Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Astrid loves the rain.

Yesterday morning, before the daily rumbling of sleepy feet on the stairs, I laid in my bed watching a light misting of rain outside my window. I knew my girl would be excited. But by the time she awakened and slipped under the covers next to me, the sprinkling had subsided. She snuggled close and whispered in my ear, "I think it might rain today Mama". "I think so, too, baby girl", I said, and turned to kiss her sweet pink cheeks.

Minutes later the rest of the tribe made their way down the stairs and the noise and chaos of a new day began. The sun poked through the smoky colored sky and all that was left of the shower was a sheen of moisture and a wet dog on the back porch.

Still, my girl hoped. Even when I told her that it looked like the storm had passed and that we were in for a beautiful day. I delivered this news with a cheerful smile meant to encourage her to rejoice in the silver lining burning the edges of her beloved gray clouds.

The big kids went about their morning chores and I busied myself with mine. As I emptied the dishwasher I heard a thumping behind me and turned to see Astrid appear around the corner of the kitchen in her two sizes too big rain boots. "I'm gonna wear these all day, Mama, because I think it's gonna rain". I smiled, told her I thought that was a fine idea, and went back to rinsing dishes.

With the sink finally emptied, I retrieved a load of laundry from the dryer, and headed toward my room to drop it off. On the way, I walked by our music room. The sunshine pouring in from the floor to ceiling windows glowed bright and strong on the walls. And there stood Astrid. With her pink flowered rain boots on her little feet, and her cheery floral umbrella in her hand. Her eyes were closed and in the sweet melody of her 4 year old voice I heard, "....just a little bit please, God....I'll wear my boots all day so I'll be ready when You send the rain..."

I stood in the room with her, surrounded by sunlight, and warmed by the heart of my child.

Her umbrella was already open. A representation of her faith.

It wasn't until I walked away that I was struck by her words.

So I'll be ready when You send the rain.

Maybe this is what it means to have "faith like a child".

To pray for rain even when the sun is shining.

And open your umbrella.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This post is a little late, but I wanted to include it as part of my new blog.
I was worried. I knew I was GBS positive (a bacteria that can possibly cause harm to a baby who comes in contact with it during birth). In a hospital a woman who is GBS positive (as many are) receives antibiotics during labor. Many believe that this may reduce the risk to the baby. I wanted a home birth. And now that was in jeopardy. I had a tough decision to make. Go to a hospital to have my baby and get the antibiotics, or stay at home and trust God to protect her. After much struggle, I chose to trust. I woke up one morning just days before my little girl arrived, overcome with fear that I had made a choice that would cause her harm. I locked myself in a room and prayed. I prayed for peace in my decision. I prayed for my baby and her health. And I prayed very specifically that my bag of waters would stay intact until the moment she was to be born, protecting her from the bacteria. In all of my previous births, my labor has continued for quite awhile after my water breaks. So, to me, this was a powerful expectation. Sunday evening, August 8th, we joined a group of friends at a local minor league baseball game. I knew I was a little out of sorts that night. I was restless, tired, and nauseated. I had been having irregular contractions that were just mildly uncomfortable for a few hours already, but I didn't think much of it. Practice contractions have always been plentiful in my pregnancies so I assumed that's all it was. During the baseball game the mild pains began coming every 5-8 minutes. I figured I was dehydrated and grabbed a cold bottle of water to make them stop. After all, I was only just 38 weeks pregnant, had never been "checked" or had any procedures to help things along...surely I wasn't going into labor two weeks early on my own. On the ride home from the game Justin, with a little smirk, told me that he was pretty sure I was in labor and I, with exhausted conviction, told him that I most certainly was not.
It was late, but we went through our regular bedtime routine, getting the kids into pajamas, brushing 5 sets of little teeth, and doing our family devotion. By the time we finished I was hardly able to drag myself into the bed. All I wanted to do was sleep off the nausea and get a good night's sleep. I went to bed at 10pm. Thirty minutes, and 5 contractions later, grumbling under my breath about how I was not going to be in labor when I was this tired, I turned on the TV in hopes of taking my mind off the surges gripping my midsection. Between the contractions and growing anticipation that this maybe, possibly, could be "it", I knew I wouldn't be getting much rest. At about 12:45am I finally fell into a very restless sleep. The contractions were still not hurting a lot, but they were getting more uncomfortable.

At 3:30am I couldn't lie in bed any longer, so I got into a hot shower. While in the shower, things picked up and my contractions got to be about 4 minutes apart. I began to think that it was time to stop trying to deny it. I was definitely in active labor. I left the shower and walked around the house, folded some laundry while I watched a little Glee on Hulu, and sat in the family room on the birthing ball, rocking and gently bouncing through the surges. At around 5am, when they became more painful and I could no longer distract myself with household chores, I decided to get back into the shower.

Justin got up about 6am and found me rocking and moaning in the shower, mentally entrenched in what was happening. It was clear by this time that this would be the day our sweet baby would arrive. Justin decided to start calling all the people who were planning to be here for the birth. I chose homebirth because it was important to me to give my baby the most natural, peaceful, and gentle birth possible. And I enjoyed the idea of having people I know and love surrounding me. Justin called our midwife first, but couldn't get a hold of her. He told my mom and our friends that I was in labor, but that they had a few hours to get here before the baby would come. At that point, the contractions still had not developed a pattern, they were anywhere from 3-8 minutes apart. I was convinced that this meant that I would be doing this all day. While I was still in the shower, Justin stripped the bed, put the mattress protector on, and covered it with fresh sheets.

In utter exhaustion, I decided to lie down on the bed. It wasn't comfortable, but I just didn't think I could continue to stand while my body was working so hard. While on the bed, I had 5 or 6 very intense contractions and Justin rubbed my back through them. Since lying down proved to both intensify the pain and make the contractions space out, I got back in the shower. I worked through a few more tough ones then decided to get into the tub. After two waterbirths I knew that I liked to labor there, but I had been spending as much time as I could out of the tub, hoping to let gravity do some work to bring the baby down. Before getting into the tub I decided I should stop for a potty break. Just steps away from the toilet, another hard contraction came on me and I leaned against the inside of the door to relax and work through it. Just then, a POP, and my water broke. At the same time as all this was happening, Justin had gone next door to ask our friend Jennifer to take the kids for a little while so I could have some quiet. He walked back through the bathroom for a second and I called out, "My water broke!" He peeked in, saw the wet floor, and said, "It sure did!" Usually, after my water breaks, I still have an hour or two of really intense labor. So that's what I was expecting. Justin walked back to the front door to help round up the kids for Jennifer to take them, and left me alone in the bathroom.

Just a few seconds after my water broke I felt the urge to push. I felt such a sense of relief and gratitude that my baby was going to come just as I had prayed for her to...as soon as my water broke! I was standing in the bathroom, on the tile floor, feeling her descend, knowing this was "the push" to get the head out, and there she was! Her head poked out and I put my hands around her and called for Justin, who didn't hear me. I waited for the next contraction, staring in awe at her squishy little face. When the pain came, I pushed again lightly, and caught her as the rest of her body slid out. The cord was around her neck so I unwrapped it and brought her to my chest. I called for Justin again and he still didn't hear me. I walked over to the tub, got in, and turned the water on to start warming her up. She was pink and beautiful, and we were all by ourselves. Just then, she let out her first little cry. Justin and Jennifer heard it and they and all the kids came running in. How shocked they were to see a baby in my arms! Jennifer wasn't sure what to do and called 911, since the midwife hadn't had time to get here yet. I told Justin to get the birth kit box and take out the bulb so I could suction her nose and mouth. I suctioned her and Jennifer came in, on the phone with 911, who had told her to tie a shoestring around the cord. It appeared to have stopped pulsating at that point, so Justin tied the string just minutes before the and the EMT's arrived. I told them we were fine, this was a planned home birth, and I would not be going to the hospital. The EMT asked if he could just cut the cord. He seemed to feel like he needed to do something, so I let him cut. After that, the guys sat back and just waited while I delivered the placenta. They had me sign a release of liability form, and they were on their way.

Justin started making calls to all the people who were already on their way to see the birth and told them it was done! In a flurry of excitement over the next hours, everyone arrived. At one point, including our family of 8, there were 21 people here! It was such a wonderful and beautiful time, the hours after her birth. With friends and family surrounding us, loving on us, laughing with us. My mom and my sweet friend Anne Marie, 9 months pregnant, stayed by my side for most of the day, sitting on the bed talking, listening, and helping.

I can't remember a time when it wasn't important to me to feel strong, unstoppable, empowered. It's just a part of who I am. I want to prove to myself that I can do anything. I had no idea the opportunity I would have to do just that in a way I never imagined. At 7:55 am, on Monday, August 9th, 2010, my baby girl made the journey from my womb to the world. She came in an unexpected, but absolutely perfect way and she and I, and our God who answered my most earnest prayers for this birth, were the only ones there to share it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This household is not for the faint of heart. It's not for the timid. It's not for the chaos-averse.

I think, maybe, instead of "Welcome Friends" my front door mat should make a more merciful suggestion...

"Turn Back While You Still Can"

At any given moment you will find golf balls, baseballs, and kickballs flying (yes, inside the house). You may encounter a half naked two year old climbing on the counters. You'll probably walk through the dining room dodging a boy zooming past on a ripstik. There's a good chance you'll find a princess decked out in her royal attire, singing and spinning through the halls. You'll have to be careful of feet flying in cartwheels, kids sliding down banisters, clumsy piggy back rides, and impromptu dance parties.

And don't enter with the idea that you might attempt making a phone call while you're here. Just go ahead and leave your phone in the car. Between giggle fits, toddler tantrums, music practice, and those pesky elephants that trample around upstairs (I know they're up there because they often stomp and play after bedtime, when my sweet dears are most certainly in their beds sleeping with angelic smiles on their obedient little faces), it's likely that whomever you are trying to call will just think something horrible (and noisy) has happened to you..."What? You've been kidnapped by a barrel of monekys?!?"...."No, no, no, I said I happened to misplace my truck keys!"...."OH NO! You mean you're on a sled behind a pack of huskies?!?"..."NO! I SAID I....." (you get the idea)

And I really hope you're not a private person. My littlest darlings just think a locked door is a great opportunity to grab a key, or a screwdriver, and work on their fine motor skills. The whole lot of them seem to believe that a person in a shower is the definition of a captive audience. And you'll never sleep alone around here. You can count on being snuggled by an ice-cold toed, puffy cheeked preschooler by morning.

But really, Friends, you are Welcome. Just be sure to bring your playful spirit (and maybe some football pads and earplugs) and you'll fit right in! Because in the midst of all the craziness we hope you'll also find a houseful of happy kids. Ready to love. Willing to serve. And guaranteed to bring a little joyful chaos to your day!

I'm sitting on my bed nursing sweet baby J.

Aware of just how much I should be geting done right now.

There's a basketlful of laundry, three loads, needing to be folded and put away.

Some little person has left a dirty paper plate, crumpled juice box, and Oriental Trading catalog on the bench by the window. I should throw it all out before any more flies discover the sticky residue on the tip of the chewed up straw.

Outside the door I can see the back porch littered with abandned summer toys...a sprinkler, water guns...half eaten by the dog and waiting for someone to help them find their way to the trash.

The bed, which I dutifully made this morning, has been assaulted by tiny feet and is now a rumpled mess, the decorative pillows strewn about the room.

So much. So much I should be doing right now....

I'm aware of how little time I have before Justin gets home...before dinner needs to be made..before I get a shower....and I'm beginning to feel behind....

Until I become aware of something else.

Tiny bare toes gently tickling my side as my baby nurses in peaceful contentedness.

Amazing how that small, sweet touch changes everything.

I'm aware of the things i missed just moments ago.

Pink baby ears with soft fuzzy hairs still darkening their rims.

Bright, clear eyes looking into mine with a satisfied wonder.

Playful little girl giggles trickling in from another room.

The sounds of rough and tumble boys, wrestling upstairs.

And I realize I'm not behind. I'm right where I should be. Living a normal day, with extraordinary gifts.

There will always be things that need to be done. But for this day i choose to be aware of the fleeting simple sweetness in each moment.