Category Archives: The Kids

Why this mom of six is hardly blogging.

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children.  Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week!  But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever.  Here’s why:

  1. Time and priorities.  I love writing.  But, I also love reading.  I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook.  I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share).  I just can’t do everything, sadly.  Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out.  I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to.  So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging.  I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing.  So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
  2. The current culture of blogging.  When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”.  I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading.  In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing.  I wasn’t careful at all.  I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion.  I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words.  In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes.  However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming.  And THEN, you add Pinterest.  If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture.  So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own.  Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
  3. My mind is blank.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share…  Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!

Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:

  • We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating.  Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical.  That’s why the process is slow:  if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster.  But, we both care.   Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room.  It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.  Living Room
  • We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment.  Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand.  Oh, wait!  I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid.  It was new in the box…  So, I guess that counts as a new purchase.  So, purchase #2:  a highchair.  I can’t wait until it arrives;  baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap.  That is becoming increasingly messy.  I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive.  I struck out.  So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.   
  • Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so.  I have a few current authors that I follow;  I read everything they write.  Those tend to be dependable authors;  I like their craft of storytelling.  However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile.  I am enriched by having read that.”  Not that they’re trash;  they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound.  The book I recently finished?  Profound.  I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems.  But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction.  Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky?  Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information).  But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum.  When he finished, he handed it to me.  “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I think you’d like it.”  Which made me love him all the more…  And he was right;  I did like it.  I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling.  However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.”  It’s rather annoying.  I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction.  I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine.  And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch.  I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
  • And…  This little sweetie.  How I adore her.  She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep.  Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all.  You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned.  She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family.  Everyone is smitten, still.  She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle.  So, so perfect.  Except the sleep thing.  I’m tired.   baby Jean, in arms

Trendsetter and other good news

Fiala was the flowergirl in the wedding of some dear friends in November. I made her dress.

My days aren’t always wonderful.  But, today has been smashing and I don’t want to forget it.

First, our mourning has been turned into dancing.  Earlier this week, we discovered that the awful scraping sound emanating from my Land Barge’s engine was its last, dying gasp.  It needed a new engine — to the tune of $3,500 or so.  This morning, someone called to tell us that, essentially, he is going to pay for it.  This “someone” is returning a favor for house plans that my husband designed for him.  I must confess that I have groused somewhat about what I feel is people taking advantage of my husband’s generosity with his home-designing skills, which he frequently does for free, or very nearly so, on the side*.  It seems to me that folks don’t comprehend the time, effort, skill, and flat-out genius that goes behind their remodel, or whatever.  I have strongly suggested that he charge what he’s worth.  He refuses.  I pout and feel self-righteous about at least internally defending my husband.  However, I will never breathe a word of complaint again.  Even enters my mind I will remind myself that GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL and HE WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US and no kindness is wasted in God’s economy.  I will give all future unkindly thoughts** a kick to the curb and not let them enter into the dwelling place of my ponderings.  Seriously.  My mind is changed FOREVER.  My paradigm is permanently shifted.

Secondly, something over the last week or so, of which we didn’t hear until today:

  1. Last week at our dentist’s office, as always, my five year old daughter Fiala was unfailingly kind and encouraging. She told the dental assistant, Shawn, that she looked beautiful, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
  2. Shawn went home, and when asked about her day by her elementary-school-aged son, she said that a little girl made her day, describing the incident with Fi… They talked about the name “Fiala”.
  3. The son’s teacher is pregnant with a little girl and (bravely!) told the students that she would let one of them name the baby. She set up a suggestion box in the back. Shawn’s son wrote down “Fiala”.
  4. The teacher announced yesterday (I think) that her new baby would be named Fiala.
  5. Buh-bam! Darling girl is a trend-setter, spreading her sweet spunkiness and genuine affection, getting babies named after her.

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*He is also paid to design houses in his full-time job.  :)
**At least on this topic.  ;)

“Here I stand…”***

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My husband Martin holds baby Jean to the sky. We’re at Saddle View Point, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I are nearing 19 years of marriage.  I have been reflecting on our history recently.

That is partly because my own parents divorced after they had “celebrated” their own 19th anniversary, and I have had to say, “SHUT UP!!” to the enemy keep my thoughts captive regarding this particular milestone, and have been purposefully dwelling on the successes of our time together as a family.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Psalm 137:3-5 (NLT)*

It’s a pretty common understanding in the Christian culture that children are a blessing.

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My family: 12-year-old Wesley, 7yo Audrey, 14yo Grant, myself holding baby Jean, almost-five-year-old Fiala, Martin, and 16yo Ethan.

Confession:  For a long, long time, I did not feel that blessing.  I felt overwhelmed, not up to the massive task appointed to me.  I saw my every flaw replicated and magnified in my children.  I felt like I was endlessly disciplining, when I really didn’t WANT to discipline;  I wanted to snuggle on the couch and have everyone love each other, and everyone respect each other, everyone defend each other, everyone exuding kindness and loyalty…

I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, and though I do see my flaws in my children, I am less horrified these days.  Instead, I see that as the provision of God to accent my need for His holiness and his character, in both myself and my children;  it shows me what I need to work on.  However, I still feel, oftentimes, like that last sentence in the paragraph above.  There is not enough kindness and love in our home.  There is not enough of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  There is not enough of His peace.  His patience is frequently far from manifest in the lives and hearts of every member of our family.

HOWEVER.

I am still starting to get a picture, a revelation, of how much BLESSING I live in.

It is dawning on me from a number of different horizons.

To wit:

  • A mother came up to me after worship on Sunday and told me how she had seen my 14 year old son, Grant, enter right into exuberant worship and praise — nothing rote — and he urged a friend to do the same.
  • I am meeting more women — it’s my age, I guess — who do not have the family they envisioned for themselves, earlier in their lives.  They don’t have as many children, or none at all, or they don’t have a healthy marriage, or none at all…  It’s not that my marriage is flawless, but I do have a good marriage.  And I have six children, which feels… complete for the first time in my motherhood.  It doesn’t feel as if anyone is missing.  I am realizing how easily what I presently have could have never been.
  • I do long for more loyalty and kindness in particular between my children;  every time a child throws a sibling under the bus, so to speak, by tattling, my stomach hurts and my heart aches.  But, there IS a lot of love present in our home.  I am trying to treasure all these things in my heart — to remember the loving, tender moments.
  • People whose perspectives and opinions I trust are increasingly encouraging me, pointing out the good fruit in our home.  A maternal uncle visited this past weekend.  He left a note for my husband and I to read.  Part of it said, “You have accepted the challenge of raising a Christian family at a time in history when our culture, society, and even our government fights you.  Good job.  Keep going.  You are being watched by people you don’t even know, and they do so with a yen for what you have.”**
  • At my step dad’s memorial service last Saturday, many people came up to me to congratulate me on the good behavior of my children, and extended their blessings to our family.
  • Baby Jean seems to have brought a new level of tenderness in our family — especially in my two other girls.  My pastor’s wife keeps noting it to me.  It has opened my eyes to the reality of the Father God blessing our family, specifically through this chubby, sweet-smiling three-month-old infant.
  • Just in general…  People keep encouraging me, especially about my motherhood and my children.  I should keep notes and read on a day when I’m discouraged.  :)

I’ve always kept with the notion that those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise.  Therefore, I often take lightly the compliments of others, regarding my children.  I see the best in my children, but I also see the worst, and I can’t help but often think, “If you only knew...” when someone says something flattering about one of my children.

But, I’ve decided this:  It would be more repugnant to live in the blessing and not realize it.  I think my perfectionist self rather disqualifies my motherhood, disqualifies my children, even, from receiving compliments and blessings.  This makes me sad.  I want to believe it!  I should believe it!  I want to embrace a life of blessing.  I want to ENJOY being blessed!  I think it would score one for the enemy if I really did live a blessed life, but didn’t have the revelation of it.  What a waste that would be!

I’m feeling an increased longing for more of God’s presence in our home.  In short, I’m longing for His blessing, His hand on our lives and in our hearts.  I’ve always wanted this… but it seems like God is bringing me to a place of urgency in prayer and in seeking Him for this, and I have, a number of times in the last month or so, been brought to tears with HOW MUCH I LONG FOR this, long for Him.

So, that’s my new goal:  To enjoy the Father’s blessing, which, indeed, includes my precious children, and to look for and acknowledge His blessing.  I am a blessed woman, indeed, to have six children and a loving husband.  Perfection is a long, long, long, long ways off.  But I am still very blessed, and I want to have an increasing revelation of that, and live in its peace.

———–

*For the curious, our family is not “quiverfull“.
** I was telling my pastor about how I was basking in this blessing from my uncle, and then, I looked over and saw my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, CHEWING on the note.  CHEWING IT.  She explained, “I’m pretending to be a puppy!”  My pastor said with a laugh, “And then reality set in!”
***There is an old worship song by John Barnett called “In the Blessing.”  Its words are:  “Here I stand/In the blessing of the Father’s love/Washed in blood/Sweet forgiveness for a life undone… Knowing that Your love is all I need/To get by/Knowing that Your hand is over me/All my life/My Father, I love you…”  I couldn’t find a recording of this song — which has often brought me to tears — to add to this post.

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Lovely Audrey holds baby Jean, who doesn’t look too pleased here. But, really, Jean *ADORES* her siblings.

An odd testament to love

My stepdad, Joe, passed away last Thursday.

It was a shock.

I visited him with Audrey and Fiala the night previous, as we’d gotten word that he had taken a turn for the worse.  He was mostly out of it, on pain meds, but we had some now-memorable exchanges… One was me asking him if he wanted music in his room — he LOVED music — and he did.  I made a mental plan to follow up on that the next day.  A sick man should have music.  He taught my children all sorts of silly songs over the years — he and my mom started dating when my 16 year-old was an infant;  they were married days after he turned one — and I asked him if he might have a silly song for my girls.  He replied, “Not at the moment.”  When the girls and I were about to leave, I told him I needed to go back home to nurse baby Jean.  “Do you remember baby Jean?” I asked, not sure how connected he was with what I was saying.  “Oh, yes!” he said, and his face lit up.  The girls and I prayed for him, I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me, too, and we left.

We got back home, and I told my husband, “He looks bad, but he doesn’t look like he’s on death’s door.”

I was wrong.

He died early the next morning.

Perhaps this seems odd, but I think his passing might be a testament to how much he loved my mother, and that makes me feel a little bit better.

It had been a hard, hard year with Joe.  Well, hard ten months.  My mother passed on October 18, 2012, and for the month or so following, things were good with Joe, although he was terribly — understandably — heartbroken.

And then things deteriorated.

Much of the deterioration revolved around my mom’s will and the way estate law works in Arizona.

The short version is that he didn’t think that myself or my three siblings should inherit anything from my mother.  He genuinely felt entitled to everything she owned and saved, and felt that we weren’t taking care of him by signing our inheritances over to him.

My sibs and I couldn’t agree to his desires.  My mom appropriated some things to her children…  The bulk of the estate went to Joe.  There was much that estate law would allow us to keep, or claim — property which wasn’t exactly specified in the will — which we didn’t.  We siblings were trying our best to err on the side of generosity, to keep all fighting to an absolute minimum, to find common ground…  We simply were not successful, and Joe remained upset at us.  Angry, really.  He was angry with us.

So.

It had been a very, very hard time, a difficult year.

—————–

I had long said that Joe was the most involved grandparent that my children had.

And, it was true for 15 years.

And then, not true for 10 months.

There were a few, encouraging steps forward… and those would invariably be followed by some giant sliding backward.

I’m not angry at Joe.  The issue of inheritance was a very difficult thing that was only resolved about a month ago.  But, even when estate matters were resolved, things were still not good, relationship-wise, with Joe.  While he was in the hospital, my brother-in-law suggested to Joe, “Can we call a truce?  And then, when you’re feeling better, you can be angry again.”  Joe thought that was hilarious — my brother-in-law is quite witty, and I think it was the perfect thing to say.  And, Joe agreed, at least in spirit…

While my family was on vacation earlier this month, Joe — who had for months been complaining of an ‘upset stomach’ — was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  And, less than two weeks after his diagnosis, he was gone.

I wrote to some friends:

Everyone handles grief so differently. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “He just could NOT move on,” and that fits with something else I was going to say: he has always tended towards bitterness and suspicion and hoarding… and we didn’t realize how much my mom kept that in check. In so many ways, she must have compelled him to move on, to get past “it”, whatever “it” was. And with her gone, there was no one who could speak that into him, and he just spiraled out of control. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but it seems like a testament to how much he loved my mom, how much influence she had in his life, what a difference she made in his outlook and approach to life… it makes me feel better. And even with his cancer diagnosis. I think he just might have given up. I think if she had been alive, he would have fought.

When my mom was hospitalized, my siblings and I frequently discussed how much my mom loved Joe, but how foreign to us were his ways of expressing love to her.  I found myself rather desperately hoping that my mom was loved as deeply as she…  well, I hate the word “deserve”…  Needed?  Should have had?  I’m not sure of the right word there.  I just wanted her to be loved by her husband.  That was really, really, really important to me.  And there were times when I found myself wondering.

Yet, this last week, I have been, indeed, struck with just how much he much have loved her… She made his life worth living.  She compelled him to go on.  She called out in him the things that were noble, and helped the ignoble to be manageable, far less noticeable.

I’m a mishmash of thoughts and emotions.

Such regret that relationship wasn’t restored by the time of Joe’s passing.

So sad…  Sad for my children.  Sad for Joe.  Sad for myself.

But, strangely comforted about my mother, whose absence is a deepening hole in my life.

I’m comforted that he loved her.

Mom and Joe

Returning to… well, not “normal”.

The babymoon filled with tortilla chips* and ice cream** is over.

I won’t say that we’ve returned to “normal”, though that is what I was initially thinking…  “Wow!  We’re approaching normal!”  There is no “normal”.  And, upon further reflection, it was like thinking, “Hey, baby!  You’ve upset our family’s routine!  You rascal!  How could you do that??  You’ve DISTURBED things!!”  And, truly, I don’t think that.

But on the other hand, I have been working to re-establish a new flow to our family.

I wrote this to a friend yesterday, who probably instantly regretted asking me how I was doing:

But, just to be real, yesterday SUCKED. It was the worst mothering day in a solid year, if not more. Frankly, Jean cries a lot. That isn’t bad, theoretically. I was telling my kids that Ethan cried a lot, and he turned out just fine. Some babies are just… needier than others, and I am happy to provide that extra comfort, extra soothing, more careful… care. But, OTOH, it means a lot of time in my room with the door shut, nursing (not that I always nurse behind closed doors), soothing, trying to help Jean sleep… and then my children are like Lord of the Flies out there, unattended, giving into sin nature, selfishness, unkindness, sneakiness, bullying… Ugh. I kind of flipped out yesterday. For a valuable 45 min of time when Jean was napping, I sat the five down and we went over Colossians 3:12-17. We talked. I lectured. We prayed. But did things improve? No. I had to spank***. I called Martin. And today hasn’t been much better…. But, I’m trying. Played Bethel YouTube worship videos for four hours straight in the main living area of our home, both to worship and sing, and to just invite the Holy Spirit in our day. And I have nipped everything in the bud, as much as possible.

There would be days like these in the past and I would think that I have totally failed as a mother. The good news is that I feel like it’s a temporary failure from which we all need to recover. I need to pull the reins in on my kids after letting things coast, slide, for too long. And they need to be loving and to obey.

So, see?  There’s no normal.

But, this morning represented a step in the right direction:  For the first time in Jean’s six weeks and two days of life, I made myself a “real” breakfast.  Granted, I absolutely gulped it down, so as to eat it hot, in case Jean awoke.  But, it was:  Three eggs, tomato slices, avocado slices, a cup of raw milk, and coffee.  YUM.  The first week of Jean’s life, I ate like a queen, because my hubby fixed my breakfast, and delivered it to me in bed.  The time since then has been altogether spotty:  A hastily eaten bowl of cereal (and I don’t even eat cereal!), a protein bar, a hastily-eaten pear, occasionally asking one of my boys to fix me eggs…  Or, more likely, me looking at the clock at 11:00 a.m. and thinking, “Crap.  I haven’t eaten anything yet today.”

Speaking of food…  While I absolutely, 100% agree with the thought that post-partum mothers should not give in to an appearance-centered culture that pressures us, “How are you going to lose that baby weight???”****  I also know that I’m carrying 12 extra pounds from the pregnancy — not much, I know! — and

  1. It’s crazy how much even just 12 pounds can make your clothes NOT fit.  Even tee shirts.
  2. I know that most of that wouldn’t be there had I not daily indulged in food I shouldn’t be eating in the first place:  like the aforementioned tortilla chips, ice cream, and cereal.
  3. I just feel better when I’m trim, when I don’t to have to select clothes that hides one sloshy part or another.*****

So, unless I want to purchase a whole new wardrobe — which WOULD be nice, but

  1. Where would the money come from to do that?
  2. More importantly, where would the TIME come to do that??

I need to lose at least some of that weight.

Hence, the subtraction of the carb-laden foods, and the triumphant reemergence of healthier food…

So worth it...  the tears, the "disruption", the extra weight...  So amazingly worth it.

So worth it… the tears, the “disruption”, the extra weight… So amazingly worth it.

———

*Organic, from Costco.  I love those chips!!

**Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra.  It was a lot easier to resist when I had to purchase it for $5/pint from the grocery store or wait for a coupon.  In the last year, pre-baby, I probably indulged twice.  But, since we discovered that the regular price at Walmart is $2.88/pint, and I got my hubby hooked on that particular flavor, it’s been MUCH harder to resist.  “Babe!” he grins, coming in the door with a bag from Walmart, “I got you some ice cream!”  Hahaha!!

***I probably just lost a good 10% of my readers right there.  “SHE SPANKS???” Um, yes.  On occasion.  I can’t remember the last time I had spanked anyone, prior to Tuesday;  a couple of months, at least.  It’s not my go-to discipline;  it’s my last-resort discipline.

****And if you haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s fabulous post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-partum hospital appearance, you should.  Absolutely, you should.

*****And we’re not talking “skinny” here.  I’m at 150 lbs now, and my goal is 140.  Pre-baby, it was 138 lbs.

More birth pics of Baby Jean… correcting my memory

My friend Stephanie was at the birth of Jean Marjorie Joy, born on June 25.  She had her camera, and I knew she took a few pics.  But I didn’t know just how many until today, Jean’s six-week “birth day.”  Right after the birth, Steph went on vacation and was then busy with a number of other things.  She gave me a flash drive with her pics on it, a week and a half ago.  I don’t know why it took me so long to view the pictures…  Mixed emotions, I guess.  However, when I did, I cried good tears…  Collectively, they tell a tale of love, and of a day that shouldn’t be forgotten.  There are a whole bunch of pictures immediately post-birth, for a space of about sixteen minutes that I somehow forgot:  I just somehow absolutely didn’t recall those minutes, at all.  But, seeing the pictures, it all came back to me, even how it felt, to have baby Jean up on my swollen belly, only a minute post-birth.  “Oh… yes… I do remember that!  I remember it now!”  (You can read the original birth story, here.)

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My dear husband, Martin.

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He’s so attentive to me.

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Wouldn’t YOU love a man who held your face like that?? I would.

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Martin, and sweet Fiala, too. I look pretty relaxed in this picture, but believe me, I felt like I was dying.

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My brown-eyed girl, Audrey.

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I <3 him.

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This was three minutes before Jean emerged. Note Fi’s hands over her ears!! And she’s watching the action quite closely!! I thought the girls left the room well before Jean was born, but I guess they were slow-motion minutes… Fi hung in there a good long time.

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I ripped my hair elastic out. Or someone did it for me. LAST push.

Like my friend Daja, who had her baby boy, Tegshee Walker, only a couple of weeks ago, there are some awesome crowning and baby emerging photos… But I can’t publish those.

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I can’t really show you the picture where Martin caught baby Jean, either. But this pic was taken only one minute after her birth. He must have handed her right off to me. Until I saw this picture, I absolutely did not remember this moment.

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Again, one minute post-birth. I remember now, feeling vast relief, feeling extremely shaky, not quite believing that this was my baby, but at the same time KNOWING she was, indeed, my dear baby.

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Alicia’s blonde head on the left, my midwife Pam on the right. Me in wonder.

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They were rubbing her down, helping her to pink up. I had previously remembered people doing that, but the bizarre thing was that I hadn’t remembered that baby Jean was IN MY ARMS when they were doing that.

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The best Daddy in the world. He loves her so.

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Only three minutes post-birth.

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I love her.

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First kiss as a family of eight. :)

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Jean has Martin’s brow.

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Audrey decides to come back in.

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Martin’s hand over mine, on our baby’s chubby, fuzzy back. And MARTIN is the one who put her little hat on. Again, while she was in my arms. But I hadn’t remembered that.

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Miss Squishy, 23 minutes post-birth.

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Daddy, Mommy, baby, love.

The birth of Baby Jean Marjorie Joy

I had hoped that with a bit of distance and reflection, the story of Jean Marjorie Joy’s birth would make a little more sense to me.  However, she will be four weeks tomorrow, and much of it feels as cloudy now as it did on June 25th, the day she was born.

For this birth, my sixth, and first home birth, I felt oddly disconnected, emotionally.

I think it started from…  well, I had about eight days of pre-labor, prodromal labor.  Eight solid days where contractions NEVER fully let up.  Never.  On about four or five occasions, they would increase in strength and frequency, until they were quite intense and about three minutes apart, and this would continue for 6, 8, 12 hours.

Normally, when one has contractions that are more than a minute long, three minutes apart, for a number of hours, one is in labor!  Actual labor!!  So, I would alert my husband, who invariably came home from work (or just didn’t depart for work).  I’d call or text my midwife.  I’d get other things prepared, including myself, emotionally and with focus, for me to have a baby.

And then… the contractions would disappear.

Or, they would almost disappear.  They would slow back down to once every 20 minutes or so.

So, over the course of a week, I became emotionally engaged, multiple times, with the idea of having a baby…  And I would prepare, mentally and logistically, to have a baby.

And then, the baby wouldn’t come.

I admit:  I cried.  I became discouraged more than once.

It’s difficult to explain…  But after about the fourth time of this happening, it felt like The Baby Who Cried Wolf.  And I stopped believing.

I didn’t stop believing that I would have a baby;  I knew I actually would, eventually.

But, when the contractions would ramp up again, I couldn’t help but think, “Yeah… whatever.”

That sounds awful, but it’s true.

….

I had visions of one of those births that just progress beautifully, undisturbed, where the midwife never checks my cervix, and I just listen to my body and tune into my baby, and birth a baby in peace and joy.

That didn’t quite happen.

Well, it didn’t happen at all.

After the first two days of contractions, on June 18, I caved and asked to come in to see my midwife and for her to check my cervix — the first vaginal exam of my entire pregnancy.  I was only 38 weeks, 5 days, but I had had two of my babies earlier than that;  it wasn’t inconceivable (ha!) that I was in labor.

She did, and I was dilated to 2 cm and about 75% effaced.

In a mom who has given birth previously, that really doesn’t mean ANYTHING.  As my midwife had told me (and as I already knew), “I have had multip moms dilate to four and stay there for weeks.”

But, I just wanted to know if these contractions were progressing anything or not.  The answer:  Kind of.  Not really.

On that first check, we also discovered that baby was engaged in my pelvis, but her head was tilted just slightly, and my cervix was still very posterior.  Good news, bad news, bad news.

Not “bad news” as in dangerous — just “bad news” in that it meant that the birth likely wasn’t imminent.  Babies can be birthed in a wide variety of imperfect positions, but I did know that the mama’s body will likely keep contracting to try to reposition the baby as long as possible.  And I knew that my cervix needed to travel forward — anterior — before the baby could be born.

But… even with all of that, since this was my sixth baby, the midwife reminded me that even just a few really hard contractions could reposition her, bring my cervix forward, and cause me to dilate, all within a literal matter of minutes.

So, it was like I wasn’t in labor, but I was.

The 20th of June came:  My 40th birthday.  I went to see the midwife again, as I had continued to contract.  I had an “official” appointment with her the next day, but as I had been contracting still, I asked to come in early.  But… no dice.  Nothing had significantly changed from two days previous, though I was dilated to three, instead of two centimeters.  Everything else was the same.

At that point, I decided that I was going to stop going in to see the midwife until I was 100% certain I was in labor — and then she would come see me.

That was a Thursday.  I continued to have “bouts” of strong contractions, close together, for multiple hours.

Monday was the worst, though.

By Monday the 24th, my uterus was officially sore, and I could feel like it was tired.

That was worrisome, because I didn’t want to go into real labor with a sore, tired uterus.  That was actually my biggest concern about contracting so much:  I needed a “fresh” uterus.  It’s a muscle.  I mean, imagine running 10 miles for eight consecutive days before you ran a marathon.  You just wouldn’t do that, even if you could.  When it comes to the real thing, you want muscles that are refreshed and ready, not ones that have been drained of their strength.

I contracted for 12 solid hours on Monday, from about 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

My husband, so dear, had come home from work around midday.  He set up his Kindle in our bedroom, hooked up to speakers, with my favorite worship songs playing on YouTube.  He was attentive to me, taking care of our children, checking in on me…  It was just right, actually.

When the contractions — yet again — petered out after the children were in bed for the night, I sobbed.  I was so discouraged.  My husband reassured me that the baby would actually come, and that he was not impatient with me.  His words were soothing to me, but I couldn’t explain how it was such an emotional investment to think that I was in labor, and then find out that I wasn’t.

I came downstairs…  We watched some TV.  It felt like the baby flipped completely in the womb.  I thought, “That’s either really good — she’s positioning herself correctly, finally — or that’s really bad — she’s turned breech or something like that.”  I got down on the floor to palpate my belly, to see if I could tell where she was.  I couldn’t.  I could feel, though, something against my cervix.  It felt like little fingers, wiggling around.  “It feels like she’s trying to push her way out with her hand!” I exclaimed.

I thought for certain that such a feeling was a… sensation, not the actual truth.

Eventually, we went to bed, with me feeling… well, not quite as discouraged as I had, earlier in the day, but resigned…  As in, “Whatever.”  Ambivalent.

Around 12:30, I woke up, contracting pretty hard.  That wasn’t new.  The contractions I’d been having for more than a week were often hard enough to wake me from a deep sleep;  and I’m a hard sleeper.  However, it felt like I had wet the bed.

“That’s weird,” I thought.

It wasn’t enough liquid to be my water breaking, yet I don’t normally wet the bed!  So, it just seemed weird to me.

I cleaned up and went back to bed.

I woke again at 1:30 with the same situation:  A pad full of water and contracting.

I knew that when the membranes break, often they can do so by “leaking”, instead of popping.  But, it didn’t smell like amniotic fluid.  However…  At 1:30, I had some bloody show.  I knew that this meant that I was dilating — a good sign, indeed! — but that the mucous plug, once lost, can be re-formed, and just because I was dilating did not necessarily mean I was in “real” labor.

I continued to wake up every hour with the same “symptoms” — one strong contraction followed by lesser contractions, anywhere from 3-8 minutes apart;  just enough liquid (I was still completely unsure if it was amniotic fluid, or if I was peeing) to fill a pad;  and some bloody show.

2:30…

3:30…

4:30…

The contractions didn’t seem any more significant than the ones I’d been having for the previous eight days.  They didn’t feel any stronger, they weren’t any closer together…  In fact, I was having times where they’d stretch to 10-12 minutes apart, then increase in frequency:  sporadic, but consistent.

But, by 4:30, I had the most bloody show yet and some loose stools, and I had decided that the liquid was surely amniotic fluid, not urine.

That may be TMI for some (and if it is, you’d best stop reading now), but for me, I knew that loose stools is a very positive sign of labor.   They’re caused by the presence of prostaglandins — hormones that are present during labor and that cause the cervix to soften and thin — efface.  It has happened with all my babies, historically 3-12 hours before the baby is born.

So, at 4:38, I told my hubby, Martin, who had been sleepily aware of my restless night, that I was pretty sure this was real labor.

I decided to give it another hour, though, before alerting anyone, just to be sure.

For about 20 minutes, the contractions were sporadic:  3 minutes, 7 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes apart.  Then, right at 5:00 a.m. on the 25th of June, the contractions started to intensify and they picked up to every 2-3 minutes apart and stayed there.  I stopped timing them and told my husband, “Timing them is becoming distracting.  They’re real.  I would be shocked if we didn’t have a baby some time today, probably sooner than later.”

I called my midwife at 5:30 a.m. and went to take a shower.

Before showering, I sent a text to my friend Stephanie, who was coming as friend/doula.  My husband is 46 and has known Stephanie since they were in junior high together.  She has the PERFECT presence for a woman in labor:  comforting, firm, determined, kind, gentle…  She just knows what to do and what to say, with no error, ever.  She is also a calming presence for my husband, who trusts her completely.  (Martin lived with Stephanie and her husband and their son for two years, prior to our marriage.)

I found out about an hour and a half later that while I had composed the text to Stephanie, I hadn’t actually sent it, which explained why she wasn’t there.  Just before 7:00 a.m., I asked Martin to call Stephanie.  He got her voicemail.  I was worried.

Back to 5:30-ish:  Pam (the midwife) said that she would be to my home in 20-30 minutes.  When I got out of the shower, she was there, in less-than 20 minutes.

At 5:53, she checked me.  I was dilated to a “stretchy” 5 cm;  she could easily stretch me to 8 cm.  My cervix was still quite posterior.

She had previously told me that she could manually pull the cervix forward, which would hasten labor, but that it would “hurt like hell”.  I didn’t envision her ever doing this to me because I like to let labor progress naturally;  I don’t want anything to speed it.

But, at this point, knowing that I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, knowing that I was well-dilated, but that my cervix was still too far back… I consented.

It didn’t actually hurt.  It was uncomfortable.

At that point, it was about 6:00 a.m.  Pam and the assistant midwife (Alicia) made themselves scarce.  They disappeared downstairs.  At some point, they came back upstairs and prepped some things in the room:  hanging bags for trash and laundry, setting up a birthing stool over a new shower curtain tarp, setting out piles of chux pads and other supplies.  I was only vaguely aware of this.

Some time close to 7:00, Stephanie arrived.  She had gotten Martin’s voice mail.

Laura also arrived, perhaps a little earlier than Stephanie.  Laura, a friend of mine, has been a long-time doula, now studying to be a midwife;  mine would be her first “official” birth as a student.

Even after Stephanie was there, I was concerned that everyone was there much too early.  The contractions weren’t terribly difficult and I had visions of everyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs and the baby being born 24 hrs later.

I don’t like putting people out.  I really don’t.  It makes me anxious, people sitting around, waiting on me.  It’s the ultimate rudeness, in my perspective:  Knowing that people are waiting on you, and you taking your sweet time…  I kept thinking about how maybe Martin should be at work; Pam and Alicia having to reschedule clients’ appointments — or worse, missing another birth because they were at my not-real birth; Stephanie should be at home with her family, or at her daughter’s volleyball tournament…  At one point, I asked the midwives and everyone else, “You bored yet?”  They seemed surprised, and Alicia mentioned how my 7yo, Audrey, was keeping everyone entertained, downstairs, with her quips and antics.  That wasn’t quite what I meant.  I guess I asked that because I was worried about it being way too early, and here I was, keeping everyone waiting.  I also started to question the wisdom of not really having anyone to watch the children.  As my oldest child is 16, everyone is pretty well self-sustaining:  They know what to do, what not to do, they can get breakfast and lunch for themselves, etc.  I knew our home would be filled with adults, in case of some emergency…  But, now, hearing about Audrey keeping everyone “entertained”, I worried.

In my previous births (all in the hospital, four with naturally-minded OBs, one with a Certified Nurse Midwife, all medication-free), one reason I never insisted on a home birth was because of the above:  I could envision myself worrying about everyone else, worrying about what the children were doing.

So, I labored, mostly focused on the labor itself, but about 5% of my mind wondering about the children, the midwives, Stephanie, my husband…

Speaking of the children, the boys (ages 16, almost-14, and 11) would just check in with the midwives, asking about how mom was doing.  Ethan (the oldest) didn’t come upstairs at all.  Grant and Wes came up once, before everything got intense.  Audrey came in and out frequently.  Fiala, my 4yo, stayed with me, or at least in the room, for a good portion of labor.

Fi and Martin with me.

Fi and Martin with me.

That’s actually just what I thought it would be like, with the children.  I was a little concerned about Audrey being too self-focused if she was in the room, but she wasn’t at all.  She wasn’t as attentive as Fiala, but she wasn’t as mindless as I was afraid she’d be.

Steph supporting me.

Steph supporting me.

For much of my labor, it was just as above:  Me standing in the bathroom, supporting myself on the sink.  I like to feel grounded, my body supported.

Also, notice my tense shoulders and arms?  Later, Pam (and everyone else) kept telling me to relax them.  That made me a little upset.  I couldn’t insist that, even though my shoulders were tense, the rest of my body was relaxed.  I wasn’t fighting the contractions, even though my shoulders were tensed.

This picture kind of freaked me out.  A) I look… old.  B) I look like my mom.

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And I look, to me, like my mom looked when she was ill, when she was in pain.  I suppose that makes sense:  I was in pain.  But, it was… sad and startling, seeing this picture.

Around 8:45, I was in the bathroom again, against the sink.  Stephanie and Martin were just outside the open door, talking.  The midwives weren’t in the room;  I found out later that they were camped in the (very small) hall, just outside our closed bedroom door.

Around 8:45, that’s when it switched for me.  It switched from, “This may take a really long time… these contractions aren’t really difficult… I wonder if I’ll have a baby by noon?  Five p.m.?  When??” to, “Holy cow, I’m going to have a baby, and sooner, rather than later.”  I stopped worrying about everyone else;  I didn’t have enough mental energy to, anyway.

I stood leaning against the doorjamb of the bathroom, laboring hard.  It took a few minutes, I think, for Martin and Stephanie to notice that something had switched…  I couldn’t tell them, though.  All I could think was that I wanted to lie down and that the carpet next to the bed looked good.  I think I kind of motioned in that direction and finally made it there, with effort.

At this point in labor… It’s funny, because everyone started to be very concerned about my comfort and well-being, and kept asking me questions.  I couldn’t answer, and I didn’t want them to ask me questions, but I couldn’t say that.  I couldn’t talk.  I just wanted to lie down.  It seemed like that would make the pain of the contractions — which had very suddenly become very intense and strong — lessen.

So, I stretched out on my right side, on the carpet on the floor next to the bed.

Almost immediately, I thought, “This was a very bad idea.”

My contractions absolutely gripped my body.  It was so painful.

I thought, “Either this is the world’s worst laboring position for me, or I am in transition.”

It’s odd, because in births #2-5, I knew exactly when transition hit.  There was no question in my mind.  But for this one, I just didn’t know.

It seems like, for the whole birth, almost everything solid… wasn’t.  Everything reliable, wasn’t.

Not that my people weren’t reliable.  Everyone who was there was wonderful.

But, prior to this birth, I can’t tell you how solid I felt about birth, how confident, how expectant.

But for baby Jean’s birth…  No, I didn’t feel like that at all.  The whole thing seemed fraught with questions and a lack of confidence.

I still don’t know why that was.  I keep waiting for some revelation, some insight, which is why I haven’t written this down until now.

I still have no deep insight about why this was.  Why did God see a need to put me in a place of insecurity?  I don’t know.

But, I can say that, for me feeling insecure, this was the best place, with the best people, to be.

I don’t think in “what ifs”.

A number of people, who have either been at the birth, or who heard about it, have questioned with wide eyes, “What if you had been in the hospital with that?”

And I don’t know.  I don’t think about that, at all.  I wasn’t at the hospital…  I was in my bedroom, with my husband and some incredibly skilled, caring women.

So, there I was on the floor, and I kept thinking, “I have to get off the floor.”  But I couldn’t move.  The contractions were right on top of each other, and each one made me freeze and melt simultaneously.  I couldn’t speak or move or think, other than in the back of my mind, thinking that again, “I have to get off the floor.”

It was just hurting so badly while on the floor, something made me feel that if I was not on the floor, I would feel better, labor better, with less pain.

It took a while… about 15 minutes, to be able to get into a not-lying-down position.  While I was getting up, at one point, I was on my hands and knees.  While there, I had the thought, “OK, this doesn’t suck as badly as being on the floor.”

It was still completely miserable, but it wasn’t as awful as lying down.

As I picked my hands up off the floor and rocked back to a sort-of kneeling position, I started to feel pushy.

Ah ha!  It was transition.

Oddly, this didn’t make me feel any better.  I was still feeling very insecure, very befuddled…

I know that when women labor naturally, the best place to be is in that… irrational, deep place of instinct.  However, even though in my previous births, especially with Audrey and Fiala, when I reached a place of transition and starting to feel pushy, I was so elated.  Even though I was deep in myself, drowning — in a good way — in labor itself, there was an underlying joy and expectation.

This time, not so much.  It just stunk.  I just kept thinking, “I have to get to this next point, because then it will feel not-as-awful.”

Never, except perhaps with my first birth, when I was altogether inexperienced, had I ever felt like that while birthing.

At that point, Pam stuck her head in.  She said later that she could hear that something had changed.  Stephanie said, “She’s feeling pushy.”

I somehow communicated that I wanted to get up on the bed, on all fours.  Someone put a pile of pillows at my head, I don’t know who.  That was perfect.  My head against the headboard, resting on my arms, which were on the pile of pillows.  Just right.

I remember thinking, “This is just right.”

Funny enough… when I was discussing, in a previous prenatal appointment, how I envisioned myself giving birth, I said something like, “Well, not on my hands and knees.  I don’t see that at all.  I don’t think that would be comfortable at all.”

And I can’t say that I was comfortable, but for one reason or another, it was just right, it was where I needed to be for that birth, for this baby.

I started pushing at 9:25.  My water had not broken, which I found very odd, given the fact that it surely had leaked earlier in the morning.

The girls, Audrey and Fiala, were still in the room.  I was proud of them — for being involved, for caring, for not freaking out…

They were on my right, on the side of the bed.  Martin was on my left.  Pam was at the foot of the bed.  Where everyone else was, I don’t know.  I had my eyes clamped shut, and it took all my concentration just to be.

Even with the first push, it didn’t feel quite right.

I wasn’t concentrating on pushing crazy-hard, though.

Knowing from my previous births, I get into robot-birthing-woman mode during the pushing phase:  My tendency is to push too much, too hard, not judiciously.  I hate the “ring of fire”, which is aptly named for me.  I just want to get past that, past it, past it.  So, I push like crazy.  I have since learned that the ring of fire is when the perineum is stretching, and if I don’t want to tear, that I must be patient, let it stretch, hold it right there, even as it burns, wait, wait…

But after — I think it was — two pushes, my water broke.

The energy in the room shifted.

I can’t describe it any other way.  The energy changed.  Alicia came over on my right and took hold of my leg to angle it just so, underneath me…  I didn’t know what she was doing, and frankly, I didn’t like it.

Pam was still at the foot of the bed, and I could hear her giving instructions, but I have no idea what they were.

She was supporting me.  She was there, working, doing something.  She was using both hands.  She was directing me when to push, which was 100% OK.  I had told her in a prenatal appointment that I don’t completely trust my instinct, because my instinct wants me to over-push, and that I would be listening to her and trusting her.

I could hear her voice, calm but firm, raised but not loud.

I was pushing, but it still didn’t feel right;  it didn’t feel powerful.

I found out later that my baby had a nuchal hand, and that became apparent after my water broke.

That sensation I had experienced, the previous night, about baby Jean trying to push her way out with her hand??  It was true.  It really was her hand, right at the mouth of the uterus, right at the cervix.

That is probably why I was contracting for eight days — my uterus was trying to get her positioned correctly, get her hand out of the way…  It didn’t work.

I didn’t know all this was happening — oddly, I couldn’t feel it at all.  Pushing was very painful, the ring of fire was very painful…  but Pam manipulating the baby’s arm while I was pushing??  I had no idea.  I didn’t know there was a hand/arm issue at all, until afterwards.

But, when baby Jean presented with her hand right next to her temple, Pam said that she first tried to push the hand back down.  She could get it to the collar bone, but Jean kept sticking it back up.  Then, Pam showed me how, when a baby is birthed, if her arm is bent, the elbow sticking out can be problematic.  So, she had to pull the arm all the way out, first.

And this is why pushing didn’t feel right to me;  it is why it felt ineffective — because of the malposition.

Pushing hurt.  Even when I wasn’t pushing, it hurt…  Looking back, there was no respite — from about 8:45 to 9:45, when baby Jean Marjorie Joy was born.  Only one hour.  But it was a very long hour.  It was all pain, all the time.

I wasn’t fighting it.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t relaxed.  I wasn’t fearful.  But, I was definitely in pain.

I’ve heard that the difference between pain (or even agony) and misery is one’s emotional state.  I did feel befuddled and unsure of myself.  But, I also felt cared-for, loved.  I felt assured that I was in very competent hands.  I just had to trust everyone… and I did.

At some point in the pushing, I became pretty loud.  The girls left the room.

I asked them later if they were scared by me… being loud.  (It wasn’t screaming, it wasn’t yelling… I don’t know what you’d call it.  It was just loud.)  And Audrey said, “No…  It was just too loud, so I left.”

I think there was something in her that said, “This is too intense,” and she took her exit, with Fiala following.  Even that, I think is just right.  They weren’t frightened.  They had just had enough and could probably sense that they were no longer of any help.  Prior to that, they’d often kiss my cheek, or put their hands on my belly…  At one point, Pam said, “Do you see when her eyes are closed?  That is when her belly hurts and you can’t put your hands on her belly because that hurts her more.”  And they didn’t.

I pushed for a total of 20 minutes.  That felt like a really long time to me, as all my previous babies were between 4-7 minutes each.

But she came out… with me being loud…

And you know that amazing emotional high — just absolutely saturated with JOY and love after a baby is born naturally?  I have experienced that five times.  I’ve studied that phenomenon, and in the birth classes that I (intermittently) teach, I describe the hormonal process that leads to that awesome feeling, and how it’s designed by God…  And, amazingly… the process that gets the baby OUT is very similar to the hormonal process that got the baby IN.  That feeling after a baby is born is remarkably similar to an orgasm.  I am 100% convinced that it’s part of God the Father’s plan for birth to culminate in a feeling, and experience that is BEYOND WORDS, both to help the mom and baby bond, to assist in the mother forgetting the pain of birthing, and so that there is… and emotional reward in doing a job well done.  Among other good things.  It really is a complicated an amazing hormonal process.

But this baby??  Um, no.  I didn’t feel that.

I was just flat-out relieved.

That’s it:  Relief.

Relief.

Relief.

I was just relieved that she was out, that my baby was earth-side, that she was here.

But after that point, my memory is very fuzzy.

I was talking with my husband about the birth, two days after Jean was born, and he mentioned catching the baby.

“What?” I was incredulous.  “You caught the baby?  I didn’t know you caught her.  How could I not know that?  How could I not know that you caught our baby??”

Pam was at the foot of the bed, tending to me, and Martin was still at my side, and she told him where to put his hands, as when the mom pushes out the baby, she kind of curls below the mom when she’s on all fours.

I didn’t know this happened.  I literally had no idea.

He continued, “Yes, and I held her as you turned over, and it was sort of awkward because she was still attached to the umbilical cord.”

How could I not remember this?  I don’t think I remember rolling over.  I don’t remember seeing my husband with our brand-new baby.

I don’t even remember anyone placing her in my arms.

I do remember seeing both Pam and Alicia rub baby Jean all over… she was fairly blue after birth.  I remember them exclaiming about how huge she was.  As they were doing this, I remember taking off my tank top so that the baby and I could be skin-to-skin.

Baby Jean pinked-up, and someone placed her in my arms.  She had a lot of hair, for one of my babies.  She was really, really chubby.  Right after, someone else reached over and put one of those stretchy baby hats on her head.  I buried my face in her neck…

kissing my newborn's neck

Some short time after that, I birthed the giant placenta.  We took a good look at it… And Laura took it home, which kind of freaked out Martin and Stephanie.  I wasn’t freaked out.  Folks do all sorts of stuff with their placentas.  I kind of considered it, but after experiencing no PPD with my previous five, I sort of figured that having it encapsulated was an expensive novelty and I decided to pass.  We could have kept it and planted a tree over it, buried in our yard.  “A tree???” Martin asked.  I knew he would be a tough sell on alternate uses for placentas, and that he would feel zero attachment to it.  So, I hadn’t even brought it up, prior to birth.  I figured I was just doing well, getting a home birth, and that the whole placenta thing wasn’t a hill worth fighting over.

Pam and Martin weighed our little chub.

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Ten pounds, seven ounces.

My biggest yet.

Little Squishy.

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My sister Robin arrived…

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That is Fiala, Pam, Robin, Audrey, Martin, and Stephanie, all looking on to measure her head.  Her head was 14.5″ (that’s big) and her chest was 15¼” (that’s really big).  She was 22-ish inches long.  I think Pam measured her at 22, but at Jean’s first pediatric appointment, when she was one week old, she was 21½”.  And then the following week, she was 21¼”.  Jean didn’t shrink…  so, we can call her 22″, but who knows?

Measuring her chest

And this is the team (minus my other daughters)…

Laura, Pam, baby and me, Alicia

Martin, Laura, Pam, baby and me, and Alicia

And now, quite apropos, my baby is crying…  Sweet girl.

………

She’s just a baby.

Martin and I keep saying that to each other, “She’s just a baby.”

Even with the unusual-for-me birth, and even with a horrific event where my nipple detached about 40% due to a bad latch (yes, it was as awful as it sounds), this has been a stress-free month.  There is peace and joy and the absolute delight of infancy, and the acute awareness of how quickly it passes…  My husband and I have been in glorious enjoyment of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.  There is a sense of completeness, of finality;  we both know she is our last, and we are going to enjoy every last second of her being “just a baby.”

With my first birth, at age 24, I was younger and more physically resilient.  However, I’ll trade NOW for then, any day.  I was so stressed out with Ethan, sure that each cry of his was an indictment against my mothering.  Now, Jean cries, and I laugh at her sweet, cute, sad, squishy face, and her baby-ness where she is just absolutely sure the world is going to end…  I don’t laugh in a mocking way.  She’s just so sweet.  She’s just a baby.  She doesn’t know.

But this time, I do.  I know to treasure it.

Older women tell younger mothers that all the time, “Treasure it.  It passes so quickly.”  I was SO TIRED of hearing that continually.  But, now I’m an older mother, and I know…  I know…  But, I treasure it all the more, because I do know, now.

She’s just a baby.

Tongue-tie update and a couple of other things, including ice cream…

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

So, the above pic has nothing to do with this post, really.  I just wanted to publish it.

I saw baby Jean’s nurse practitioner again today, since the pediatrician is visiting his parents in India until next week.  I really like the CNP, Penny.  We did a weight check and a few other things.  Baby Jean had only gained three ounces since last Tuesday, which is just below the normal threshold of 0.5 – 1.0 oz daily at this point in development.  And that is with her nursing for a good hour at a time every 2-3 hours.  Little Jean now weighs 10 lbs 6 oz, still not quite her birth weight.

We confirmed that, yes, she does have a fairly significant tongue tie and a very significant upper-lip tie.  And, since it is affecting both her ability to nurse efficiently and is still causing me pain during nursing, we are going to have at least her tongue clipped.  However, today counted as the “consult”, rather than the actual event.  So, we talked about it pretty extensively, and I watched a (quite informative) 15 minute Power Point about the procedure… And scheduled the frenectomy for Monday.

The plan is to give that a week to heal and to see if it results in a decrease of pain for me and an increase of weight for Jean.  If both of those happen, we’ll leave the lip-tie alone.  But, if one or the other (or both) are still happening, we’ll schedule the upper lip to be done as well.

Personally, I think the lip is more of a problem, since she can’t flange it out.  But, since correcting the tongue tie is less invasive, that’s what the pediatrician wants to start with.  I’m OK with that.

I’m NOT OK with him requiring a Vitamin K injection for infants to receive the frenectomy.  The nurse practitioner is e-mailing the pediatrician to see if we can waive that requirement.  If not, there is a local midwife who is certified in the procedure, and we may pay her the $50 cash (rather than the $30 co-pay) to have it done.  My own midwife suggested that I request a blood test to confirm adequate blood levels of Vitamin K, rather than just giving her an injection.  I think that is a good idea, but that certainly seems like it would take longer… yet one more week…  I’d just as soon have this over and done.

In unrelated news…

About a week ago, I joked on my personal Facebook page about still looking five months pregnant.  I think I caused concern in some, who gently cautioned me about trying to “get my figure back” too quickly.  HONESTLY, this is the LEAST I have ever been concerned about that.  I have been devoted to really taking it easy on myself, physically.  For the first week, I did virtually nothing, and my family waited on me hand and foot.  This last week, I haven’t done much more.  It is now my goal to, every day:

  1. Do some laundry:  Start the load and hang it on the line.
  2. Make dinner:  This is made easier by the fact that I have a number of dinners half- or three quarters-made in the freezer.
  3. Take care of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.

That’s it.

I remember being horrified by my mushy tummy after my firstborn and starting ridiculously early on a sit-up regimen.  I am absolutely NOT doing that.

I have worn a… slimming undergarment a couple of times but that tends to make my ankles swell, as well as just being uncomfortable.  I find myself less motivated by my appearance and more motivated by comfort these days…  However, I tend to feel better when I feel like I look better, even if I don’t actually look better (follow that?).  I guess what I’d prefer is to look effortlessly put-together, but I guess that is not going to happen.  At the age of 40, after having six children, I actually have to put some effort into looking nice.  :)

I have also been alternately horrified and amused by what has been the Lots o’ Carbs Festival at our home these last couple of weeks.  Part of that is because a number of kind friends gave us gift cards to “safe” restaurants (we’re hard to cook for), post-birth, and there are always more carbs in a store-bought meal.  (One friend homemade us an AMAZING dinner — totally gluten-free and dairy-free — including brownies.)  On top of that, not only did I have the pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra that I’d been saving for after the birth, but a dear friend remembered that that ice cream was my favorite and brought by THREE pints.  Those, I shared with my husband, Martin.  And then my hubby bought another pint for me a few days ago…  That one, I ate by myself.  Ice cream begets ice cream.  Once the floodgates are open, it’s hard to say no!!  However, in spite of the fact that I’ve eaten more carbs in the last two weeks than I have in any one span in probably the last 3-4 YEARS, I am still losing weight.  In fact, I’ve lost 23 of the 35 I gained, six of those in the last week, as I’ve been feasting on ice cream.  Only 12 pounds to go.  And obviously, I’m not even trying to lose weight!!

I know I will return to eating more healthily…  But right now, pass me another pint.  :)

Pain, apprehension, and joy

This isn't her birth story... but I love this picture.  Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended.  Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala;  my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin;  my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.

This isn’t her birth story… but I love this picture. Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended. Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala; my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin; my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.  Jean’s chest, by the way, was 15 1/8″.

Tomorrow, baby Jean Marjorie Joy will be two weeks old.  I am somewhat anxious about tomorrow;  she has a follow-up visit with a pediatrician to do a weight-check and assess the possible need for clipping a tongue-tie and upper lip-tie.

It has been almost three years since my children have been to a pediatrician.  Longer, in fact…  We were in the care of a family doctor, a DO, but after we stopped vaxing, she dropped us.  I was not eager to re-establish care with a medical doctor.  I’m still a bit apprehensive about it…  But, the particular pediatrician comes highly recommended by my midwife — which means a lot to me.  As long as the parent is educated about vaccination choices, they do not give any guff about not vaccinating;  if they were concerned about me declining Vitamin K or Hep B, it wasn’t apparent.  They didn’t blink an eye about my baby being born at home.  Or that she is my sixth child;  the woman who did the initial assessment had five children, in fact.

Giving it some thought just now, I just realized that how I feel about pediatricians is the same way I feel about hospital birth, and why I chose to birth at home:  I know my rights as a patient in a hospital.  I’m well-educated as to the pitfalls of birthing the standard American way.  I know what I want for my birth.  I am confident in my ability to birth.  While I truly try to be kind to those caring for me in a hospital, I am not afraid to put my foot down and refuse a certain kind of treatment, or sign AMA waivers, or what have you.  But, with this birth, I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to be put in a position (perhaps literally!) where I had to endlessly justify my decisions and where I had to advocate for myself.  I just wanted to relax and birth a baby in peace, without having to weather confrontation.

I felt the same about finding a new pediatrician, especially after the DO dropped us.

So, last week, going into baby Jean’s “72 hour” first check-up, which was really at one week, I was quite apprehensive about how the staff would treat my baby and me, especially since the actual doctor, the one recommended to me, was on vacation, and I’d be seeing the nurse practitioner.

However, it was an altogether successful visit.  The only thing that made it difficult was that I was in physical pain…

I had some concerns (Lordy, this post is filled with apprehension and concerns!) about birthing a baby at 40, and the recovery from that.  I am happy to say that the actual recovery has been amazing.  Now thirteen days postpartum, I actually feel about 95% recovered.  I think much of that is due to careful following of my midwife’s instructions — which has a heavy emphasis on chilling out — and the tender care of my husband, who took a week off of work, and served and fed me better than I would have for myself.

Despite baby Jean’s enormous size — 10 lb, 7 oz;  22″ long, 14.5″ head — and the fact that she had a nuchal hand (she was born with her hand next to her face… and since the midwife couldn’t push the hand back down, she pulled it out, so that baby was born arm-first), I sustained only a superficial 1st degree tear.

I have, however, had weird and painful OTHER things happen since her birth.  First, I had to go to the emergency room when Jean was only three days.  I have varicose veins — which I knew about — and one on the back of my leg had become puffy, red, hot to touch, and very painful.  My midwife was concerned that, even though she couldn’t feel a thrombosis, that there might be a clot deeper in the tissue of my leg.  After a phone call to her consulting physician, they both felt like I should go in, immediately, to the ER for an ultrasound of my leg.  That was stressful.  I think the most difficult part was actually bringing my baby to the germ-filled emergency room.  My husband Martin came with me, and even though it was about 110° out, we decided that it was better to use the outside as a “waiting room”.  The staff at the hospital was all unfailingly accommodating of me having a brand-new infant, and found us a private room almost immediately.  Everyone was kind and attentive, and fairly rushed us through.  We were in and out in just about two hours, and the better news was that a) no clot was found, and b) Jean doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects from our trip.  The tentative diagnosis was “phlebitis” — irritated veins.  Sitting for three days in bed is great for recovery from birth, but the staying stationary is less than helpful for varicose veins.  In any case, the phlebitis, or whatever it was, seems to have resolved itself.

Then… from about day 2 until day 7, we were treating what we thought was a clogged milk duct.  The protocol for that is soaking in hot water, using a heating pad, massage, and nursing on the clogged side as much as possible, using a variety of odd nursing positions, all to help clear out the clog and to ensure that it doesn’t turn into mastitis:  a breast infection.  Well, nothing seemed to help.  I cannot describe the pain.  It was, I do believe, the worst in my life, and I include birth in that list.

On Tuesday early morning, a week ago, I was massaging my “clogged duct” and to my absolute horror, saw the side of my nipple gape open.  Hidden at the base of the nipple in the wrinkly and folded skin, what had presented as a clogged duct was actually my nipple, detaching.  It was entirely sliced through, from about 6:30 – 11:00, a good 3/8 of my nipple, completely cut through.  It looked like someone had actually sliced it.  Someone had, in fact:  my darling newborn, with her powerful but inefficient, tongue- and lip-tied suck.

My salvation was a Medela nipple shield.  I am old-fashioned.  There just seems to be something wrong with putting a piece of silicone between baby and mama.  Historically, I haven’t been a fan of nipple shields.  However, it was about my only hope for nursing on that side…  With literal shaking and tears from fear of pain, I put it on and attached little Jean Marjorie.  Not only did she latch on with no difficulty, but the pain was reduced a good 97%.  The pain was still present, but completely tolerable.

So, for five days, I nursed using the shield.  It was an annoyance but a blessing.

This morning, she nursed successfully without the shield, and there was virtually no pain and no further damage.

I can tell that she is still not latching on quite correctly.  Also, she nurses for a good hour at a time, yet doesn’t seem to ever fully empty the milk from my breasts.  She is perpetually hungry.  She is wetting an adequate number of diapers;  I don’t think her life is in danger from malnutrition.  However, for all that I am spending 1/3 to 1/2 of my time nursing my baby, I don’t think she is gaining any weight, and may, in fact, be losing weight.  We’ll find out tomorrow.

So… we may end up having to get her frenulum clipped.  Her upper lip is tied, as well.

Theoretically, I don’t mind spending so much time nursing my baby.  It is a precious, precious time.  But logistically, at some point, I need to be more available to my family, and my baby would benefit from being able to adequately get the milk she needs in a much shorter amount of time.  She is spending so much time nursing that I don’t think she’s getting quite enough sleep.  Her need for sleep and her need for mama’s milk are in conflict with each other…  I can tell she is both exhausted and hungry.  Poor sweetie.

So, while I don’t relish the thought of anything getting clipped on her — for all everyone’s assurances that it barely hurts and that she’ll heal very quickly with no disruption of nursing — it does seem that it would be best for both her and me to get the procedure(s) done.

Other worries that were a waste of time:

  • Homebirth itself.  It was, despite some challenges in the birth itself, absolutely perfect.  My husband is a new convert to the benefits of homebirth.  Better late than never.  :)
  • Too many people in the room.  We had my midwife, the midwife’s assistant (who is nearly a licensed midwife herself), a student midwife, and a friend who was acting as doula… No one was intrusive, everyone cared for me magnificently, everyone had their place.
  • The children.  My husband was more concerned about this than I was.  Our boys just kind of checked on me periodically, and the girls were present for most of the birth — exiting on their own when things got too intense — and it was just right.
  • Our family adapting to #8 in the home.  This has been so smooth.  So very smooth.  My husband is abundantly smitten with baby Jean.  The girls are wonderfully gentle and attentive big sisters.  The boys slightly less so, but no less loving, and what they lack for in personal attentiveness, they make up for in their general service to our family and to me and baby in particular:  they are definitely picking up the slack.

Anyway… now that I’m no longer in continual pain and that there is hope on the horizon, I’m much… happier.  Not that having a baby is all about my personal happiness.  But, with the difficulty of the birth (difficult for me, that is), I felt more relief than joy at her birth.  Then, when the nursing issues started on the second day, the leg vein issues on the third day, etc., I feel like I’ve been somewhat on edge and not able to fully participate in the JOY of a newborn.  There have been moments I relish, and my heart is absolutely filled with love and ZERO regrets;  I can’t imagine life without Jean Marjorie Joy.  But, I’m looking forward to the coming weeks even more.

THIS, only moments after birth.  So perfect.

THIS, only moments after birth. So perfect.

 

Corn seconds (or… “So Come”)

This morning, my five children and I sat around our island and shucked sweet corn.

My oldest, Ethan (who will be 16 on Sunday), expressed a new appreciation for pesticides.

I was a bit shocked, as was Grant, who is 13.

It was, however, somewhat understandable.

The corn we were shucking was from the CSA, from Crooked Sky Farms.  Organic, fresh, but quite wormy.

Wednesday is CSA Day, where (currently) 24 people come to my home and pick up their share of local, organic, single-farmer-grown produce.  However, on Wednesday, I thought that I was going to have a baby, and I called in the troops — a fellow CSA member who had volunteered to host the pick-up, should I be giving birth or something like that, especially since we’re planning a homebirth.

In retrospect, I feel like a chump for calling her, because here it is, two days later, and I still don’t have a baby.

Anyway.

The instructions from the farm said to give everyone three ears of corn.  She was about halfway through the afternoon when she realized, “We are going to have a LOT of corn left.  A LOT.”  She upped the remaining people’s share to four ears, but was also worried, like perhaps the farm unintentionally gave too much corn, and they were going to ask for it back.

So, she came to my home yesterday with all the leftovers, including four boxes of corn — each box holding 25-40 ears of corn.  Clearly, each member could have had SIX ears, and we still wouldn’t have run out.  I’m not sure what happened — if they delivered too much accidentally, or if they just gave extra so that folks could pick through the ears and get the best ones, or what.

In any case, she kept two boxes, as did I.  I assured her that she had done nothing wrong;  sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and adjust, and she just didn’t know that, as this was her first time.  And, one of the perks of being the host is that you get to decide what to do with the leftovers, and one of the decisions you are free to make is, “Why, I’ll just keep it!”

The substitute host has seven kids;  I have five (almost six).  We happily kept our corn.

HOWEVER…  I must say, this corn was definitely picked-through, and not nearly as pretty as what you’d see in the grocery store.  Most of the ears were, as I mentioned, wormy.  (However, cut off the top third or half, and voila!  You have a beautiful half-ear of corn.)  Some of it was way too mature — dented kernels throughout, telling me that it was over-ripe, and that the sugars had turned to starch, and that it wouldn’t be good eating.  Some of the ears were just too worm-eaten or even moldy, and the whole ear had to be chucked into the compost bin.

So…  It wasn’t exactly pretty work, shucking this corn.  There was a lot of, “Eeeewww…” and ears dropped like a hot potato when pulling back the husk revealed three caterpillars, happily munching away at the kernels.

Wesley (age 11) eventually got grossed out and became mostly the guy who carted all the shucks, silk, and “dead” ears off to the compost bin.

Audrey (age 7) became distraught that I wouldn’t allow her to make a habitat which would enable her to keep all the caterpillars.  Indeed, I was insisting that everyone simply throw away the caterpillars in with the shucks.  She was horrified by my casual discarding of life.

However, Ethan, Grant, and 4-year-old Fiala hung in there like champs to the very end.

I wish I had a “before” picture to show you just how ugly this corn was…  But, I didn’t take a pic.

I found myself, though, reflecting on the treasure we uncovered, in pale yellow and white kernels — one that required a little work.  One that required us to “extract the precious from the worthless.”

Jeremiah 15:19

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become [a]My spokesman.

We have enough “pretty” whole or mostly-whole ears of corn to give us two — maybe even three — nights of sweet corn feasting with our dinners.  And that is for our aforementioned large family of seven.

I also took the not-so-pretty ears — those which were less-than-half-sized, those which needed multiple kernels trimmed out, or even whole sides cut off, due to being dried or worm-eaten, etc. — and cut the remaining good kernels.  Those efforts resulted in a couple of knife nicks on my left hand, a partially numb right index finger from grasping the knife for six passes per ear… AND, five quarts of kernels to add to our freezer.

I feel like that’s a win.

Corn!

It’s hard to tell from this pic, but there are probably 25-30 ears of corn in the plastic shopping bag — most of them only partial ears…. But it’s a lot of corn!

This song was running through my head this afternoon, as I extracted the precious sweet corn kernels from what previously appeared to be two boxes of worthless, picked-over, dried, wormy, partly moldy corn…

I don’t know how to explain it…  It just feels redemptive and rewarding to have rescued all that corn… to have worked for it, toughed it out when the going was gross, and now my freezer is stocked and we will feast on hot, buttered, salty corn-on-the-cob tonight.

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