Category Archives: Pregnancy
I just finished making the song list for worship tonight at my small group.
Last week, several people — literally, three — said something along the lines of, “Thank you for serving our group. Thank you for leading worship.” And my response, initially, was, “Wha…??”
These friends thanking me were sincere, but it seemed weird. “I really, really like to do this. I really like to worship. It’s a privilege to lead. I don’t need to be thanked!”
But then, I remembered only a couple hours previous: It was about 6:40, and my husband had walked me to the car. He loaded up the guitar into the back seat, and we kissed goodbye. Our little rascal, four-year-old Fiala, came running out — which she is not supposed to — and Martin turned to whisk her barefoot self back inside. The car still not started, I leaned my head back and gripped the steering wheel. “If I wasn’t leading worship, I would NOT go to small group tonight,” I grumbled out loud. I started the car and chugged down the driveway en route to the approximately ¾ mile commute to the home of the dear family who hosts my group.
I was feeling cruddy, as I do, most afternoons and evenings these days. I’m about 12 weeks pregnant, and I really dislike being pregnant. That is, I pretty much hate the first 20 weeks when I’m sick to my stomach 24/7 and I have no energy. Then, for weeks about 21-29, I’m golden: I have energy back, no nausea, and my belly isn’t so big to be ponderous, I’m motivated to get things accomplished, and excited about the prospects of a new baby in our home. Then, about week 30 hits, and I feel like I’m going to physically fall apart at the seams, and my giant baby-house gets in the way of everything, and I can’t breathe… So, I should say that I really dislike about 4/5 of pregnancy.
I was thinking that I’ve never led worship while pregnant… Wait. That’s not true. I haven’t led worship in a small group while pregnant. I started when Fiala was — if memory serves — four weeks old. I’d nurse my newborn, put her down to sleep, Martin would wrangle the other four, and I’d go off to group… I’d come home fairly promptly, and feed my baby again. It worked out much better than we thought it would, plus we didn’t have to pay for babysitting. (Prior to four years ago, Martin and I always went together, he always led worship in whichever group we were a part, and we always paid a babysitter to tend to our littles.)
I have led worship for the 6-12 year-olds at church while pregnant. Oddly, though, I have no memory of that… I’m not sure how I accomplished that with a big belly. I think I propped my foot up on a stool and rested my guitar on my thigh, out in front of the baby-protuberance. Anyway, that’s what I told my small group’s host that I would be doing, a month or two or three down the line… She now asks, every week, if I need a stool. “No, not yet!”
So, in a way, I guess it’s service, to lead worship. I can be an effort, at times. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t feel like it. Most of the time, I feel like I do right now: “I’ve got a great list, and worship will be great tonight! Come, Holy Spirit!!” I’m really thankful that I get to lead worship; I love doing it. It honestly feels like a privilege. I can’t help but compare myself to my husband’s guitar-playing and worship-leading virtuosity, and I come up way, way short. I feel like “they” LET me lead worship. I get to. And that’s when receiving thanks feels out-of-place.
Anyway. The baby is due the end of June. Small groups usually end for the summer the first or second week of June. I hope I can make it that far! My husband became the worship leader of our church when the previous worship leader was ponderously pregnant and in what was a shock to him, promoted him. He’s been there ever since. That was 20+ years ago. 🙂
Now, I’m questioning this whole post. I’m afraid it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn. That’s not my intention! What I’m trying to do is say:
- I feel like worship leading is a privilege.
- Sometimes, I don’t feel like going to small group, but by the end of it, with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the love and friendship of everyone there, I’m so pleased that I went, and I feel great.
- I’m not entirely sure how things are going to go, once my belly gets huge…
I guess that’s it.
Lordy. Blogging would be significantly easier if I didn’t second-guess myself about everything… I was hearkening back to the days when no one read what I had to say except my Uncle Steve, and I would write, shooting from the hip, about whatever crossed my mind. These days, I question myself endlessly, like, “Is this worthy of being published? Is my attitude crappy? Do I sound like a jerk? Am I a jerk? This isn’t a recipe. Or about birthing. Or homeschooling. Or even about parenting. Who in my not-really-targeted-but-certainly-niche-readership is this going to bless? No one??” ~sigh~ And then I shoot down the post I’d written in my head, or drafted out online… And thus, compiled with my time crunch, leads to me blogging less than ever. Ugh. /whining.
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!!
It’s a good day when I look at the clock at 2:32 and feel like I’ve already had a productive day.
Confession: I long to be lazy.
Truth: I rarely let myself be.
So, most days, I spend a good portion of my thought life wishing I could lie down and take a nap. Or vege out and read a book for a few hours with my feet kicked up and a blanket tucked snugly around me. Or that I could turn on the TV in the middle of the day. (The only time, historically, that I’ve “let” myself watch TV during the day is when I have a nursing infant.)
I tell myself, “If you get x, y, and z done, you can lie down for an hour.” But, I never seem to get as much done as I think I should be accomplishing. Thus, I don’t usually indulge my inner drive for laziness.
I get a lot done, typically… But I’ve never felt like I was INDUSTRIOUS. Know what I mean? Like Proverbs 31-industrious, when I’m up before everyone else, weaving purple cloth. Or, in more current terms, I’m not a Pinterest mom, making and posting about the awesome projects I’ve done. So, the things I get done are mostly out of necessity: My family needs to eat. We need toilet paper. We need to not be drowning in clutter and covered in ¼” of dust. So, I do a lot… but I confess that I don’t have a creative, money-making drive. I’m not always trying to DO MORE. I’m pretty happy if all the basics get covered without too much stress.
I’m still not certain if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
I kind of wish I had more drive.
But, I’ve also observed Moms Who Do More having stressed-out kids and no time to snuggle on the couch in the morning. I’m not saying that every industrious mother has a too-busy life, but I myself haven’t found the balance of how to keep snug-time, storybook time, “Mama, can you hold me for a bit?” Or, “Mama, come look at the fort I made!” etc., AND get loads done every day.
This morning, before breakfast, four of my children and I were packed onto the loveseat, covered in blankets, trying not to jam elbows into others’ squishy parts. My four-year-old, Fiala, said with a knowing wiggle of her eyebrows, and a pointed glance at my belly, “Actually, there are five children on the couch.” We stayed for a good 30 minutes, until tummy rumbles and 6-year-old squirminess necessitated breakfast time. I LOVE MORNINGS LIKE THAT.
Shortly after, I made sure everyone had breakfast. I made the grocery list, comparing my list of things we need with things that are on sale at Sprouts. I got the kids started on their chores (which included grounding my 13-year-old and my 11-year-old from playing with friends and/or in the front yard for the rest of the day, as it took me about five times “reminding” them to get them back on track…). I took a shower, bringing a cup of baking soda and a cleaning sponge in with me and scrubbed down the shower enclosure, which was overdue. I went to the store for the remainder of the week’s groceries (I went to Costco yesterday). I came back, ate a good lunch — the first meal in WEEKS that actually tasted good, “thanks” to all-day-long so-called morning sickness. I then put tonight’s dinner in the Crockpot — Chipotle-Orange Pork. Lastly, I made sour cream dip and cut up mounds of veggies for my husband to bring to his home group Bible study tonight.
And that’s what got me to 2:32, feeling accomplished for the day.
I could still do the huge pile of ironing that has been taunting me. I could nip out and get some Christmas shopping done. I could sew my kitchen curtains, which truly is a necessity. (There are two kitchen windows, which meet at 90° — one is completely uncovered, and the other has a nice linen table cloth-thingie held to the spring rod with a binder clip, acting like a curtain. Classy.) I could do more Christmas baking. Or a load of laundry. Or clean the rest of my bathroom. I don’t even have my Christmas decorations up. (They were in the storage unit, which we obtained for our move, and finally cleared out this past Saturday evening. So, now they’re finally in boxes, in my garage….) In other words, I could do something productive. And maybe I should.
But, I’m not. I’ve looked at my day, and decided, “I think I’ll go onto Facebook, then write a blog post.”
Part of me feels extra-justified, because I’ve been feeling like absolute CRAP with this pregnancy. Mornings are better than any other time of day, so I’ve been scurrying through my mornings, getting as much done as possible. But, here I am today, feeling better than I have in weeks, in the afternoon, and I could do more… Yet, I’m choosing not to.
Again. I still haven’t decided if this is positive or negative, but I am — I think — coming to grips with the fact that I’m just not as industrious, not as motivated, not as creative, not as driven, as I think I should I should be.
I keep waiting for life to return to normal.
I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.
I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.” That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful. Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.
This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years. Well, I was 38, back then. Everything was just right. Parenting was going great. I thought my husband was fabulous. I had the garden of my dreams. I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right; more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family; less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out. We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price. I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior. Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip. Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip. Can you get much better than that?
I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever. It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”
And hard times have, indeed, come. But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.
The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous. I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.
By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.
We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.
We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children… Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.
Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.
Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.
And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state. And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church. This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church; no one with whom to share that responsibility…
AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child. And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.
And my mother did die, on October 18th. That was hard. It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more. I want her to be here.”
We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project. The good news is that I have a working kitchen. I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained. AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money. Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”
My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful. Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source. My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting. Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…
Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died. The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level; they die before then.” But, she’s on antifungals. Sweet pup. We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months… We’ll see.
My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month. Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…
The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity; not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…) I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.
I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.
I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages. I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that. It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate… Know what I mean?
I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.
And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do. In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all! They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged. I really don’t.
So! That’s where I’m at.
Thanks for reading. I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be. I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.
“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.”
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.
And I am.
Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.
When I was 27 years old I was fairly certain God was trying to kill me.
I was reminded of this upon recently reading about an old acquaintance’s plans to adopt a baby after two birth children, but not perhaps as you might initially be thinking as you read this account of the hardest season in my married life — a season that lasted, oh, about five years.
Reading the adoption-plan story also made me consider my standard response to the numerous people who ask me whether or not my husband and I are having more children. For a canned response, perhaps it falls under the category of “TMI”, but it encapsulates my thoughts on the subject, “Well, we’re not planning on it, but we’ve done nothing permanent to prevent pregnancy, nor will we do anything permanent, and two of our five were conceived when we weren’t ‘planning on it’, so you never know what God has in mind.”
Back to when I was 27: I had a one-year-old boy and my oldest son was three. My second son had been a surprise: I had decided, after one, that one was more than enough, and I privately extended grace to all the mothers of “only children” over whom I had stood in judgment. I also — seriously — asked the Father for forgiveness for my wrong attitude, rooted in abject ignorance, over how difficult mothering is, and how one child can truly feel like plenty — very fulfilling. So, there I was with my two boys, and daily, I felt like I was barely, barely, barely keeping my nose above water. Literally, every day, I felt like I was drowning, only to just survive another day.
Then, I found out that I was pregnant again.
I remember laying on my back on the floor of the family room one night, early in the pregnancy, after everyone else — including my husband — had gone to bed. I was weeping, laying it all out there before God, in ugly and brutal and heartbroken honesty. I told him that I was sorry I didn’t want the pregnancy, sorry that I was having great difficulty accepting His choice for me, sorry that I was even having those thoughts, and so on… I had to lay there — a position of my choice, being entirely vulnerable, before Him — and in all seriousness, confess to Him that if He was intending for this to literally kill me, that He was going to have to help me trust Him on that, too. It was just… too far beyond me to consider that this pregnancy, and the resulting baby, could be for my benefit at all. So, I considered that maybe that God wanted that baby’s life so dearly, for such a specific and important purpose, that He would need to sacrifice mine in order to bring that little one into existence. I’m not being melodramatic. I was completely serious, and that was the best I could come up with: That the baby needed to be alive, even if it killed me. Even if God killed me. “Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust in [You]…” reverberated in my mind, alternated with, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
I’m not big on diets. I’ve been on two in my life. One was when, in early 2000, my husband and I did a Body for Life challenge. That was successful, but very shortly after its completion, I got pregnant, and the whole thing went out the window. I didn’t know how to pull off diet + pregnancy.
Ironically, the other diet upon which I embarked was two years ago, when I was pregnant with Fiala. For three or so reasons, my doctor thought it would be wise if I did not gain any weight during my third trimester. He put me on phase 2 of the South Beach Diet for gestational weeks 28-40, and guess what? I didn’t gain any weight. In fact, I had to allow myself to eat more, because following his recommendations caused me to initially lose weight. For that entire pregnancy, I gained 17 lbs, which was the fewest of my five, by far. I felt SO GOOD after she was born, too — not bloated and huge, and I recovered, in every way, so much more quickly.
Then, when I was nursing Fiala, and she had (has, still) major food allergy problems, I put myself on a Total Elimination Diet to make my breastmilk safe for her to drink. During that time, I dropped to 135 lbs, which is what I weighed when I got married, nearly 16 years ago. I weaned Fiala and went off of the TED in January of this year. I expected to go back up to 155 lbs or so, because that’s pretty much where my body settled, post-pregnancy, after babies #3 & 4 were born. It took a number of months, but yes, I got back up to 155.
A couple of weeks ago, when I hit 165 — which is the heaviest, un-pregnant, I’ve ever been, I decided that I had to do something. Gaining 30 pounds in nine months just is not healthy. Also, having to buy clothes because you’re smaller? Feels fabulous. Buying clothes because your chub won’t fit inside of your favorite jeans any longer? Not so much.
The part of me that doesn’t like diets is the part which rationalizes, “Diets aren’t sustainable.” And, I still wrestle with that. I eat healthy — very healthy, in fact, if you don’t count my penchant for dark chocolate chips and 2-3 servings of ice cream per month. But, apparently, I’m just eating too much of it, whatever “it” is. Even though I cannot see measuring my food and counting my carbs to really be a sustainable plan for the rest of my life, I can’t simply do nothing. And, since I know that a modified South Beach Diet is effective for me, that’s what I’m going with.
Speaking of sustainable, right now, I would say that, on average, I have ONE day per week where I have some sort of extended form of exercise. Ideally, I’d like that to be three or four days. But, if I tell myself, “I am going to work out four days a week,” and I don’t reach that goal, I know I’ll be discouraged. But… I do need to step it up. So, part two of my plan is to double my strenuous activity to 2x/week.
The reasons I like South Beach (which I’m not trying to sell — they have a book, which I’ve never read, and they have a $5/week online program, to which I’m NOT subscribing) is because it fits in so well with what my food aims are, anyways:
- Nutrient-dense, fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
- Lean sources of protein;
- Low-fat dairy products;
- Good fats from foods such as omega-3-rich fish, healthy oils (like extra-virgin olive and canola oils), and nuts
I don’t know what they do in the “real” South Beach Diet, but in my modified version, I don’t count calories. I don’t count fat grams (though I do minimize unhealthy fats). I do count carbohydrates. Fiber carbs, though, don’t count against the daily total. So, say, three ounces of carrots would only count as 6 net grams (8 total, minus the 2 grams of fiber). My “goal” for fiber is a minimum of 20 grams daily. I say “goal” because I hit that — and soar past — every day. I’ve read that most Americans consume less than 10 grams of fiber each day, and that’s nearly incomprehensible to me. It would be hard for me to NOT eat 20+ grams per day.
For now, I am going to stick with 150 grams of net carbs per day, and see what the results are in two weeks. If I’m not losing any weight, I’ll drop it down to 125 g daily.
A lot of people who do South Beach use liberal amounts of artificial sweeteners. Um, not me. I do supplement my coffee’s teaspoon of honey with a bit of stevia each morning, but I’m not going to eat — ever — a cupful of sugar-free Jell-O, just because it has no carbs. Chemicals, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors… Yuck. Can’t do it. I want to be HEALTHY, not just carb-less.
Oh. I do allow myself one soda every afternoon, almost always Hansen’s. It is sweetened with Splenda, but it is all-natural besides that. I’m iffy on Splenda. But, I figure if my one vice is a daily can of diet Hansen’s, I’m gonna be OK.
OH! And, I do need to find some sort of better dessert option. After the kids go to bed, I like to settle down with my husband’s company, a book (or a TV show), and a container of frozen yogurt. I mean, regular yogurt that I freeze, then let thaw for about 15 minutes before eating. I’d really like one that is around 20 carbs per serving, with no artificial anything and inexpensive enough for me to buy 4-6 each week without messing up my family’s grocery budget. Hm. Maybe I’ll look at Trader Joe’s. Currently, I’m eating Yoplait light, but those have aspartame.
I just looked up Breyer’s Mint Chip, and each 1/2 cup serving has 18 carbs! A 1/2 cup serving is really, really small. But, when I’m accountable to my tally sheet, I think I could do it. A little bit of ice cream? Or no ice cream? Little bit, it’ll have to be. 😀
So… it’s my hope that I’ll learn to make better little choices that will be sustainable. Long term do-able. For instance, raw almonds are one of my very favorite snacks. But, instead of just keeping the bag open in my pantry and grabbing a handful whenever, I now put 2 oz (1/3 cup – 6 regular carbs, 6 fiber carbs) in a little bowl, and be happy with that. And, last night, with our grilled chicken, I chose not to use barbecue sauce, which I love.
I figure the least I alter what I currently do — yet, alter it, indeed! — the more likely it is to stick.
I promise this won’t turn into Karen’s Diet Blog — there are enough diet blogs out there already. But, I figure that blogging about this adds one more layer of accountability, which will help me stay on target.
Anyone wanna join me??
Six things that have struck me or interested me in recent weeks, with no theme:
- For those of you who asked me, via comment or e-mail, for the reading list of recommendations from my friend Kathy, it’s here! (I mentioned it in a post where I lamented the state of current teen fiction.) My precious friend Kathy posted an intro to her list of 100 or so pre-teen and teen books, as well as a handy, printable pdf, with title, author, and a wee commentary on each one!! (from the P14 Ministries blog)
- For those of you, like me, who have been alternately intrigued and frustrated by the recent upsurge in Gluten-Free Everything: A great (and fairly lengthy) look at the pros and cons of the recent trendiness of the gluten-free diet. (from the Triumph Dining blog)
- Please read this beautifully written paean to family and the Midwest entitled Has the Mail Gone? by Cloth Mother upon the passing of her beloved 94-year-old grandmother. As I was reading it, I thought, “This woman must have lived in Illinois.” I pulled out a map Google-mapped a town name, and sure enough… right in the heart of the farm country in which my parents were raised. When I took my children to Illinois 3½ years ago, on our way back to the airport, from Quincy to Chicago, I purposefully avoided large highways and instead, meandered, taking every teensy two-lane blacktop, passing through small town after small town, treasuring the scenery and the ambiance of the land that tugs so at my heart. Of all the hamlets through which we passed, my favorite was a little spot called Henry. I could easily imagine myself there, raising a family in a century-old two-story on a sleepy, tree-lined avenue. It took a considerable amount of strength and a sharp intake of breath to drive away from Henry… Henry is only about four miles up the Illinois River from the author’s town of Lacon. Feeling a connection there, and because the piece was so beautifully written, I felt like I had to comment. But, I didn’t. The story was so personal, and all the commenters knew Grandma Florence. But, reading the story will make you wish she had been your grandmother, too.
- I must confess that I am not particularly emotional. I mean, I have emotions, but I don’t cry easily, and I don’t really enjoy crying. However, I simply wept at this post by Nicole Deggins, and I absolutely did not regret it. Nicole, a certified nurse midwife, wrote a searingly honest account of her unexpected pregnancy, then the loss of her hours-old baby daughter, whom she nicknamed Peanut, birthed at 24 weeks’ gestation. (I have loved Nicole’s blog for more than a year… two years?… and am angry, actually, that an organization which has a copyrighted name similar to that of her blog, sued her, and now she has to disband the blog.)
- I have recently felt compelled to stop lamenting how few ingredients that my 22-month-old daughter can eat, and stop using that as an excuse to not be creative with Fiala-safe ingredients in the kitchen. When most grains, corn, rice, potatoes, most fruits, a great many vegetables, most meats, dairy, and even most herbs and seasonings are off the ingredient-list, I’ve found it too easy to resort to the few things that I know she can have, like blueberry oatmeal with cinnamon and farinata with fresh rosemary, each of which she has virtually every day of her life. This post by Kimberly at Affairs of Living really inspired me. It’s for grain-free Chocolate Pumpkinseed Bread. Now, Fiala can’t yet have either chocolate or pumpkin seeds (and yes, I’ve tried both). However, reading about the bread, and looking at the scrumptious results of the recipe — not to mention her link to the corn-free baking powder recipe — really kicked me in the culinary rear, so to speak… it got the wheels turning, and I’m starting to look at what is POSSIBLE on Fiala’s diet, rather than just biding my time until she can eat more.
- I have been a reader of Living and Learning for a couple of years. Sue is a homeschooling mother of four, married to a native of Japan. She blogs with beauty, honesty, graciousness, and a bit of whimsy. I find myself refreshed by her writing. I had never had much interest in visiting Japan before reading her blog… However, I find myself very compelled by her photography of the flora and landscape of the area around her home, not to mention the stories of her family. This Summer Check-In post is typical: filled with lovely photos, family togetherness, and things of interest — even peculiarity — to an American who has really no other acquaintance with Japan.
Click and enjoy!
- Fiala, aged 16 months has started calling out to one of us with some urgency: “Daddeee? Daddeee?” and when the person for whom she calls answers, “Yes, Fiala?” She screws up her face and says, “Ummm….” like she can’t remember what she was going to ask. It’s hilarious.
- Fi is back on Septra. I finally talked with Dr. Elizabeth on Saturday, and she said that it’s likely that Fiala is just susceptible to staph, not that it was still lurking in her body, as I had feared. (Lurking after 5 weeks of strong antibiotics…) She’s been on the abx for 2.5 days, and while she’s not clearing as quickly as I had hoped, she is a bit better. Elizabeth prescribed 3 weeks of medication, but said we can stop after a minimum of 7 days, if she’s clear. It’s looking like she’ll be on it for more than a week. 😦
- I had to stop giving guitar lessons to a young woman from church. Baseball (which now takes up 3-4 nights per week) is just too frequent to squeeze in lessons, plus kinship, plus mundane things like grocery shopping and laundry and dinner. I told her we could start back up in June, and suggested that she takes some inexpensive class lessons through our city, which I hope she chooses to do.
- I’m giving a number of baby things away on Freecycle. It’s a bit sad. Poignant. All the Avent bottles and breastmilk pump, a little food grinder, a diaper bag, a couple of remaining maternity things… Martin and I are still both of one mind on this: We will do nothing permanent to stop conception, so we realize that there remains a possibility of baby #6. However, we think it unwise (for a number of reasons) to try for a sixth baby. Part of me hopes that God will overrule our choices and I’ll just get pregnant… I’m certainly not fearful of being pregnant at age almost-37. However, I think that there is wisdom in not adding to our family, and I take it very seriously that my hubby and I are in agreement.
- I’m still working on the edit/re-write of a friend’s book. It’s going well, and we’re both really liking the results. It was my hope for her to read the refashioned words, and say, “YES. That’s exactly what I was trying to say.” So far, that has been the case, 99% of the time, which is a huge encouragement for me. I just wish I had more TIME — like two dedicated evenings per week, instead of 30 minutes here, two hours there…
- Speaking of “working,” I’m considering… monetizing my blog. I regularly have offers from folks who would pay me X amount of dollars for a link, or a promo, or an ad. Up to now, I’ve refused all such offers. But, doing dishes last night, I thought, “If my blog only made $20/week, that would be $1000 per year, which could regularly pay for family trips.” If it made slightly more, I could take the kids to visit extended family, which we’ve only done ONCE in 15 years. (Edited to clarify: We have gone on one vacation-style trip, specifically planned to visit relatives. I went on an additional trip on the spur of the moment, to go to my paternal grandpa’s funeral, and during that trip, did visit with many family members. AND, the trip that my husband and I took for our 10th anniversary was nearby to my maternal grandparents’ home, and we spent several days visiting with them. So, that’s more like three trips.) Make even MORE and we could go on a month-long “field trip” to New England, visiting historic sites. That is a very attractive motivation for me. Last year, we weren’t able to have a vacation at all (outside of a 3 night stay at my parents’ cabin), mostly because of finances. (Edited to clarify: We actually did have a week-long camping trip planned, but I threw out my back very badly, and we were unable to go. After I recovered, we ended up visiting my parents’ cabin, rather than rescheduling the whole trip… so, although finances did play a role in our decision, it definitely wasn’t the only factor.) I’m always amazed to go onto blogs that appear more professional than mine: ones that look extremely sharp, well put-together, with all the bells and whistles, with a little link to their book on the right-hand column… then I see their visitor count, and it’s half of mine. I’m NOT all about attracting readership; I’ve made no effort whatsoever to boost visits, and part of me is really repulsed by the idea of trying to “win” readers and/or place ads on my blog. However, I think that as I have garnered nearly a half-million (!) hits without even trying, it shows that (I think) with some careful marketing, I could make some income. Even a very modest income (and I think $20/week is very modest) would be worthwhile. I think that it could also be a big timesink and money-waster, so I would need to be very prudent in my choices. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do yet… but the thought of being able to take trips that I’ve heretofore only dreamed about is very attractive. I spend too much time dreaming and hoping, and too little time in action to make the dreams come true.
I can’t believe my friend Erin’s baby, Abigail, is almost three weeks old. Regular readers may remember that I had really enjoyed preparing to be Erin’s birth coach, which she asked me to do after I twisted her arm because I had some experience — five births — having a natural birth in a hospital setting.
However, things did not go well, and Erin ended up having an emergency c-section, only minutes after she arrived at the hospital. That was followed up by a 9-day stay in the NICU and Level II nursery for her dear sweet baby, Abigail Ruth.
Erin has said that I can post the birth story now, so…
(I wrote this the day after Abigail was born.)
When I was preparing to help Erin in labor, I had three main concerns:
- My education: I wanted to make sure I understood all the processes of birth that I possibly could, so that I could help lead my friend into good birthing decisions.
- My friend’s choices: I carried some concern that, no matter how I led, that in the heat of the situation, my friend would make unwise choices.
- The doctor’s motives: I was concerned that the doctor would make decisions based not upon a good outcome for Erin and her baby, but out of convenience, litigation-avoidance, and/or profit motive. (To a lesser extent, I was concerned about the nursing care Erin would receive, along similar lines of my concern about the doctor.)
What I didn’t even truly consider, deep in my heart, was that something outside of those three categories might happen. I didn’t really, truly think that something would go WRONG, unless it was from the consequences of my not knowing what to do, Erin making poor decisions, or undue interference from the doctor.
I received an e-mail from someone this morning who said that when she has acted as a doula, and that things do end up going south, it takes her a couple of days of reflection, prayer, and worship to pull out of it. Even before she wrote that to me, I found that to be exactly what I was experiencing.
Reflection: yes, thoughtfully so. Prayer: nearly continually, just offering up conversation to God, pouring out my heart, for my sweet friend, her dear baby, her husband, and myself. Worship: ha! I have had Telecast’s Beauty of Simplicity on repeat play and have listened to it countless times now.
What I have come to is this:
- After Erin had a c-section, I thought, “I must not have done my job.” But, actually, I did. I did it. When the nurse said, “Late decels” and I looked at the strip from the fetal heartrate monitor, I knew it was true. I knew it was serious, and when the nurses and doctor jumped on it QUICKLY and said, basically, “C-section now!” I knew that they likely weren’t jumping the gun. I knew what they were seeing on the monitors meant decreased oxygen to the baby. Reading up a bit, afterwards, I see that variable decels during a contraction are frequently related to umbilical issues, which will often resolve themselves with a better birthing position, and that the current theory is that late decels indicate placental insufficiency (though that does NOT appear to have been the case for Erin; her placenta was healthy). But at the time, all I could remember was that if she labored on her left side, or on hands and knees, that if it was due to compression of the vena cava, or from the umbilical cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck, oxygen supply would have a good chance of being boosted. But, that didn’t happen. The decels were getting worse, not rebounding as high, dipping ever lower. The baby still wasn’t getting oxygen. I knew that, when the nurses, then the doctor, said that they would have to do a section, ASAP, that they weren’t just creating an artificial emergency; it was an actual emergency; a section was truly warranted. This was made even more clear after the baby was born.
- Erin did everything right that she possibly could have. She labored at home as long as she could. She did wait for labor to spontaneously begin. She actually had prodromal labor for a good 24-30 hours. She waited until the contractions were 3 minutes apart and painful before going into the hospital. She didn’t make any poor choices at all, not at home, nor in the hospital. She did all she possibly could do. She only ever dilated to 1 cm, and there’s no way that was anyone’s fault.
- The doctor didn’t make any interventions, from ANY motives, until that c-section. There was no pitocin. There were no scare-tactic situations. There wasn’t any time for that. And, as much as I stridently believe that the c-section rate in the United States has crazily, needlessly ballooned to 31.8% due to bad policies regularly practiced in standard medical care right now, and that women need to have as natural a birth as possible, I found myself repeating to myself, “He was right. I’m glad he was there. I’m glad he acted swiftly. I’m glad he was a surgeon.” The nurses, too, did the right thing. (I am less pleased with the care from nurses that Erin received, but I don’t think that any of it negatively affected the outcome; I just wish, in a few separate situations, they had acted/done differently.)
What we found out after birth:
- Sweet baby Abigail had let go copious amounts of meconium while in the womb, rendering the amniotic fluid to have a “pea soup” consistency. She aspirating it deep into her lungs, and swallowed a lot as well.
- Her one minute Apgar was four. (Five minute was eight, thank God.)
- Her blood pH was 7.07. That is low. Very low. Very acidic. That happens when the baby is not receiving enough oxygen. If it had dipped below 7.00, Abigail would very likely have faced permanent neurological problems. The doctor told us that, in an oxygen deprived environment, blood pH drops 0.4 per hour. If my math is right, that means that within 12 minutes, Abigail’s blood pH would have dropped into the perilous range with long-term effects.
- Baby Abigail was truly in fetal distress, not due to the fault of ANYONE.
I find myself wondering how a midwife would have handled it, if Erin had chosen to birth at home. Not that Erin was ever considering that, that I know of. But, when you’re looking at a window of opportunity, of NEED FOR ACTION, a window of less than 15 minutes… Could a midwife have transferred care to a hospital quickly enough?
Maybe a midwife would have handled the situation in a wise and speedy way, and everything would have been fine. Maybe with a simple fetoscope, she could have detected the late decels (combined with no dilation) much earlier than in a hospital, because it seems to me that most women who would birth with a midwife would be likely to call the midwife a bit earlier in the labor process. This is just my own conjecture, though. (Anyone with midwifery experience PLEASE feel free to chime in; I am abundantly curious.)
No matter how anybody else might have handled the situation, the experience leaves me with a better understanding of why so many doctors are anti-homebirthing. Erin’s birth was one of those situations that I’m sure play in the memories of doctors as they refuse to give their support to home birthing.
So… I’m still feeling very reflective about the whole thing. Not depressed, but very quiet and thoughtful. Even though I’m 98% certain that nothing could have been done in advance, or during labor, to avoid a c-section, there is still 2% of me that thinks, “There must have been something…” I’m still checking into a thing or two, just to make absolutely certain that somebody couldn’t have done something along the way that would have improved the outcome of Erin’s birth. But, I’m not dwelling on what-ifs; I simply want to file it all away in my memory, for the future… [Note: After talking extensively with two natural-birthing-minded L&D RNs, it doesn’t appear that there was anything that could have been done, though one nurse did say that she has seen a women labor for a long time with little to no dilation, frequently when the baby’s head is turned a bit to the side in a way that is keeping the head from sitting RIGHT on the cervix… but then the baby turns a bit, and WHAM! nearly instant dilation. However, even she agreed that though this may have been the case with Erin, the no-dilation PLUS late decels meant that Erin did, indeed, need a c-section.]
I think, though, that — though this birth SO wasn’t about me — I am left in a good place. Too many natural childbirth advocates rail with vitriol against OB/GYNs. I have read a lot of bitter rants, emphasizing the fact that they are surgeons, and that they’re simply chomping at the bit to perform surgery. I have read many startlingly bad statistics and countless birth stories of situations gone awry, caused by the mishandling of the natural birth process, primarily at the hands of OB/GYN surgeons and other medical caregivers who simply don’t seem to care — for one reason or another — for natural birthing at all. I have always said that I’m glad we do have doctors for true emergencies. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought, “Are there true emergencies?? Do they even exist???” Well, now I know: there are. They do. And when they happen, I’m glad that there are surgeons trained to save the lives of babies who would surely — truly — otherwise be brain damaged or stillborn.
Again, not that the birth of Abigail Ruth was about me. But I feel like I’ve gleaned good from it. While I am still very much an advocate of natural childbirth, that is now balanced with first-hand knowledge that OB/GYNs do still (or at least can!) play a vital role in the successful outcome of a birthing experience.