Wednesday, June 19, 2013

elmer's birth

He's here.
i'm not very on the ball these days, but I want to blog his birth story before I forget all the little details that are already sifting through my fingertips like fine sand.
I carried Elmer past the ultrasound due dates...
We're having a baby today! 40 weeks 5 days.

I was comfortable and content. We had the due dates padded on my paperwork, and so I never felt rushed or that I was running out of time like i had when i carried Ephraim so long. Right before I hit my due dates, my joints decided to get ready to have baby and went all loose and made walking funny and awkward. I also got carpal tunnel in my hands - something I had never experienced before - and so the last tiny bit that I carried him, was a little more tender and ploddingly slow (but not unbearable by any stretch).
i'm not sure what day I first noticed that I might be leaking fluid, but since I've never leaked before, I pushed the idea out of my head. It continued though, and Tuesday night I noticed I was starting to get some contractions. They were very light and mild though and were easy enough to fall asleep in the midst of. I woke in the morning and didn't experience many more, but the leaking continued. I kind of argued with myself that if I was leaking, surely the few contractions would be enough to push me into real labour - as my labours have often begun with spontaneous rupture of membranes followed immediately by the onset of labour.
Neil had been travelling and was finally home on Tuesday night, so I told my body that it was ok to go into labour... that we could go now if all was ready. i knew he was going to be flying out early on Sunday morning, and i really wanted him to be there.  I had hoped that I would carry baby till he was finished his last trip - as I know how challenging those first post partum days can be - especially flying solo... but I had long ago surrendered the timing of my little one's birth to my Heavenly Father - and I trusted that He knew best.
Tuesday night and Wednesday i had lots of show, with only a few mild contractions. i kept thinking that one little thing could push me over the brink into real labour... but nothing ever seemed to do it. Overnight Wednesday night, i was leaking enough that i started to wonder in earnest if it really could be my amniotic fluid... and then i started to wonder if it was my amniotic fluid, how long had it been broken? i had tested GBS positive for the first time ever this pregnancy and the thought of having broken waters for days on end made me uncomfortable so i called my midwife in the morning and told her what had been happening. By then, (of course - isn't that how it always is?) the leaking quit - and she was concerned that because of the show, the test strips might not be very accurate anyway - but she wanted me to keep in touch if symptoms continued.
It ended up being a really busy day. My older kids had exams in Okotoks and Neil had meetings - i ended up being busy all day.  By the time i got home, i was feeling restless and a little frustrated. i sat down at the kitchen table to work on a tiny bench i was going to paint for our bathroom, and i felt another very tiny leak of fluid, so i picked up the phone and called my midwife again. She suggested we meet at the clinic and she would see if the swab came back positive for amniotic fluid.
We drove to the clinic - and i hoped furiously that my water was still intact and that i could just go home and wait in peace. There wasn't even enough moisture to require wearing a pad after all, and i really hoped that the restless unease was just the end of pregnancy jitters. When we got to the clinic, my midwife noted that i wasn't wearing a pad and gave me some hope that all was well, but when she swabbed, it immediately turned a deep blue confirming what i already knew deep down - that i had some kind of a rupture and that our little one was going to be needing to be encouraged to come sooner rather than later.
Discouraged, i looked at my midwife and sighed, "What now?"
i had been counting on avoiding the antibiotics by having one of my usual quick births - but now with the increased risk of ruptured membranes, i wasn't willing to decline the antibiotics any longer.
We talked about it, and i felt a ton of peace and trust - which is so rare for me - in taking the antibiotics and also an "induction smoothie" whose active ingredients are lemon verbena and castor oil. It was funny to run out to Neil's truck and tell him the midwife needed him to go get some supplies.
"Ok," he responded, turning the ignition, "What do i need?"
"She wants you to go to the grocery store and get peanut butter and orange juice."
"Um, for real?"
"Yeah... we're makin' a smoothie."
So he did - and then she made him mix it up too using their special recipe - and he felt very useful. It wasn't gross at all - lemon, peanut butter and orange juice make it palatable and i guzzled it down and watched the midwife start an IV for the antibiotics.
Within the hour (around 5:45pm), we were headed home with instructions not to wait too long. My midwife was as convinced as we were that with just the tiniest push, my labour would fly out of control and we wanted to be sure to have enough time to make it to the birthing center.
The one thing that made me kind of sad was the fact that it was the night of Sloanie's violin recital. We talked about going to the recital, and just leaving if we had to - or different ways that we could make it work... but in the end, we decided that we were just going to have to miss it. We called Sloanie and she didn't skip a beat - just assured us that it was fine - and she was excited for the imminent arrival of her sweet baby brother.
We arrived home, and Sloanie had fed her siblings as Cai had been at work until i called her and asked tentatively, "Think you could get out of work tonight and come with?" (Her friend George volunteered to work overtime so my chicky could come home, and so I owe a debt of gratitude to an employee of Dairy Queen who I haven't met yet).  Peyton volunteered to babysit the rest of our crew since she had come to Ephraim's birth and she said she would give Mollen a chance to come since she was my only daughter who hadn't been able to attend a birth. There was a bubbling excitement in the house as we made ready - but finally everything was done that needed to be done and we looked blankly at each other, "What now?"
i wasn't in labour - but the idea of travelling to the birthing center in the throes of hard labour wasn't all that appealing either, so i called my midwife and asked her if we could just head over since we were committed to having baby now anyway - and just count on labour kicking in once we got there. She agreed to meet us there so we packed our girlies and one empty car seat in the truck and headed out.

Took a bit of convincing to get Neil to add the second finger. He's bad. :)

i was getting some random, painless contractions on the way there... and i asked Neil if we could start listening to my birthy play list while we drove... i had made some good choices putting it together... and as i surrendered by body and my plans for this birth and even the tiny child within me into God's hands, the tears just flowed. The birthing center isn't that far from our city's abortion clinic... and as we drove past the clinic, i looked back. i saw the gate shut tight across the parking lot entrance - and i prayed for Life.
When we arrived, my midwife decided she might as well check me now (her previous exam at the clinic had been a speculum exam because she didn't want to give me a full pelvic exam because of my gbs status). At the clinic, i had been high and closed, and despite the fact that it hadn't been very long, and i hadn't experienced many contractions, i hoped for progress. As soon as she checked me, my water broke in earnest and i couldn't even hold in a huge sigh of disappointment to see that it was stained with meconium.
My midwife again, was the calm voice of reason and she told me that she's required to tell me that the recommendation with meconium staining is a hospital birth. i asked her how she felt and she told me she was perfectly comfortable where we were... i told her i was too... and we decided to stay.
i had made a little progress, but not much, and having checked the baby's position in the womb, my midwife wanted to try some different positions to see if we could get his little head turned into a better position for birth. Finally, she smiled at me, "We're gonna go do some stairs now..."

She had me going up the stairs with wide legs and deep squats. When a contraction would come, she would get me to take two stairs and lean into it for the duration of the contraction. My contractions were really too short and mild to be making much progress, but i did the stairs till i was breathless - and before we knew it, it was time for the second dose of antibiotics and smoothie. i sat at the table as they mixed the antibiotics and they plugged it into the little port they had left in my arm. i begged to have it taken out now that i had taken both doses of antibiotics, but they seemed to want to keep it in for the duration now that we had it inserted. As the antibiotics finished, suddenly i felt *another* pop and a gush - and my water broke again.
"Surely now..." i murmered...
My midwife was baffled at the extra rupture, but was pleased that this water appeared clear... It was around 9:45 when i had the second dose of antibiotics and downed the second dose of lemon verbena. Slowly, slowly, slowly... the contractions picked up in frequency, duration and intensity... It wasn't long before i asked to get in the tub, and my midwife said looking at my countenance was enough to tell her I had made progress, I was finally not laughing, so she told me to go for it.
The water brought immediate relief.
i wasn't sure if i had been making progress or not - and i was a little worried that the water would slow the progress since it had been so much work to get me going and that was unfamiliar to me. My midwife told me she wasn't worried though, so i just enjoyed Mother Nature's epidural and breathed and coped through the contractions and let the water soothe me and the music that Cai played bring me peace.
It wasn't long and the contractions were overwhelming. i didn't feel strong and fearless - & that's ok - you feel what you feel in labour, each one is it's own journey... This one didn't come to catch me, i ran looking for it - and met it... despite my weakness.
i felt his head descend inside my body and wondered if it was time to push. My midwife managed to check me without getting me out of the water and helped me get the last tiny lip of cervix out of the way.
i worked so hard. It hurt, and i pushed... i felt him descend even more... The room was very dark and i was more vocal - but not out of control. Neil squeezed himself into a tiny corner beside the tub - and when i cried, "i don't want another contraction, i don't want to do this..."
He wryly added, "Babe, i'm tired - i want another contraction... Let's do this..."
And no matter what either one of us wanted, my tiny one descended and my body pushed and did what it was designed to do and i reached down in the water and felt his head crown and slip from my body.
"His head is out..." i groaned to the midwife.
Strains of One Thing Remains in the blackened room... "Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me... Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me...
"Oh, it is?" She laughed softly and helped me to get in a better position to push out his body.
(I was going through Sloan's pictures after and I found a video that was pitch black... I was going to delete it, but I hit play... I heard my midwife's voice, "I think it's time to get the sisters".  There was the sound of the soft lapping of water and then my groan as he was born, and the midwife's gentle acknowledgement, "Intense eh?" to my pitiful, "That was such hard work..." Quite an amazing thing to hear... )

i pulled him from the water, and clutched his tiny body to mine. He was so peaceful, he didn't want to cry. He breathed and looked around, wide eyed, grasping tiny wrinkled fingers at the air - pressed close to his mama, half submerged in the warmth of the water, blinking in the dim light as we spoke in lowered tones and waited for his cord to stop pulsing.
"What a peaceful birth..." The midwives smiled at my son - and i thought in that moment that i was so grateful that even after the decades of midwifery experience between these two women, the mystery and magic of childbirth was obviously not old for them... i was so glad for the women who attended his birth.
It was 11:51pm when he was born, and we made it home by 2:30am - I insisted on stopping at McDonalds for a Big Mac on the way, much to Neil's dismay... he was exhausted after all the resting on the couch he had done and wanted to get home to bed. ;)
The next day, we chose his name:

And there are so many more bits and pieces and stories I want to tell and pictures of grace in the midst of the vulnerability of new life... but if I don't post this now, i'm beginning to doubt I ever will... Blogging became tricky for so many, many reasons in the past couple of years and i'm out of habit and practice... and it shows :)
Elmer, you are a blessing to this family. We are so in love with you already - and I pray (yesterday it was in a sobbing half shouted prayer in the privacy of the little orange car)...  that you will be a willing vessel for God to accomplish His good works through you.
Oh buddy, mama is just so blessed - in tearful gratitude for the precious gift of your life. I just know we're going to be special friends...

late night for miss mollen...

They added a banner stating, "It's a BOY" to the window a few hours after this picture was taken. Elmer was the third baby born at the birthing center that day...

"I need some support." "Oh? Could you come over here? I've got to check some emails..."

That's my bikini top clutched in my hand... getting ready to get in the tub..

5 days old

5 days old... precious pictures taken by Carey Stevens photography. You can see more HERE.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


It was my last time leading worship in my home church until the little baby boy arrives... so i got the chance to sit through most of all three services...
Our pastor is working through a series on the life of Moses - and it has been good, meaty stuff. In a breath of his sermon today, he gently offered the challenge, "When the Israelites ran into difficulty, their first impulse was to go back to Egypt... what do you turn to when things get difficult?"  He suggested that for some, it might be a habit of alcohol... pornography... or what he personally struggled with; apathy and laziness.
And as i sat with my swollen belly resting uncomfortably on my lap, i wondered what my Egypt might be...
i wondered if it was my habit to compulsively over think anything and everything, or if it was a weakness that had not yet been revealed to me, but was apparent and obvious to everyone around me...
And then i hit on it...
i was pretty sure that my Egypt was self-pity.
"Unloved" is my heart's petulant cry when met with difficulty, and with a sigh of acceptance, i meekly turn from freedom and accept the 'comfort' of the familiar slavery of self pity. i decided to watch for it - to guard against it - to remember that when difficulty comes, He sees, He hears and He has compassion on me... i'm fed, clothed and so tenderly led - and i truly do want to walk in freedom. Loved.
i didn't have to wait long to be tested in my resolve.
At the end of a long day, i sat down with a flock of young lambs who have no idea the vulnerability that the 39th week of pregnancy brings. My hands ache - a new pregnancy symptom i've never had before - and the end of the day shows my very real weaknesses as my body slows into a gentler, more careful gait. I have had a beautiful, healthy pregnancy - but any pregnancy is hard work. It's physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding... bringing me again and again to depend on others and surrendering my own comfort and vanity for the sake of another tiny person.
I've loved becoming "that house" - full of my own children and the children of others. I love getting to know them, letting them into our lives and getting a peek into theirs. My life has been enriched and my faith has been fed by the extra teens that sneak into my house, laze on my couch and have wormed their way so completely into my heart...
They were playing music... and then the little voice of one of my own lambs chirped, "My friend's dad told me that you and dad should stop having naps together..."
"Yeah, my mom says you guys have too many kids... You should stop."
And i smiled... but tears welled up in my eyes... And i *know*... these are gentle jests... These are my friends - and these little lambs don't know that sometimes i feel tired swimming upstream - so constantly called to a different shore...
And i couldn't respond...
"Yeah," continued one of my own little lambs... "i'm getting tired already of the comments, 'is your mom about ready to be done yet?' or, 'You guys already have such a big family, you must hate it...' It's like, enough already!"
Her eyes followed me as i got up to sweep and i think she guessed what might lie behind the plastic mask of a smile on my face...
i know these comments are idle - and they mean nothing to me - or to the tiny one i carry... and they certainly take nothing away from this marathon journey of pregnancy, and these final aching days as we prepare to cross the finish line... And honestly? People have been so kind... too kind... like, bend over backwards, *over blessed* kind... and i *know that i know that i know*... that there isn't one scrap of malice or cruelty in these words... but in an instant...

i began to turn back to Egypt.

"Hey daughter... want freedom?"
He whispers...
"Yes, Papa..." i pray... i'm sweeping the crumbs from beneath my large family dining table... swallowing the lump in my throat and cursing the hormones that make my emotions run far too close to the surface.
And in that moment, I choose to raise my eyes above the teasing confusion of my fellow Israelite wanderers to the majestic sight of fire and cloud leading us Homeward in the sky... I beg Him to speak truth.
And suddenly i'm filled with a certainty... that this boy that I carry, is God's workmanship... Before he was formed in the womb, God knew him... Abba Father... is knitting him together in the secret place to do good things.  The work i'm doing? It's not in vain... Jehovah-Nissi - my banner -  is using me, His daughter.  My willingness to carry this little one for His sake is not something to be scorned or looked down upon... it is a beautiful work, and one that will carry eternal consequences... and Jehovah-Raah - my shepherd - is so gently leading me...
Out of Egypt...
Out of slavery...
Out of self pity...
Into freedom.

Monday, June 3, 2013

thinking out loud... birth, travel and planning to flex

i have a tendency to over think things. It's a bit crippling at times - and such a sweet relief to finally be able to just let go when i realize that i've worked that one little thought into a frazzled mess and i should possibly just put it aside now. 
My friend J and i were having a little texting convo the other day as she was working through a little thought process of her own. We kind of talked through her options and where she felt like God wanted her to be - and in the end she had peace about what she was supposed to do... and it was funny 'cause she told me, "Thanks for that. You are always so good at putting into words the thoughts and leadings I have but can't seem to explain. I know they're from God, but you help me stand back and see a broader picture."
And it's funny to me - how our weaknesses are so often our strengths too! 
So the last few days i have been puzzling out some of the details of this baby's birth. There are so many blanks that will be filled in by my own sweet son and by a Father who i really believe has a hand in the timing of *all* things...
But there are a few details that i do know about that are rattling around in my head begging to be slotted into some sort of a makeshift plan - (knowing that where babies are concerned, all plans are subject to change without any notice)...
Neil's travel has been amazing this past little bit - far more home time than away time, trips that have been a manageable length and less weekends spent missing family time. But strangely, it looks like in the window of "baby time" - there are going to be not one, but two trips that will take him far enough away that he wouldn't be able to get home...
And i do have peace.
And there is a sweet little window of time between the trips where he will be home, and it wouldn't surprise me one tiny bit if the baby decided to arrive on one of those home days...
But for the days when he's not here... my mind (which again, is at peace) - is mulling over scenarios trying to find the very best options for me - and for the little ones here in our home, and mostly for this sweet little boy who will be making that epic journey through birth...
We're planning on using the Arbour Birth Center - like we did for Ephraim's birth. It was the perfect middle ground for us, and we both felt like it was our favourite birthing experience... We don't know who will come with us, if we'll bring any little ones with us, or if they'll all be tucked in bed. We're just deciding we'll decide when the time comes.
But if Neil's gone...
i don't want to drive across Calgary to get to a birthing center. Yes, i have awesome friends who would drive me... but it's the loneliness that gets me. i don't want to go and leave my family at home if i already don't have Neil. i know that doing that would make me feel sad and torn... So, we've decided that if Neil's out of town, we'll call the midwives to come to our house and have a home birth. i've done very little (nothing) to prepare for the event of a home birth. Maybe part of me is in denial that it's even a possibility, as i so badly want Neil to be there... Cairo claims that there's no way my mind will let my body go into labour until Neil's last trip is done & he's back home... & honestly? i believe her... That would put me at 12 days "over"... but it's not unimaginable...
So, there are some of my little threads of thoughts.
i'm not stressed.
i'm not worried.
i'm taking each day (and each business trip) as it comes, and i'm doing all that i can do to grow this sweet little one safely inside until it's time for him to come out - and i'm trusting that the Father who gave life to us both will hold us in the palm of His hand...
So there's my little update as I gaze ahead to these next precious waiting days with due dates looming on the horizon - and the sweet smell of rain making the grass grow green...


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