My Thankful for 2015

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Last week our family had a restful and happy Thanksgiving Day. It was so good, I didn’t even think to take pictures, as crazy as that may sound. And, though Thanksgiving has passed for this year, I wanted to share my “thankful” for the year. This is what I shared at our church’s Thanksgiving service, so if you heard me there you can go ahead and return to your Facebook feed. 🙂

A little over two years ago, our second daughter was born. At that time, my doctor told me I would probably never carry a baby past 32 weeks.

The months preceding Abby’s birth and the year following her birth were full of trials. It seemed like one trial after another. We did our best to press on, obey God, and trust Jesus that He was sovereign and using everything for our good and His glory. But it was a struggle. Toward the end of last summer, we found out we were expecting Baby Paul. Because we hadn’t moved into our new house yet (or even put in an offer), and because we were anticipating another 12 weeks in the hospital with a preemie, the news was a little overwhelming. I was praying one day about Baby Paul and felt God saying to my heart, “This is a reward”.

I had stayed up late one night researching possible medical interventions that could help Paul make it further along. That was overwhelming too. Operations, procedures, limitations, bed rest, risks, medicine, hormones…it was all overwhelming and I didn’t know what course we should take. I prayed again and God reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

So, over the next several months, we did our best to Trust in the Lord, seek His direction in all our decisions with Baby, and acknowledge Him. Right away, many came along side us and began to pray for Baby. There were at least two women from my Bible study who really carried our burden every single day.

From early in the pregnancy Dan and I started praying that Baby would not be born until after our church’s annual Fur Rondy talent show.

He did.

We also started praying that Baby would not be breach. He had been breach through most of the pregnancy. At our 20-week ultrasound he was still breach and it was around that time that I became convinced that he would not flip. Though I asked our Bible study prayer group and my husband to pray that Baby would flip, I eventually resigned myself to the likely possibility of another breach baby, which would mean another c-section baby. I prayed about it one last time and fully surrendered it to God. A couple of nights later, Baby flipped and stayed head down for the rest of the pregnancy.

Baby was not a c-section baby. He was not even early enough for me to be stuck on magnesium or antibiotics. In fact, in answer to many, many prayers, Paul was born completely naturally. All the hospital did was provide ice chips, a birthing ball, and someone to catch Baby. (They even offered to let me do that, but I was a little distracted at the time).

My last big prayer request was that I would be able to hold Baby right when he was born. I didn’t think that was ever going to happen, but I prayed anyway, and asked everyone else to pray too. I didn’t get to hold Lydia until she was one day old. I didn’t get to hold Abby until she was three days old. Words cannot describe how badly I wanted this. The closest I can come is “desire of my heart” (see Psalm 37:4). Words also cannot describe how happy I was the moment the picture below was taken. Or any time I see this picture. I know I’ve shared it before. I will probably share it again. This was one of the happiest moments EVER.

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God is so kind.

Paul was born at 35 weeks.

He came home with us from the hospital without spending a single day in the NICU. Our transition to having a baby at home was the easiest we’ve had yet and Paul has continued to be such a content, sweet, cuddly, cute, precious baby boy. He really feels like a reward. 🙂

I am so thankful that God is so kind. That he leads us when we seek Him and He blesses us when we obey.

Paul’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Paul’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To understand the full impact of this story, it may be helpful to read (or reread) this post from a year and a half ago. I recently went back and read it and was so surprised at how similar the beginning is to Paul’s story. God is so kind.

Monday Morning

Monday (March 16) started off in a pretty routine way. We woke up, ate breakfast, and Dan went out to the garage to exercise. While he was out, I snapped this picture, my 35 week photo. I never thought I could make it to 35 weeks and we were thrilled to get this far. In fact, when Abby was born my doctor told me I would probably never go past 32 weeks. Our current doctor told us a 35 weeker is usually a “take home baby” and we were thankful for even a chance to bring Baby home without spending time in the NICU.

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We were running low on leftovers so we had a pretty small lunch. I had just a peanut butter, banana sandwich, figuring I would grab a more substantial snack after my nap and dinner-time would come soon enough. After lunch, one of the girls from our church came over for a couple of hours to clean our floors and play with the kids outside, since I have been unable to do those things for a while now. They stayed out extra late and didn’t come in and get settled down for naps until after 2:00.

I was chatting with Dan (who happened to be home that day) while he washed dishes. “Aren’t you going to go take a nap?”, he asked me. I told him I was headed that way, just wanted to print off a couple of things from the computer. I had spent the morning tidying up our kitchen from the months I’ve spent “taking it easy”, and I had just finished and wanted to move our printer upstairs so the counter would be clear. I printed my documents and was just looking through them when I felt a big gush.

Just a second later I felt another gush, and then a third. My water had broke, and it took a moment to realize what was happening. I hesitantly tried to get Dan’s attention while he worked away at a particularly dirty pot. As soon as he knew what was going on he sprang into action, gathering items for the hospital, calling our babysitters, getting the girls up from their short nap. I was all but helpless because I was leaking so much fluid and I didn’t want to move around and risk speeding up the coming labor.

After half an hour, what seemed like a very long half hour, we were in the car on our way to the babysitters, and then the hospital. Contractions had started but they weren’t coming in any predictable pattern yet, they just hurt.

3:45 PM

By 3:45 the contractions were coming more regularly and we were in the waiting room of the family birth center. I was excited, restless, and nervous, so we just stood in the waiting room holding hands and waiting to be called in. A nurse came and got us settled in our triage room, where we spent the next two hours.

I was amazed at how peaceful everything was. In the past our room has been full of medical staff poking and prodding me in a million ways. This time there was just one midwife entering my data on the computer and hooking me up to be monitored for the next 20 minutes (which turned out to be two hours). This was the first time I got to see a graph of a baby’s heartbeat and my contractions during labor. It was almost fun, watching the coming contraction and then seeing how far apart they were (3 minutes) and how long they were lasting (1 1/2 to 2 minutes). I thought to ask Dan to take a picture but by the time he got the camera ready I was right in the middle of a contraction. We took the picture anyway.

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We gave the midwife a copy of my birth plan, which was as simple as I could keep it while still being meaningful:

-Please direct any possible questions to Dan.
-Unless it becomes medically necessary I would like not to have an IV.
-I would like to have as natural of a delivery as possible.
-If at all possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

The midwife informed us that at 4:00 our doctor had started a c-section and we would have to wait at least half an hour before he could come do anything.

Now, back at 16 weeks, I had a surgery to put stitches in the cervix, adding support that would hopefully enable things to stretch and Baby to stay put longer. My fear during our time in triage was that I would dilate too quickly and the stitches would tear. So we waited and prayed and watched my contractions on the graph. Dan named the unitless graph, the “Graph of Awesomness” and let me know when my “awesomeness” was “off the charts”.

By 5:00 I was starting to feel the stitches pulling and we kept waiting to hear some word from our doctor. A very sweet resident came in and chatted with us for a while. She did an ultrasound to check that Baby was head-down, and she told us that she could remove the stitches if our doctor took too long.

5:30 PM

Our doctor rushed in around 5:30 and sat down with the resident immediately to start taking out the stitches. The procedure took longer and hurt more than I was anticipating. Dan held one arm while a nurse held the other and both kept streams of encouragement coming as I scrunched up my face and braced myself through each painful poke. Finally the stitches came out and I was able to get up and walk to our labor and delivery room. Much to my dismay, I was only dilated to 1 1/2.

As we walked to the room where Baby would hopefully be born, I drilled our nurse with questions about 35 weekers. Would I get to hold the Baby? Would I be able to have a “normal” delivery? She told me that Baby had to be a certain weight (4 pounds, 9 ounces?) to stay in our room. The resident had predicted Baby was probably 6 – 6 1/2 pounds, so that was encouraging. I could have a normal delivery in a normal labor and delivery room, but there would have to be a special team present to evaluate Baby and decide if s/he needed to be taken to the NICU.

6:30

When we got to our room a new nurse took over and chatted with us for a long time. I was leaning against the bed waiting for her to finish so I could try to get into some sort of more comfortable position. She kept offering me all sorts of natural pain relief methods: bean bags, birthing balls, the shower, heating pads…I was overwhelmed and just wanted her to leave. I knew it would help to move around but I could hardly bring myself to do that, so I asked for the birthing ball, figuring I’d been using it over the past couple of weeks and maybe I would have some idea what to do with it.

During the entire labor I had Philippians 4:13 playing in my head to a tune I learned when I was a kid:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do. All things through. Christ who strengthens me. Christ who strengthens me.

Because this was going to be a VBAC, I had to be hooked up to the monitor continuously and I had to have a hep lock so I could be hooked up to an IV quickly if that became necessary. I asked for some water, determined to stay hydrated and avoid that IV. I was feeling the contractions almost entirely in my back and legs, so the nurse showed me how I could sit on the ball and lean forward on the bed to help with the back labor. Dan was a champ and started massaging my lower back. When the contractions became more intense he would press hard on my back, which helped significantly with the pain. Then in between contractions it was back to massaging. As soon as a contraction would end I would whisper, “Water” and Dan would grab my ice water and hold it for me to take a sip, then I would relax for about thirty seconds before another contraction came.

7:30 PM

There was a shift change and our new nurse came in and brought a heading pad for my back. Dan and I were in our groove now, but wondering how long labor would last. We were spoiled with Lydia and the entire labor was 8 hours. I was starving, but couldn’t bear to eat anything, and Dan was hungry too. Those pb sandwiches were not holding us over very well. Occasionally we would discuss the likelihood that Baby would be born early enough for Dan to run out and get us some Qdoba.

When Lydia was born I didn’t make a sound until very close to her actual delivery. So when I started moaning through the contractions we thought for sure we must be close. We kept waiting for the signs of transition. Dan was sure I would throw up, and I kept waiting for that moment when I would feel the urge to push. Time seemed to be moving so slowly. I know, it’s kind of pathetic when others have labors that last days, but like I said, we’ve been spoiled.

8:00 PM

I’m guessing on the times here, because I was to absorbed in labor to pay much attention to the clock. I would occasionally check it to guess at the likelihood of Qdoba though. I was so hungry. Dan kept asking if I was going to throw up and if I felt pressure. Both the nurse and Dan could tell by my behavior that the contractions were getting really intense, but I still didn’t feel any urge to push.

The pain reached a new level and I started standing up for the contractions, leaning forward on the bed. Afterward I would collapse back onto the ball and dread the next one. The pain was so intense I bit my tongue to resist yelling out, “God, help me”, and I was silently praying all along. Although I was fully aware of the things happening all around, I couldn’t respond to them. When Dan asked me questions I didn’t respond. When he tried doing something different, like rubbing my back higher up, it was all I could do to grab his arms and move them back down. I kept looking back at the contraction chart to see how much time I had before another one came. I guess at this point, I was in transition.

The nurse and Dan made the call that it was time to check me, something I had been avoiding because I was terrified I would only be dilated to 4. But I did what they told me, hoping for some encouraging news. I climbed on the bed and a resident came in. I was dilate to 8, fully effaced, and Baby was at station zero. He said there was a little bit of the cervix over Baby’s head.

The nurse suggested that if I roll on my side and try another position, it might be enough to pull the cervix away from Baby and speed things up a little. I was all to happy to oblige. I think it was two contractions later when the nurse panicked a little because she saw Baby’s head.

She hit an “emergency staff” button and a team of doctors, residents, nurses, and pediatricians came storming into the room “like a SWAT team” (said Dan). I didn’t know if I was supposed to be pushing or not, so I didn’t try to push, but I didn’t fight it either. But it became pretty apparent to us all that Baby was coming whether or not I was “supposed” to be pushing.

Our doctor told us his part of the story later. Normally if he has a patient dilated to 1 1/2 at 5:00 in the evening, he doesn’t stick around. He knew my history with Lydia’s speedy labor so he grabbed some dinner at the hospital and was just sitting down to read a book when he got the page. He came walking to my room, not aware of how quickly things had been progressing. As he walked into my room, he saw Baby’s head.

I asked Dan later how long I was pushing. “Three minutes” was his guess. The nurse said I pushed through two contractions. I remember pushing the head out and hearing the nurse suggest I curl up to feel the head. Not a chance. I was just going to get that baby out. I pushed once more and was surprised that Baby wasn’t coming. The head was out, after all. It turns out Baby came down so fast and hard that he didn’t have time to straighten out. Dan says his knees were still curled up to his chest when he was born.

Then it was all over. Just like that. Baby was placed on my stomach and Dan cut the cord. Somebody said, “You have a little boy.” We were shocked. Both of us had convinced ourselves Baby was a girl. The pediatricians took Baby to the warmer and started their evaluations with lots of exclamations about how bruised his face and feet were from the delivery.

The doctor and resident began stitching up some second degree tears, a process that took half an hour and was miserable for me. I had an episiotomy with Lydia and this time I tore in the same spot, where the skin was still weak. Sadly, as soon as Baby was ready to be held, I couldn’t hold him. I was in too much pain as they stitched me. So they kept him on the warmer and waited for my stitches to be complete.

I remember looking over at the bed, thrilled to have a little boy this time, and thinking, “He’s a Paul.” We had discussed a few baby names but hadn’t picked one out yet. When they handed him back to me, Dan said, “I kind of like the name Paul.” And his name was chosen.

Then I got to hold him. This was a moment I’ve wanted since Lydia was born. I’ve prayed for it more times than I could count. I almost cried just thinking about the possibility as we got further along in the pregnancy. And God made it happen. It was so happy.

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Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

We could have made it to Qdoba but it just felt wrong to have Dan leave me or Paul that soon after birth. So we just waited. I had brought some energy bites, made and frozen long ago, and they were lifesavers in those hours following birth. Much better than the hospital’s jello or popsicles.

11:15 PM

When our two hours in recovery were over, the nurse helped me to a wheel chair. I got the much loved heated blanket and the even more loved swaddled Baby and they wheeled me to the Mother-Baby Unit. As we rolled along, and I marveled at the birth story we got to have this time, the hospital played a little lullaby announcing Paul’s birth.

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He was perfect. Twice the size of Abigail at her birth. Much older than Abby or Lydia. Able to eat and breath on his own. And he had hair.

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Acknowledging Him

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The past few weeks have been a little dreary around here. The temperatures have been very low. We’ve been down with colds and have had to stay home from church and Bible study. I’ve gone whole weeks without stepping foot outside, and sometimes life on the couch gets pretty dull.

Lately, however, things have been changing. The sun is shining in a way that feels like spring. Temperatures are above zero again and are expected to rise above freezing (at least occasionally) within a week. We are past the achy, stuffy, gloomy colds. I just saw a little bird land on a tree branch outside the window where I am typing this. And every morning is a small celebration that we have made it yet another day with Baby. As we enjoy the coming spring and delayed coming of Baby, I thought now would be a good time to do something I have been planning for a long while: Acknowledge Him.

In the fall, when we found out we were expecting Baby #3, I spent some good earnest time in prayer. I knew we would have medical decisions to make, medical bills to pay, and likely, weeks in the NICU to endure. As I poured this all out to the Lord, He brought a verse to my mind, and He has brought it to my mind over and over again throughout this pregnancy:

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Today I’d like to “acknowledge Him”, that is, to publicly “pay attention” to some of the ways God has answered our prayers throughout this pregnancy (so far!).

Finding a Doctor

My last Doctor was good, but she retired. So, when we found out we were pregnant, we tried to set up an appointment with another doctor, recommended to us by a friend. No matter how many times, or what time of day, we tried to call, we just couldn’t get connected with this doctor. I was eager to get an appointment and hear a plan of action, and things just weren’t working out. Finally, as we prayed about it, we decided to set a deadline. If we couldn’t get an appointment scheduled by that Friday, we would go with another doctor (also recommended by friends). Friday came and went and there was no appointment.

Dan called Friday afternoon to try to schedule an appointment with our second-choice doctor and the receptionist answered and set up an appointment for the following Monday morning. As it turns out, this doctor has much experience with high-risk pregnancies and even women in my exact condition. His knowledge and experience have been so helpful, and we are grateful to be working with him.

19 Week Contractions

When I was 19 weeks along, we had Bible study at our house one night. During the singing I felt the somewhat familiar pain of a contraction. I immediately panicked and told Dan, who told me to go upstairs, lay down, and drink a lot of water. For a scary couple of hours I was afraid Baby was going to come that night. It was too early for Baby to survive, to early to do anything, really. The contractions kept coming, irregular but painful. I called a midwife friend of ours and she sweetly prayed with me and advised me to “drink some tea, take a warm shower, and go to bed early”. By the time I was ready for bed, the contractions had stopped and everything went back to normal. Probably, I was dehydrated. Whatever the cause, we are thankful that God was able to ease our fears and stop the contractions.

Flipping Breach Baby

For the first several months of pregnancy, Baby was breech at every single doctor appointment. As much as they say it’s not a concern, I was concerned. We reached a point when I started to worry that Baby wouldn’t flip. I had already been well informed women in my specific circumstances have a higher likelihood that Baby will be breech and need a c-section. And, for several reasons, I did not want another c-section. It was one of my greatest concerns for many weeks.

I started doing some “pregnancy exercises” intended to help Baby flip. Diligently I did my exercises every day. I prayed about it. I asked Dan to pray about it. I prayed with my Bible study ladies about it. Finally, after our big 20-week-ultrasound, I became convinced that Baby was just going to stay breech. I continued my exercises, half-heartedly, and informed Dan that we were probably going to have another c-section Baby. One evening I gave it all over to the Lord, surrendering myself to the truth: God could flip my Baby. If Baby was breech, God had a reason for it. I was still convinced that Baby was breech, but I thought it must be what God wanted.

A couple of nights later I was getting ready for bed when I suddenly felt led to do one particular exercise. I did, and a couple of minutes later I was reading in bed. But now I had a new peace about Baby. It was like I knew that Baby wasn’t going to be breech anymore. On top of that peace, I felt like I should stop doing my “baby flipping exercises”. It was over a week later when I had another ultrasound that we discovered Baby had turned head-down, and has stayed head-down every since.

All the Wrong Times for Baby to Come

There have been several days, even weeks, when we did NOT want Baby to come. My doctor was on vacation one week. Another week the weather was so bad we didn’t want to have to make any emergency drives to the hospital. Last week we were all sick. At another time Dan was working 12+ hour days trying to please his supervisors at work. On top of that, he was doing all the house work and sleeping very little. During each of these times, we have prayed, “Oh please, don’t let Baby come right now!”. And, as you all know, Baby didn’t.

Our 32 Week (and Other) Goal(s)

If you’ve been following this journey at all, you know I have set several goals. Every day is a goal. Every week is a bigger goal. There have been the age-of-viability, age-when-the-girls-were-born, and birth-of-my-nephews goals. My big goal all along was to make it past 32 weeks, and now we are! Each goal has been special for different reasons, and we are so excited for where we are now. We’re looking at a NICU stay of just a couple weeks or less (or none!). For the first time, I probably won’t be on any antibiotics or magnesium during labor. It’s likely that we’ll be able to (at least attempt to) have a natural delivery.

God has been walking this road with us, leading us really. He has answered our prayers day after day. I can’t say for certain that the rest of the our pregnancy, labor, and delivery will go the way I want or am expecting. But I can say that God has “made our paths straight”, and we are more than happy to give Him the glory for the things He has done.

Sweet Potato Prayers

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This Thursday will mark six weeks of basement living for our family, and, as we don’t have an accepted offer on any houses yet, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I daily ask God to provide the right house for us in His timing, but that His timing would be soon. It was during one of these prayers that I realized a change (for the better) that has come over me in these past few weeks. I am more desperately depending on God for help. For me, that looks like lots and lots of praying. It’s not the kind of “close yourself in your closet and get on your knees” praying. It’s the “in the middle of the chaos” sort of praying.

And as I pray, God answers. I don’t want to forget those answers, and I thought it might be fun to share some little answered prayers from this past weekend.

Friday was Lydia’s birthday. We had big plans of spending the whole morning at the playground. We were even going to eat lunch there and come back for a later nap time than usual. Then, as Lydia and Abby napped, I was going to clean up and cook up a Mexican feast which was to include this sauce that Lydia loves. She affectionately refers to this as simply, “Sauce”.

Somewhere in the middle of our morning (pre-playground trip) I realized that I didn’t have a sweet potato for Lydia’s special sauce that I had promised her. And Dan had taken the car to work with the stroller in the back seat. Bummer. I prayed that God would somehow provide me with a sweet potato for Lydia’s sauce. I decided to go to the playground without the stroller and just eat lunch at home. And I went on with the day.

After breakfast I asked Lydia to go to the bathroom so I could brush her teeth. She scurried off and I took care of a couple of things before heading off to join her. When I got to the bathroom, the door was shut. And locked. And Lydia didn’t know how to unlock it. After messing with the lock for a while myself I went upstairs to get RJ (the real homeowner) to ask for help. He graciously came down and we spent the next twenty minutes trying to explain to Lydia how to unlock the door while he tried various tools in the lock.

She had been in the bathroom for almost half an hour when RJ went upstairs to look for some different tools. I had been praying silently all along, but after unsuccessfully trying to explain one more time to Lydia how to unlock the door I decided to pray out loud. We asked God to help us get the door unlocked and within minutes RJ tried the right tool and Lydia was free.

I had been on and off the phone with Dan all along and called him once more to tell him the emergency was over. Then we got ready to go to the playground. Just then, the door opened and there was Dan! He had been sent home to work for the day because they didn’t have the internet working at the office. And Dan brought home the stroller and the sweet potato.

Lydia enjoyed the rest of her birthday with a long-awaited visit to the playground, a necessary nap, and a Mexican feast, including her special sauce.

God gave us a sweet potato, an unlocked door, and even a stroller (an unvoiced prayer) all in one short morning. These are just a few examples of the daily ways God hears our calls for help and gives us what we need. One of these days I believe He will give us the house we’ve been praying for, but in the meantime (and long after) we will be thankful for answers to our “sweet potato prayers”.