Friday, February 5, 2016

Mixed Feelings and a Blessing in Disguise


We are a 8-member family, but we still have a 7-passenger van.  When we go to church or to out to dinner or anywhere as an entire family, we have to take 2 vehicles.  We scour Craigslist and online classifieds daily.  We've asked around and talked with friends. It's been partly financial, partly logistical, but either way, we've not been able to purchase a larger vehicle yet. 

I didn't realize until I've been the sole driver of one vehicle how much talking Brian and I did while riding.  On our way to and from events or even en route to the store, we discussed our schedule for the week, movies we wanted to see, conversations we had with other people, and parenting issues.  It was a guaranteed, mostly-uninterrupted, focused window of time for us to connect and I miss that. 

But something unexpected has happened on our drives.  My 13-year-old who spends much of his day quietly building Legos in his room or drawing in the living room, is ready for conversation in the van.  Over the past two weeks, we've had multiple meaningful talks about school, college, the future, finances, the Bible, personal convictions, and how much money it costs to buy a new or used car! 

While I'll be relieved when we are all able to ride together again, I'm taking time to appreciate this extra blessing.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How I Prepared to Feed My Family After the Baby Arrived


When I am a postpartum mom, I can overlook the vacuuming.  I can take five minutes to clean the bathroom or ask one of my kids to do it.  I can let the (clean) laundry pile up or attempt to fold it one-handed. All of those things can be accomplished as I have time and I choose to not guilt myself about what gets neglected.

Feeding my family can't be compromised.  They (and I) need to eat three meals a day whether a new baby is in the house or not! 
food from friends

This is how I prepared to feed my family once Baby #6 made her arrival:
  • I taught each of the three oldest kids how to made a main dish on their own.  My kids, especially Maddie (11) and Owen (9) know kitchen basics, but I wanted them be able to cook an entire meal without assistance.  Gavin (13) learned to make a 1-pan skillet pasta.  Maddie perfected a dish of sausages, potatoes, and onion drizzled with olive oil and flavored with seasonings.  Owen learned to cook taco soup.  They also know how to assemble a salad, put ingredients in the bread machine, make grilled cheese, and bake muffins.
  • I browned several pounds of ground beef and flavored it with taco seasoning.  I froze the meat in meal-sized portions for tacos or salads.  Both are easy choices that my husband or kids can pull together in less than a half hour. I also had Maddie replenish the container of homemade taco seasoning by mixing up a  double batch.
  • After cooking a ham around Christmas, I cubed and froze some of the leftovers to mix into scrambled eggs or to top salads or pizza.
  • I assembled  three soup kits-- bags of veggies, pre-chopped for our favorite soups.
  • I  diced and froze quite a few onions so they can be easily added to casseroles or soups.
  • On a grocery trip in January, Brian and I stocked up on a few convenience foods like cereal, crackers, and canned vegetables.  We also bought a jumbo sized pack of Styrofoam plates.  
  • I pulled a small stack of simple slow cooker recipes out of my recipe binder for easy reference-- for me or for my family.

    There were a few things I didn't get around to doing since Macie arrived more than two weeks before her due date.

    I had intended to cook and dice 4-5 pounds of chicken and freeze it in portions for soups or casseroles.  I had also planned to make a double recipe of The Pioneer Woman's chili and pop that in the freezer, too. Since I bought the meat the evening before my water broke and I needed to use it before it spoiled, when I returned home from the hospital, I recruited Maddie and Ben (7) to help me assemble the chili.  

    chili chef
    We have been blessed with a steady stream of meal delivery from our family and friends from church.  That is a tremendous blessing to any new mom!  It is reassuring to know my family is being fed well now... and with my preparation, will continue to eat nourishing foods for weeks to come.





    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    Today


    Today I am 16 days postpartum.  Today I had to leave the house with Macie at 7:30 am, with both of us fed and dressed! That prompted my first crying breakdown since she was born. Today Brian and I took Macie grocery shopping and she slept the entire time we were out.  Today Maddie and Owen are cooking dinner.

     Today was the day we anticipated welcoming our little girl. Today was my due date. 



    Don't miss the rest of the photos I shared yesterday!

    And don't miss the full story of Macie's birth, published Friday night. 
















    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Macie's First Two Weeks


    These are some of the sweet memories we enjoyed from
    Macie's first two weeks!


    And don't miss the full story of Macie's birth, published Friday night. 


    DAY 1

    The kids came to visit us in the hospital about three hours after she was born. 

     


    Alaine was thrilled to meet her new sister!




    DAY 2

    It was a beautiful sunny day and this was the view from our hospital window. 


    We enjoyed lots of cuddles.  Notice the tiny toes sticking out of the blanket in the photo on the right!

     


    DAY 3

    Getting ready to go home!


    We had an extra-special welcoming committee at the door! 



    We were happy to be reunited again as a family-- a family of eight! 





    DAY 4

    The sisters dressed in coordinating stripes.


    DAY 5

    Macie tried napping in her bed, but it didn't last long.  She still prefers sleeping in arms during the day.



    Or on the floor?



    Bath time!




    DAY 7

    Simple pleasures-- napping in the sunshine on Mama's legs!



    DAY 8

    Sunday morning breakfast...but it's hard to eat when you are holding something so sweet!



    We had afternoon visitors and no shortage of volunteers to hold Macie.  Here she is with her Gran.



    DAY 9

    Macie stayed inside wearing her snowman pajamas while the bigger kids played outside in the snow.



    We tried the sling for the first time while Mama cooked a warm lunch on a cold day.


    Milk drunk!



    There is no shortage of love!


    This was Daddy's idea. The kids found it amusing and Macie didn't seem to mind at all.  You can't tell in the photo, but her eyes were open underneath the shades.



    DAY 11

    I love when Macie is content and still and in a gazing mood. 



    Gavin likes that, too.


    DAY 12

    Owen calms Macie by bouncing on the exercise ball.





    DAY 13

    Macie napped in my arms while the rest of us drank hot chocolate and read a story.


    DAY 15

    Macie turned two weeks old.  Church was cancelled because of ice and snow so we spent a quiet Sunday at home, playing games and watching football.


    Friday, January 22, 2016

    Macie's Birth Story


    Today I am sharing my promised birth story.  It is long and exciting but also kind of boring. If that is not your thing, kindly skip over this post.  For the rest of you, enjoy!

    Last week I wrote a birth story prequel of sorts that you can read by clicking here.  In
    my 37 week pregnancy update (Tuesday, January 5), I shared that I was feeling upbeat.  I had more energy and I had fewer muscle aches.   At 37 weeks, 2 days (Thursday, January 7),  I went for a morning run.  It was a beautiful sunny morning and I ran 3.14 miles, arriving home feeling peaceful and encouraged. 



    That day was a turning point, though. The rest of the day, I experienced many uncomfortable contractions.  My back, legs, and lower abdomen began to bother me.  I wouldn't describe it as pain but more like a heavy aching.  Brian suggested that I was in early labor, but I dismissed the idea. We were in the middle of a major repainting/rearranging process in the girls' bedroom and going into labor was not convenient!

    I slept on the sofa in the living room that night because it was better support for my backAfter waking to use the bathroom at 3 am, I had a hard time sleeping because I continued to have tightening contractions every 10-12 minutes.  

    When I got up on Friday morning (January 8), the contractions petered out.  I spent the morning and afternoon upset that all the discomfort of the day and night before had led to nothing.  I was grumpy so I channeled my energy into cleaning the house for company.

    We went to Chick-fil-A for dinner that evening.  Getting out of the house improved my moodWe visited with my sister for a few minutes before she started work and the greeter brought me a big cup of crushed ice (a late pregnancy craving).  After dinner, we picked up a few items we needed at Walmart and headed home.

    Brian stayed up late that night finishing the painting in the girls' bedroom and I slept well (on the couch again) with no contractions.


    Clinically, everything looked wonderful.   My strep test was negative, my blood pressure was excellent and stable, the baby's Doppler heart rate was good... it was a waiting game at this point. 



    On Saturday (January 9), we planned to have friends over for games and dinner.  Brian and I decided to go running together in the morning.  Within seconds of starting, I had a major contraction so we walked the first ½ mile.  We ended up running another 2½ or 3 miles before calling it quits. My legs were a little sore afterwards, but it felt good to be moving. 

    Our friends arrived at 3 that afternoon.  The men started talking, the boys started playing and the women and girls went into the girls' room to see the new paint. I made the comment, "I feel like we've made enough progress now that it will be okay any time the baby wants to come."    We were standing in the middle of the room talking about toy storage, closets, and organization when I felt a sharp pinch in my lower abdomen.  I thought it was a gas pain so I shifted my weight to the other leg when I felt a little trickle.  Still oblivious, I thought the movement had caused a little bladder leakage...and then I felt a gush.

    I realized then that my water had broken.  It was totally unexpected and my first instinct was to not say anything.  We  need to play games and eat dinner.  It is still 17 days before my due date!  All the action and thoughts transpired within 30 seconds and reality set in.  I told my friend, "My water just broke."  She looked incredulous and said, "Really?"  Brian walked by the bedroom just then and I called out, "Hey.  My water just broke."  He reacted the same way.  "Really?"

    I was frozen for a few minutes.  Everyone asked me what I wanted to do but I couldn't think.  I went to the bathroom to clean up and when I came out, we made a plan.  I was only having mild, irregular contractions so we decided to put dinner in the oven and eat before doing anything.  Our friends needed to eat, our kids needed to eat, and I needed to eat for strength before active labor started.  (I did call my mom to alert her since she was on call to watch our kids when I went to the hospital. I kind of sent her into a tailspin, though.  You can read her perspective here.)

    The kids ate at the table and the adults gathered around our coffee table, chatting about our own experiences with midwives, doctors, and birth.  I felt an amazing calm.  I was not nervous about labor, though I did have a niggling awareness that since my water had broken, I might be on a 24-hour clock.  (Many practitioners insist that there be no more than 24 hours between water breaking and delivery for fear of infection.)  We ate fruit salad with ham and poppyseed sliders(A funny side note:  My initial urine sample in the hospital tested positive for opiates-- because of the poppyseeds!)

    Our friends left around 5 and we started packing our hospital bags.  I had light contractions that were coming 10-12 minutes apart.  I stopped to breathe through them, but they were extremely manageable.  Bouncing on my exercise ball kept them steady and I ate some more fruit while the kids drifted in and out of our bedroom asking questions.  I called my mom again and getting no answer, we decided to wait a little longer.  I wanted to take a nap and go in late at night (or in the morning!), but Brian thought it better to go sooner since we had an hour drive to the hospital.  My midwife agreed.  We ended up texting my mom, asking her to arrive around 7:30 pm.

    leaving for the hospital

    We got to the hospital around 9 pm on Saturday evening. I didn't want to go in because my contractions were still spaced so far apart and the 24-hour window was bothering me. Our nurse was Jacalyn.  She told me that a doctor was on call and a midwife would not be back until morning-- a huge disappointment.  She reviewed my birth plan with me and we agreed not to start an IV. When she checked my dilation, I was only 1 cm, but I was admitted because of my broken water. 

    We got settled in our room and then started walking the halls.  That really helped keep the contractions coming.  Jacalyn noted that even though they were widely spaced, the contractions I had were strong.  She asked if I minded a short period (20-30 minutes) of monitoring.  I was nervous about the semi-reclining position, but I found that I actually liked it.  My contractions started coming every five minutes instead and I was able to relax and sleep between each one.  Brian was also able to lie down and get about 2 hours of sleep. We did more walking after that, but I had to stop for contractions so often that I felt more comfortable in my room.

    Closer to morning, I decided to try laboring in the tub, but the warm water slowed my labor to a crawl so I got out.  The doctor came in to see me and asked if I wanted to continue natural labor.  I said yes and he agreed without hesitation, not mentioning how long ago my water had broken.  

    At 7 am, one of my favorite midwives, Tiana, came on duty.  She checked me and I was only 4-5 centimeters dilated.  Still, it was progress.  I asked for an exercise ball and spent hours making a path between the ball and the bathroom.  My frequent need to pee told me that the baby was moving down.  Every time I walked the short distance to the bathroom or the short distance back to the ball, I had a major contraction. Sitting on the ball brought frequent but less powerful contractions.

    Throughout my labor, I only had four contractions with which I teetered on the brim of coping.  The rest were strong, possibly even painful, but I could concentrate and relax until they peaked and ebbed.  The four difficult ones did not come together, but  were spaced throughout the labor.  When one of those ended, I would prepare myself for the rest of the labor to be challenging, but it always went back to manageable again

    During the night, I snacked on graham crackers, a granola bar, and juice with lots of ice, but by 10:30 am, I was starving!  My new nurse, Beverly, asked if I'd like a sandwich.  I thought that chicken salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato was the best thing I'd ever tasted!   

    The next time I was checked, I was 6-7 centimeters, but I was effacing so there was evidence of slow, steady progress. Still no mention was made of the fact that I was closing in on 24 hours.  Early in the afternoon, the contractions suddenly became closer and more regular.  They were 3 minutes apart, and sometimes one would peak twice.  I could sense each contraction starting before I could feel the tightening.  I continued to move around the room and between contractions, I could carry on a conversation.  I told Brian that aside from the length, this labor was easy.  I suspected that I was moving towards transition because occasionally my legs would start shaking.  

    Beverly asked me to have a bit of monitoring again.  I was strangely intrigued by the TOCO readings
    .  When a contraction would start, I needed to close my eyes and relax all my muscles.  Brian would whisper, "It's at 50 now, okay 60, 70, 80. Okay. It's starting to go down now. Hearing a number to describe what I was feeling helped me cope as the contractions got stronger and stronger, but he wisely didn't tell me until afterward when I had a contraction that double-peaked over 100!  

    Sometime between 3 and 3:30, Tiana asked if I would consider starting Pitocin, but I declined.  I was at 8 centimeters and I could tell that labor was starting to progress quickly.  Beverly asked if my labors tended to go quickly at the end and suggested I get back into the tub.  The warm water was amazing.  I told Brian that the difference in how I experienced the contractions was like night and day.  Almost immediately, though, I started feeling pressure at the peak of each contraction.  Brian urged me to get out of the tub before it became impossible to, but I resisted.  I did get out to use the bathroom, but then I got back in again.  I realized immediately that I had made a poor choice.  The pressure was unbelievable and I needed to push. 

    I slowly made my ways back into the room, stopping in the doorway to breathe through a pushy contraction. For the first time since labor began, I was scared.  Pushing is always the most intense part of labor for me because it moves so quickly.  I pushed weakly through the first contraction, nervous about the pain.  Beverly tried to help me to pull back my knees, but that was not at all a position that felt comfortable! I didn't want to speak at this point, but Brian could tell I didn't like it and asked her to stop. Tiana told me to take a deep breath and push through my bottom.  After that, it was only two contractions before Macie was born.  They put her on my chest and she calmly looked back at me.

    Tiana mentioned that Macie must have been doing somersaults because there was a knot in her cord. Beverly said, "Was that not the most calm and laid back labor ever?"





    Macie Violet arrived at 4:14 pm on Sunday, January 10.  (This was 25 hours after labor began and about an hour after I declined Pitocin.) She was 16 days early and weighed 6 pounds, 11.5 ounces.  She was 20.5 inches long.  (Owen, who was born at the same gestational age weighed over a pound more but measured shorter!)


    I've heard it said that you can have an easy pregnancy, labor, or postpartum period, but rarely all three.  I felt the healthiest during this pregnancy compared to any of my previous pregnancies.  The postpartum has been gentle.  Many people who know me personally have empathized with me and asked if my long labor was difficult.  I tell them that aside from it lasting over a day, it was an easy labor.  It progressed naturally at its own pace with no augmentation or interventions. 

    I love that she arrived early enough to avoid the last (sometimes miserable) weeks of pregnancy, but not so early to be considered premature.  I am also thankful that she arrived on a mild, warm weekend because we had snow the following weekend and we are in the middle of a snow/rain/ice storm this weekend, too.  Above all, I am thankful for the gift of our healthy baby.




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