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There are so many Twitterature link-ups I’ve intended to join over the past months. Alas, pregnancy and the early postpartum months managed to get in the way of my best intentions. Finally I’ve remembered it in time to hammer out a post. This isn’t exhaustive, but I thought I’d cover some of the highlights of my recent reading.

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The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

I stumbled upon this on a serendipitous library trip at a different branch and snatched it up (Sidenote: one of our frugal ways is to skip the bookstore and go to the library branch in the nicest part of town, the one by where the Bushes live. It’s maintained well and we can bring home as many books as we want and when we’re done just drop them off at our local branch.) This book fulfilled two of my goals – reading more international, non-British literature and reading more Korean literature specifically (my oldest son is Korean). It’s a short story with delightful pictures, but it’s not children’s literature by any means. It’s melancholy and so dear. It made me cry. And I felt like my heart would burst with sympathy for this poor hen’s motherheart. I shamelessly personify everything so finding myself breathlessly interested in the life of this hen was normal for me.

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Dad is Fat

Oh how I laughed while I read this book. And I made my poor husband listen to whole passages. He kept asking why I was cackling away and I finally just shortened my explanations to “this book.” Jim Gaffigan is my favorite comedian and this book did not disappoint. If you like his stand-up, you will like the book.

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It’s almost criminal for a gluten-free/dairy-free girl to have to read this book. I wanted to devour all the pizzas while reading it. If I wasn’t nursing a dairy-free baby I probably would have hightailed it to the nicest pizza joint in town to devour me some, consequences be damned. I enjoyed the voyeuristic look into opening their restaurant, although the recipe selection was odd. I think I liked A Homemade Life better, but I haven’t slept enough recently to discern why exactly.

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Counting One’s Blessings

This has been my bathtub read for several months. While looking for solutions to my postpartum anxiety I learned that magnesium helps a lot so I regularly draw up a bath of hot water with epsom salts and lavender and grab this tome (600+ pages) and settle in for an hour or so. The first part is more interesting than the last part. The editor’s explanation is that she stopped writing about personal details due to the risk of stolen letters being published. However, what is interesting is very interesting, at least to this historian and lover of women’s biographies! I especially liked to contrast her letters about important events to the various people in her life. The tone and word choices were strikingly different sometimes.

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What Alice Forgot

As others have said, this book reads fast, but sticks with you. We’re approaching our 8th anniversary next month and are fully in the trench crossroads of marriage and parenting littles. It’s hard and it’s good and this book was the perfect accompaniment to this season of life.

For a full list of what I’ve read lately you can check out my Book List page where I’m documenting every book I read since beginning my book challenge in 2009. You can also friend me on Goodreads.

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I threw my back out.

One minute I was attempting to clean up the bedroom while wearing Elijah and the next I was gasping for breath through the pain, stumbling to the living room so I could sit down and call for help.

There really is no better way for my body to say, “Fine. If you won’t take a proper break, we’ll make sure you rest!”

I spent about 4 hours on my back on the floor of the living room and still the muscles wouldn’t relax so I crawled to the bathroom and sunk down in hot hot water. I stayed well past prune-stage and let nature’s pain reliever give me a break.

I wish the first full night I’ve slept alone in my room for years was more relaxing, but I can’t deny that I got more sleep than I have in months. Elijah slept better too in his little crib next to Jason on the couch. Maybe we need to end our co-sleeping relationship. There’s no denying that it contributed to my back problems.

When my back went out I was angrily cleaning while reluctantly carrying him in the Moby, ranting in my head about what an attachment parenting failure I am. My back was already hurting from yet another bad night’s sleep bedsharing with him and having to wear him to keep him somewhat happy was not what I wanted for either my mind or my body.

I know that attachment parenting is not really about cosleeping and babywearing, but it’s easy to let those tools feel like the entire thing. And neither comes as easily to me as I would like. The idea of snuggling next to your baby sounds dreamy, and it is in small doses. But the wonder wears off when you have to stay in one position until your back is aching and you can’t turn over and it keeps you awake so you’re exhausted the next day. The concept of wearing a baby on your body so your hands are free sounds great until you put the baby in the carrier and simultaneously feel a fog overtake your brain making the fact that your hands are free completely beside the point because you can’t remember any of the things you wanted to do anyways. And then the child starts to cry.

Attachment parenting is so much more than this. It’s an approach to parenting that covers every aspect of the parent-child relationship and does not require cosleeping and parenting. I’m victorious in my attachment goals every time I choose relationship over behavior, every time I snuggle in close so I can understand instead of putting a comfortable distance between us, every time I tune in to the emotional undercurrents in my boys and choose to be educated by them instead of the reverse. I can’t help but parent by attachment. I would do it even if it didn’t have a name.

The primary personal battle I fought after Nathan came home was maintaining my core mother identity in the face of other’s criticisms. My primary mothering battle this time is being content with the mother I am in the face of my own criticism. I struggle to let my ideals guide me, but not become gods.

There is no way to worship the god of being the ideal mother when you are crying in agony on the floor of the living room unable to pick up your children.

So I’m thankful for the gift of this pain. I’ll soak up some rest, quiet, and alone time. And I’ll take note of all the ways I’m able to love my boys and maintain attachment even from my bed. I’m grateful for them and the gift of these relationships.

And I hope I’m back on my feet soon.


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I recently read this little book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. It’s about a chicken named Sprout and in the first few pages you learn that she named herself. When I read that she’d given herself her name I had to pause and think about it.

It is so rare in our culture to find people who are comfortable with naming themselves. I don’t mean literally naming themselves, of course. But figuratively, people have a hard time saying, “I am _______” without having some sort of outside justification or verification or authentication.

If someone says they are a teacher, we assume they have an education degree. When someone says they are an artist, we expect they have training in art. When someone says they are a mother, we expect they have a child that makes them so.

This outside naming serves a purpose for us as a community of people. Nobody wants to go to a doctor who is not licensed by a medical board. Nobody wants a lawyer who hasn’t passed the bar exam. Although if we stop and think we have to acknowledge that there are people with the skills to heal who did not go to medical school. And it’s possible to get good legal advice from non-lawyers.

Expecting outside verification of our inner selves has its downsides. It can limit us from owning the truth about ourselves and even from discovering who we really are.

I tell people that I am a writer. Now I do have some training, an English minor, and a couple degrees that sort of rely on me being a decent writer, but I did not go to school for writing. People have said I’m a good writer, and that’s nice. But the reason I self-identify as a writer is because I know that in my heart of hearts that is who God made me to be. I love to write. I need to write. I’m a writer. I don’t need a degree, an exam, or really anyone else to agree with me.

I wish that more people owned their right to self-examine and then self-proclaim who they are. How many more artists, writers, healers, and pastors would we have if we didn’t have such hang ups about needing proof? How many more people would be excelling at their work because they are doing something they know they are good at that they chose for themselves? How amazing would it be to raise up children who feel free to decide what they like and pursue it instead of feeling compelled to take the outlined classes so they can get a piece of paper that allows them to be something that will hopefully help them earn a living. Ugh. Doesn’t it sound terrible when you think of it that way? I’ve been a historian since I was in 4th grade. I didn’t need a History degree to make me one.

Think about it, who are you? What are you? What are your strengths? What are you naturally good at? How could naming yourself help free you?

I waited and watched, aware all to well of where depression can take you as you navigate the journey of mothering a new child. Would I lose interest in cooking? Would I lose interest in reading? Would I just sit and stare, paralyzed, just sure I was doing it all wrong? Would I fall down into that dark place again where it felt like there was no hope and nothing beautiful. No. I watched and waited and it didn’t come. 

I kept reading. I kept cooking. I kept tuning into the news of the world with interest and understanding. I kept moving and doing and the depression never came. In fact I’m happier than I’ve been in months. In some moments incandescently happy. Glowing in the smiles and smells of my baby. 

Except sometimes I can see something crushing the baby’s head. Sometimes I worry that something might impale his soft spot. What if he suffocates in the night? What if I leave the house and there’s a fire that kills them when I’m gone? What if they go somewhere without me and are crushed in a car wreck? What if I get cancer? What if he gets cancer? What if what I’m eating is hurting him? What if this is toxic and it gets in his skin and hurts him and I don’t know until it’s too late? I pray every night that he won’t die and I turn over and check compulsively to see that he’s breathing. Again and again and again. Constant.

But still, no paralysis. Surely these thoughts aren’t true Postpartum Anxiety because I’m still going. I’m reading. I’m cooking. I’m interested in the world. There is no depression. I’m happy, even. And once I can get more sleep I’ll be OK. And once I settle into a routine of working and being a mom things will be fine.

Except sometimes I’m angry. Viscerally vibrating with anger so strong I feel I might break something. Angry that people aren’t helping me, angry that he’s doing it wrong, again. Angry at being so alone. Angry that I asked for help and they said no. I wasn’t meant to do this alone, don’t they see that?

But still anger isn’t paralysis. I must be OK. I’m cooking, reading, interested in the world. I will be OK. 

Until the move. I’d pushed off preparing until the last moment, telling myself that it was because Nathan and I couldn’t function with our home in upheaval, which is true. I put off the inevitable for as long as possible. 

Until people show up unexpected to pack our house. And I was too sick to help. The baby, sick as well, needs to nurse and be held and I have sit there and let people dig amongst my things, boxing them at will and seeing beneath the public surface of my home to my sacred space, dismantling it before my eyes. I have to leave my home for others to pack and live homeless with my boys while my things are in boxes. And it’s not about the things, but they are the catalyst. Losing my nest launches me out into a place I do not recognize. And suddenly it’s not OK. I realize after its begun that I’m paralyzed. It feels like a fog that gets thicker and darker. I can’t see more than what’s in front of me. And then I can’t see anything. Panic. I need to do something and I can’t figure out what to do.

I shake my head back and forth, hands rubbing my face, tearing at my hair. He tries to talk to me so I put my hands over my ears and rock back and forth, shaking my head, listening to the white noise of hands rubbed against ears. Rock. Rock. Rock. Don’t think. Can’t think. Need to think. 

And it happens again on the kitchen floor. And it happens again on the closet floor. And it happens again sitting in bed, this time holding the baby like a lifeline, grounding me to reality, needing me to be more than this shattered pile of nerves that can’t think. Panic attack after panic attack. Every day feeling the anxiety thrumming knowing that something will send me over the edge. And the edge feels so close all the time and so high up and I dread it.

Alone with the boys just being Mommy I’m at my best. They need me and I’ll do anything to protect them from feeling that they can’t be needy because I’m too needy.  But add in any other relationship, any other task, and all bets are off. 

It is now I realize my markers were all wrong. I can read and be anxious. I can cook and be anxious. I can be interested in the world and be anxious. I can be happy and be anxious. Postpartum Anxiety is a beast I hadn’t reckoned with and wasn’t watching for so it found me unawares.

So now I know and the journey begins. 

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I think every experience, every person we meet, has the power to teach us something and leave us a more compassionate person. I think that’s how it’s supposed to work. It seems to get gummed up in some people’s lives and their experiences turn to sarcasm and cynicism, but that’s a choice and it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have started pocketing these compassion-inducing experiences faster and faster over the years and I like to take the time every once in awhile to figuratively pull them out of my pocket and look at them like a stone collector.

By far the biggest one I like to examine is my Nathan and the experiences that come with being his mom. He is a fascinating, multi-faceted gem of a person and I can say with all seriousness that I am blessed to know him. Loving him has battered and softened my heart in the best ways.

In particular, I’ve been spending time ruminating over what knowing him has taught me about the voiceless in our society. By voiceless I mean people who both literally don’t have a voice or those who’ve been marginalized and overlooked until their voice is so weak it can’t really be heard – the mentally ill, the elderly, the disabled. My Nathan cannot say much. Yes, his expressive vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, but by that I mean he can kind of say all his sounds and a handful more words. Communicating with him and helping him unlock his voice continues to be incredibly difficult. It is easy, I know because I’ve done it, to ignore his opinions because he cannot express them. It’s easy to assume he doesn’t care because he cannot tell me, to assume he doesn’t know because he cannot tell me, to assume he’s OK because he cannot tell me otherwise. It’s easy to do and it’s wrong.

My little Nathan has as much or more running through his brain as any other “Why?” asking, movie-plot replaying, obnoxiously-long-story-telling three year old. and if you’ve had one you know that’s A LOT. Three year olds are full of everything to exploding. In a group of toddlers he may be the awkward, overlooked one, but I know that his intelligence surpasses everyone in the room most of the time. Seriously, he’s a genius.

And when I extrapolate the lessons I’m learning loving my Nathan to the wider world – oh my goodness it opens my eyes. Who is it I’ve been assuming didn’t care because they can’t say anything? Who am I ignoring because they don’t speak up? What wonderful, mesmerizing, gorgeous brains are hidden behind those lips that cannot express verbally?

It makes me want to look everyone in the eye and really see them. To give them space to express in the way that they can. To give them time to get the words out and to do all the work necessary on my end to make communication with them a possibility. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

How have your experiences led you to have compassion in new and lovely ways? I really want to know.

I never expected to have a following of people watching my child’s life through facebook posts. Before Nathan I kept my friends list limited, posted occasionally, and never really thought about it much. I was strongly considering deleting my account until the spring of 2012 when the adoption forums moved to facebook and it became a place where I could connect with other families in the process of adoption.


When he came home, facebook was the perfect way to introduce him to everyone without having to introduce everyone to him. And it became a lifeline to other adoptive parents the world over who I could never get to know in person. I met some of my dearest, most supportive friends on facebook. I never thought I’d be that person, but now I am.


Plus, there’s this other thing that keeps me posting. Without planning for it or even realizing it as it happened, there has sprung up a group of people who love Nathan from afar and keep a watch over his life. I think of it as his “cloud of witnesses” like in Hebrews. There are people all over the world who are watching him grow and heal and make progress. People who pray for him and cheer for him and get excited as he learns new things. I love that this little boy who was born on the other side of the world, who lost more within the first two weeks of his life than most do in decades, who learned about the darkest parts of life and loneliness and fear as an infant – this survivor with the infectious smile and the genius intellect and the courage to fight, fight, fight – this boy has a cloud of witnesses who can stand and testify to the miracle, the blessing, the effort, the hardship, the love. I don’t know what’s in store for his life, but my gut says it’s something amazing.


That’s why when he makes progress, I post about it. When he struggles I post about it. I tell way more about my life than I would ever have thought so Nathan’s witnesses can know what is going on and keep watch.

So, if you’re one of his witnesses, thank you. Thank you for loving my boy. And I’d love to know who you are. I know lots of people watch my posts and visit the blog and never comment because they tell me when they run into me at the store or at church. But for once, I’d love to hear from you so I can know your name and thank you by name.

Last November, while exiting the express check-out lane at Whole Foods a woman came up to me and asked me if I was going to have a baby. I was not quite 20 weeks at the time and still in the stage where I might be pregnant or I might just be fat so I assumed she was just asking to confirm a suspicion. I nodded my answer and she put her hand on my arm and said, “Jesus Christ will bless you and this baby. He will be beautiful, healthy, and strong.”

It was a beautiful prophecy and that’s how I took it. In fact I claimed that prophecy. That morning, unbeknownst to her, I was anxiously talking to my sister because I worried the baby wasn’t kicking much. To have her speak those words over me and my pregnancy was a gift.

A few days later when we found out my placenta was low-lying I claimed that prophecy and decided not to worry about it. Over the next few weeks I regularly put aside worries about the baby, choosing to claim the prophecy.

In January that got a little harder. When I got the initial phone call about my blood sugars and the need for more testing I wasn’t really worried about how it would affect Elijah. I assumed he would be OK. But as the weeks wore on and I couldn’t control my blood sugar and I began to realize how serious and out of control my gestational diabetes was, the worries crept in.  It felt like without me knowing, and certainly without my permission, I’d suddenly become a high risk pregnancy – a sick mom at risk of hurting her baby. I was devastated that my body was hurting Elijah when all I wanted to do was protect him.

Instead of easily claiming the prophecy, I began to claim it as a sacrament – a willful choice to believe it despite my fears and the statistics. I think sometimes people think people who have a lot of faith are just blessed with an easy ability to believe things. I don’t think that’s the case. Faith, like everything else in the Christian’s life, requires a great deal of willfulness and choosing. I willed myself to not think about the possibilities, but to think about the promise. I did it over and over. My mind would run through the list of dreaded outcomes. I would cry and fret about the risks and probabilities. And then I would remember the promise and release it back to God again. And again. And again.

I was angry at the midwives and doctor for keeping the negative at the forefront, but the truth is it wasn’t their job to shield me from the statistics. Faith isn’t an absence of problems. It’s a choice of who to trust during the storm.

Because of the risks, I made contingency plans for what would happen if Elijah was born in need of intensive care at the hospital. Jason would go with Elijah until I could be with him. My friend would go with him. Mom would stay with me. We’d try to rush Nathan to the birth center to meet him first. I thought about how I would nurse him and whether we’d stay down at the hospital or at home. I envisioned myself in that NICU holding him. My fertile imagination was very helpful in all this planning.

When the day came, I was diligent in caring for my blood sugars. I ate eggs when I thought I could not possibly force anything down my throat. I pricked my finger between contractions. Even at the end during the last minutes of pushing I was refusing to drink a soda, desperately trying to protect my baby and give him the best start in life possible. It brings me to tears to write that because I so fiercely loved him and was so afraid.

Shortly after he was born, while I was being stitched, they had to check his blood sugar for the first time. He failed the test. I was devastated. My worst fears were coming true and I had hurt my baby. I don’t think there are many things worse for a mother than to feel like she’s failed her own child and hurt them. I lay there sobbing on the bed while they fed him formula. There was no conscious prayer  in my mind, but I know those sobs were a desperate and physical plea to God to protect Elijah and heal him.

And, of course, the end of that story is that He did. Elijah’s numbers bounced back. No further supplementation was needed. Transport to the hospital was never even mentioned. I don’t know if it’s that God intervened in the moment or that Elijah was always going to be healthy enough to withstand the withdrawal from my blood sugars. but I do know that the prophecy predicted he would be healthy and he was.

And there were other things that people remarked on about him in those early days over and over. His color was bright red, especially when he screamed, a sign of how well his body was staying oxygenated. He was remarkably strong. When the midwife suctioned him he grabbed the tube and almost pulled it away from her, and he’s been lifting his head from those first hours. And he was notably beautiful without a newborn conehead and with minimal bruising.

Beautiful, healthy, and strong.

I’m so grateful she spoke those words over me and I’m blessed to have journeyed that difficult road so that I could be a witness to God’s faithfulness and the keeping of his promises.

You want to hear a cool story? I would call it coincidence, except I don’t believe in coincidences.

Last year Jason and I did a Whole 30. We got pregnant on my next cycle and both of us think it likely that the Whole 30 was the final health push to overcome the infertility problems we’d been working to heal naturally for years. As I blogged last year, instead of a real Whole 30 it ended up being a Whole 27 because I could not handle the diet any more (if only I’d known that gestational diabetes was on the horizon). During the Whole 30 I used a handmade calendar to keep track of the days and then circled 27 in red when we finished.

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I kept that calendar up out of, well, laziness really. I thought about other things to put there several times, but never switched it out.

Fast forward 9 months and what do you know is Elijah’s birthday? March 27th.

Of all the dates I scanned in the calendar for months, wondering which would be that special day, it was the 27th, the number I saw circled on my wall every day.

Now isn’t that just the coolest? God could not bestow little gifts of “coincidence” like that on a more grateful recipient.

I promise I did not mean to end the first part of the story on a cliffhanger. I simply wrote myself to that stopping place and didn’t have the time or pain tolerance to sit up longer and finish it. Thankfully after several days concentrating on rest I am feeling better so hopefully I can get this story finished,

The Birth

I remember feeling the “ring of fire” and being excited that it meant he was really about to be born. Then suddenly, before I knew what was happening, the midwives and nurse were yelling at Jason to help turn me around. I’d been laying in the center of a queen size bed and they were rotating me to the edge of the bed and simultaneously flung my legs up over my head as far as they could go. They were yelling at me to “Push!” and Rachel took over and was pushing on my stomach and pulling on Elijah. I was yelling back that I couldn’t push by which I meant that I had no more air left with which to fuel a push and they were yelling back that I definitely could push and I had to push. It was terrifying and probably more so because I knew what it meant – Elijah was stuck. In the paperwork it was called Moderate Shoulder Dystocia. The midwife explained later that he tried to come out with both fists up by his face. She had to loop her finger under his arm and pull it out and shove hard on my uterus to get him to come.

But after what was the longest minute or two, he was out and on my belly and it was completely surreal. 6:27 p.m. Less than three hours before they had broken my water and now here he was! Less than three hours of active labor. Crazy!

I lay there, completely spent and in shock – the most exhausted I’ve ever felt in my life – and I think it took me a few seconds to even realize that this was my baby and I tried to hold him and comfort him as best I could. He didn’t cry right away, but when he started he made up for lost time. After a time listening to him cry, I began to sing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” – a song he heard almost daily in utero. What they say about babies hearing and being comforted by familiar sounds and voices must be true because he quieted down to the sound of my singing.

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They did have to suction him, I remember, but I have no idea how long he was on my tummy first. I know I got to hold him for awhile, both before and after they suctioned him.


At some point I realized they were still working and I remembered I still had the third stage of labor to complete – delivering the placenta. It was closing in on 30 minutes before it finally happened. I’d read many birth stories where people said they barely noticed this stage. I, however, found it to be very uncomfortable. I had to do more pushing which reminded me of the much too recent birth, and it was mildly painful, probably in part due to the traumatic birth. When it came out they all exclaimed about how huge it was. Good to know I guess? They showed it to us and pointed out the areas that were showing age that had been one of the reasons for the induction. It was interesting, and not at all gross as you would think, but I mostly just wanted to look at my baby.

After a little bit, I asked Rachel if I’d torn and she said yes. Not what I wanted to hear. She explained that as she pulled his arm out she’d felt me “pop”. Upon examination she decided that it was too great of a tear for her to stitch so she called Cherie, the head midwife to come back to the Center and stitch me. While I waited I was able to hold Elijah and watch his examination. When they weighed him I couldn’t believe he was 8 lbs. 8oz. The sonogram had been wrong, which wasn’t surprising since they are known to be off by 2 pounds at that stage of pregnancy. It explained why I’d been feeling so uncomfortable. He also “tested” at 39 weeks instead of 38, just as I’d known.

When Cherie got there, I had to lay back down and she warned me that I would need pain medication for the stitching. I chose nitrous oxide since it wouldn’t have any lingering effects. I’m so glad it was available because there is no way I could have handled the pain on its own. It ended up  being a third degree tear (4th is the worst) and she stitched me for an hour. The pain was excruciating and I sucked on that nitrous oxide for dear life, screaming occasionally in pain. The gas dulled my senses mostly, except it heightened my hearing so I lay there listening to her teach the other midwives about stitching. Jason stayed with me the whole time.

I also heard them testing Elijah for his blood sugar levels. My biggest fear was that he would need to go to the NICU to control his blood sugar. I had been so careful with my eating leading up to the birth, but I was scared. When I heard that his number was low, indicating a hypoglycemic withdrawal from my high blood sugars, I got really upset. I think they thought I didn’t want him to be supplemented with formula, but that wasn’t why I was crying. I just wanted to be there for him, not laying there helpless and still in so much pain. Thankfully Kimberly was able to stay with him while they supplemented with a small amount of formula and then they let him come lie there with me so I didn’t have to be separated any longer.

In the middle of being stitched they decided I was bleeding too much still and I had to have a shot of pitocin. That shot was one of the most painful parts of the whole birth process. I screamed and Jason said it bled a lot. All I know is 12 days later I still have a big bruise at the injection site.

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When I was stitched up and cleaned up a little, Nathan came to meet him. I hadn’t planned on him coming unless Elijah would have to be transferred, and it was very overwhelming to have him there while I was so weak, but I think it was best for him. He had a very rough day of throwing up and anxiety and I think he needed to see that Elijah was physically there and Mama was OK. He stayed for awhile and charmed all the nurses. My parents went and got us Maggiano’s for dinner which was nice.

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I know at some point I almost passed out twice and had to get IV fluids. I honestly don’t remember now where that fits in the sequence of events. I know it was after having to go to the bathroom. I know at some point they catheterized me. I know there were some times when they had to distract Nathan so he couldn’t see what was going on with me. I wish I could have written this a few days ago when the memories were still there.

I remember being so hot because they were keeping it warm for Elijah. I remember not really being hungry for Maggiano’s after all. I wanted something cold and loved the juice and soda they gave me. I remember Kimberly running to get the granola I’d forgotten to pack from a nearby Whole Foods. I remember looking down at him at some point and realizing he looked like me – what a moment. I remember nursing him for the first time and it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Elijah passed his subsequent blood sugar tests which meant we didn’t have to supplement or be concerned about the NICU. Relief doesn’t quite explain  how I felt to have that worry lifted.

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After Elijah and I were cleared as healthy, the midwives left and the nurses settled in to take care of us for a few hours until it was time for us to go home. My parents took Nathan home to bed. Kimberly stayed with us. It was a sweet time of watching Elijah and nursing and eating and drinking. Finally I was able to just rest and enjoy him without more pain or chaos. Around 6 hours after the birth we began to gather our things and get ready to go. We received detailed instructions from the nurse on caring for both me and Elijah. And then we headed out into the night.

We got home just before 2 am, not quite 12 hours after we’d left to go have my waters broken. What a day.

One week ago today I was being induced. It was an intense week, but it went by very quickly. Before the memories completely forsake me, I want to get them written down, mostly for my sake, although I know many others love to read birth stories and I’m willing to share mine.

The Backstory

Due to my gestational diabetes, I knew that we might induce labor early. The initial week mentioned was 34 which was scary, then it moved to 36 or 37. In the end I made it to what the midwives thought was 38 weeks, but ended up being 39 (which incidentally coincided exactly with what I’d thought was his due date all along – the correct week is n parentheses below).

At 36 (37) weeks I was dilated to a 2 and the midwife said he would probably be born by the 28th. We began to work towards an early delivery with homework: evening primrose oil, squats, walking, and sex. Our efforts led to two weeks of prodromal labor which is labor contractions that don’t proceed into active labor. It was painful, but exciting to know that the end was near.

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At 37 (38) weeks, things had progressed a little and Elijah was looking good so we kept waiting. That weekend we had Nathan stay with my parents for an overnight so we could get one last “vacation” together and some rest. We ate at La Duni, Cheesecake Factory (a little GD diet cheat), California Pizza Kitchen, and Breadwinners. Yum! And we walked Northpark to get in my exercise. We watched a movie and tried to get sleep. It was a lovely weekend.

On Tuesday, March 25th I had a sonogram and the doctor saw some things that were concerning, but Elijah looked healthy. My glucose numbers were also completely out of control despite a recent increase in medication. It was obvious my body was not tolerating this pregnancy any longer. She said he needed to be out by the weekend so we began to prepare for an induction which we thought would be at my scheduled appointment on the 27th. I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want everyone watching and waiting. After that appointment my Mom, Grandma, Nathan and I went to Cafe Brazil in Deep Ellum to eat and talk about it. It felt surreal to be talking about the baby coming so very soon.

Wednesday was full of preparations. By bedtime we wanted the house in order and our bags packed. As was everything those last weeks of pregnancy, it was a challenge to complete due to how tired I was. I was averaging 4 hours of interrupted sleep every night for weeks. That night I got very sick to my stomach and ended up vomiting and only sleeping three hours. I don’t know if it was a virus or nerves, but Nathan ended up throwing up 4 times the next day and my mom got sick later that weekend so maybe it really was a virus.

The Induction

We woke up early on Thursday and got Nathan ready to head out with Poppop. Then we got in the car and headed down to the birth center in heavy morning traffic for my 9:00 am appointment. I was still very sick to my stomach and was concerned they would delay the induction.

My test that morning showed that I was spilling protein in my urine for the first time. Another sign that Elijah needed to come out. Once I got settled in the exam room my nausea went away. I was so ready to just get started and I convinced the midwives that I could do it despite being sick. They weren’t hard to convince considering how many signs there were that we needed to induce.

I was given three options for induction: nipple stimulation to start contractions, a balloon catheter to open the cervix and start contractions, and cytotec. I was adamantly opposed to the medication because I am so sensitive to side effects so I chose the first two. We did 30 minutes of nipple stimulation and then they inserted the balloon catheter at 10:30 and sent us home to labor until 3 at which point they would break my membranes. I immediately started having crampy contractions and in the car on the way home and by 11:30 I was in early labor with regular contractions coming 5 minutes apart and then getting closer and closer.

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I labored around the house and outside and in between Jason finished up little things around the house and did some final packing of bags and then the car. I also made myself eat some scrambled eggs which was very difficult because of the nausea which had come back and my general lack of appetite. Our Bradley classes taught us to relax completely during the contractions allowing my uterus alone to do the work. I tried many positions, but my favorite was to walk around outside and then lean fully on Jason, leaning forward, during contractions. They were definitely painful and required conscious relaxation, but I could definitely handle them. I kept track of my glucose numbers which were staying steady. The hours flew by. In what seemed like no time at all it was time to head back to the birth center. My mom was meeting us there and my friend Kimberly stopped at our house to follow us down there. I will always remember how comforting her hug was when she got to our house. As we drove away I started to cry because I knew that when we came back we’d have a baby with us.

Having contractions in the car while flying down the tollway was not comfortable. Even worse was having contractions while bumping along potholed streets in downtown. But we made it there and I was excited. And nervous. The closest thing I could relate to was how I’ve prepared for long overseas trips – I did my best to plan and prepare and then when the day came I just lived in the moment, barely thinking about what was coming next.

At the birth center, they checked my protein again and it was still spilling into my urine. And they checked my dilation. I was a 4 or 5 and my contractions were coming every three minutes. They took out the balloon catheter and then artificially broke my water. What felt like 12 gallons of amniotic fluid came out. The midwife was surprised at how much it was. She also guessed that this baby was bigger than the most recent estimate of 7 lbs. Immediately after getting the fluid out, I was dilated to a six. The midwife on call was alerted (my favorite midwife – Rachel) They checked his heartrate and then sent me outside to the park next door to walk for 30 minutes. I was told to walk quickly and not stop for contractions. I set out with Jason and we marched around that park. At first I though, “I can totally do this”. It was hard, but doable. And then it was suddenly not doable anymore.


About 10 minutes into walking the contractions changed dramatically. I could barely walk through them. The pain was intense and felt like it was taking over my body. The midwife intern checked me at 15 minutes and said I had to keep walking. I was not happy. And I’m pretty sure I scared some people at the park. The Birth center is right by Baylor Dallas and medical personnel walk through that park. Jason said one guy looked like he was about to stop and try to help me. I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t look up. I just kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I started to say things like: “I can’t do this” “I’m going to throw up” “I don’t want to do this”. Jason knew these were classic signs that I was entering transition. I asked him to get Kimberly to come help and she came and walked the last part with us. And as soon as my 30 minutes were up I charged inside. I have no memory of entering the birth room. I was just completely focused on finding the midwife  intern, Tessa. A couple contractions hit while I was just standing in the front of the room and I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. And then I puked. And I started to feel like I needed to go the bathroom. I was obviously in transition. They got me to the bathroom and Tessa checked me and said I was an 8 and could get in the bath. Finally! But my midwife hadn’t shown up yet!!

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The water felt so nice and hot. The pain was there, but the water really did help. At some point Rachel and the nurse got there. My memories are fuzzy about some of what happened, especially since I couldn’t see everything from where I was in the tub. They checked again after a few minutes in the tub and I only had a little bit of cervix left before full dilation. I also overheard Tessa saying that she’d told me I was an 8 so I wouldn’t freak out, but that I’d been more dilated than that when I came in. This means that between 3:30 and 4:30 I had gone from a 4 to almost a 10. No wonder I had been so overwhelmed while out walking. Labor pretty much hit me like a Mack truck.

Unfortunately as I was starting to get ready to push in the tub, Elijah’s heartrate went up indicating we were overheating. I had to get out of the tub and I was completely overwhelmed at this point and didn’t know what to do. They wanted me to use the bedframe to squat and push, but I really hated the squatting position and didn’t want to. I tried it, but I was still damp from the tub and couldn’t grip well and I was freaking out.

At that point I was still aware enough of what was going on to know I needed to say something. In reading Ina May’s book I’d found that women who keep back from expressing fears in labor can actually prolong their labor. I knew I needed to tell everyone I was afraid of pushing. I’d been afraid of it all through pregnancy. I’m not a woman who enjoys physical exertion and I wasn’t sure what it would be like. I think expressing that fear was helpful, both for me, and also to let everyone know that I needed encouragement.

After a failed attempt at squatting I got in the bed and tried a few positions – side lying, all fours, and then eventually just reclined back on pillows. I was surrounded by the nurse, Tessa the midwife intern, Rachel the midwife, Jason, my friend Kimberly, and my mom. The pain was excruciating. I have had a prolonged gallstone attack and a tooth abscess and wondered how labor would compare. Now I know there is no comparison. It was pain like I’d never felt before and I hated it. I now know why, if you have no convictions about the dangers of epidurals and are in an environment where they are readily available, you would definitely get one. I mean, duh. Because you will do anything to escape that pain. But, alas, for me it wasn’t an option and of course I’m glad I did it naturally as I planned because I do have strong convictions about it.

They kept encouraging me to push because they knew that last bit of cervix would move and then he could come. Looking back, though, I think I was told to push too soon. Nobody could have known that but me, and I was too far gone in pain to think it through, but I think if I’d waited for that undeniable urge to push I could have saved myself a lot of wasted effort.

Side Note: This type of labor was not made for introverts. I like to have time to think about things and reframe my perspective. There was no time for that because the contractions were coming one right after the other with just 30-60 seconds between and some were double peaking. There was no time for Bradley relaxation or controlled breathing. And certainly no time to just think about things for a minute.

When the pain would take over, I had a tendency to close my eyes and Tessa kept telling me to open them and stay focused outward. Then she’d hold my gaze through the contraction. It was so helpful as closing them just made me focus on the pain.

They finally convinced me to try squatting again as they planned to manually move that last bit of cervix. I got in position and tried for a few contractions, but at this point I had barely slept for days, barely eaten since the day before, and was physically unable to support myself on the post. So I headed back to bed.

It was also around this point that I asked for something (I can’t remember what) and Jason headed off to get it as he’d done a few times. I remember yelling, “No! Not you! Never you! You never leave me!!” Ha! He’s so used to running and getting things for me he’d forget that wasn’t his job in labor. I also remember at this point that they made me drink some Dr. Pepper for quick energy even though I did not want it. I was afraid of the sugar which I’d carefully been controlling and they all laughed and said, “It doesn’t matter at this point!”

I ended up pushing for about 2 hours off and on. Towards the end, though, I felt like I finally got the hang of it. They all were seeing his head coming for what seemed like forever and I felt like they were lying to me. I even asked Kim if she was lying to me at one point and she very seriously told me she’d never lie to me. Jason was supporting my right leg and the nurse held me left. The midwives were in front and Kimberly stood taking pictures while Mom stood in the background.

I remember at one point hearing pop music drifting in from outside the open window. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m giving birth to pop music.” It was Rhianna. So annoying. I asked Kimberly where in the world that music was coming from and she promptly went outside and informed the bodybuilders next door that a woman was giving birth and could they please keep it down. I’m pretty sure it was about that point I started screaming and I bet they could hear me.

I also remember looking at Jason during one of the few longer breaks and saying that it reminded me of the hike in Colorado. He knew what I meant, but I explained for everyone else. There is this hike we’ve done twice and both times I’ve gotten to a point on the way out where I feel that I cannot go on and sit down saying just that. One of the times Jason said, “Well, what are you going to do? Just stay here and die? Or slide down the mountain on your butt?” Everyone laughed at that story and it did relieve some tension and give me some perspective on what was happening and how I’ve handled difficult physical challenges in the past.

When Jason got excited because he could see his head I finally knew that he really was coming. That gave me energy and I remember talking to myself saying, “I can do this, I’m going to do this.”  Everyone says I seemed so calm. I did NOT feel calm on the inside. I was frantically trying to figure out what to do to get this over with. I didn’t begin to get excited with everyone until I could feel the famous “ring of fire” because I knew that meant the end was near and frankly that burning sensation was much preferable to the bone breaking pain of a contraction.  After what seemed like forever, they finally said his head was born. Then things got very scary for the longest minute or two of my life.

To be continued…

Part 2