It is through blurry tears and painful heartache that I write this morning. Minutes ago I found out that a sweet seven month old baby girl passed away yesterday. I went to college with her parents. We live in the same small town but I'm not sure they know who I am. Through their website, I've followed the story of their baby girl's struggle to hang onto life since she was two months old. A couple nights ago, she went home to heaven. I am heartbroken even though I never met her. The age old question of "Why?" repeats in my head.

Once again I'm reminded that we were not made to deal with death. When God created us, death was not in the equation. Death came later. Could this explain why our finite minds cannot grasp loss of life? Because we weren't meant to die? In moments like these I long for heaven with my whole being. I long for wholeness and togetherness with God forever.

Our prayers are with you, John and Miriam.
We love you.


time for battle?

Melody is fourteen months today. As we enter the toddler stage, things are both fun and difficult. Several months ago I found myself beginning to say the infamous "no." Since then the frequency of uses had continually increased. I'm fairly certain we haven't reached the peak of the crescendo yet. Each day Melody's coordination improves. She's not just walking now; she's cruising. It's so odd when I'm in the kitchen and all of the sudden she walks around the corner to join me. I feel like I have a teenager! She's also learning how to climb. A few days ago she braved the coffee table. Once on it, she acted like king of the mountain; so proud of herself.

I am struggling as we embark on these toddler activities. I have always heard poeple say, "Choose your battles." I assumed they were cautioning against fighting every single battle with their child. When Melody does something new that I'm not sure about (like the coffee table), I find myself sighing and thinking, "I don't want to fight any battles at all!"

I don't think the reason for my apathy is laziness. I simply don't know HOW to fight a battle. We decided to make the trash can our battle. It is right on her level and she likes to pick things out of it. I have tried repeatedly saying no. She looks at me and does it again. Her face is not showing defiance though. I've tried flicking her hand. She cried, but again, there was no connection. I know people think I'm being too lenient, but I truly don't believe she understands yet. I think it would be easier if she were defiant. Then I would feel okay about being more harsh. As it is, I distract her instead. Now she has started standing by the trashcan and singing, "no no no no no." It's pretty funny. I guess something is starting to click in that little head of hers.

For the first time I feel at a loss about how to be a mom. Caring for her in the first 12 months came easily. I knew what to do and felt comfortable doing it. Now I feel unsure of myself. I'm sure Melody picks up on this insecurity. Could that be why she already obeys Grammy more than me?

I've heard moms say they didn't like the baby stage because they just aren't into babies. Others say the same about toddlers. This logic is strange to me. I am prepared for certain stages to be harder than others, but I want to stay positive while in the midst of each one. Things got really hard (physically) when I was pregnant, but the hardship didn't lessen my joy toward the baby. I want that type attitude to continue as my kid(s) grow and change. At this point, I'm struggling to maintain the joy and ease. I find myself questioning our mother/daughter relationship. (Already!) A couple weeks ago my mom came for a visit. Less than ten minutes after her arrival I was in tears as I explained the trash can drama.

I not only want to learn good techniques in discipline and child rearing; I also want to learn how to keep my joy in the midst of the hard days. Does anyone have stories, book referrals, or suggestions that might help me right now?


girl on a mission

The paper organization feat is DONE! Chad has been out of town for the past few days. My parents came to hang out with me and Melody. I attacked the study/office while there were here. (Turns out, I was totally PMSing, which leads to major nesting for me. The motivation is a great thing.) I worked for about five hours, total. (!) There were roughly four huge piles, each about 6 to 8 inches tall. I broke everything down into filing groups. As I went through them, I realized many of the papers were from 2003 and 2004. (This is so embarrassing.) I decided to NOT file those papers. Instead they are to remain neatly unorganized, but accessable incase we need something from two years ago. Everything from 2005 to present is in it's place though! I feel so good each time I pass the orange french doors leading into the study. I look in and smile at the cleared off floor. For months it was covered with the piles. What a downer.

I also bought two bright blue baskets for our wrapping paper, house plans, posters, and anything else that is rolled up. They are all neating standing next to each other in the baskets now. Eeeeeeee. I guess PMS is good for something after all.

Next month's project: Organize owners manuals. (My hubby refuses to throw any of them away. I made an executive decision yesterday and got rid of a few including, ice cream maker, waffle iron and coffee grinder. Shhh. Don't tell.)


birth story aftermath

Sharing Melody's birth story was relatively easy. In the weeks after she was born I was able to journal a lot. Referring to the pages of my sleep deprived handwriting gave me a skeleton on which to build the story. Figuring out how to be honest and complete while remaining tasteful and private was the hardest part of the process.

The difficult part of the story comes after the birth. This is the when things got hazy and strange. There was so much going on inside of me. I was overjoyed to finally experience Melody with all of my senses. Seeing, smelling, watching, hearing and touching her captivated me. Caring for her was easy.

Several times a day someone would comment on how little Melody was. I had a hard time acknowledging this statement. Each time I'd look at her head, tears would spring to my eyes. I would look away and recall the pain of pushing her out. Never before had I thought of a newborn as big. My new perspective bothered me, but I didn't know how to change it.

I was stunned and shocked when I thought about the labor. I felt betrayed. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but the pain was more than I had expected. I was angry. I thought about the books, authors, teachers and friends who had taught me about natural childbirth. Had they lied to me? Was it propaganda? How could they have glorified such a painful thing? How could they have used words like beautiful and wonderful while talking about childbirth? On the other hand, maybe there was no way to really know until afterward. How can you describe that kind of pain to someone who hasn't experienced it? How can you prepare them for it? I was dizzy with confusion.

As I struggled with these thoughts and questions, one thing was certian. I was different. For the first time in my life I was not a girl. I was 100% woman. A chasm separated me from those who were not mothers. I had been inducted into a new phase of human nature and it made me feel old. I don't mean old in the sense of wrinkles and frailness. No, it was more of a soul thing.

Have you ever met someone who's eyes were different because of their life experiences? I visited Africa two years before Melody was born. I became acquainted with a few widows from Sudan. Their eyes possessed something I'd never seen before. There was strength, depth, and understanding in them. Not only had they been through the birthing process; they had also experienced the death of their husbands and the destruction of their homes. Most of them had lost children as well. Despite the ongoing heartache, they were joyful, loving, warm, and kind. Their eyes show truimph over the horrible things that had happened to them.

After Melody's birth, I felt a hint of this aging thing settle inside of me. Without realizing it, I began searching for a way to make my painful experience a better thing. My bewilderment slowly turned into understanding. Now, nearly fourteen months later, I am able to say that Melody's birth was both beautiful and wonderful.

Someday I will meet a girl who dreams of being a mother. When she looks into my eyes, I wonder if she will notice anything different?


melody's birth story, part 6

After laboring beside the bed for awhile, Jennifer could tell the baby was close to being born. She suggested I move the to the love seat couch in our room. Pillows surrounded me and chux pads were everywhere. My hair had been up in a messy ponytail for hours. It slipped out and fell around my neck and face. I was irritated and barked for someone to put it back up. Chad attempted, but didn't do a good job. It was still loose and threatened to fall down. In one of the 15 second breaks between contractions, I slung it on top of my head and forcefully wrapped the rubber band around it.

Chad perched on the wide arm of the couch next to me. He held a cool washcloth to my face, neck and chest. Teresa sat on the floor, directly in front of me. She rubbed my feet and lower legs to ward off cramping. I felt on the verge of a food cramp several times. I thought I'd completely loose it if a cramp came. Apple juice ice cubes were put into my mouth. "Try to eat these. They will help with the cramps." They had calcium citrate and vitamin C. They were refreshing; I crunched them quickly between contractions.

The contractions became so intense that I was not able to relax my lower body at all. I propped my feet up on Teresa's legs and she talked me through them. I could tell my body was ready to push, but something held me back. I was still afraid. Also, I had absolutely no urge. I kept waiting to "want" to push. The contractions made my legs feel like they would twist off at the hips. I looked into Jennifer's face, silently asking her with my eyes, "Is this normal? Is everything okay?" Her demeanor remained calm and normal. Her eyes responded, also silently, "Yes. You are fine. Do not be scared." This silent communication is one of the sweetest memories of my labor. Without it, I would have been paralyzed with fear, pain, and dread. Because I knew and trusted Jennifer, I believed everything that was happening was normal, despite the incredible intensity and mind boggling pain.

Finally Jennifer suggested for me to feel inside and touch the baby's head. I don't remember if I thought it a weird or gross thing to do. I responded like a robot and did it. I felt a warm and firm surface less than an inch from the outside world. I had no sweet thoughts regarding having just touched my baby's head for the first time. Things were too hard for awe. My only thought was objective and practical, "If the baby is this close, then pushing will make it all be over sooner." I decided to start pushing even though I still had no urge to do so. It was about 10:00pm.

Jennifer brought a wooden birth stool from her car. It was made of two skinny pieces of wood which created a v-shaped 90ยบ angle. It was only 12 inches tall. I sat on it and leaned against the front of the couch. Chad sat on the couch directly behind me with his legs on either side of me. I rested my arms on his knees; a very comfortable position. When a contraction began, I'd take three of four slow, long, deep, abdominal breaths. On the last one I'd hold my breath, curl forward, and push with all my might. My entire upper body remained relaxed in the midst of pushing. My lips were loose like a camel's and my arms dangled at my sides. All my strength and power was centered on pushing the baby out. I tilted my pelvis up to complete the curled position. We'd been taught that the birth canal is the shortest in this position. It took a few times to get everything right. After awhile I was pushing in a full squat. At the end of each push, I'd sit on the birth stool again and fall into Chad's arms. It was a comfort and relief each time I felt his chest behind me.

After 25 minutes of pushing someone said, "Get a mirror." I had no desire to see what was happening, but I obeyed like a robot again, and looked down to see half the baby's head was out. I felt no ring of fire that so many people describe during crowing. With the next push, the rest of the head came out. Again I looked in the mirror. I saw a gray colored head with lots of dark hair. I was not able to see the face because it was facing down. The baby tumbled out of me with the next contraction / push. Chad says that I hollered loudly for a long time after she was out. I don't remember making any noise.

The baby immediately pooped a bunch of meconium. Jennifer wiped her down and handed her to me in one swift motion. A blanket was placed over the baby for warmth. Chad was still behind me looking down at her with awe. He said something like, "Wow. Hi baby." I felt nothing but relief. Relief. Relief. Relief. There was no joy. No happiness. No tears. Only pure relief. Relief that it was over and that the baby was healthy. The first thing I noticed about her body were her ears. They were both bunched up into two squishy balls of red flesh. I was slightly taken aback, then immediately thought, "Oh well, at least she is whole and healthy. We can deal with weird ears." It turned out there were that way because of the birth. Within five minutes they were flat and perfect.

Chad cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. He was surprised at the toughness of it. He said it was like cutting a garden hose. Soon the placenta came. The contraction that delivered the placenta was mild compared to the previous ones. My whole body trembled uncontrollably and I was chilled. Someone covered me with a quilt. The warmth of the quilt was the first sensation of comfort and sanity I felt after the birth. Rational thoughts began popping into my head. "Is it a boy or girl?" I repeated this question several times. We expected to have a girl because of an ultrasound prediction, but I still wondered. Finally Teresa said, "Why don't you look and see?" I was annoyed by this; I didn't want to look for myself, I just wanted to know. When I pulled the blanket back I saw puffy red girl parts. The ultrasound had been correct. I smiled and joy begin to seep from my heart to the rest of my being. I had a baby girl.

Her coloring was grayish so we gave her oxygen by placing a tube near her nose. Soon she was pink and noisy. Her sounds were high pitched and girlie. She had been born at 10:30, ten and a half hours after my first strong contraction.

A few minutes after the birth I asked if I had torn. I felt no pain so I was unsure. Jennifer informed me that I had. After holding the baby for awhile I gave her to Chad and got onto the bed. Jennifer covered a large hardback dictionary with padding and slid it under me. I found this humorous. She gave me several shots of local anesthetic; only a couple of them hurt. In that moment my pain tolerance was very high because of the recent memory of birth. I said something like, "You could rip my arm off and I wouldn't blink." I received 7 stitches for a second degree tear. I was disappointed that I had torn, but relieved and grateful that my baby was strong and healthy.

After the stitches were complete, I attempted to eat some Lipton chicken noodle soup. It did not taste good, so I set it aside. Jennifer measured and weighed the baby. She was 7 pounds, 14 ounces and 20 inches long. After this the baby and I took an herb bath. It seemed appropriate since we had spent so much time in the water during the labor. As the baby and I were in the tub, Jennifer lit three candles and turned off the lights. Chad resumed his place on the toilet seat and Jennifer left us alone. The baby's eyes opened wide in the dark room. She floated like a buoy and relaxed in the warm water. Chad and I watched her in awe and decided to name her Melody Raine.

Jennifer and Teresa left at 3:00am, about 12 hours after they arrived. Chad and I slept about 20 minutes at a time that night. Melody was tiny, laying between our two pillows. She was wrapped in a blanket with a hat on her small head. She made squeaky, chirping sounds during her first sleep in this world.


melody's birth story, part 5

After Jennifer and Teresa arrived, our birth team was complete. They hung back, leaving me and Chad alone most of the time. Teresa prepared smoothies with strawberries, banana, calcium citrate, and vitamin C powder. Jennifer continued to take vitals each 20 or 30 minutes.

After laboring in bed for awhile, I decided to try to bathtub. The hot water felt like heaven. I was immediately able to cope more efficiently. With each contraction I'd close my eyes, drop my head down to my chest, inhale through my nose, exhale through my open, loose lips, and completely fade away. The water decreased my pain by about 50%. I was happy. I felt on top of things. Teresa and Jennifer did many little things to make my surroundings comfortable. They rolled towels for my neck and head. They unscrewed all but one of the light bulbs in the bathroom, creating a dimly lit room. They spoke in hushed tones. I barely noticed these things, but looking back, I know they helped a lot.

Chad sat on the toilet seat the whole time I was in the tub. He timed my contractions, talked to me, read Psalm 19 (my favorite), prayed a little, and listened to me. Between contractions I felt fine. Every 30 minutes I would get out of the tub to pee. This was important to Jennifer. I tried my best to cooperate. Going to the toilet meant extra contractions in an unfamiliar place and position. A contraction would end and I'd practically jump out of the tub in order to avoid moving during the pain. I was surprised at my agility and strength. Those contractions are big motivators! I'd sit backward on the toilet, my arms crossed and resting on the tank lid, and my head laying on my arms.

Time passed very quickly. Each time I inquired, at least an entire hour had passed. As the hours clicked by, the intensity increased. I was not able to stay still during contractions. I began having irrational thoughts. I felt scared of the baby. I wondered if I wanted a baby at all. I felt trapped by the inevitability of the second stage of labor. At the same time, I wanted progress because I wanted it to be over. I started wondering how anyone chooses to have more than one baby. Then I thought about people who choose to have an epidural and I felt humbled. I decided I would never be judgmental of anyone for choosing pain relief again. For the first time the validity of their choices sunk in with full force. I never thought about drugs for myself. Maybe that is because there were no drugs available since we were at home. I don't know what my thought process would have been in a hospital. It was a non-issue at home though.

As things progressed I became restless, nervous and afraid. I was scared. I threw up while sitting on the toilet. Chad held a bowl for me while Teresa and Jennifer encouraged me; it meant progress. It was about 8:30 (about 7 hours after labor started) and I was in transition. After this my body switched gears. It felt like a race car, taking off as fast as possible. I was out of breath and hot. We all heard a popping sound. It was my water breaking, under water. Jennifer checked for discoloration, and found none, meaning there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid. This brought me relief because I knew the baby was okay.

With each contraction, my legs writhed back and forth, side to side. I could not relax or stay still. Chad tried to talk me through it all, but it didn't help. The water was claustrophobic and I needed to find a new place to be. I got out of the tub and sat on the toilet.

[During the birthing classes we were taught that with second stage, women loose their sense of modesty. I thought, "Nope. Not me. I won't." Wrong! I was naked as a jay bird and didn't even think about it. Later Chad said it was a little weird for him at first. He got over it quickly; especially after he thought about how many times Jennifer and Teresa attended labors. This was normal stuff for them.]

At this point the contractions became ultra intense. I made low guttural sounds with each exhale. During these sounds I'd rest my chin low on my chest. The sounds were like a humming or a low roar. I had not planned to make noise like this during my birth. I had read of others doing so, but it seemed weird to me. Once the time came, weirdness did not matter. The sounds helped me cope with the intensity, and that was all that mattered. At the beginning of my noise-making I looked at Chad and said, "Don't be scared." I didn't know how he'd respond. He encouraged me to do whatever in order to keep my bearings. Teresa reminding me to keep the sounds low, as to not strain my vocal cords. She would do it with me and I'd mimic her.

Soon we moved back to the bed. I stood next to it, leaning over the side. Chad sat on the bed, holding my hands with his head close to mine. I panicked at first because I didn't know how to cope with the pain in this new position. Everyone told me I was doing a great job. Teresa reminding me to breath. I tried, but felt unsuccessful. My legs and hips refused to relax; the pain in my inner thighs was the worst.

Jennifer checked me internally at this point. She was gentle, but it caused a horrific contraction anyway. I was dilated to 9.5 centimeters. Only a lip of the cervix remained. She described it as goo or melted butter. This meant I could start pushing and the baby would move down without swelling the cervix. I had a hard time comprehending these things in the midst of all the pain. The contractions were right on top of each other, only leaving 15 seconds breaks for rest. Each one felt like a semi truck barreling through my body. Relaxing was impossible. I stood by the bed, and rocked back and forth. I felt trapped and out of control. On the outside I was calm and relatively relaxed. Looking back I think I was trying really hard to preform for the others. I had had no idea performance anxiety would be part of my labor, but I wanted to do everything the right way so that Teresa and Chad would be proud of me. I was not concerned with Jennifer's perception, however. She had an anything-goes / whatever-it-takes attitude that put me at ease.

I felt no urge to push even though it was time to do so. This confused me because every birth story I'd heard / read told of a definite desire to push and a great relief when pushing commenced. Something held me back though. I think it was fear. Each time I'd think about the baby coming out of my body, I felt scared. It seemed so violent. Therefore, I remained beside the bed, rocking back and forth, not pushing. My body was ready, but my mind was not.


melody's birth story, part 4

I arrived home at 3:00. I had contacted Chad earlier in the day, informing him of my progress. He was already home when I got there. Seeing him in the kitchen was wonderful. It was at this point that my calmness and relaxation evaporated. His first words to me were, “Do you want to go for a walk?” He remembered that walking could speed up labor in the early stages. He didn’t realize how far along I already was. In reply to his question, I leaned onto the kitchen counter, lowered my head, and moaned with another contraction.

Our house was not ready for the birth. Our bedroom was a huge mess. Liz shifted into helper mode and asked me what needed to be done. I slumped on top of a huge pile of clothes on our bedroom loveseat and directed Chad and Liz between contractions. “Take the sheets off the bed…. put the plastic on the mattress… put the sheets back on.” They worked fast. Soon the pile of clothes was in a heap on our closet floor and the birth kit was accessible in the bathroom.

At this point Liz left the room and I don’t recall anything else about her that day. I didn’t know it, but she stayed for two or three more hours doing baby laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and even putting the baby’s mobile together.

I got into bed. Chad stood beside me and said, “We’re going to have a baby today.” It was at that moment that my denial stopped and I realized I was really in labor. I began crying. I was scared and excited.

My goal was to imitate sleep during each contraction. I would assume the most comfortable position possible, fully relax my entire body, close my eyes, and take slow deep abdominal breaths with my mouth slightly open. The idea was to let the contractions do their thing, to accept them and not fight the pain. It is an odd concept. It was as if I was welcoming the pain inside of me. Breathing abdominally during a contraction meant breathing into the pain. This was something I’d never done before. If I stubbed my toe, I’d hold my breath, tense up, and wait for the pain to subside. With the contractions, I did the exact opposite. I let them come and go in a completely relaxed state. At least that was my goal.

Being in bed was horrible. I could not get comfortable between each contraction, so I had a hard time relaxing during them. Chad attempted to help me, but it was no use. My legs writhed with each rush of pain.

At some point Chad was on the phone with Jennifer, the midwife. He handed me the phone. Jennifer’s voice was calm, “Hi Rebekah. How are you feeling? I want to hear you through a contraction. Just hold the phone and I’ll listen.”

Shortly after the phone call, Jennifer arrived. I remember her touching my side and leaning over the bed to say hello. I turned to greet her. She looked beautiful to me. She wore a light smoky blue colored shirt – one of my favorite colors. I was happy to see her. She took my vitals and listened to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler. The metal was cold and hard on my belly. All the numbers were perfect.

Soon Teresa arrived. She was beautiful to me also. She wore a chunky cream sweater; her eyes sparkled and her lips were shimmery with pink lip-gloss.

I chose for Jennifer not to check my cervix. I knew I was in labor and I felt like it was progressing quickly. I knew a cervix check would be painful. Most of all I didn’t want a number to disappoint me or to give me false hope. I preferred not knowing how dilated I was. Instead I focused on each contraction and did my best to cope with the pain.


melody's birth story, part 3

In this post I will begin the details of actual labor. For days I've wrestled with how to write this story in a discrete but honest fashion. My goal is not to gross anyone out, but I can't leave out the messy stuff or it won't be the whole story. Therefore, this is a faint warning... gore and very personal information is ahead.

Our wedding anniversary is on December 17th. While pregnant with Melody, Chad and I celebrated being married four years. He surprised me with a grand celebration. We stayed in a nearby hotel. Dinner was at a nice steakhouse. I still remember that meal. My taste buds were on steroids, everything tasted so good. After dinner we returned to the hotel to exchange gifts. Chad gave me a beautiful robe. It was light blue, thick, soft as a cloud, and luxurious. Surprisingly, I was able to wrap it around my massive middle. I wore it over my maternity swimsuit to the pool. Many endearing looks were cast my way as I waddled through the hotel. It looked like I was hiding a beach ball under there.

The day ended with intimacy enhanced by a hotel room, a great gift and a special occasion. That night I was not able to sleep a wink. I tossed and turned and peed every 30 to 45 minutes. I woke up exhausted and frustrated. I blamed the sleepless night on the unfamiliar firm bed. My hips and shoulders ached. I did not realize my body was entering the early stages of labor.

Two days went by. Small things were happening. I was loosing enough stuff to have to wear a pad all the time. My back began aching to the point of major discomfort and sleeping was impossible. In my head, I still had three weeks to go, so I tried to have positive thoughts. I focused on the baby inside me. I thought of her all the time and wondered what she looked like. Did she have hair? How big would she be? I could feel her knobby knees and pointy heels under my ribs. Occasionally it felt like she was trying to fully stretch out inside of me. Her movements did not cause pain. My stomach jumped and bumped at her command. I let these things make me happy even though my discomfort was monumental. If I had known I was actually in the early stages of labor, my attitude would not have been so good. But I thought we had weeks to go and I did not want to be negative about my baby.

Tuesday (December 21st) a friend and I went to the mall to do some last minute Christmas shopping. We ate pizza and I barely fit in the booth. On the way out of the restaurant a stranger said something like, "When was your due date?" implying that I was overdue. As nicely as I could I replied, "Not for three more weeks." I was completely annoyed. I turned to my friend in the parking lot and said, "Do I really look that big!?" She sheepishly, carefully replied, "Yes, honey. You do." I shrugged and thought once again, "But I have THREE WEEKS left!"

Later that same evening I finished shopping first. I stood on the outskirts of the food court, scanning the crowds for my friend. Suddenly I felt flushed, exhausted and weak. I hobbled to the nearest chair and lowered myself down to rest. Never in my life had I been too weak to stand up. Looking back, I don't know why it didn't cross my mind that I was in labor. I guess my mind was just set on January, not December, for the birth.

That night, when I finally arrived at home, I collapsed into bed and slept like a baby all night long. Wednesday, the 22nd, I woke up to mildly icy roads. I took my time getting ready for work in order to let the roads clear. For some reason I decided to do a load of baby clothes laundry before leaving the house. It was the first of the baby clothes for me to wash. I had to get gas on my way to work. I remember standing by the car, pumping the gas, in the freezing cold wind. My hair was slightly damp and I was wearing a light-weight jacket. Despite all of this I was still warm!

During the 40 minute commute to work, I had my first strong contraction. It took me by surprise. I had to concentrate to keep the car on the road. The seat belt felt horrible; it was so tight around my stomach. I shrugged it all off, and focused on other things. Three weeks. Three weeks. Three more weeks.

I got to work at 10:30. It was a relaxed day in the office; everyone was happy and looking forward to Christmas. We goofed off and talked about silly things; I laughed really hard and felt very happy. For lunch I was in the mood for A&W root beer on tap. (Normally I don't care for root beer. I'm a coke girl.) Scot and Melissa and I went to Long John Silvers / A&W. I ordered a three plank chicken meal with my root beer. They each got smaller meals. I felt slightly embarrassed to be eating so much. While at the table I repeatedly got up to get things like ketchup, a straw, napkins, etc. Each movement was a monumental task. I was growing very uncomfortable and things were beginning to hurt.

I asked my friends if they minded going to the nearby health food store on the way back to work. I felt an urgent need to buy vitamin C powder and calcium citrate powder. These were ingredients for Teresa's labor smoothie. They help provide the laboring mama with extra energy and reduce muscle cramping. Typically I would not have bothered my friends with an errand like this, but the roads were suppose to get more icy and I felt an urgency. I still did not realize I was in labor. Every five minutes I reminded myself I had at least three weeks left to go.

On the 10 drive back to work I experienced two strong contractions. Each bump in the road made me grimace and close my eyes. Scot and Melissa did not notice. I mentioned the contractions to them and they got excited. I remained calm, still not believe this was it.

Once back at the office I began timing the contractions. They were five minutes apart and each lasted between 30 and 45 seconds. It was difficult to concentrate on anything else. I was unable to get comfortable in my expensive posh Herman Miller chair. I went to the bathroom; sitting on the toilet felt good. I did some pelvic rocks; they brought on more contractions.

Back at my desk I frantically worked on a list for Ellen. I felt responsible to leave her with clear directions for my projects incase this was it. I wished with all my heart the list was already made. It should have been a 20 minute task; instead it took me one and a half hours! The contractions continued, but no one in the office noticed my frequent breathing breaks. I squirmed through each one; leaning back and leaning forward. I never found a way to relax in that stupid chair.

Around 2:30 I realized I could not drive myself home. Liz immediately came to mind. She was a longtime friend from college who also worked at DaySpring. I walked to the other building to ask her to drive me home. Walking felt good. The cold air was refreshing. I walked slowly and paused when contractions came. Liz was on the phone with a mutual friend when I arrived at her desk. They chatted while I waited. I masked my way through two more contractions. Then Liz handed me the phone. I chatted through a couple more contractions; it was very difficult.

Finally, I told Liz I needed her to take me home. She was awesome. On the drive she panicked a little. I calmly told her to drive slow on the curvy highway. The curves were painful for me. Once we almost veered off the road when she looked at me instead of keeping her eyes on the road. I surprised myself by remaining relaxed and telling her not to worry. With each contraction I'd rest my head on the headrest, close my eyes, fully relax my arms, and slowly breath in and out with my mouth slightly open. I think this sight scared her a little. Also, she realized the magnitude of the situation more than I did. I was STILL not convinced this was it! Liz's actions reminded me of the classic sitcom husband who gets hysterical when it's time to go to the hospital. She told me later that she was coaching herself to not talk too much or be loud.

I called Crystal on the drive to tell her about the contractions. At this point they were three minutes apart. Our conversation ended abruptly when a pain began. I said shortly and weakly, "I have to breathe now. Bye." and hung up the phone. Later she told me that it was then she knew I was in active labor.


melody's birth story, part 2

As we entered the third trimester of the pregnancy, I was calm and excited about labor. I felt prepared and equipped. Chad and I talked about it often. One night, as we walked around our neighborhood, I said, "I hope I don't throw up during transition." Looking back, I can't believe throwing up was one of my concerns. I did throw up, but it paled in comparison to the rest of the experience. This is an example of the contrast between my expectations and the reality of my labor.

From about week 30, I measured larger than normal. Each week I was 3 to 5 centimeters larger than expected. One is suppose to measure 30cm when she is 30 weeks, 32cm when she is 32 weeks, 35cm when she is 35 weeks, etc. The doctor was more concerned about this discrepancy than the midwife. The doctor looked at individual things -- my weight was too high, my measurement too big, my ankles too swollen, etc. Jennifer looked at the whole picture. Most of Jennifer's patients gain more weight than the average. Also, most of the babies she delivers are around 9 lbs, instead of the hospital's average of 6 lbs. With this type of knowledge, she eased my mind about my weight and my measurements.

My due date was January 6th. I tried to manage my expectations because I knew that a lot of first timers go past their due date. As I approached my 35th week, my maternity pants got too tight. I couldn't believe it. One morning I sat on the floor to put on my shoes. This was already a monumental task because reaching my feet was nearly impossible. As I sat down and bent over, my too tight pants dug into my enormous belly. I sat back, gasping for breath and sighed, "What am I going to do??! I have five weeks left and my pants are too tight!!" Chad was sympathetic and told me to buy some new pants. This made me feel better. I went to Motherhood Maternity, a store I grew to hate. (Literally.) I felt like their clothes were Walmart quality at Mall prices. I found the largest, cheapest pair of jeans and wore them every single day even though we were not suppose to wear jeans to work. I didn't care.

December arrived and it became increasingly difficult to sleep and walk. I woke up to pee every single hour at night. I did pelvic rocks nonstop (including in the bathroom at work) to relieve my aching lower back. I don't know how I would have made it without those pelvic rocks. They felt so good.

My plan was to begin my maternity leave on December 26th, the day after Christmas. This would give me a little over a week at home to prepare myself and the house for labor. I had heard stories of women going into labor at work. I could not fathom working until the day the baby came. I wanted time at home first. Little did I know, that would not be the case at all!


melody's birth story, part 1

I have decided to tell Melody's birth story. I'm finally ready.

It took many months for me to be able to think about her birth in a positive light. For a long time it was a bundle of painful memories. Anger and resentment simmered inside when I thought about it. When Melody was 7 months old I reached a turning point. I began to remember her birthday with a happy heart. I began to see the good things. Now she is almost 14 months. When people ask, "Would you do it again?" I respond with a small quiet, "Yes, I would."

I'll preface the actual birth with some background information. I grew up in a family that benefited from alternative medicine. My mom used homeopathy for her chronic fatigue, allergies, and general weakness. While she has never been as strong as a typical person, these remedies helped her immensely. She always believed in vitamins, supplements, and health food. I did not have a coca-cola until I was five. (Maybe that's why I love it so much now.)

I have always been comfortable with the idea of natural medicine. As a girl who wanted to be a mom someday, I had it in the back of my head that I'd probably choose to attempt an unmedicated birth. My good friend, Crystal, had her first baby three years before Melody came along. She learned something called The Bradley Method. I liked what I heard from her, so when I found out I was pregnant I looked into it.

I found there were two women in our area that teach The Bradley Method. I called one and was not impressed or comfortable with the conversation. I called the second, and liked her immediately. Her name was Teresa. Chad and I made an appointment to meet her and joined her small class shortly after. There were two other couples in our class, both in their 3rd trimester. I, on the other hand, was merely 10 weeks along. I remember looking down at my flat middle and wondering with all my might what it would be like when the baby grew and stretched me out like a beach ball. Each week I stared at a large picture book portraying the growing baby. I'd look ahead to see how big my baby would get in the next few weeks. I was full of anticipation.

We learned a myriad of exercises including squatting, pelvic rocks, tailor sitting, the butterfly, kegels, and relaxation. Nutrition was also a weekly topic. We learned that consuming 80 to 100 grams of protein each day would drastically reduce the chance of toxemia / pre-eclampsia. I kept record of what I ate and learned that a tuna melt with cheese and tomato was an easy way to get a lot of protein in one meal. Many evenings before bed, I'd drink 8 ounces of milk in order to top off my protein count for the day. The Bradley group was a source of accountability and encouragement in the area of nutrition. I would not have eaten as well without their support.

Through the childbirth class I met several new friends who introduced me to different books about natural childbirth. I read several of them including, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Husband Coached Childbirth, and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. The more I read, the more excited and sure I became about having an unmedicated birth. I began to think it would be easy to do it the natural way if: I ate well, exercised, learned how to relax, and listened to everything my Bradley teacher said. I hung on her every word during class, asked tons of questions, and listened intensely. I tried to be the model student. Each day I grew more confident in myself and my ability to have a baby without drugs. (Ha!) Chad was equally excited about the information we were learning.

As Chad and I learned about these things, we also learned about our local hospitals. Northwest Arkansas is not as progressive as other areas of the country. This stunted element applies to the medical field as well. We had trouble finding a doctor / hospital combination that pleased us. Some doctors were okay with non-intervention, but their hospital policies scared us. Other hospitals had a good reputation for a friendly natural childbirth environment, but we were unable to find a doctor we were comfortable with. I entered my fourth month of the pregnancy still unsure of which doctor / hospital to use. It was at this point that Chad started talking about having a home birth. At first I was very closed to the idea because of fear. What if something went wrong? How would I forgive myself?

Some reasons we didn't want to be in the hospital included:
I did not want an IV in my arm or a fetal monitor strapped to my belly. I wanted to be able to eat / drink during labor and I didn't want a timeline attached to my labor. After the birth, we wanted the baby to room-in with us. I didn't know if I'd be able to trust a doctor and the nurses to listen to me during the labor. What if I got a mean nurse? What if the doctor insisted on breaking my water or on doing an episiotomy? Basically, Chad and I just didn't want to have to fight the system. We wanted to be fully supported in our birth plan wishes from the get-go. We didn't want to enter the labor process unsure of what kind of birth team we'd have. As we struggled to find a doctor and hospital, I became anxious. Each prenatal visit consisted of fear, uncertainty, and stress.

Sometime in the fifth month of the pregnancy, we met a midwife named Jennifer. I liked her immediately. She was only a few years older than me and had a calm demeanor. She answered our questions with poise and confidence. As we talked and became acquainted, I started feeling hopeful about the idea of a home birth. She practiced out of her home, which was a 100+ year old, two story, cedar sided house on a large shaded lot in the historic part of town. The house had a bedroom / bathroom on the first floor that was her prenatal quarters. Each month we'd have an appointment. Instead of feeling like I was going to the doctor, it was more like visiting a friend. She made us hot tea and sat on the edge of the full size bed while we sat in rocking chairs. We asked questions. She told stories. She listened to our fears and replaced them with knowledge. She gave me confidence in myself as well as in her ability and experience.

After meeting with Jennifer twice, we decided to have our baby at home. Three short months before I had had a casual conversation with an acquaintance who was also pregnant. She told me she was planning to have her baby at home and I remember thinking, "Wow. That's extreme. I wouldn't do that." Chad and I continued seeing an OB incase there were complications that landed us in the hospital after all. The comparison between my OB appointments and my monthly visits to Jennifer's were remarkable. Each time I left the doctor's office I was anxious, irritated, and slightly scared. When I left Jennifer's I felt calm, excited, and uplifted. My OB appointments consisted of waiting a total of around 30 minutes and spending about 10-15 minutes with the doctor / nurse. Appointments with Jennifer lasted at least a hour and centered on conversations and stories. We developed a trusting relationship that I have never felt with a doctor.


tiny duplex = happy times

Last night Chad and I started the massive project of reorganizing our papers. I created new files, while he purged the old ones. We threw away TONS of stuff. We ran across things that made us laugh. He found his driving learner's permit from when he was 15 years old. He didn't want to part with it, so we moved it to the sentiments box. This is a box I have on a book shelve. It is full of sweet things that we don't want to let go. One item is the list of 10 things Chad loves about me, which he gave me when we he proposed. Aww. So now, his learner's permit is amoung the treasures.

We also ran across receipts from all our previous apartments. We sighed when we found record of our very first duplex. We payed $280 a month and the electric bill for that February was under $30. When we compare that to our current mortgage and utility situation we're dumbfounded. We never expected to have this much in five short years. We're thankful, but we also miss the simplicity of that tiny duplex with its 35 year old cinderblock construction. We used to climb onto the roof and drink Mikes Hard Lemonade underneath a huge oak tree that shaded our side of the unit. We watched DVDs with a tiny laptop because we didn't have a tv. The kitchen was so small that the oven and fridge could not be open at the same time. It totally didn't matter though. We were blissfully happy there and when the day came to move out, we were sad.


time, snot & exercise

Very boring post ahead. I've vowed to stop trying make each post a masterpiece, in hopes of writing on a more daily basis. Therefore, you're about to embark on a boring, regular, everyday encounter of my life....

I can't believe it is already February. For that matter, I can't believe it is 2006. The older I get the faster time goes by. Sometimes I panic because the days flip by so quickly. But I guess that means life is good. It is in pain that days drag on and on.

Melody has had a runny nose for over two weeks. She's not sick in any other way. She is definitely teething. Evidence is buckets of drool and constant hand chewing. We've been isolated from our social circle because of the snot. This group of moms is really good about staying away when sick or borderline sick. I apprecaite this and want to respect in the same way. But, I miss the interaction! I think Melody misses it too. Her 7th and 8th tooth just broke through yesterday, so hopefully the snot will stop now.

Yesterday I exercised for the first time in about two months. My friend, Laura, and I went for a brisk walk. Then we did crunches and fire hydrants. (Ouch) It felt really good. Chad found out yesterday that it looks like we'll be going on a four day cruise with his company in mid March. Of course this is great motivation for exercising. The question is... is it enough motivation to actually DO something on a regular basis? I hope so.


paper pile plea

I'm making slow progress in The Land of the Paper Piles. One wouldn't know it by looking in our office room, but there is a method to the chaos. First of all, I've created files for the monthly bills. Credit card, phones, utilities, bank statements, and freelance info. These categories take care of about 75% of the incoming papers. So from here on out, the paper pile should be smaller.

The thing that stumps me is what to do with all the misc papers. Random receipts, EOBs, car repairs, geez, I don't even know what they all are. All I know is, there is a HUGE pile at my feet that I have no idea what to do with. Maybe we're just saving too many documents. What do you save? What do you throw away? How do you file it? How do you keep up? I desperately want to be on top of this area of our lives, and I am closer than ever before, but I still need ideas for the overall system.

Help me... any suggestions?