Monday, November 24, 2014

Welcome, Baby Number Five! (Birth Story Time!)


It's that wonderful time of year - birth story time! Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the arrival of our fifth little one!


The Pregnancy:

This has been an amazing pregnancy - beyond anything that I could have ever imagined. By the grace of God, I have been drug-free and non-hyperemetic, which is more than I ever dreamed was possible. It's been challenging with constant nausea, but staying out of hyperemesis has been an answer to prayer. (I'll be posting the big summary post about that very soon - look for it!)

And now for our birth story!


The Prologue:

You'd think that by now I would be over it, but I'm afraid not.

As the end of each pregnancy draws near, I am inevitably haunted by the same thing - an intense fear of childbirth. Most women seem to be able to work through this fear so that they're able to get into the mindset of, "I can't wait to go into labor so that I can meet my baby!" I, on the other hand, inevitably stall before that point - "Hmm. I'd like to meet this baby, but that would mean... childbirth. So, um, thanks, but I think I'll just stay pregnant forever."

Thankfully biology doesn't wait for me to be ready, or else we'd still be awaiting the birth of our second child. But it is an emotional challenge each time.

Several months ago, I was drawn to II Corinthians 4:17-18, and that has been my memory verse ever since. Here it is in a newer translation:
"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."
Though the original context is talking about the Christian life as a whole, it is very applicable to childbirth - the attempt to keep one's mind fixed on the end goal (a precious baby whose soul will live forever) rather than present troubles (childbirth!).

I can't say that I ever moved into the realm of, "Yay, childbirth!" - but I did gain some measure of peace as our due date approached.

Leading a field trip about three days before D-Day. 

The Birth Story: 

A week or two ago, I got it into my head that baby's birth-date would be Wednesday, November 19th. While I knew that it was silly to count on something like that, I did have it as mental background noise.

Thus, when I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, November 11th with classic pre-labor symptoms - blood-tinged cervical fluid and an upset stomach - I was a bit shocked. More than a week earlier than I had expected! I had to make some fast mental adjustments - today was going to be the day.

We did school lessons as usual, and continued with our normal schedule. At 2:00 p.m. I tried to take a nap, but as soon as I laid down, contractions became painful enough to keep me from sleeping. Eventually I gave up and got up.

In the late afternoon, things were a bit crazy. Contractions were getting more painful, but we had a ton left to do for the day, so we did our best to crank through our to-do list in a hurry. DH ran errands (library, shops, etc.) and I made an early dinner (pancakes!), and then we rushed the children into the bath to get things settled for the night as quickly as we could.

This was the first time I'd ever had to deal with ordinary life (children, schedules, meals, etc.) while in labor. Previously, my labors had all (except the first, when I had no other children to care for) been in the middle of the night, so I'd always had the freedom to labor without dealing with piles of "to-do" items. This was quite a switch!

Our midwife had a postpartum visit to make in our area, so she asked it she could stop by to set up her kit and check on me. We were very glad to see her - but as soon as she arrived (at about 7:30 p.m.), my contractions nearly stopped. (Embarrassing.) She's used to "performance anxiety," though, so she opted to stick around and wait to see how things would go. Eventually, we made the decision to let everyone try to go to sleep (our midwife camped out on the couch) and see how things would go from there.

It was a difficult night for everyone. The five-year-old (our baby with special needs) decided to get up in the wee hours and throw a two-hour party in his crib. The two-year-old was upset at being out of his normal crib (he's still in our room) and woke several times crying. It wasn't a particularly restful night for anyone.

I, of course, didn't go to sleep at all! I stayed in the bedroom, just laboring in the dark. In some ways, it was rather nice. I like laboring alone.

But in other ways, I was starting to get seriously confused.

In the past, my labors have always been strictly linear. That is, whether they were slow or fast, they always moved in the predictable labor curve of contractions that get more intense and closer together until the baby is born.

This labor was not behaving in that way at all. Some of the contractions were nasty, but some were not. And the timing was all over the place - anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart. Sometimes they would get me up out of bed, where I would try to labor on the toilet or in a semi-kneeling position for a while - and then I'd get tired, go back to bed, and the contractions would space out while I drowsed for a bit. Then I'd get up and do it all over again.

As time went on, contractions got more intense, sometimes requiring vocalization, but the puzzling non-linear pattern continued.

Additionally, I was really, really tired. I hadn't slept since the night before, and my main desire was not to have a baby but to go to sleep.

Every few hours, our midwife would pop in to check on me and ask if I needed her. Each time, my answer was a confused, "Um... I don't know." It just wasn't clear either way.

Around 5:30 a.m., contractions were intense enough that I thought I'd better have our midwife call out the rest of the birth team so that they wouldn't miss the birth. And then...

I fell asleep.

Completely and entirely. Labor stopped, and I was out cold until sometime shortly after 7:00 a.m., when I awoke to found the world in sunlight again.

I immediately felt more cheerful. And also slightly silly.

Here I had made our sweet midwife spend the entire night at our home waiting for a baby who was obviously not coming any time soon. And considering that there were no forthcoming contractions, I felt even sillier.

Shortly thereafter, our midwife came in to see us and chat about what was going on. She also offered to do a cervical check to see where we were at the moment. While both of us are against routine cervical checks, I immediately saw the sense in this and said, "Yes! Let's do it!" As she said, cervical checks can't tell you where you're going, but they can tell you where you've been.

A quick check revealed the fact that after something like 17 hours of labor, we were at a whopping...

Two centimeters. 

Well, crumbs.

Seventeen hours of labor in a multip should not produce a measly two centimeters. (Especially since I had previously checked my dilation and knew that we'd been at a minimum two centimeters for several weeks. In other words, we'd gone nowhere. Slowly.)

Additionally, our midwife said that baby's head was so high in the pelvis as to be non-palpable. Also not good.

My immediate question was "Are we looking at a malpresentation?" - having baby in a non-optimal position can cause wonky labor patterns, and that would also account for lack of descent.

Her immediate reply was "Yup." Based on heart tones and the lack of descent, her guess was that baby had slipped from LOA (left occiput anterior) back to LOP (left occiput posterior), where he had been a few weeks ago. Babies in the OP position have a nasty habit of not wanting to come out, and my weird labor was almost certainly a result of that.

Next, we talked about a game plan. Our midwife said, "You think you're okay, because you've had an hour or so of sleep. But you're not okay. You're sleep-deprived. And if you're going to face doing labor all over again from the beginning, then you need some sleep."

We made a quick plan, and I followed it. Our midwife left to give us some time, and I immediately followed her suggestions - a snack (cottage cheese and a banana), a bath, taking a Unisom, and crashing on the bed to get some sleep. (Still no contractions.)

I was also careful to lay on my left side (stretching over as far onto my stomach as I could) in order to facilitate baby swinging back from LOP into LOA. (The fact that I had been lying on my right side the entire night had most likely confirmed baby in his unfavorable LOP position.)

I immediately fell asleep and slept for something like 60-90 minutes. It was lovely.

I would have slept (much!) longer, but at that point, I was awakened by a contraction. A sudden contraction, and a mean one. I immediately knew by the feeling (even half-asleep) that baby had swung out of LOP into LOA, and that we were now where we needed to be.

However, I was still tired, so I tried to keep sleeping. Nope. These contractions meant business. Even that first contraction had required vocalization.

But I was still so tired, so I tried to ignore them. "La, la, la, I can't heeaaar you." etc.

During the third contraction, my water broke.

What? Really?

It was just a small gush, maybe two to four ounces of fluid - not a huge amount. Thus, I wasn't really sure if my water had indeed broken. However, I immediately swung out of bed and headed for the bathroom to avoid getting the bed soaked - just in case.

I immediately sat down and tried to figure out if my water had broken or if I was just imagining things. Immediately, another contraction started.

And that's when things got crazy.

The contraction began, and I knew instantly that I was in trouble.

Oh, no! I'm feeling pushy! I need to call my midwife RIGHT NOW!

But my body made it immediately clear that I was not going to be calling anyone, because within five seconds I had shot to my feet and was screaming my head off at the wall in front of me. (My normal reaction to the pushing feeling.) This wasn't just "feeling pushy" - this was PUSHING TIME RIGHT NOW, and this baby was coming.

Within a second or two, I knew that my midwife wasn't going to make it.

Oh, no! Joe's going to have to catch the baby!

Small problem. I was in the back bathroom, and my husband was nowhere around (thinking that I was sleeping). Despite the fact that I was screaming like a mad woman, our house is a good sound-deadener. I was on my own.

Thus, those thirty seconds went something like this:

Need the midwife! (Nope.) Need my husband! (Nope.) Oh shoot, I need a towel - I'm going to have to do this on my own!

But even the towel rack, two feet away, was completely beyond my capacity to reach.

Thankfully, my husband did actually end up hearing me, and he burst into the bathroom just as baby was born.

"Is the baby coming? Oh, there's the head!"

He leaped for me as I hit the ground in some sort of half-kneeling position, and he caught baby and handed her to me - after taking the time to notice that baby was, indeed, our first girl!

So there we were - sitting happily shell-shocked on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pool of every birthing fluid known to man.

What better way to spend a Wednesday morning?



Within a minute or two, Joe was on the phone with our midwife. "Guess what? Diana's sitting here holding our brand new baby girl!"

The really funny thing was that Joe had told our midwife a few hours earlier that he had planned to call her with those very words - as a joke! Thus, when he called her, her first response was something along the lines of, "Are you kidding me?"

Our midwife immediately shot out onto the freeway to get to us, all the while making sure that we were okay and didn't need to call emergency. (We were completely fine - no hemorrhage, and baby was born already snuffling and fussing about for food. No issues there!)




A few minutes after the birth, the placenta followed - completely effortlessly and painlessly.

Our doula made it to our house first, followed shortly by our midwife. They immediately checked us out and began helping us get cleaned up and settled in bed.

We have absolutely no labor or birth pictures (or video), but here are some postpartum pictures!

Our 8yo got to cut the cord for the first time:






Newborn exam! Baby was 8 lbs. 8 oz. (fitting in nicely with our last baby, who was 9 lbs. 9 oz.):






Pictures with the birth team!



Placenta exam picture!




And a proud papa with his first solo catch (he's caught all of our babies, but never by himself!):



Some postpartum pictures:


Waiting for baby's birthday cake! (Mint chip!)

With Grandma.

Love that newborn stare! 


Reflections:

There is part of me that would have loved to see what would have happened if this had truly been a solo birth - not for the experience itself, but simply for the incredible comedic potential of the moment. To have my husband walk into the bathroom and find me calmly nursing an infant - ah! That would have been truly a great moment. All it would have needed was a great one-liner to go with it, and we would have had a moment to remember.

However, DH was great as a baby-catcher, and it will remain one of our best family memories forever.

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an unassisted birth. Now I know, and I hope it doesn't happen too often! But to all you dedicated unassisted birthers out there - I take my hat off to you. You are an amazingly strong group of women!

An interesting question that I have posed to myself is - how would this birth have gone in the hospital? It's an interesting thought, because it could have gone several different ways. We could have had an unassisted hospital birth... or a cesarean... or a car baby... or an unassisted at-home birth. It could have gone in many different directions.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, no one is ever told the story of "what might have been."

Finally old enough to hold a sibling on his own! 

Holding baby sister with mama about 0.5 inches away! 



Afterword:

This pregnancy has been an incredible growing experience. It's been difficult, but it's also been wonderful. The Lord is growing our family at the same time that He is growing us - and it's wonderful both to watch and to experience.

This pregnancy has been a pregnancy of firsts.

This was our first non-hyperemetic pregnancy.

This was our first pregnancy welcoming a GIRL into our brood.

This was our first intentionally unplanned pregnancy.

This was our first 100% on-land labor and birth.

This was our first (accidentally) unassisted birth.


We can't wait to see what God is going to do with our family from here!


Welcoming baby Margaret (Greta) Fern
Born November 12, 2014
Eight pounds, eight ounces

We are blessed. 





Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking Radio Silence!


Hey, everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know that our newest member of the family decided to make a crash entrance on Wednesday (November 12th) - and here SHE is!

Sorry for the blurred picture - we didn't get a lot of pictures this time!! 


That's right, our first girl!

I will try to post my birth story in the next couple of weeks but wanted to let you all know that baby had arrived safely and is doing beautifully.

We are blessed, and we thank the Lord for our newest child and first girl!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Especially for the Introverted Introvert


There are good blog posts out there.

There are really good blog posts out there.

And then there are those blog posts which grab you by the shoulders, slap you across the face, and say, "WAKE UP! I'm talking to you, so PAY ATTENTION!"

This was one of those blog posts.

It is rare that I run across an article that describes exactly, point-for-point, what I am and what I am experiencing, but this one was me to the very core. I saw myself in every word of this post, and it was a blessed relief. Yes, there are people like me out there!

The author writes:
"A highly sensitive person is someone who’s more sensitive to physical and/or emotional stimuli than the general population. They have sensitive nervous systems, are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating environments.
"Interacting with people drains introverts; sensory input — sights, smells, sounds, emotional stimulation — drains highly sensitive people. (HSPs are more likely to be introverts, but about 30% of HSPs are extroverts.)
"I’m an HSP to the core. In practice, that means I avoid violent movies, am easily overwhelmed by loud noises and bright lights, need time and space to regroup on busy days, and feel like my head will explode when two people try to talk to me at the same time."
I loved everything she had to say! Her article also answered a lot of questions for me - questions that have driven me nuts for years. Basically, WHY can I not handle so many of the things that other homeschool mothers handle so routinely and so gracefully? (Things like noise, messes, tons of crafts, busy schedules, etc.)

This article answered many questions, and gave me a lot of peace. It's not a matter of "I've got to improve! I need to stop failing!" - but rather a need to honor how God has made me, without trying to force myself into a mold that I will never be able to fit. 

The "survival cheat sheet" in here is pure gold. Definitely check it out!

Read the whole article here

I've printed off the entire article to put in my parenting notebook, and I'll be rereading it often. 

Enjoy!

Hat tip to Zsuzsanna for linking to this article! 


* Despite the way I have labelled this post ("Especially for the Introverted Introvert"), the original author notes that 30% of HSPs are, indeed, extroverts. Just an FYI. 



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Mercy Gilbert Hospital Rocks!


I'll be posting more on local hospitals later, but for now, I just wanted to share the letter that I emailed to Mercy Gilbert after touring their birth center this past week.

*****

Dear Mercy Gilbert Staff,

This past week my husband and I toured the Lund Birth Center at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, and we were extremely impressed with the high quality of your facilities, staff, and services that you offer at the birth center.

 Here are some of the things we love about the maternity care you offer at Mercy Gilbert:

- Welcoming labor doulas, siblings, and birth plans (rather than discouraging all of the above, as many hospitals do)

- Making water labor widely available (and encouraged!)

- Welcoming midwives to your labor staff

- Encouraging mother who want VBAC births and/or unmedicated births, as well as maintaining a low rate of cesarean births

- Your commitment to couplet care and breastfeeding, as well as to non-interference in bonding and rooming-in

- Making labor tools such as birth balls and peanut balls both available and encouraged

- Respecting the rights of parents to make individualized choices for their labor, birth, and newborn health care

- Your lovely (and quiet!) facilities – both within the birth center and throughout the hospital

We have toured several other valley hospitals, and none of them could even come close to the quality of care offered by Mercy Gilbert. We very much thank you for the hard work you have put into creating such a wonderful environment for babies and families. Congratulations also on your upcoming designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital!

 Sincerely Yours,
Diana J.


Week 38 Pregnancy Update


Hello, friends! This will most likely be my last pregnancy update before baby makes an arrival, so here goes!

Pregnancy and Pregnancy Health

All continues to go well with baby (and me!). My midwife has taken to indulging in fits of maniacal giggling when we take my health measurements every week, because this pregnancy has been just so textbook. I'm not complaining!

Our little Flipper has been in a different position at every appointment (transverse posterior, suspected breech, LOP), so I'm hoping to hear that he is in a nice anterior vertex position at our next appointment. Labor is challenge enough without adding in a posterior position!

Yesterday I finally dug out all of our birth supplies and put them in one place together (stuffed behind the bed!), so we are officially "ready" to have this baby... any time. YIKES.


What's Going On Around Here!

Homeschool Field Trip season continues...

Pumpkin Patch!

Fire Station!

Did I mention this? I finished Spring Cleaning! Yes, sometime in late October - it only took me something along the lines of five months to complete. Good grief. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, but goodness - can I please have a cleaning crew to help me next time? Who knew that one small house could take so much work? And most of the jobs already need to be done again!!

I also learned that I will never again attempt to wash walls. They look ten times worse than they did before!

I have nearly finished up my list of pre-baby to-do items. Many were scratched off into the "forget it, not happening" category, but I did manage quite a bit. Here are a couple of the ones that are left:
  • Get the carpets cleaned (I think I waited too long on this one)
  • Make and freeze baby's birthday cake
  • Email our Christmas letter (we're going virtual for just this year)

Additionally, I have reached that place in pregnancy where my one deepest desire is to have a perfectly clean house. All the time. NOW. As a friend of mine said, "There comes a time in every pregnancy when you think, 'I have not yet vacuumed and mopped the entire house today, and that is NOT OKAY." Amen to that! Unfortunately, I cannot keep the house as clean as I would like - pregnant or no, there is a troop of little mess-makers following me about who make that goal impossible. But I do my best. My emotional well-being is pretty much dependent upon the cleanliness and order of our house, and during the end of pregnancy that relationship is upped astronomically. 

Unfortunately, exhaustion has reared its ugly head, so I am (really!) trying to slow down my pace so that when birth-time does arrive, I can face it with some level of energy.

Finally... our Christmas tree is up! Yes, and our outdoor lights, too! Do we win a prize for the first people in the neighborhood-city-county-state to have Christmas things up?



The 8yo has been begging for Christmas things for weeks (months), so we finally said okay! But honestly, I did want to be done with it before baby comes, so it's just as well.

I have the feeling that there are many more things I wanted to mention, but my brain, dear friends, is toast. So we'll leave it here, and I'll try to remember all of the things I've forgotten for my next update (if there is one!).

Lots of love, dear friends - have a wonderful weekend! 


Entranced watching the new house being built across the street. We need one of these every year - just to keep the toddler occupied! 


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Encouragement for Mamas in the Trenches


Last week, a fellow blogger (Wendy at Contentment Acres) wrote an excellent and very encouraging post, and I wanted to share it with you!

In this article, Wendy writes as a mother who has "reached the other side," sharing her perspective of having finished the very-young-children stage of her life.

Sometimes it seems as if this stage of life will never end (and more importantly, will kill me before it does), so it was awesome to hear her long-term perspective.

She writes:
"I have beautiful scars that tell the story of a girl who followed where the Lord lead and learned incredible things she can now use for His glory. God not only knew what He was doing He was giving me what I had prayed years for: a broader witness for Him! My story of hyperemesis gravidarum and pregnancy losses has been around the world. So many people from different countries have read the story that I have lost count! I have made so many friends through it. My relationship with the Lord has deepened. I couldn't see where He was leading at the beginning. Now I see! The path less traveled has views few get to experience! If you are convicted God is leading you to do something, and it is in line with Scripture as a whole, I encourage you to run, not walk, and don't look back.
"On a side note, I wonder how many prayers we think go unanswered simply because we will not follow where He leads because it looks scary or embarrassing or might cause us emotional and physical pain or insult our sense of pride or cost us something in some way? We get so greedy and expect things to be easy. We forget God requires much of us and that this life is likened to running a long distance race."
And then:
"I am going to miss having babies. 
"I am going to miss feeling my babies move inside of me and knowing that God is doing something miraculous right inside of my body.
"I am going to miss my family taking joy in those first movements and talking through my belly to our "wee one" with prayers and songs and sweet messages of love.
"I am going to miss my husband's tears, special look my way, and deep gratitude at the gift of a new child. He has never worn the same expression at any other moment as when he was holding one of our children for the first time."
Read the rest here.

Though this article is geared specifically toward mothers who struggle with hyperemesis gravidarum, it is widely applicable to every mother. Check it out, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 36 Pregnancy Update!


I'd better get on writing this post, considering that we're almost to week 37! Humph. Somehow this pattern seems vaguely familiar.

It's just amazing how the time flies at the end of pregnancy.

And as time is getting short, I find myself with very little time for blogging. Let's move!

Pregnancy and Pregnancy Health Update

Nausea levels: Anywhere from "comfortable" to "ick" - depending on how tired I am, the time of the day, and how much sugar I've cheated into my diet. Ahem. It's hard not to cheat - considering that my cheat time (over at the end of the year) is running down before my very eyes, even if sugar does still make me sick. Excuse me while I go and get a cookie, and then we all can listen to me complain about how crummy I feel afterwards.

Pregnancy Measurements: Both baby and I continue in all standard measurements to be absolutely 100% standard. Last night, my midwife said, "You are having a textbook pregnancy!" And that's the word I've used repeatedly to describe this pregnancy: textbook. Every measurement (FH, FHT, BP, etc.) has been exactly spot on.

Baby Names: We finally have baby names! (Did I already mention this?) Don't worry, they'll change. But at least we're somewhat prepared.

Home Visit: Two weeks ago our birth team (midwife, student midwife, doula) came over for our home visit - always so much fun.

Birth Supplies: All of our birth supplies are prepared, purchased, washed, etc., and ready to go. Now we just have to dig them out of all of the corners where I've stored them and put them in a centralized location. We'll do that within the next week or two.

Pregnancy in General: This last week has seen incredible changes in how I'm feeling. My energy is fading fast, mobility is growing increasingly difficult, and I sometimes wonder if my body is simply going to fall apart before the baby makes it out. I'm overdosing on relaxin hormone over here, for sure! My Braxton-Hicks contractions have also turned nasty, which has made me wonder if baby might arrive earlier rather than later (a sure sign that we'll go late).


What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update

Homeschool Field Trip Season is in full gear! Here are a few of our latest outings:

The historical Rosson House in Phoenix:

Doing period chores. Why don't they work so eagerly at home? 

Playing period games. 


Vertuccio Farms in Gilbert:




Local Alpaca Farm - Pictures coming soon!

Homeschool Lessons: We are soldiering ahead, though I am finding it increasingly difficult to do so or to find the motivation to do so. But my iron-clad rule continues: Math gets done OR ELSE. Another major focus right now is chores, which continues to be a major headache. However, I am forcing myself to stay faithful on this issue because I know how important it is. More on that later (if I have time for it, which I probably won't).

Before Baby To-Do List: A good number of my items have been transferred to the "forget about it" list. For items that I still want to get done (and have a reasonable hope of doing so), I'm doing my best to work on one "office" task (letter-writing, emails, etc.) and one cleaning/prepping task (cleaning out freezers, etc.) per day. Are they getting done? Well, yes. Slowly. Sometimes.

My goal is to complete major projects by the 38 week mark (something like 12 days away) and then focus on slowing down and maintaining while we wait for baby. Actually, I'm ready for that phase right now, but I have too many projects that I don't feel comfortable abandoning. We'll see!

Lepkuchen Day: We celebrated our annual lepkuchen-making Christmas open house this past Saturday, a full month earlier than normal! It was exhausting, but we still had a lot of fun baking our traditional cookies and getting to see friends and neighbors. We passed cookies and Christmas letters out to all of our neighbors, and that will be the extent of our Christmas baking (except perhaps for some sugar cookies for the family to decorate).



I'm sure there's more, but I think I'd better finish here! I will do my best to check in at least one more time before baby makes his debut. I also have other blog topics that I'd love to post, so we'll see how that goes. (It probably won't.)

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend, dear friends!