Friday, July 10, 2015

Welcoming Cora: A Home Birth Story

Lately I've been a little out of sorts – sleepy, foggy brain, worn out, and pretty much just tied up in one job, unable to do much else except try to remember when I'm going to feel normal again. But it's all for a good reason. Our third child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl, entered the world on June 25.

This pregnancy was by far the hardest and weirdest of all of them. My morning sickness lasted well into the second trimester, despite my continued expectations for it to end 'any day now', and my energy level was awful the entire time. I developed pregnancy ailments that I didn't even know were related to pregnancy, such as nosebleeds, drooling like a Saint Bernard in my sleep, and all-night snoring that often led my poor husband to seek refuge on the couch. Add to those the typical pregnancy issues like acid reflux and fatigue, and you can sure bet I was beyond ready to have this baby by the end. But, of course, I did things backwards, and my pregnancies have gotten longer each time instead of shorter, so this little girl decided to stay safe and cozy inside Mommy until five days past my due date.

She was worth it. Cora Ivy was born at 9:47 a.m. on a Thursday after a 6-hour active labor and what felt like weeks of early labor. I had been having so many Braxton Hicks contractions for so long that I joked with Clint that I wouldn't notice when I finally went into real labor and the baby would eventually just fall out one day. Ha! Would be nice if it actually worked that way...

I felt strange the whole day before she was born. The contractions seemed stronger and even more frequent, but I had given up on this baby ever actually coming out of me. I felt as though the big event was close, but I didn't want to get my hopes up like I had so many times before. I had fitful sleep all night until around 3:30 a.m, when I realized that I kept waking up in pain. I finally got up and walked around for a while, timing the contractions with an app on my phone like I had so many other times before. They were definitely closer together, but still not very regular - 6 minutes, 2 minutes, 8 minutes, 4 minutes. This labor was so unlike my last, but these contractions definitely felt 'different', so I knew it was (finally) the real thing.

I called my midwife and woke up Clint around 5:00 a.m. He started getting the birth pool set up while I walked around and nervously timed contractions, wondering if I'd waited too long to call the midwife since some of the contractions were so close together. I felt much better once she arrived, and my mother-in-law arrived soon after to pick up the kids. Poor Hannah teared up a little as she hugged me before they left, but we reassured her that she would have a new baby sister soon and it would all be worth it. I would continue to tell myself the same thing throughout the morning.

They left around 7:00 a.m, and it took a while longer for the birth pool to get filled, but once it did I settled into the warm water, Clint put some Josh Garrels on the stereo, and for a while it really was like taking a relaxing bath in my dining room. I used the same method I had used in my last labor – breathing through the contractions and picturing in my mind my favorite photographs of my kids. It helped me to take the focus off of what my body was doing and instead focus on the reward at the end.

At some point though it started getting much harder, as labor tends to do. As the pain got more intense, the water began feeling much hotter, probably just because I was having to work harder, and my midwife and Clint took turns giving me sips of ice water and putting a cool washcloth on my forehead. I remember wondering how in the world this pool could stay so hot, and I sat up out of the water occasionally to cool off – in between contractions, of course.

I've seen many water birth videos, and most of the time, it seems women prefer to squat or rest their arms on the side of the tub. That DID NOT work for me. Gravity made things horribly painful. What worked for me was actually lying back in the pool with my hips lifted up. I let my legs just float in the water, and it seemed to take away some of the pressure I was feeling. Clint held me up with one arm, and I gripped his hand with the other as I focused on the music and thoughts of my kids.

I can't recall which song Cora entered the world to, as I was rather distracted (and in lots of pain) at that point, but the song that I remember hearing most clearly during labor is called 'Morning Light'. I was facing our back patio glass doors where I could see our backyard bathed in sunlight, and I was struck by the relevance of the lyrics.

And also -

But every good gift comes down from above
From the Lord of light like a labor of love
Upon the child who waits for Him."

I would recommend to anyone in labor to have some soothing music playing. I didn't have that in my other labors, and it truly helped me to keep calm and maintain a relaxed atmosphere, in spite of all the intensity involved in delivering a baby.

When it came time to push, I remember thinking it seemed more painful than my last labor. At the time I had no idea she would end up being as big as she was. My midwives (the second one arrived at some point during transition) remarked that my water still hadn't broken yet, and soon after, there came the baby's head, still in the sac! I heard the midwives comment on it, and I remembered having read about babies born that way and how rare it was. Cora was born “in the caul” - still completely enclosed in her amniotic sac. I wish we had been able to get a picture, but the four of us were all pretty busy!

After they laid her on my chest, one of them commented that she was big and had to definitely be over nine pounds. I think I said something like, “Really? No way!” because I had never had a big baby before. Hannah was just under seven pounds and Abram was just under eight. Sure enough, once we moved into the bedroom and some of my family arrived, my midwife weighed Cora and announced to us all that she was 9 lbs 12 oz! I was in complete shock.

Nothing was as to be expected with this pregnancy, which just serves to remind me once again that life rarely meets expectations. Cora is also a typical newborn who doesn't meet expectations and eats more and sleeps less than her parents would prefer, but that just brings me back to the song lyrics of her labor – joy comes in the morning, and it's gonna be alright.

Hannah and Abram adore their baby sister, and although I admit that I am anxious for the time when she is a little older and they can enjoy interacting with her more, I am trying to soak up these baby days and remember how quickly they go by. Before we know what hit us, we'll have three big kids. For now we'll keep cuddling this tiny (though bigger than expected) little girl.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Sea Could Bring You A Sail

Changes are a comin'. Lately I've been thinking about one of my favorite scenes from the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks' character returns home and is talking to a friend about how he stayed alive on the island. He says, “And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” So much great insight to take away from that movie, and you know a film is good when it holds your attention despite only having one actor throughout most of it and when it makes you cry over a volleyball floating away (Yes, I admit, I mourned Wilson, okay? I had imaginary friends as a kid. Give me a break.), but the reason I was reminded of that particular scene is because I've been focusing quite a bit on the future.

I'd forgotten how hard it is to feel so tired all the time. I'm thankful we got to take a beach vacation this year because I needed the rest. Oh, how I envy those women who consistently work out and have plenty of energy throughout their entire pregnancies. All three times I have had grand plans of doing just that, and all three times I've had to laugh at myself when I have to go sit down after climbing a flight of stairs. I'm still getting stuff done, just not at the pace I'm used to. I'm being forced to remember that slowing down isn't a bad thing. It's making me see what's right in front of me and letting me know that it will be gone tomorrow. 

It's more than just the fact that we have a third child on the way, though that's definitely enough to get a person thinking about how things are about to change...A LOT. It's that life is always changing. The slowing down has at least allowed me to notice how much the little ones I already have are morphing.
 They are maturing.

I offered to get Hannah her cereal one morning:
No, thanks. I like to get it because it makes me feel like a big girl.”
She paused and looked at me shyly. “But thank you for serving. I don't want you to feel like I don't want you to get it anymore.”

How did she know? Does she sense how hard it is for mommies to let go sometimes? Does she also see how happy and proud I am to see her growing up, even though I want to keep her little for as long as I can?

She's my big girl, bigger every day.

They are learning.

Abram has been interested in rhyming words lately. “Mommy, what rhymes with zag? Jag?” “Yes.” “Does bag?” “Yes.” “Does Jean-Luc?”

(No, and perhaps we should find Daddy something else to watch on Netflix besides Star Trek...)

They are both learning so much every day, and I love seeing the world through their eyes. Do they know how much they also teach me?

They are growing up. They are loving each other. We're building this life one day at a time.

Hannah will start school in the fall. Abram will be a big brother soon. I'll (hopefully) get some energy back, but my hair will keep graying, our kids will keep growing, this life will keep spinning, and as long as we're on this earth, nothing remains the same.

Uncharted territory lies before us - that's what all of life is. I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I gotta keep breathing. Today only lasts one day. Tomorrow the tide could bring something that changes my course forever.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Out Of Hibernation

I've wanted to write something. I've tried to gather my swirling thoughts into something coherent for a while now, so I could just have something, anything, to write – because it's like therapy for me – but I've been stuck in a weird place for quite some time.

Weight Of The World
Aside from giving birth again in a few months, all I've been able to think about, for the most part, is the state of the world we're living in. I go back and forth between wanting to write about current events to raise awareness about issues that are important to me and wanting to go hide in a hole somewhere so I don't have to think about any of it anymore. The latter part has been winning lately, and I often wonder if it will be what wins in the long run. Same goes for spiritual or personal topics or anything else I can think of to write about. The introvert in me is currently full force, and I'm having trouble deciding if I should fight it or not.

My kids are doing and saying the funniest things right now, and I can't even bring myself to write a fun, lighthearted post about them. I feel too bogged down by the weight of it all. But as I find myself writing this, I also find myself thinking that there have to be many others who are experiencing the same weight, the same burdens in this fallen world that humanity forces us to face. So I'm just putting it out there in case someone like me needs the reassurance that there's someone else like them out there - “Me too...I feel it too.”

Surely, we all feel it, though we may each experience it a little differently.

I have a picture of that stupid dress on my phone. You know the one – the infamous photo of a white and gold dress that's (supposedly) actually black and blue, though I'll just have to take everyone's word for it, because for the life of me, no matter how many directions in which I twist my phone or how many times I play around with the brightness, I can only see white and gold. Every time I look at the darn thing, I get so irritated that I can't see the colors for what they truly are. I don't like when my eyes won't let me see the truth. Do you see where I'm going with this?

(I'm honestly over the whole dress debacle, but it makes for a nice metaphor here.)

I wish I could see the big picture. I mean, I suppose that I can sometimes, but I guess I wish I could always see it. I recently looked back over those posts about scripture that I wrote several months ago, and I sort of thought something along the lines of, hey, there's some good insight here...who wrote this? Cause right now, it doesn't feel like it was me. I'm hoping I've just been frozen for a while and am about to experience a thaw. It is spring, after all. Finally.

How To Get Out Of A Funk
At least my children have helped me get through this season. They are so great about keeping me from getting frozen too solid. We've had cuddles and milestones and firsts like lost teeth and dance parties in the living room with Daddy and hilarious dialogue, so why in the world do I ever let life stress me out?

Somehow I always end up going back to that C.S. Lewis quote I have on the About page of this blog. I can't keep my heart to myself. It just isn't what we're meant to do. So I'm sharing it with you and hoping you'll share yours too.

It is spring, and I feel the thaw coming.

Loving Life After Winter

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nipples And Boobies - Oh, My!

Why are we still having debates about public breastfeeding?

No, really – why?

You would think that a culture that considers itself as enlightened as ours does would have figured it out by now, but no, the ugly commentary about the 'crazy exhibitionists' continues. I still see people saying that mothers nursing their babies in public is 'vile and disgusting'. I've stayed out of it for as long as possible because I honestly don't think there is anything I can say to change people's minds on the topic, but perhaps I can just provide some insight into why I feel the way I do.

Breastfeeding did not come easily to me. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read the standard literature about it and wondered why there was so much written on the topic. Isn't this something I should just know how to do? I thought. I didn't understand why it was necessary to read about seventeen different nursing positions, how to achieve a proper latch (don't you just stick the baby up there and let him/her do all the work?), and all the other intricate workings of feeding your baby from your breast.

Then when I had my daughter, I found out just how difficult it really could be. It took weeks for us to develop a proper latch, so she and I were both often frustrated to the point of tears. I had an oversupply, and I developed mastitis. She wanted to nurse constantly, and I leaked all the time. I did not want to give up because I knew it was best for her, but it was hard. I realized that all the reading I had done had not even remotely prepared me for how challenging this would be.

It got better as months went on, but I wondered how I would ever be able to do it discretely in public. Although I used a nursing cover, she hated being covered up and would flail wildly whenever I tried to latch her on underneath the cover, and my letdown was so quick that she would often pull away in the middle of it, leaving me squirting milk all over her while I tried to juggle her and the cover and my erupting breast all at once.

It was a mess.

So I can't possibly express how glad I was that I stuck with it and was able to continue nursing her. You would think that after dealing with all of that, I would have no problem nursing her in public even if she did fling the cover off and, God forbid, someone caught a glimpse of a boob slip. But when we were out and about, I almost always ended up in the car, hot and cramped and missing out on things for fear that some judgy stranger would gawk at me.

Now, not everyone struggles the way I did. I first met a good friend of mine right after we each had our second child. She came over to our house, and I was excited to learn that she too was breastfeeding. I wouldn't have to feel so awkward about struggling to latch my son – we could struggle together! So when it came time for my son to eat, I didn't feel too embarrassed as I wrapped the cover around my neck, situated the Boppy pillow, heaved my bowling-ball sized breast out of my tank top, and tried several times to slide my nipple into his mouth just right before I eventually got him latched on.

Not long after, my friend's son was ready to nurse. I watched in awe as she threw a blanket over her shoulder, popped him on, and kept right on talking. That was it. Easy breezy.

Man, I was jealous.

So what it boils down to is not all of our experiences are the same. It isn't as simple as 'just cover up'. I know that seems to be the easy solution, but it isn't that easy for everyone. There isn't a 'right way' to nurse your baby. It isn't about making sure everyone else around you is comfortable; it's about making sure the baby is comfortable and nourished and loved. A nursing baby isn't something to gawk at or feel weird about. I understand that many people are not familiar with breastfeeding and may be a little uncomfortable around it, so I do choose to use a cover to try to prevent awkwardness, but I certainly shouldn't be required to do so. And if the baby gets too hot or sweaty, and I choose to take the cover off, that doesn't make me an exhibitionist. It doesn't make me someone who enjoys people looking at my baby-attached breast. It makes me a good mother who puts her baby's needs first.

Last year I attended a ladies' class at a conference, and there were several young mothers with babies in the room. All of them were breastfeeding with covers. The speaker, who frequently travels on mission trips to India, commented on how much she loved having all the mothers and babies in the room and how it made her feel right at home. “When we have our classes in India,” she said, “there are boobs everywhere.”

And that's how it is in so many other cultures – no one even bats an eye at breastfeeding babies. How amazing would it be if our culture valued motherhood and womanhood in the same way? If instead of mainstream being the normalcy of pornography on the big screen, it was the normalcy of mothers using breasts for their intended function?

I think that modesty is always a good approach to take, but I don't see how it relates to breastfeeding. Not in a culture where we see so many Victoria's Secret billboards. Not in a culture where it's too easy, at the click of a mouse, to watch strangers having sex in the privacy of our own homes. Not in a culture where our children are constantly subjected to not-so-subtle sexual content on cable television.

And you're worried about breastfeeding?

Perhaps one of the most telling examples I can give you of how far off base our culture has become is a thread I recently read on a Babycenter forum. A mother was concerned because she had found out her 14-year-old son had been looking at porn on his computer. I know nothing should surprise me anymore, but I was still appalled to read through the comments and see what the majority of posters were advising. Just open an account for him, they said. He's going to look at it anyway – at least you'll know what he's looking at. Better for him to do that than act out his sexual frustration in other ways.

We live in a society that tells our sons it's okay to objectify women, but it's gross to see them mothering their children. A society that robs our children of their innocence and then wonders why they can't have functioning relationships. A society that tells them everything under the sun is okay as long as it makes them feel good, unless it's pure or moral or loving.

And you're worried about breastfeeding.

So that's where I'm at – I find myself in a place of such disbelief that my kids are more likely to encounter immorality online than nurturing in public. Why? Because too many people think breastfeeding is weird? And you're only supposed to do your 'weird' stuff when no one's looking?

By creating a problem where one doesn't exist, we're ignoring the real problem.

Considering all the unfortunate aspects of life my kids could be exposed to, I can only hope that they will get to see lots of breastfeeding, that they will know what nurturing is. I hope I will have plenty of opportunities to show them examples of wholesome love and tell them, “This is life. This is how you live.” God knows those examples are hard to find.