Monday, April 30, 2018

Preaching to Myself

I'm sitting in the backyard shed. In silence. Alone. And I'm not even sure where to start. This moment was a looong 9 months in the making, and I'm fairly certain it can/will end at any moment. But I wanted to sit here with my cupcake and my nettle tea and my thoughts, because I'm behind on my thoughts. I'm not sure I knew that was possible, but as someone who needs to deal with emotions by naming them and moving through them, I can tell you it's been pretty chaotic for me to not have time to sit in silence and reflect.

And I've been wanting to reflect on a lot of things lately. So it surprises me that today's reflections are on body image of all things, since these thoughts seemed to come a bit out of the blue. I've been organizing and putting away baby clothes and maternity clothes over the past few days, and even though it's nice to see my old clothes in my closet, the reality is that I won't be wearing most of them any time soon.

It's funny, because my 17-years-ago-self would be really focused on sizes and numbers right now. But let me take a minute here: 17 years ago. Every time I think about this, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that the peak of my anorexia is now half a lifetime away from me. My past self never even fathomed all of the fullness that life beyond recovery held, and my present self is moved beyond words by the ways in which God pulled me from the muck and mire and set me on solid ground.

So anyway, it's hard to name what I'm feeling right now. I experienced a lot of freedom and healing in my pregnancy with Noah and the subsequent postpartum recovery I went through. I was in physical pain every day, and I felt like my body had come this far only to betray me. It took a lot of time and money and work and tears to move beyond that. But aside from the pain and physical recovery, there was also the ever-present bodily recovery in the sense of recognizing who I saw in the mirror. Just like the weight gain curve in pregnancy, I learned that my body had its own weight loss curve postpartum, and that I really couldn't comfortably and safely impact the progression that happened.

I gained 30 pounds in 38.5 weeks of pregnancy with Noah, lost 15 pounds (7lbs 8.7oz of that was a bouncing baby boy) within a few days of delivery, and pretty much hung out there for 7-8 months. I lost maybe 5 pounds around that point, another 5 pounds after 14-15 months when Noah started sleeping through the night, and another 2-3 pounds when we weaned at 26 months. For much of the first year with Noah, I was run into the ground. I've talked about this plenty of times before, with the house under construction, the colic, the pain, the postpartum anxiety, the sheer sleeplessness, the anemia, the fatigue. I was trying to work out and take care of myself, but I was not quite sure what that really meant and it took quite a while to find a new normal.

Before getting pregnant with Rosie, I was still technically hanging onto the last 3-5 pounds, but as I told a friend, I really had neither the time, nor money, nor f*cks to give at that point. I was happy and comfortable and active. I was a little softer than before (literally and figuratively), but I fit into most of my old clothes and I was mostly just so grateful for a body that allowed me to carry and birth a firework of a baby, to breastfeed him as long as I wanted to, and to carry him around and play with him and take long walks and snuggle at naps.

I gained 30 pounds in 38.3 weeks with Rosie, and again lost 15 pounds right away (7lbs 15.3oz of sweet baby included). But post-Rosie, getting "back into shape" hasn't really been a focus, in a good way. I was meticulous about physical therapy in pregnancy and postpartum since my first and foremost goal was to avoid another painful recovery if at all possible. I stayed on top of acupuncture and herbs. I focused on lots of nourishing and healing foods. And I'm grateful that purely focusing on replenishing and restoring has brought me this far. Physical recovery has been so different this time. I've been so grateful for that, I didn't really care about anything else. But the fact of the matter is, I sit here 9 months out a solid 15 pounds heavier than were I started 18 months ago, and much more... stretched out... than I was after the first baby. So yeah, the weather is warming up and I'm not wearing layers and sweaters and vests, and I'll be honest, I'm realizing it's been a while since I really evaluated the situation in the mirror.

I'm a bridesmaid in my brother's wedding in 4 weeks and I'm honored and psyched to be a part of their big day! But I took my dress to the seamstress this weekend and had to face the fact I'm also the mom to two babies on earth and two in heaven and I'm 5 years older than all the other (childless) bridesmaids. Let's be honest. I've lived a whole lot of life in those 5 years. Life that I'm grateful for and overwhelmed by and wouldn't trade for the world, but life nonetheless. And it shows.

It's hard for me to express this in a non-navel-gazing way: how I am so thankful for life right now and every single thing that brought me here, but how I also maybe wish I looked a little more familiar to myself. And that really is it. It's not about being a certain size or weight, but being at home with myself again. I've grown a little detached in the chaos of adjusting to two kids and getting through the long winter.

A friend recently shared her pregnancy news on a text chain with a few of us, and she was asking about weight gain. Everyone was sharing their stories, and I said, "I gained 30lbs on the dot for both of mine, but they were both 1-2 weeks early. With Noah I gained really rapidly in the first tri, then stalled in the second, then gained steadily in the third. With Rosie, I gained nothing in the first tri (so sick), gained really rapidly in the second, and then stalled a bit between 25-35 weeks. I panicked a bit both times because it wasn't a perfect linear progression. But your body does what it needs to do, and all you can do is eat as healthily as appetite allows, and be as active as you have the energy to be. Pregnancy and postpartum was/is redemptive for me in learning to trust how God made my body. With both kids, I lost 15 pounds right away, and the other 15 pounds seems to hang around for a good year. I'm in the middle of that now, but trusting and remembering that it goes away (fairly) easily when I start sleeping through the night again and having more energy during the day."

Really, though, other friends' answers were better for me to hear. Emily said that after having 4 babies, "I honestly feel more at home in my body even though it's a far cry from being in shape. After seeing the healthy humans I made, I see it in a much more positive light."

Alison's response stopped me in my tracks:

"I truly view my body differently since being pregnant and breastfeeding. Your body is literally giving life to another! That is so amazing! It definitely helps to put the gaining weight part of it into perspective. BUT it is still hard! And it's okay to feel those feelings of grief. Some seem to get right back to themselves after birth and that just wasn't me. I definitely hold onto weight while breastfeeding and my supply is very sensitive, so I couldn't make any big changes to my diet or activity level while nursing. I am done nursing [my second] and just now feel like I 'have my body back,' so to speak, after almost 4 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding.
They have been the most precious years and I obviously would not trade them for anything, but it doesn't mean that it's not hard to give that part of yourself up. But I'm learning, too, that that's motherhood! Giving of yourself over and over and over to your kids, but also finding time for self-care. And that looks different in every season. But in the early years I'm finding the 'giving up of yourself' is definitely heavy on the physical side! And I think the changes our bodies go through are kind of an outward representation of that sacrifice of our needs. But it's just a season."

I really loved her answer, and it gave voice to some of my thoughts about the giving of yourself. I feel like motherhood, for me, has really been a season of listening and learning and being patient. This is hard for me, as a verbal processor who likes to be bossy and know all the answers! But VERY slowly God is beginning to connect some of the dots for me. These body image thoughts have been rolling around for the past year and a half, ever since I got pregnant with Rosie, and they came full circle when I was listening to a podcast this morning and the conversation came around to body image in motherhood.

In the episode, Hannah Anderson says, 

"Again, we have to go back to this definition of humility, as recognizing and honoring the difference between God as God, and our identity as created, limited creatures who are dependent on Him. If we have that frame, and we move to talk about our bodies, it’s amazing to realize that one of the very things that defines the difference between us and a transcendent God, is our physical bodies.  
One of the catechisms that children often learn is, your God does not have a body. God is a spirit; He does not have a body. Even living within the boundaries of this physical flesh and bone is a limitation to begin with. Our bodies are our first reminder that we are not God. We fight this all the time, whether we’re skimping on sleep, or we’re skimping on food, or skimping on exercise, we’re essentially saying, “I don’t have to live within the boundaries of my physical body. I can live beyond them.” The first thing that humility teaches us about our body is that, it has been given to us to remind us of our limits. It is a walking, 24/7 reminder that we are not God. 
But Christ, when he entered human flesh, He also elevated and honored it, so there is no shame in our bodies. We feel the shame because we feel the limitations, and we press against those limitations. We look at our body, we feel them decaying and we feel them breaking down, and we are, quite frankly, embarrassed by them. We are ashamed of them in ways that God is not ashamed of them. Jesus Christ was not ashamed to carry human flesh.  
I find it fascinating that when He was raised from the dead, He was not ashamed to have marred flesh. He was not ashamed to carry the marks of love and sacrifice in His body. Again, this goes back to who are we listening to about our bodies? Jesus Christ is saying, “Your body is valuable and honoring and it’s been given to you to remind you of your limits, but also to make you dependent. It has been given to you to serve in sacrifice, and it’s going to carry marks.” That’s what Christ is telling us about our body. The world is telling us, “Your body is given to you to be a goddess. You are to transcend normal human limits...”  
At the root, there is essential conflict of, who we are going to listen to? Are we going to listen to culture around us that tells us a broken, limited body is a shameful thing? Or are we going to listen to the voice of Christ who says, “Come to me, I’ve got the same kind of body? And mine’s as messed up as yours is.” Not what the world is saying is beautiful, but high honor and value and love the things that the world does not love. So humility frees us, again like you said, takes that burden off, when we’re seeing our bodies the way God sees them. We don’t feel the weight that the world is putting on us for our bodies. 
[...]This has great potential for us to teach our children, and even our daughters, to honor what their bodies are, and will be. If you think about Christ coming back with wounds in His hands, it is these very wounds that He used to convince Thomas of His love, and to draw him to Himself. In many ways, whether we’re coming up in a swimsuit season, or whether we’re going to be outside more, and we can’t wear jeans and sweaters, all the time any more, we are going to be exposed. Yet it’s these very things that can be a connection, especially with our daughters to say, “Hey, this is where I carried you, this space.” ...Celebrating and honoring the same way Jesus said, “Come touch my hands. Come see it and believe that this was a good, valuable sacrifice. I am here and I did this for you.” We’re carrying a parallel kind of mark of sacrifice and love, and our children need to see that love embodied in us, rather than us shamefully covering and self condemning."

This really resonates with another podcast episode that I've been thinking about since I heard it last week. (Yeah I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I need a different soundtrack in my head aside from kids crying and my own self-condemnation and frustration! It's good for me to listen and let truth wash over me without having to engage in conversation, or be heard, or interrupted.)

In this episode, Gloria Furman reminded me, "God is ONE. He is triune and he is one. There's no disunity in the eternal counsel in the Godhead. So he's ordained, designed, called, equipped, strengthens you, holds you accountable, and rewards you... He is not in conflict with himself. God has ordained THOSE kids, THIS marriage, THAT home, THIS financial situation and budget, THESE challenges, your weaknesses and your strengths, and he expects you to depend on Him for everything you need. His grace is sufficient for you. And he will give you what you need to persevere in your faith through all of that."

With that, I just heard the back door slam and Noah's running across the yard with a snack in his hand. But these are truths that I will be coming back to again and again. Nothing goes out from God and returns back empty, so I can rest assured that even these extra 15 pounds hold a purpose. They remind me that I'm not God, that I need him daily, and he has me here for a purpose.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Imitation Hail Merry Bites

It's funny how I didn't really have cravings during my pregnancy with Rosie. Instead, I'll always associate certain foods with her first few months of life. When Noah started preschool in August, I'd grab a coconut milk latte from Starbucks on my way home, and enjoy it with some salted chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe's.

A few months later, I moved onto these Hail Merry bites because I was hungry so often, and they were a little sweet but also filling. When Rosie was in the hospital this winter, I ate a lot of gluten-free chocolate bundt cake from eCafe. Then, all hell broke loose and I'm not entirely sure how I've survived the past few months! But... spring is coming. The weather hasn't quite warmed up yet, but I'm craving these energy bites again!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites modified from this recipe:

1 cup almond flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs melted coconut oil
2 Tbs mini chocolate chips

Raw Chocolate Macaroons modified from this recipe:

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup almond flour
scant 1/2 cup coconut oil
4-5 Tbs cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

For both recipes, you just dump everything in the food processor and blend until it clumps together. Then roll them into balls and store in the fridge or freezer!

Now I just need to try my hand at imitating the delicious Hail Merry tarts...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Three Months and Finding a New Normal

I cannot believe Rosie is a three month old. The difference between 8 weeks and 12 weeks is so drastic! I no longer have a newborn, but an awake, alert, wiggly little baby. I'm surprised at some of the newborn things I'd forgotten: those early days when they can't even purposefully move their arms so sometimes they just hang down at their sides while the baby stares into your eyes. Can you imagine not being able to control anything but your eyes or your cries? Their sweet trust and vulnerability gets to me every time.

Then we hit that fun stage where Rosie found her arms overnight, and any time we laid her on her back for about two weeks, she would just have her arms straight up in front of her, waving those little fists around, in awe that they've apparently been there the whole time. Then she spent a few days grabbing her shirt and kind of pulling it away from her body, as she experimented with what her arms could do. And now those chubby little fists have found their way to her mouth, and she's a drooly, slobbery little puddle who is trying her darnedest to sit up on her own. She's solidly in her 6 month clothes now, and it's so hard to remember that she's still a pretty tiny baby on the inside. Slow down, baby!

It's so fun to learn her different cries, too. The "pay attention to me" cry, the "I'm so tired, why aren't you putting me to bed" cry, the "I'm hungry" cry, the "I'm ticked" cry... and they're all just so so sweet. It breaks my heart that Noah mostly had an "I'm in pain" cry thanks to his reflux. The perils of being the oldest child-- I just didn't know what I didn't know when he was little! I hate that he had to suffer through that, and I will always mourn the "typical" newborn experience that he and I missed out on. But I love that we had so much Mama/Noah time to bond and connect as he got older. It's so interesting doing all of this newborn mothering the second time around. It gives me a chance to do things differently, but I'm also learning that babies themselves are so different right off the bat, and much of it (LIKE SLEEP) isn't a reflection of me as a parent.

Today I did my first postpartum Barre3 workout. I got cleared for exercise and physical therapy at 6 weeks, although I was taking 2-3 mile walks with the double stroller a few times a week starting around 4-5 weeks, because toddlers who don't want to nap in their beds are more apt to nap in the stroller! (It was kind of a bummer to come home with two well-rested kids while I, meanwhile, was exhausted and sore and all kinds of sweaty. But rested kids are WORTH IT.)

Sadly, those walks have fallen by the wayside in the past few weeks, as sleep patterns and weather patterns change. I'm reminding myself over and over again that change is the only constant in these early days. And I'd say I've been riding with it pretty well and giving myself a lot of grace up until the last week or two. I'm starting to crave routine, schedules, some semblance of normalcy. Even though Rosie isn't colicky (praise the Lord), she's still a baby! Sometimes she doesn't like to fall back asleep after eating at 3am. Sometimes she doesn't want to close her tired little eyes during Noah's rare afternoon naps. She still has witching hour when she's overtired in the evening. We still can't manage to all sit down to dinner together.

Everything changes at such a rapid pace right now, that a routine that worked well one week doesn't even begin to work the next week. I'm still figuring things out day by day. Don't even get me started on the toddler wanting to get out of the house, and the baby no longer falling asleep willy nilly while we are out and about. As with Noah, that 4-6 week developmental leap caught me by surprise with Rosie. My cuddly little newborn suddenly had opinions and didn't want to sleep all day every day. I found that right when the meal train ended and people stopped treating me like a freshly postpartum mom, is when I almost needed more support. The world thinks you're over it, but you're still recovering AND now your baby doesn't want to sleep all day AND your toddler is thoroughly sick of being home-bound. It's a rough transition.

But now we've kind of muddled our way through that. Rosie is showing signs of maybe wanting to be on a schedule, so I'm trying to figure out a good balance of getting out versus staying in. I'm crazy grateful that leaving the house and abandoning the ideal routine doesn't send me into a panic like it did when I was a first-time mom, but let's be real: it's still stressful and I'd prefer not to do it. And I'm starting to see that Noah needs some concrete interaction with me when we do stay home, because expecting him to entertain himself all morning doesn't cut it.

So here we are, in the in-between. I feel more normal, but I don't look normal and I can't fit into my old clothes. I crave balanced meals, quiet alone time, and exercise, but I can't quite make it a reality when I'm needed from 5:30am-9pm, and usually at least once or twice beyond that, too. I am a mom to a three year old and a mom to a three month old, but I'm not sure how to be both at once. And even in this season-between-seasons, I have to make myself stop and pause, because it's so so beautiful, and I don't want to wish it away. As Lisa-Jo Baker says, "mothers never want it to be over. Even the hard stuff. They may want it to stop. They may want to find room to breathe, to weep, to panic. But they don't want it to end-- this delivering, shaping, cheering, loving, bringing life into the world."

My hands are full, but so is my heart.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On the Eve of 6 Weeks

It's funny, I felt so sane and present the first few weeks after we brought Rosie home, and swore my memories would be crystal clear, but now it's already all a blur. I cannot believe my sweet little newborn is going to be 6 weeks old tomorrow. The past two weeks, she's been much more awake and alert, she gains more head control every day, she's tracking with her eyes and thinking about reaching for things with her hands, and she's even rolled over once! I swear I got some intentional smiles in the first two weeks, but I can tell we are really close to seeing some social smiles now, and I can't wait.

In the meantime, I don't know how to handle the 6 week milestone. This is probably further exacerbated by the fact that I'm pretty sure sister is pushing 12 pounds already. She doesn't look like a  newborn! The passage of time is always so bittersweet. The first few weeks, I just love telling people, "oh, she's 2... 3... 4 weeks old" when they ask. Those first few golden weeks pass like pearls threaded on a chain. So perfect and unique and individual. But then around weeks 5 and 6, they start to blur together. Time speeds up. And as much as it makes me want to cry, I know that in no time, the weeks will be scattered around me like beads spilling onto the floor. Each one rich with history, but in a hurry to pile on top of each other in a chaotic mess.

I was so intentional about my postpartum experience this time, which is another post on its own. But I'd seen so much about really protecting the first 40 days and making recovery a priority. I did really well for the first 3 weeks. Less well for the second three weeks. And now that the 40 days have passed, now what?

I feel like the world was ready for me to be back on my feet by 2-3 weeks. For the most part, I was able to avoid that temptation, but now it's harder to say no. I see two lactation clients this week because we desperately need the money for all of our hospital bills. I'm feeling silly turning down playdate invitations, even while I worry about my friendships moving on without me. While I struggle to grasp the fleeting days of babyhood, the world spins on and I'm starting to get overwhelmed!

So I sit here trying to burn present scenes into my memory: the way Rosie's eyes flutter as she's falling asleep. The delicious rolls on her legs. The little routine we have where she cluster feeds at 5, 6:30, and 8pm and then sleeps until 2:30am, and then goes back to sleep until brother's morning shenanigans cause her to stir. Her sweet little smell. The way she stretches when she first wakes up. The way she trusts me implicitly. The way Noah reports: sister's crying, sister's bless-you-ing (sneezing), sister's hungry again!

Every day I fail in a million ways, but I hope my babies always know how much I love them, how intensely I want to be present for their early days, and how much I need Jesus to fill in the gaps when I fail to meet my own expectations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Recipes I Want to Make: Late Summer Edition

Here are some recipes that I've had hanging out on my phone for the past few weeks. But let's be honest... I'm not going to be raring to go in the kitchen for a little while still. So in the meantime, I'll dream of these dishes!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart-- after feeling apathetic about chocolate for most of pregnancy, peanut butter with a little bit of chocolate sounds so good now!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls-- I've made and bought a lot of energy ball type treats over the years, but the Hail Merry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites I tried recently are possibly the best yet. This is supposed to be a copycat recipe, and I can't wait to try it.

Key Lime Pie-- I was talking about the Florida Keys recently, and it made me crave a trip to the ocean. Maybe making this would be the next best thing?

Cherry + Almond Butter Caramel Bars-- Cherries have been soooo good this season!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Breakfast Cookies-- I actually do need to make these soon. I've been eating lots of oatmeal muffins and breakfast cookies for breakfast lately because they're just so easy, and oatmeal is good for milk supply!

Lemon Bundt Cake-- I haven't ventured into from-scratch gluten free cake-baking too much, but this looks like a good place to start!

S'mores Icebox Cake-- seriously looks like summer in a bowl.

Brownie Icebox Cake-- because summer is the only time of the year when I don't mind eating cold food.

Blackberry + Chocolate Ganache Cake

Coconut + Almond Flour Banana Bread-- this cooler weather makes me feel like fall baking is already upon us!

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee-- I actually have made this a few times, and it's my favorite version thus far. (I don't dilute it as much as they say to, though.)

Crispy Salmon Burrito Bowls-- I'm not ONLY craving desserts right now. This bowl sounds phenomenal!

Blackberry Basil Smash Sandwiches-- I actually think these would still taste pretty good in a GF/DF version, with either Kite Hill Cream Cheese or Myokos Creamery Mozzarella for the cheese and Kim & Jake's artisan sandwich loaf for the bread!

Vegan Caprese Panini-- perfectly in season right now!

How to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts-- I always need new ideas for chicken!

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Tomato Salad-- sounds like a nice change from typical BBQ menus.

Asian Beef and Cabbage-- for something different.

21 Chicken Breast Recipes Made for Meal Prep-- I want to be better at meal prep this year, so evenings are more calm around here!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

39 Weeks: The smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones

Once again, I find myself belatedly writing and post-dating my 39 week "pregnancy update" with a birth story. And once again, labor was nothing like I expected. Having been through it once, I thought  I knew how things would go. Rationally, I knew it wouldn't be exactly the same as last time, but I figured it would essentially be a sped up version. As the due date drew closer, I started having some anxiety about when exactly to consider labor "started," when to call for childcare help, when to go in to triage, etc. I had heard too many stories of second labors going incredibly quickly.

I had my 38 week appointment scheduled on a Tuesday, when I was technically 38.2. It was so hot that day, but I was DOING it. I'd nearly made it through the hottest summer we'd had in years, with a baby in my belly and a toddler in tow-- and the end was near! It's funny, with Noah I was NOT ready to be done being pregnant. I think God was gracious to me this time in making pregnancy much... less enjoyable. This time, all the sickness in the first half and all the discomfort in the second half made it easier to look forward to the day baby would be on the outside. Granted, I still miss a lot of things about being pregnant: the big kicks, all the sweet little wiggles that only I could feel, the belly that made all my clothes look cute, the comments from well-intentioned strangers, the ability to nap when my toddler napped. I do miss those things terribly in hindsight. I knew that I would, but as always you can't truly know until you're there. And now I know.

And now I know I was much more physically uncomfortable than I thought at the end, because the relief of not having a 7 pound 15 ounce baby in my belly was nearly instantaneous. But also, now knowing what I know about being a mom, the love was nearly instantaneous, too. The transition from one body to two still mystifies me beyond my ability to comprehend the magnitude of the miracle. I know its the same baby in there the whole time, but seeing their face for the first time is a whole new world of connection that you don't get even in the most intimate moments of pregnancy.

When I was binge watching Call the Midwife during one of my many illnesses over the winter, this quote stood out to me, "When a child is born, the world is altered in an instant. A new voice is heard, new love comes into being. Years later, we pause and say, 'Yes, that's when it all began, on that day in that room when I saw that face.' Birth is the smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones." I especially love that both of my babies were born on a Wednesday afternoon in room 3612, both with Vanessa as my doula and Jeane as my Midwife, and Ross as my biggest support, getting his hands squeezed off during the final, most painful contractions.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. I had Ross meet Noah and me at the Midwife's office that Tuesday. I wanted to talk through our plans for when labor started. I also had the Midwife check me, even though I know it means nothing (spoiler alert: now I REALLY know it means nothing)! But I thought, at least if I know I'm already dilated to 3-4cm, I have ZERO time to waste when contractions start. However, I was still just at 1cm and maybe 60% effaced. Essentially unchanged from 36 weeks. AND my Braxton-Hicks had even slowed down in the past week. So I left that appointment feeling really calm. Almost like I'd bought myself another week of pregnancy or something. I made plans to swim laps that weekend and finish the thank-yous from my baby shower. I also texted my Aunt Karen three different contingency plans based on our discussion with the Midwife. My aunt lives about 35 minutes away, and she was our top choice for watching Noah when labor started. Plan A was for her to come to our house when contractions kicked in. Plan B, if labor started at 7 or 8am, was for us to drop Noah off at his friend Alex's house on our way to the hospital, and my aunt would get him there after morning rush hour. Plan C was for us to meet my aunt at the hospital, with Noah in tow.

Plan D, apparently, was for my water to break and NOTHING to happen. Tuesday evening, a mere 5 hours after leaving the Midwife's office with new peace of mind, my water broke out of nowhere, with nary a contraction in sight. Not only did we have time for my aunt to make her way to our house, we also had time to eat dinner, tuck Noah in, take a short walk, AND greet my mom after her three hour drive from Omaha! Six hours after my water broke, I still wasn't having contractions-- just some uncomfortable cramping. Per the Midwife's recommendations, we headed into the hospital for intermittent monitoring overnight.

Now, this shook me up. It was perhaps less stressful than waiting for my aunt to arrive through painful contractions and precipitous labor, but it was incredibly stressful to me, given that it wasn't even in the realm of possibilities in my mind. I'd done this before: started labor on my own and progressed entirely normally and naturally. Why on EARTH would my body not remember how to do this a mere three years later?!

I don't know that I even really let my guard down to weep about it, but I should have. It might have made the long night less unpleasant. Instead, I held it all in with only occasional tears of frustration slipping out. Our wait in triage was anticlimactic and I was antsy to get into a room. But then the labor bed was shockingly uncomfortable-- clearly not made for sleep. And being monitored for 20 minutes out of every hour made sleep nearly impossible. Ross slept from about 0200-0500 in a nearby chair, and I slept-ish for about 20 minutes around 0400, I think. In hindsight, I should've just asked for continuous monitoring so the nurse wasn't coming and going every 30 minutes, but I craved those last few intervals of freedom. I knew that once the pitocin started (because even when we left our house, I knew it was WHEN and not IF they needed to start pitocin), I WOULD be on the monitor continuously. Until then, I wanted to walk down the hallway unhampered, with my hand on my belly, and feel those sweet kicks just a few more times.

At 0525 Wednesday morning, I took a lonely, tearful, bittersweet lap around the maternity floor, trying to wrap my head around what was to come. Sarah, the Midwife on call, came to check on me right after that walk. She'd been texting me through the night, which was a great comfort when I otherwise felt pretty alone and confused. I'm so grateful to her-- and to the fact that we used to work together at New Birth Company. Otherwise I certainly wouldn't have been texting with her like any old friend. But it was comforting to do that and not have to go through the answering service or the L and D nurses. She checked me and said that a night of cramping, walking, and tossing and turning had maybe nudged me to a 2-3cm and 80%. I think that was optimistic, given that an hour previous, the nurse had said I was still at a "loose 1cm." BUT this check got things moving a bit. More importantly, Sarah sat down and prayed with us, that God the Good Mechanic would give us peace that He knows how my body works, and that He is in control. We loved that.

Then Sarah went home and they had to monitor me for an hour before starting pitocin-- I actually started having some minor contractions during that hour. Then they started "a whiff" of pitocin at 0715 (2gtts/hour) and I think I tried to rest and do some Bible study for a bit. Romans 15:13 really stood out to me for the last few weeks of pregnancy, and while I was waiting for labor to start: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you amy overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit." (Made more poignant by the fact that Hope, along with Anne and Rose, was one of our top name choices.)

They turned the pitocin up to 4gtts/hour around 0830, and at 0850 I texted my doula, Vanessa, "contractions are such that I'd be paying attention if I were at home." They weren't really painful yet, but they felt like actual contractions with a start and stop time, compared to just cramping.

Basically right after that text, Vanessa walked into the room and I was SO happy to see her! With Noah, we were escorted from the office to L and D and were never alone in the room thereafter-- it was a crazy 4 hours from 6cm to delivery, and my Midwife and doula were there the whole time. This time, we had to hurry up and WAIT which was unnerving. I'm so grateful we opted for a doula again, because once we saw her, she never left our sight until baby was born. Jeane, my Midwife, came in at some point in the morning, maybe when I was first getting into the tub? But then she left again for clinic, which was a little disheartening.

That first hour with Vanessa, I bounced on a birth ball and we chatted, I snacked, it was all pretty good. But things picked up QUICKLY after that. I don't think they ever turned the pitocin up again, and in fact at some point I think they turned it off, but once contractions started they were immediately painful! At the time, I thought it was because of the pitocin, but Sarah reminded me that I'd been awake all night, so I was already tired and my threshold was probably a bit lower. Then at my 2 week postpartum appointment, Jeane reminded me that I was contracting for my ENTIRE labor without a cushion of amniotic fluid! Last time my water didn't break until 7cm, which was a whole different ballgame! This time I didn't really get to ease into them. But just like last time, the tub felt incredible.

Laboring in the tub was good, but the intensity was still a little unnerving. Last time I remembered having these glorious breaks in between contractions, but this time they felt much closer together from the get-go. Last time, I made a labor playlist but didn't even get it out of my bag. This time, I had nothing prepared, but thankfully I'd charged and brought my old phone and we turned on my Worship playlist. The only songs I really remember hearing are "Lay My Burdens Down," which was really meaningful to me at this exact time last year, and "Good, Good Father" which was really meaningful to me the year before, when I was battling PPD while trying to wrap my head around a surprise pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. The other song I took note of was, "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," which is a bit of a Christmas song in my head, but is a good reminder of how powerful God is. Of course, even the details of my little labor wouldn't escape him. He'd always known how this would go, and he had a reason for it.

Once I got out of the tub, I have no concept of time. I'm so curious to see Vanessa's timeline when she does my postpartum home visit, because it all starts to blend together for me. I just remember being anxious because everyone said I was getting close, yet the Midwife was nowhere to be seen, so how could I be THAT close? And if I wasn't THAT close, I couldn't possibly continue at this level of intensity. Even when she did get there to check me, I remember saying, "If I'm not at least 8cm, I want an epidural." I was only at 7cm when she checked me! I was devastated until Vanessa reminded me that I'd essentially gone from something like 3cm to 7cm in two hours, which might explain why it felt so miserable. But still, I was disheartened. I was laying in bed by that time, and I just felt overwhelmingly fatigued between every contraction. Like if they'd been even a little farther apart, I could've taken a cat nap then and there. Instead, they kept coming and coming and I swore I did NOT remember labor hurting this bad, and that I wanted an epidural next time, since clearly no one was going to take my request seriously this time. (Disclaimer: I had the baby less than an hour after asking for an epidural, so my birth team wasn't being cruel and ignoring me. They simply knew that I didn't actually have time to get an epidural that would do me an ounce of good.)

Probably less than 20 (miserable, nauseating, light-headed) contractions after saying that, I felt the urge to push, which I never really had last time. As with pregnancy, I know God was there in that moment: instead of being in denial and afraid to actively move to the next stage, I was beyond READY to be done with labor and to have that baby in my arms! So push I did.

And then suddenly, it was over, and she was here. Our sweet summer Rose. She stayed in my arms while I got stitched up, and I was unbelievably glad to be holding her. After it was all said and done, Jeane told me that baby sister had a true knot in her cord. She let me look at the placenta, and I untied that slippery knot with one hand while holding my healthy baby in the other and whispering a prayer of thanks for her safety.

In hindsight, even the PROM and the need for pitocin (therefore continuous monitoring) was a gift from God for my anxious heart. True knots can lead to fetal distress and even fetal demise in labor. Since I was monitored for every minute of active labor, we know that the baby handled it like a champ, for which I'm unbelievably grateful! (Grateful for both the knowledge, and the fact that she handled everything without distress.)

(It's funny, I actually did have some anxiety about nuchal cords and true knots mid-pregnancy. I spent a week or so visualizing the baby untangling herself as she flipped head-down. And once she seemed to settle head-down I was less worried about it. But I did ask at my 37 week appointment if nuchal cords or true knots could be seen on ultrasound. Jeane said maybe, but what would you do about it? Also at that appointment, I said it felt like one or both of baby's hands were above her head, and Jeane said she'd likely move them before birth. Except she came out with her left hand saluting us, which may explain the fact that my contractions didn't start when my water broke. Hand-above-head isn't terribly conducive to good positioning. Finally, Jeane asked me at that appointment if this baby felt bigger or smaller. Even though I gained exactly 30 pounds with both kids, I said this one felt bigger. Sure enough, she was almost half a pound bigger even though she was two days earlier than Noah was! It's nice to know my intuition was correct all along!)

We asked for permission for early hospital discharge once we got to postpartum. We'd already spent one night in the hospital before she came, so spending two more felt like a lot. That being said, the one night we did spend with Rosie (well, "baby sister" because we hadn't chosen a name yet) was really sweet. Per our doula's recommendation, we actually didn't set an alarm for feedings that night. All I had to do was sleep, feed a baby, and sleep some more. She woke herself up every 3-4 hours, let out one cry, and waited for me to get her out of the bassinet. She'd nurse for 20-30 minutes and fall immediately back to sleep. It was glorious, and the postpartum bed even felt comfortable after a night in a labor bed! I'm so happy we get so experience those newborn wiggles, sighs, snuggles, and smells again!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Third Trimester Reflections at 38 Weeks

It's really hard not to count down to 38.5 weeks, when Noah was born. I'm 38.1 weeks today and I went into labor at 38.4 with Noah. I have a feeling I'm going to go past that, yet I'm also making zero plans past Thursday. This week finds me really patient with Noah, nostalgic for my baby belly already, and a little bit stir-crazy. It's weird to have time to wrap stuff up, yet I don't quite have the energy to do so after the last few weeks ended up being so eventful! It's simply impossible to keep the house clean with a toddler on the loose, but I am slowly still organizing nooks and crannies and weeding through stuff that's always accumulating. I'd like to have a few solid hours to actually update pictures on the blog! I'm like 2+ years behind, and it feels like now or never! That's the only other big project left undone, though. It's weird to have clothes and diapers washed and folded. I even have the hospital bag mostly packed!

So, here are some reflections on this pregnancy. The past 9 months have felt like an eternity, yet gone by in the blink of an eye when I look at how much Noah has grown and changed! And of course, baby sister has gone from the size of a poppy seed to, well, the size of a 6.5+ pound baby!

Most exciting moment: 
Probably a tie between the positive pregnancy test on Thanksgiving morning, and the 20 week ultrasound. The positive test-- it's something I'll only see a very few times in my life, and there's nothing like all the promise that second line holds! The ultrasound-- it's when both babies really felt "real" to me, and I was able to start imaging all of this actually happening.

Most challenging moment: 
Gosh, I was simply not prepared for how awful I'd feel this time around, and I quickly understood why being pregnant with a toddler is even harder. We made it through! But there were so many days either when Noah was home that I felt like I neglected him a bit, or when he went to his once-a-week Parent's Day Out, and I was too sick to be at all productive with my elusive solo time.

One thing I'm proud of:
Last time, I totally would've said I was proud of my consistent workouts and the fact that I ate vegetables every day, even when I felt kind of gross. This time, wow. Probably both because of the loss between pregnancies, but also because of the fact that I have 3 years of mom-ming under my belt, I'm always humbled by how much is out of my control, and how little I can actually claim to be proud of. Not to mention the fact that I was so much sicker this time, and circumstances are just so different. So yeah, I'm proud I've worked out when I can. I'm proud that I somehow had the foresight to potty train Noah before getting pregnant again. I'm proud that I've really been utilizing the warmer weather to get out and spend time with Noah after a gross winter and spring. I'm proud of all the work I put into physical therapy, counseling, and self-care to make this pregnancy and postpartum (hopefully) much smoother! But mostly I'm just grateful for the good days, and aware that I can't take much credit for them.

One thing I wish were different:
I wish I'd made more time to go swim laps/get out of the house/hang out with friends in the evening before being tied down for a few months. Between Noah's sleep regression and Ross' work deadlines, that just hasn't been feasible. I also legitimately wish we could hire a housecleaner once a month. I realize that sounds spoiled, but with me being so sick, and so uncomfortable, it's been impossible to clean the floors regularly, and in a house with all wood floors, they get dirty like hours after cleaning them. Even someone who coming to mop the floors and scrub the bathtub once a month would be a huge luxury! Maybe someday.

Favorite foods:
Right now I'm craving sushi and a huge Chick-fil-a lemonade! But in general, food hasn't been my favorite thing this pregnancy, which is very unlike me!

Least favorite food:
Anything I make myself? Ha! We do eat at home so so much, but I'll confess I always jump at the chance to go out. I find that even though the nausea has mostly subsided, I am generally tired of the food/flavors by the time I'm finished cooking dinner and before we've even eaten!

Physical state: 
Today is the first day in a week or so that I've felt kind of normal. Yay for a reprieve! But generally feeling pretty heavy. My feet hurt when I stand up in the morning. They're not used to carrying this much weight! But I love love love the baby belly and wouldn't trade it for anything!

Mental state:
Oh gosh. It varies between exhausted, excited, and really really nervous about all the change that's coming.

One thing that surprised me: 
How different my pregnancies would feel. I'm also surprised at how much Noah seems to "get it." He asks a lot of good questions, and it blows my mind! "How will my baby sister get out?" "Why is she upside down?" "Where are her toes? Where are her eyeballs? Will she have teeth when she comes out? Can she eat ___ (insert whatever food Noah is eating at the time)? When you eat, does she eat?"

Looking forward to: 
Meeting the baby, of course. I'm almost more excited for that this time around, since now I know how fun it is it to get to KNOW a tiny human! I'm also really curious to see how/when labor plays out. We had a great experience with Noah, but I hear second babies come faster and I can't afford to be in denial for the first 75% of my labor, especially when toddler childcare is a factor! It's also hard to imagine my labor story going any differently than it did the first time, although I know logically there's no way everything would/could play out exactly the same way. So, we wait. And pray for a safe delivery!