Monday, September 13, 2010

The Realness of God

The other day I was reading from Genesis 5. One of the last verses of that chapter reads like this:

He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed." Genesis 5.29
This is the first time we read about Noah and in one sentence we learn more about him than about most of the characters in this chapter. "He will comfort us."
For those of you who know us, you already know we have a son named Noah. And it is because of this very verse that we chose the name Noah. Before conceiving Noah we had a miscarriage and a couple of months later we were pregnant with him. So he was literally our comfort.
This what I wrote in my journal about this verse: "Noah, great-grandson of Enoch, who walked with God, and my son's namesake. If you ever read this son, remember who you are. Noah sounds like the Hebrew word for comfort. You comforted your Mommy and Daddy after the loss of Alida. I have no idea what God has planned for you, my son, but I know this: You will be a comfort to a great many people. You are the most sensitive of my children and it seems comforting is what you were born to do. Your name was truly God-given."
I am big into names and their meanings. I wrote a post about this very thing a while back. This is why we have such a hard time coming up with names for our children. Names are so significant and it is such an awesome task to have the sole responsibility of giving our kids the names they will be called for the rest of our lives. For that reason, all of our children were painstakingly named and all of our children have names that have some sort of special meaning or significance to us and our family. Noah is obviously no exception and it took us months to settle on his name. I cannot imagine him being named anything else.
Imagine my surprise and delight when Noah walked in after taking the dog out, less than five minutes after I had written that in journal and asked, "Momma, what do you think are God's plans for me?"
Talk about a jaw-dropping question. I mean, what five year old do you know that asks a question like that? It was totally a God moment, a beautiful thing that only He could have orchestrated. And so, I read Noah what I had only moments before finished writing.
Frankly, if I may be truly honest, I don't know how anyone can read or hear a story like that and not believe that God is real. There is NO WAY you could ever convince me that things like that could ever be explained away by merely coincidence. They happen way too often in my own life and in the lives of people I know for me to ever believe that coincidence has anything to do with it. In fact, I wrote a post about what I think of coincidence a while ago too.
Just in the past week, I have had two other circumstances happen that some might want to call coincidence, but are what I call the goodness and faithfulness of a God who loves me and cares about my situations-no matter how seemingly small and insignificant.
The first happened at Aldi's grocery store. I had all my stuff ready to go when I realized I had forgotten my wallet at home which NEVER happens. I was getting ready to walk out of the store because I had no way to pay for what I got. I was by myself with all four kids, mind you, and it was quite the trip to just make it into the store in the first place, let alone get what I needed and get home in one piece. So imagine my dismay when I learned I had no way to pay and it was all going to be for naught.
It was at this moment, the lady in behind me told the cashier that she wanted to buy my groceries. You heard me right. BUY. MY. GROCERIES. Seriously? Who does that? I tried telling her it was okay but she would not be swayed. By the time it was all over I was a bawling, blubbering mess, hugging a complete stranger who had totally been Jesus to me right in the middle of my crazy day. The funny thing is, I had prayed before going in that day that Jesus would use me. Ends up He used a complete and total stranger to minister to ME instead. Try and convince me He's not real. You can't do it.
By the way, the other customers were totally in awe too and the poor cashier was probably crying harder than I was. I was profusely grateful and the lady just said that I would have an opportunity to do it for someone else some day. I cannot wait for that day!!! Add that to the sweet family who when we were walking in gave us their cart and would not take out quarter in return and I am thoroughly overwhelmed by the goodness of God.
The second situation happened just yesterday when we received a flat tire on our way home. Rick's phone was dead, my phone was at home and the jack to change the tire was broken. Here we were, still a few miles from home, four kids who were hungry and tired on a hot day, pretty much stranded on the side of the road. So what could we do? Rick could try to walk home and leave us there. We could try to see if someone would let us borrow their cell phone-but then who could we call since no one memorizes phone numbers anymore-all the numbers were in our phones lol. So we did the only logical thing we could do. We prayed. Rick prayed specifically that God would send someone to help us.
Lo and behold, not 30 seconds after we finished praying, we see a van pull over on the other side of the road. They were travelling the opposite direction so they had to turn around, cross two lanes of traffic and back up to get to us. A man hops out of the van and it turns out he is the pastor of a local church and he said he felt that God had told him that "these people need your help" and that he should stop. He and his wife and their five kids. They had all the necessary tools and were able to get the spare on and send us on our way. Before he left, he leaned in the window, as we were again thanking him profusely, and he told the kids to give their thanks to God because He is the one who made him stop. Coincidence? You decide.
What an awesome lesson that was for my kids to witness the realness of God. As we were driving (slowly lol) home I asked them if they learned anything about that experience and they said "to help others and that Jesus answers our prayers." How awesome is that? I praise God for that flat tire! What seems like a major inconvenience turned out to be an amazing opportunity to witness the hand of God at work in our lives.
Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, September 10, 2010

She Walked with God

This morning I read from Genesis 5. Genesis 5 is not the most exciting part in all of Scripture to read. It is basically a genealogy of Adam and his sons and his son's sons and his...okay, you get the picture.

This chapter traces the descendants of Adam up through Noah. Verse after verse after verse is the same. Here's the pattern: When so and so had lived so many years, he became the father of so and so. After that he lived how ever many years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, so and so lived this many years, then he died. Over and over and over again. I told you-scintillating.

But then you get about 2/3 way through the chapter and the pattern all of a sudden changes with Enoch (Adam's great great great great grandson). Here is what we learn about Enoch.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5.21-24 (Emphasis mine)
Whoa! When you go to bed late and get up early and read a chapter like I read this morning, I will admit, sometimes it's hard to stay interested. Sometimes it's hard to understand how that part of Scripture can be relevant today. I know I sound super spiritual right now. But this verse stopped me in my tracks and woke me up. No caffeine needed. See, the Bible IS exciting!
Six generations of Adam's family go by and suddenly we see there is something special, something different about Enoch. He walked with God. This is the first person this has been said of thus far in Scripture. We might be able to assume that Adam and Eve had walked with God since He walked in the garden (Gen. 3.8) and surely no one else ever shared the same type of relationship with God as had Adam and Eve when they were still perfect, but the Bible does not expressly say that Adam walked with God.
So, to me, this verse is significant. Enoch walked with God. And how does this verse relate to marriage or parenting you might be wondering? (Remember my project?) Well, I am so glad you asked. For the answer (at least what my tired brain was thinking of this morning-not sure very many pastors would use this verse in a sermon on godly parenting), we have to keep reading. Next we learn about Enoch's son, Methuseleh.
When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5.25-27)
It's all becoming clear to you now right? Yeah, me either. Well, here's a little trivia fact that I remember from my days of studying theology in college (see Dad, I told you my education would be useful someday!): Methuseleh was the longest living person ever recorded. Don't ask me how that little nugget of information stuck in my head all these years when some days I don't remember the names of my children, but it did. And you can look it up and research it, or you can just trust me that it's true.
Now, I don't really know if this is a significant fact of history or not. Maybe Methuseleh ate healthy and exercised more than others. Maybe Methuseleh stayed away from all sorts of unhealthy habits. Maybe he lived by the adage, "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't chew. And I don't go out with girls who do." Who really knows?
But maybe, could it be possible, that Methuseleh's longevity had to do with who his father was. That his father walked with God? Maybe not, it could be purely coincidental. But if the writer of Genesis thought it an important enough detail to share then I think it's significant. Or it could just be that in all my bleary-eyed tiredness this morning, I was looking for a way to connect the dots.
Here is my journal entry for this morning: "Saying that Enoch 'walked with God' is a deviation from the pattern of the previous verses (Lord, may the same be said of me.) Enoch's son Methuseleh was the longest living person in recorded history. This is interesting given the obvious faith of his father. I wonder if the two are connected? I don't know for sure, but I do know one thing: my own children will be blessed if it can be said of me that I 'walked with God.'"
She shoots. She scores. And the crowd goes wild. Or not. I don't know, maybe it's a stretch. Maybe I am reading way too much into the text. But I do know the one fact is true. If I walk with God, my children (and probably my children's children, and my children's...okay you get it) will indeed be blessed. The Bible clearly speaks to that fact in a multitude of places, like here and here and here, to name a few.
The truth is, as Christian parents, our children should clearly see us walking with God. One of my favorite passages of Scripture, one I refer to often when the going gets tough with homeschooling and I need a reminder of WHY IN THE WORLD I would want to do such a thing. One that has often brought me to my knees, crying out to God for myself as a mother. One that has the power to make me desperate for Him and reminds me where my focus needs to be in this crazy adventure we call parenting. Here it is-you ready for it?
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.4-9)
Whoa! Go ahead, read it again. Soak it up. God sets a pretty high standard doesn't He? I could write a blog a day for a year and still not touch the surface of all the implications and meaning of these verses. And if you remember, Jesus Himself said that this was the greatest commandment (verse 4).
How are YOU doing with it? I'll tell ya, most days, I suck at it. I mean, really, really suck at it. I am all about being honest and transparent. I am in no way the perfect parent. I fail at this much more than I succeed. So I hope no one thinks I am trying to hold up some impossible standard. The truth is, without God, it IS impossible. But it MUST somehow be possible because we all know plenty of parents and children who are awesome examples of this.
How do they do it? How do I do it (when I do succeed? and I may be biased but I have a bunch of pretty darn good kids who are much better than me at this whole loving God thing, so I must be doing something right)? How do YOU do it? Well, to quote one of my favorite authors, Beth Moore, "With Christ, you can do the things you can't." She has a great way of putting things so obviously and simply.
The truth is, I CAN'T do it. The truth is, I'm NOT doing it. I have to tell ya, it always makes me feel so good when someone complements the job I am doing with my kids or tells me how great they are. But, as much as I would like to say it is because they have me for a mother, I know deep in my heart of hearts, that couldn't be further from the truth. I know it's not about me at all. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I am more than okay with it. I am happy to give the glory to God for all His goodness and faithfulness to this wandering heart.
We were out to eat with the kids yesterday for lunch. And the kids were awesome! We always get comments wherever we go just because we have more than the "normal" amount of children. Comments like, "are they all yours?" and "you have your hands full" and "how do you do it?" All. The. Time. Yesterday was no exception. There was a couple sitting behind us and as they left they remarked to us about how well-behaved our kiddos were and how hard it must be to take care of all of them and how busy we must be. I, of course, beamed with pride because of course I know my kids are great.
Fast forward to dinner last night, also eaten out. What can I say? It was a hard day! My boys are literally wrestling on the floor in the lobby of the restaurant. They are so loud I want to pretend like I don't know them. They completely forget their manners. Everyone around us assumes we ordered hay for them to eat, since they were, after all, obviously born in a barn. Truth? I wanted to crawl under the table and hide. I would have found plenty to eat under there with the mess they made.
Thank God it isn't about me!!! Thank God for His grace and mercy. Thank God that my children have a perfect heavenly Father, who more than makes up for my own weaknesses and failures. Thank God for His Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of my children that can help them recall the times when I do succeed at this and help them to live more and more like God. Thank God!
Be diligent about pursuing God and let your children see you doing it. You can give them no greater gift. Our children see and hear everything we say and do. How many times have you said something to your kids, totally forgotten about it, and they are the ones to remind you? If you are like me, probably too many times to count. Yesterday was a hard day, like I said, and I was giving Rick a kiss in the van to encourage him, and you should have heard the kids laughing and squealing with delight to catch Mommy and Daddy in a moment of intimacy-it totally made our day. We like to embarass them like that. They see EVERYTHING! Be diligent about making sure what your kids see is your intimacy with God. But don't beat yourself up when you fail. The great thing about our kids is that they are resilient and love us anyway. And the great thing about God is that He gives us as many do-overs as we need. It's never too late to start over.
Can your children say of you, "She (or he) walks with God."?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This One's for the Fellas

So, I have started this crazy project that has sort of been in the back of my head for a few years now. Who knows how far I will actually get but I am going to give it a valiant effort. The project is this: I am attempting to go through the Bible, front to back, and write a commentary on all the verses that apply to marriage and parenting. Yes, that's right. In the ENTIRE Bible. And in case you weren't aware, God has a lot to say about these topics.

Why would I want to do this, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. My life is all about being a wife and mother. And I love that. I don't feel like my identity has been swallowed up by the fact that I am a wife and mother. That IS who I am. God made me to be Rick's wife, Madison, Noah, Brady and Ethan's (for now) mommy. Not that it's ALL I am or my life is ONLY about my family. But I cannot be separated from who I am as a wife and a mother. These are the most significant relationships in my life (apart from my relationship with Christ) and I know that if I fail here, I may as well not do anything else.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that I will NEVER fail. I know I will. I know I have. Epicly. On more occasions than I ever care to admit. But my heartbeat is to come closer and closer to what God desires of me in these relationships. And what better way than to see what He has to say about them?

So you, dear blog reader, get to read my ramblings. I would love for this to become a discussion. I am not using any commentaries or going back to the original languages or reading other books on these topics. These are just my impressions/thoughts/ideas on what I am reading out of Scripture. I am always open to correction if I say something inaccurate so please hold me accountable and let me know what you think of my analysis.

Today's verse that I want to focus on comes from Genesis 3. This is not the first verse that I have come across that speaks to these relationships, but I just really felt like I had a lot to say about this one. You can find the whole text for Genesis 3 here.

I am sure many of you are familiar with this portion of Scripture, but let me give a little background. Genesis 1 & 2 give the accounting of God's creation. Chapter 1 takes us through the six days of creations and chapter 2 focuses on the creation of man and woman. Chapter 3 tells the story of the fall of man, the entrance of sin into the world and the consequences of that sin. The verse that caught my attention this morning was this:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Genesis 3.6
Let me preface what I am about to write by saying this is not an attack on the male gender. These are just my observations. And many men I know struggle to understand the depths of a woman's heart. So fellas, this one is especially for you. I am going to let you see a little of my heart and I what I truly believe is the heart of most women (if you are a feminist, you probably won't like this!). I pray that my words/thoughts are tempered with grace and truth.
Here is my free-style, stream-of consciousness style writing copied directly from my journal.
First, here we see the first time a woman is tempted by food. Oh, Eve, could you have known the pain you would cause?
"desirable for gaining wisdom" Knowing evil is the opposite of gaining wisdom.
"who was with her, and he ate it" (emphasis mine) Oh Adam, you were so powerful. You could have stopped it all with a single word. You were there the whole time. You stood by and let it happen and did nothing to stop it. And thus, in that moment, you ceased being Eve's protector and marriages have never been the same since. Marriages from then forward have suffered the same fate. Women NEED men who will stand up for them, be strong for them and most importantly, continually lead them to the heart of God. But Adam, you KNEW what would happen to Eve if she ate that fruit. YOU KNEW!!! And still you stood silent, And the world has never been the same since. If it's this hard for the perfect man and the perfect woman (can you imagine how incredibly beautiful Eve had to have been-she was PERFECT!), what chance do the rest of us have? Thank you God, for your son Jesus Christ, who is our redemption and our restoration.
So there you have it. Those were just my thoughts/impressions as I was reading this morning. This is not a commentary on my own marriage or an attack somehow on men. I have read these verses many times before and somehow I always imagined Adam was somewhere else in the garden, out of earshot, doing his thing, blissfully unaware of what was going down. It never hit me before but this verse makes it very clear that Adam was there all along. He could have stood up for Eve but he didn't.
I am in no way saying that Eve is not responsible for her own sin or that what she did was somehow Adam's fault. It just occured to me that Adam could have done something, anything to stop her. Maybe he wouldn't have been able to, but he did NOTHING to keep it from happening. Nothing to protect Eve. Nothing to stand strong for her. And later in the chapter (verse 12) Adam blames both God and Eve for his failure. "The man said, "The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (emphasis mine).
Guys, hear this: we need more. We need our men to stand up for us and be strong for us. I know this is not PC at all. But our culture has done both genders a disservice by pretending there are no differences in the sexes. We have masculinized women and feminized men. But God made us differently. You men were made to be strong for us and to be our protectors. Yes, sometimes, we even need protection from ourselves. We most certainly need protection from those things which tempt us, which threaten us, which scare us. Step up, men! Don't be afraid to be strong for us. Seek God first and foremost so that you can lead us to Him. Don't be passive and stand by and watch us fail. Take your rightful place as the protector of our hearts and homes. I promise you your marriages will be better for it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

By Request

I have had several people ask me to write out my birth story for Ethan, so, without further ado, here it is. I have included a little background information on my other births to help you see what lead me to the choices I was making for Ethan's birth. I know some of this is controversial so if you want to comment or ask questions, I just ask that you do it in a respectful way. Happy reading!

My journey to plan for a HBA3C (home birth after 3 c-sections for those of you who aren't indoctrinated in the world of birth terminology) started 7 1/2 years ago with the birth of my first born. I had who I considered to be the best doctor in the area (I still do think that by the way-shout out to Dr. Debra Madura with Clarian Arnett-arguably one of the more progressive physicians in the area in terms of allowing women to have choice in their birthing options and supporting natural labor) and was fully immersed in the medical model of birth. I lived and breathed the What to Expect books. I mean, that's just what you are supposed to do right? RIGHT????

I did plan for a natural birth, that was a deep heart's desire of mine, but I had no idea how impossible that was to achieve in a hospital setting. I went past my due date with no signs of labor and my OB asked if I wanted to be induced. SURE! I just wanted to meet my baby!

So at five days past my due date I went in for an induction, completely clueless about what it meant to be induced. Sure I knew all about the pitocin and what they were going to do, but I was clueless about risks etc... I completely expected to have my natural birth. My mom never had any issues so why should I? I never even really considered csection as a possibility. It wasn't until I got to the hospital that I learned an induction could fail and I could be sent home. Well, I was determined that wouldn't happen to me-no way I was leaving that hospital without a baby! No one told me that being induced INCREASES YOUR ODDS AT HAVING A C-SECTION BY 50%!!!! (Yes, you read that right!)

What ensued was what I have since learned is a very typical story known as the cascade of interventions-intervention after intervention to try to move things along, never dilating past a 1-artificially broken waters, internal monitors, nubain, epidural-and after 16 hours of labor with no progress and broken waters, my daughter was born via csection.

She was perfect, I was fine, no indication for the csection except FTP (failure to progress, or as I like to refer to it, FAILURE TO BE PATIENT). She was a bigger baby, 9 lbs, 3 oz and VERY broad shouldered. Everyone said thank God you didn't have to push her out-like that was funny or something. But I was happy to have my baby and not too upset about the csection.

That is, until the next day when they got me out of bed. The pain was unbelievable. They always talk about it like it's no big deal just a little surgery, so that was my expectation. Don't be fooled. IT IS MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY. They pull your insides out-your bladder and intestine and uterus-and then put you back together. Under no other circumstances would someone be awake during such an ordeal, much less told to "be grateful" and "be happy" and "get over it".

My recovery was absolutely horrid. Every time I stood up I felt as if my body was ripping in two and my insides were going to fall out. I couldn't cough, laugh, cry, sneeze, use the bathroom without excruciating pain. Not to mention, I felt like a complete and total failure but I couldn't quite figure out why. I was so excited to have my baby and loved her fiercely from the moment I saw her, BUT I started to realize even then, within days of her birth, that having a perfectly healthy baby, while vitally important, was not the ONLY important thing. Having a physically and emotionally healthy mom was just as important. Usually, once the baby comes, Mom is taken out of the equation and everyone says oh-so-helpful things like, "Be grateful you have a healthy baby." or "What are you upset about? You have a healthy baby." or even the hurtful "Get over it. Lots of women have c-sections and are fine." I had the baby blues and grieved the loss of my birth and determined to do it differently the next time.

Fast forward to pregnancy number 2 (technically number 3-we had a miscarriage in between which I now attribute to the previous csection). I was SO determined for a VBAC, but again buying into the medical model, with the exception that my doctor wouldn't induce (this can introduce a whole host of extra complications, even more so when you have had a previous csection) so I knew I had to go into labor on my own-not that I wanted to repeat that experience anyway.

However, since I never dilated with my daughter, nor had so much as a contraction without the pit, I was convinced something was wrong with my body, I would not be able to do it because I would never go into labor on my own. WRONG! I had an appointment on Friday and I was still tight and closed and my OB said, "see ya next week." I was having plenty of contractions but quite discouraged that yet again nothing was happening.

I was 38 weeks, 6 days pregnant. I was completely unprepared for labor, had no bags packed because I had convinced myself it wasn't happening. That night at 2 am my water broke in a huge gush. Like a good little patient I called immediately and after waking my daughter, getting ready and dropping her at a friend's we got to the hospital around 4 am. I had started contracting, hard and fast, 2-3 min apart. Man it hurt!

But I was so flippin' excited! I couldn't believe it, I was doing it! It was the first time I actually believed it might happen. I labored like that, contractions 2-3 min apart all through the night and until about noon the next day. I was in a lot of pain but I didn't want any interventions-no drugs, no epidural.

I had fairly supportive nurses and I was concerned about the 24 hour rule but the doc on call was so laid back-he said since I was getting antibiotics for GBS anyway, that I could labor as long as I wanted. They didn't check me, they basically just left me alone to do my thing-with one exception. I live in a town where there are three nursing schools so of course they asked if the nursing students could "study" me, since VBACs are so rare. So I agreed, but man was that annoying.

So anyway, I did everything I could to get this baby moving-walked the halls, hot showers, birthing ball. I was crying out for my mommy and right about the time she came contractions just stopped. I would have maybe one or two an hour and that was it. Things stayed that way for 24 hours. They moved me off of L&D to an empty hall because they needed the room for women who were really in labor, of course. I was never told at the time that this was perfectly normal and actually quite common. As you can imagine, I was incredibly discouraged. And hungry-I hadn't eaten for 48 hours and was utterly exhausted.

At this point I had a few nurses telling me to give up-that was frustrating, but thankfully I am very stubborn. So that night (it was Sunday evening by then) I asked for them to bring the birthing ball into my room. Rick was gone with Madison to change clothes and shower and such and I was all alone in my room. I just sat on the birthing ball and cried out to God, pleading with him to bring the contractions back. I can only think of one other time I have prayed so hard and so fervently and wanted something so badly.

Within an hour contractions were 7 minutes apart, then 5, then they finally moved me back to L&D and I labored like that through the night. I was able to relax and laugh between contractions but I really had to work through them. The hospital was really flexible and didn't require continuous fetal monitoring or anything like that so I was able to be as mobile as possible. They even let me go outside at one point-I remember it being the first warm day of the year-this was early March-and begging to go outside since I was so tired of being in there and so they let me-in a wheelchair, but I didn't care, it was fresh air.

My OB came in Monday morning, shocked to find me still there and asked if she could check me. I hadn't been checked yet so I consented and I wasn't even a 1. I couldn't believe it-it was like my world came crashing down in that moment-all my hard work was for nothing. At 12:14 Monday afternoon, 58 hours after my water broke, my son was delivered via csection for FTP...again. My body had failed me...again.

Fast forward 2 more years to baby number 3-diagnosed with GD (gestational diabetes), insulin-dependent, had the fear of God put in me that the baby was going to be huge, was measuring five weeks ahead. So, I did something I never thought I would do and had an elective repeat csection. Turns out, he was my smallest baby at 8 lbs 6 ounces and perfect in every way.

Two years later and I'm pregnant again and determined to do it differently this time. Each of my recoveries had been horrible, I had had to wait hours to even get to meet each of my babies because of complications with anesthesia and hospital protocol, I had complications at the beginning of this pregnancy which were caused by the previous csections and I longed so badly to be the first one to hold my sweet baby and to nurse him right away and not feel so disconnected from the births of my children. I wanted to join the ranks of millions of women the world over and do what I was created to do and birth my baby naturally.

I had learned a lot from the GD experience and I was determined to not have that again, even though they told me at every appt I WAS GOING to have it-I am overweight and there is a 70% recurrence rate so it was a done deal right? I was taking really good care of myself and eating right and so nervous when the time came for the GD test. All this time I had been doing more and more research, reading books like Silent Knife, and Pushed and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Birthing from Within. I KNEW I wanted a homebirth.

I did so much research and reading that my eyes started to go blurry. I learned so many new and startling things that I had never considered before about the modern medical-model of maternity care (a whole other post in itself which I would love to write sometime-but if anyone is interested in the research or questions whether what I was planning was really safe, feel free to ask). Mainly, I became convinced that I would never have the birth I desired in a hospital setting, no matter how wonderful and family-friendly the hospital and it's staff may be. Secondly, I was convinced by scores of compelling research and evidence that this was indeed a very safe way to birth my child.

I NEVER would have put him at risk, but it was amazing the number of people who thought I was doing just that and had no problem sharing their opinions on the matter with me-despite having known me for years and never once questioning my commitment to caring about the safety of my children or doing something without their best interest at heart. That was probably the hardest part of the whole journey. I felt incredibly lonely and judged for the decisions I was making, by people who knew me, to whom I was very close, who knew the kind of mom I was. None of that mattered. I was considering something non-mainstream, and instead of supporting me and looking at the research, snap judgements were made and I felt incredibly ostracized. It was a very hard time and very hurtful for me. I understood their concern for me, but at the same time I just needed some understanding and support.

It was at that time I connected with some women from International Cesarean Awareness Network, ICAN, and that was so helpful to be heard and to connect with women who knew exactly what I was going through and had been there themselves. I cannot overstate the importance and value of the support I received there, and how much I would recommend the site to someone in our situation.

So, I started talking to all the HBMWs (home birth midwives) in my state. I had lots of interesting conversations, but NO ONE wanted the risk of a 3-peater, especially with the threat of GD. BUT-I PASSED THE TEST!!! I could not have been more excited, I was on cloud nine and so mad at the u/s tech who told me she'd see me again "you know, because of the diabetes" like it was a given. YES! I proved them wrong!!

Then I really started to hunker down and get serious about this home birth business. I had to convince Rick that it was a good idea, which wasn't too hard to do after I started reading him the research on the risks of csections and especially repeat csections and he read Birth Partner on his own. He agreed with me that this would be the best, most beautiful, natural way to bring our son into the world.

Long story short, I finally found a MW willing to take a chance on me and she was the first person ever to tell me I could do it. I had no idea how badly I needed to hear that. I remained under the care of my OB as well, just in case I needed a transfer but I was so sure that this would be my time. I did everything right.

Of course, many of you know the rest of the story. My little guy was breech and big and despite trying every possible thing-chiropractor, acupuncture, moxibustion, pulsatilla, standing on my head-among many other positions I tried to get him to turn-he wouldn't budge. He wasn't even in a good position to deliver breech which I was willing to try-he was oblique, almost transverse, laying sideways facing my right side with his butt in my pelvis and head and feet up under my ribs.

Another long story short, all the research I did said vaginal breech birth was a viable option, IF the baby was not big. A late term u/s confirmed that he was good size (I know, I know they can be inaccurate, but my u/s tech is notoriously accurate and had been right on target for all of my kids, plus he was right around the same weight as they were at that point so I didn't think by some miracle I would all of a sudden be popping out a 7 pounder. I have big babies, that's all there is to it-and that didn't scare me one bit when I thought about delivering a baby head-down). So my MW risked me out-she conferred with another MW who was to be her back-up and they both agreed I should have a csection, as did my OB of course.

I was crushed beyond belief, but there was NO WAY I was delivering breech unassisted. The most heart-breaking moment came when my husband deflated the pool in our room-it was like I could physically feel my heart deflating as well. I had a visceral reaction to it, like it was somehow symbolic of my failure and even typing it out is bringing me to tears remembering those emotions again.

So, at 2 days past my due date, I had ANOTHER ERCS (elective repeat csection-something I had sworn to never do again).

However, this time around it was a little different-and this is where the story gets better. Because I had done all my research and had been around this block a few times, I knew exactly what I wanted out of my csection. The decision to do the csection was made on a Wednesday and the surgery was scheduled for that Friday. I went home, typed out a birth plan and took it into the hospital the next day when they had me do all of my pre-testing.

In between my 3rd and 4th babies a new hospital had opened so I had no idea what kind of response I would get. I was asking for a lot of unusual things-no narcotics in my spinal, to have my husband present for the administration of the spinal, to be able to see my baby being born, for him not to be suctioned or bathed, to wait for the cord to stop pulsating before cutting it, among many, other things. I figured they would laugh in my face but I tell you what these nurses were top notch, so sweet.

I was afraid even if they did do what I wanted they would be resentful about it and I would feel that. But they bent over backwards to give me everything I wanted. One nurse even said, in complete sincerity, "we will do everything we can to give you everything you want." Every nurse who came into my room acknowledged, without me asking, that they had read my birth plan. My OB and my anesthesiologist happened to be there while I was in for pre-testing, both read the birth plan and were fine with most of it. My anesthesiologist really tried to convince me to take the narcs (I don't do well at all with them and basically slept through my first two csections and had a long and difficult time coming out of recovery so I wasn't able to see my babies until many hours after their births). But I had done it that way with my last birth so I knew it could be done. She thought I didn't know what I was in for pain-wise and I assured her I most certainly did and I would take the pain any day over not being present and fully aware at the birth of my own child. She accepted that and even let my husband be there the whole time-he walked me into the OR and walked out with me (well I rode on the bed but you know what I mean).

They lowered the curtain so I could see my baby right away-the first time I saw my others they were already bundled up and bathed. I loved seeing him all goopy and messy-it was beautiful. The whole experience from start to finish was surreal. I never thought a csection could be beautiful but his was. I had him on my chest nursing when he was 30 minutes old. He was awake and alert. I had never seen any of my other babies like that. I was awake and alert and had I had the narcs I would have missed that completely. It was amazing! He latched on right away and nursed for 35 minutes the first time-it was awesome!!!

He was so much easier and I fully believe it was because he had no drugs in his system, nor did I. My milk came in before I left the hospital and his poop was already yellow (that's a good thing for those unfamiliar with babies) by the time we left as well-it was five days before my milk came in with each of my other kids, and in the meantime I had to listen to them cry because they were so hungry by the time it came in fully. I had none of that this time around. In fact, the nurses were coming into my room asking me to give nursing lessons to the other moms on the floor. After four kids, it is kind-of second-nature.

It was all around just an awesome, amazing experience that I never would have had had I not done my research, stood up for myself and asked for what I wanted. Finally, I felt empowered, like my voice mattered, like I wasn't just a vehicle to get the baby here but that what I felt and wanted was important. FINALLY!!!

Now my recovery this time around was the worst yet-I ended up with a spinal headache which was horrible, I seriously thought I was dying. Then I ended up with my scar opening up and an ecoli infection at the incision site, which Rick had to pack daily for a couple of weeks. It was humiliating and disgusting and just all around awful. I was completely disgusted with myself and Rick was so gentle and tender with me. I was a big baby about it all and he was absolutely perfect, my rock through it all. It was the first time in ten years of marriage that he had to quote our marriage vows back to me and reassure me he was there for the long haul, no matter how bad things got. And it was bad.

So even though the actual birth and hospital stay was awesome, I still firmly believe CSECTIONS SUCK!!! Here I am 12, almost 13 weeks later and still having pain (edited: it is now a year later, and I still experience pain). So when we get pregnant again I will try again for my HBAC. Yes, I will! The hard part for me was that my csection this time around had nothing to do with the fact that I had already had 3 csections-it was something completely out of my control. But I am still determined for the birth I want.

I was talking to Rick the other night telling him how I would have ten more kids if it weren't for having the csections. I said something about not being able to give birth normally. And he said the sweetest and most meaningful thing. He said, "It's not that you can't. It's that you haven't yet." God, I love that man!

Anyway, I know this was really long (you are used to that by now if you have read any of my other posts) and if you read all the way to the end , God bless you and thank you.

I hope that if you are a woman facing similar decisions as mine, you can be encouraged by my story to stand up for yourself and not back down and that even if you have to have a csection that it can be a better experience than you can imagine-you just have to ask for it. Not saying that all hospitals will be as great as mine was, but it never hurts to ask and keep on asking if need be. I found a lot of healing this time around. I still wonder what would have happened if I went into labor and question whether I should have waited. I am sure I always will. But I don't regret my decision. My boy is beautiful and our journey taught me so much. I will be forever grateful for that!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Story of You

Today is a very important day. This is what I see as I sit here typing this:

This is my sweet one month old snuggling on my chest. I cannot even begin to describe how faithful and loving and gracious my God is. Especially when I pause to consider that my son should not even be here. Yet here we are, celebrating one whole, perfect, beautiful month with our sweet, sweet boy.

As we have journeyed through this pregnancy there were so many times I wanted to pour out my heart through writing our story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Somehow, in the back of my mind I had this completely irrational fear. My fear was that if I put it out there, what God was doing in our lives, then I would somehow jinx it. Somehow, someway, it would all come crashing down.

I know it seems really silly. But here’s what you have to understand about me. I am one of THOSE people. You know the type. I believe the word used to describe us is “pessimistic”. I really hate that word. Mostly because I don’t want to be that way. But I am not the type of person who trusts easily or believes that good things will happen to me if I just have enough faith or pray enough or whatever. In fact, usually the opposite is true. I generally have a conscious thought process that goes a little like this: “I am going to expect that the absolute worst is going to happen. That way when it does happen I am prepared for it and not too disappointed. And if by some slim chance the worst that I am expecting doesn’t happen, well then I will be pleasantly surprised.” I prefer the term “realistic” to “pessimistic”. But, I guess if I am realistic with myself I have to admit that I am a pessimist.

And let me just tell you, it totally sucks being that way. I hate it sometimes. I hate that I drag other people down with me sometimes. I hate that it can make life pretty darn depressing sometimes. But I can never seem to rise above it.

I mean, sure, I have hope. I know what hope is and I can say with all sincerity and honesty that I am a hopeful person. Because I guess at the end of the day, even though I am expecting that worse-case scenario, I am hopeful for something more. Well, that is where the story of my son begins and ends.

Rick and I decided about a year ago that we wanted to start trying to conceive again. So I started all my usual routines to be sure that happened-taking my temperature each morning, charting and writing everything down so we would know exactly when the best time to try was. Luck favors the prepared, you know.

I thought it would be so nice to have a spring baby. Our last son has been born in the thick of the cold and flu season and I had wanted to avoid all of that and get past the stress of the holidays before having another baby. So we thought we would shoot for April, hoping that we would get pregnant within a couple of months.

The first month went by and nothing. I charted and tracked my temperatures and did everything I was supposed to. And nothing. I took a pregnancy test as soon as I could and it was negative. I was sad, but expecting that, not totally devastated. We still had a couple of months left to hit that magic window of having our spring baby.

Not surprisingly, 28 days after I had my last period the next one came-I’m telling you they wrote the text books after me (my apologies if that is way more information than you wanted to know about me but it is important to the story). So we decided we would start trying again.

However, 2 weeks later, as I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning-August 16 to be exact, I could feel that something wasn’t quite right. I started having some unusual cramping and I went to the bathroom and sure enough I was bleeding. Because I am so particular about tracking my cycles I knew that this was not normal. It had only been two weeks since my last cycle. I was at church by myself because Rick had worked the night before and needed to sleep. So I made the decision to go ahead and leave and I called him on the way home. I was almost 100% positive that I was having a miscarriage.
I made two more phone calls on the way home. The first one was to the on-call OB/GYN explaining the situation. He lovingly tried to calm me down and reassure me that this was probably perfectly normal bleeding and that I was just early. I assured him that doesn’t happen to me, that I am very regular and I was sure I was miscarrying, even though I had had a negative pregnancy test. He told me to go home and take a pregnancy test and call him back if it was positive. My third phone call was to my dear friend Melissa, who was with her family in Chicago. I am pretty sure she stopped right there on the streets to pray for me. I am sure I was a total blubbering fool at that point as I don’t remember much of what was said, but I know she cried and prayed with me.

So a few minutes later I arrived home and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough, as I thought, it was positive. I just didn’t know what to do or think or feel in that moment. It was one of those worst case scenarios/hoping for something better moments. I called the OB back and he told me to go to the Emergency Room. So I gathered up the boys (Madison was in Florida) and Rick and we all headed to the ER.

By this time the cramping and bleeding had become quite severe. I was an emotional wreck and there was very little they could do at the hospital to make anything better. They drew some blood to check my hormone levels. They measured at 2700, which basically meant that they could not tell me anything I didn’t already know. Hospital policy dictates that they cannot do an ultrasound until your HcG levels reach 3000 so there was no way of knowing if the baby had implanted in the wrong place, was viable at all, or if a miscarriage was inevitable. As I walked out of the ER, a nurse said, “Congratulations” as she handed me my take-home instructions for impending miscarriage. It was like a total slap in the face and to be honest I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to ask her what in the world she was thinking telling me congratulations when my baby was dying. I wanted to tell her she was the most insensitive person I had ever met. But I didn’t say any of those things. We just went home in a cloud of confusion and despair, with no more answers than we had come in with.

Over the next two days the bleeding slowly faded and I assumed that the miscarriage was complete. Let me back up a little bit here and say that we have travelled this road before. In 2004 we buried our second baby, lost in my first trimester. All of those emotions and questions came flooding back in an instant when we realized we were losing another baby. I remember asking God why? You know, that question that we all ask when tragedy strikes, that we rarely receive answers for. I remember being so angry and telling God, very matter of factly, that I absolutely, unequivocally could not do this again. Yet here we were.

I was instructed by my OB’s office to come in that following Tuesday so that they could repeat the blood draw to be sure that my hormone levels had returned to normal. This would help them to determine if I had retained any of the tissue and if I would need surgery. I told my doctor’s nurse that the nurse at the ER had told me “congratulations”. I asked her to be straight with me. I just wanted someone to give me the odds that this was actually a viable pregnancy. She said with the amount of bleeding I had and with the cramping, probably not. Oddly enough, I took some comfort in her words. At this point I just wanted it to be over with and I so desperately wanted someone to tell me the truth so I could stop hoping for something I could never have and I could begin the recovery process.

Late Tuesday afternoon that same nurse called me and said, “Your numbers went up.” She said she didn’t know what that meant except that I was still pregnant and that I needed to come in so they could verify that it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. I still had been bleeding this whole time so of course now I feared that next worst-case scenario-an ectopic that would lead to surgery that would damage my chances to ever have children again.

On Wednesday morning, with much anxiety and fear, we stepped into the OB’s office for an ultrasound. Lo and behold, as soon as she turned on the machine, what did we see but a tiny little heart beat? This was totally unbelievable to me. The baby was right where he was supposed to be and was measuring right at 6 weeks. That meant that when I took that pregnancy test before it was a false negative. We had gotten pregnant our first try.

The ultrasound technician noted a spot in behind the placenta that was causing the bleed. The official diagnosis was that of a “subchorionic hematoma”. Basically, that meant that the placenta was having trouble attaching completely and that there was a bleed in behind it. I went home with instructions for modified bed rest­-no lifting, no exercising, limited activity. She could have chained me to my bed and I couldn’t have been more elated. The tech also remarked that it was a good thing that they had not done an ultrasound in the ER because they would have only seen an empty sac with no heartbeat. The baby’s heart had probably just started beating that very day. If they had done the ultrasound they may have recommended a D&C to remove the rest of the fetal tissue. Oh my, God is good!!!

So, true to form, I came home that night and did lots and lots of internet research on subchorionic hematomas. I realized that we were not completely out of the woods. Many people with these kinds of bleeds go on to have other issues later in their pregnancy, such as placental abruption-where the placenta detaches prematurely from the wall of the uterus-a life-threatening condition for both mom and baby. Another common problem is pre-term labor.

So over the course of the next week, as my fear and worry got the better of me I placed numerous calls to my OB’s office asking questions about this and that. And while they were gracious each time to answer all my questions, the nurse finally said, “You know, we just need to focus on getting you out of the first trimester. We can’t do anything about any of those other things yet.” I realized she was right and I started to relax…a little.

Unfortunately, on August 30, at Chuck E Cheese of all places, where we were celebrating my daughter’s birthday, again I started to feel like not everything was right. It started off slow, but before too long I was having cramps so bad I could barely stand. I was determined to make it through the birthday party but when we got home I immediately got in bed. I was crying from so much pain but I was having no bleeding or anything. However, some part of me just knew it was only a matter of time. This was it: we were losing the baby for sure this time.

As I was lying in bed, and Rick was struggling to find a way to help me and the kids were getting more and more concerned about Mommy, I felt myself start to bleed again. But I was completely paralyzed-there was so much blood I could feel it coming out in huge clumps and gushes. I couldn’t even get to the bathroom. Finally, after several minutes I made it there and was completely devastated by what I saw. I was passing clots the size of my fist. I just cried and cried to Rick that we were losing our baby. I have never been so scared in my whole life.

Finally, I have no idea how, I got myself composed enough to call the OB who of course instructed us to head to the ER. First we met my in-laws who took the kids for us for the night and then we headed to the ER. We debated this decision because we knew if we were miscarrying that they could do nothing for us. But the next day was Madison’s birthday and I didn’t want to remember that day forever as the day we learned our baby had died, so we went to the ER.

Once at the ER they ran all the usual tests and did all the usual exams. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the ultrasound tech came in. There in plain sight was our little baby’s heartbeat, beating stronger than ever.

We were utterly and completely shocked. Our baby was still hanging on! His growth was perfect. He was beautiful. But we still weren’t out of the woods. We knew the chances of our baby’s survival at this point were very slim-the hematoma was growing and the cramping and bleeding weren’t showing any signs of slowing down. My OB’s office wasn’t giving us a whole lot of hope. They even told me I couldn’t stand up in my sister’s wedding, which was scheduled for September 9…in Las Vegas. After much crying and pleading on my part, my OB relented, giving me strict instructions to go to the wedding and come back, no walking, no sight-seeing, nothing!

Over the next couple of months, I continued to bleed. It was a scary time. During this time, I had to learn to trust more, even though it is never my first inclination to do so. God was asking me to trust Him. It is a hard time in a pregnancy anyway-that time before you feel the reassurance of daily movement and sweet little flutters in your belly, before your belly has grown big enough that you are confident of the new life developing within you. It was a time of complete and utter trust in God. Not even so much trust that everything would work out, or the baby and I would be okay-but trust that this whole time God knew what He was doing, and that no matter what happened He was holding me.

Then at around 16 weeks of pregnancy I started to feel this new little life within me. I could hardly believe it. I treasured every movement. I am sure there were plenty of times standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting on Madison at the gym or sitting in church that I just sat there with a silly grin on my face feeling the miracle of life and looking like a complete fool.

Three weeks later another ultrasound confirmed that the truly amazing had indeed happened…a miracle in my own life. My SON (this was the point at which we found out it was indeed ANOTHER boy) was perfectly healthy, as was his placenta which gave absolutely no indication of ever having a problem to begin with.

I have to say, that although I believe in miracles, I never really thought one would happen to me. I always thought that was just something that happened to other people, never really anyone I knew. I had heard the stories though, and of course believed in the miracles described in the Bible, but they always seemed so far removed from my everyday life. I had prayed for miracles before, only to have my prayers go unanswered (or not answered the way I wanted). Of course, I prayed for a miracle for our baby but never really thought I would get one. We had thoroughly prepared ourselves to bury another child.

But a miracle he is. The rest of my pregnancy had its ups and downs and gave me plenty of more opportunities to learn to trust. I never truly settled in and felt completely comfortable that I would deliver a healthy baby boy. There was always the question in the back of my mind, up to the moment they pulled him out, is he really okay? Did God really intend for us to have this child?

Yet despite all my doubt and lack of trust here sits my son, Ethan Richard, whose name means strength. Not only has he proved himself strong over and over, the journey we have had with him has afforded us many opportunities to grow and strengthen our faith and trust in our faithful God.
I cannot explain how Ethan is here or why God chose to give him to us and not our other baby. I cannot explain why God allows some women to endure untold pain through infertility and pregnancy loss, and yet others get to hold their babies safely in their arms. All I know is that our God is a God who still works miracles, who is still on the throne and who is forever faithful in ALL things. God gives and God takes away and His name will forever be praised.
Happy 1 month birthday Ethan!