Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reality: In the Stead of Christ

In the middle of the chaos there is always a good Wednesday afternoon awaiting me.  It is the 3-4 hours when I can rest a little more, get some good soup cooking going on, go shopping with just one child, or spend a few quiet moments with my husband while all the kids sleep.

My husband works a lot of evenings as a pastor, so he takes Wednesday afternoons as his "evening off." Then he heads back in for office hours and Bible study, but for those few hours, I get to do what I want, or more realistically, what I need to do.

As life is being married to a pastor, there really are no for sures.  Some women say living a "maybe life" is a bit too rough.  Us PWs live with husbands who are on-call 24/7.  Honestly, sometimes it is exhausting.  I can't sugarcoat that part.  I would be lying if I said it was easy.


People get sick.
People die.
People get in accidents.
People have to make life and death decisions for their loved ones.
People have broken marriages.
People live in a broken and sickening world.

And who do people need in these moments?  They need Christ.  Some may say they need their pastor, but he is only the man who stands in His stead.  They are right to believe they need this man, because he brings The Man.  The pastor's hands hold the Body and Blood of the Man whose hands healed the sick and raised the dead.  This is The Man these hurting, sick, and dying people need.

When the phone rings and I hear his voice change...

I see the worry in his eyes.
I notice the sideways glance in my direction that says to me,

"I am so sorry...I really need to go now...even though I promised the boys I would go to the park...even though I know you haven't been out of the house in days...even though we were just about to sit down for family lunch...,"

When I see this, I know that Christ is needed in someone's life.

It may disrupt my day.  It may fail my plans to hit up Hobby Lobby.  It may ruin my idea of the amazing homecooked meal I had planned.  And sometimes, my sinful self may feel jealous or angry.  For that, I repent.  I repent with no excuses.

My husband stands in the stead of Christ.  His hands serve His Body and Blood.  His mouth speaks His Word.  He brings the Gospel into the Law-filled lives of people.

Surely my Hobby Lobby trip can take its place on the back burner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reality: You Can't Be Anything

Sometimes what you want to be doesn't happen, sometimes what you want to be can't happen, and sometimes what you want to be shouldn't happen.

So, why dear parents of the world, do so many of us teach our children (or allow others to teach our children) the phrase "you can be anything you want to be?"  It simply isn't true.  Our children may want it, but sometimes it doesn't happen...sometimes it can't happen...and sometimes it shouldn't happen.

I don't plan on wrecking my children's dreams, imaginations, or hopes, but I do plan to raise them to know and understand their own God-given talents, abilities, and gifts.  I plan to teach them about true vocation.  I plan to prepare them for their own failures.  I plan to show them some jobs you CAN do in this world should, in fact, NOT be done.

Not every kid grows up to play professional football, even if they try really hard and really want it. Sometimes what you want to be doesn't happen.

Not every kid can grow up to be a pastor, even if they study really hard and really want it.  Sometimes what you want to be can't happen.

No kid should be a drug dealer, a stripper, a prostitute, or an abortion-providing doctor, even if they see the money and really want it.  Sometimes what you want to be shouldn't happen.

I will help each of my children dream big, study hard, and practice many skills, but I do not plan on telling them they can be anything they want to be.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reality: All Ours

It happened.

I was out to eat with my family on Friday evening.  My kids were actually acting like civilized human beings.  Dinner went very well.  My husband went to throw away our water cups, and I was standing next to the growing burrito line with my newborn attached to me in a wrap and my two toddlers holding each of my hands.  Then, it happened...

Two women in the line looked over at me, saw the baby in the wrap, and said, "Wow!  We love that wrap!  I wish they would have had those kind of things when my kid was little...."  As I was responding, I saw their eyes catch glimpse of the toddlers.  Their eyes shifted from one to the other, then to the baby, then to me...standing there alone.

And it happened.  Their tone changed.

"Are these ALL yours?" with a sense of amazement, disbelief, and disgust.

So, ladies in the burrito line, this one is for you...

I know it is shocking.  First, I have three children.  In this society, that is shocking enough.  Second, I have three children who are all three and under.  That is strike two.  Third, I have children who don't match in skin tone.  There it is.  Strike your eyes.

You only said four words - Are these ALL yours?  But what you might not understand is that you spoke so much more.  You told me about our society, you told me about yourself, and you told me about our family.  I don't really blame you, you see, for you are just a product of this world.  When you look at me - alone with three children, three and under, who "don't match," you think many things.  First, you think that is too many children.  Then, more arrogantly, you think you know something about my sexual promiscuity.  That's okay, I am used to it.

I see you in the grocery store.
I see you at the park.
I see you in the restaurant.

Because, dear ladies, I have actually never seen YOU, but I have seen you.

And although I have seen you so many times before, I still can't quite find the right words to respond to you.  Should I be gentle?  Should I be angry?  Should I spend the extra 20 minutes it would actually take to explain my family and why we are so awesome?  Sometimes you make it seem worth the battle.  Other times, I just smile and walk away, allowing you to believe whatever you want about me.

When you say those four words with your mouth and those one million words with your eyes and tone, you don't have anything to lose.  I have six little ears waiting to hear how I will respond.  You can say anything you want and walk away.  I have to answer to the three little mouths that will inevitably have questions.  You can go on with your life as nothing has happened, and you never have to see me again.  I will face you again tomorrow.

So, dear ladies in the burrito line, "Yes, they are ALL mine...and my husband's."

And for when my sharp tongue gets the best of me in response to the words you spoke and the words you didn't speak, please forgive me.  I will try to answer better when I see you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reality: Two Plus One

I don't think I hid the fact that I was slightly terrified of having another child.  I love children and I will continue to welcome them joyfully - biologically and through adoption - if God so chooses.  However, the thought of two plus one (I couldn't hardly even say three for awhile) was overwhelming.

I was tired before two plus one.
I was reaching my limits before two plus one.
I was sure I had no energy left before two plus one.
I was questioning my parenting skills before two plus one.

So, now that I am three weeks into the world of two plus one, what is it really like?

Well, shockingly, not that different.  I have had a number of friends tell me that the transition from one to two is much harder than any other transition after two.  I can honestly agree, based on my three whole weeks of experience.  Ask me again in another three weeks and maybe life will have changed.  But as for now...

I was tired before two plus one.  I am still tired.  Not more.  Not less.
I was reaching my limits before two plus one.  I am reaching my limits now.  My limits just changed.
I was sure I had no energy left before two plus one.  I still have just enough now.
I was questioning my parenting skills before two plus one.  Let's be honest - I will always do that.

The thing is, I was tired when I had no children and when I had one, and when I had one plus one, and now.
I was reaching my limits, I had no energy left, and I questioned my parenting skills (even before one came along).  The children weren't really the difference.

When I had one, I carried around a huge, overly filled and stocked, diaper bag.  Now, I carry a huge, just filled with essentials for three, diaper bag.  No more weight on my shoulders.

When I had one, I pushed around a stroller.  Now, I push around a double stroller with two plus one on it.  No extra strollers or stragglers to struggle with.

When I had one, I was covered in spit-up and was never prepared.  Now, I have a change of clothes for every family member in the van.  No smelling like spit-up in public for me anymore.

So, with three - there, I said it - THREE children, my life seems pretty much the same...

Only filled with a little more preparation, a little more tardiness, and much much much more love.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reality: A Birth Story

I never wrote down Henry's birth story.  I told myself I would always remember it, and I have not failed in that regard.  However, somehow having a girl made me feel like I needed to preserve this a little more.  My daughter, God willing, will one day walk this road, and I hope that knowing a little about what it was like for me will help her prepare.  So, my dearest little D, here is your birth story...

I had been expecting to go "overdue" as I had with Henry, who was born at 41 weeks and 1 day.  I had hoped in my heart it would not come to that, but I had known in my brain that indeed it would.  Throughout this pregnancy I had very low platelet counts and was told there was a good chance I would not be able to receive an epidural due to the risk of me bleeding profusely when punctured.  I had wanted a natural childbirth with Henry.  I had worked so hard to have my dream of a natural childbirth.  I read books, I talked to every woman I knew about pain techniques, and I had prepared my husband for the adventure. 

Seventeen hours into labor with Henry, I had been stuck at 8-9 centimeters dilated for about 3 hours and the doctors were becoming very concerned.  The more I could feel the concern, the more I knew I wasn't going anywhere.  The big "C" word of birth was thrown around, and I opted for the epidural in case of an emergency c-section (like my sister had to have done).  The epidural was unsuccessful in stopping the pain, and I was now unable to move off of my back to deal with the pain.  So, more drugs were piled on...the one thing I really didn't want...more drugs.  At this point, there was not much I could do, though.  Labor was now out of my hands.  I felt like a bystander in some strange world. 

Ever since that experience, I had been disappointed in myself.  I had made it so far and endured so much pain.  I felt like the epidural was my tossing in of the towel.  I had failed, or at least I thought I had.  I was thankful for my healthy son, but terribly disappointed in myself.  Labor sometimes does that to you.  You question yourself, you think, "Women have done this forever...what is wrong with me?," and you wonder if you should have done it differently.  I wondered.  Being pregnant again, and with a disorder that was almost forcing me into a natural labor, made me wonder even more.  Would I be able to do this?  So I read books, I talked to women about labor, and I prepared my husband...again.

40 weeks and 6 days into this pregnancy, D decided it was time to make her way into the world.  All of the grandparents had arrived the day before, very eager for a new granddaughter.  It was a Sunday, and I had gone to church in the morning.  Everyone laughed at me, and said, "We really wish you weren't here today!  We thought you would be in the hospital by now."  Me too, church members, me too!  My husband had a regular Sunday, and travelled to his other congregation to preach.  He made his way back to the house somewhat earlier that day than usual (as he, too, was eager for labor to start).  I had been having some intense contractions for a few days before this, and I had intense shooting pain through my right hip.  We had been doing everything we could think of to get this party started - taking long walks, eating spicy foods, and banking on the full moon for some help.  Nothing helped though.  D was set on coming on her own terms, and her terms seemed set on a Sunday afternoon after her grandparents had arrived. 

At about 2 pm, we were all getting ready to eat lunch - my dad's barbeque chicken from the grill.  I started feeling contractions, but I didn't dare say anything quite yet.  I had been down this road for days.  I didn't believe it was really happening.  So, I let my husband know what was happening and I rested on the couch for a little while.  By about 3 pm, I was certain labor was in full swing.  The contractions were continuing and progressing.  Christopher sent the boys with their grandparents to go out to the splash pad so that we could have some privacy. 

As soon as they went out the door, I said, "Let's get this party started.  I am NOT letting these contractions stop.  We are going out for a walk."  And we did.  We walked a couple circles around are large yard.  I was having contractions every 5 minutes or so, but I was able to talk through them.  After 30 minutes or so, I decided a shower sounded nice.  So, we went inside, I showered, worked through some INTENSE contractions and went in the bedroom.  At some point, I called my sister and chatted with her about labor.  She encouraged me and said I was doing great again.  I needed some female encouragement at that moment.  I spent a considerable amount of time on my hands and knees by this point.  Contractions were 3 minutes apart and STRONG.  They were more intense than I had remembered, but I just figured I was not remembering correctly.  Labor pains kind of disappear in your mind.  You know it hurt, but you can't describe it anymore. 

Through this whole time, I had been using a technique of describing the pain as it was happening to me.  I had read in a book about the power of being curious about the pain.  So, I spent the contractions telling my husband and myself exactly what and where I was feeling the pain.  It was quite relieving, actually.  I was shocked.  Focusing on the pain seemed like the exact opposite thing you should do, but it really helped.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I felt in control, which I had lost in my last labor.  By describing the pain and focusing on it, I was totally in control of it. 

I had been nervous about not getting to the hospital in time.  I have no idea why.  My first labor was 22 hours and I had no reason to believe this one would be fast, but I had heard so many of my friends talking about women barely making it to the hospital.  There was NO WAY I was going to have this baby on the road.  So, I told my husband I wanted to go ahead and go.  I had wanted to labor mostly at home, but in the heat of the moment I got nervous.  What if this was it?  It was SO MUCH more intense than my last labor!  What if I had this baby on this floor right here?  My husband really didn't want to go to the hospital yet, because he knew what I really wanted.  He knew the transition to the hospital would be hard.  He knew what I needed more than I did.  However, as the great husband he is, he later told me that he felt like he had one card to pull during the labor process, and he didn't want to use it "too early."  I have a funny husband.  So, we packed up and headed out sometime around 6 pm.

The drive was uneventful, full of contractions, but nothing too exciting.  No babies being born on the road, anyway.

The check-in process went pretty smoothly until I sat down in the triage room.  The contractions were still coming every 3 minutes, lasting a minute or longer, and progressively intense.  I was still coping with the pain by talking through them and explaining the pain.  My husband was a champ...followed all the tips from our reading, asked me what I was feeling when I looked too scared, and overall was again the BEST labor partner in the world.  My triage nurse, however, acted as though she had never seen a woman in labor who did anything other than scream or breathe.  Every contraction I had, I would begin talking, calmly explaining every pain.  She would say, "Just breathe.  Just do your breathing."  Then she would say things like, "Is she talking to me?" to my husband.  What?!?!  Don't talk about me to my husband like I am not there!  And don't act like I am crazy!  I might have been losing it at this point. 

The hospital doctor came in to check my progress.  As she entered the room, the nurse turned to her as I began another contraction and said, "Oh, she talks to herself" in a "don't mind her" sort of way.
OK.  That was the last straw.  I am not crazy, *%&^#!  I am dealing with the pain in a calm, collected way, and I am not hurting anyone.  But I was about to...

At that moment, I pretty much lost all chances of having this labor progress naturally.  She had taken over my labor space, gotten me off my game, and totally gotten into my head.  Was I crazy?  Maybe I was.  I didn't know anything at this point.  The doctor checked me and said, "OK, fully effaced and 3-maybe 4 cm."  I. ABOUT. DIED.  You have got to be kidding me.  I was positive that these pains were much more like late labor with Henry.  I let out a huge sigh.  The doctor (not my doctor, just the hospital rounding doctor) asked what was wrong and I said, "I just really thought I was further than that."  "Well, how far did you want to be?"  "5 or more."  "Well, you aren't there yet.  You want me to get the epidural labs lined up?"  "No, I want to do this naturally," and she walked out the door.  That was that.  OK, then, this is not going well.

I was walked down to my room.  On the way, my awesome husband turned sternly to the crazy triage nurse and said, "We would like to be assigned to a nurse with experience in natural labor."  Her crazy response, "We all have that."  My Superhusband's response, "NO!  I mean I want a nurse who will actually help her with natural labor."  I don't think I have ever loved him more.  The nurse responded that it was shift change so she would make sure the charge nurse knew our request before assigning a nurse.

I got settled in, and in walked my saving grace - the greatest nurse I could have asked for.  Compassionate, calm, older with experience, and completely on my side - I would later find out that she was assigned to me due to her own four labors, two with pain medication and two natural.  SCORE!

Then a whole bunch of stuff happened that is all very foggy in my mind, as the pain was completely ridiculous at this time.  I could not believe I was only 3-4 cm.  This was terrible.  How would I survive the rest?  I got my IV for my Group B Strep drugs, and I went to the bathroom like 25 times.  About an hour and 15 minutes had passed since we had gotten to the hospital and I was sure I was not going to make it.  More than once, I looked my husband right in the eyes and said, "I can't do this.  I don't know how I am going to do this.  This is not right.  Something is not right.  This is so much more painful than the last time."  I called my sister for some support, and talked about the possibility of an epidural.  She was just supportive and told me again that there is nothing wrong with making the best decision you can for you and your husband. 

I asked the nurse if I could have labs done to be checked if I was able to have an epidural.  She ordered the labs, and when they returned I learned that I had narrowly made the cute-off with a platelet count of 119, when you must be over 100.  By this point, the only think I could think was, "THANK GOD!"  But I was still very scared.  My last epidural had been unsuccessful, and the anesthesiologist told me that if it didn't work last time, it had a higher chance of not working this time.  Did I still want it?  Something deep inside me was saying I had to have it.  I had worked so hard to prepare for a natural labor, but I knew I needed this epidural.  I needed it because of me, but I also needed it for my husband.  I could see how much he was hurting.  This man would go to the moon and back for me if I asked him to, so I knew he would walk this journey with me, but I could see it in his eyes.  This was killing him.  I was in such intense pain, and all his support was not doing the trick like it had last time.  Something was drastically different with me and this labor.  And he knew it.

So, I took the epidural.  But it was much different than last time.  When I signed the papers this time, I was signing them because I wanted to sign them.  I was controlling that pen.  Last time, I think I just made a line where my name was supposed to go.  I had been pushed into something I didn't want at 9 CM DILATED.  Who can control a pen at 9 cm dilated?  This time, I had made the decision.  This was me controlling my labor space.  Not them.  That meant something to me.

As soon as the epidural was complete, I asked to be checked to see where I had progressed to.  In 90 minutes, I had gone from 3 cm to 6 cm and was progressing well.  Thank goodness!  I really didn't want pitocin on top of the epidural and making it to 6 cm naturally gave me a great chance of progressing by myself from here on out.  And I did.  And my epidural worked!  I could still move my legs, and I could still feel pressure on contractions, which left me feeling in control.  Control seems to be a focus for me here, eh?

I might have to work on my control issues. 

The next few hours were blissful.  I was progressing, I called my sister and my friend Andrea.  My parents came in and talked with me for awhile.  I felt like I had made the best possible decision.  The nurses all were having considerable challenges trying to track Dorothea's heart rate.  They couldn't find a location where they could get a good reading, and it had boggled all of them.  At about 11:15, they called my doctor in to check me and break my water.  By about midnight, I told them I was feeling the need to push.  The nurse checked me and said, "Oh, um...well, that is a nose and an eye.  We have a face presentation here...and OP."  Then, the room became flooded with people from NICU and other breathing specialists. I became very nervous.  "Honey, your baby is coming face first," my nurse gently said.  "What does that mean?  Is she ok?  Will I be ok?"  "I have been in OB for 29 years, and I have never seen a face presentation and OP baby.  That means she is face up and face out."  "Is she going to be okay?"  "We just have some people coming in to check her out, ok?" 

My doctor came in, looked at the situation, and took a breath and said, "Ok, let's do this, Kelly."  I began to say, "Is everything ok?  What is going to happ..." and then her head delivered!  I didn't even push.  The doctor laughed, and said, "Aren't women's bodies amazing?  The things they can do.  You are doing great...just don't push."  At that moment my husband looked down and saw Dorothea's cord wrapped around her neck.  He decided at that point to not look again...and not to tell me that.  Good decision, again, Husband!   Then, the doctor asked me to give a little push, and one second later, Dorothea was born.  She began screaming on her own, and no sound had ever been sweeter to my ears.  The NICU specialists had to take her immediately to clear her airway, as it had been blocked due to the position of her head in the birth canal (with her head cocked backwards and the back of her head resting on her back).  My husband stood by her the whole time and gave me updates.  Within about 5 minutes, she was laying on my chest breathing well.  Thanks be to GOD!  Due to her face position, the doctor put a pretty large scratch above her right eye when breaking my water and she was pretty bruised up on her face.  All that healed quickly, though. 

In the hours that followed, the nursing staff kept expressing how amazed they were with my delivery.  No face presentation babies are ever delivered vaginally in the hospital due to so many risks.  Due to my successful epidural, the nurses allowed me to "labor down" so much without checking me that Dorothea descended and exited on her own before they recognized what was happening, and therefore, I was able to have a face presentation baby without a c-section.  Had I been having the urge to push sooner due to laboring naturally, things may have turned out very differently - for her safety and mine.

Did I mention how glad I am that I listened to my body and got that epidural when I did?  Did I mention how thankful I am that God sustained my platelet count to 19 points above the cutoff level?

I know that in this hospitalized birth world we live in there are many medical choices that are taken away from women in birth.  I hate that.  I wish it wasn't that way.  I wish that crazy triage nurse wouldn't have made me feel like I was the crazy one.  I wish.  I wish.  I wish.  But, as I shared with my husband, I know that my transition to the hospital and the way that woman reacted in the triage room played a significant role in how I was not able to deal with the pain after that.  Part of me wants to be really angry with her for that, but the larger part of me knows that had she not acted that way, I may not have needed that epidural when I did.  And if I hadn't gotten that epidural, the doctors may have taken the choice of a vaginal delivery away from me.  So, in the end, I am probably the most thankful for the crazy triage nurse.  She may have saved me from an emergency c-section.  I guess I should go thank her...Well, maybe not.

Dorothea Marie, born August 26, 2013, at 12:45 am, weighing 7lbs. 4 oz., 21.5 in.

Hey, labor went from 22 hours to 11!  I am thinking if another child ever comes along, I should bank on five and a half, right?  Bring it on.  :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reality: The Drug

I am tired.  There are not very many tireds like the tired of didn't-sleep-while-pregnant, just-gave-birth, caring-for-a-newborn, and emotional-from-all-the-hormones.  Until you have experienced this kind of tired, it is simply indescribable.  Our new daughter is the best sleeper we have had yet, and she is overall the easiest.  Don't let that fool you into thinking I said she was a good sleeper and easy, though.  Newborns aren't good sleepers and they aren't easy.  Some are just easier than others.

In the middle of the night last night, as I awoke from my half-asleep state that I am always in at night, I rolled over to sit up and retrieve my bundle of joy from her bassinet.  It was the third time I had done this move during the night - it happens almost without my knowledge at this point.  I grabbed the ever-trusty boppy pillow, placed my daughter gently on the pillow, and gave her the one thing that can always be counted on to solve her problems.  Then began my nodding.  That nodding that you can recall from the most boring of school days.  That nodding that certainly never would happen to you during a sermon.  That head nodding that is uncontrollable.  This tired has taken over me.  I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere.  I nod off while breastfeeding, with my head slung over forward and my hair draping in her little face.  I fall asleep with my head slung backward resting on the hard wooden bed frame.  I have even fallen asleep for the two minutes that it takes my husband to change a diaper - that I asked him to do in the middle of the night so I could fall over, bent in half on the bed, with my head slung between my ankles - those two minutes were so worth it.

But last night, as I nursed her, I began to wake up more.  For a few minutes, my mind was clear, the home was quiet, and I was alone in a house full of people.  I glanced down at her - my child - and had The Moment.  All mothers know the moment well.  Being the mother of children who were both biological and adopted, I can assure you that this moment happens in both relationships...

The moment when you realize what it means to love this individual.

That moment is like a drug - the greatest, most high-inducing, God-given drug you can imagine.  I looked at her face, as she nursed - completely calm, completely satisfied, and completely dependent.  This child needs everything from me and her father.  Her eyes were wide open staring right at me and right into the depths of my heart.  Those eyes dug so deep in my heart at that very moment that it physically hurt to love her that much.  Then, she was full, and her eyes began to blink a little slower until they closed tight.  There I was, nestling my newborn into me, staring at her completely peaceful face, and I wanted to soak in every detail of that moment.  I actually didn't want to go back to sleep.  The drug was so good.

In our culture, two or three kids is seen as a good stopping point.  More than three and you are just a little weird and crazy, right?  I get it, sort of.  Kids take a lot.  Parents have to sacrifice - sleep, money, belongings, vacations, dates, etc.  But I have to say, I would welcome one, two, five, ten, or a hundred more simply because of moments like last night.  Maybe I am just a little weird and crazy.

Hello, my name is Kelly, and I am addicted to children...