Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birth Story for Baby #6 - At Last!

Hello, dear readers!

I have been extremely lazy with writing my birth story. Usually I'm starting the process within 48 hours, but here we are: Baby is three months old, and no birth story. While I'm purposely trying to neglect my blog at the moment, I also know that I need to write down my story or risk forgetting precious details.

And so, here goes:

This pregnancy was challenging. While it was non-hyperemetic, it wasn't as smooth as our last pregnancy. I threw up a lot more, was super-nauseated through the whole thing, and had a very difficult third trimester in terms of mobility and back/pelvic pain.

As I neared the second half of this pregnancy, I also dealt with a recurring problem - a deep fear of childbirth. This is not new - I have written about it before. This time around, I even named it my "EGAD!" phase (Extremely Grumpy About Delivery).

I ended up praying two specific prayers:

One, for the grace, courage, and strength to face this birth and the postpartum period.

Two, for joy in the journey. That I would approach our birth time not with fear and dread, but with joy and anticipation.

Both my prayers were most joyfully answered. This time through, I was finally able to await the arrival of our sweet little one much more peacefully and joyfully, and without the same high level of fear. It wasn't perfect, but it was a huge improvement.

Our due date for this little one was March 13th.

Thus, I wasn't quite prepared for a February entrance. But that's what happened!

Here is the story - not of the birth day, but of the birth week. This baby chose a rather meandering route for his entrance.

As our 37th week dawned, we felt very status quo. Several more weeks to go, etc. etc. etc. Same ol', same ol'.

But on Monday, February 20th (37w1d), I woke up with an upset stomach. Usually, this is my first labor-is-coming-in-the-next-day-or-two sign.


I wasn't sure whether to take it seriously. I'm still not sure if that was a coincidence or not.

But that night, going into Tuesday, February 21st (37w2d), I woke up unexpectedly at 4:00 a.m. with strong false labor that lasted for two and a half hours. (Ouch!) Very suddenly, everything had changed.

(False labor is labor contractions that feel every bit as painful and regular as the real thing, but - while having a purpose - do not effect any cervical dilation or lead directly into actual labor.)

That morning, I could tell that my body had really changed. My uterus had gone from "generally well-behaved" to "irritable, cranky, and painful." Whether labor was on its way soon, or not for weeks more, we were definitely moving quickly into the last stages.

That night, leading into Wednesday, February 22nd (37w3d), false labor began as soon as I laid down and lasted for another three hours before stopping and finally letting me go to sleep. (Ouch again!)

I was getting a bit tired. It's hard to live constantly on edge, forever thinking, "Is THIS it? Or is this it NOW?"

But we soldiered on.

The next night, leading into Thursday, February 23rd (37w4d), I went to bed dreading the inevitable hours of painful false labor. To my surprise, there was none! Not one contraction! (YAY!)

But when I woke up in the morning, I found that I had blood-tinged cervical fluid (sorry to be so graphic, folks). This has always been my "Labor is coming TODAY" pre-labor symptom. This really brought things into clearer focus. We were not weeks, or even days out - this baby was coming, and likely that day.

But the day waxed and waned with no baby, and no labor outside of occasional painful contractions that never became regular.

Going to bed that night, I had no idea what to expect. But labor-or-false-labor contractions started right away - thirteen minutes after I laid down - and kept right on going until 6:30 in the morning. I then finally fell asleep - and woke up twenty-six minutes later! Time to start a new day! (*Sigh*)

That day was rather odd. I could tell that we were right on the brink of labor. At the slightest provocation, my uterus would start another painful contraction. But... it wasn't labor. Not yet. And life continued on. Again.

After lunch, I sat down to nurse our two-year-old prior to nap time. And immediately, contractions started coming hard and heavy. (I think the two-year-old was rather puzzled by being flung away while mummy shouted, "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!") And from there, the contractions didn't stop. I tried to nap, and couldn't, and so ended up timing my contractions for an hour (10 minutes apart) before texting our midwife.

One thing I am learning of late is to accept my husband's suggestions, rather than immediately brushing them off in the approved "His opinion is automatically wrong, and my opinion is automatically right" mode. Thus, when my husband suggested calling in our birth team at around 4:00 p.m., I went with it and agreed (instead of doing my usual "Oh, I'm sure we don't need anyone yet!" bit).

The first assistant midwife arrived at 4:30 p.m., and she immediately began unpacking our birth supplies and preparing our room. Our midwife arrived at 5:00 p.m., and the second assistant midwife arrived shortly thereafter.

During this labor, I took a big (for me) step - I asked my birth team for time to labor alone. This is not normally something I'd have the guts to do, because it sounds so rude: "Go away and leave me alone!" But during our last labor, I discovered that I like to labor by myself, and during this labor I got up the nerve to ask for that. Of course, our wonderful midwives graciously arranged for me to be alone, with our midwife simply coming in every few minutes to listen to baby's heart tones. It was a lovely experience, and I greatly appreciated their willingness to go along with it.

And now, I will tell you something that has been super-exciting: I have found something that helps me handle labor!

This is just so exciting, amazing, and earth-shattering. Seriously.

I normally do not handle labor well at all. I do not "work with it," or learn to handle contractions well. I panic, tighten up, and end up moaning or screaming through contractions because of the pain.

Some people label vocalizing as a "labor-management technique." No. Just... no. One does not look at a man being stabbed to death, and say: "Goodness, listen to that screaming! He sure is dealing with the pain well!" No. It's simply a reaction to pain, and that is how I have reacted to labor pain, being completely unable to cope in a constructive way.

During this pregnancy, however, I randomly borrowed a book from my midwife's lending library: The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin. I was really just looking to brush up on my labor and birth terminology - now that I am not an active birth blogger, I have found myself slipping in remembering a lot of the basic terms.

But - and this was really a God thing - I found what I needed for this birth (when I wasn't even looking for it).

What I found was a simple description of breathing techniques for labor - "slow breathing" method for early labor and a "fast breathing" method for later, more intense labor. I copied the information and practiced the breathing at night for a couple of weeks.

And... it worked.

I used both techniques: the slow breathing technique for all of the nights of false labor, plus early "real" labor, and the fast breathing technique for late labor and transition.

It was incredibly helpful. I was able both to manage the pain and distract myself from the pain. And, incredibly, I was able to avoid any type of vocalization. For me, this was a good thing. As I've said, vocalizing does not help me with the pain at all. I also find it highly embarrassing. But I haven't been able to help it, despite my best efforts, so I've just had to go with it. But during this labor, I didn't have to resort to vocalizing once - except during pushing, when it would truly take a miracle from Heaven to avoid. But aside from that, I was able to have a quieter and much more peaceful labor.

I personalized the fast and slow breathing techniques by adding a beginning (when I feel a contraction starting) and closing (when the contraction is mostly over) "cleansing breath," taken from Lamaze technique. (I can't believe I'm finally getting around to this eleven years after I watched that old Lamaze video).

All of this makes me think that we moderns may be doing Lamaze birth methods a disservice. Such older birth methods have been, in recent years, completely discarded. Nowadays, the only reason one hears of Lamaze is as the object of a childbirth joke. And instead of the scripted breathing methods prescribed by Lamaze and others in previous years, one is much more likely to hear something like "focus on your breathing."

For women like myself, however, I can say that "focus on your breathing" is nothing short of absurd. To return to our man being stabbed to death, someone standing by and shouting "Focus on your breathing!" would be... worse than useless. It really doesn't mean anything, and it doesn't give any concrete help during labor either to women who struggle with fear and panic at the onset of hard contractions, and I'm guessing it's not really that helpful to most women.

For myself, being given a basic prescription on exactly HOW to breathe was incredibly helpful. It was night-and-day difference in being able to deal with contraction pain, and it is definitely a part of my labor plan going forward.

(I should note that my own mother is a huge proponent of traditional Lamaze, and defends it vigorously against the barbs of modern-day dismissal of the method. She used it for 20 hours of unmedicated labor herself when I was being born.)

And to clarify, the methods described from the book were not Lamaze themselves, but being that they were a prescribed breathing method (rather than a generalized "focus on your breath"), I am likening them to the more prescriptive methods of breathing such as Lamaze.

The one caveat is that I felt that this labor was - at least possibly - easier than my others. I don't know if I could have handled a harder labor completely with this method. However, in the end, childbirth is childbirth is childbirth. It's hard, and it hurts. And I'm so happy with how it turned out using the above method.

And now, to return to our story:

I labored in bed for some time, with our midwives camped out in the living room. At some point I decided to move into the tub, so I got up and ran a bath and hopped in. The lovely thing about getting into a warm bath is that it nearly always gives one a brief break in contractions, and I enjoyed that very much.

At some point, I remember thinking of praying that baby would be out soon, as I did not want to labor through another night. The lazy part of me then thought, "No! That would mean more pain!" So, after debating the matter for some time, I ended up praying that baby would come easily, rather than sooner or later. (The lazy part of me won.)

Note: During this birth I finally got around to using the "miracle birth red raspberry tea" drink. Hard to drink during labor, but I can't argue - I definitely had an easier labor. (I had also used red raspberry tea during the last month of pregnancy.)

My husband came in a bit later and said that he thought our midwives should probably come in. I agreed completely, so he summoned them and they tiptoed in quietly and sat out of sight in the bedroom.

A short time later, I called to them and told them that I thought they should come in. I was starting to feel some pelvic pressure - which is worse than contractions, oddly enough - and probably had a feeling that things were getting close.

The midwives came in, and a short time later (just a few minutes, I believe), I said suddenly, "I think someone should get my husband." One of the assistant midwives ran to get him, and as he ran to come into the room - about ten seconds later (or less) - I was slammed by my first (and only? not sure) pushing contraction.

Things got little bit crazy. My husband didn't have time to take his sweatshirt off, or even push up his sleeves, so he got soaking wet jumping over to catch the baby. At the same time, he was asking the midwives to grab his phone from his pocket so that we could catch some photos before it was too late.

Of course, I didn't notice any of that, being a bit preoccupied.

However, an odd thing did happen, which was rather neat:

I am not a fan of pushing. If you ever see me protesting something, I'll probably be marching along with a sign that says "American Moms Against Second-Stage Labor." I am simply not a fan.

But this time, as soon as the pushing contraction hit, I made an instant and utterly unpremeditated decision - that I was not going to put up with this. Since the only way out was through, I was going to push with every ounce of strength that I had, as hard as I could, until this baby was out. And I did. I did not stop pushing in between contractions, and I didn't care if I tore "from nave to chops." This baby was coming OUT. And NOW.

And baby did!

We checked immediately, and found to our surprise that baby was a BOY! Somehow, we'd both assumed that since we'd had one girl, we'd start having more girls. But nope - the count is now four-to-one, in favor of Team Boy.

We had picked our boy name - at last! - only 24 hours earlier, so baby immediately had his name.

We got all cleaned up, got all exams done, and had our birth team home in time for bed.

While childbirth is always a challenge, this was our best birth yet.

We would like to thank our wonderful team of midwives who, as always, provided a safe, happy, respectful, and joyful entrance for our newest!

Baby Oliver
Born February 24th @ 6:28 p.m.
Six hours active labor
8 lbs. 4 oz.

We don't have any pictures from the labor (okay, a few, but they're not showable!), so here are all the post-birth shots:

Closing thoughts:

We're still in the early days of parenting. I've dealt with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary, pre-teen, and severe special needs, but there are so many areas I haven't yet traversed on this road - teens and young adults, teaching high school and college, graduating children, and parenting adult children and their spouses (and grandparenting!). I have so far to go. But the journey has been amazing, though challenging (and exhausting), and I know the Lord has so much more to teach me in the next few decades.

It has been some time now since we made the momentous decision to be open to whatever children the Lord would choose to give us. It was a hard decision, and it took a long time to make (over six years). But I can say without hesitation that it was the best decision we have ever made. I am so grateful for each one of our children, and am eager for more.

Do I have any regrets? Yes. I regret that we did not make this decision earlier.

I also regret deeply using birth control pills in particular. We know now that doing so likely caused the death of our first child by miscarriage. We did not know what we were doing, but we were complicit nonetheless.

I have not written about this subject deeply on this site, because it is a difficult topic and I am not a brave writer. But for anyone reading who is considering being open to God's gift of children, I want to encourage you. Even with difficult pregnancies, it has been a blessed decision.

The waves are rough, but the water's fine.

"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
\Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them"

- Psalm 127:3-4a


I am still staying off of the blog as much as possible. In the next week or so I will be publishing a couple of random posts (tips for birth and postpartum, and a quick family update). I will then work on getting my nausea-and-vomiting summary post up as quickly as possible before retiring back into hibernation. Thank you all for your patience!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Baby News!

Hey, everyone!

Surprise! Our newest addition made his debut last Friday, February 24th!

HE (yes, another boy!) weighed in at 8 lbs. 5 oz. and is perfect in every way (as they all are!).

For anyone wondering, "Hey, what happened to mid-MARCH?" - yes, this little guy came super-early! Our first 37-weeks baby. But he is perfectly healthy with no prematurity issues, and we're thrilled to have him here.

Update on my blogging break:

I am still on a long-term (possibly permanent) blogging break, but I will be stopping by (sometime, not soon - life is crazy!) to publish two upcoming posts:

  • Baby's birth story
  • This pregnancy's nausea and vomiting update

I miss blogging very much, but I have also been convicted that not blogging is where I need to be now. I am also working intensely on keeping my internet time down to 20 minutes a day, and I have already seen incredible blessings from this discipline.

I have so much in my life that needs hardcore work - my parenting abilities, my home, development of my homemaking skills. Blogging (and the internet in general) was just sucking too much of my time and energy. 

In the meantime, I am still answering blog emails and blog comments, so you can always reach me when necessary! I think of you all, and I love corresponding with those of you who are able to do so. Feel free to reach out when you need me, or have prayer requests!

I will publish baby's birth story soon... or at least within the next half-year! 

Love to you all!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blogging Break (Again)

Hello, dear readers!

I am going to take a blogging break.

(Yes, I know. Half of my blogging is taking blogging breaks.)

This time, I am going to take a big blogging break - by which I mean that I am not going to blog, and I am also going to shut down my blog reader (I will miss you, dear blogging sisters!).

My life for the past 15 years has been in two phases (1) a steep increase in internet use (I think most people my age experienced this), and (2) a gradual weaning from internet use. Unfortunately, step 2 is much harder than step 1 - and much more heartrending. One does get so attached.

I love the internet. I love blogging. I love all that I learn from you wonderful ladies out there. But the internet has the tendency to suck me in and leave me wondering where the last half-hour went... while my floors stayed dirty, dinner stayed unmade, and a stack of children's books went unread.

I want my family to remember a mother who was fully present - who read books to her children, baked cookies and pies, and kept a clean home. I don't want family memories of "My mom checked Facebook a lot" and "My mom stared at her phone all the time."

(I don't actually have a phone or a Facebook account, but the internet does still suck me in.)

And so... a break. This is part of my continuing journey. I don't know if I'll be gone two days, two weeks, two months, two years. One of those.

If I am gone longer, I will pop back in with baby news and also with my nausea and vomiting write-up for this pregnancy.

I will also continue to answer blog comments.

If anyone wishes to email me, do feel free to do so. I love keeping up with people, and am always available via email. I am also always available for prayer requests, so do let me know of your families' needs.

In the meantime, have a lovely, wonderful holiday season, and a very merry Christmas! My love to all of you!

(I should mention that the above is not meant in any way to disparage blogging. Some of you are incredibly gifted and are used of God for wonderful purposes. Keep it up.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

When Lightning Gets Crazy

Here are those pictures/videos I promised!

One Friday this past July, my husband took the children out to the porch to watch a monsoon. A few minutes later they saw - actually saw! - lightning strike a palm tree in our neighborhood's common area. The tree caught fire immediately, from top to bottom.

My husband was on the phone with 911 within ten seconds. This video was taken about 2-3 minutes after the strike.

The second video, below, was taken just a minute or so later. The strong winds quickly spread the fire to surrounding trees, and within a matter of seconds we had a mini-firestorm on our hands. I have never seen a fire spread so quickly.

Thankfully the rains started almost immediately, which helped to slow the fire's spread. I don't know what would have happened without the rain, because this was one mean fire. Even with the rain the fire stayed intense, and our neighbors (directly behind the trees) sustained substantial minor damage from scorched car paint and burned patio furniture. Garden hoses did nothing to stem the blaze.

The fire department arrived about one minute after this video was taken.

We've been next to a lightning strike before, which was frightening, but being that it struck a metal carport, there was no fire. This was a completely different story! Yikes.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Making Pumpkin Pie Ahead of Time for Thanksgiving

This is so, so simple... I know I'm the last to hear about these tips. But just in case there's someone else like me out there, here is the easiest method ever for making pumpkin pie super-easy on Thanksgiving morning:

Monday: Make pie dough, form into discs, refrigerate.

Tuesday: Roll out pie dough, fit into pans, wrap in plastic, freeze.

Wednesday: Make pie filling, leave (uncooked) filling covered in the fridge.

Thursday: Preheat oven, grab out the crusts, pour in the filling, bake.

Pie in the oven in less than five minutes on Thanksgiving morning? Yes, please!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Briefly Breaking Radio Silence

Hi, everyone!

I wanted to check in quickly with you all. We are now at 24 weeks, a bit more than halfway through the pregnancy journey with our newest edition. After a miserable summer I am feeling much better. Still nauseated around the clock, and downright yucky in the evenings (and other bits and parts of the day), and still throwing up a couple of times a week, but infinitely better than July through September. Week 23 was especially a big week of improvement. I have begun doing a bit of cooking, am back at church, and am even taking the children to park days and field trips.

Life is wonderful.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that life in the aftermath of morning sickness is also quite stressful. Coming out of intense nausea, still struggling with constant nausea, and becoming aware of how badly everything - housework, routines, discipline - has deteriorated, can be rather overwhelming. But the incredible blessing of being free from intense round-the-clock nausea is also thrilling and exhilarating, and it makes me intensely thankful for every moment that I feel functional, and everything that I can do that I can't do while sick.)

Baby is checking out beautifully at our midwife appointments. I spent about a month absolutely convinced that baby was babies, i.e. twins, but baby is indeed solely in the singular tense.

Maybe next time. :)

(So I guess this means that I've lost any excuse for all the weight I'm gaining.)

I have finished assembling our birth kit and am moving into my usual post-20-weeks season of feverish spring cleaning (whenever the nausea allows). Good thing, because our home needs it after a summer of neglect!

The last half of pregnancy always goes by with incredible quickness. So much to do, so little time!

Highlights, good and bad, from this summer:

(1) Losing both of our cats - separate causes, six weeks apart. Total bummer.
(2) Health problems for my husband's mom.
(3) Various health problems for our family - most minor, thankfully most are improving.
(4) A crazy fire in our neighborhood caused by a lightning strike that my husband and the boys actually saw with their own eyes. Will post video later.
(5) First visit to our State Fair for my husband and the boys.
(6) First visit to a local lake. Considering how intimidating I find travel details, this is a major victory for me.

I'm spending my time working through the nausea, preparing for the holidays, cleaning up the mess that inevitably results when I'm down for a few months, and working on getting all of our schedule, routines, and school work back together after a summer-o'-morning-sickness. Perhaps I'll post on that subject sometime too.

I don't know that I'll be around often, but I will try to check in occasionally. I hope that each of you is having a wonderful fall!

A few pictures:

At the farm:

At the pumpkin patch:

This is called the "I can't BELIEVE we paid THAT MUCH for ONE PUMPKIN" trip. 

At the state fair:

At the lake:

I thought she'd be intimidated, but she ran straight from the van into the water.

Helping Daddy make popcorn for movie night:

Being crazy. With added mud. Mud always makes things better:

At our local chuckwagon cook-off:

Enjoying the camp fire


Our annual Pilgrim Thanksgiving feast:

Roast chicken, cornbread, mashed potatoes, succotash, Indian pudding, stewed pompion, cranberry sauce.
All (or most) recipes are courtesy of Story of the World, Book 3. 

I should have added some pictures from our second celebration of St. Martin's Day, but this year I totally forgot before it was too late. This year we added a nighttime lantern walk to the festivities.


And... Little Girl turns two!

This child cracks me up. Not only is she incredibly independent and strong-minded, but she has every bit of fluffy femininity that I never had as a child. Give her the chance, and she'll change her outfit every two minutes. Literally. She adores hats, gloves, shoes, hair accessories, and everything pink - all of the things that I, in childhood, rejected with all the temerity of a devoted tomboy. It seems I have some things to learn about girlhood in the years ahead!

I'm sure it will be good for me.

Have a wonderful week, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer, News, Etc.

At this time of year, the eyes of the nation turn toward one topic, and one topic only....

The 2016 Arizona homeschool convention! How was it???

Well, I'd love to tell you all.

But the truth is that I don't know. We skipped it.

Yup, that's right. After we'd made our plans, arranged for childcare, and purchased our non-refundable, non-transferable tickets for my absolute favorite event of the entire year, we decided at the last minute to ditch the whole thing and stay home


The furiously thinking reader has now probably reached the truth of the situation, knowing that very little less than a herd of rabid crocodiles will keep me from the AFHE homeschool convention....

That's right! Two pink lines, the news of which reached us the last day of June, meaning that by the time the conference rolled around, I was too busy doing my dying slug imitation to even think about being an eager conference-goer. (Still am, actually.)

However, we are very grateful, and very excited. We are a few short weeks short of finishing our first trimester, and we heard baby's sweet heartbeat yesterday. (Yay!)

I will post a nausea-and-vomiting update soon for those of you who are here for that purpose (soon = within the next few years). I can tell you (spoiler!) that although it's been an absolutely miserable summer, this pregnancy has stayed non-hyperemetic. (*Loud songs of thanksgiving!*)

In the meantime, I probably won't be around too often. Maybe in another few months?

I hope that each of you has had a lovely summer, and that your school years are starting smoothly. Love to you all!