Category Archives: Birth

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.

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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.

More than you ever cared to read about my fingernails.

I decided that as a 40-year-old mother of six, it was time to grow up and stop biting my nails.

I’m not actually either 40 nor a mother of six, but I will be both in about four months.

I don’t think my lifelong nail-biting habit is a nervous one;  It’s just more of a compulsion… Especially when I read.  But even if it’s a nervous habit, I figure it’s better than Xanax.

I have a friend who is older than me… Not quite old enough to be my mother, but definitely older than me.  And she bites her nails.  That always made me feel a tad better.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  Until I glanced at her hands recently and saw that they had been nicely manicured and she said it had been some months since she’d bitten them.  She still hasn’t resumed.

I have a number of problems with NOT biting my nails, in addition to the whole habit/compulsion part of it:

  1. I play guitar, so they can’t be long anyway.
  2. If I want to stop biting my nails, it really helps if they’re painted;  that’s quite a deterrent.  However, as a chemical-avoidant person — any kind of chemical, for any reason — it chaps my hide that nail polish is one massive bucket o’ chemicals.  BAD ones.  Ones that, under pretty much all other circumstances, I wouldn’t expose myself to.  I felt like a hypocrite, buying nail polish at Target earlier this week.  I had to, though, because all my other nail polishes were 5+ years old and gooey;  they wouldn’t dry.
  3. If I want to stop biting my nails, it’s best if I just IGNORE them.  But, when one has nails, there is a whole, new, mandatory hygiene regimen associated with them, and they can’t be ignored.

It seems almost like I’m doomed to fail before I even begin.

But, vanity and a bit of shame compels me — the shame part as described above:  “I’m too ‘mature’ to bite my nails.  What is wrong with me??”

And the vanity comes in when, on a near-daily basis, on the Birth Without Fear blog, I view the multiple awesome pics of mamas triumphing through labor, with joyful relief as they’re now holding the tiny one they’ve waited so long to behold… and can you imagine if you see the mama’s hand, cradling the perfect newborn, and there are gnawed off stumps where the fingernails are supposed to be??  Yuck.  I’m not saying that a birth story and accompanying photos of mine will ever appear on the blog.  And I’ve never had a birth photographer present for any of my births.  I’ve never even had a friend or family member take pics of the process!!  But, if I did… Would I want to see the remains of what should be my nails, but have been chewed into oblivion??  No.  No, I wouldn’t.

And so, it has been two weeks since I’ve bitten.  In my world, that’s a long time.  I can’t quite call it “triumph” yet, but it’s a good start.

Nails

I don’t even like this color. But, it was on clearance. $3.84 — which still seems crazy-expensive — for this color, or $6-9 for nicer, less pink and frosty ones. And, no, I won’t buy $1 nail polish, because I need it to dry and need it to not chip off. Still, if you’ve seen me in real life and have thought, “That’s not a color I would have pictured on Karen,” you’re right; it’s not a color I would picture on myself, either.  I have to find somewhere local to buy Zoya nail lacquer, because apparently, it’s the only brand that is actually free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

 

Now, all I need to do is color my hair — WITH HENNA — again.  There goes the vanity again:  I think I’m the grayest pregnant woman ever and it just doesn’t seem right.  But, that’s a story for another day…

Baby/Midwife/Home Birth/Pregnancy/Twins??? Update

Arizona is in the process of reviewing the scope and practice of licensed midwives.  Currently at issue is this:  May they legally deliver twins/multiples, and may they legally assist in the delivery of homebirth VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean)?  Currently, they’re not allowed.

The VBAC question doesn’t affect me;  I’ve never had a c-section.  But the part about twins thing might.

My midwife still says I’m measuring huge and that it’s likely that I’m either a month further along than I think I am, or that I’m carrying twins.

I don’t think it’s twins.  With this being my sixth baby, I can palpate like a pro (almost) and I only feel one baby in there.  Of course, I could be missing something…  But, the fact that I can feel a whole baby and I’m only 15 weeks — according to my LMP —  tells me that I’m probably 19 weeks, in actuality.

Last week. 14 weeks along. I think.

Last week. 14 weeks along. I think.

My husband and I went back and forth on whether or not to have an ultrasound.  I’d like to avoid or at least limit ultrasounds.  My husband would prefer that I have none*.  However, we’ve decided to go ahead and have one in about three weeks.

I was almost afraid to find out if I was carrying twins, because I didn’t want that to mean I couldn’t have a home birth.  But, in my appointment yesterday with the midwife, she said:

  1. If I’m having twins, I really need to know in advance.
  2. In order to birth twins at home, we need to have a CPM (certified professional midwife) who is also an NMD (naturopathic medical doctor) attend the birth.  They are governed by a different body — the one that licenses NMDs — and they ARE allowed to attend twin home births.
  3. If I’m having twins, it’s a good idea to have two midwives on hand, anyway.

And, wouldn’t you know??  I already know an NMD who is also a CPM.  Voila!  The doctor who oversaw the healing of my now four-year-old daughter, Fiala, who had a lifelong intense, crazy, systemic candida yeast infection:  Dr. Jesika DiCampli.  So, I have a message into her office right now, though it might be jumping the gun a bit.

I also found out in yesterday’s appointment that I have great out-of-network coverage with my insurance, and even with a deductible, the cost for birthing the baby at home will be LESS than what I paid for the hospital birth of our last, Fiala.

So.  Overall, I’m feeling better about things:  that my hope for a home birth may still be realized, even if I’m carrying twins.  That has weighed on my heart for the last month-plus, when it became apparent that I’m big-for-dates.

I’m also feeling less sick, though I’m struggling with some insomnia issues, which has NEVER been a problem for me, my whole life.  I was previously feeling ill from about 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., and now it’s just from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. or later… and I can’t sleep when I’m feeling pukey, and when I do go to bed, even if I’m exhausted, I just can’t get comfortable, or the sleepiness just evaporates, and I lie in bed, grumbly and feeling rotten.  Last night, I finally got up and went downstairs.  Nothing like a crossword puzzle at 2:30 a.m., right??  I drank three glasses of water and ate some blueberries until my husband came down to inquire about my presence.  I spent more than two hours, awake.  I was just thinking last night about how I don’t have any “getting oneself to sleep” skills, because normally, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m OUT until my hubby wakes me in the a.m.  Unless someone cries.  I’m up with a start, then.

Anyway.  I’ll let y’all know how it turns out, twins or no.  🙂

——————-

*Excellent, informed, balanced info on the pros and possible cons of prenatal ultrasounds found in the book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley, MD.  In related news, it turns out the my midwife actually met Dr. Buckley and was very encouraged by her at a conference.  I was jealous;  I’d love to hear Dr. Buckley speak.

Unique, powerful, profound, painstakingly researched: My FAVORITE book on birthing

My midwife (who, by the way, is having her website revamped — the current one is sorely incomplete!) has, unsurprisingly, shelves full of books on birthing and mothering.  I noticed one omission, and I think I’m going to purchase it for her for Christmas.

The book has been on my mind a lot, lately.  Partly because, yes, I’m pregnant.  But partly, as well, because I find the reviews for it on Amazon so indicative of our polarized culture.  When we find someone saying something we cannot support, we automatically throw out everything they’ve ever said, put them on our personal equivalent of Santa’s Naughty List, and vilify them.

The book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, is written, as best as I can surmise, by a practicing Zen Buddhist, Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, MD.  The three two-star reviews this book has received generally have this criticism:  The book is too far “out there.”  The doctor has sections where she describes her personal beliefs and experiences, and I must say that the Dr. Buckley and I have little in common, and many of the things she has chosen to do, I would not.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean the books is useless.  It just means that our personal beliefs aren’t aligned.

After reading (not for the first time) the Amazon reviews on this book, I decided to write my own:

I felt the need to chime in my support for this book. I’m a semi-crunchy mother of five — many things I have learned and chosen in my mothering would be highly supported by the attachment parenting camp, and quite a few simply would not. I am also a committed, practicing Christian. I’ve had five, all-natural, unmedicated hospital births, and am planning a home birth for my sixth — not because I’ve had rotten hospital experiences, but rather because I have learned a bit more with each birth and am convinced that the best way to ensure that this, likely my last birth, is absolutely peaceful and perfect is to have my child at home. It is becoming increasingly difficult within hospital culture, even with a fabulous, naturally-minded care provider to have a truly natural hospital birth.

I particularly appreciate Dr. Buckley’s book because she, like myself, is both fully spiritual AND fully science-minded. I respect the fact that Dr. Buckley lays out her spiritually-based opinion and experience and then BACKS IT UP with hard science. There are a solid SIXTY PAGES of end notes. One chapter alone has 294 end notes!! This is, by far, the best-researched birthing book I’ve ever read, and I have read dozens.

In fact, of those dozens of books I’ve read, many start to sound the same after a very short while. Many other books on birthing rely heavily on the same stories, the same research, and similar experiences. This was the first book I’ve read on birthing in a very long time that had NEW, PROFOUND, and RELEVANT information about birthing and mothering. It is a unique and powerful book on many levels.

Instead of being a how-to on birthing, it’s more of a “why” book. Why choose one practice over another? Why are ultrasounds possibly harmful? Why are narcotics during birth so potentially harmful, both in the short-term and long-term health of mother and baby? Why is the use of Pitocin so destructive to the natural hormonal processes of birth? Dr. Buckley doesn’t just tell readers what to do, she tells us, very clearly, why one choice is helpful (even necessary!) and why another choice is likely harmful. In addition to that, she gives personal anecdotes about her own experiences with birthing and mothering that further support her empirical research, and show a mother how those scientific facts can play out in a very spiritually profound way.

It’s pretty clear that the author is a practicing Zen Buddhist. I’m not. However, I find that my discoveries have matched the doctor’s experience: The radical experience of a natural birth is the perfect marriage of mind/body/science WITH our spiritual/deep/intangible side. I found it pretty easy to make the shift, mentally, when the author talks about the soul of her child flying down from the stars into me visualizing, instead, the soul of my child being lovingly created by God my Father, and being deposited into the growing life of my baby, in utero. And so on. If the “language” of Dr. Buckley’s spiritual voice doesn’t fit with your own, feel free to substitute your own beliefs in the places where yours doesn’t match up with hers!

There is no ONE perfect book on any topic. Like any book, you chew the meat, and throw out the bones. If there is a story in the book that doesn’t click with you, it doesn’t negate the hundreds — or even thousands — of other bits of useful, profound information. It’s the mark of a strong mind that can consider something, hold it in one’s thoughts, sift it, and then say, “That particular part is not for me,” without throwing out the rest of the book or giving it only two stars. So, if that’s what you need to do when reading this book, please do so, but still PLEASE READ THE BOOK.

So, to sum up, my stance is that you don’t have to be completely aligned with Dr. Buckley’s spiritual beliefs, birthing practices, or mothering practices in order to benefit mightily from this unique and powerful book.

If that sounds intriguing, consider purchasing this excellent book for either yourself, a mother-to-be, or your favorite doula or midwife!!

The most significant bathroom break, ever.

“Jean Marie,” read the very short text from my husband.

I was at a red light when I read it, out doing errands with my 13 year-old son, Grant.  It was five days after my mother had passed.  Her name was Jean Elaine.

“Wha…???” was my response, aloud.

I called my husband.  “Are you saying that if we have another baby, you want to name her after my mother?  You know I hate the name Marie.”

Our youngest turned four in October.  I will turn 40 in June of next year.  I’ve wanted “just one more” for a couple of years now…  It just never felt like our family was complete.  I wanted one more shot at having a home birth.  I wanted one more baby to nurse.  I just… wanted another baby.

My husband?  Not so much.  I would bring it up about once every six months — enough to let him know it was still on my heart, but not enough so that it was nagging.  It’s not a good idea to nag one’s husband into having a baby, I figured.  We needed to be in it TOGETHER, wholeheartedly.

“It’s already too noisy in here,”  he would say.

“WHAT??” was my kind response.  “You’re vetoing the life of a child based upon the noise factor??”

“Yes,” he replied with finality.  “And I’m not ashamed to admit it.  One more baby would send me over the edge, noise-wise.”

I couldn’t help but persist, “But a baby doesn’t make much noise.  A three year-old makes a lot of noise.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “But that baby grows up to be a three year-old.”

“But by that time, Ethan [our oldest, who is 15] will likely be out of the house.”

“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “Ethan hardly makes any noise at all.”

I had to admit he was right about that.

So, when the thought would surface, as it often did, I would just submit the whole thing to God, to His plan, to His timing…  I spent much time wondering if that was just the way He made my heart:  That I would always long for another baby, and that I was to funnel that into encouraging and equipping other mothers in their efforts to birth naturally.  And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I could be a grandmother before the decade is out.  Maybe He was preparing my heart for that.

——–

About a week prior to that text, I was at my mother’s bedside, praying.  She had been in the hospital for nearly three weeks.  She had had a series of strokes, plus the doctors had discovered a large, vegetative growth on one of the valves of her heart, which was likely sending off bits of itself around her body, resulting in the strokes, as well as threatening the viability of her heart.  She had been in poor health before those incidents:  complications from Marfan Syndrome, two extensive back surgeries, a nerve problem similar to multiple sclerosis (CIDP), a half-paralyzed diaphragm that caused one lung to continually fill with fluid… And on top of THAT, she had aspirated a bunch of fluid and now her good lung was full and not functioning well.

It was a hard time.  During the first two weeks, I was at the hospital nearly every day.  The last week, I was there almost 24/7.  She needed someone continually at her side, and as good as the care in the hospital was, they just couldn’t provide that.  My stepdad took many days off from work — he works part time as a school music teacher — and is not in great physical health himself.  My sister works a “part time” job that is just a few hours shy of full-time, plus has a two-year-old daughter.  My older brother flew in from Texas for a time, and my younger brother drove down from Portland…  But eventually, TJ had to fly back to Texas, and Brian felt like he was behind the eight-ball, knowing how to care and advocate for our mom.  Everyone pitched in as they could;  everyone spent hours with my mother;  everyone spent nights at the hospital.  We called on friends and extended family to fill in the odd hours when no immediate family could be present.  But in the last week, I was the one able to be there most often.

I was continually thankful, especially that last week, for children who are acquainted with our routine enough to manage fairly well without me.  My dear husband, too, felt very strongly that someone should be with my mother continually, and was very supportive of me being there so much.  I was also thankful that, with our move, I was less than two miles from the hospital.  And for us homeschooling, which lends a great deal of flexibility to our schedule, further enabling me to be there.

“And…” I reluctantly prayed, “I have to admit your wisdom, God, in not allowing me to have a baby, much as I have wanted one.  If I had an infant right now… or even a two-year-old, this would not be possible.  Instead, I am able to be here at my mom’s bedside when she needs me.”

I was incredibly thankful for that.

During her last weeks, my mom would drift in and out of lucidity.  She would often be asleep, and visitors and conversation continued in her room.  It was always pleasant.  One of my favorite things about that time is the peace and kindness present in the room, by the Holy Spirit and His work in my mother’s life.  I had so many great conversations with family members and with friends who had come to spend some time with my mother.

My husband and I have five children;  most of my parents’ friends know that.  And when one has “a bunch” of children, it is frequently asked of me, “Are you going to have any more?”  As a response to that question, one of the several times it was posed to me there in the hospital by a visitor, I responded by saying that only a few months ago, my mother had said to me, unprompted, “I know you and Martin aren’t likely to have any more children.  And I think that for most families, six children would be problematic.  But I want you to know that I think it would be fine if you have more children.  If any family should have more children, it should be yours.”

After I related that story, my mom, with eyes closed — I had thought she was asleep! —  piped up weakly, “It’s because you’re such a good mother.”

I cried.

……..

Back to the conversation following the text from my husband, I continued, saying, “I’m really glad you are… amenable to the idea of having more children, but I’m not pregnant.  I would know.”

He responded, “I was just going to the bathroom…”

Let me interject here to say that my husband’s work-bathroom-break-prayer-times have always been inspirational to me.  How often have I, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five, thought — or said, “I just don’t have enough time for a ‘real’ quiet time.”  However, I have long known that Martin uses those few minutes of alone-time, purposefully to check in with God.  It doesn’t take long, really, to reconnect with Him.  Martin prays about what’s on his mind.  He listens to anything the Father might say in return, all accomplished within a few minutes in the middle of his busy day.  I now do similarly.

“…and I feel like God spoke to me,” he continued.  “If you are pregnant — and I think you are — and if it is a girl — and I think it is — we’re going to name her after your mom.  I’m not tied to the middle name, but her first name will be Jean.”

I was shocked.

“But I’m not pregnant!” I repeated.

“Go get a test,” he responded.

“What if I am?” I asked, “Are you going to have a hard time with it?”

“Nope.  God spoke to me.  I already dealt with it.  It’s all good.”

I really don’t like that saying:  “It’s all good.”  But in this instance, I did.

I also have to interject a positive note for serving a God who SPEAKS, a God who speaks TODAY to the people He loves, if their ears are tuned to His voice, not only through His Word — the Bible — but directly from His Spirit into our spirit, into our thoughts, into our lives, RIGHT NOW, words of significance to where we are in our daily lives, in our minute-by-minute concerns, in our current needs.  What if we didn’t?  What if my husband didn’t?  What if I got pregnant and he was upset?  That had been my lone concern about becoming pregnant:  I’d be thrilled, my husband would be distressed and worried, and I’d have to spend nine months reassuring him that it would be OK, and knowing that we weren’t in unity…  I didn’t know if I could handle that.  But, in a few minutes, within the space of a bathroom break, God spoke to my husband and changed his mind entirely on the subject.

“Go get a test,” he repeated.

I did.

And I am.

Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.

🙂

And now for a word (ALMOST) in favor of (SOMETIMES) baby-training

I’m pretty deep into the natural birthing world.  Most women in that world highly favor “attachment parenting”:  baby-wearing, nursing on demand, never letting a baby “cry it out”, never trying to schedule the baby, co-sleeping, nursing for longer than a year, etc.

I will freely admit that, with each baby — I have had five — I grew closer to the “standards” of attachment parenting.  However, I didn’t start that way.  I know a fair number of bitter ex-schedulers who are wracked with guilt and a powerful distaste — even hatred — for baby scheduling.  Yet, I don’t speak with vitriol against those who raise their babies with the “Ezzo” methods — Babywise, Growing Kids God’s Way, etc.  Again, the longer I have been a mother, the more I find that I disagree with the basic stance of the Ezzos, and have found much more freedom and joy in mothering an infant, the further I “stray” from the Ezzo methods.

It has been my experience and observation that a nurturing, attentive heart is really “God’s way” and training, especially when “crying it out” is involved, goes against the God-given tug of a woman’s heart to shelter and provide for her baby.

But…  here’s a comment I made on the Facebook page of an AP-proponent who was soliciting for some “balanced” reviews on a free Kindle version of a book that espouses baby-training, as all the reviews at the time of the request were four- and five-star, in favor of the book and the method.  (By the way “FTT” refers to “failure to thrive”, which is one of the charges/risks leveled against scheduled babies — I have never read any hard science on that, to know if FTT is a true risk for scheduling or not — if you have some, I’d love to read it!):

One little comment (well, long comment) in almost-favor of sleep-training…

When my first was born, lo these many years ago (15), I had really ZERO support. My husband was awesome, but I had no… community, really. I was fairly new to our church (had married into it), my mother worked full-time, my MIL lived out of town, my sister was out of town, and even though I was 24, almost none of my friends had babies yet, etc. I thought my maternal instincts would kick in and I would magically know what to do and I would be able to provide that for my baby. WOW. Motherhood, instead, was completely humbling to the point of breaking my heart. I had pretty much zero maternal instincts. I could not decipher my baby’s cries. I couldn’t figure him out. On top of that, I was very ill (with what was undiagnosed celiac disease — was dx’ed about five years after my firstborn) and a tendency to depression. I had to figure out SOMETHING or I was going to lose my mind, and I’m not kidding. I ended up doing a Babywise schedule, recommended by the one mother I knew who was supportive of me and available to me. She had an infant almost exactly one year older than mine. She was (and still is) a gloriously wonderful, compassionate, kind-hearted, amazing mother and still an absolute model of beautiful motherhood to me. My idea was, “If it worked for her…” So, I did it. I honestly believe that having a schedule saved my literal sanity and helped me LEARN about my son.

THAT SAID…. I have now five children total, and with each child have gotten further and further from Babywise, et al, and can see the wisdom and blessing in attachment parenting. I’m **WAY** more AP than I was — wore my fifth, co-slept, nursed for nearly two years, only very roughly scheduled — mostly nursed on-demand, etc.

HOWEVER, I still remember how desperate I felt with the undecipherable cries of my firstborn, and how Babywise turned out to be what I needed — at the time, and given my situation. And for that reason, I will never speak out completely against it. Some moms/families need it. Moms like me, who feel very lost and alone in new motherhood, and who lack a community of help, and who desperately need some sort of framework to help them manage that first year.

And… by the way, that baby was not FTT or anywhere close to it. He was 8 lbs 13 oz at birth and was consistently in the 95th – 97th percentile for weight for his whole first year and beyond. He was **CHUBBY** with rolls on the back of his legs and dimpled hands, etc. He’s now 5’9″ and 135 lbs — skinny! And about a year ago, I actually apologized to him for his infancy… for being so stressed out and letting him CIO and training him to sleep, instead of giving him the comfort of my touch and nursing on demand. He forgave me, blessing that he is. And, honestly, HE UNDERSTOOD. Crazy. That was a weight off of my conscience!!

So, what I’m suggesting is that while I believe that CIO/scheduling should not be the GOAL, there are times/women/families who could benefit from it. On occasion.

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

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