Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eight months, eight lessons

I'm taking a note from Teresa and writing eight things I've learned in my extensive eight months of parenting. This is as much for me to process and think through things as anything.

1. Trust my instincts. We struggled with breastfeeding for three months. I have had a strong-willed daughter from the start (I promise I have NO idea where she gets this), so when she refused to nurse, it was full on back-arching screaming. Some lactation consultants and doctors (not our own) told us to give up and go to formula. We debated, but we knew she could get it, and I really wanted to nurse. Lo and behold, the day before her three-month birthday (and the day after the girls in our small group prayed about it with me), she latched on and never looked back. We had the same back-and-forth with whether to use cry-it-out (we didn't). We struggled over whether to put her to sleep on her belly once she could roll over (we did). In every case, so far, we feel like our instincts (yes, daddies have them too) have led us to do what's good for her. Books and theories who don't know my child -- not as helpful.

2. I was made to be a mommy (not just a mommy, but a mommy). I love planning outings, researching good activities for her development, giggling with her. I love nursing and cuddling and seeing her grow. Being a mom is not my identity, but it's definitely one of the reasons God put me on this earth.

3. I need to build in stress relievers, things that remind me I am more than a mommy. I've been doing Dance Central on the Kinect. Yes, I don't like realizing how much has changed in my body since I danced in high school and college. But cutting loose, dancing around our basement, being stupid -- it's so good for my soul. Same with crafting or scrapbooking, writing, reading a good novel, having a kids-free girls' night, creating a new report for work. All of these bring me back to who God made me to be, outside of the fact he made me to be a mommy. I LOVE being able to stay home with E and wouldn't change it for the world. But there are times where I realize that I haven't had a single moment alone in days. I need to build those times in.

4. Thanking each other goes a long way. I thank Ryan for giving E a bath. He thanks me for putting her to bed. I thank Ryan for emptying the dishwasher. He thanks me for making dinner. It's not constant (that would be really annoying), but the point is we're showing appreciation for what the other one is doing, even if it's mundane or expected. In a time where it's really easy to have the "my day is harder" battle, thanking each other for simple things means we don't let a lot of the resentment or frustration build up. We could NOT do this without each other, and it helps to remember that.

5. Being laid back is worth it. This is one thing I'll give myself mommy props for. We had a lot of conversations before E was born about wanting to be laid back parents. We joke we're trying to raise her like she's our second child. Of course we worry, because we're parents. And of course we keep her safe. But not freaking out over every potential germ or over getting dirty or over keeping the house spotless or over every little bump or bruise means we get to enjoy E more. And I think that's critically important -- not just because they grow up fast like everyone says (they do), but because kids KNOW when you enjoy them. And really, my life is much more fun when I'm not consumed with thinking about how much dog hair E has probably already ingested.

6. Don't be competitive. I cannot fully express how much I hate the subtle competition between so many parents. "Oh, your baby isn't sleeping through the night? Lulabell did that when she was 6 weeks old. You know what worked for me? [cue advice I don't care about; see lesson #1]." "Is she [rolling over/crawling/talking/doing long division] yet? I know mine was a little bit early [cue annoying story]." Caveat -- if I know you well in real life, if we talk about our kids as well as other topics, if I've asked you for advice -- this does not apply. If you are a random cashier at the grocery store, someone I've forgotten to unfriend on Facebook or can only talk about your kids, then this probably does apply. Why can't we support each other as parents? It's hard, it's confusing, and let's be honest -- we're all BSing our way through this. So let's stop measuring our value as parents and people over things we can't control. PS. If I ever do this to you, call me out on it. Please.

7. Your own kid's diapers, spit up and drool aren't nearly as bad as everyone else's. It's some miracle that when you have your own child, his or her bodily fluids cease to be as gross as every other child's. Both Ryan and I have been spit up on (Ryan currently holds the win for this; E spit up all over his face, and he hadn't shaved in a few days) and peed on. We've fished pooped out of the bathtub. And you know what, it's not as bad as I thought. But if someone else's kid pees on me, I still need an immediate outfit change.

8. I have a lot -- A LOT -- more to learn. I used to be one of those people who judged parents whose kids were screaming in the grocery store line. Never. Again. We have already done a lot of the things we said we'd Never Ever Do as parents. Sleeping in bed with us? Check. Sniffing her butt to see if she's poopy? Check. Letting my 7-month-old play on the iPad? Check. I still have a few bastions left, a shred of hope that our sweet little girl will never throw a public tantrum. But if I'm honest, I know that I have no clue what the next 18-plus years of raising this little one will be like. Praise the Lord for the adventure, and praise the Lord for his grace along the way.

What have I missed??

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our birth story

  • A lot of people have asked about our birth story, so here it is
  • It's long
  • It's moderately graphic (not extremely, but if you don't want to know, don't read it)
  • This is our story. We're not trying to judge anyone else's!

Ellie’s birth story

My due date, November 19, came and went with nothing out of the ordinary. I was 1 cm dilated and about 75% effaced, but there hadn’t been any real change in a week. I was definitely having some contractions, especially in the morning, but they weren’t painful and had no consistent pattern.

Ryan and I decided to make use of each “bonus” day we got – we had dinner with Kevin, Laura and Ella Storm on the 19th; went to see Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 1 on Saturday; and Ryan played hockey on Sunday night.

On the 22nd, I had an appointment with my OB/GYN, Dr. Margaret Rempe. She was supportive of our desire to have a natural childbirth, and since the baby’s heartbeat and movement were both great, she didn’t see any reason to induce me.

As part of regular post-date appointments, I had a non-stress test and ultrasound at St. John’s right after my appointment. The non-stress test was normal and they predicted a 9 pound, 4 ounce, baby based on the ultrasound.

Our good friends Andrew and Teresa Yakel were in town from Texas for Thanksgiving, so we went out to lunch while Ryan was at work. When we got home at 2 p.m. or so, I noticed I had missed a call from Dr. Rempe. When I called the office and gave the nurse my name, she said, “Oh, she told me to pull her out of her room when you called.” Not a good sign!

One of the reasons we love Dr. Rempe is that she explains everything thoroughly. She’s also focused on what her patients want, and was very supportive of our birth preferences – so when she makes a recommendation, we generally trust her expertise and opinion.

She cut right to the chase – my amniotic fluid level was on the lowest end of normal, and would almost certainly continue dropping. She said she’d like to induce me when a room opened up at St. Luke’s at 5 p.m. My main concern was starting the “domino” of Pitocin to epidural to C-section. I asked if she thought I’d be able to avoid other interventions. She said she was committed to that as long as the baby and I were both doing well. I agreed that it wasn’t worth putting the baby at risk, and decided to go in. Dr. Rempe also mentioned she was extremely doubtful that I’d be delivering a 9-pound baby!

I called Ryan, then our parents. Andrew and Teresa helped me finish packing for the hospital, and Sarah Laury came to pick up Marah.

I started Pitocin about 7 p.m. after getting checked in and filling out a ton of paperwork. The plan was to start me at 4 mu/minute and increase 2 mu/minute every half an hour. As soon as I established a regular contraction pattern, they would back me off it. My mom, my dad, Bruce and Pam came in around 7:30 or so and stayed for about an hour while my contractions slowly started building.

Soon after our parents left, I decided to stand up and see if that got things going. About 10 p.m., when I still wasn’t having painful contractions, Ryan and I started talking about going to sleep and conserving energy. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to lie down, worried that would slow things down. But the decision was made for me – the contractions all of a sudden started getting painful enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep through them. Our awesome nurse Tammy checked me and I was at 3 cm, 75% effaced and 0 station. I was so encouraged that things were progressing, and I was really excited that it wouldn’t be long before we met our little girl!

Around this point, we got the telemetry (wireless) monitor, which would let us walk around (I had to be continually monitored because of the Pitocin, which I think they stopped increasing when we were walking). We started making laps around the floor, with Ryan pulling the IV pole next to me. He kept making me laugh, which screwed up the monitors over and over again! It was a really sweet time of connection for us.

The contractions started getting a lot more painful. From about 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., I alternated between standing, swaying, sitting in a rocking chair, leaning on Ryan and sitting on the toilet (which made no sense to me during the childbirth classes, but felt great!). We were excited for the 1 a.m. check, because the contractions had been progressing so well – but I was only 4 cm, still 75% effaced.

I decided to get in the laboring tub while the Pitocin went up to the max of 20. I could tell the contractions were getting stronger, but the tub worked like an analgesic, and I almost fell asleep. But when Tammy checked me again at 2:13 a.m., there hadn’t been any progress, so I decided to get out of the tub. It was at this point the pain of the level 20 Pitocin started to hit me.

Ryan suggested I try squatting – I was sitting on the edge of the tub, and during a contraction, could squat back into the water, which helped with the pain. About an hour later, we moved out of the bathroom and I started rotating a bunch of different positions. We tried the birthing ball, which I thought I’d love, and it was horrible – same with counterpressure on my hips and back.

Sometime in here, my contractions started coming every 30 seconds or so and lasting for about 25 seconds, so they started easing me off the Pitocin. I started shaking and shivering between contractions. Around 4:30 a.m., the hot flashes during contractions got worse. I threw up once and Tammy thought it might be transition, but there wasn’t a whole lot of change – 5-6 cm, 90% and 0 station. I threw up two more times (Ryan was a champ at catching the basin from the nurse and getting it under me on time!) in about half an hour.

I moved into really painful contractions at this point, basically collapsing into Ryan with each contraction. I considered an epidural briefly, because I had only progressed about 1.5 cm in four hours. But Ryan was really encouraging – telling me (in nicer ways) that an epidural wouldn’t help with the contraction I was having, so let’s focus on getting through that one. In between contractions, I had confidence I could make it through. I felt like my body knew what it was doing, and I just needed to let it keep going!

Before Tammy ended her shift, she checked one more time at 6:34 a.m., and I was at 6-7 cm. We met our new nurse, Karen, and a nurse-in-training, Jeannie. I was starting to lose my focus, closing my eyes and holding my breath or breathing too quickly during contractions.

Karen took charge and gave me three options: lie on my right side, lie on my left side, or get on all fours in the bed. I turned on my left side, and Karen surrounded me with pillows, started massaging my legs and talked me through good breathing. These contractions were the worst yet, but Karen encouraged me that this was a good sign – I was getting pressure on a new part of my cervix and it would help me dilate more quickly.

Half an hour later, I was already at 8 cm! I turned on my right side, which again moved to a new level of pain. During most of the contractions, I was saying I couldn’t do it, but Ryan was amazing and encouraged me through them, supporting me physically and emotionally. In between contractions, I was exhausted but excited that we were getting close. At 7:42 a.m., I suddenly felt my body begin pushing, and told Karen – she checked, and I had progressed to 9 cm, 100% effaced and +1 station. She told me to do little pushes at the peak of contractions, but not try to push the baby out yet. I moved to my knees, facing the back of the bed with my arms on the top of the bed. I shortly hit another level of feeling the need to push – Karen checked, said I was fully dilated and that it was time to call the doctor!

The on-call got a little messed up – Dr. Rempe had asked to be paged, even though she was technically off call at 8 a.m., but they paged Dr. Rockamann instead. While we were waiting for her to come, Karen checked me again and broke my water. Dr. Rockamann arrived at 8:03 a.m.

I decided I wanted to turn back around to push in the typical semi-sitting position. Ryan held my left leg, Jeannie held my right, Karen talked me through good pushing technique and Dr. Rockamann gave me encouraging updates on the progress. I loved not having an epidural, because I got to totally direct my pushing. They let me decide how many pushes to do for each contraction, and I could feel what my body was trying to do. I knew we were getting close, and I wanted that baby out! After my second push on one contraction, Dr. Rockamann said the next push might deliver her head. I pushed hard, but she didn’t quite come out. I was on the tail end of the contraction and knew I could get one more push in before it ended. I almost immediately started to push again and I felt her head slide out!

From Ryan…
Ellie’s blonde hair began to show and Dr. Rockamann commented on the “inch of blonde hair.” Her little head finally crowned and her purple face was suctioned and cleared by the doctor. She was looking to the left, which was the side I was on, when her head came out. Kate then pushed hard one more time on the next contraction and Ellie shot out and turned to her backside in the doctor’s arms. She was beautiful and didn’t cry more than once – just to let us know she was OK. She was about to continue crying and I spoke to her, and she looked right at me and stopped crying right away. They clamped the cord and I cut it. She was placed onto Kate as they began cleaning her off. We kept looking at each other and her and laughing and crying and talking to her. Her eyes were open and she was looking at us.

Back to Kate…
It was totally surreal for me. One second I was in intense pain, focusing on pushing through a contraction, and the next, there was almost no pain and there was a baby being held up and brought to me. I didn’t have an instant “oh my gosh” feeling – I mostly kept looking at Ryan like, “Is this real?” I definitely had an instant connection to her, but not in the way I expected. The sweetest moment for me was when she came out crying, heard Ryan’s voice and quieted immediately. It made me realize this is really OUR baby, the one who’s heard us from my womb for months!

We had decided to donate her cord blood, so they clamped her cord and collected the blood, then delivered the placenta. I had a second-degree tear, even though Dr. Rockamann had been trying massage to avoid it. She stitched me up while the nurses took Ellie to the warmer to check her vitals. Ryan followed her over there and she was holding his fingers and trying to suck them occasionally. Whenever she started to fuss, she immediately calmed down whenever he would speak to her or rub her head. She’d also turn toward me when I would talk to her from my bed.

She was 19.5 inches long and weighed 7 pounds and 9 ounces (glad we didn’t put any stock in the ultrasound prediction!).
As soon as I was stitched up, they brought her back to me. We got to feed her within a few minutes of her being born, and she did great – alert and latched wonderfully.

They left us alone to feed her, hold her and bond with her. After awhile, they came back to take her footprints, do her newborn screenings and give her a bath. Finally (after hating her bath but loving the hair washing), she was done and Ryan came and held her and sat with me. We invited the grandparents to come meet her a short time later.

I am so glad I had support and was able to direct our birth experience, and am so glad I didn’t use pain medication. I loved the feeling of connecting with my body and letting my natural instincts and urges direct me. I also feel like it sped up my labor because I kept moving around. It was a bonding experience for Ryan and me, and I was impressed (but not surprised) by how wonderful he was during the labor, delivery and immediately after. We had a phenomenal birth, and I am so glad we got to welcome Ellie in such a beautiful way!

Friday, February 12, 2010

26 things I love about my husband

To celebrate my husband's 26th birthday today, here are 26 things I love about him. Please "awwww" all you want.

1. He's incredibly communicative, especially for a guy. This is also why he's going to be a great counselor.
2. He's incredibly compassionate. See above.
3. He can pick up any sport in about 20 minutes and then rock at it.
4. He has a habit of playing with my wedding ring. I love this.
5. He thinks, a lot, about a lot of things. He loves deep, philosophical, intellectual thinking and conversations.
6. He is both gentle and fierce.
7. He makes me laugh harder than anyone else, and frequently.
8. He has a really hilarious goofy side that most people don't get to see.
9. Injustice bothers him deeply.
10. He knows when to let me cry and not try to fix everything.
11. He apologizes first 90% of the time. I'm really stubborn. He's really forgiving.
12. He's in really good shape :-)
13. He teaches me how and encourages me to relax.
14. He's flexible and spontaneous, which balances me well.
15. He is amazing with kids.
16. He's adventurous -- in big ways and little ways.
17. He doesn't let others' opinions sway him unduly -- he knows who he is in Christ.
18. He's really humble (almost too much so).
19. He wants me to be exactly who I am.
20. His bald head. So sexy.
21. He believes deeply in marriage and commitment.
22. He is a dog whisperer.
23. He still opens car doors for me.
24. He wants to adopt.
25. He reflects God's heart to me and draws me closer to Him.
26. He loves Jesus deeply, honestly, vulnerably, with his whole head and his whole heart.

PS. We suck at blogging. Sorry.

PPS. I blogged this so it would show up on his Facebook...mwahahaha...

PPPS. Thanks to Aimee Swift for this awesome idea!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Christian music

It seems that I've been having a lot of discussions about Christian music recently. I'm curious about others' thoughts. Here's a few to start...

- God created beauty. He invites us to be co-creators with him. Can we really afford to settle for mediocrity? So much contemporary Christian music seems to be based around the production of cookie-cutter music and lyrics, relying on the fact that we have the truth as an excuse for being lazy. Nothing about Christianity should be a second-rate substitution for something better, yet that's what Christian music can often be.

- What should our response be to musical mediocrity, especially in worship?

- There is a place for simplicity. What's the difference between mediocrity and simplicity?

- All truth is God's truth, so is there a need to distinguish between Christian and non-Christian music? If so, what defines each? Should Christian bands only sing about Christian things? Can non-Christian bands produce things of eternal value?

I'm sure there's some good thoughts out there...please share!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A gap in the deck

I have a funny reminder now of my sin, every day: a gap in our deck.

Anyone who meets me for about 10 minutes could probably tell you that I'm not patient. It comes out in my marriage, at work, with the dog, planning for our future -- pretty much everywhere. I just don't like being slow. I'm a perfectionist, but I'm also a get-it-checked-off-the-checklist-ist, and sometimes (OK, a lot), that part wins out.

When we were building the deck, Ryan and I were screwing in the last four or five boards. I was tired, ready to be done, to enjoy the fruit of our labor. We put a warped board down, and Ryan wanted to take the time to get it pushed up against the other board correctly. I didn't -- I just wanted to knock the screws in. So I whined, said surely it wouldn't be that bad, and just pretty much kept working.

To this day, I hate that gap. My perfectionism has now won out, and my impatience stares me in the face whenever I look at that gap. Luckily, I think it's hilarious (and so does Ryan), but it's there nonetheless. It reminded me of a sermon from September, after which I wrote:

"'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.' The fruit (singular) of the Spirit is (singular)...nine things. Wait a minute. We expect, 'But the fruits of the Spirit are...' Here's how Darrin explained it -- fruit grows symmetrically. If we are not growing in ALL of those things, we are living in our personality, not in the Spirit. There is only one fruit of the Spirit, and it encompasses all those things that we identify individually."

Patience is my shriveled little fruit next to the rest, and I'm working on that one. And the gap in our deck is there to remind me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Obama wants to kill your grandma*

Thought we forgot about our blog, didya? We did, kinda. But we're back! We'll see if we do another disappearing act...

I'm not going to write about the actual politics of healthcare reform. I have mixed feelings about the specific proposal. What I do not have mixed feelings about, however, is that some kind of reform is needed.

We cannot, of course, completely absolve people of responsibility for their choices that may have led to them not be able to find or maintain a job. We cannot hold them blameless for decisions to use drugs, drop out of school, etc.

But we also cannot expect people who are in vastly different situations from the beginning to have the same options we do. I look at the people United Way helps, the people Ryan is seeing in counseling, the people our church serves in the Tower Grove neighborhood. These are people for whom joining a gang was a more feasible option for survival than staying in school; these are people where, if they had even one parent at home regularly (and not just a sibling or grandparent or aunt), it was unusual.

It's unbelievably cold and selfish for us who are relatively rich (as in, we can pay our bills and still buy food), white, college-educated and who have been in a stable family to say that hey, we have healthcare through our job, and if someone else doesn't, that's their own fault. "There but for the grace of God go I" -- how often we forget that.

Four stories -- all true -- of people who don't have health insurance:
- A guy who I met at the homeless park a block from where I work. He lived in New Orleans, moved here after his house was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina to live with his cousin -- until he found out his cousin was dealing drugs. He had a job by then, moved out into his own place, then lost his fairly stable, mid-level job. He lost his apartment because he lost his job, then lost his car, and now can't find a job because he doesn't have reliable transportation.

- A family with three daughters (two in college, one in a private school). The husband had worked at the same place for 20 years as a business analyst. The wife had worked in higher education for about 15 years. They lost their jobs in the same week due to downsizing at both companies.

- A woman who has multiple severe mental health diagnoses due to abuse throughout her childhood and no availability to counseling until now. She's been unable to effectively function or build relationships, much less hold a job.

- Kenneth Gladney. His story is ironic, to say the least. He's a Republican who got beat up at the town hall meeting here (note -- yes, I feel bad for him). But, "Brown [his lawyer] finished by telling the crowd that Gladney is accepting donations toward his medical expenses. Gladney told reporters he was recently laid off and has no health insurance."

Again, I am NOT condemning or condoning the health care bill as it currently stands. What I am saying is that if we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we MUST realize that something has to change in the availability of equal healthcare.

*I stole that title from Let's clarify, though -- death panels do not exist in the bill. It says that Medicare would have to pay for consultations between patients and doctors on end-of-life decisions, which it currently doesn't cover. They are not mandatory, either.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

American Christianity (part 2)

So why does this all matter? Anything that brings us into bondage to something other than Christ is idolatry and sin. Abandoning, even unconsciously, a Biblical view in favor of an American view brings us into bondage to patriotism.

With that, here are my other five...

6. Rights
"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." - Matthew 5:39-41

America fights for our rights, and we should fight for those things that are in line with Biblical principles -- freedom, justice, etc. But ultimately, America will not grant these rights -- God does, and already has. So instead of clinging to them when they are threatened, we should gently invite others to join with us in reveling in them, laying down our own rights to bless others.

7. Lust
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matt. 5:28

America tries so hard to justify lust -- "he's so hot," Playboy, Glamour, GQ, porn. It's in miniskirts and muscle shirts, magazines and movies. It's a terrible plague on our culture, and Christians so easily get wrapped up it -- but to use the word "lust" sounds too serious, so we just laugh it off. But as Christians, we have to be different -- we have to treasure the opposite gender and our own.

8. Tolerance
"I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws." - Psalm 119:30

This is a difficult one for me and could be a blog post in and of itself. Essentially, I think it's important that we remember two things: God's law is immutable and covers us all; second, Jesus was always harder on the religious folks than the non-religious folks. But tolerance is an American construct that becomes a cover-all protection for people who don't want to address the first premise. As Christians, we have to maintain both.

9. Elitism
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." - Phil. 2:3

Globally, personally, racially, religiously -- elitism is a clear danger to our faith and something the Bible directly contradicts. But America is littered with competition, racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism...which leads me to #10...

10. Nationalism

I had to post part of this poem because of how much it scares me:

"I am the Flag'' by Ruth Apperson Rous:

Americans, I am the sacred emblem of your country.

I symbolize your birthright, your heritage of liberty purchased with blood and sorrow.
I know they're talking about the military here, but "purchased with blood" -- isn't that a very Christian concept? And we're co-opting it for America.

I am your title deed of freedom, which is yours to enjoy and hold in trust for posterity. If you fail to keep this sacred trust inviolate, if I am nullified and destroyed, you and your children will become slaves to dictators and despots. Eternal vigilance is your price of freedom...Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth.
Where is the trust in God's sovereignty? His hand over all of us?

Dedicate your lives to those principles for which I stand: "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
And here is the direct call, the indirect temptation for all of us -- to dedicate our lives to a country, a flag, instead of the cross of Christ.

So what else? What did I forget?