Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Judah's Birth Story

I'm not planning to make a permanent return to blogging, but I thought this was the best platform to share my latest birth story.  If you follow my blog's page on Facebook, you know I gave birth to my seventh baby in August.  

This pregnancy was my hardest pregnancy.  I would have assumed it was because I'm an "older" mom, thirty-eight when I gave birth, but my sixth child, Macie, was born when I was thirty-five and it was  by far my easiest pregnancy so that theory doesn't hold up.  With this pregnancy, I was sick for weeks and weeks-- throwing up until 16-17 weeks, nauseous daily until 20 weeks, and nauseous several days a week until the third trimester.  I had back pain beginning at 15 weeks which became nerve pain between 6 and 7 months and then returned to normal heavy, aching back pain for the end of the pregnancy.  While during my pregnancy with Macie I ran 3-4 miles regularly until the day my water broke, with this pregnancy, even walking hurt.  (I walked 5-6 days a week anyway but kept a slow pace.)

Otherwise, I was extremely healthy.  My iron was good, my blood pressure normal, my blood sugar almost perfect.  The biggest worry was that the baby stayed breech longer than expected.  At my 22- week, 28-week and then at my 32-week appointment, he was not head down.  (For what it's worth, he was head down at 30 weeks.)  I began doing Spinning Babies exercises at home to convince him to get into an ideal position. I cried and prayed and eventually felt peace that God was in control whether he needed to be born naturally or by C-section. I didn't realize how nervous I was though, until at 35 weeks, I found out he had flipped and felt a lightness come over my whole body! (For the remainder of the pregnancy, I kept open the possibility that he could flip back up!)

Three of my older kids were born in the 37th week, one in the 38th week, one right on time, and one at 41 weeks.  Odds were in my favor that this baby would be born early.  On the day I turned 37 weeks, we came home from church and had a celebratory dinner!  Then the waiting began.  Thirty-eight weeks came and went, and then I reached 39 weeks.  I was miserable and impatient!  Each morning, I woke up a little angry that I was still pregnant.  I even convinced myself I was going to make it all the way to 42 weeks without birthing my baby.  My body developed a pattern where I would have contractions for an hour or two in the evening before bed-- just long enough to make me wonder if labor was beginning-- and then disappear until the following evening.

I prayed throughout this pregnancy that the labor would go quickly.  My other labors ranged from 9 hours (3rd baby) to 25 hours (6th baby), and I really wanted things to be faster this time. Brian added the request that it not be so fast that we didn't make it to the hospital!  At church Bible study one evening a friend was sharing the story of when her son was born.  She said, "Don't be afraid to ask God for what you want...but don't be surprised if he gives it to you!" 

On the morning of August 22 (at 39 weeks, 3 days), I woke up at 4 am with a mildly painful contraction.  I continued having contractions every ten minutes until Brian woke up for work at 5:30.  I would drift off to sleep and then wake each time another would begin.  I was almost certain I was in labor, but this seemed to be following the slow pattern of my previous labors so Brian went off to work and I got up for my daily walk.  I walked about two miles and had regular contractions 5 minutes apart.  I texted my mom to alert her that she may need to come get the kids later.  I also texted a friend the news.  

The kids and I ate breakfast and had a "normal" morning.  Contractions slowed to one every 12 minutes or so.  Any time I stood up or walked around the house or did a few Spinning Babies exercises, I would have a contraction, but I felt like I was having to coax them along.  My mom asked if it would help to come get the kids.  I thought maybe being on my own in the house would be helpful so I could avoid the feeling of being watched, but I was also afraid that everyone would leave and I would labor on for several more days.  We decided to take our chances and by 11 am, they said good-bye and I was alone.  

Almost instantly, as soon as they walked out the door, I went into true labor.  The contractions increased in frequency and intensity.  I finished packing my hospital bag between contractions.  Another friend texted to see if I was headed to the hospital, but I told her I planned to stay home and labor as long as I could. I was hungry so I fixed myself lunch and ate while watching a show. The contractions were intense and painful.  I paused between bites to breathe.  I paused the TV show when I couldn't concentrate.  I wondered how far I was progressing, but I wasn't quite ready to call Brian home.  I went to put my plate in the sink and had a contraction that startled me with its intensity.  I texted Brian and told him to begin thinking about coming home.  He replied that he had been thinking about it all day and just to say the word.  With the next contraction, I told him I needed him now.

Brian works about 35-40 minutes from home so I continued watching TV and laboring on my own.  When he walked in the door, he quickly changed his clothes and gathered a few things for the hospital.  I told him there was no hurry and I wanted to stay home as long as I could, but I could barely tell him this because the contractions kept coming.  I stood up to walk to the kitchen (only a few feet away) and had to stop several times before getting there.  Brian said it was time to go!

I was afraid to get in the car because with every previous labor, contractions stalled during the drive and labor stopped until we settled at the hospital.  That was not the case this time.  I continued to have regular contractions on the hour drive.  This was a new experience.

We arrived at the hospital around 3.  I very, very slowly made my way to the hospital entrance because contractions were coming so quickly, especially when I was moving.  The ER attendant asked if I wanted a wheelchair, but I really felt the need to keep moving.  Sitting did not sound appealing.   An aide met us in the ER and walked me up to the birthing center in the hospital.  She made the comment, "I hope they don't send you home."  I didn't say anything, but I knew that would not happen.  I had a calm exterior, but I knew the baby was coming!

A nurse got me settled in triage and informed my that there were no available beds.  "We've been so busy this month that all the rooms are full.  We're moving people now so hopefully, you can have a spot soon if you need it."  She hooked me up to monitors for a short trial to see how strong or close my contractions were coming.  I was so uncomfortable in the half-seated, half-reclined position.  I wiggled around as much as I could but it was miserable.

At 4:00, a second nurse said she wanted to check my dilation.  This was the first time I had been checked that day (or at all, actually, since my midwives don't check for progress during pregnancy).  She said that maybe if I was 5 or 6 centimeters, there would be more hurry to find me a room.  "Oh!" she exclaimed.  My first thought was that I was only a smidgen dilated, but next she said, "You are 8 centimeters and your water is bulging.  If that breaks, we could have a baby by dinnertime." Brian and I looked at each other, thinking, "That's a bold statement.  I doubt things are moving that quickly, especially with my history of slow labors."

The good news, though, was that I was immediately given a room that had been prepared for a woman coming in to be induced.  I walked across the hall, trying to ignore a contraction. I sat on the edge of the bed.  My midwife came in and told me to assume any position that was comfortable.  The contractions were coming so close together that I sat frozen even though I wanted to move.  The nurse commented that one contraction lasted a whole 2 minutes.  I felt pressure at the end of contractions that made me involuntarily lift myself off of the bed. The top of my belly started to press down on its own. I know all  this means it is almost time to push, but I wasn't thinking clearly at this point.

Suddenly my water broke.  My midwife guided me to find a more comfortable position.  With help, I turned backwards on the bed, upright on my knees with my arms leaning against the back of the bed.  My midwife urged me to follow my body's cues,  then she sat back to watch.  I felt a strong urge to push and my body took over.  Pushing went like lightening.  I could feel his head and then his body emerge. I am usually overwhelmed by pushing but it was not as terrifying as I remembered.

Judah was born at 4:33 pm, less than a half hour after I had walked to my room.

I pulled him up between my legs and then sat back on my heels, still backward on the bed.  This was a peaceful time as I held my baby. He made a whimper and then was quiet. There was no rush to cut the cord or deliver the placenta.  My legs started to fall asleep so someone helped me turn around and sit up in bed.  My midwife taught me how to see if the cord was still pulsing.  It kept going for a long time which means the placenta was strong and healthy.  Eventually, it stopped and Brian cut the cord.  The placenta kind of just fell out, with barely a push.

I was stunned-- in a wonderful way-- when it was all over.  Five or six hours before, I had been mentally preparing for labor to linger on for another day or so.  Just an hour before, I was chatting and bemoaning my uncomfortable position in triage.

Judah weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces and was 20 inches long.  He was, and still is, a calm happy baby. That is a gift in a busy household of nine people.  Some people assume that being the seventh child, some of the novelty has worn off, but his older siblings compete for the rights to hold him.

We praise God for our gift of Judah Nathaniel! *

*Judah means "praise" while Nathaniel means "given by God."

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Things I DON'T Do

With Christmas over and the decorations put away, I often take time in January to think about my goals for the coming months.  I don't like the word "resolution." There is a lot of pressure with resolutions.  If I make one wrong move, I feel like I've failed and might as well give up.  

Instead, I like to make goals.  Goals imply something I am working toward-- a series of baby steps in the direction of an end result.  Mistakes may set me back, but I can still pick up and try again.

Brian and I talked over the weekend about things we want to do this year and things we want to change both individually and together, but I don't want to talk about that now.  I love getting a peek into someone else's thought and plans, but sometimes it can inspire a bit of discouragement or comparison, too.  

I often have people say to me, "I don't know how you have six kids and manage to homeschool," or, "keep your house clean," or, "read."  The reality is, there are so many things I don't do.  I thought it would be fun to share a few of those things here instead:

1) I don't write daily...or even weekly... lesson plans.

Maybe this surprises the people who know my love of a list and a calendar, but I have never written a detailed lesson plan...or many lesson plans at all.  My method of school planning is big-picture.  I know what I want to accomplish in a year and we chip away in small chunks.  For example, in history, I know we need to cover post-Civil War through the present this year so in August we studied the Reconstruction Era.  In September, we read about the early 1900s.  In October, we focused on World War I.   I do not write out what needs to be done each day.

Each child also refers to their own weekly schedule, but that simply reminds them what subjects they need to cover each day, not the specifics of what they need to do. 

2) I don't wash my hair every day.

I used to have very oily hair that looked gross and limp if I didn't wash it, but as I got older, my hair started to dry out. After my pregnancy with Macie, my dry hair also became more wavy.  I have a lot of hair-- "massive amounts," in the words of the girl who cut my hair-- and I suddenly realized that I could save a lot of time by not washing and styling it every day. 

I have never used dry shampoo, but I spray on  homemade sea salt spray after I wash my hair, and I spray on a bit more on in-between days.  The salt helps dry out any stray moisture or yuck. 

3) I don't garden or raise chickens.

I have a very black thumb.  I can barely keep a hanging basket alive in the summer.  As much as I would like to feed my family fresh vegetables from our own garden, it is just not my thing.  Even if I could do it, there is a huge time commitment and I would rather devote my time to other things.  Instead, I gladly make good use of every gift of vegetables from my gardening friends or family.

The same goes for chickens.  We know at least four families who raise their own chickens and Maddie is dying to join them.  As much as I love fresh eggs and understand their health benefits, I am saying no for now.

4) I don't exercise.

For three years I was a regular runner. I ran 2 half-marathons and many more shorter races.  I ran through my pregnancy, up until the day my water broke.  I know other moms who find time to run with a baby, but it's not working for me.  Macie turns one this month and I don't see running in my near future either.  

My favorite time to run is early morning, but that's when she wakes to nurse.  Once my morning gets going, the rest of the day is full to the brim.  Over the summer and fall, I took a daily mile-and-a-half walk with Macie and either Brian or one of the kids, but now it is too dark and cold. Maybe I could find time to exercise another way, but I'm choosing not to make it a priority right now.  I will take the occasional run when I'm able, but  I won't put it on my regular to-do list for many more months. 

5) I don't use coupons.

I am frugal and like to save money, but I rarely use coupons.  I buy generic and watch for sales. We also love the effortlessness of Walmart Savings Catcher.  I say "we" because I am not even the one who uses the app.  Brian is. 

6) I don't take my kids to dance or sports practice.

We have made the decision for monetary and time purposes to forego weekly individual activities with our five older kids.  They all take a gym class.  They all go to church activities one evening a week.  They all sing in the local homeschool choir.  Maddie does attend a monthly book club and the others will occasionally go to a class or camp, but we are choosing to not have multiple outside commitments. 

7) I don't put my kids to bed at night.

I feel the most guilt about this one!  Our nightly routine involves the kids listening to audio books in their rooms before bed.  Everyone gets ready (teeth, pjs, etc.) and then go into the bedrooms to listen. Sometimes it's boys/girls, sometimes older/younger, sometimes all together. When a disc is over (usually after an hour-ish), they come back out to the living room to tell me goodnight and then they take themselves to bed.  I rarely tuck anyone in or turn out lights. 


There is one more thing I am going to take off my plate.  Blogging.  After almost nine years of writing here, I have decided to spend time on other pursuits.  When I began, I was still in my twenties and we lived in a small townhouse. We had no pets, Gavin was five, and three of my kids were not even born!  What a journey.

My blog is staying right here. I plan to leave all  posts, links, and photos up for browsing.  I won't disappear either. I'm keeping my blog's Facebook page open, and I plan to continue posting a few thoughts and photos there.  

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." 2 Corinthians 13:13

Friday, December 23, 2016

For the wages of sin is death, 
but the gift of God 
is eternal life 
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

We rejoice in the hope that we have in this season and always. 
It is not a hope that we deserve or have earned.
We have hope because Christ came to earth to die for us and bring us into fellowship with Him!  

Joy to the World!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Outtakes

We've had our share of infamous Christmas memories.

Like the year Gavin was a toddler and sneaked downstairs before anyone else was awake and ate all the individual chocolates out of the advent calendar.

Or the next year when Maddie climbed onto the dining room table and ate the gingerbread house.

We've had kids open presents that were not intended for them and kids open presents early that were intended for them.  Then there was the child who got up in the middle of the night to re-wrap the presents he opened, in an effort to make right his wrong. 

One year we had hundreds of praying mantises hatch from our Christmas tree and cover the wall by the tree and the presents under it.  

I've even had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on one of my children on Christmas Eve, and the child was so disturbed by the incident that it ruined his entire Christmas!

This year has been mild in comparison, but we have had a few Christmas outtakes.

Try as I might, we could not avoid sickness this season.  Alaine and Maddie both caught a fever virus right after Thanksgiving, but it was mild and passed within 48 hours. 

Just this week, Macie caught a different fever virus.  She had a mild cold before she got a sudden high fever on Saturday.  She still ate well and actually slept better, both for naps and at night.  I thought  it might be roseola.  Her symptoms were textbook, and sure enough, she broke out with a light, lacy rash on Tuesday, confirming my suspicions.

Our medical concerns didn't end there.  Earlier this month, we were in the urgent care center when Macie scratched her eye (a corneal abrasion).

We were given antibiotic drops and a pain reliever and by the next morning, you almost couldn't tell it had happened!

We got several strange photos of Alaine in December.  Both of her top teeth were loose and instead of pulling them out, she played with them and let them dangle until they literally fell out.  We called her Nanny McPhee.

While my girls have had a wild month, my boys have stayed healthy and whole.

Gavin celebrated his 14th birthday a week ago.  He wanted no fanfare but had a blast when we spontaneously got a pizza to eat in the car while we were running errands.  Then he had a friend over to eat dinner, play chess, and watch crazy YouTube videos.  Maybe we would have had some funny outtake photos, except I forgot to take any photos at all.

We're moving into the last weekend before Christmas and we pray it stays free of sickness or injury.

The only downside is the fact that we've had four, yes four, separate invitations for Saturday evening and we can only accept one!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas (or Winter) Mini-Unit

{This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a few pennies from your purchase.}  

We are counting down the days until our Christmas break and we are in the single digits.  Three more days to go. 👍 Because of Brian's line of work, we begin our school year in August and work hard through the fall so that we can take off at Christmas and continue our break through the end of January.  It has been an intense few weeks as the kids prepared for their Christmas choir recital and then as we worked toward a stopping point in our school books. Gavin, especially, put in a concentrated effort to accumulate hours toward his art history credit.

Now.  Now, we are beginning to breathe a little easier as the end is in sight.  We took some time this week to do a fun, book-based Christmas activity.  This would be appropriate to do as a winter activity in January as well.  

First, we sat by the Christmas tree and read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  This book is short and simple, appropriate for anyone from toddler on up.  Macie, who turns 1 next month, enjoyed turning the pages after we finished reading.

Then we read A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney.  I was fascinated by this a picture book biography of the life of Ezra Jack Keats (actually Jacob Ezra Katz) who was born into a Polish-Jewish immigrant family in the early 1900s.  Why did I always assume Keats, himself, African American?  Probably because he includes people of many nationalities and colors in his children's books.  This biography addresses why he felt so strongly about writing books for all children. This is a new book, published in November of this year, and while it is marketed to children, the comprehension level would begin at mid-elementary age.  The story will speak to those far beyond!

To cap it off, we watched The Snowy Day, a 45-minute movie, new on Amazon video this year. It expands the story of the book and is available free with Amazon Prime (not an affiliate link).

Do you enjoy Christmas reading with your children? If you 'like' my Facebook page, you will notice I've been linking to a slew of my old blog posts, recommending Christmas books.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Unconventional Hospitality

In my most recent post about hospitality, I promised I had one more thing to say:

If hospitality is about fostering relationships, don't be afraid to accept other opportunities for community.

I guess that is a topic all to itself and not really hospitality at all, but it is important.  It doesn't have to be in my home with my food on my timetable to be meaningful.

Accept an invitation to another person's home.   Go to the park with another family for conversation and play.  Accept an invitation to meet up at a restaurant.   Go out with friends after church.

Immerse yourself in other people and their lives.

As we sink deep into this holiday season, remember to invest in more than gifts and decorations. Invest in people, too. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wednesday Through Sunday {in three words}

This is Wednesday:

crazy sous chef

making pumpkin pie

And now Thursday:

all six kids

and an outtake

two of us

gathering with family
{photo by Mom}

On to Friday:

choosing a tree

 this is it

mommy/baby selfie

lost a tooth

Saturday was Fun:

annual date day

💗our third wheel 💗

evening birthday party

Day of Rest: 

choir singing hymns

one more song

Back to reality.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

a Charlie Brown lunch

I talked about some happy Thanksgiving memories, but Thanksgiving 2014 will go down in our family history as a bad one.  On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Maddie woke up sick.  She had a slight fever and stayed on the couch most of the day watching movies, but by Wednesday lunchtime she was well enough to join us at the table.

Unfortunately, another kid woke up with a fever on Thanksgiving morning and a third developed one mid-morning.  Before cancelling the day's plans, we made a few calls to family who encouraged us to come to dinner anyway, saying they would risk exposure to germs since Maddie's case had been mild and quick.

Wrong move.  ðŸ˜¬ On Friday morning we began putting up our Christmas tree and by afternoon, a full-blown case of the flu hit our house with high fevers, chills, sore throats, headaches, and body aches. This was the scene in our house while Brian was stringing the lights:

And despite all the festivity around him, this little guy only managed to put one ornament on the tree before he curled back up on the floor. 

It was bad.  Brian and I managed to finish the decorating before we succumbed, too, and it was days before anyone was well enough to cook dinner or go to work, let alone take care of the long Christmas to-do list. 

In those few hours between bouts of wretchedness that year, after Maddie got better and before aninyone else got sick, we made a happy memory.   On Wednesday afternoon, we served a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lunch.

Today we did the same.  Today everyone is well and we are very thankful for it.

We popped some popcorn, toasted some bread, handed out gourmet jelly beans, and portioned out pretzel sticks.

Tomorrow we will feast on turkey and mashed potatoes, but today we enjoyed a few simple pleasures. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is there space for "twaddle?"

When I shared how our family uses the library, I implied that one reason I don't scan the shelves is to avoid twaddle-- poor quality, silly, or fluffy books.  

But...confession... I'm not totally offended by twaddle

I obviously steer away from books that are too mature for my readers (or listeners) and I discuss with my older kids the wisdom of setting a standard for content in the books they choose.  I sometimes push my younger boys to read books a little longer or complicated than they are comfortable choosing on their own, but I do not forbid them from easy, maybe even trivial, reading. 

Here's why: first of all, I know for myself that I often look to reading as an escape.  I have opportunities all throughout theday to stretch my brain, but reading is my way to relax.  I don't want to look up words or think deeply.  After Macie was born in January, one of my goals for the year was to read for pleasure. I declared that it was "not the year to tackle heavy classics or challenge myself intellectually."

Also, much of our family culture has been shaped by "twaddle-y" books.  Conversations are sparked by what we read.  No one would consider the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books classic literature, but we love them.  My kids say I am a twin of the "Mom" character in the books.  We both dance (and embarrass our kids) when we hear music and apparently "Mom" always gets her ideas from the magazine she subscribes to called Family Frolic. I get ideas from podcasts.  They know because I often listen out loud in the car while I am driving them to and fro... and then they see me implement the ideas at home.   I've been caught!  Maddie says that The Mom Hour is my Family Frolic

We enjoy other characters, too, and many quotes from the books are recited around the dinner table and are inserted into our real-life situations.  My boys particularly love how older brother, Roderick, watched the movie instead of read the book for his high school English assignment.  Unfortunately, he watched wrestling movie, Lords of the Ring, instead of the correct Lord of the Rings

I'm not saying that these types of books should replace classic or other thought-provoking literature, but I am saying there are pleasure benefits and relational benefits to fluffy books, too.

What are your thoughts?  Do you read twaddle?  Do you allow your kids to read it? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How Our Family Uses the Library

I've had several in-real-life questions from in-real-life friends about how we use the library: how often we go and how I find the books I read to my children.  I answered them in person, but I figured it might be fun to share my answers here, too. 

We go to the library every. single. week of life, including when I was 8 months pregnant during  last holiday season and when I had a tiny new baby. Books are due every three weeks and a few years ago I considered only going that often.  Then I came to my senses, realizing that won't work for us. We check out and return far too many books each week.  We currently have 55 items checked out on our library accounts and about 20 items on hold waiting to be picked up.  It hurts my brain (and my back!) to consider stretching the time between visits and needing to deal with that volume of books times three! 

the newest reader: Macie, 10 months
Alaine and I have continued the habit we began during the summer of  reading a few picture books on weekday mornings after breakfast.  I try to have between 10 and 15 waiting for her at the library each week. We are also reading the entire Mr. Putter and Tabby series out loud in order. I did that with the kids once before, but  it was before Alaine was even born so she and I, plus Ben, are revisiting them. Again, too many books to consider not going weekly.

Then there is the questions of how I find the books we read. My older kids generally choose their own books, but how do I find the books we need for school, plus a variety of picture books... in a small library... with a baby in tow?  I seldom browse the shelves at our library.  I would guess that 95% or more of the books we check out come to us via the hold shelf.  I can go online to access any book in the statewide library system and have it delivered to my small town library.  I do all my research during the week and make a ten minute trip inside the library where a large stack is waiting for me.  (My older kids often browse for themselves while I nurse the baby or let her crawl around the children's room.)

I have mentioned briefly how I utilize the list feature on my library card online.  I am forever on the look-out for book recommendations.  I follow several book lovers' Facebook and Instagram accounts (like this one and this one and this one...) When someone shares a book that interests me, I add it to my ongoing online list. I have a general list and then I have more specific lists, too, like a "Christmas" list and an "audiobook" list. This is what I pull from when I place my holds each week.

 Below is a screenshot of my list of lists.

What about you?  How often do you go to the library?  Do you take your kids with you?  How do you select books?  Any great sources of book suggestions? 

Be looking for a post where I share what I think about twaddle-y booksIt's not what you might expect. 

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