Monday, February 15, 2016

Rooting Out the Lies

I have a plan. My very being aches to enact it. I am rushing, checking items off the list, moving obstacles out of my way so that I can see it into fruition. It will restore me, it will relax me, sometimes I imagine it might even save my life. It's that good.

My plan is me, alone, on my couch with a good book or Netflix streaming, and a snack. But everything hinges on the aloneness and the snack. The obstacles are my children and my husband. Dinner is fed and dishes put away, baths are had, pajamas are on, teeth are brushed, and stories and prayers recited. "Quite messing around. This is not time to be silly. Hurry up. Get in bed." Bumps and detours exasperate me, sometimes even enrage me. I'm desperate.

I "shoosh" every exclamation, trying to make sure they don't wake my husband who might already be asleep on the couch. If he's not, I'll only have to wait an hour or so before he's out. Then I can dig into my ice cream, cookie, pie, tortilla with Nutella (when times are desperate) without the the nagging shame that comes with bingeing in front of someone you regularly complain to about your jiggly tummy/tight jeans/etc.

This is it? THIS is what I looked forward to with such anticipation? This was my plan for joy, for comfort, for contentment? As I write it down, spell out the secret thoughts, de-robe the truth until it's completely naked and exposed to all, I can see how pitiful it truly is. I can see the beautiful things I cast away in exchange for an artificially flavored joy – a fleeting pleasure that camped out for a while but forgot to take its baggage when it made its getaway, instead leaving it all behind to weigh down my midsection, and even worse, my heart.

But in that moment, in that desperate hour, it felt like the answer. Like a well-earned respite at the end of a long day. A long day of cleaning, cooking, running to dance class and the grocery store and the feed store, delivering a meal, wiping bottoms, washing/folding/sorting laundry, volunteering at church, taking care of everyone. Hello, what about me? I worked hard and I deserve this. I deserve some "me time," some self-indulgence, a treat, a reward. Don't judge me and certainly don't get in my way. Because this, this is what I need. This will recharge me, soothe me, restore me, relax me, make me happy, make me human again. I hold the key to my euphoria, if only I can orchestrate everything just so. Nevermind that somewhere along the way, as one Oreo turns to the whole sleeve, one bowl to the whole pint, one piece of whatever to three or four,  I hand over the baton. I go numb. I let what I crave take control. I escape the slavery of my pursuit of perfection only to run to the arms of a new master.

In the morning, the high has worn off, and I'm left with a hangover of regret and disappointment. I start in the shallow end, standing in front of the mirror, poking and pinching and standing sideways and sucking in and wishing my belly bulge, my muffin top, and my thigh jiggle could all instantly melt away. Then I dive deeper. I get angry with myself. I cry. I get so frustrated. I feel like slapping myself in the face. The defeat, the failure, the shame. The same thing over and over.

I blame everything. My life is overwhelming and it pushes me to do this. I don't have time to work out. I have a hard time losing weight even when I do. I'm pregnant or I'm breastfeeding. It's winter time. It's summer time. It's Tuesday. I'm weak. I'm addicted. I have no will power. I mean, how many times have I said, "This is the last time; tomorrow will be different"?

But the wool I keep pulling over my eyes grows thin. Slowly, the truth starts to bubble up. Up and up it rises until I look down and realize the truth is that I am knee-deep in lies. It's not some rigged-against-my-favor lottery of life circumstances that have cemented my feet in the mud bog of misery. My enemy is the lies I have chosen to believe:

God will not satisfy me. God will not sustain me. God will not provide for me. God's promises are not true. There is no victory over sin. It is better to be first than to be last.   

The hard coating on my heart thickens as I dip again and again in the deceitful cup instead of the living well of God's truth (John 4:13-14). The struggles that have plagued me are merely symptoms of my suffocating heart. The time is long overdue for me to stop doctoring the wounds, to take a hammer to the candy-coated coffin around my heart, and let the light of God's truth do it's transforming, life-giving work (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:7-9). 

That is my goal. Not to lose x number of pounds, not to fit in a prized pair of jeans from glory years past, not to stop eating this and only eat that. Not my goal is to wage war. To stop wallowing and to step into battle. To pick up and put on the belt of God's truth, the body armor of his righteousness, the swift and agile shoes of the good news of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 6:13-17). To push aside the sick and withered branches and dig deep until I can find the diseased root. To study, and pray and lay hold of God's promises. To fill myself with God's way of thinking so I can walk – and eat – in a new way.

I'm ready to walk in the victory that Christ has already won for me.

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6-11)  

Further reading:
"Let us Walk in the Light of God"
Sermon by John Piper

"Lay Aside the Weight of Self Indulgence"
Article by John Bloom

This blog is is the second post in a series on Overcoming Gluttony. In 2016, let by God's Spirit, I resolved to dig beneath the surface of my food-related struggles, to root out the lies that had been poisoning my heart, to replace those lies with the God's truths, and to walk in the light of Jesus's death and resurrection.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello, my name is

Food is my master. I feel powerless to it. It controls me. 

There are so many ways to sugar coat it. (Literally.) So many excuses. So many ways to laugh it off, minimize it, wearily accept it, deny it. But I don't want to anymore. I want to stand face to face with the towering, looming, disgusting truth because I'm tired of living under the monster's thumb.

Food is my master. I feel powerless to it. It controls me.

There's an ugly word for it. Gluttony. I don't like it at all. It makes me feel gross, dirty... sinful. I like to take refuge in the thought that I am merely a victim of chemical processes in my brain. Forget my greed, my self-indulgent desires, my idolatrous heart, my willful disobedience, my deceitful secrets, and my litany of other sinful choices. No. Those couldn't be factors.

Food is my master. I feel powerless to it. It controls me. 

Today I cast away the "food victim" label.  Today I take the "Hello, my name is" name tag with SINNER written in chunky black Sharpie and slap it across my forehead, and I pledge to sit in front of the mirror for a long time until those words are burned into my retinae.

Because until I call this food struggle what it is – SIN – I will, like a fool, try to heal my cancer with band aids. I will step onto the battle field with my piecemeal, ramshackle arsenal of self-assembled weapons: diets, exercise regimens, will power that's wobbly at best and most times crumbling. On their own, my man-made weapons start out sharp and shiny, but over time they wear out, go dull.

Until I quit hiding my SINNER sticker behind the denial, fear, shame, and pride I have layered on like scarves and stick that puppy in the bright light of day, I will never reach for the "fix" that I really need. You see a SINNER, needs a SAVIOR. I need my Savior. To overcome the ruthless master Gluttony I have enslaved myself to for years, I need the life-changing, bondage-breaking, hope-instilling, victory-bringing power of the resurrected Christ. To continue walking in that cross-earned and resurrection-sealed victory I need the ever present guidance, comfort, peace, intercession, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. I need a life of prayer and worship without ceasing. I need the truth:

I belong to Christ. I was bought with a price. Jesus died in my place so that I could walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh. (Romans 8)

I belong to Christ. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I can glorify God and demonstrate his beauty by how I live. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because I belong to Christ, I am a free woman! Christ bought my freedom. I will not be a slave to anyone or anything. (1 Corinthians 7:22-23)

The passions and desires of the flesh do NOT have control of me. I belong to Christ. (Galatians 5:24)

I belong to Christ. 
I belong to Christ.
I belong to Christ.

And I will no longer live as a slave to sin. There is nothing magical about this new year, 2016, in and of itself. But I am looking forward to it with unabashed hope and joy because this is the year, this is the NOW when I will trust God for victory over this chronic sin. The power resides in Christ.

You see, when you stop hiding in the shadows, when you step, broken and beat down and wearing your ugly SINNER name tag, into Jesus's truth, he is faithful and true. He offers you something new. A new life, a new nametag that reads, "Hello, my name is God's Daughter." That name tag speaks to me and to all the world that that I have been purchased by Jesus' death. It tells me that the Spirit of God lives in me. It tells me to get up and walk according to that life-giving Spirit.

(For teaching that inspired this post, please study John Piper's labs on Romans 8:9, "The Spirit Lives in You" and "You Are Not Your Own.")

Sunday, August 23, 2015

These Are the Days

I’ve sowed my wild oats. I’ve walked some reckless paths, and I’ve trudged through some dark muck – you know, the deeper-than-your-boots kind that fills your shoes until you’re dragging through life with what feels like 100-pound feet. And I’ve been the prodigal, sloshing with the swine one day and welcomed back to the fold with love and forgiveness the next.

Now, I am a wife and stay-at-home mom. According to outward appearances, I live a very moral life. But the funny thing is I feel more desperately in need of God’s grace now in my tame, domestic existence than I ever did when I raucous and reckless. Simply trying to hack it as a wife and a parent has made me more aware of the depths of my depravity that the licentious living of my past ever did.

You see, the sins that plague me now – selfishness, anger, pride – might not be as obvious to the people around me or considered as taboo by the church, but they are just as dark and ugly and real as drunkeness or sexual immorality or drugs or etc, etc, etc. And like little gnats that swarm your face and fly up your nostrils on an oppressively hot afternoon, they seem to manifest themselves in millions of little ways every day.

Merging my life every. single. day. with a man who thinks differently than me, does things other than my way, and has his own set of needs inconveniently in competition with mine. Spending every waking moment of my day with precious little ones looking to me, learning from me, disobeying me when I REALLY meant it that time, and wanting my attention when I’m tired and want to be alone. When I loose my patience, say something unkind to my 3-year-old daughter, and watch the tears well up in her eyes. When things don’t go my way, I’m looking for someone to blame, I mouth off to my husband, and see his back turn in hurt and disappointment. Oh, there are what seem like a million opportunities every living, breathing second of my day for my impatient attitude, my self-righteous anger, my selfish desires, my secret, ugly wish for my OWN TIME ALONE WITH MY CELL PHONE to rear their nasty heads.

And they do. And they cut like a hot knife through butter.

Matthew 18:6 – I desperately do not want that millstone.

1 Corinthians 13:1– I desperately do not want to be that noisy gong.

Now, NOW, are the days when I really, truly see how much I need Jesus, how broken I am, how badly I want to be first all the time and at the expense of everyone around me. This season of marriage and motherhood that is both blessed and hard, both joyful and heavy, these are the days that I truly understand the greatness of grace, the kindness of my savior. These are the days that I deeply know that I NEED him. These are the days when I am desperate for him.

And, praise God, these are the days that he is faithful. He answers me when I cry out. He forgives me when I come to him broken, again, over that same sin, again. He gives me JOY – you know, the deep, deep kind – and hope that lifts me up, sets me back on my feet and makes me beautiful again (even when I haven’t found time to pluck my eyebrows in two weeks and I'm wearing the same pajama pants I’ve been trying to pass as real pants for the last four days). He restores what my clumsy, ugly hands have shattered into a million little pieces and rains grace – just buckets and buckets of it.

And just when I think the grace has run out, he showers me again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just Between Friends

Last week, friends invited me to join them at the Just Between Friends sale, a children and maternity consignment sale in Weatherford. The JBF sales have been featured on all the major morning shows  and are held across the country. The Weatherford/Aledo sale is held twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, and it's pretty big. (You can read more about the JBF concept on their website and check to see if there are any locations near you.)

I was pretty hesitant to go with the girls for two reasons. I went to a JBF sale in Fort Worth when I was pregnant with AG last year and was really disappointed. I had to pay $5 for parking, $5 to get into the preview sale (to be fair, there were free admission days later in the sale) and walked away empty handed. I couldn't buy any clothes because I didn't know if I was having a boy or a girl, so I was mostly in the market for large toys (exersaucers, bouncers, swings) and other large items (extra carseat bases, umbrella strollers). There were quite a few large items, but not as many as I had expected; they were not in as good a condition as I had expected, and they were priced much higher than I had anticipated. Someone heard me grumbling, and explained that a LOT of the merchandise was grabbed up during the volunteer pre-sale. It was obvious the clothes the main event. Tons of huge racks filled a pretty good size conference hall at Will Rogers Coliseum.

My friend had never been to the FW sale, but she told the word on the street was that our lil-city sale had cleaner items in better condition. Plus, I was would be able to attend free of charge as my friend's guest to the new mothers/teachers preview sale. With no money lost to parking or admission, I figured I had nothing to lose. Ailee needed some new pajamas, too.

I walked away from the sale with an Ikea bag loaded FULL of stuff. Of course, I bought everything but pajamas.

The Weatherford/Aledo sale definitely featured items in better conditions than the FW sale. I'm not sure if that's because it was less picked over by volunteers or because our area is higher income. There were definitely less big items like bouncers, stroller, car seats – probably less than half of what I found at the FW sale – and they went quickly. The prices were about the same, but, again, the items were cleaner and in better shape.

I still had sticker shock when I was browsing some of the Weatherford items. I saw a plastic wagon I thought might be fun for Ailee, and couldn't believe it was priced at $20. It was in good, but not like-new, condition.

But I did find plenty of items I was really happy with. The catch about these sales is the items are priced higher then they would be if you were able to find them garage-sale shopping. For example, I have a Leap Frog music table that my mom scored for me at a garage sale for $8. It is in like-new condition. At a JBF sale, it would probably be priced $15 for good condition and $20 for like-new condition. The table is $35 brand new in stores. However, it could take months of consistent garage sale-ing to find a specific item like a music table, and at a JBF sale you might have three to chose from and a ton of other items to look through all in one location. So you are definitely paying for convenience.

While I was there, I looked for only like-new items priced at a bargain because I just couldn't justify paying the higher price for more worn items. Thankfully, AG has been gifted an ENORMOUS amount of second hand clothes and toys in wonderful condition, so I didn't have to rely on a sale such as this to stock up on affording clothing, toys and equipment. I had the luxury of being more picky.

I also kept my iPhone handy to double-check prices and that helped me from making some poor selections out of ignorance. For example, there was a Melissa and Dough hammer and peg set at the sale. It was missing 2 pegs and the original wood hammer was replaced with a plastic hammer from another set. It was priced at $6. I found you can buy the entire set brand new for $10 online or at Toys R Us. I'd be willing to pay $6 for a good or like-new used set with all the parts, but not for a partial set when I could fork over a few more dollars for the new one.

Next, I found a Melissa and Doug car carrier toy. It was priced at $12 and was in like-new condition. That seemed pretty expensive. I looked on Amazon and found I could get a new one for $15. The one at JBF was only marked down $3, but I felt good buying it because it was like new. If I had picked up a chipped or worn one, got home and realized I could have got a new one for $3 more, I'd be annoyed.

So some iPhone Googling or a good knowledge (or former pre-school teacher friend with good knowledge!) of how much these items cost new is really helpful at sales like these. If you are fighting a crowd, grab all the items you like, then take them to a corner, sit down and sift through everything while you research on your phone. Then, return all the items that don't fit the bill.

With all that said, here are the items I took home:

Old Navy Stars & Stripes Swimsuit
Condition: Very good (a tiny bit of pilling on the crotch area)
JBF Price: $2

Smocked Dress
Condition: Very good (there is a teeny, tiny miniscule yellowish dot)
JBF Price: $3 (I was so happy about this one. Smocked items are classics. They're still super in style and they are really expensive!)

Carter's Rain Coat
Condition: Like new
JBF Price: $5 (This was pretty expensive to me, but it looked like it had never been worn. Another mom at the sale said her daughter got TONS of mileage out of her raincoat. This coat is sized 18-24 months.)

You paid how much!? No way!

Bummis Super Whisper Wrap Cloth Diaper Cover
Condition: New with tags
JBF Price: $3
This was a steal! New in stores or online these covers are $12-13. This is a size small so it will be for Baby No. 2 (God willing)

KidKraft Bead Maze
Condition: Like New
JBF Price: $6
I know you're thinking that this maze doesn't look "like new." Well, it did when I bought it. That part on the base where the veneer is ripped off happened when I removed the JBF sticker from the toy. Put stickers on the bottom, people! Still, this toy is $20-$25 new online so I was pretty happy.

Just like Mommy, she missed the nail!

Hammering your foot is fun, too.
Playskool Poundin' Nails (the spelling "Playskool" really irks me!)
Condition: Very good (I would say like new except there is one part where the paint is rubbed off the nail character's eyebrow)
JBF Price: $5
This is $13 new on Amazon. Not my best deal but still happy with it. Ailee has enjoyed it. I was looking for a wooden hammer and peg set like I had when I was little. I'll keep looking!

Melissa & Doug Car Carrier
Condition: Like new (Ailee has already put a little wear on this one! She loves the little cars.)
JBF Price: $12

Oops, ropes are confusing.

Pull-Along Wooden Train With Stacking Blocks
Condition: Like new
JBF Price: $5
This was my favorite find! This toy is so cool and of such good quality. I found similar ones online for $35-40

AG with some of her spoils

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Birth Story - Part Three

The last installment of this story left me begging for an epidural and my husband insisting that it was not what I truly wanted and that I should NOT get one.

Not. A. Pretty. Picture.

This IS a pretty picture, though. Tanner and I at the hospital after I got my epidural and set up camp in the hospital bed.
In my heart, I really did not want an epidural – for lots of reasons, some right and some wrong. I believed and still believe in all the healthy, value-driven reasons that initially steered me against an epidural, and someday when I have more time and energy, I'll go into my whole reasoning behind pursuing natural childbirth. All those reasons gave me pause as I was considering an epidural, but to be honest, in that moment of decision, all those good reasons shrunk in their significance compared to a looming, shadowy, yucky reason. THAT reason gave me the greatest pause before I chose to jump off the diving board and into the deep end of the epidural pool.

I did not want all those people (Yes, if you were one of them, you now know I thought you were ANNOYING) who, when I told them I was planning a natural birth, laughed in my faced and told me, " Ooookaaaay, whatever! You'll be begging for an epidural when the time comes," to be right. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be stronger. This ugly reason can be summed up as PRIDE.

But all the yield signs, good and bad, were blown over and flattened in the tornado of fear, pain and fatigue swirling around me. I chose an epidural.

Despite wanting the opposite, I think everything leading up to that point pointed me toward that outcome. Despite going through the wonderful Harris Midwifes, I believe the hospital setting and protocol encouraged an induction and epidural (and for some people, c-sections).


Despite having a several crisp white pages of paper filled with Bible verses stapled together and tucked into my birthing folder and a playlist of inspiring Christian songs running on loop in the hospital room, I had not truly dedicated the birth of my child to God's glory. The time before the birth was actually a very spiritually dry season for me. During my pregnancy, I did not prepare for the path ahead of me with prayer. I did not arm myself with scripture. Despite my convictions that a birth should be a time to glorify God through surrender and worship and trust and faith, I spent most of my time during pregnancy worshiping at the altar of knowledge. I researched and championed every natural, healthful philosophy on childbirth. Those mindsets and methods are healthy and wonderful and practical, but must be paired with a desire to glorify God. In and of themselves, they are not saviors. I did not trust my God to get me through the birth. I did not lean on Him through earnest prayer and worship and mediation. I placed all of my trust and faith in my own plans and knowledge. When that wavered (and ultimately failed), all I had left were fear and doubt. I needed a champion, and it wasn't a philosophy or a method or a plan. It was my Savior and He was there all along! 

Anyway, that's a lot of reflection. Sorry, I've had 10 months to think about everything. I'll wrap up the meat and bones of the story so those who care can know what all happened.

So the decision was made, and although I ended up paying the anesthesiologist a bajillion million dollars, I think it was actually the doctor's nurse or assistant or someone else that came in with the big needle. I could be wrong. When she arrived, a mix of emotions were stirring and bubbling inside me: fear and disappointment, but also relief. The woman was very stern and emotionless. I felt like screaming at her, "Don't you know I've been trying to birth this child for over a day!!!" In hindsight I know she wasn't there to be an emotional cheerleader, but I guess I was just hoping people with pompoms and megaphones would come out of the woodwork at ever turn.

I was commanded to stay completely still while they put the needle in my back. This was a puzzling command to me, as every contraction made me contort and squirm and cry and scream. And they wanted me to be still for like 10 minutes! While the needle was in me, I had a very strong contraction and flinched. The woman scolded me mercilessly and told me how dangerous that was and that I pretty much could have killed myself and everyone in the room... I kept thinking, Am I the only wimp who couldn't stay still for this!? Candice grabbed my hands and lovingly coached me through the next contraction. I kept still that time.

When things started to get numb enough, I got my catheter. A lovely contraption that would leave me with months worth of UTI's and other "womanly" infections.

I labored for a while with the epidural, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up 2-hour nap, I had gone from 2 cm to 9 cm. Everyone was in shock it seemed. Candice said it would be soon, and then told me she had to leave. Her shift was over! I was disappointed and so was she. Although I'm sure she was glad to go home, she had put in a lot of work not to see the end result! The next midwife on call was Summer. I was excited to see her. She is a wonderful woman!

I got some more medicine when I woke up, labored for about an hour and then started to feel the urge to push. I don’t know how I knew, it was just one of those instinctual things that I could feel even with the epidural. Pushing was my favorite part because (at least according to Summer) I was doing a great job! She said I was making quick progress, and for the first time, I felt like my body was doing something right. It was a cool feeling (obviously only because I had the epidural) to feel all the pressure and feel the baby’s head moving. Several times I was able to reach down and touch the squishy head. 

Tanner was by my side and my sister, Kathleen, had come in the room too at this point to take pictures. I pushed for about 20 minutes and the baby was making its way quickly, but the meconium fluid was getting darker, and I think that was worrying Summer. She said, "This baby has a big head, and you have a small opening. [DUH!!!] If you don’t get her out on this next push, I think I am going to have to cut you.” 

That was the last straw! All my plans had gone out the window, and I thought, I’m not going to get an episiotomy, too! (Another intervention I had been hoping to avoid.) I pushed as hard as I could on that next contraction, and the baby came out screaming. The NICU people were supposed to be there (hospital policy) because of the presence of the meconium fluid, but they were not there yet so Summer had to start suctioning the fluid out of the baby's mouth so it wouldn’t go in her lungs. I was watching all this kind of in a daze. After she had suctioned her, Summer asked Tanner if he wanted to make THE announcement. He must have been in a bit of a daze too because he told Summer to do it, and she announced, “It’s a girl!” Ten months of suspense ended!

Blurry, but I think this is the moment I first saw my baby!
Ailee Grace is born!
The NICU people arrived and whisked the baby away to the corner of the room. (Hospital policy.) They did some more suctioning and measured some things and did other stuff, not sure what. Tanner would know more about this part. I'll ask him someday. I was sad I couldn’t do skin-to-skin immediately with my baby. I had torn quite a bit and was bleeding a lot, so Summer was working quickly to get me sewn up as all the other hullabaloo was taking place. It's all a blur in my mind. It took about half an hour to sew me up. I lost about 16 oz of blood. I also had a fever, which made them worry about infection. Ailee had a fever too but it went away quickly so they assumed it was from me and didn’t make her go to NICU.

The NICU people doing their "thing" while protective Papa looks on

Tanner comforts Ailee while she gets poked and prodded. Looking back on these pictures, I think "Hallelujah!" but also, what a rude entrance into the world this poor baby had!
Finally I got to hold my baby to my chest, and Tanner and I decided on her name. Ailee Grace.

Finally holding my baby girl.

Tanner had to give Ailee a bottle at some point, I'm not sure when but I think it was because of her glucose levels being low or something. I'm not sure why they didn't ask me to nurse first. 

Ailee's first meal came from Daddy and a bottle full of formula. Sad for Mommy, especially looking back, but beautiful to see my sweet husband feeding with his girl. I love his bulging biceps hard at work with such a tender task!
Then Ailee had to get taken away because they had to test her glucose again – I think. Again, blurry on this. They brought her back and said I needed to try and nurse her because her levels were still low, and if she didn’t nurse she’d need another bottle. I was worried about the whole bottle thing. We got her to nurse but it was really hard. Two nurses had to help me. Later I would find out that Ailee had a lip tie and tongue tie that made normal nursing impossible for her. But we got her to take Mommy's milk and she never had formula again after that initial bottle immediately after her birth.

A very tired me with my little slumbering angel. We had both been through a LOT already.
I had to wait in the labor & delivery room for a long time waiting for a postpartum room to clear up. Ailee slept on my chest, and my mom and dad came in to see the baby. That was a very happy moment and helped to take my mind off of everything that had gone so contrary to my hopes. 

Ailee with her VV
VV and Voots with their little Ailee Bear
Aunt Kitty and her niece!
By the grace of God, after I had my little girl, I didn't struggle with any feelings of inadequacy because of the off-track birth experience or  go through a mourning phase like some women do when they feel the birth went awry. At some point during the whole experience, I can't pinpoint when, I realized my sin and this verse became imprinted in my mind: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your path straight." Provers 3:5-6 Since then, that verse has gotten me through many confusing, tough, dark and sleep-deprived moments in this journey of parenting. After the birth, I left that experience behind me and shifted gears to my new task as Mommy. But is has been good in the months since, after gaining some healthy emotional distance, perspective and hormone leveling, to reflect on the experience.

My dad brought birthday hats for the big day. This picture makes me laugh. I look sooo tired. And I was!
I'm still a believer in natural childbirth. It will be my goal for my next (God willing) birth experience, although I hope and pray that it will be submitted to the Lord and not on its own altar of knowledge and pride. 

Outside from the spiritual aspect (AKA my sin & pride!), there are several main factors I believe "derailed" my birth goals. 

1) My water breaking spontaneously. I don't know what caused this. I don't know if it could have been prevented with a healthier diet during pregnancy (Mine was shamefully awful, and I will never eat that way again! I pray God heals Ailee from any damage I did with my terrible habits), less activity or something else. It might have just been "one of those things" – you know, those weird things that just happen! Either way, my body was obviously NOT ready for labor, but when my water broke it started the labor process in my mind and in my healthcare provider's mind. I had to be induced to force my body into a labor that it was not ready for. I still need to research the safety and wisdom of this, but for future pregnancies, barring any other complications being present, I would like to continue to labor naturally with no intervention even  if my membranes rupture while drinking plenty of water, keeping tabs on the baby's heart rate and reasonably reducing the risks of infection at home.

2) Presence of meconium-stained fluid. This seemed pretty serious to everyone, but I was totally clueless as to the risks it presented and how it should affect my future decisions. I took stock in everyone's words and concerned expressions. I still need to research this complication for future pregnancies. The presence of the fluid resulted in people not wanting the labor to be "unnecessarily" prolonged and resulted in hospital protocols that prevented me from doing skin-to-skin and immediate nursing. 

3) Induction. Because my membranes had been ruptured for a significant length of time and no labor followed, I was induced. This tethered me to a monitor in one corner of the room and limited my pain-coping techniques. I could not labor in a tub. I could not walk very far. I could not get into every position I wanted to. When contractions came on rapidly, my body had no time to acclimate. When the baby's heart rate dropped (not sure what caused this), I was forced to lay in one very painful position. This lead me to the epidural.

4) Fear. Fear of the pain. Fear and frustration because everything was failing.

I think my nurse-midwives did a great job. I am happy with the care they provided me. This is no complaint against them, but I am not sure if I will choose to go that route again. With a hospital birth, the hospital culture with time limits and medication are all around you even if your health-care providers support natural child birth. I guess it was just too tempting for someone like me and infiltrated my decisions. I haven't ruled out another hospital birth, but I am definitely considering a home birth or birthing center for the future. 

I'm sure I've left out tons of what I wanted to say and haven't done a great job at getting across what I meant to say with what I did say. Make sense? No. I know I've left out pretty much everything explaining my perspectives and beliefs and reasoning on natural childbirth, and that is important to completely understanding my reactions and responses to what happened during Ailee's birth. I'll tackle all that someday. Maybe when I'm expecting again. That would be a good time. Maybe half of you are perplexed or annoyed at me because of my perspectives and opinions and are rolling your eyes at me. All I have to say about that is, be careful because your face might get stuck like that!

I am thankful that God kept me and Ailee safe during her birth. I'm thankful for all that He taught me during the experience and the testimony He provided me. I'm thankful for the beautiful daughter He has entrusted to our care. We are blessed and thankful!

Ailee Grace

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Birth Story - Part Two

Read Part 1 of this birth story here.

I downloaded a PDF of the hospital map, then added color-coded and numbered arrows with corresponding directions for myself and Tanner and for my family – with multiple options depending on which freeway traveled and whether parking in the visitors garage or use valet.

And we still ended up in the wrong place.

We got to hospital feeling excited and weird. I felt special and important and ... weird ... walking into the hospital with my big ol' belly and a veeery slooowly mounting, surreal realization that this was really happening. We went to Labor and Delivery, which was apparently wrong. We got led to some kind of "staging" area. I don't remember what it's really called, but I think it's basically the place where they decide if you're far along enough to get a labor room or if you're just a worrisome, over eager first-time mom who gets booted out to labor some more at your house, or Starbucks or wherever.

I was placed in a room to wait for my midwife. I changed into a gown and sat on the exam table where I leaked about a gallon of green fluid. They brought me some towels because that flimsy little tissue paper stuff wasn't gonna cut it and I didn't want to slip 'n' slide off the exam table. Tanner wandered around the halls and found me a "cup" (some kind of measuring container) and some water, which I chugged to keep Ailee floating and the water works flowing.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital
A nurse took some vitals and then Candyce, the midwife on call, came to examine me. I was a little anxious because Candyce was the one midwife I didn't know very well. I'd only had one brief check-up with her. If I had been given a choice, I would not have picked her to be my midwife, simply because I didn't have much of a relationship with her, but thankfully God was in control because she ended up being such a source of strength, calmness and encouragement.

My examination proved I was at 2 cm, not effaced and a whole bunch of other mumbo jumbo I don't remember that basically meant that 12 hours after my membranes ruptured, I was still no where near ready to have the baby. Candyce knew how much I wanted a natural birth, but she had two concerns:

(1) Infection because my membranes were ruptured. Every time they "checked" me (stuck their hands up there and poked around – PAINFUL) the risk increased, so the goal was not to check me unless absolutely necessary.
(2) Meconium aspiration, where the baby breathes the meconium (feces, the green stuff that was in the fluid) into the lungs at the time of birth

Candyce knew how much I wanted a natural birth, but because of those two concerns she told me she would let me labor for 18 hours and if I didn't show signs of progress, she would induce me. That gave me about 6 more hours to try and get my body moving.

We checked into my labor room, which was very nice. I started having some regular contractions. They hurt but nothing too wild. When I wasn't having contractions or peeing green stuff, I was constantly moving to try and stimulate labor. I looked like a serious mall walker making laps around that hospital wing. After about three hours,  I started to get anxious. While my contractions were uncomfortable, I could tell they were not strong enough to make real progress. I knew my body was still in the early stages of labor. I called my friends, Summer Anderson and Summer Petty, who prayed with me over the phone that if it was God's will, my labor would progress so that I could proceed without intervention.

About three hours later, around 7 pm, Candyce came in and checked me again. I can still remember crying because it hurt so bad. I can't remember if I was still a 2 or had moved to a 3 or 4, but regardless, all signs showed not much had changed. Candyce told me she wanted to induce me. I was really heartbroken, but I agreed. In retrospect, I wish I had asked more questions. Our labor class  provided us with great conversation guides for how to make sure you understand all your options, but I didn't even think of all that stuff. I think the risk of infection because my membranes had been ruptured so long was not actually the main concern. I wish I'd asked what was the main concern. I think it was the meconium that concerned them the most, and that was why they wanted to induce after those 18 hrs. I did not research meconium aspiration beforehand and had no idea how serious it could be. I also didn't ask. If there were no meconium involved, I don't see why I couldn't have labored at home longer, not coming in until things had progressed further, even if it was 24 hours or longer after my water broke. The risk of infection would have been basically nil at home. But either way, I was there at the hospital and I just took my midwife's word for it. I trusted that she had my best interest at heart and just went with it. Next time, even though the outcome might have been the same, I will ask more questions and understand better my options.

SO, blah blah blah. I didn't get pitocin right off the bat. Instead I got this pill that is supposed to jump start things, then wear off in about 4 hours. We were hoping my body would kick in and pick up from there. At this time, my labor got stronger and more painful. I had to get strapped to some super annoying belt monitor thing. This bulky, heavy plastic box  attached to a stretchy belt and kept track of the baby's heart beat. It was uncomfortable the way it dug into my skin and since my belly was so big it kept sliding around and had to be repositioned all the time. It also meant I had to stay tethered to the monitor and had to stay in one corner of the room by my bed. (I could take it on and off to go to the bathroom.) So I walked little circles in my room and bounced around in between contractions, which were stronger now.

Prepared in my hospital bag I had: essential oils of lavender (for pain) and peppermint (for nausea). I also brought a wipes warmer and washcloths so I could soak the cloths in water and oil and use them as warm compresses. I mostly ended up sniffing the oils. I also had my iPod with a labor playlist of inspiring Christian songs, a long list of Bible verses, some art I had drawn to encourage me through labor, and some sheets with pictures of different labor positions. I also had a birth ball Candyce brought me. Standing and bending forward over the edge of the bed while while reading verses and squatting down while leaning my back against the ball, which was against the wall, while sniffing my oils helped the most.

I guess it was around midnight that they checked me again and I was only at a 4. Candyce said this wasn’t enough, and I had to get on a pitocin drip. I didn’t ask questions. I had been awake for about 24 hours at this point and I was tired. I was still having meconium fluid and it was getting darker, which I think meant the baby was continuing to have more bowel movements. Pitocin meant I was on an IV drip on a little cart. I was couldn’t walk the halls so I walked the little square in my room. I was still trying to help labor along! Most of what I had read prior to childbirth indicated that most women who get induced with pitocin end up getting an epidural, which I really didn't want. I told both Tanner and Candyce that I wanted to labor without medication after receiving the pitocin.

Long hours with little progress make husband very sleepy.
I did labor for a  while with the pitocin drip for a short while, but labor started to pick up almost immediately and move more quickly. My body didn’t have much time to adjust to the pain, so it was very intense for me. I also was very, very tired. I was doing pretty good with my pain coping, though, as long as I could get into certain positions. The only position that helped ease the pain were to stand and lean over the side of the bed or get up on the bed, get on my knees, and lean over the top of the bed, which was folded up into a sitting position. But, the baby’s heart rate dropped too low several times during contractions while I was in those positions. They told me I had on my side to stabilize the baby, and if its heart rate picked back up after a half an hour or something, I could start moving around again. Being forced to lay motionless on my side during the contractions was excruciatingly painful and because I wasn't able to move around to ease the pain, I felt very helpless and afraid. I began panicking and screaming and crying during each contraction. All the mental pain-coping methods I had learned went out the window, and I was extremely frantic. I had no idea how I could tolerate this pain – which had skyrocketed from a moderate to extreme level in a matter of a half an hour – any longer while lying still in the fetal position, and I started to feel even more afraid, especially knowing my body had a long way to go.

 I was freakin' out, y'all.

Tanner was with me this whole time, supporting me every step of the way. I think he left once to get something to eat from a vending machine. I began considering an epidural and told Tanner and Candyce. Candyce said it might not be a bad idea. She thought I had been awake for a loooong time and my body needed a chance to rest before it would progress. Tanner was so good and tried to talk me out of it. Which I love him for. All during my pregnancy, I had preached to him how I believed an epidural was not best for mommy and baby and that I really didn’t want one. I said he should try to encourage me not to get one if I say I want one. But my pain was so intense, I was so tired, and honestly, I was so confused and a little disillusioned with the turn all these events had taken. In that space and time, I truly wanted an epidural FOR REAL. When he kept asking me, “Are you sure? I’m worried you’re going to regret it. You don’t want one,” I got worried that HE was going to be disappointed in me if I did get one! I was emotional and crying. Finally I convinced him it was what I really wanted. He still seemed unsure, and I was afraid he didn’t support me. Really, he was just doing what I had asked him to do all along. It was a big emotional mess and finally we all agreed I would get an epidural.

Ugh. This is making me tired just typing it all. So I'll wrap up the rest of the story and my reflections on the whole experience next time. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Birth Story - Part One

I  had birth plans. Lots of them. 

 None of them happened.

Well, except the whole getting the baby out of my belly part. That happened. Which is the most important part of said plan. So in that way, all's well that ends well.

The Plan

I dreamed of a birth without medical intervention – a natural childbirth that occurred without induction, pain medication, or surgical procedures. I decided on this because I thought it would be best for ME and MY baby. (You might feel differently for you and your baby. That's great!) I felt it was the healthiest option for us both and it fit into my ideals about birthing as a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey and rite of passage. I also thought that a childbirth that forced me to cope with my pain would cause me to trust in and rely on God in a way that no other experience could.

My birth went differently than I had planned in almost every way. Ironically, for this very reason I was forced to rely on God in a different and possibly more difficult (for me, the control freak) way than I had originally imagined.

I chose the UNTHealth Nurse-Midwives as my health care providers. I strongly considered a home birth, but based on some stories from friends who had to transfer to hospitals from home and because of some concerns Tanner had, I decided the Nurse Midwives were a great option. They are six women who practice traditional midwivery, but in the setting of a hospital. You can even have a water birth. However, if something goes wrong or if you decide you want medical intervention, you are already there in the hospital. Because she is also a nurse, your midwife, who you have spent the last nine months building a bond of trust with, can continue to be your health care provider. She can even scrub in and assist if you need a C-section. I was comforted knowing that if I needed medical intervention I wouldn't have to be handed over to people who didn't support or understand my desires for my birth experience.

I remember praying with Tanner in the waiting room before our meet-and-greet appointment with the Nurse Midwives and asking for God to confirm whether he wanted us to partner with these women and trust our baby's birth and my birth experience to them. The confirmation I felt during our meeting was so overwhelming. Turns out, a home birth would have been disastrous anyway considering that at the time Ailee was born, our home was in complete, floor-ripped-out renovation mode. Sawdust and nail guns shouldn't be part of anyone's birth plan, unless you're planning on giving birth to Pinocchio or something.

During my prenatal care, I worked with my midwives to make important decisions about the baby's impending birth. They were on board with all my hopes. The book I read to prepare for birth was Birthing From Within, which I recommend if you are wanting a natural childbirth. It's super tree-hugger-ish and earth-mother-ish, but it is a great preparation tool. I also took a child birth class based on Birthing From Within led by an amazing woman, Natalie Meek at Labor With Love, who took many concepts of the book and adapted them to fit them into a Christ-centered perspective. God used her as a great tool to prepare and soften my heart because when I was so rigid about my natural-childbirth dreams and philosophies, she gently reminded me that while those goals were wonderful and I should pursue them, whatever decisions I had to make to get my baby here safely and healthily were ones that could be celebrated. I was not a failure if the birth went down a path other than the one I had so carefully scripted. I needed that message in my heart. 

The Birth Begins, Sort of

My water broke at 1:00 am on June 19th, two days before my due date. This still impresses me because one of the Midwives said she thought I would not be too late or too early, but right on my due-date, give or take a couple days. Cue Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

It took me a while to realize my water had broke (Is that even correct grammar?) because I hadn't experienced any contractions yet. I woke up in the middle of the night, went to the bathroom, and when I swung my leg up to get back in bed, some fluid came out. TMI, but I had been having a little bit of incontinence in the late stages of pregnancy, so I chalked it up to that. I changed my underwear and got back in bed.

A lot of tossing and turning ensued, followed by some more fluid, another clean set of XXXXL granny panties and about 10-15 frantic minutes on my iPhone Googling the crap out of "how do I know if my water broke?" When I got up to go to the bathroom again, I had another large gush of clear fluid. I did a bunch of bizarre stuff like smelling the fluid and taking PH tests before I finally decided my water had broke and called the midwives. I know it seems dense, but I was so confused because I'd had no labor. Everything I'd read said only 10% or less of women experience their water breaking before labor starts.

Yay for being the 10%.

The Midwife on call said it sounded like my membranes had ruptured, and she encouraged me to stay at home and labor until my contractions were consistently close together and strong. I'd never get to labor at home, though.

I filled Tanner in on what was going on. I was never really able to go back to sleep after that. I mostly laid in bed and looked up stuff on the Internet. The longer I waited with no labor, the more confused and anxious I got. I also started noticing that the fluid (which was CONSTANTLY leaking from me) had a greenish tinge to it. Some more iPhone research gave me the suspicion that it was meconium staining, meaning that the baby had released a bowel movement into the amniotic fluid before birth. Another call to my midwife confirmed the likelihood of this. She didn't sound too concerned, though, and said to keep an eye on the darkness of the fluid, which at that time was a very light barely-there green.

At some point in the morning, I started having a surge of contractions close together and stronger than anything I had experienced up the that point. It was nothing compared to what I would feel later, but at that point, I didn't know what to expect! Everything Tanner and I had learned about the 5-1-1 rule (contractions are 5 minutes apart, one minute long, and last for one hour) went out the window. Being 45 minutes away from the hospital and having a friend who barely made it there in time to pop her little sucker out, Tanner was ready for us to GO! I called the after hours number, and while we waited to hear back, we got our stuff together, picked up my mom who was staying next door at our friend's house, and hit the road, JACK.

On the way, the Midwife called me back and said, "DO NOT COME TO THE HOSPITAL." It was too soon, and she was worried if I was there too early, I would not end up with the birth I wanted. We were all already in the car, though, and not wanting to waste the gas, we headed into town anyway for some health food. Since I couldn't fulfill the stereotype of the small-town girl having her water break in Walmart, ala Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is, I figured tottering around McDonalds with a larger-than-life maxi pad full of amniotic fluid while occasionally hunching over with small contractions as I ordered a sausage biscuit that would probably make it's reprise as I pushed my baby out was a close second.

Next we headed to the car vacuum station station to clean the truck out. I had a decent contraction there when I got out of the car, and when the attendant saw the whale grimacing in the parking lot, he decided to give us a coupon for a free car wash. Gold level. I never get gold level. Yay.

Next it was back home where we installed the car seat and took the dogs for a loooong walk. My "labor" had pretty much slowed to non-existent, so I hopped up on a step stool and started painting ceiling trim.

At 1pm, 12 hours after my membranes had ruptured, we called the midwives. I updated them on the situation, also letting them know that the green tinge in my fluid had gotten a little darker. They told us to come in.

As far as the story goes, I'll end it there for now and pick it up later. It's a long (30 hour +) story.

(All the photos, except for the disgusting one of me in my pink bra, are by Recollections Photography)

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