Saturday, April 26, 2014

Baby Mila's birth story


 She's finally here!  I realize that a child's birth story is most meaningful to the mother more than anyone else.  I always laugh to myself when I hear women sitting around comparing and trying to one-up each other on their children's birth stories, but with Mila's birth, it truly was special for me.  I wanted to write things out before I forget any of the details.

In the days and weeks leading up to her coming I was getting more impatient than I had with the others.  My body was sending me signals on an almost hourly basis that things were moving along, but then nothing substantial would come from it.  I told Dennis that it wasn't waiting 40 weeks that was the hard part.  I knew that was the deal from day one and I expected it.  The hard part was all of the false alarms and wondering if this was all going to last 2 more weeks or just 2 more hours.

On Wednesday night at about 9pm, I was standing in my room getting ready for bed when I suddenly felt a gush of fluid.  Dennis and I still laugh about how I looked like Calista who has been potty-training.  I was so startled that I didn't move, I just stood there like a deer in headlights and let it all come out the way Calista does when she realizes she's started to tinkle in her pants, while Dennis tried to throw towels in my direction.  To be sure that I hadn't just piddled, I called my sister Patty, who is a labor and delivery nurse, and she confirmed that my description matched that of a breaking water.  Although they weren't painful, the contractions had been consistent for the past 45 minutes so we decided to go ahead on in.  I called my friend to come sit with the kids until my in-laws could drive in from Grandview, and we were off.

Before leaving, I looked into Camden's room and saw he was still awake reading.  I told him what was happening.  His eyes filled up with tears and he told me how afraid he was.  He hugged me tightly and said he was worried that something would happen to me or the baby.  Just then Dennis came in, and by the light of Camden's reading headlamp, we said a prayer together.  I love that little boy's tenderness.

I think I need to rewind a little for this next part.  Early on in this pregnancy, I knew that I wanted to try to do things differently than I had with the others when it came to delivery.  With my others, I had received epidurals early on in the labor and they had all worked fabulously.  I experienced only a few painful contractions before the epidurals kicked in and then had completely pain free deliveries.  With Calista especially, I remember thinking how anti-climactic it seemed.  I wanted to feel what was happening and not give a couple of non-feeling pushes before a baby was in my arms.  I knew it seemed crazy, but I wanted to at least try to deliver this baby without anesthesia.

My only hang-up was that I didn't want to be one of those "cave women"-  you know, the screaming, melodramatic kind that are in the movies.  I didn't want to be one of those women that made me roll my eyes when I worked on the post-partum unit that I could hear hollering from half way across the hospital. Self-discipline and self-control are two things I've always considered as the ultimate strengths and those screaming, out of control women, in my mind, were the furthest thing from it.

So I began reading up on hypno-birthing hoping to find some coping techniques, but soon was reading the book simply for its entertainment value.  I could see how the techniques might be solid, but the theory behind it was just too quacky for my liking.  I would lay in bed reading passages of the book to Dennis- about the flowering cervix and ribbon-lined uterus, and we would laugh and laugh.  I knew my half-hearted studying of natural childbirth was going to come back and bite me in the butt, but I figured if it got too bad, then I'd just get an epidural.  With all the discomfort I was experiencing at the end of my pregnancy, I had decided that maybe I didn't need the additional pain of natural childbirth after all.  So yes, I was doomed to failing when it came to delivering naturally before even going in.

So back to the delivery room...

I was dilated to a five when I was checked in and I was handling the contractions like a champ, if I do say so myself.  I was breathing through them, using the relaxation techniques I had read about, and I was thinking, "Hey... I got this!  I can totally do this!"

Fast forward an hour later.  Things were revving up quickly.  I had been in the jetted tub but the contractions were getting harder to handle and I was starting to feel like I was losing control.  The techniques I had been using were becoming less effective and I knew that I had reached the end of my poorly supplied arsenal of coping techniques. I asked the nurse to check me, figuring that if I was progressing quickly, then I would keep going.  If not, I would get an epidural before I turned into a wild woman.

"Hmmmm... you're only at 5-6 cm, honey.  You've progressed almost 1 cm in an hour."

Are you kidding me?!?  At that rate, I could go on for another several hours like this!  And just like that I pathetically dropped the little resolve I had and told her if that was the case, then I wanted an epidural.  I knew I just didn't have the coping techniques to deal with more than what I was going through.

As we waited for the anesthesiologist to come in, things continued to escalate... quickly.  And just as quickly, I was morphing into the cave woman.  With each contraction, the restlessness became moaning, which became whimpering, which soon became crying, which became yelling.  I could see what was happening, but for the life of me, I just didn't care!  Heck, it actually felt good!  Who woulda thunk?

By the time the anesthesiologist showed up about 30 minutes later, I was a complete mess.  And of course as luck would have it, as he tried to place the epidural, he missed.  Twice! Having to hold completely still through the contractions, as he poked and fished around with a needle in my back was the most excruciating thing I could have ever imagined.  I never knew a body could experience so much pain.

After a handful of contractions following the failed epidural, the nurse suggested she take a look, and there was baby Mila, ready to make her entrance into the world.

The pushing, which I had been the most terrified of doing without an epidural, seemed like a cake walk after that.  I remember thinking, "I know this should hurt.  Like really hurt, but it doesn't even compare!"  After just one push, she was here!  And just like that, by 1:41am, it was all over.  I can't describe the exhilaration and joy I felt when I saw her for the first time.  It was anything but anti-climactic like it had been with my other children when my body was so numb.  She was here, and I had done it!  Even as I write this, I tear up thinking of Dennis and the sweet support he gave to the wild, writhing, yelling cave woman that used to be his (usually) composed wife.

The pain in my hips and sciatic nerve pain were gone almost entirely, and immediately I felt like a completely new woman, even before I left the delivery room.  It was amazing!

So my take away lesson from my delivery experience... I'm eating crow when it comes to judging women who deliver naturally!  The hollering and screaming that I used to think was annoying theatrics was actually really helpful and even therapeutic when it came to chanelling the pain.  Experiencing "real" childbirth for the first time was humbling and empowering all at the same time.  Humbling because of how vulnerable I felt through it all, but empowering because of the power of the female body that I was able to witness.  It truly is an amazing process that Heavenly  Father has created to not only bring children into the world, but to draw a husband and wife closer together.  I've never needed Dennis as much as I did during those hours, and he was there for me.

Adjustment to life at home has been wonderful so far.  The older children are smitten with their new little sister.  Watching them fall in love with her so quickly has been heart-warming and amazing to see.

When there's a newborn in the home, it feels like heaven is almost palpable.  Words can't describe how grateful I am for the arrival of this little angel into our home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beautiful

7:30am-   I walked into the bathroom to pull my hair back before going downstairs to get the kids breakfast.  Written across the mirror, with the Expo marker that we keep in the top drawer of the bathroom vanity, was written in my husband's hand-writing,"You are beautiful."

Soon after we were married, we started the tradition of writing notes on the bathroom mirror for eachother.  Sometimes they are reminders, sometimes they are apologies for thoughtless words said, but most often they are love notes written quickly on our way out the door in the morning.  This is one of our treasured traditions.  He had apparently wrote these words as I slept before he left for work.

"He obviously hasn't seen me this morning or he would have never written that," I thought to myself as I looked at my reflection.

I had gone to bed the night before with wet hair, which as most women know, is the key ingredient for epic bed head.  My face, swollen from both pregnancy and sleep, looked tired and haggard.  Any summertime glow I had from my summer's tan has long since faded, leaving a winter pallor in it's place.  The contrast between the words written on the mirror and my reflection staring back at me seemed cruelly ironic.

But then almost immediately I thought of what the past 13 years of marriage to this man has taught me and I corrected myself. "Yes, he would have.  If he were here he would have said it himself.  He has seen me like this and much worse and has never made me feel any less for it."

After the kids were off to school I headed back into the bathroom to get ready for a day of running errands and grocery shopping.  As I put on my make-up and fixed my unruly hair, I once again read his message.

"How ironic," I thought.  With no make-up on and with a crying toddler on my hip, my husband makes me feel beautiful like the most beautiful woman alive.  And the moment I turn on my computer or television, or step outside with my make-up and high heels on, the bombardment begins- the bombardment of idealistic images of beauty portrayed by the media that make a woman feel inferior, as though she will never be enough.  We know that most of the images have been digitally or surgically manipulated, and yet we still buy into the elusive myth, using our self-esteem as currency.

Healthy is never skinny enough.  
Age makes you irrelevant.  
If you don't have it, get it. 
If you've got it, flaunt it.  
If they're small, make 'em bigger.  
If it sags, make it perky.

How I pray that my children will someday find companions who see beauty in them the way my husband sees it in me.  That what is seen in them transcends beyond what can be seen on the outside.  How I pray that they will also see the beauty in themselves. That they will ignore the cruel and ruthless voices that come from the outside and sometimes even from within themselves. And sometimes those voices from within ourselves shout louder and more cruelly than any of the others.

Kiddos, you are beautiful, but not because of your stunning eyes or kind smiles.  It's not your thick hair or long eyelashes either, as much as I do love all those things. While those things might make a person look beautiful, you are beautiful simply because you are you.

I wrote this post several months ago but never got around to posting it to the blog.  The picture was taken last week when the girls were helping me test the lighting before I took the last picture of me and Dennis. I asked them to lay down next to each other, and they took it from there without me having to do any prompting.  I love this picture.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Final Days

After my doctor's appointment, I realized there was one more maternity picture that I wanted to
capture before the baby is born, so I called a couple of friends and asked them to help me out.
 I wanted to photograph the emotional intimacy that couples share during a pregnancy.
My sweet husband has been amazing in his support and help throughout the ups
and downs of this pregnancy.  I love this man more and more with each passing day.  
The last few days of a pregnancy are always the most difficult.  Women will tell you that there's a sort of time warp that happens during the last few weeks.  Days, which used to consist of 24 hours, now seem to last twice as long.  And weeks, which used to be 7 days long, now seem like an eternity.  Yep, that's me right now.

I went to see my doctor on Tuesday and he told me I was dilated to a three and that he thought the baby could very well come soon and quickly when she does.  That night I was up all night with contractions and discomforts.  Although they were irregular and not too painful, I was still only able to catch about 2 hours of light sleep.  The next day (yesterday) I was a zombie.  My contractions had settled down to my dismay and I was left to fumble around the house in a daze of exhaustion.  Thankfully, last night I was able to sleep as soundly as a pregnant woman can, which isn't very soundly at all, but still it was a huge improvement and I woke up feeling rejuvenated.

I think one of the biggest challenges and lessons to learn as a mother is one that Heavenly Father deliberately designed as one of the inherent natures of motherhood.  I think the lesson is to learn to focus on the bigger, eternal picture rather than the challenges and frustrations of the here and now.  And we are tested on this on an almost hourly basis.  But then I think there are moments when He does give us a glimpse of the bigger picture.  It's almost like a window to heaven is cracked open so we can take a peak inside and see what it is we're really doing each day- what it is we're really fighting for.  As I got my kids ready for school this morning, I had one of those moments.

As the boys stood by the front door waiting to go to school, I asked them if they could come next to me so that we could say family prayer.  The girls jumped down from the breakfast table and joined us.  The early morning sunshine was pouring in through the window behind me as I sat down with my children gathered around me.  Lauren placed her little arm on my pregnant belly and leaned her head against my shoulder as I prayed. The other three stood reverently with heads bowed as I prayed on their behalf and on behalf of our unborn child. I was overcome with love and gratitude for these five little ones that teach me so much.
 
I remember watching a movie as a kid where the dad talked about pictures.  He talked about how we often don't have a camera in hand to take pictures of the most sacred moments in life, but that we always have our hearts to take that picture.  While the picture of a camera can someday fade away, he said, the pictures of our heart never will.  At that moment of prayer with my children, my heart took a picture.  After the boys were at school, I had to take a picture with my camera of the sunshine pouring in, where we had prayed together just moments before.

Yes, these final days before the baby comes are difficult and frustrating and long, but they are sacred as well as we prepare to welcome another gift from God into our family.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Changing World

So I know this post might seem a little soap-boxish, and I apologize for that.  I realize that most of my blog posts are a melting pot of random thoughts that string together in my mind.  But this blog is a journal of sorts for me and these things have been on my mind lately as I've thought about all the ways our world has changed in the past 100 years.  If you're just not in the mood (as I sometimes am when I'm reading blogs), you are forewarned, and may want to skip ahead.  :)

This morning as I was doing breakfast dishes, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a falcon perched on my lawn holding on to some sort of small, feathery creature with it's talons.  I looked closer and saw that it was a baby bird, struggling for it's life as the falcon held on to it with a deadly grip.  As the little bird struggled, the falcon would reach down and peck at it every few seconds and then simply wait, as if telling the little bird to just relax and accept its fate.  It was hard to watch.  I wanted to run out and shoo the falcon away, but then realized that if I did, the baby bird would likely suffer a slow and painful death anyway from the wounds the falcon had already inflicted.  This was the life cycle and I needed to allow it to play itself out.  Trying to ignore the gruesome scene, I busied myself in the kitchen as the bird's struggling slowly stopped, and the falcon proceeded to enjoy her feast, tearing the little bird apart until there was nothing left on my lawn but a pile of scattered feathers.

I thought of how what I had witnessed in my backyard went against everything I've learned and become conditioned to as a nurse.  In today's world, death is usually viewed as failure, regardless of the person's age or health condition.  If someone dies, then something or someone failed- either the doctors, the medications, the patient's will, or even God.   It's met with accusations and lawsuits, with the insistance that something more could or should have been done.

Death, for most of us, is no longer seen as a normal process and a stepping stone, but as a cankerous evil.  Very few of us experience witnessing death on a close and personal level more than a few times throughout our lifetime.  I can't help but wonder how this dettachment has affected us collectively.  Has it made us less grateful?  More demanding of God and the medical world?  Is the assumption that a long life lies ahead what makes us so willing to disconnect from each other, thinking there will always be the luxury of "some other time"?  I think of the pioneers crossing the midwestern planes and the likelihood they had of facing the possibility of death on an almost daily basis.  Did they hug their children tighter than we do?  Did they take more time to focus on the things that really matter?  I can't help but wonder.

  ___________________________

I posed a question to some photography friends on a private photography blog the other day and was grateful for the open and safe discussion that we had about it.  I've posted the question below.

I’ve been stewing over something for the past several years and have never really had a group of people that I can discuss it with- people who I trust who appreciate art and photography, and who have the same value system that I have.   

So here’s my question… how can someone respectfully photograph the bare human form in a day and age where society has so grossly perverted and over-sexualized the human body?  I’m avoiding the word nudity because I think photographing the human form respectfully should never be for the sake of merely showing a naked body or to evoke a shock factor.  But unfortunately, when we think of photographing the human form, that’s what most of us usually think of (understandably so).  The rampant nature of pornography and the over sexualization of our culture has done quite the job of conditioning most people to either go after nudity like ravenous wolves or to completely shun it in all its forms.

In my Humanities classes at Rick’s College we studied history’s most famous and celebrated art pieces, many of which included the bare human form- like Michelangelo’s David.  Our instructor told us that we should view these pieces of art not as scandal makers, but as representations of God’s ultimate masterpiece- the human body.  He encouraged us to study these pieces respectfully and prayerfully and to open our minds to the beauty of the human form.

I discussed this topic with my husband, and while he agreed that there can be respectful artistic representations of the human body, he believes that it shouldn’t be displayed because of how warped so many people’s minds are in today's world.  I suppose to me, that’s like singing… but only in your closet.

I would love to know your thoughts and insights on this. 

As I posed this question, I thought of the changes my body has undergone during this pregnancy.  The transformation of a woman's body to accomodate another life form within herself is truly an amazing thing.  Pregnancy is the one human experience that gets us closer to God's creative process than any other- to create life!  I thought how if there was one thing I want to remember from my pregnancies but have never documented, it would be these remarkable changes- the swelling of the belly, the widening of the hips in preparation to becoming a literal birth canal, the stretching of the skin, the breasts getting ready to become the sole source of nourishment for another human being.  It's really all so remarkable and magnificent.  In every way, child birth and the body's preparation for it fills the measure of the female creation, and I have been priveleged to have a front seat to it all- five times!  What an incredible honor and miracle when we think of it.

And yet there's an air of shame surrounding the bare human form, especially in many Christian cultures, even when it's done tastefully and respectfully. Why is that so?
_________________________________

As I loaded my kids to drive them to school the other day, no one was being cooperative with seat belts.  They were all fighting it along with every other thing I had tried to do for them that morning.  My hips were killing me and I had had a terrible night's sleep.  What the heck, I thought.  The school is a whopping 2 miles away on back country roads, so I decided to pick my battles and bag seat belts for the drive to school.

...And the whole way I felt a nagging sense of guilt.  "What if I get pulled over and the cop finds me with a carload of unbuckled kids?"  "It's only 2 miles away, but don't they say that accidents usually happen close to home?" "What if a sinkhole opened up beneath my car like it did for that lady a year ago, and she died because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt?"  (Okay, that last one didn't cross my mind at the time, but the story really did happen not too far from our house)

As I thought about it, I realized that most of the information we receive about how to raise our children is followed by ominous warning signs intended to induce mild panic about what will happen if we don't follow the advice.  Parents are bombarded almost constantly by paranoia-inducing information.  Not a day goes by, especially on morning news shows, when you don't hear something like "What your pediatrician might not be telling you about your child," or "How food dyes might be affecting your child's behavior," or "The things you might be doing to your child that could lead to Autism."

I thought about how nearly every decision I make for my children- from what they eat for lunch, to the type of plastic that's in their water bottle, to whether or not I choose to have them vaccinated- has paranoia-inducing "facts" to back it.  Why is our society driven so heavily by paranoia- from "Big Brother" conspiracies to theories that antibiotics will bring about the demise of our society as we know it.

Has there ever been a more paranoid society in the history of the world?

On a separate note, my husband, along with most people from Owyhee County are the least paranoid people you'll ever meet.  Actually, just a little paranoia every now and then might even do them a little good.  I had to laugh (and freak out a little) yesterday when I looked out my back window and saw that Dennis had loaded Calista (age 2) on the back of our little four-wheeler with Lauren (age 4) driving!  The four-wheeler is tiny, not even two feet off the ground, and barely tops 10mph at full throttle, but I couldn't get over what I was seeing.  He stayed close by but let them at it, with the two of them squealing, having the time of their lives.  The day before he had told me that he was excited that they had just lowered the age for a hunting permit, and that this summer, Camden (age 9) could take a hunter's safety course and shoot game this fall, after he's turned 10.  ?!?!?!?  Maybe I just need to have Dennis tune into more morning shows?

Luke (age 6) shooting at Thanksgiving.  I've made no secret to Dennis that I'm not a fan of guns, but I'm grateful that he's not allowing the paranoia of his wife around firearms affect the experiences he has with his children.  And that's one of 1,000 reasons that I love him.