Monday, June 19, 2017

worked hands

I have been working outside each day this week. It's hot and steamy out and somehow that lures me out to work - I honestly enjoy sweat dripping off my nose. I like to push myself. I hoe as long as I can in the garden until my arms just can't anymore. I imagine I am a slave and lashed on the back for slowing down, for stopping. I continue to hoe and in my imaginary slave experience, I wonder if and when my life will be my own. I silently call out to God in the despair and emptiness, and look forward to laying down at dusk and listening to my friends sing. Momentary deliverance.

I consider these scenarios of suffering when my head is clear. Sometimes I will skip a meal just to feel hunger. I cry for those hungry as I wash dishes. I pray for manna from heaven for them. I want to reach through space and time, and hand to them a bunch of bananas full of food for their tummy and felt love for their heart.

Today I ran errands, my hands felt stretched and used. Cuts, bruises, callouses. Yet they feel stronger than they did last week. As I drove home I felt admiration for my hands. I felt pride and a thankfulness to work with my hands.

God gave me very wrinkly hands, you might think I am nearing 100 years of life. But alas, I'm nearing only 33. Thirty three years. I have learned so many times to gain the life you dreamed you have to choose to lose the life you dreamed. I've lost my life a lot. I've lost the arm wrestles with God a lot, usually voluntarily because I get my footing in the wrestle in the strong belief I hold dear - that God loves me more than I will likely ever know and They (because God is three persons) have the best thoughts and plans for me and the world around me.  It's really just me wrestling myself most of the time, my selfishness and stubbornness. I imagine God as a good parent, seeing beyond my immaturity into the greater things ahead, and he cheers me on and believes in me, even when I personally feel I am a puddle of flailing weakness.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Birth Story #3: A Hard Labor

It was almost four months ago now. The birth of our son! His gender was a surprise. With two daughters already via my body, we leaned towards another daughter...but, low and behold, something was hanging off this babe that was new to us - this was a boy!

It was near a month of warm-up contractions. This was the longest I'd experienced warm-up contractions (sometimes referenced to as Braxton Hicks), and the week prior to birth they were more consistent...and of course with all of this warm-up, I hoped for a shorter labor when the time came, but I also knew, labor will be what labor will be. The body has already been wired for the task and it will go at the length that is best.

About 24 hours before active labor kicked in, I was in prodromal labor. It's the real warm up, the pre-workout stretches. I tend to have long prodromal labor, but this was the longest. In retrospect, it was probably because little man was not in an optimal birthing position. Unfortunately, this didn't dawn on me until later, so I didn't offer much assistance in doing exercises or positions to help our son rotate. Our son was positioned ROA (Right Occiput Anterior). This means he was engaged to the right of center when it's best and easiest if babe is slightly left of center, LOA (Left Occiput Anterior). Even though just a little shift would make baby LOA, babies usually will do a near full rotation making them posterior for a time (mom and baby are back to back, and that's painful!) until they arrive at LOA position.  This makes for some harder work for the laboring momma and, in this case - us! :)

Once prodromal labor started I was getting excited, figuring a baby was coming that night or the next day...but, no. I slept through most of the night with a few contractions, but the next morning they did pick up again yet after a few hours they slowed down again. I had a pedicure scheduled for myself that morning (42 week pregnant women can't come close to touching their toes), so I got a pedicure and an unplanned mini manicure because the gal had some extra time. My husband was out with one of our girls, the other was at preschool, and at our home was a gal cleaning the house for us - a gift from some dear friends (four weeks of house cleaning - best gift ever!!!). All this pampering, early contractions, and a clean home to return to was making me feel like it was going to be a birthday...but again, no. I was disappointed and wondering "how much longer?"...but I had to stop the negative feelings and embrace this time for what it is, and that it is good and best.

Earlier that week I had had a prenatal appointment, and my midwife said near the beginning of the appointment "You don't seem yourself...what's going on?" I shared with her I thought I'd have a baby by now and I was feeling disappointed and frustrated...I was really tired of being pregnant, and I had actually been praying for a specific birth date (which was the day of my appointment), but alas I had no signs of a coming labor. She asked me if I had cried yet, a "release" cry...where I let all expectations go and get all my hangups out in a good therapeutic cry. I hadn't done so, and she encouraged me to. She also encouraged me to read the birth stories in Ina May's Guide To Childbirth book, as well as get on YouTube and watch some birth videos. My midwife, she's a gem. Compassionate and understanding, supportive and a heart listener. I left encouraged and with some homework to do. It was all so helpful.

So the night of my pedicure, manicure and house cleaning, I went to bed. I rested, but the contractions were stronger when I was laying down, and they were to the point I couldn't sleep. After an hour or so of laying there (my husband next to me zzzing), I knew labor was here...though my contractions were hard and averaging every 6-9 minutes (though sometimes they would be a few minutes apart or even 12 minutes apart), I hadn't felt that "switch" over yet to active, but I figured it was near. I went downstairs as my husband and eldest daughter slept (our youngest was with my parents), lit some candles, did some things around the house between contractions...I labored alone for an hour or so, mostly leaning up against a wall or on my hands and knees (I HATE contractions sitting down or laying down, you will not find me in these positions!)...I felt the need to call my midwife with my sporadic yet strong contractions. She asked if my doula was there, and if I didn't want to be alone then to have my doula come.  The midwife was not going to come until she thought I was in active labor. I didn't want to wake my husband from sleep, but I wanted someone with me.  I called my doula and she was all ready to go. She came over and I didn't regret my decision for her to come. I realized once she arrived I needed her company - her educated and womanly thoughts, comfort, support, and friendship.

After about an hour of her being there, she thought it was time to fill up the birth pool. My husband had aired it up hours ago before bed. I woke him up from his few hours of sleep and he got to it. He made me a "labor aid" drink (fresh squeezed oranges, lemon, tablespoon of honey and sea salt), filled up stock pots to heat up more water, got food and snacks out (provided by my Grammy!) for birth attendants, and did other things I don't know of because active labor was upon me. I had to get in touch with my inner lioness once again, remembering how to loosen the jaw and almost relax into a contraction with some low groans.  Some nausea was also settling in with the stronger contractions, but I thankfully never threw up.

My midwife and her apprentice were on their way. My two girlfriends were on their way too. When the apprentice arrived, she felt my belly and noticed baby was ROA, so we learned of why the hard, irregular was trying to turn. She instructed me to do some lunge positions during contractions and continue on hands and knees, too. Wow, talk about painful. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for sweet baby boy, either. We were both working really hard to help him get in good position for birth. His turning during contractions was near suffering...but the most difficult of our mountain climbing we hadn't arrived at yet.

Though labor can be incredibly difficult, I am so thankful to feel it, to experience it. My baby is in labor too, working hard, pursuing exit - pursing me and his daddy, and we find each other in the labor, in the is absolutely a bonding experience. It is a partnering together.  A lifelong memory I will always hold with him. Thankfully, the good Lord gave us some amazing pain-coping hormones and that love hormone of oxytocin is increasing more and more as our face to face encounter draws nearer.

My midwife (who has wisdom and experience and understanding and intuition beyond anyone I have yet to meet in the medical field of pregnancy, birth and babies) instructed me to get into the shower. She said she doesn't know why, but the hot shower spray on the lower back encourages baby to get into position...and she was right!  My husband, our doula and I headed to the bathroom. My husband turned on the shower and the doula left the bathroom to give us a private moment together.  I remember feeling the difference of my husband's counter-pressure on my lower back, his hands were bigger and stronger than our doula's, and the difference felt good in the moment. I got in the shower and began to feel very painful contractions because at the same time I felt baby boy moving.  And when I say very painful, I mean VERY PAINFUL. I, actually, remember thinking there in the shower "my last labor was a breeze" compared to this labor. I got out of the shower and upon exiting an incredibly strong contraction came alongside the baby still moving into uterus contracted, the baby rotated....and this was the loooongest contraction I had ever experienced. My husband stopped giving me counterpressure and massage about halfway through because he thought surely the contraction was over, but I yelled out "What are you doing?! Don't stop!". And then it happened during that long contraction, our son arrived to optimal position - and all of a sudden I felt the feeling to push!!

Now minutes before I got in the shower, I had asked the apprentice to give me a vaginal check to see how dilated I was. This was the first time in my pregnancy and labor for me to be vaginally checked. I'm not a fan of it because for me, it's not worth the emotional effect it has on me - the answer will either encourage me or discourage me. How dilated you are or the cervix effacement just doesn't really mean much (or at least how much focus we put on them) because everyone's bodies vary, circumstances vary, etc.  So the apprentice vaginally checked me and I told her I wasn't sure if I wanted to know how "far along" I was because I was nervous about the answer. I had worked so hard already and wanted to hear I was 9cm along, but intuitively I knew I was not that far along.  At my request, she told me I was 5cm and yes, I was disappointed. I was discouraged because I had worked so so hard already, and to think I was only halfway there was almost unimaginable to me. BUT I got in that shower minutes later and after just 20 minutes or so in the shower, I got out, had that super long contraction, and I was ready to push!! In maybe 30 minutes, I had dilated 4 or 5cm.

I got into the birth pool, rested and pushed, rested and pushed several times. It was such an awesome time! In between a contraction I looked at my husband with expectant joy "We're about to find out if we have a son or daughter!" I reached down between another pushing contraction to feel baby's head, but I just felt what felt like a balloon - my water hadn't broke yet, but it was soon to!  In case you're wondering when the best time is for a woman's water to break, it's really best that it breaks naturally during the pushing stage, though few babies are actually delivered in the bag of waters. The bag of waters acts as padding (an extra comfort) for the baby and the mother during contractions. My water broke during one of my last pushes. Before the final push, my midwife checked for the umbilical cord around baby's neck and had already announced a full head of dark hair, too.

My husband got into the pool, I gave baby all I had and pushed his body into my husband's hands. My husband lifted baby out of the water before me and I saw baby's parts and announced loudly "A boy!!!" My oxytocin levels skyrocketed and I was in euphoric baby bliss. I praised my God aloud again and again who had carried me through and delivered me once again, and I spoke aloud my thanksgiving and declared my affection for my son over and over. If anyone was to know they were deeply loved with a strong unwavering passion and affection, my son surely experienced it in this moment!

The moments after my children's births, particularly my homebirths because of the freedom and comfort of home and only individuals present who I personally know, will always be some of my most vivid and experientially memorable experiences. God made this so because a woman's hormones heighten her memory during this time.

My friend (who was present for my birth) had given me a word when she was praying for me a week prior, she told me God told her to tell me that he is with me in the push. It was encouraging to hear because pushing for me in past births has been the most difficult part for me, and God knew this. During labor the body does the work and you breathe through the pain, but pushing is when you have to push into the pain and that takes focus and determination.  And so there hammered to the wooden beam by the birth pool in our living room I hung a sign so I would see it during pushing stage: GOD IS WITH YOU IN THE PUSH. I thought of these words as I pushed with all my strength, leaning into this truth - God was with me.

Thank you for taking the time to read our birth story. I look at my son as such a rockstar knowing he did a near 360 degree rotation during labor in the midst of a contracting uterus!  HOW AMAZING IS MY SON?!?! And we did it together. It is such a precious experience with him in my heart and memory. I'll always remember those hours of labor with him, both of us working so hard together to meet one another.

Would I have changed my labor for an easier one or would I now? Absolutely not. Oh, the journey. It's all about the journey. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The mom life not my cup of tea, and a desire for "older women"

After having our second child, I found myself months later desperate for breath, feeling I was drowning in this "mom life". I was the stay at home parent while my husband was in nursing school full time and working nights at the hospital full time, and in the midst of so much transition and fullness of schedule and demand in this season of our lives, I was troubled. I lacked perspective in all of this, mostly as a parent and specifically a mother, and after many frustrating and difficult days, I did a good thing - I called out to God for perspective, for meaning, for purpose, for words of encouragement and comfort (and we'll get to his response in a couple paragraphs...).

You see growing up in Christian church in America, there were lots of opportunities for me (and all the way through my university years) for Christian discipleship/teaching and community, but it was as if when I became married, the options were limited to non-existent (and I really needed help being married...I totally think premarital counseling should be replaced with postmarital counseling!!). And particularly as I became a mother, I found little opportunity for training and discipleship in this season of my pilgrimage on earth...though it has been the most daunting season I have come upon yet!

God has done (and is doing) a giant transformation and mind renewal in me and my husband's American-influenced brains into his Kingdom Family economy and how church is family and family is church reflected in the Bible. We weren't familiar with it at first because it is not the experience and culture of many American churches and ministries, at least the ones we had been a part of for years or attended here and there, but it is the language of the New Testament. And we feel so blind to have missed it for so long in Scripture, because it's so obvious!  But Holy Spirit has helped us take off our cultural lenses to see the church as a family - his family, to not miss the very affectionate family language of the New Testament, and to see how church family life is to be lived. And we are certainly still learning!

So back to my desperate mom state and calling out to God. As I mentioned, I had been on a journey (and still am!) of Holy Spirit rewiring my understanding for how the life of God grows among us and why family is so central to the language and life of the New Testament writings, as well as the historical accounts and writings/reflections of the Old Testament. And so I knew there had to be some good words for mothers (spiritual/physical) in the Bible. I certainly was wrestling with this mom role in my life and desired so much on many days to peace out and get a job in the marketplace where I really knew I could have positive societal influence and impact, see the fruit, and be a light and witness of Jesus' kindness to others...but my stay-at-home-nursing-a-baby-half-the-day-and-teaching-my-toddler-how-to-use-the-potty job I could not see what, if any, blessing this was to the Kingdom of Jesus or to society, and I was in a rut.

I needed God to speak to me. And he did.

Over the course of a few weeks, he wrecked me with his truth again. So many Bible verses of God carrying us as little children, like nursing babes. So many references to childbirth and parenting and marriage. So many verses celebrating babies and children and Jesus getting stoked when the little children came around so he could pray for them and use their example to show others how to get into and live in the Kingdom of God.  The dimmer on the light switch was slowly being turned up and the good Father I have in Jesus was encouraging me, helping me, making me realize what good and awesome Kingdom work I was doing. He even allowed me to see the positive and impacting influence my two year old was having in someone else's life (this older person shared with me how my daughter was ministering to her).

One day through a thought processing wrestle with the mom life in my journal, I found myself questioning after a long rant "Am I in the center of God's will for me right now - like is this mom life the Father's best for me right now?" I had to pause, of course, and wait on the Lord, as well as search my own heart. This stay at home mom life, though very difficult and not my cup of tea most days, is this where he has called me? Is this where you, Jesus, have invited me to be present, have influence, and expand your forever kingdom? Am I not just in or nearby your will for me in this season, but am I at the very center of your will for me? I'll remember that day because I felt a resounding yet quiet and peaceful "yes" in my spirit. Though this mom life I had little understanding of and it's Kingdom of God worth and importance (and still do, but I trust the One who has called me to it), I knew I was where the Father wanted me to be, where the Father was pleased to see me be. And I settled in.

And sometime that week after that day, I came across Scripture that was so perfect for me and so right, speaking into that quiet "yes" I heard earlier that week.

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home (homemakers), kind, being subject to their own husbands, THAT THE WORD OF GOD MAY NOT BE DISHONORED." Titus 2:3-5, emphasis mine

You see, that was it. There in capital letters. That day I got a reality check that loving my husband, loving my children, being kind, living sensibly and with purity, subjecting myself to my husband (and not culture or friends' ideas or experiences or Vogue magazine), and being a homemaker (actually decorating my house and making breakfast for all and cleaning my toilet) are ALL growing that Kingdom I so want to grow on earth more than anything else, ALL of these things are honoring and upholding the name and words of the One I want everyone to know more than anyone else. My stay at home mom life just got defined as Jesus-honoring work, and I needed it!

But also there in those words in Titus 2 I found the longing I and so many other younger women I know (wives, moms or not) LONG for and are looking for - those "older women". I'm there and still there, I take it when I can get it.

In fact, I was having a very troubling week earlier this year loving my husband and my children and feeling at the end of my rope, and I cried out to God one afternoon in tears on the back porch for an "older woman" to help me. The next day I was giving a scheduled massage in my home for a woman I barely knew who was referred to me.  I knew this woman was a Christian, and she was also a wife and mother to eight children. After the massage, she told me she's always wanted to get to know me more and asked me to share with her about myself and how I am doing. Well, I got a few words out and then I just started crying, and I couldn't stop crying. But you know that "older woman" in the faith, loved me so well that day. She sat with me at my kitchen table for over two hours, listening to me, counseling me, smiling upon me. She mailed me a handwritten letter later that week with more wisdom and counsel to share, and I have honestly looked at her letter to me more often this year than any other material repetitively. Her words were water to my desert-like heart that day/week.

I have yet to meet another Christian "younger woman" who doesn't desire the fulfillment of this Titus 2 passage. I, along with many other women, desire so much for an older woman/women in the faith to teach us how to love our husbands, to teach us to love our children, to teach us to be kind and patient, to teach us how to be homemakers - to live within our means, to be resourceful, to make our homes a place of rest and hospitality, etc. I need teaching! I need help! And so do many of my friends.

I have friends in divorce or having great difficulty in marriage, friends with depression even thoughts of suicide, single girlfriends who struggle with finding their voice and support within the church, friends who struggle so much with their stay at home mom life and are waiting for their "Out Of Jail Free" card.

My generation lacks so much in the way of family foundations and family life. We don't know what to do! We don't know how to do it, yet we long to do it well. We long to be happily married and love our spouses well, we long to embrace each season the Lord has for us whether it's our cup of tea or not, and we long to encounter God in it, we long to patiently love our children and honor their process of growth and understanding, but I tell you - we are weak and dumb and need of help!! We need training, discipleship!

And it's not in weekly church meetings with the chairs facing one direction toward a stage or the next great ministry touring idea "Encouraging Moms in America!" in a weekend training, but it's much more harder (less prettier, bur more beautiful) and in-your-face than that - it's during the week around dinner tables lingering with tea, wise counsel, laughter and prayers; it's in play rooms while the children play and the mother bears her soul to the older momma present; it's on couches where the tears flow and a gal just needs an older woman of the faith to hold her and sing over her as she weeps; it's on back porches with coffee and bibles in hand seeking the Word that changes us as we read; it's'in kitchens with cooking lessons and baking lessons; it's in the yard, teaching how to sow seeds and care for a garden; it's in times of prayer for healing and imparting revelation; it's in phone calls celebrating life and overcoming fears; it's in the mundane and game-changer moments of life you see the church as a family. This is, at least, what I envision when I read those recordings of Acts and New Testament church instructions. It's what I see in the life of Jesus, never in a hurry, always on time, stopping and seeing people and taking the time for their hearts, their needs, their present, their future.  It's what wooed me into following Jesus in John 21, him making breakfast for his friends and sharing in the meal he's prepared around a campfire on the beach as they just hungout and talked. What an awesome older brother. This is what I imagine some of the early church's rubbing-of-shoulders to have looked like. So present. So real. So honest. So in each other's lives. Legacies being impacted. The kingdom-of- Jesus-thread being so deeply woven in via relationships. This is what I look for and long for.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Being Single Is Awesome

I had to have a flashy title to get you to read my blogpost. But yes, it's not a lie. Being single really is awesome. And this is mostly what this post is about. So, let us get started.

If you're an unmarried gal and/or dating around or even in what you consider a serious relationship (and particularly for you youngins like teenagers and early 20s) my question for you is are you with a real man and do you know in your core this relationship is the best thing for you - like if someone who knows you and loves you super well was to dream up the best scenario for you, is this it? Like is it right and good and what should be? Or is it eh and you just feel okay about it or is it that you just like having a fellow around?

Here's why I want to know: Because being single is awesome. It is such a precious season. Some women are called to it for their whole lives and that can be hard, but also wonderful...and for the majority of women, they are called to and brought into marriage...which also can be hard, but also wonderful. Either way, being single is awesome.

I dated one feller when I was 15-17 years old which was a waste of my life/time/emotions, but I was stupid, quite honestly. The teenage fog where I thought the world revolved around me and where hormones and pride and fear of being different and what others thought clouded my thinking to make me do stupid things.

At 18, I grew up and my life perspective changed, and I ditched the dating scene until I was 24 years old...when I met a really handsome chap that literally at our first meeting took my breathe away. We were pals for a year then started dating a year later and in another year, we got hitched - married, said our "I dos" for the rest of our lives. It was awesome.

Now, who is to say that if I was a dating maniac all those years between 18 and 24 if the glory and juice and loveliness of my meeting the man I am married to now (and super in love with!) and dating him would not have been so glorious and juicy and lovely?? Seriously, me and my man have a juicy story. It would blow your mind. It is super fun and surprising and romantic. Dating him was like the best romance novel I've ever read, and the way he proposed to me (complete surprise!) was off the heezie, like absolutely amazing and perfect and had my name written all over it...not to mention, I was completely surprised, and that made it all so much more perfect! But if I had been dating a few or a lot of different guys those precious years, how would it have affected my meeting the right one?

So...there is a point here. Embrace the beautiful and precious and special season of being single!! Seriously, live it up! There is a very strange lie out there that once you are dating Mr. Right or get married, you are complete or your life will feel complete. URGH! This is far from the truth, and if you believe it, you will be disappointed, and for some devastated. Getting married or having children does not complete you. It does not fulfill you. It doesn't do that stuff. Getting married and having children is work. It's sacrifice. It's perseverance. It's preferring others before yourself. It's learning life is not about you. It's not a stroll in the park, people. If you are getting married, prepare to go to work at a relationship every single day. Is it worth it?! YES! DEFINITELY! TRIPLE YES! QUADRUPLE YES! Like anything you persevere and fight for, give generously towards and believe in - you invest, and you get a return. The sacrifice brings joy, it gives life. It does bring a fullness, but it's a fullness you worked for. And the journey makes you more of an awesome and beautiful person, as well.

I can absolutely say that I am more in love with my husband than I ever have been. I absolutely grow in love for him with every year. I respect him more than I ever have. And through our relationship that has been hard and wonderful and good and glorious and work, I have become a more beautiful person. Less selfish. More giving. Less angry. More gracious. Less judgmental. More understanding. Being married helped prepare me to be a momma for sure, and being a momma has brought a whole new world of challenging growth for me. I reckon at the end of my life through marriage and children, I should be an absolutely amazing person...ha! :) I can grow more toward that possibility if I continue to keep my heart and hands and mind open to the good change it can produce in me, and accept the challenges that it poses that I may become an overcomer.

Being single is so good. You get to live with friends in a house with a yard or downtown in a loft or in a dorm room at your university, and share life over meals and after work/school and before work/school, and over coffee in the morning, and throw parties, and get milkshakes, and see movies, and share your struggles and shining moments, and cry and laugh, and LIVE. Live so well! There is a freedom of discovery you get in those single years. "You get" meaning you have the opportunity to seize this freedom, some don't. You also have more time to invest in hobbies and delights, more time to invest in philanthropy and helping your neighbor, more time to travel and experience the world, more time to educate yourself on something you are interested in, as well as the absolutely incredible opportunity to live intentionally with multiple other people under the same roof and be shaped and challenged and encouraged and loved by each other. Living with other people is no joke, but it is soooooo good for the ones who say yes to it. A dear friend of ours named Joe Steinke says "Living in community reads romantically, but lives sacrificially." This is so true. I began this paragraph with the romance of sharing life and a home with peers and others, but the truth is that it can be true, but it is the abundant return from honoring and respecting one another through sacrifice (and FYI, you will mess up! Then you need to apologize.) Some people flow together easily, some don't - and those relationships can be the best kind of relationships, the ones that will wow you, and positively influence your inner being and life and future, and you will always look back and say "Wow, that was hard and so so good, and so so worth it." In fact, you may even forget it was'll just remember the return, and how sweet it was!

The key to living with others is sharing a purpose of living intentionally with one another. Your house is not a hotel where you all check in and check out as you please, but you share meals together including making meals together, you share groceries, you're honest, you share the chores, you stay up late to listen to your housemate share how they are doing, you seek ways to gift and bless others in your home, you fold their laundry left in the dryer, etc.

So, there you go, people. Allison's unexpected blogpost on being single. It's really a great season, a fantastic season.

And I've gotta say something else that I believe is very important. Every one needs every one. What does that mean? It means we are all in different seasons of life and all doing different kinds of things with our lives, and oy do we need each other. We don't need clusters of single people and clusters of married people and clusters of older people and clusters of younger people, etc. etc. We need clusters of all kinds of people in all kinds of seasons. We need some of what everyone else brings to the table. I'm married, and I looooooove hanging with my single girlfriends. I am young and I looooooove hanging with anyone three or four decades older than me. And I reckon it is the same for them. We each receive goodness from each other and are reminded that our stereotypes about people in their seasons different from ours are usually wrong and absurd. We don't need isolation, we need a supportive community.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Back Porch, Moonlit Birth

It's true. Under the clear night sky on a warm spring night, I did a glorious thing - I gave birth to our sweet baby girl. My husband, smelling of patchouli (one of my fav scents on him), sipped a beer and with the other hand held my hand tight, kissing the top of my head and speaking encouragement when it seemed right. My other hand was held by my doula (I always recommend a doula!), massaging my lower back during those last contractions and coaching me how to breath when it came time to push.

My view was a half moon and a backdrop of stars.  It was beautiful.

Also present was my legendary midwife, her apprentice, my aunt who is more like my big sister, taking pictures and video, and another friend of mine who has had four homebirths and equally ecstatic about childbirth as I am (she also brought a table full of food - fruits and veggies, homemade pizza, soup, all kinds of gluten free treats, lettuce wraps, a bowl of m&ms, and of course birthday cake!).

They all arrived for the last couple hours of my labor and delivery, and all hung out for the after party as well.

My labor was about 24 hours total. The first 22 hours it was just me and my husband mostly. We took walks, got it on (cause hey, it's gonna be awhile!), watched a couple shows of Parks and Recreation (our current Netflix season at the time), ate some of the table-full of food my girlfriend brought, and just hungout. It felt like a really long day.

My doula had come the night before when I started to have contractions to be my friend while my husband worked (he works nights). While I slept, she wrote a song for me which she played/sang for me the hour after baby girl was born. My doula was and is awesome.

Having amazing womanly support around me was just as it should be, at least for me. The month prior to my birth, these gals came over to my home and prayed with me/for me and over my home, my family and birth to be. It was so special. I was so looking forward to having these strong women at my birth to cheer me on and support me during this treasured time.

My labor was slow for the first 18 hours. My contractions were 30-45 minutes for most of that time then down to 20 minutes apart mid afternoon of baby's birthday.

I was having an emotional afternoon. I missed my firstborn who was with my mother and I felt like I was disappointing people (like family, my birth attendants, even my husband) with my slow progression and I was also bummed that things were moving slowly - I had presumed I'd have a shorter labor this time around, but that was not the case.

I talked to my four-homebirths-girlfriend on the phone and told her how I was feeling.  She encouraged me to speak out (after I got off the phone with her) all that was bothering me, all that was making me emotional, and let it go. She also spoke to my heart and mind to embrace this labor for what it is because it is beautiful and special. She reminded me that this little babe I was carrying was so much different than babe #1, so this labor will be different as well - to not compare them. She encouraged me to let it remind me how unique and special this little girl is, and be joyful about her coming at her own pace with my body. Revel in this labor for what it is (special! unique!), and bond with my little babe.

It was just what I needed to hear and after I hung-up with my girlfriend, I spoke out all that was getting me down and asked Jesus to fill me with truth and peace and joy. He did! :)

My mom and sister came over with my niece and my daughter to give us some company, make me laugh and I needed kisses and hugs from my little girl. They hung out an hour and upon their leaving, my contractions jumped up to seven minutes apart!

I called the midwife and things started moving.  My husband aired up the birth tub on the back porch and began filling it with water.  My doula and aunt showed up, then my midwife and her apprentice.

At that point my contractions were just a few minutes apart. I could feel baby coming down.

I absolutely cannot sit down nor lay down during a contraction. I think the pain turns times two! I've gotta be standing up.  It just makes sense too with a baby coming down through your body, right? I gripped the bricks on our fireplace those last couple hours of labor. My doula was so good to me, rubbing my lower back (I have hefty back labor) and she just being beside me was a comfort to me.

My husband was busy filling up the tub. The hot water did run out so they were boiling water on the stove and pouring it in the tub, ha! It was a funny sight to see the gals and my husband back and forth from the kitchen, carrying pots of water to the tub.

There was a chance I'd be delivering baby girl inside, but at just the right time the tub was filled and the water at just the right temperature for me and baby girl.

I got in the birth tub in-between a contraction. I was complete, transition closed, my body rested before pushing stage, then it was upon me - time to push!

This is the hardest part for me. I can do contractions fine because there is that gracious time in between contractions to rest, feel normal, have a laugh, eat a cookie (I have a friend who calls it Christmas morning, ha!). And really during contractions your body is doing most of the actual physical work. As the woman in labor your job is mostly mental - focusing, breathing, letting your body do what it has been instructed to do. It's actually a bit enjoyable for me, the feeling of baby coming down is incredible. I am in awe of the process as I'm experiencing it.

But now pushing is the hard work.  It's where I grunt and yell and feel like I am having the most gigantic poo of my life. Fortunately, we live on eight acres in fine country land and our neighbors' homes are far enough away to hopefully not hear my primal sounds, or perhaps they thought it was a deer delivering triplets in the woods. :)

My midwife and doula instructed me in pushing and breathing.  At one point, I let baby girl's head sit there to stretch my perineum - this was my midwife's instruction, of course. She was trying to prevent me from tearing down there and allowing baby to come out steady and not quickly.  I had to breathe quick breaths during that time, and my midwife said "You're basically breathing her out right now...". I wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, at the time.

My midwife encouraged me to feel her head which I wasn't inclined to do, but she asked me a second time and so I did. I'm glad I did, I still remember that squishy feeling of her exiting head. So amazing.

I remember during delivery thinking "I'm too old for this." You may hear from others and in my experience twice now it's been true, just when you think you can't go any further, your baby is almost in your arms. Just keep on for a bit longer, and you will receive your reward.

Before that final push after my midwife checked for the umbilical cord, Ryan left my side to "catch" baby girl. I gave that final push and baby girl was caught in her Daddy's embrace and given to me.

Her warm wet body on mine, I can recall the feeling like it was minutes ago.  The endorphins and happy hormones flew through my body in that moment. I remember the rush of what I could say was physical joy moving through my body.

I did it. We did it.  Baby girl and I worked hard together. We conquered labor and delivery, and received our prize - each other. It is an incredible moment.

I so wish for every pregnant woman to have such an experience, though I know for some they physically can't and I'm so thankful for hospitals and doctors trained for those specific situations when the body is not doing as it should.

After baby girl was born, we enjoyed her. I delivered the placenta maybe 15 minutes after. The placenta was put in a bowl I bought just for the placenta at Target (how many bowls do they have bought for placentas, I wonder?). With baby in arms, I got out of the birth tub with support of my husband and the women.  We walked indoors to my recovery room.  We let the placenta drain completely (about an hour) so baby girl received all of those wonderful stem cells and nutrients.

She nursed on her own about 45 minutes after birth.  It was so funny.  She was rooting around, so I gave her a little help by bringing her up to my breast.  She then lifted her head back (strong newborn!) and with a mouth wide open planted herself perfectly on the nipple. I laughed. She nursed.

Now if you know me, you know I love a good party. And that is exactly what this was.  The gals, my husband and I, talked, ate, laughed, celebrated.  My husband made coffee for him and the gals, and we all shared in our little girl's first birthday cake.  Delicious! My doula sang the song she wrote for me the night before on her guitar.  And we drank in this glorious night of our baby's birth.

All was precious, and remains so very close to me now.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning to sympathize with my two-year-old as God sympathizes with me

A few days ago, my husband and I were reading the words of God through whoever the author is of the book Hebrews in the Bible (ya know, some reckon the author could be a woman!? that's cool.). God encouraged our hearts and gave us a good lesson in parenting and life. I want to share it with you, so that you may be encouraged and if you are a parent or around children (or really anyone!) at all, that you may take hold of this lesson as well.

I have a two-year-old as of a couple months ago.  She is learning to make decisions.  She knows she has the option to make a "good choice" in many daily situations, mostly those opportunities involve listening to and obeying Mommy or Daddy when we ask her to do something with her or our family's best interest in mind.  She has a growing understanding that Mommy and Daddy desire what is best for her that assists her in her decision-making, as well as knowing a safety and trust that has grown in her life with us that is natural because it is what she has experientially known from day one with us.

As of the last few months, our daughter is not always quick to do what we ask of her or be obedient in some situations.  In some situations, it's really hard for her to obey.  Often in those situations, you can see her reasoning within herself - she's not responding with obedience just yet nor is she saying "no"...she's truly considering what to do, beginning to contemplate consequences of the choice that she gets to make - her freedom to choose.  We witness the wrestle in her as she waits to decide what she's going to do, to obey Mommy and Daddy or to not obey - to do what she wants to do in that moment.  Her will is not programmed to our requests.  She is free to choose to listen and obey, or to not.

You know this experience, right? Sometimes it's really hard to make the right choice.  Sometimes it's really really hard.  It almost feels like suffering.  And it kind of is (and in some cases, it really is - there is definitely a temporary suffering one experiences). You are suffering on some level to choose what is good and right, and not what you - that selfish bit of you - wants to choose.  Paul, author of Romans in the Bible, talks about this wrestle: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not do to do, that I practice." That is Romans chapter 7, verse 20.  You can look around that verse for more of "this war" within himself that he, Paul, talks about.  And we all know it, right? We can identify with what he's saying.

Our daughter can too.  She is beginning to experience this wrestle within her of choice, to obey or not to obey her loving parents.  I know she loves us and ultimately wants to obey us, but in the moment - confronted with that temptation - it is sometimes difficult to do so.

Well, I mentioned the book Hebrews at the beginning of this post, and to the book of Hebrews let us go and find some encouragement and help for us with this wrestle.

There is some really good messages at the beginning of Hebrews about Jesus unashamedly calling those adopted into God's family his brothers and sisters to another really good message about exhorting the people of God "today" so that our hearts do not become deceived to another good message about the relationship between obedience and rest. Good stuff. Great stuff.  But what's after all this in the book is what I was particularly encouraged by and got my "how to be a mother" lesson from.

Read this, and read it's really good and important:

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.

He can have compassion (my husband's bible translation/version said "deal gently") on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness."

(Heb. 4:14-5:2)

Okay, this is good. I hope you're already encouraged and have some idea where I'm headed with this - how my husband and I got a parenting lesson in this.

1) God sympathizes with our weaknesses.  Where do you feel weak? God sympathizes with you!  He can relate.  He knows temptation.  Where are you tempted; what tempts you?  Jesus has been there!

And so God says to us, therefore, come BOLDLY to MY THRONE OF GRACE...and I will HELP you in your weakness, I will help you in your temptation!!...So that, we can live in truth and love, make good choices and become more free and fully alive versions of ourselves. We are not to be on our own in our weaknesses or our struggles; Jesus says "I understand that wrestle, and I am here to help you through!"

That is what those last couple of sentences/verses say too about the high priest that was chosen among the Levite people to help us understand Jesus' place as the High Priest toward us - he can have compassion and deal gently with us when we are choosing or living ignorantly or who have intentionally chosen what is wrong, because he himself is subject to weakness."

In Hebrews 5:8 it says of Jesus "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things he suffered."

There is a suffering, a wrestle, "a war" within ourselves to make the right choice sometimes. And through these times of saying to God "Your desires, not mine - your will, not mine" we also are learning obedience.

2) Parenting lesson.  This is what my daughter is experiencing! And I can sympathize with her.  I know that wrestle to make a good choice.  I know that temptation to not choose what God says is best for me, and to instead choose what I want in that moment.

So what can I offer to my daughter?  Grace.  Patience. An honoring of her process to choose. To not rush her in those moments when she is considering what to do, considering how to respond.

When she doesn't make a good choice, when she doesn't obey -  I can deal gently with her because I can sympathize with her weakness, with the temptation to choose what is not best.  And when she makes a good choice, I can applaud her and praise her, because I know the difficulty - sometimes the suffering - in making a good choice.  I swell with joy over her in those moments.  And you know, she is surely learning obedience through these small (or big for her) sufferings of choosing to say "yes" to Mommy and Daddy because she is learning that making a good choice really is the best decision - it is what is best for her.  Making a good choice makes life more fun, eh?

So there ya go people, I'm going to leave it at that. I could say more, but this post is long enough and I made my point of learning and growing as a daughter and a mother.  There might be more the Lord wants to give you in this subject, so there I will leave you...

Hope this was helpful to you as a brother or sister of Jesus, and as a parent or one around children!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Childbirth: More Than Having A Baby

Birth is not only about making babies.
Birth is about making mothers- strong, competent,
capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.
-Barbara Katz Rothman

As some of you who have been following my blog know, one of the most empowering moments I have had to date as a 28-year-old woman is the day I went into labor with my first and only daughter almost two years ago and pushed her out of my body with more strength and ability than I ever dreamed I had. I climbed Mount Everest that day, received my reward - the treasure of my life, our little girl, as well as something I didn't expect that has kept me on that mountain peak ever since - the reality that I am awesome.  I am strong, powerful, and able.  God created me to be - it's who I am!  I am not intended to survive through difficulties, I am intended to overcome them.

Laboring with and delivering baby girl completely naturally was our birth plan because, through our research, we were convinced it was the most healthy thing for her and me to go drug-free...and I had the personal conviction that my little girl was going to be working really hard to make her exit and I wanted to work alongside her, to be with her in that work. And you know for me, I also just reckoned most people in the world are born that way - without drugs, and I have to be able to do it (though I was quite nervous thinking about it at times - I had not done well with pain so far in life!) even though I live in a society where a drug-free birth is not often the case, nor is it even really encouraged except in some small circles you have to seek out.

I labored and delivered our little girl without any drug to cope with or remove the pain.  I labored. I worked hard. Really hard.  And I championed.  And you know what it did for me?  It sent me into this brand new season of motherhood incredibly empowered.  In the experience of labor and delivery, I was branded with the reality that I am stronger than I know, I am capable, I can persevere, I can be patient, I can be an awesome mom.

Now I just want to stop for a moment.  For both of us. To let what I just wrote sink in.  That experience sent me into motherhood as a rockstar.  No one could have given me any sort of pep talk or really special present or book to even remotely send me into motherhood as labor and delivery did.  It changed my life.  It changed me inside, deeply.  And I am not kidding you, I have been on a high ever since.

Now the reason for this blogpost is not to brag on myself, it's to first celebrate the incredible design of God (though I know the pain is a curse - but it can be redeemed in us, as I've just illustrated above!) to give me that difficult experience of labor and delivery for 24 hours to send me into a lifetime of realizing how great he has made me to be, how capable I am with his help, and what a strong and powerful woman he has destined me to be.

The second reason for this blogpost is what gets my blood boiling at times.  It's that we live in a society where the medical community for the most part does not strongly encourage nor educate on drug-free childbirth nor is there a fight for the woman - if she wants it - to have a drug-free birth if possible.

I began to write this blogpost a few months ago after being a part of my girlfriend's labor and delivery.  She planned for an all-natural birth, had her beautiful birth plan written out and explained to her doctor, and when her water broke one morning without any sign of contractions, her doctor ordered her in to check her out, kept her at the hospital without contractions, and once she started three hours later having contractions, doctor said she needed to have baby by 9pm that night and ordered her on pitocin.  My girlfriend was laboring so well (once her contractions finally kicked in!) and progressing so well - two hours into labor she was 6cm dilated! But you know, that wasn't good enough for her doc.  My friend was put on pitocin then couldn't handle the unnatural intensity and speed up of contractions, and she therefore requested an epidural. Her birth plan was hijacked and her hospital bill went way up.

Bam.  Was that doctor fighting for my friend?  Was she (the doc) honoring her wishes for an all-natural birth?  Ugh, no.  I was there in the delivery room when her baby girl arrived.  I was so boiling hot towards that doctor and a few of the yapping nurses in there, it was hard to contain...but I did, and cheered my girlfriend on!

I was pissed.  Not only because I didn't feel the doctor was honoring her desire to have a drug-free birth, but that because the doctor didn't honor that desire of hers, the opportunity for my friend to have what could have been an incredibly empowering experience, sending her into motherhood on fire and uniquely empowered, was taken from her.

To me now, childbirth is not just about having a baby, it's about a woman having the opportunity to be in awe of herself.  To be impressed with her capability and strength to work harder than she ever has, and overcome!  To be sent into motherhood with that experience is absolutely priceless.

I do not understand why doctors do not encourage nor fight more for this opportunity for women in our country.  I guess that is why we have midwives, eh? (Though, even there, not with every midwife.)

My friend's experience is not the only one I know of.  I know of three other girls who had the same experience, except one of them was told by her doctor "You are not strong enough to have this baby, I recommend you receive an epidural." Oy! What the heck?!  I want to take each of those doctors in the boxing ring and take them out! Arrrrrrrgh, I AM WOMAN!!

So my conclusion and point I want to make in all the above, is that we live in a society (beyond only the medical community) that is somewhat robbing women in pregnancy and childbirth the opportunity to get freakin rocked with how strong they are, how capable they are, what an amazing creature they are.  Childbirth could be an experience we look forward to rather than dread.  Instead during pregnancy, we can look forward to labor and delivery, we can train for it, prepare for it, educate ourselves for it and when baby sends our brains the signal for exit, we're ready to go!  We're ready to work!  We're ready to climb that mountain and claim our prize!  And we will.  The most incredible miracle now in our arms and an experience of a lifetime that could awaken us to our strength, our capacity, our greatness.

Women are totally stellar creatures who are so mysteriously strong that childbirth was given to us.  Not to man, but to us.  A privilege! An honor! A gift! God believes in woman.

[I also want to make a side note, that any and all of you gals who have not had drug-free births, I don't know if you missed out or not - your experience could be just as mine, you flew high in the sky into motherhood!  I'm sure it was a wonderful experience for many of you. There is no shame in getting an epidural, it's your personal choice!  It's what you choose, and that just may be the best thing for you - it may be the experience you need.  I just wanted to touch on the point in this post that I do feel like many women go without a drug-free birth because they think that is the only option, that perhaps they aren't capable of going drug-free, that they won't be able to handle the pain, they may even be told this by their doctor.  I just want to say that's not true.  You are capable, but it's still completely your choice. I have a few girlfriends who love the epidural, and that's just fine - it's their personal and wonderful decision that I thumbs up for them!]