Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Kind of Church

So first I have to share that I'm typing this blog entry while utilizing Mommy Skill #437 that I've learned in my rapid on-the-job training: typing WHILE holding the sleeping baby. She's on my chest/shoulder which has freed up both hands - wahoo! I should just put her down but it's our evening "storm" time, as I've coined it where she typically screams & cries without a whole lot that can be done until she decides to stop...fortunately tonight's episode only lasted about 10 minutes before she crashed and I'm not taking any chances. Well...except the chance I took when I went to grab the laptop and she kinda rolled into the crevice between the recliner and my leg but it was a quick recovery and aside from making a little face, she seemed none the wiser.

Actually, I'm on here because I had some thoughts while in church Sunday that I wanted to get down. We currently don't have a home church. I went to a bible college and was once a youth pastor's wife so this not-going-to-church thing is kinda big for me. But it's where I need to be right now. I've had such an overhaul of the way that I think about religion and church that I need some time to sort out what I believe before diving into a congregation. Because of my experiences in various churches, I know that in many ways they are all the same: there are some really amazing, God-loving people that will help you sort these things out and there are some really hurtful, self-righteous people that will do everything they can to get in the way of that. Unfortunately, sometimes you get burnt in the process of figuring out which one is which and I don't need to try to sort that out on top of everything else.

I know what God is stirring in my heart but I also know that it doesn't jive with a lot of the current conservative evangelical way of thinking. I have finally figured out that I am a post-modern wonder I really gravitated toward reaching out to "those" people when I was in the church - I WAS one of those people!! Conservative evangelicals see postmoderns as people who see a lot of gray area...too much gray area. They enjoy their black & white rules where "God said this. Jesus said that. End of story." But I found that in being in that type of an environment for years left me feeling trapped, empty and without real relationship with God. It was all just a bunch of follow the rules, you're a great person. The end. Not to say that we shouldn't follow God's teachings or that I wasn't authentic in my's just that it became rote. Predictable. It left me thinking, "is this really all God had to offer?! Emptiness? Sadness? Predictability?!? How big of a God could he be if he could be predictable like these black & white rules suggest?!"

No. I knew there had to be more and so I sought it out. In leaving the black & white theology behind, I have found the "freedom in Christ" that I'd heard people talk of a million times before but never really understood it. Yet this whole going to church issue is still obviously a somewhat black & white thought in my mind because I question it every time I walk into a church. Am I doing the right thing? Should I be seeking out a church now? Should I wait? I'm still working some stuff out. Should I find an alternative like a small group? Actually, I really like that idea but where? So many questions...and then, there's an infant in the mix which brings me to the thoughts of Sunday.

We're sitting there with my family. My dad was singing that morning and we showed up to surprise him. I tried to listen to the various pieces of the service...I truly did. But this amazing little bundle took much of my attention. In an effort to keep her from distrupting everyone else, I was completely preoccupied with her. Finally at one point I just caved and stared and smiled and made eye contact with her, thanking God for the millionth time for putting her in my life. And then it hit me...

I'd been in church a lot recently. Every day, in fact.

It's not what many would classify as "church" but I sure do. Every time I look at that beautiful little angel, I replay the miracle that she is to me. The joy of a promise that God kept even though I'd given up on it. The healing the last several years have brought to my soul. She is the culmination of stepping out to do what I felt I needed to and what I felt that God needed me to do. God and I commune every time I gaze at her and ask him yet again, "is she really mine?! Thank. YOU."

So while I'm still trying to figure out just what church will look like for me and my family on the other side of sorting through my post-modern thoughts, I know that in the meantime, I'll be okay. It's not as important that all of the "rules" are followed as it is that you commune with God in your journey to please him. If I'm taking time to figure things out, that's just fine. All that matters is that I'm looking for him in the process. Seeking him out. Showing his love. Talking to him and about him to my kids. And most importantly, that I'm finding him. Even in... no... especially in the smile of a beautiful baby girl.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Instagram app - way too much fun!

So....I found this fun app for my phone called Instagram. It makes it look like I take these amazing pictures when really, it's all about the filters that they have to put over the pics. Here's some of my creations :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Am the Strongest Woman I Know

I don't say that title to take away from all the other strong women in this world or more specifically, those amazingly strong women in my life. There are millions out there who are as strong or stronger than me for sure but at this moment in my life, I've experienced something so amazing that to sell short the fact that I feel nothing less than that would take away from all of it. So right now, I'm owning it: I am the strongest woman I know. Why? Because I was blessed to bring my daughter into this world naturally.

It's more than that though. It was the culmination of this life transformation that I've been undergoing for several years now. An embracing of my ability to do something that I had no clue if I could, but not being afraid to be determined to give it 110% to find out. A few short years ago, I would not have believed that I could endure the physical pain & mental concentration it would take to bring a baby into this world naturally. I wouldn't have believed in myself at all. But today, not only do I believe it but I did it!! That's where this title stems from - the emotional strength that I now know and truly own. Here's a brief synopsis of Addison's birth story, the most amazing day of my life.

I've put a lot of detail into this blog entry more as a journal entry for myself. I don't want to forget what happened and how I felt. If you want the "reader's digest" version, skip down to the bottom. ;)

If you've followed this blog, you know that I was not too thrilled about being induced but being 10 days overdue, the doctor let us go as long as she felt she could safely, especially considering that I had gestational diabetes so there are concerns with the baby being too big. So we headed to the hospital to be induced on Wednesday for our 8:30am appointment; we got there slightly early but they were ready for us. On the way to the room I asked the registration specialist if we could have one of the labor rooms with a birthing tub and was told they don't do that for inductions. When I then asked our nurse, she explained it was because I had to be hooked up to the monitoring system. I was bummed on both accounts because 1) I was counting on the water to help with some of the pain and 2) I hated the idea that I had to be tethered to a machine. Then when she started explaining the different induction meds, she mentioned "cytotec" (sp?). This is a medicine that's actually intended to treat ulcers and some women have died during birth as a result of it being used as a method for induction. Thank God we'd done our homework and knew to refuse it but this was a 3rd strike in my mind and I had to work to push that out and not become disheartened that things were looking kind of tricky to maintain our plan to go completely natural.

I was only dilated to "maybe 2 cm" so they had to force my cervix to open to 4 cm with a foley catheter. It's basically a little balloon that they insert and once my cervix would open to that point, it would pop out and then they could break my water. It was explained that this could take anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours but the norm was about 4 hours. When it popped out after an hour AND my water broke naturally during that, Eric and I were both so pleased! This really helped us mentally and we were ready to take the increased dosages in pitocin and wait on the contractions to come. During this time, we had the sweetest nurse, Kristen, who was exactly the type of person I needed for that part. She was bubbly, funny and listened to our concerns without making us feel like we didn't have options (even when we really didn't). She helped convince me that the internal monitoring would help me be able to actually move more freely because Sonnie kept moving and the only way I could keep her on the external monitor was to lay in bed: the exact opposite of how I wanted to manage this. It did help - I was able to sit in a couple different seats including the birthing ball all of which seemed to help.

During this beginning part of the day, Eric and I really found a rhythm for dealing with the contractions. He was so amazing...a perfect mix of emotional support, physical support and just coaching to keep me focused on the moment at hand and not getting too far ahead of myself. More on that part of the experience later, though. I hit about 5-6 cm mid-afternoon (I think) and around the same time got a new nurse, Sue. Sue reminded me of Cloris Leachman. Great for comedic value...not the most reassuring as your L & D nurse. She was very nice but she had a hard time with the pain I was in and kept offering me different meds. I kept politely turning her down and eventually the questioning stopped. I found out later that was because my hubby had a quick I've-got-about-2-minutes-before-the-next-contraction-comes-so-listen-closely talk with her to let her know that if I want meds, I'll ask for them; otherwise, stop asking.

Around 5pm-ish, I reached 8 cm and they were calling my doctor. Sue would be off work at 7pm and she was crossing her fingers that I'd have the baby by the time she left. Unfortunately, those were the 2 longest hours of my life as I was at the exact same 8 cm at 7pm as I was at 5pm. I could tell that the level of pain I was dealing with was making everyone uncomfortable b/c even knowing how committed I was to doing this without pain meds, Eric was checking in with me at this point to ask if I was having a change of heart. It was exactly what I needed to hear because I was becoming quite discouraged that I wasn't progressing. I could handle it if I kept moving forward but the idea that I could be stuck at 8 cm for who knew how long was really starting to wear on me. I said I wasn't ready for an epidural yet but if I stayed at an 8 much longer, I might consider it.

At this point we got another nurse, Jennifer, and she was the perfect compliment to Eric's coaching. Eric took care of my emotional side. You hear these stories of how you'll be ordering your husband to get out of your face during delivery but that just wasn't the case for us. Even in preparation for this day, I couldn't imagine myself shouting at him and wanting him away from me... He didn't leave my side for a moment and I never wanted him to. The side rails on the bed made him feel too far away at times even though he leaned over them most of the day to hold my hands and tell me what a great job I was doing. Eric was exactly what I needed throughout the entire process. He was supportive and loving and was all the encouragement I needed to get through each contraction. Going through this with him was so intense and so intimate...there aren't words to say how powerful of an experience it was to share it with him. We truly were one with each other - it was definitive of how much we count on, support and love one another in our marriage. 

As I stated, he took care of what I needed emotionally through the process. Jennifer, our 3rd nurse, took care of the more detailed side of birth-coaching to get me out of the 8cm hell I was stuck in. We could tell she had a positive viewpoint on natural birthing which gave me a renewed energy that Cloris wasn't feeding me. Jennifer had me switch positions many times which was incredibly painful but I knew that the intensified pain was what I needed to get this baby out of me. Every time I started to reach a level of tolerance with the contractions (amazing what my definition of pain "tolerance" became at that point!), she had me move. In the meantime, my doctor had arrived and she was in the room with us for nearly the last 2 hours as well. I was impressed that she was so present and not just off in a doctor's lounge somewhere waiting for me to push.

When it came time, my doctor let me stay right as I was on the bed rather than dealing with the stirrups and moving the bottom part of the bed out to catch all the fun stuff afterwards. Again I was impressed that she was just letting me do what I needed to and not being so rigid in "her" way of doing things. I pushed for probably 30-45 minutes. At one point they put the mirror down so that I could be "encouraged" by seeing her head. Gotta wasn't encouraging. I mean, the fact that her head was there was exciting; it was how little I could see of it, how much it already hurt, and trying to calculate how much more it was going to hurt as I could see more of her head! What I fortunately didn't understand was that the pain was already there...that it didn't actually get worse at that point. (There's something the books don't tell you...) I'm so glad we had the mirror down. No offense to those in the opposite camp but I do not understand why anyone would not want to watch that. It was so amazing to see this life that once never was being born! It was such a beautiful, spiritual experience.

At 9:04pm, Sonnie arrived very healthy at 7 lbs 1 oz, 19 in long, 14 in head circumference, apgar scores of 8 (1 min) & 9 (5 min), and she had all positive test results from the sugar/diabetes testing they did. Her color and level of alertness was ideal. I was able to breastfeed her immediately (though we later found out that my milk supply would be insufficient; at least she got those initial feedings). All the pain I'd just endured was so worth it to see her so alert, responsive and healthy. My in-laws and my parents were able to each take turns coming in right after she was born - it was so special to share that with them. This little life that was only an hour old got to meet her Grandma, Grandpa, Memaw and Papap.

I only had to have one stitch and have truly been amazed at the recovery process. Yes, there have been aches and pains but nothing to the extent I was anticipating. I can't imagine how I would have dealt with her hospital stay at Children's (at 5-7 days old - see "rough week" post) had it been more intense. Overall I feel fantastic and am especially proud to say that at 2 weeks post-partum, I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight! {Now, to just drop the pre-pregnancy fluff I had ;)} I did have some "baby blues" there for a couple days; a lot of that was right after her being in the hospital/right before Eric went back to work. I've got a super support system though and am feeling a lot better this week. Everyone just let me cry, talk it out, sleep...whatever I needed. I'm not convinced that it's gone for good but I do feel confident that if they creep up again that it's okay as long as I share it with those around me.

Well, that's her story. :) For those scrolling down for the READER'S DIGEST VERSION: Went in at 8:30am. Induced with pitocin and foley catheter around 9:15am - was only 2cm "maybe" at this point. Catheter came out around 10:15am (BIG deal - avg time takes 4 hours, longest could've been 8 hours) which meant I was around 3-4 cm dilated. Got to about 5-6 cm midday. By 5pm hit 8cm, the doctor was called and then I stalled for 2 hours - for those who are unaware, at 8 cm you are in INTENSE pain when you're having contractions!! At 7pm, got a new nurse who had me change positions a lot which got things moving. By some point in the 8 o'clock hour I was pushing and at 9:04pm, Addison "Sonnie" Elaine was born. :) Eric was an amazing coach - I couldn't have done it how I wanted to, naturally, without his love and encouragement. He'd say I'm making too big a deal of his part in it but it's true; nothing embodied the oneness we have with one another like that day did. I fell in love with him all over again.

So if you're still here, thanks for reading about the most amazing experience of my life. Here are some pictures to wrap up what I feel like I'm still coming up short in saying...

Weighing in

Cuddled with Daddy

Mommy and baby shortly after giving birth

Daddy's thumb for a little perspective

A smitten Mommy

Beautiful Sonnie

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Rough First Week

Well, I had intentions of posting all about Sonnie's birth story. I also had intentions of posting oodles of pictures of her in cute outfits and making adorable faces. Telling about how she had her first visit to the doctor and was not crazy about yet another heel stick for a "just in case" check for her jaundice levels.

That all came to a halt when the doctor called Monday night at 5 and said she was arranging the details for us to head to Children's hospital.

Originally it was because of her billirubin (sp?) levels which are the indicators for jaundice, coupled with her weight loss since birth. We got to the hospital and while they told me to go directly to be admitted, I didn't actually think they meant for an extended period of time. I thought they'd just admit us for a few hours, pop her under the lights and we'd get out sometime late that night. I broke down when nurses started talking about a 2 day stay. Was this really that serious? I especially questioned it when her levels weren't high enough to even warrant being placed under the lights (though not low enough to be discharged) and we were basically just monitoring her feeding schedule. Something I asked the nurse if it could be done at home; they explained a concern to monitor for dehydration which I certainly didn't want to mess with.

It wasn't too long into being there however that the doctor's concerns with potential dehydration came to fruition and my baby took quite a turn. Our first indicator was when I pumped and was only able to get 5 ml of breast milk from each breast. I called the nurse to let her know that I believe we found the culprit. It was shortly after this that her skin got drastically dry, her lips were so chapped, she became lethargic...I went from questioning the need to be under this much observation to being grateful for it. The next several hours were quite stressful for Sonnie (and Mommy).

She needed an IV but because of the dehydration, it was incredibly difficult even for the very skilled and patient nurses to get it placed. Altogether it took 4 different nurses and it was on the 7th stick that they finally placed the IV. In the breaks in between she was also given a feeding tube as her energy levels had dropped to a point that she couldn't stay awake long enough to take a bottle. Plus in the midst of this, every 4 hours they were doing heel sticks to check her billirubin levels. I've never wanted to trade places with someone so much in my life. I mean, that was my heart laying there on that bed, getting poked and prodded and crying with what little energy she had left because it hurt so badly.

Sonnie's IV and all the stuff it took to keep it in place on a newborn.

My poor baby and all of her gear. I don't know how NICU moms do it...

Right after the placement of her feeding tube.

Once she was receiving fluids on a regular basis, she began to make progress. We had fantastic nursing staff overall who were very patient and accommodating. My only hospital experience has been in this first week - first in the maternity ward and now at Children's. I was so impressed that everytime they left the room, the nurses always asked "is there anything I can get for you? Do you need anything?" We only had one bad experience with a nurse that decided to impatiently feed her 10 ml of formula through the tube "hydrolically" as my dad put it since he was there to witness it (other nurses fed her by gravity - a very slow method but easy on a 6-day old baby's tummy; this nurse plunged it through the tube at about 5 times the speed that gravity would have). Sonnie heaved every bit of fluid we'd worked so dilligently to get down her through a bottle (a big necessary step in her recovery) all because this nurse wanted to rush things. All of the stuff holding her IV in place had to be re-taped which meant more for her to be in unnecessary pain over. I could've caused some major physical harm to this nurse but I instead opted to take her in the hall & professionally tell her that if either of us was going to have a decent evening, she needed to work on finding us a different nurse. It added an amazing amount of undue stress but the nurse I got in her place was amazing and made me feel so comfortable. My mom also stayed the night with us which gave me a chance to at least get a few hours of sleep. I'd been going on close to 48 hours without any by this point.

Fortunately, by morning rounds on Wednesday morning, Sonnie had made such strides that they arranged for us to be discharged. We determined that I could no longer breastfeed (aside from pumping what little I had available) but that was a small price to pay to have a healthy baby to take home. She's looking 100% better now and we're getting her feeding routine down. She's sleeping better, her color is good and when we went for a follow up appointment on Friday, her weight went up 1 lb 2 oz since Monday!

Now we've been able to settle in as a family and we are loving getting to know our little one. She's beautiful, alert, healthy and sweet as can be. We can't wait for everyone to meet her!
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