"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, His wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:23-30

Monday, December 15, 2014

When Divine Meets Death

Yesterday as my children and I walked up to the rail to receive the Lord's Body and Blood, I was caught off guard by an unexpected sight.  The third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, or, the Sunday of rejoicing. On this Sunday in Advent we turn slightly from the somber repentance that is the Christian's focus while contemplating our Lord's second coming and judgement day, and we rejoice that for those in Christ His second coming brings peace and eternal life. 

So, imagine my surprise then when, adorning the floor area in front of the chancel, I saw three beautiful funeral arrangements. I remembered that the day before the church had held a funeral for a member who just went home to the Lord but, found myself instantly captivated by the sight....and by the irony. In my church the Sunday of rejoicing is not only met with the pink candle on the advent wreath being lit but the entire church bursts forth the decorations of Christmas and, later in the afternoon, the choir shouts forth beautiful hymns of advent in a concert for the entire community. So, there I knelt, staring at two 25 ft tall evergreen trees decked tip to stump in Chrismons and twinkling lights, and...funeral flowers. 

My eyes trailed to the altar and, for some reason, my eyes were caught by the edge of the white altar covering and the pole that holds it in place running through its side. Suddenly my mouth went dry as I thought back to the previous Holy Week and the stripping of the altar. I could still see in my mind Pastor pulling the rod out so the covering could be gently folded up and removed, leaving the altar naked and bare. 

I looked from the flowers to the trees over and over and it hit me, the life of a Christian truly is constant irony. It's black and white, sinner and saint, weeping and laughter, repentance and absolution, Christmas and Good Friday, Good Friday and Easter, death and life. 

Suddenly I loved those funeral flowers. They made a very bold statement that I do not think was intentional on the part of the person who left them. We hold hopeful, expectant vigil as we await our Christmas feasting but on this side of heaven Lent will come once again, as will Good Friday. It will come in our lives too...suffering, sickness, depression, misfortune, destruction, torture, war, death...but there's a reason we adorn caskets with flowers. It's not some kind of departing "thank you" note to the deceased, it's a testimony of life. 

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Matthew 6:28-29 ESV)

Those flowers are a testimony of a promise, a declaration of faith. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ WILL come again, and when He does, He is taking us home. 

I wish I could arrange for there to be funeral flowers on the third Sunday in Advent every single year. Gaudete Sunday was the first Sunday after my Dad's deadly plane crash. I remember thinking then how ironic that was, and yet, how wonderful. We rejoice even in death because Christ is coming for us, and when He does, oh Happy Day!!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

In a Pinterest world

A couple weeks ago I officially joined Pinterest. At least I think I did. As soon as I was done putting in my information and received an email that said something about "congratulations" on joining, well, duty called. My newborn woke up as he blasted breastmilk poop up his back and began squalling the most pathetic cry. I can tell he's the baby of the family right now because he has the "feel sorry for me" cry mastered.

I have not been on Pinterest since. I am sure it is amazing and I am sure it is super helpful and I am even sure it would revolutionize my world. Pinterest would probably solve all my mommy problems, make me the envy of my friends, and make me sparkle and shine.

But the thing is, I am too tired for that. Nor do I have any desire to sparkle. And honestly, this little glowing journal is about the only place I desire to be online these days. It is my little haven in the darkness.

At 3:30 this morning the tiny person who shares our bed decided it was a good time to spray me with breastmilk. It ran down my chest, into my v-neck shirt, and into my sleeping bra where it puddled in all it's warm sliminess. I cringed and reached for the cold wipes to clean myself up while I picked up the baby with the other hand to comfort him and clean him up. I put him on my shoulder to burp him  and the hand that was supporting his bottom felt a wet warmth. I slowly took my hand away, almost afraid to look, and there was a smear of yellow on my hand. I bit my lip, which lately has become raw from all the chewing, and grabbed a diaper and a change of baby clothes. Two diaper changes, 45 minutes of nursing, and three outfit changes later (one for him, two for me), we finally slipped back to sleep.

The greatest part was, I didn't cry from exhaustion and was somehow even able to smile and talk sweetly to my little man as I took care of his needs. I am needed. And he is super cute.

One day my 8 year old son asked me, "Mama? What is the meaning of life? I mean, if we can't stop sinning and be perfect, why does God leave us here instead of just taking us home where we can be perfect and live with Him?"

First I laughed inwardly that my little child could not realize the question he asked probably has more books written on the topic than any other subject and is debated more heavily than perhaps even politics, then I responded simply, "The meaning of life is love. God wants to make us rich in service, rich in our vocation, because when we are rich in service we know love and we know Him because He is love."

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
(1 John 4:7-12 ESV)

I have 4 little boys that I am homeschooling and their newborn brother, 1 little baby girl that I watch full time for her working Mama, and 1 giant dog that is nearly as tall as my husband. He really is more of a horse. And he is an indoor dog. And lately I am a lot more careful about going out in public. I suppose I am something of a spectacle. I understand this and I understand the frequent comment, "Do you know what causes that?".  Kids are an insult to our sparkly, dignified, and intense need for a perfectly fake persona. Why do we try so hard to fool ourselves? I suppose it goes back to my 8 year old's question. "What is the meaning of life?"

Look, I don't have kids because it makes me sparkly or because it's fun or because then I can impress you with my Pinterest mothering skills. I understand that we will make you uncomfortable as I walk through the store and perhaps have not showered and my kids are wearing their unmatched outfits they picked out themselves because I was too busy cleaning up the kitchen and running loads of laundry. I am sure it will be a huge inconvenience to your shopping experience if one of the babies starts screaming and I have to scold the toddler or chastise the school age children. I do not have it all together, my kids are real kids with real emotions, I am a real person with real emotions, and I know you are probably thinking that if I just knew what caused this I might stop it already so that I can put myself together more and stop embarrassing myself.

In 9 years I have been pregnant 11 times. Six of those 11 times I have hidden away in my bathroom to shed my blood as my babies went home to the Lord (which also insulted plenty of people). The other five for now are mine. But I cannot stop it. I cannot stop procreation because it is not I who put them there. The Lord has called me to marriage and therefore to a one flesh union in marriage and as a result I receive the fruits of that marriage as He desires to give or not give them. A + B = C. It is God Who calls and God Who gives.

Every day I am rich. I am rich in opportunity to serve and to love. I am rich in my vocation. I go to bed exhausted from head to toe, I have more jobs than I can accomplish in a day...or a week, and I am needed. And in my kids' need for me I am reminded of my need for Christ. When I am frustrated, overwhelmed, alone, and haven't even had opportunity to think of myself in hours or even days, I think on Christ who came to earth without my asking or even knowing that I needed Him in order that He might die, for me, and for all.

My kids need me because they are weak, helpless, often dumb or at least ignorant, and rebellious to anything that is good for them. They choose the worst possible moments to misbehave, act foolish, get sick, and make me face sin in front of everyone I wish I could impress. But, instead, I am left facing my own complete lack of control over not only their sin, but mine. I am left completely broken. But there's a certain freedom in being broken. When you have no one left to impress (and know you never can anyways), all that is left is to live to die to my own desires, to my own selfish ambitions, and to my own desire to be applauded and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be raised up to serve in His love, mercy, and grace while we wait for His return. Come Soon, Lord Jesus.






Monday, November 17, 2014

Conclusion: The Birth and Why I Jumped Ship on Home Birth

I have to admit, I've been avoiding this place the past couple days. The story was easy to tell. There's something about a story that makes it easy to separate yourself from and feel like a reporter instead. I love simply restating the events in order to remember how it all went down later.

But in the quiet moments that have happened since arriving home: when the baby is asleep, the kids are all down, and my husband is snoring next to me, then I have sat staring at my baby's perfect tiny face and my thoughts have surfaced. I cheated.

I can hear the collective moan across cyber space and I can imagine the comments now. No one wants to hear they cheated. Imagine telling a woman with hyperemesis that she "cheated" to take medication to control her vomiting. Imagine telling a woman who has her baby at home that it's cheating to give birth in the water. Imagine telling a man plowing the field that it's cheating to use modern farm equipment or that it's cheating to ride to work in a vehicle. Cheating the curse.

I cheated the curse.

But....what curse?

"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:10-14 ESV)

Cursed be anyone who relies on the works of the law! Shall I bear my own curse? Shall I convince myself that if I birth alone in pain at home that my birth is somehow more pious and more worthy than a woman who has every pain medication the world can provide? Lord have mercy on those of us who are so trapped in the works of the law in our own mind. 

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us."!!! Christ has come, Christ has risen! Christ will come again!

I have to admit, I have walked around the past two weeks so free from post birth emotional trauma that I have actually FORGOTTEN that I gave birth and caught myself still mentally coaching myself on my upcoming birth! Several times in the past two weeks I have gone to take a hot bath to relieve some of the post birth aches and while relaxing deeply in the tub have begun to think on my upcoming birth! I have to laugh each time, out loud, that I could actually forget I have given birth. But I have been trying so very hard to prepare for the birth knowing I was going to have to get through a natural childbirth at home again that it's hard to just turn that off. My birth supplies are still here, untouched. It's weird! So, we finally packed them up and put them in the basement to await the future. 

So, will I ever go back?

I am so glad I do not have to answer that today. With my fourth child I was determined from about the half way point of pregnancy to rock childbirth. I needed it. I craved it. I was like a running addict looking at my next marathon. And one that was not only determined to run, but to win. Maybe that will happen again and I'll be crazy enough to have another home birth. (smile and wink) And I have to admit, the one regret I have is that my children were not with me. The only two home births I have had (my other two were born out of hospital but in other locations than my home) were my first and my third which ended with a near death experience for me and a hospital stay. So, nostalgically, I ached for a "beautiful" home birth in which my kids could gather around me to see their sibling born and we could all revel in the peace and warmth of our home afterwards. 

I shared this with my eldest son when I returned home from the hospital. He is the one we label as being gifted in the area of "human care and compassion". Extremely gifted. So I shared this with him and he gave me a half smile that was also mixed with a measure of little boy grossed-outedness, and he said, "Um, that's OK mom, I didn't really want to hear you yell anyways." I had to laugh out loud. And he's right. For all that mama tries to romanticize it, birth is loud, it's messy, and mama doesn't really want her other kids around her once the baby is out anyways. At least not for more than 5 minutes. 

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if the Lord will bless us with anymore children or if He does, if they will be children that are given to live here or not. I am thankful that this birth resulted in an amazing relationship with my family practice Dr., who aided me in delivering my son, and that she is here to guide me and help me as we navigate what happened at the end of this pregnancy and how that could affect me and any pregnancy in the future. We don't know if the platelet thing is something I have always had, since I never had those drawn in any previous pregnancies, and if it might explain my bleeding troubles. We also don't know if it's something that will get worse with each pregnancy and if it's something that my levels will get lower faster each time. These are things we will know in time and they will help us make wise decisions. 

I do know that I have never felt so at peace post birth, that I have never felt quite this calm and happy. I have jokingly called the epidural I received my "Gospel epidural". 

And I think that's what it all boils down to...why are you making the choice you are making? Is it because it's really what works for you, what you like, and what is best for you or is it because it is earning you righteousness in your own made up laws? When it becomes a matter of pride, something you feel you HAVE to do, are we not joining the ranks of the pharisees? 

I had a hospital birth. I got an epidural. I had a catheter, IV antibiotics, continuous fetal monitoring, tons and tons of IV fluids, and I don't think I have ever laughed so much during labor ever. And that reminds me of one of the most beautiful quotes I have heard in a long time: 

“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
― Martin Luther

We must cling to law where law really exists, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Though the Christian knows that this law really turns back around to Christ who is the One responsible for granting us the faith with which to accomplish this! And so when we feel burdened, harassed, and weighed down beyond our strength and ability, well, it's time for an epidural. God be praised. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Part V: The Birth and Why I Jumped Ship on Home Birth

Since I had already been having contractions on and off for five days, it took quite some time for me to notice a difference with pitocin. I kept wondering what the big fuss was about with the drug. My nurse continued to refill my cranberry Sierra Mist and my husband and I visited with my midwife. For a couple hours not much happened. The nurse had been instructed by my Dr. to continue to turn the pitocin up every half hour until contractions were less than five minutes apart. She must have come in four times or so before that goal was met. Finally the contractions got serious and I was no longer comfortable in bed. I got up to use the restroom and then asked for a ball to sit on. For awhile I sat on the ball and leaned forward on the bed during contractions. Then that too became too painful and I began standing during contractions. I would sit on the ball and as one began and then rise up and lean on my two hands on the bed. I let my head drop and swayed my hips back and forth while it peaked. Then I would drop back down as it finished. I did this for about two hours and some time during that period my midwife left and got lunch for herself and my husband.

Six hours after the pitocin had been started and about two hours after it got serious I requested to be checked. I was getting tired, contractions were two and a half minutes apart, and based on the pain I figured I was about 7-8 cm. I knew I needed to get the epidural soon if I was going to because otherwise it would be too late. Unfortunately I was off. After 6 hours on pit, starting at 3-4 cm, I was only 5 cm dilated. I was very crushed at that point and just felt exhausted and defeated. Part of me toyed with the idea of saying, forget this, I'm going home. Yet I knew the continuous pattern of labor was here to stay and I would only continue to get more and more tired so I told the nurse to call for the anesthesiologist. She said that once the epidural was in place they could break my water and then I would progress quickly.

I sat on the edge of the bed and the nurse explained the whole epidural process to me. It sounded straight forward and simple enough so she paged him and we waited. As we waited contractions continued with the same intensity and I began to get frustrated it was taking so long because sitting through them on the edge of the bed was not comfortable at all. We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally I began to panic. What if he had changed his mind? What if he had a heart attack somewhere and there was no anesthesiologist? I tried to tell myself surely since I made it this far I could do it if I had to but this only sent waves of panic through me. Finally the nurse began to worry. She told me some people at the hospital were known for taking forever or being hard to reach but not this man, he was always very easy to reach and very prompt. I worried. Then the nurse decided to have someone call his office instead of paging him. Five minutes later, after about 45 minutes of waiting on the edge of the bed, he came in. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and he apologized profusely explaining that somehow his pager had turned off. "I'm so glad you called because otherwise I never would have known my pager was off!"

The anesthesiologist once again gave me instructions and then he numbed my back. He warned me it would feel "like at tiger bite" but I chuckled at his description when it felt like nothing more than a little sting. Then he administered the epidural. The strangest part was feeling the tube go into the spinal cavity and curl around before the drug was sent through. It was a very bizarre feeling and I was amazed at how much I could feel. Finally he put the drug in and I waited for it to take effect as a contraction started. I braced myself and began to breathe through it and half way through it fizzled away to nothing, except it was still going. I laughed. Then I realized I could not only still feel my legs but I could move them, kick them, and I was sure I could walk except I was sure they wouldn't let me try. I said, "Wow, I can move my legs!" He said, "You can?" I showed him and he said, "That's great! Everyone responds differently and we never know how it will be." I waited for another contraction to start just to be sure it had worked and sure enough as one started I felt nothing until the end when I felt intense pressure and stretching of my cervix dilating some more. I laughed again, thanked him profusely, and then laid down. Suddenly I was very tired and cold. My Dr. came in and I looked at her with a huge grin. She laughed and made some joke about the happiness that comes with an epidural and then checked me. Still 5. She asked if she could break my water and I agreed. Let's get this show on the road! She did and the only thing I felt was the hot water come out. She announced the fluid was clear and then her voice got intense as she announced I was dilating, "5...6!..7!...8!" In a matter of about 5 seconds I dilated to 8. Now THAT was progress! I was even more glad I had not had to feel that. After that I got cold and was shaking some. They covered me in heated blankets, brought me some hot black tea to drink, and my Dr. instructed me to call when I felt pressure. She explained that when the head began to descend they would turn off my epidural. I, however, did not know that it takes time for the epidural to wear off. I thought, "There is no way in hell I am letting them turn off the epidural for the WORST part!" I decided right then and there to not tell when I felt the head descending.

For the next hour and a half I dipped in and out of sleep while drinking hot tea. It was heavenly. I just rested and thought of my baby. My husband and midwife continued talking and a few times they thought I was asleep and would start talking about me and I would open my eyes and correct them or argue with them which they thought was funny. Then, quite suddenly, I felt a change. As always, two contractions in a row I felt such intense pressure it was hard to not moan through them. Instead I rolled away from my company with my back to them so I could quietly breathe through them without alerting anyone that I was nearing completion. After those two contractions a third began right away and with it I felt the head begin to descend. I was so amazed at the feeling of it that it was hard to not laugh out loud. It hurt, it was very intense, but I could actually hide the fact that I was pushing out a baby's head!!! Just as the first contraction ended my husband appeared on my side of the bed and said, "Melrose? Melrose, what's going on?" I didn't respond as another contraction began and tried to just pretend that I was sleeping. Instead he looked to my midwife and said, "Something's different, I think she's pushing." Or, at least I think that's what he said but I know there was chatter between the two of them before they called for my Dr. At this point I realized they were on to me so I got serious and began pushing. I was so afraid they would turn off my epidural! This is hilarious to me now. I pushed and pushed and then my Dr. came in and, knowing I was far enough along, I opened one eye and said, "he's coming". The Dr. lifted the blanket and shrieked and then there was a wave of activity as nurses came into the room and everyone gowned up. My Dr. said, "Melrose! Your baby is RIGHT THERE! Here! Feel him!" She took my hand and put it there and I put my fingers in to feel his head. He really was right there! She tried to keep her hands there with me but I yelled at her to get them away as the extra pressure hurt. Another contraction began and I kept my hand there. Oh it was SO COOL to feel his head inch forward bit by bit as I pushed and then suddenly as the contraction ended he would slip back just the tiniest bit. Normally I fire my babies out so fast there is no chance for them to slip back so it was really cool to feel this and to know the epidural was allowing me to slowly push my baby out so that I didn't tear.

Finally about the fifth contraction since I felt his head begin descending, he crowned. I screamed at them to get my baby out already (though my husband says I'm exaggerating and that I was actually very calm and making "good birth noises" but in my head I was screaming). It took about two contractions to get through crowning to head out and then the little stinker decided to have one of his hands up by his head which made it very hard for his body to turn and come out. A contraction later his body finally came out in a rush and with my Dr.'s help I pulled him up to my chest. I laughed and cried and felt that insane rush of relief and love all around  and then I pulled his leg up and saw my son. My husband and I laughed and cried that it was another boy and I cooed his name in his ear as I kissed him all over. My Dr. then gave me a hard time for cutting it so close and I explained that I didn't want her to turn off my epidural when I was pushing. She laughed incredulously and asked if I knew it takes time for the epidural to wear off. "It does?! oops."

For the next two hours we reveled, I nursed, I kissed his fingers, and one of my friends showed up just minutes after the birth having just missed it and she and my midwife went out to get us a celebratory dinner of Qdoba. I can tell you a burrito has never tasted so good. We visited and admired him and finally my friend and midwife left and a nurse asked if she could weigh the baby right next to me and measure him. I took that opportunity to use the restroom and then asked if I could shower. I showered for a long time and then took my baby and we were off to my recovery room.

The rest of our hospital stay was uneventful and the next evening we were on our way home.

Coming up: Conclusion and will I ever home birth again?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Part IV: The Birth and Why I Jumped Ship on Homebirth

From somewhere deep in my dreams I felt a stabbing that sent me fighting to the surface as I gasped for breath. My eyes shot open. I tried to figure out where I was and I wrapped my hands under my belly and forced breath down as I got through the contraction. I knew too much time had not passed because it was still light outside. I looked at the clock, it had only been an hour and a half. "Lord, have mercy." I prayed. I knew I was supposed to have slept 4-6 hours on the sleep aid. "Well, that worked well." I rolled my eyes to myself and put my bed into the sitting up position.

The nurses must have noticed a change in my contraction monitor because one came in, followed by my husband. "I'm so glad you're back." I said to him. I meant it. Never am I more aware of the depth of my love for my husband than when I'm in labor. "You're awake already, huh?" he asked. "Contractions." I said, gesturing to the monitor. We turned some lights on and my husband put the bag down of the belongings he brought. While the nurse checked my vitals and looked at the contraction print out he told me about the kids' day at home. The boys were all doing well, though they missed me a lot, and couldn't wait to meet the baby. He had made them dinner and visited with them before leaving them in the care of their uncle. For the next several hours we relaxed as best we could. We watched TV, ordered and ate dinner (though for some reason this is the one meal I have no idea what I ate), and just tried to enjoy each other's company. Finally the hours passed and it was time for bed. I was offered more sleep aid but since that went so well the first time I decided to pass. We turned out the lights and drifted off.

An hour and a half later I again was awoken to a stabbing contraction. I realized I also had to use the restroom, which didn't help the contraction feel any better, and so when it passed I quickly got up before another one hit. When I got back I tried to sleep but every time I would start to doze off another one would hit. These ones possessed the same crampy feel to them I had in the early morning when I first got to the hospital. I had to take a deep breath as one started and breathe it down into my belly to keep from needing to moan through them and disturb my husband's sleep. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and called for the nurse. When she arrived I told her my contractions were really picking back up and hurting a lot. I'm not sure what I was hoping for but at this point I had been "in labor" for so long without it meaning a baby was coming soon that I wasn't sure what to do with myself since sleep wasn't an option. She told me she would put me back on the monitor so we could watch them. Fantastic. Now I would get to be a watched pot but still alone in bed. For the next four hours that was what happened. I laid there in the dark with my sleeping husband next to me while I tried to breathe through the contractions. I was too tired to get up and pace or move which would have lessened the pain so instead I just laid there and sometimes cried through them. I sang in my head "Lord Thee I Love With All My Heart", "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It", and "Abide With Me" to keep my mind off the pain and keep me from getting scared. Finally, around 4 in the morning, the contractions began to ease off. Again. I called the nurse and asked her to remove the monitor so I could sleep. I crashed hard and fast into a very deep sleep. Two hours later my husband and I were very rudely awakened to a nurse turning every light on and shouting out, "GOOD MORNING! WAKE UP! I'M HERE TO DRAW YOUR BLOOD!" My husband and I exchanged our frustrated and angry looks and two minutes later she was done but we were left wide awake. "Maybe I'll get to sleep in heaven." I thought.  Next my Dr. came in. She asked how the night was and I told her and she explained to me that since my fever had stayed down as long as my blood work did not show any significant drop in platelets they would send me home. My mouth dropped open and I said, "Look, I understand why you would send me home. I know I'm not even 38 weeks yet. But I can tell you what is going to happen if I go home. I'm going to start having contractions again in about an hour or so, I'm going to have them off and on all day, and then tonight they will start up again. I won't be able to sleep, AGAIN, and I'll continue to get more exhausted and maybe get sick again. My in laws will go home and we will once again have to find a church member to come keep our kids in the middle of the night. I am begging you to not send me home." She rubbed my leg and said "I know, honey, but we have to think of the baby too, but I promise to take everything into consideration when your labs come back." I didn't say that I WAS thinking of the baby and that I had been so terrified during my fever that the baby would die. Instead I just sighed. She left to wait for my labs and I went to use the restroom. While I did I happened to look down and see that lovely view of the plug disengaging. For a moment my excitement was sparked and I called to my husband that I was losing my plug. "Really?!" he asked. But we both knew that didn't necessarily mean anything would happen that day.

I got back in bed and before I could get situated my Dr. came cruising back in the room with a big smile on her face. "Well, this will excite you! I have bad news, your platelets dropped a lot more, we're moving you to labor and delivery! You're going to have a baby today!" "What?!" I demanded excitedly, "really?!" I was so excited I couldn't hide my huge smile despite the apparent bad news. "How much did they drop?" "They're 76,000. They were 84,000 yesterday." My heart sank. They anesthesiologist the day before that had refused my epidural said the cut off was technically 80,000 (though he had been unwilling because at the time they thought I also had preeclampsia). This meant I was now actually below the cut off. Panicked I looked at my Dr. "Oh no, 76? Oh no, that means I won't be able to have an epidural! Isn't that below the cut off?" She rubbed my leg again and said, "Honey, don't worry about that, you're going to be fine, you've done this 4 times already without drugs, we have narcotics we can give you to take the edge off but you will be fine." I swear if I had to hear one more person throw in my face that I had done this four times already without drugs I was going to scream or punch someone. No, I had NOT done THIS before because I had never had almost a week of ongoing labor leading up to the real thing while also having the flu. And just because I had done it four times before didn't mean I had any strength to do it again. I thought of saying that just because a man gets struck twice by lightening doesn't mean he'd survive the third time but instead I just cried. She left and told me to eat some breakfast and once I was done she would transfer me to labor and delivery. I ordered french toast and an omelet for my husband but could hardly eat. I just wanted to cry and sleep. I was so excited we were having the baby but now the excitement was overcome with terror as I tried to imagine surviving transition and the hour or so before it. Every time I thought of it I would start crying again. Finally we rang for the dr. and then we were on our way to our new room. I don't remember how I got there, if I walked or if they pushed my bed, I think I walked, but this room was shaped like a lower case "h"the inside of the hump of the 'h" was a restroom and the two legs of the "h" were the hallway leading to the restroom and the other wing was a birth tub. I looked at the tub with disdain. If I had to get in the tub that meant I didn't have an epidural. I shuddered thinking of the contractions I would have in that tub which brought another wave of sobbing. What on earth was wrong with me?! My husband and I tried to figure this out when a nurse from the day before, the one I actually liked, came in. I was so glad to see her and I cried and cried to her about the epidural. She tried to comfort me and I began praying in my head as fervently as I could muster. I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord was with me, that I was where I was supposed to be, and that He would not bring me this far to leave me unable to get through. I didn't know how He was going to provide, whether He would just mysteriously take the pain of labor away, whether the narcotics would help that much, or whether the epidural would somehow come through, but I knew I was not going to be left alone. We had come too far through too much. I continued begging and begging and praying while also crying to the nurse when suddenly the door opened. In walked David Letterman. Or at least his identical twin. In an anesthesiologist uniform. I stared at him and he looked at me with a huge smile and compassion and bellowed, "What's wrong little girl?!" He said this not with disrespect but as a grandfather would say to his beloved granddaughter. I just stared at him thinking if he came to lecture me on why I couldn't have an epidural I would surely have to beg for a c-section. Instead my nurse answered and said, "She's afraid you're not going to give her an epidural." He smiled at her and then at me and said, "That's why I'm in  here. I just got on shift and saw your name on the board and heard you story and what that other anesthesiologist said and I have no idea why he said that because your platelets are low but it sounds like they still work!" He proceeded to ask me questions like, "Do you have nosebleeds? Do your gums bleed? Have you had any bleeding while here?" Etc which I was able to answer with "no"s and then he smiled again and said, "Well honey, don't you worry, I'm not going to leave you with nothing, you can have that epidural if you want and you just let me know when you're ready for it!" "What? Really? Are you serious? Oh! You are my new best friend!" I laughed out loud, asked him a few more times just to be sure, and then laughed some more. Oh there are not many times in my life I have felt so relieved.

As my husband says, from then on I was a different person. Suddenly I had energy I didn't have before, I was happy and excited, and I couldn't wait for the pitocin to be started. I was meeting my BABY today! We called family and let friends know on Facebook and my nurse brought me a mixture of Sierra Mist and cranberry juice to celebrate. My midwife came to join us and we all conversed excitedly and prepared for the day ahead. I was still only 3-4 cm but my Dr. assured me the pitocin would probably work fast and then we could break my water and have a baby. My GBS test came back positive so unfortunately we had to do two doses of penicillin and that burned like crazy going in my arm but then the pitocin got hooked up and I waited for it to take affect.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Part III: The Birth and Why I Jumped Ship on Home Birth

As I was pushed through the hallway I thought back to all the episodes of "A Baby Story" that I watched on TV when I was pregnant with  my first and second babies. I remember laughing pridefully at the chain reaction of interventions and shaking my head at all these "clueless" women as I prepared for my own unmedicated, non-intervention home births. I would scoff as they first agreed to an induction which then paved its way for an epidural when the unnatural pitocin contractions got too hard, which then led to failure to progress, which then led to either vacuum extraction, forceps, or even "worse": c-section. Those poor, uneducated women.

I blinked away the lights and the headache that pounded in my head as I struggled to come to terms with what was happening. But really, at this point, I was so tired and my body hurt so bad that I tried to remember all the reasons why a c-section was bad. Honestly the idea of falling asleep and waking up to a baby (which I know is not the usual way a c-section is performed) sounded fantastic. I decided to tell my doctor this when she arrived.

The nurses wheeled me into my second room of the day. It was small, L shaped, and the short part of the L was a little wing that held an empty hospital baby warmer for weighing and measuring the baby. "This is where you will meet your baby!" A nurse happily chirped. I looked at the crib and tried to feel something but a baby felt so far away. All I could feel was sick. I wondered for the millionth time that day if I was in the right place. If that headache would just go away I could think clearly. I knew I should be panicking and running from that place and hide in my own room until I felt better and could have the birth this baby deserved, at home. But when I tried to remember why this was so important I couldn't. All I wanted was to be taken care of and to sleep.

Nurses bustled about telling me about pitocin, narcotics I could receive through my IV to help with the pain, and how long it would probably take. The nurses left and I looked at my husband trying to figure out what was happening. Then, suddenly, my doctor came rushing in and sat on my bed. "Oh, I'm so glad you're here!" I said. "They're telling me I have preeclampisa but that doesn't make sense!" I lamented. She rolled her eyes and in a rush said, "You DO NOT have preeclampsia! The resident made that call without me, I don't know where everyone is getting this from. You had some protein in your urine and you blood pressure was high when you first arrived but that has gone way down now. I talked to Dr. so-and-so (my OB I worked with during all my miscarriages) and she agreed you do not have preeclampsia so we are going to keep you for 24 hours, collect your urine during that time to make certain we are correct, and give you a sleep aid to make you rest. Rest is what you really need right now. Then, tomorrow, we will see where we're at. OK?" I just stared blankly at her.  "Wait, so we're not going to induce?" Suddenly I was very tired. "No, honey, you're not even 38 weeks yet." "I know, I responded, "but I have been having contractions that have taken my ability to sleep for the past five days. And now I'm sick and exhausted. I don't want this to continue. I want to go to sleep and wake up with a baby." She laughed and then studied me. Just a few weeks prior I had been to her office to submit to a platelet count and been very stubborn about refusing a GBS test, ultrasound, and any other things she tried to suggest for before delivery. She questioned my home birth decision after my previous births and I rolled my eyes and argued why home birth was still the best option. Now, here I was, pathetically begging for a c-section. I sighed as I felt the weight of sleep on my eyes and said, "I don't think I'll need that sleep aid." She smiled and said,"we're going to get you to a different room, you can order lunch, then you can decide if you want the sleep aid and then rest."

This time they let me ride in a wheel chair to the next room. This room was much smaller but cozy and quiet. The room looked over a courtyard and if you looked far to the right you could see the lake. I went to the restroom and snorted at the cooler that held the large jug for collecting all my urine. Nurses, they really have a fun job. For lunch I ordered a pepperoni pizza, some chocolate pudding, and an apple. Comfort food. I barely touched the pizza and gave the rest to my husband but I devoured the chocolate pudding. The apple was disgusting. Finally the Dr. came back in and my husband pushed me to get the sleep aid. I agreed hesitantly thinking this was the first drug/intervention that was actually happening and it sent that first wave of panic as I wondered how many others there would be.

She left to give the order to the nurse and told me she would be back to check on me the next day. It was getting close to evening and my husband and I agreed he should go home, check in on the kids and fix dinner as our church member babysitter left and the kids' uncle took over until Grandma and Grandpa could arrive. I felt good knowing he would give the kids some normalcy and comfort about what was going on. He was also going to pick up things like our toothbrushes, my hair brush, changes of clothes, etc. The nurse came in and gave me my sleep pill and then my husband said goodbye. I played on my phone until I started feeling sleepy then rolled over and tried to think through some sort of plan on hospital vs. home birth before my thoughts became confused and I slipped off to sleep.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Part II: The Birth and Why I Jumped Ship on Home Birth.

By this time my contractions were about 3 minutes apart. The awful bumpy city roads made them get closer and closer together and I began to have to moan through them. I asked every minute how much longer and began to be afraid I was going to deliver in the car, right in the middle of rush hour traffic.

When we got to the hospital my husband parked on the wrong floor. We didn't realize it until we were at the door. We had to go back to the car, which I fussed and whined about, drive up another floor, then get out. I was trying not to panic as I tried to get through each contraction. I was repeating phrases to comfort myself like "OK, OK, OK, OK" and "Lord help, Lord Help, Lord Help" etc. Finally, we checked in, were called back to a room, and I was hooked up to a machine. It was crazy watching the contractions fill up the monitor with their tall peaks. I begged right then and there for an epidural but they said they wanted to give me fluids first because I was severely dehydrated. This made no sense to me since in the hours before I came I had drank 64 oz of water and gatorade, but, 3 liters of fluid later I was feeling a lot better and contractions were spacing out. Finally, I could get through the contractions without panicking and I began to think maybe I would get sent home. My mood improved and I sipped on Sierra Mist. Contractions spaced out to about 20 minutes apart. After about an hour at this spacing suddenly they began picking back up. 7 minutes apart, 6 minutes apart, 4 minutes apart, then the resident on duty came in and explained to me that since contractions were spacing out they were going to send me home. I said, "Ummm?" while gesturing to the monitor. She looked at it and said, "Well, they have been spaced out so I think you probably haven't made any progress." I said, "I really think you should check me. This has been my pattern for five days now. I have awful contractions, then they space out, then they pick back up again. If you send me home this will only continue." My fear was I was going to get home, have contractions all day off and on again, get further exhausted, and then my fever would spike again in the middle of the night. We had already had to call a church member in a panic to watch the kids, I didn't want to have to do that again.

The resident finally, and grudgingly, agreed to check me. As she did her face registered surprise and she said, "Oh, well, this throws a wrinkle in our plans, looks like your about 3-4 cm." She left to call my doctor and I breathed a sigh of relief that, for now, I was staying. Unfortunately, my relief did not last long. The next couple hours were a whirlwind of confusion and wrong diagnosis. First a nurse and then the resident came flying into my room saying some of my labs came back and "your baby is making you sick". As I sat there trying to make sense of what they were saying the resident came in and told me I had preeclampsia. I was getting a little irritated that I still was not seeing my doctor and was having a very hard time believing anything the resident was saying. But she insisted it was an emergency and that I needed to be delivered immediately. I got scared and insisted that after being up all night with such an awful fever and body aches that I did NOT have the energy to get through labor and if they were going to induce me I wanted an epidural. She left and an anesthesiologist came in. What he said next made my next 24 hrs of hospital stay just awful. He lectured my husband and me, as if I was asking to jump off a bridge, on what a terrible idea the epidural was, that "in your condition" it was an awful risk. He said due to my low platelets that one slip could cause a terrible spinal hemorrhage which could leave me paralyzed. I sat with my mouth gaping and I began crying and said, "Sir, you don't understand, I have been in labor off and on for five days. I haven't slept, now I've been up with this fever and body aches, I DO NOT have the strength to do this. I have done this four times at home, I know what labor is like, I am begging you to help me." He said, "I'm sorry but I'm the anesthesiologist and I refuse to do this, I can ask my colleagues but I know they will all agree with me." And then he left. Minutes later the resident and nurse came back, grabbed my bed, and we were off to labor and delivery.