Thursday, April 29, 2010

Through the Vineyard

I don't watch the news, but I listen to the radio enough to know a little about what is going on in the world. In recent local news, from what I can gather from the two minute snips between songs, the hottest topic seems to be a bill that was passed in Oklahoma wherein women seeking an abortion must obtain an ultrasound before the procedure can be done. I always try and look at things from both points of view, but I have read many articles from people opposing this bill and I just can't see how (whether you are pro-life or pro-choice) this law could be a bad thing. Wouldn't people on the pro-choice side of the issue want women to be informed about the choices they are making? Some of the articles I have read opposing the bill stated that an ultrasound would be a "traumatic experience" for a woman obtaining an abortion. If you can find logic in this argument, please share it with me, because it doesn't make sense. Until then, I'll tell you about some traumatic experiences I have witnessed in my life.

Before I had children, I was very involved in pro-life work. One of the ministries that I worked closest with and which was closest to my heart was Rachel's Vineyard. It's a weekend retreat for women and men who have had an abortion or have taken part in an abortion and are now trying to find healing from the experience. I went into the ministry as a young 19 year-old thinking I could be of great help because the majority of women who have abortions are of college age. Surely they needed someone young who was around these women's age to help on the retreats. Boy was I in for a shock. At my first retreat, (one in which I had to participate, not facilitate even though I am not post abortive) I walked into a room of women (and some men), none of whom were less than 35. I was a bit intimidated to say the least, but I tried to trust that God had me there for a reason.

As I listened to these women's stories throughout the weekend my heart broke, and I was given a deep love for women who are post abortive. Most of the women did have their abortions in college, but it had taken them some fifteen to forty years to finally deal with the events that occurred that day. Some women fell into a life of drugs, anorexia and sexual promiscuity shortly following their abortion and could never understand why  their life went so downhill after the event. Some covered their pain by having two or three more abortions. All this hurt, all these addictions and all this acting out because of a "choice". You want to hear traumatic experience? How about an experience that interferes with your everyday activities? Countless women who can't vacuum their own homes because the noise of the vacuum cleaner reminds them of  the machine used the the day of their abortion. Or some women who are haunted by the sound of a crying baby when they are in the quiet of their own home. These are just a very few of some of the sufferings I have heard women speak of  and that are common to post abortive women. These are real women, feeling real pain every single day for the rest of their lives.

On the last evening of a Rachel's Vineyard retreat, the women are given bereavement dolls. They are small, white cloth dolls no bigger than your hand that the women carry with them to bed at night. The dolls symbolize the child that the woman aborted. I know this may sound silly to some, but it brings great healing to these women to spend one night with their "babies;" to physically hold something that they were never able to hold. These dolls are given, clean and white, and sent to bed with each woman. They are given back the next morning to the facilitators usually covered in various shades of lip gloss and spotted black with mascara. For one night these women kiss and hug and cry over their babies. They talk and sing and hold and rock the child that is lost to them forever. For one night they are the mother they were never able to be, even if it is only to a small cloth doll.

I've seen first hand the results of a traumatic experience, and that experience is an abortion, not an ultrasound. My heart aches for all the women still out there who need healing from their past abortions, but I pray and hope that through this law and the gift of ultrasounds that soon there will be no more need for Rachel's Vineyard. That women will make informed decisions and have the joy of rocking a real baby to sleep at night. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick and Crazy Catch Up

First off, I apologize for my lack of posts this week. I'm sure you all can guess why I have had little time to post, but I still feel like a bad blogger! These past two weeks has been filled with craziness and joy trying to get used to this new family of ours. My poor husband had to go back to work after spending just four short days with his new daughter. My mother has come into town to help, and I cannot explain what a blessing this has been. She chases my crazy son around (whom I have recently nicknamed Captain Energy) while I nurse the baby. She cooks, cleans, does the laundry and takes care of us all while we get used to this new life of ours. I don't know what I would do without her during this time (probably fall over dead from exhaustion).

So, what's life like with two kids? Crazy, but somehow manageable. It has taken me three sittings to get this post written because there is always a diaper to be changed or a feeding to tend to. Our son loves his new sister and Miss Belle is a really good baby (so far...). Our new life has really got my thoughts going and there should be some regular postings in the near future. But until then, bear with me my few and valued readers. Stay with me as I adjust to all of this and I promise you and myself to keep writing. Until then, please pray for my family as we adjust to this new life of ours.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Birth of Ms. Belle From the Eyes of Our Doula

Below is an account of our sweet daughter's birth written by our doula, who supported us through many hours of contractions and after birth. I will post more on all of the events of the day later, but for now this should give you an idea of how things went.

It was April 15th and you were 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. This birth would be a planned VBAC. You called me around 3:00am to let me know contractions had started an hour earlier. You decide to try and go back to sleep for a bit. Dad calls me at 6:17am to let me know that contractions are 5 minutes apart and he says that you are focusing through them; I assure you I will be at your home shortly. I arrive at your home at about 7:00am. I come in the house to see you rocking in the rocking chair; your face looks peacefully radiant as you close your eyes during contractions. I sit down at your side and massage your feet as we welcome a few contractions together and we discuss how wonderfully you are doing. They are about 2-4 minutes apart when I arrive. We prepare to go to the hospital and you make your son’s breakfast in the kitchen, pausing during a contraction to lean on Dad or the counter while you rock your hips back and forth, instinctually. You feed your son at about 8:30am after which he comes up to you and hugs your leg and smiles. The love in this moment was magical. Dad went to drop your son off at the sitter and you make final preparations to leave for the hospital.

We arrive at the hospital at about 10:00am.  You are 6cm, 90% effaced with a bulging bag. In triage, you stand against the wall or Dad for contractions, you say “Tell me about her…” and Dad goes on to tell you how beautiful and amazing your little girl is going to be. In that moment, I see you close your eyes as if you are imaging your daughter’s beauty and you gather the strength to continue.

Once admitted to the birth suite we dim the lights, turn on soothing music and you and Dad get in the tub, where he uses the shower head to stream warm water on your back and belly. I remind you to stay “loose and limp” as you take deep cleansing breaths during contractions. The water was cooling quickly, so the nurse and I ran basins of warm water from the sink in your room into your tub. Dad was sitting behind you in the shower and you found comfort by leaning in his lap between contractions. Dad was always reminding you how incredible you were with each contraction, even telling you “You’ll never have that same contraction again, just take them one at a time.”

In the bathroom the lights are off and the only light is that of the flicker of my flameless candle, it creates a mellow orange hue to the room. I notice your cesarean incision under the water, and I am reminded of your incredible strength. Your uterus so strong, your body…beautifully designed to do this.

You ask Dad to say a prayer and he prays for strength for you and baby Annabelle. You decide to get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a while, we cover you with blankets and you notice a change of intensity in your contractions along with bloody show, I remind you that it means you are showing signs of cervical change! You try a few other positions in the room, eventually getting back into the tub. At 12:58pm you are feeling “pushy” and a bit nauseous so you are checked to be 8cm, 100% effaced with just a bit of an anterior lip. The nurse tells you its okay to bear down a bit with your urges. You moan lowly, grunting with the sensations. You mention that you are tired but you stay motivated and focused.

We breathe together, “Big deep breaths….here we go…. in... and out….and again, in... and out…”

At about 2:00pm you mention more pressure and you find yourself pushing more with each contraction. Your midwife comes in and checks you to be fully dilated with your water intact. She leaves the room for a minute only to return to find you squatting while holding on to the shower head on the wall while pushing. This is when your water must have ruptured, because the next time you were checked your water was gone. You get out of the tub and into the bed, pushing with your own urges, no coaching, and no counting, just you….breathing and pushing.

With Dad at your bedside, you reach down and touch your baby’s head as it slowly emerges from you. You even help pull your baby up and on to your chest as she is born at 2:21pm. Dad cried tears of joy and you rejoice “We did it!” Annabelle only cries once, pinks up in a heartbeat and literally crawls to your breast and latches perfectly. A breathe taking moment! After you spent an hour bonding and breastfeeding, Dad held baby Annabelle skin to skin for the first time...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Corny Music Girl

You will find with time reading this blog that I like a lot of songs and videos people probably find corny. This one made me cry. So for all you mush ball parents/people out there like me, here's a video you might enjoy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Birth Matters: Part III

Part III: The Desire for a Natural Childbirth

***Post disclaimer: I have never been through natural labor and have no idea what it feels like. I have never felt a contraction or any labor pains. Many people will think these views will change once I have been through labor, and perhaps you are correct. But until then, these are my thoughts and feelings towards birth. Also, I am very aware that these are my own personal beliefs; I have no judgements towards those who do not hold these beliefs, or towards women who choose to have pain medication during labor.

1. Desire for a natural birth: Ever since I found out I was pregnant with my son, I desired to have a natural labor, and the same holds true in this pregnancy. I have thought long and hard about why I want such a thing, mostly because people always ask why I would want to do it. To be honest, I really have no answer to their question except to say it's just something I really want to do. I want to know that I at least tried to work with my body and the way God created it, and this is why I must go into birth with the attitude that it will happen naturally. Other pluses that make me want to have a natural labor: the natural adrenaline release that I have heard only comes to a woman who has not been medicated, keeping control over my body during labor, trust in my body and the way it works, and, of course, the desire for as little intervention and chance of a c-section as possible.

2. Women have done it for thousands of years: My husband always used to tell me this and it made me angry. I wanted to tell him, "oh yeah, well then you try it!" But after a lot of thought I came to think of this as another reason to at least attempt natural childbirth. When did birth become a medical procedure and not a natural event? We trust women's bodies for nine months to grow a human being from two cells. We trust her body to give this baby everything he/she needs, but when it is time to deliver, the doctors step in and say, "good job growing a baby, we will take over from here." (Again please keep in mind I am talking about normal, healthy pregnancies). Oh! And God forbid you don't dilate 1 cm/hour! That must mean something is terribly wrong with you and need Pitocin. Please excuse the sarcasm, but needless interventions that can lead to more women having c-sections really do bother me.  I also find it kind of ironic that most women's labor will slow down or stop progressing after being given an epidural. When this happens, in comes the Pitocin. Basically what I am saying is that it seems that one intervention to the natural process leads to another and I would like to try to avoid all of that if possible.

3. Parallel between Christ's sufferings and labor: Ok, so some of you are going to think I am off my rocker with this one, but this is the way my mind works and the way I try and think about a lot of the things in life. As stated in this post, I think motherhood and pregnancy is pretty special because of our unique vocation to physically sacrifice our bodies. I don't think this analogy stops in childbirth. Christ walked the most torturous, painful path known to man on His way to Calvary. His body was beaten, swollen, fatigued and at some point He asked for the suffering to be taken away. But He endured it, because it was the will of the Father. At Calvary He was hung naked from a cross, shamed and humiliated. What relief must have come when He stated, "It is finished." And what lies at the end of Christ's suffering? New, beautiful, glorious life for all of us sinners. It is my thought that I am once again called to walk with Christ to calvary during childbirth. I am sure it will be the most painful and altogether hard experience in my life. But at the end, when I can state, "It is finished" new life lies in my arms. And I don't even have to wait three days to experience this new life, I get to hold her in my arms and kiss her sweet face as soon as the worst of the suffering is over.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Birth Matters: Part II

Part II: The Trauma of a C-Section

My son did not get an easy transition into the world. He did not get to feel my uterus wrap around his tiny body and make his way down the birth canal. In the only place he ever knew as "home", as safe, he was suddenly and forcefully pulled from my womb into a cold, bright room. With no hormonal releases from his body or mine to say, "this is it, let labor begin" he came out like a white cold turkey not knowing he needed to breath. The first hands to touch him were not mine, and the first voice he heard was not a familiar one. The first people who saw him, who touched and caressed him were not that of his mother or father. The first thing he felt in this world was not my warm chest, but the hard sterile warming table. The first eyes he gazed into were not the loving hazel eyes of his mother, but that of a nurse who viewed him as nothing more than another patient. My joy, my life and my vocation viewed and held as just another baby in the first seconds of his life. This was his introduction to the world. 

And me...I was left numb to it all. I was brought into the hospital crying instead of full of excitement. I never felt a contraction or the intense pain that comes with childbirth. I had no active part whatsoever in my own child's birth. I was left to lay on the operating table and ask a thousand times, "is he out yet?". I was left shaking from head to toe from the drugs and felt completely out of control of my own body. I had to manuveur my head in every direction I could just to get the slightest peak, the slightest glance of my child! I had to listen to every word said around me, just so I knew he was alright. And worst of all, after NINE months of waiting, I had to wait to hold him in my arms and kiss his tiny face. 
Looking Towards the Exam Table at Our Son
Finally Getting to Hold Him

Many people may think that I have over thought this event, or that I am making too big of a deal out of a simple c-section. Trust me, I have asked myself this many times. But the truth is, this is the way I feel about what happened that day. I did not write this post so that you will feel sorry for me or to try and over dramatize my experience. But I will say this: over 1/3 of all babies will be born via c-section, often times elected by the mother herself (on a side note, I am not at all against c-sections as a whole. If they are medically necessary, then by all means do a c-section. But I don't think that all c-sections done today are "medically necessary"). I believe very firmly that the way a child is brought into the world does matter. I  believe in letting things happen naturally so as not the impede the awesome bonding experience between a mother and her baby. This is a hard view to hold in a society that views birth as a medical procedure instead of a natural event...but perhaps I can explain myself a little better.  

Part III to Follow 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Birth Matters: Part I

Part I: A Brief History 
I have been thinking about this post since I started this blog, but have not really had the courage to write it. I feel I need to before I have a second birth experience with my daughter, and Lord knows that could happen any day now. Plus, this three part series will probably explain a lot of my feelings and thoughts towards my daughters birth story, whatever it shall be, and whenever I post it. So here it goes.

As mentioned in some of my previous posts, I had an emergency c-section with my son. I won't go into the long story of the events leading up to the c-section, I'll just give a brief history. My husband and I prepared tirelessly for a natural childbirth. We took a 12 week childbirth course, read books, and even hired a doula to assist us during labor. We researched and prepared for any routine interventions that we didn't want happening at our birth and felt very well prepared to try our best to bring a baby into this world as comfortably (for the baby) and naturally as possible. I spent countless hours imagining what it would be like to go into labor, to feel my newborn baby placed on my chest and the immediate joy and relief that must come once the baby is out. At 36 weeks I found out that our son was breech, but I did not give up my goal of having a vaginal labor. I did everything in the books to get that kid to turn head down, including standing on my own head. I spent hours and weeks laying upside down on our couch (apparently this works for some people), putting ice on my belly and playing music on my lower abdomen trying to get my son to turn head down.

Fast forward to 38 weeks into pregnancy. I had been having routine ultrasounds done because our son was measuring very small and was still breech. At our 38 week ultrasound we were told by a doctor, whom I had only met that day, that we needed to go to the hospital that night for a c-section. And in the blink of an eye it was all taken away. And I was crushed. After that moment, things happened so quickly I never really had time to grasp or accept what was going on. The peculiar thing was that I was not scared for the health of my baby. In my heart, I knew my son was just fine. I just didn't know if the decision the doctor made so quickly that afternoon was fine. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the events that took place on the day of my son's birth, and I have finally accepted that a c-section was probably the best route to take. But there are a few things that I feel will always disturb me about having a c-section.

More to come...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sing to the Lord

This past Friday (Good Friday) I had to attend service by myself (my husband had work). My son and I were packed into a hot church like sardines. There were people practically touching my shoulders on each side of me and full pews both in front and behind me. But that's a good thing at church, and this was going to be a good service. As the music began I noticed a small female voice behind me. The voice came from directly behind me so I couldn't determine the age of or looks of this woman. All I could do was hear her singing...and it was the WORST singing I had ever heard in my life. Every pitch, every tone was off. Every time a note changed, her voice cracked, shook and squealed. But at least she was singing quietly, as if she didn't know the song very well, so I tried to ignore it.

As service went on, the songs became more familiar to this women. With the familiarity came an increase in the volume of her singing. I'm not a great singer myself, I'm no choir director. But I do have ears, and all you would need is ears to know that this was some BAD singing. I kept thinking to myself, "can this woman not hear what she sounds like? She must be deaf or something, because no one in their right mind would sing this loud and this badly in front of so many people." I tried to distract myself by thinking of how pleasing this woman must be to Christ, singing her heart out. No matter how bad it sounded to my ears, it was probably very pleasing to his. During the communion hymn, a familiar one to all, this woman belted out her voice as loud as she could. Squealing and screeching above everyone else's.

I couldn't help it; I had to turn around and look. And what did I find behind me? Not a little old lady with permed hair and glasses, but a young 13 year old pubescent boy who's voice was obviously changing. The boy didn't even glance up from his hymnal as I smiled looking at him. He was stuck in his own little world, just him, his music and God. How pleasing this must have been to our Lord, and how funny it was to me. Any woman with sons, or anyone who grew up with brothers could probably recognize that voice from a million miles away. But I grew up with two sisters, a mother and a father who's voice changed long before I knew him. I just hope that one day my son is as comfortable with himself and with the Lord that he has the courage to sing out with all his heart...even if it's not so pleasing to the ear.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Holy Thursday

This quote made me feel a little better about my Lenten fasting failings. You mothers out there know how many times in a day God calls us to sacrifice and mortification by the very nature or our vocation; not by our own choosing.

"The mortifications which come to us either from God of from man through God's permission always are more precious than those born of our own will; for, as a rule, the less satisfaction or personal choice involved, the more pleasing the mortification to God and the more profitable for our soul."
-St. Francis de Sales.