience is miniscule in relation to their hurts and hardships.  Not a day goes by that I am not smacked full in the face by the issues of the poor and suffering around me.  And each day that smack stings with the reality that I will never fully grasp what it is to walk in their shoes.  And honestly, that leaves me speechless, and sad, and thankful. 
The biggest thing I learned is how normal and undeserving I am.  I had never realized how special I thought I was. Like I said, earlier, it was usually unintentional and something I didn’t even cognitively grasp, but my life and actions reeked of selfishness and thinking I deserved better than the next person.  That vulnerable place of having a child (and the situation surrounding that) has taught me so much about putting others first, about what it truly means to serve. 
I am reminded this year of how undeserving I am as I think about the One who gave me the ultimate Gift.  How did I get so lucky? A no one like me…given a beautiful family, an amazing life, health, happiness…and most of all – the gift of Hope.  I guess Love has a lot more to do with it than luck does.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Final Part of Little T's Birth Story

We made it into the delivery room, a really big quiet room and they began to set things up.  I was still hooked to the monitor, laying/sitting in the bed and freezing.  They brought me some warm blankets and I was able to relax a little bit, though my back continued to be uncomfortable.  Once everything was set up, the nurse turned her focus to me again and asked if I was interested in pushing, which I definitely was by that point in time.  
Right around this time another nurse had come in and asked how I was feeling and what my pain level was. I told her it was probably a three or so.  With a slightly disappointed look on her face she said, “oh, so I guess you don’t want an epidural then?”  I laughed and politely told her to go away. A.P. became vigilant after that to remind the nurses that I didn’t want drugs or an episiotomy. It was his third job…after helping me visualize relaxing and getting me water after every contraction.
I now understand what women are talking about when they talk about “learning” how to push and it took me a while to learn that. Thankfully, during this time, the nurse let me try a few different positions. I got on my hands and knees on the bed and that helped relieve the back pressure, especially when moving my hips and doing cat/cow exercises during the contractions. After not too long, however, the nurse told me that she couldn’t get a good heartbeat in that position so I turned back onto my back and back to being uncomfortable.  Once more I tried hands and knees, but she said the same thing. By then I was kicking myself for not brining my fetoscope – thinking that I could have just found the heartbeat myself. 
After a while and some unsuccessful pushes, partnered with an uncomfortable back, A.P. asked the nurse if it would be possible for me to change positions. The nurse suggested I get out of bed and try to squat.  I was very happy that she suggested this and hopped right out. It felt so good to be able to stand and move around between contractions…rocking my hips and doing the hula hoop motion really helped alleviate the back pain.  During contractions, I squatted and leaned forward with my arms on the bed…I went through a few contractions like this, but didn’t feel like I was being very efficient or effective in my pushing.  Looking back on it, I think I would have been more comfortable/effective if I would have leaned back against A.P. as I squatted and pushed…thinking about it now, I realize that the angle I was trying to push was all wrong. Also, the nurse kept telling me she was having a hard time finding the heartbeat.  So, after a few contractions like this I crawled back into the bed. I tried hands and knees again, but once again ended up on my back. 
Sometime during this time when I was pushing the nurses kept asking my why I hadn’t had a group B Strep test.  I explained that I was planning on a low management labor and had chosen to forgo the antibiotics that would have inevitably been given because of that.  Eventually I caved and said they could do the blood test, even though I reminded them that they wouldn’t get the results before the baby was born, so really it was just a formality. Apparently they were all about formalities because they called a lab tech right away. So between contractions…and during contractions actually…a lab tech was drawing blood. I would move a little during a contraction and apologize to her. She would at the same time apologize to me thinking she had caused it. It was quite comical. Thankfully she did a good job! 

The doctor also came in around this time and we met her.  She was the same doctor that Christa, A’s sister had with her kids and recommended.  The nurse made her fingers into a circle about the size of a peach pit and told the doctor and us that she could see that much of the baby’s head.  A while before she had showed us the end of her thumb and said she could see that much.  A.P. got very excited when he looked after that and saw hair – his face came alive and he said “I see our baby and it has hair!”

That was good news to me because I was getting a little antsy. I wasn’t in pain, but was uncomfortable and slightly impatient…which wasn’t a great thing now that I look back on it.  I remember thinking at that point, “maybe it would be quicker and easier to have them just do a C-section…then I could just get it over with.” This impatience caused me to be not smart in my pushing. The delivery nurse from the beginning had been counting off the pushes for me.  So, I would start pushing and she would count to 10…I knew from reading, and watching other women in labor and also from the few pushes that I had tried to ten that it was too long.  Holding a push to the count of 10 was too long for my body to comfortably handle and recover from before another contraction began.  I began counting myself and only going to 5, 6, or 7 counts before I took a break.  I felt like I was able to push better overall like this and it felt “safer” in a way. But when I got impatient, I went with the 10 count pushes, basically to just get it over with. It is a good thing that he was small and I didn’t have to push for longer than that because I wore myself out.  My eyes hurt from pushing (and were later quite bloodshot), as did my whole face (which was red for quite a while after). And after each push, I just felt so exhausted. Also, seeing the huge black bruise on Little t’s forehead where he presented reminded me that I should have been smarter with my pushes. Not only were those long, forceful sustained pushes hard on my body, they were hard on his as well.

I was still drinking water like a crazy woman and A.P. was constantly filling it.  Soon the nurse showed me a tennis ball sized ring with her hand and said she could see that much of the head.  A.P. was getting more and more excited with each push and he continued to do great at helping me through contractions; holding my hand, rubbing my back, helping me visualize with each one.  I didn’t find out until later that at this point he was scared out of his mind. A.P. was convinced that the small tennis-ball sized part of the baby’s head that could be seen was all the bigger his head was and that he was going to be born very small and most likely not alive.  I had no idea of this until after the birth because A.P. did a good job of not showing his fear, but continuing to support me.

Not long after, the doctor was called back in and they began to prep for the birth.  A.P. asked, “how much longer until she is crowing?” The doctor replied, “she is.” This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the labor for me, the amazing amount of pressure that I was feeling because of Little t’s head.  I knew I needed to keep pushing, but each time I pushed, the pressure increased.  The doctor was very good at coaching me through the contractions and A.P. continued to get more excited…though as he explains it, was just very fearful because Little t’s head had molded quite a bit, so still only the small tennis ball/baseball sized part was showing. 

After a few pushes, the doctor told me to stop pushing and just let the contractions do the work.  It was the hardest part of labor for me, to sit there with that incredible amount of pain and pressure and not do anything about it.  I really didn’t want to tear though, so I waited.  Two more contractions and Little t’s head was out. He was looking right at A.P. and A.P.’s eyes were wider than I have ever seen them.  He looked from Little t to the doctor to me and back to Little t.  Meanwhile, I pushed once more and Little t’s body fell out. It was a really strange sensation, after having so much pressure down there for so long, and suddenly it was gone and instead there was a little one on my chest. 

Slimy and sticky and perfectly beautiful, Little t snuggled in and looked at me.  We couldn’t believe it when the doctor said that he was a boy…we had been convinced he was going to be a girl.  He only had one eye open and a head full of hair, and he was so so beautiful. 

As I looked up at A.P., he was weeping and he finally spilled his emotions.  He just kept saying, “I thought he was dead, the part of his head I could see just looked so little and it was so early, I thought he was dead.”  But instead he was perfect. A.P. cut the cord and ran back to my side before the placenta was delivered. A.P. really really doesn’t like placentas! I tried to watch, but couldn’t see anything over the head of my beautiful son.

We hung out for a few minutes, getting to know each other and then they put Little t on the warming table and checked him out.  I encouraged A.P. to go over and stay with him, he took a few pictures with our cell phones (we had forgotten to bring our camera in all of the excitement). Little t was breathing fine and yelling loudly.

The doctor told me that I hadn’t torn and was doing fine…I was so tired, but couldn’t stop smiling.  Little t and A.P. came over to join me on the bed and it was such a sweet time together as a family.

Even though it was early and nothing at all like we had planned, it was still such a special event.  The next two weeks would be very challenging as Little t remained in the NICU and we struggled to know how to care for him, deal with our own emotions, etc. But in spite of all of that, it was such a beautiful time.  Those moments where his little body would sit so perfectly in my arms were incredible.  The middle of the night feedings in the nursery were quiet and special.  It was so exhausting, but then again, seeing that little face would make my heart melt and I realized that I would have done anything for my little boy. 

And just because pictures are fun...Here are a few from that day...

We were both tired and happy that it was over!

Sweet, sticky little thing

First family photo...what a great day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Little t's Birth Story - Part 2

Sorry I am a few days behind...the beginning of the week is always a whirlwind around here.  Here is the second part of Little t's birth story.  This may seem detailed or boring or like too much information for some of you...and that is okay. My intention in writing this out was two-fold: 1) to remember record all of the details of such a special time in our lives and be able to look back on it in the future.  2) as a help or encouragement for others.  I have found it vastly helpful to read other birth stories and learn from them. So, in light of that, I share mine, in detail, in case it can be a help/encouragement to someone else.  So...without further ado...

I quietly slid the door to the bedroom open and as calmly as I could said to A.P., “I need you to wake up so I can talk to you. I need you to stay calm and not freak out, but we do need to talk.” Instantly he jumped out of bed in semi-attack mode…looking around with sleep-crazed eyes.  He said, “What what what? Okay, I am up, I am ready. What is going on?”  I told him once again to calm down and he sat down on the edge of the bed.  He asked why I was sitting on the toilet and I told him that my water had broken and I had started having contractions.  I hadn’t even finished the sentence before he was running to his side of the bed to grab the Bradley Birth Method book that he had been reading.  He opened it as he asked me how far apart my contractions were.  I told him as I groaned through another one.  He looked up, shocked.  He said, “T, those are really close. This can’t be happening yet, I haven’t finished reading the book yet, I’m not fully prepared for this!” I agreed that it was crazy, but that it really was happening. 

He called Barbie, the midwife in Colorado to ask her what she thought…because she will be super-helpful 14 hours away right? But she had said to call her if I went into labor…so really he was just doing his duty.  She was just as surprised as we were, but could tell by my moaning in the background and the contractions that were now 4 minutes apart that we weren’t messing around.  She said she would call back in a few minutes with any help she could give of midwives in the area.  I didn’t put much stock in that idea. 

Meanwhile, A.P. had gone to tell his parents what was going on and get their help.  They discussed hospital options and A.P.’s mom began to call around.  The roads were our biggest issue. Most had not been plowed for two days and it had snowed all night with strong winds. There was a small hospital about 20 minutes away…but the roads were iffy. The bigger hospital, an hour away, seemed like a better bet…but again, the roads were iffy – the interstate had been closed for two days.  Given the condition of the roads, how far we were from the hospital, and the fact that I was beginning to feel like I wanted to bear down with contractions, I knew it was good to leave sooner than later…wherever we were headed.  Even when Barbie called back a few minutes later and suggested that she had found a midwife for us, I realized that I was already okay with the idea of going to the hospital.  That was probably good seeing as the midwife lived about 6 hours away…on good roads. 

Earlier, before I had woken A.P. up I had gone through a time of not really believing that this was happening and even saying that to myself.  I guess that was the denial stage of my labor and I realized quickly that I needed to get over that and release the idea that it wasn’t going as planned and just go with it – work with the contractions, not against them.  At that point, I don’t feel like I was struggling against the contractions, but working with them and embracing them as they came. 

A.P. was in and out of the bathroom of the camper with me.   He called his friend Kourt who is a sheriff to check on the roads.  Kourt’s wife Nikki is a nurse, so A.P. asked Kourt about her knowledge of where we should go given the fact that I was early.  His mom began to call around too. Kourt was working on getting plows on the road. A.P.’s dad was working on getting the truck warm and ready to go. A.P. was getting a bag thrown together to take with us (the bag I had ashamedly teased my friend Nikki only days before about). I was working through contractions and beginning to feel like I had to tell myself not pay attention to the pressure that I would have been easily tempted to push into.  I did much better when A.P. was there to help me through the contractions. He would let me lean up against him and would talk me through them. I found that moaning during the contractions helped me focus on getting through them.  They weren’t horribly painful, just strong and uncomfortable. In between contractions, we worked on packing the bag together, I would talk with him about what we needed and he would find it and put it in the bag. 

At one point A.P. commented that the bag was ready and it kind of hit both of us at the same time that we hadn’t packed anything for the baby…and that we didn’t have a lot to pack for the baby!  We have had some very generous friends and family members who have given us a great start of baby clothes and we had a whole bag of clothes for a newborn…in Wyoming at my parents house. I told A.P. where I had stashed the bag of clothes for 3-6 month old babies and he got it and brought it to me.  As I went through it, I was struck by the realization that we really were going to have a baby that night…it was actually happening.  I got out some warm clothes as I laughed at how huge they were and decided they would have to do. 
I had been sitting on the toilet the whole time, mainly because of the crazy amount of water I was leaking.  We had decided to not move me into A.P.’s parents house. Although a few minutes before I had gone through a phase where I decided we were delivering the baby at home. I had begun to picture it taking place in the bathroom in there and was okay with that.  I later found out that A.P.’s mom had started boiling water to get ready for the homebirth as well! A.P. asked if I wanted to lay down on the bed in the camper and I considered it, but didn’t feel the urgent need to move.  I was out of sight of people coming in and out of the camper, but even if they would have been able to see me, I would have cared less.  I was in “work mode” I guess.  Becky came in and talked to me for a minute too and I am pretty sure I was all business, very focused on contractions.  
Eventually we decided that we needed to go to Ames, the town an hour away.  Iowa Falls wouldn’t take me because I wasn’t 36 weeks and though I was a little afraid we wouldn’t make it there in time, I felt better about going to Ames.  So, as soon as the decision was made we began to move into action.

Kourt showed up and Tim brought the truck up and they loaded the bag into it.  I changed my pants and tried to figure out how to not keep my water from completely soaking everything (I quickly soaked through everything I put on when I stood up, but realized that it was just going to have to be that way.)  As we were walking out of the camper I spotted Chance (the bear that A.P. had given me) and asked A.P. to get him for me…for some reason, I just wanted to have him to hang onto. I made it to the truck door before I had another contraction, so I had to stop there at the edge of the truck to have the contraction before I could climb in.  I remember seeing Kourt and I tried to smile, but was busy having a contraction.  Becky asked me right after the contraction, “do you think you will be able to make it 45 minutes to the hospital?”  All I could reply was, “I hope so.” And that is really how I felt – I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but didn’t see that we had much of a choice. 
So, I climbed into the truck, making a note as I did that I was glad I had bought two more shower curtains at the dollar store that weekend, “just in case”. I crawled in and got situated with the quilt from my Mom around me.  I drank some water and realized again how thirsty I was (had been drinking a ton of water since I had gotten up and couldn’t get enough – basically between every contraction). We took off down the road, A.P. in the middle, Tim driving, me in the passenger seat. I remember thinking it was funny at one point that Tim was going with us and realized that I had just expected us to go by ourselves…but decided it was good that he was with us. 
Kourt was in front of us with his lights flashing and the roads were pretty decent.  A.P. kept talking me through contractions – I had a lot of pain in my lower back and though I was somewhat crampy during them, it was more a matter of just being uncomfortable.  I tried to get as comfortable as I could in the truck and A.P. was doing a great job of coaching my through contractions.  With each one he would say, “okay, now picture yourself with me on the beach in Puerto Galera (one of our favorite beach destinations in the Philippines), the air is warm, the water is perfect, we can just float on the water and don’t have to worry about a thing. Just relax your whole body and float with me.” If there was a part of my body that he could tell was tense he would point it out to me and tell me to relax it, like if I started gripping his hand hard, etc. It really did help me be able to relax through the contractions.
Kourt took us to the interstate and then we were on our own.  The roads weren’t bad, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them.  I remember A.P. telling me that his mom had called Sherry E and asked her to be praying. She had also called my parents and I remember being glad that someone had thought of that.  Though I knew that I was very definitely in labor and quite far along, it still would hit me at certain points along the ride that we were actually doing this, and that we would be meeting our baby sooner than later.  Like when I heard A.P. say that he would call after the baby was born.  It struck me that it was really happening. 
The trip down went fine, going from one contraction to the next.  Tim did a great job of driving though I wasn’t really paying attention.  I do remember focusing really hard on one contraction and then kind of “coming out of it” and refocusing on the world around me and was a little overwhelmed to be in the truck and on the interstate.  I also tried to not pay attention to where we were because I thought the trip would go faster if I didn’t. 
Eventually we pulled off the interstate and into town.  When we arrived at the emergency entrance of the hospital, Tim opened the door and helped me out. I had to stand there by the side of the truck to have a contraction and then started walking toward the entrance.  Inside the first set of doors, I leaned against the wall through another contraction.  Tim was beside me and asked if I needed a stretcher.  I remember thinking that was a stupid question and thinking that I was fine and would walk through the hospital.  The nurse came up then and A.P. or Tim said, “Hi, we are having a baby.” The nurse replied, “I see that, why don’t we get you a wheelchair.” I said (in the middle of a contraction, leaning against the door with my head on the glass) “No thanks, I’m fine. I don’t need a wheelchair, I will just walk.” And I really thought I was!  Later on the way through the hospital to the elevator, up to the 4th floor and to the Labor and Delivery wing, I realized that it would have taken me a while to get up there…I am still convinced I could have done it, but it would have taken a while!

When we arrived on the 4th floor there was a nurse waiting for us. She took us into an observation room, saying that she had heard from Becky and they had been expecting us. She asked how my contractions were, when they had started, when my last period was and my EDD.  The questions continued and A.P. encouraged her to wait for the records to come from Barbie instead of making us answer all of the questions right then.  She agreed and brought in a gown for me to put on (I remember inwardly groaning because it was the last thing I wanted to wear, but then realized that I was shivering in my sweats that were soaked through and it probably wasn’t possible for me wear my down coat all through the labor). As I was changing and working through another contraction, the nurse tried to come back into the room without knocking (the room was directly in front of the main hallway/nurse’s station and the door swung wide gave anyone out there a great view of me) but A.P. quickly stuck his foot out to stop the door and told her that she needed to give us a few minutes.  We talked for a few minutes and regrouped emotionally, remembering that this was our labor and birth and they were there to work for us and there was nothing wrong with making our intentions known.

Looking back, I am so thankful to have had A.P. there through everything – he was really good at stating clearly and consistently important things that at the time didn’t seem that important to me (no episiotomy, no drugs, baby right with us, etc.) but really were very important. I was just so focused on working through contractions that I wasn’t able to voice my desires strongly.
After I was dressed and we were ready, A.P. let the nurse back in the room.  She came in and hooked me up to the monitor to listen to the baby and she also took my vitals. It was challenging and frustrating and exhausting to try to explain time and time again who we were, why we had showed up on that cold night, why we didn’t have records, etc.  This was just the first time of many in the next few days that we would have to explain our “awkward” situation to people. 

After this and asking me numerous questions she decided to check how far along I was. By this time, I was really having to focus to not bear down with most contractions and had assumed not long after I had woken up and my water had broken that I had gone through the transition phase (got neasaus, got cold and shaky, was having self doubt and went into being very serious and focused about the whole thing). I was sure I was pretty far along. The nurse checked and without saying anything to us, opened the door and said to the other nurses, “we are moving right now”.  A.P. asked how far along I was and she replied that I was fully dialated (it was probably 4 am at this time).  He looked completely shocked and then really excited. 

As we went down the hallway, we passed Tim (A.P.’s dad) in the hallway. When we saw him, A.P. threw his arms up in the air (like he was crossing the finish line in a race) and shouted “she’s complete!” I think this might be my favorite part of the labor for a few reasons  - because it is really funny and still makes me smile. Me being fully dilated really meant something to A.P. (meaning he knew what that meant and it showed me how much he was a part of this process, how interested he was and how much he had invested in learning about it so he could best help me). I also laugh because I am not sure he realized how much work there was still to do after that “milestone” was reached and I’m sure the nurses were probably thinking, “don’t get too exited yet buddy, the work is just beginning.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Honor of Little t...

Tomorrow is my son's 2nd birthday.  How in the world did that happen?!? WHERE IN THE WORLD have the last two years gone?



In his honor I will be writing several posts about him, because be honest, that is what you all really like to read about!

Tonight I will share the first part of his birth story...because I wrote it and then ever shared it with the world...and feel (for some strange reason) like I should do that.  It is kind of long (isn't everything I write?) so I have broken it up into parts and will share them over the next few days.

So, part one...

P.S. I have changed my hubby's 'name' from A to A.P. because I feel like A is confusing sometimes, especially at the beginning of a sentence.

As I was saying...part one...

I would love to do a study of women who have had babies to find the percentage of women who have actually experienced the birth they wanted/planned on having.  I bet it is a small percentage because so often you hear someone say, “it didn’t go at all like I had planned.”  I would not be in that small percentage either because the birth story of my firstborn was far from my dreams and plans. 
I so wanted a homebirth with a midwife…quiet, relaxed, not stuffy, not medical.  Because Iowa greatly discourages midwives from working outside hospitals (as in, it’s illegal), and because we live in the middle of nowhere, I had zero luck finding someone to help me fulfill that dream.  I had heard decent things about the hospitals in the area, but couldn’t shake the homebirth dream.  My parents live in Wyoming, another state that has its reservations about this practice, so even though I got in touch with a few women, I couldn’t nail anything down.  Because my parents are close to Colorado, we decided to see if we could find a midwife there that we liked and make something work. 

We found a midwife named Barbie that we really liked. Now, remember, all of our correspondence until I was 29 weeks was via e-mail because we were living in rural Lal, so that was another challenging piece of the puzzle.  So, we corresponded with Barbie and looked forward to meeting her upon our arrival back in the States.  We did meet with her and hit it off right away.  She also informed us of a couple she knew in the area who had a small apartment that they rented out to overseas workers like ourselves. They were open to the homebirth happening there and we were ecstatic to hear that.  The place was beautiful. Situated in a gorgeous part of Loveland, (one of my favorite cities), it was a beautiful little house that was peaceful and had plenty of room for us, the baby, and my mom who was going to come stay for the birth.  We were on cloud nine. 
For the next few weeks we went back and forth between Wyoming/Colorado and Iowa to spend time with family, visit the midwife and A.P. to work a little bit.  A.P.’s parents had graciously offered to set up their r.v. trailer in their driveway, so we could live in there and have some space to ourselves.  A and his grandpa worked on winterizing it and it was cozy inside.  We were all healthy and happy.  Thanksgiving was spent with A.P.’s family and was a big party.  I felt great and spent a lot of time with A.P.’s family as well as exercising every day. One day, not too long before I went into labor, I walked the section by A.P.’s house.  I stopped halfway at his sister’s house to say hello. It was cold and windy, but I kept going, despite her offer to drive me home.  I was quite tired by the time I had arrived back home and slightly disappointed with myself that it had taken me an hour and 15 minutes to walk the (what I thought was) 2 miles.  I was feeling very fat and slow and frustrated…until I expressed my concern to A.P. about my deteriorating fitness.  He enlightened me with the fact that the section was actually 6 miles…not two.  I didn’t feel so bad then…but also did not tackle the walk around the section again!
We decided to leave for Wyoming 5 weeks before my due date…we would spend Christmas with my family, and then settle down in our little cabin waiting for the baby. We knew that if we made it to Wyoming, we were still close enough that we could make it down there at short notice if we needed to. But really, who has their first baby early anyway, right?

The weekend before we were scheduled to leave for Wyoming (6 weeks before my due date) we went up to visit friends in Minneapolis.  We have a yearly tradition of going to the Holidazzle parade in downtown Minneapolis and we were so excited about it.  On the way to the Cities, I noticed that my back was a little crampy and that my stomach was hardening every 15 minutes or so, but I didn’t think anything about it.  I just wrote it off as Braxton Hicks contractions and went on with my day.  I asked friends in the Cities about it and they didn’t seem too alarmed. It continued off and on the entire time we were there and I read a little about it, but tried not to stress.  We went to a birthday party, saw lots of college friends, enjoyed the Holidazzle and shopping.  I was tired the whole time, but kept going…cause you only live once, right?  My best friend kept telling me that I should really start getting caught up on rest because once the baby comes, you don’t get any.  I joked that I had plenty of time to sleep before the baby came.  Another friend, due a week before me, was the brunt of my teasing about already having her hospital bags packed. 

We made it back to Iowa and I was tired.  Our niece and nephew had their Christmas program at school the next night and we went.  I wasn’t feeling great, but didn’t want to miss it.  We had the family over for brownies and ice cream after that as a goodbye to A.P.’s Grandma and Grandpa who were leaving for a winter in Texas the next day.  Someone joked about them not being able to go because a storm was coming.

The next day we woke up to lots of snow and school had been cancelled for the kiddos.  A.P.’s sister invited us over for the day to hang out and play games, etc and then spend the night. We went and had a great time. The next morning, we woke up to even more snow and bad conditions (it blows and drifts really bad in Iowa). Grandma and Grandpa were stuck…and so were we.  The roads were completely closed and we weren’t going anywhere.  This was fine for a while, but I started to get antsy. I had a lot to do before our trip to Wyoming and it was all sitting in our little camper home a mile away while I sat around and played games.  The afternoon wore on and I got more tired and more grumpy. Suddenly, the house was too loud and crowded and I needed a break. I went to take a nap, but didn’t really sleep, just daydreamed about the baby that kicked around in my belly. 
A.P. woke me up and said that his parents were on the phone.  His dad could come over with the loader to get us out if we wanted. If not, another storm was coming and we would be stuck for another night.  He asked what I wanted to do. The kids stood at the foot of the bed, begging us to stay and have another sleepover.  I just had this overwhelming desire to go home and I told A.P. that. The kids weren’t happy, but at that moment, I didn’t care.  By the time I got our stuff gathered, the loader was there and we made our way back home. 
We had supper with A.P.’s parents and after watching a little t.v. I went to bed early.  I slept well until about 2 am when I woke up with the urge to go to the bathroom. I rolled my pregnant belly over and stood up. One step toward the toilet (it was three steps away) and I felt a gush of water.  I quickly turned on the light and shut the door so I wouldn’t wake A.P. up.  As I saw down on the toilet, I realized my pants were soaked and I could see a little blood.  My mind was quickly spinning as I tried to wake myself up enough to grasp what in the world was going on.  The water kept gushing and all of the sudden my stomach didn’t feel great. A few seconds later, a deep cramp started in my stomach and I felt it go rock hard.  I sat there gripping the sink and the roll of toilet paper as I tried not to throw up.  I looked at my watch a few minutes later, as another contraction came – 6 minutes…crap. I couldn’t believe that this was happening…but couldn’t deny it either and knew that I needed to get in gear.