Sunday, November 28, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

"Raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles..."

The day Grace Louise is old enough to watch and love The Sound of Music will be a glorious one! But that is a post for another day... For now, here are a few of her favorite things.

Okay, well, I didn't intend for this to be the first picture of the post.
Nevertheless, this face is one of her favorites.
(She is "shocked" at so many things in this world!)

Real ducks, fake ducks, singing about ducks, rubber duckies, ducks in books, birds that look like ducks...

Her car.


(This should have been the first one!)

Her pillow pet.

(A close second to swinging!)

Babies. And being a little mama.
(She's diapering her baby doll in this pic with one of her own cloth diapers. How precious is that?!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I heart baby

Friends Forever

A few pics from playdates over the past month...

Joanna Fisher checking out ol' Coffee!

Carson and Grace Louise sittin' in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G
Hey! Cut that out you two!

And that's what Car Car thinks about that!

Me, the Buckwheats, and the babies.
Lunch at The Barn in Lake Alfred.

"Hmmm. What shall I order," says Grace Louise.
"Oops. The menu is upside down! Silly me!"
(Notice Allison is content with having Pinky for lunch!)
Another baby with beautiful blue eyes!

GL showing off her mad fork skills!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankgiving Pics

Here I am, Johnnie on the Spot, already posting Thanksgiving pics from yesterday! We had a full day of enjoying friends and family on the lake and then again at my mom's. Our annual Hurst Family Picture below...

"Sug" gettin' some sug from Aunt Linds!

What a man in love with his granddaughter will do...
And the baby always steals the show...
The newest addition to the DuBose/Wise/Hoffmaster clan, sweet baby Hayden

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Day, Y'all!

At our last MOPS meeting we made "Give Thanks" jars to encourage a spirit of gratefulness in our homes and family. Jimmy and I have taken some time in the past two weeks to write down something each day that we are thankful for. Now our little "Give Thanks" jar is full of pieces of paper, each representing something for which we are thankful. Our slips of paper ran out long before our blessings did! We'll open and read them together tomorrow on Thanksgiving.
A simple, but neat activity to help us stop and really think about all that we have to thank God for. Sure our papers include things like family, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our daughter, etc... but this activity has also encouraged me to thank God for the not so obvious blessings, including the situations and even trials in our lives that give us the gift of dependency on the Father.

Phil 4:12- "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

West Virginia Mountain Mama...

"...Take me home, country roads." John Denver wasn't the only one singing this song a few weeks ago. Jimmy and my brother, Chris, drove to the mountain country of West Virginia for a hunting trip. Though they brought home a nice 8 point buck, as well as a doe, the 15 hour drive was more than either of them hope to endure again!

The guys had a safe trip and got to experience both the beautiful fall colors and snow within the same week! Grace Louise and I held down the fort here at home, but I look forward to traveling more as she gets older.

I love that, as a skilled outdoorsman, my man can provide for us in any time of need. Our freezer is full. Life is good. Much to be thankful for!

Only serious hunters stalk deer in the snow. Then again, looks like these two "serious" hunters are having a snowball fight!

Jimmy with his buck. Will be on the wall soon...
(An interior decorator's worst nightmare!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Play Time!


She's quite the dare devil. She likes to "ing! ing!" but prefers to take off the harness and practice her trapeze skills.

Rubbermaid box- $5
Play sand- $3
Watching this cute little girl play in our make-shift sandbox- Priceless!

I asked her, "What does the frog say?"
She said, "Moo!"
Obviously we need to work on our animal sounds.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Cowgirl Birthday

Our newborn baby just turned ONE a few days ago... how is that possible? Though bittersweet, we celebrated in true cowgirl style with a "Yippee Ki Yay" Birthday Party at Aunt Cindy and Uncle Doug's house! The past year has brought many amazing changes in our lives and we have so much to rejoice in!

The Cowgirl Birthday Princess on her new pony, "Coffee". She is loving horses as much as her mama! (Okay, okay, I might have an ulterior motive, here. "Daddy, Daddy, I want a real pony!" is more convincing than, "Honey, I want to buy a horse.")

"Whoa, horsey!"

Yummy! All-you-can-eat pineapple banana muffin cake with peanut butter and honey icing!
(Hey, she doesn't know the difference. She loved it- plus, it made a mess on her face just the same! Isn't a loss of dignity and manners while smashing cake in your face what we are really going for?!)

The balloons may have been her favorite toy.

See. She loved her cake so much, she wanted to share with everyone else!

Fellow cowboys and cowgirls.

Her first pair of cowgirl boots, a bubble blowing lawnmower, vacuum, popcorn popper "thingy" that will drive you nuts, piano, clothes, a purse, cooking Elmo, toy cars, DVDs, a DVD player for the car (which may have been just as much for my sanity as her enjoyment), oh yes, and "Coffee".

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life Demands Prayer- Our Birth Story

First of all, I want to put a disclaimer out there… This post is not for everyone. If you don’t have time to spare, stop now. If you aren’t interested in babies or birthing, read no more. If you could care less about my birth story, don’t read it for me.

Why am I sharing my birth story?

A woman’s labor experience and the moments after are indescribable. Words truly can’t do justice to the excitement, the work, the pain, the sensations, or especially, the love. Nevertheless, I molded these words together in effort to recount a miracle. I have chosen to share my birth story as a testament of God’s great love.

Eleven months after Grace Louise’s birth, a series of events encouraged me to bravely put the pen to paper. Actually, God opened a door for me to pursue my long-standing desire to be a birth doula. I knew that I didn’t want to enter this new journey without dealing with my own birth “baggage”. I started writing a month ago, and yes, it has taken me thirty-plus days to finish. I intended to finish on her birthday, but somehow found a more important task of loving, cuddling, and enjoying each moment of the day with my newly one year old!

Writing this story was a way to process this huge event in my life. Admitted or not, the process of giving birth is a life memory like no other. A woman’s birth story will forever change who she is.

Another important aspect of writing my birth story was to acknowledge that Grace Louise’s delivery wasn’t exactly what I expected. Everything didn’t go as planned, however I have come to accept that this is my very own birth story. Though having a healthy baby is absolutely an appropriately desired end, we must also acknowledge the mother’s experience in birthing and bonding. I hope that in sharing this story, other mamas out there will courageously face the reality of their own experience— to own and embrace the totality of their baby’s birth.

Lastly, and most importantly, I chose to share this story to give glory to God. Following Grace Louise’s birth, Jimmy and I were cautious in sharing our story, even with our parents. We didn’t want people to worry about her; I didn’t want to hear ridicule concerning our decision to birth at the birthing center. I simply felt too vulnerable sharing. Though we did give a testimony of her birth to our church during her dedication, I haven’t been ready to embrace it until now. And that’s okay.

As a parent, this story reminds me to trust God with my little girl. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in [her] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”- Phil 1:6. I know that I know that I know, that God has great plans for her life. This excites me beyond measure and gives me comfort in the moments when I feel she is growing up too fast! On her first birthday, yesterday, while watching her new VeggieTales- It’s A Meaningful Life DVD, I heard a sweet song that I think God placed there just for me. Until I can get a copy of this song, I turned my regular playlist autoplay off, but I inserted a video of the song below (which you have to select the play arrow to hear). The words are my heart for my baby girl who was absolutely "meant to be".

And so the real story goes…

Grace Louise’s due date was October 15, 2009. It came…and then it went. Thinking that I was going to have this baby on or before her due date was just wishful. When I was about 41 weeks pregnant, I encountered a woman who shared her personal story of carrying her son 20+ days past due. She described her long pregnancy as blissful and accredited her son’s genius intellect and rapid acquisition of motor skills to his extended stay in the womb. I was encouraged and decided that it would be okay for my own little Einstein to stay in a little while longer.

Saturday, October 31st was approaching—another Gator game to get through without going into labor. Jimmy had been holding his breath for the past three weeks, hoping for enough time to see the Gators play one more game uninterrupted. Enough already! Around 10:30 on Saturday morning I experienced a contraction that was different from the Braxton-Hicks contractions that had been coming and going for the past 3 weeks or so. I had an inkling of a feeling that this was the day. With much excitement and a little trepidation in my voice, I shared my hope with Jimmy and insisted, despite his disapproval, that we go out and about for some walking. We headed to Wal-Mart and then to the flea market, at this point, stopping every now and then for some mild contractions. I liked giving my attention to the contractions when they came. It further reminded me that I was (probably) in real labor! We ran into some friends at Wal-Mart and I excitedly shared, “I’m in labor right now!” This was news that we still weren’t completely convinced of ourselves and certainly not information that we shared with the soon-to-be grandparents. Didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up just yet. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Jimmy’s parents’ house snacking on boiled peanuts and, later, chicken wings and celery, while watching the Gator football game. (This sub-par dinner proved to be insufficient fuel for laboring later on! I knew better than this!)

Around 6pm I was able to time contractions 5-7 minutes apart. I called on my friend, Amber, an OB nurse, who was also 9 months pregnant at the time, to schedule a time to check my progress before going to the birthing center. She was busy trick-or-treating with her own children (again, Halloween night). I could hardly wait to get Jimmy alone in the car to tell him about my progress. (Yes, I was in early labor while watching the game and no one knew it! Later, Jimmy said that he could tell when I was contracting by the look on my face.) We were SO excited as we pulled out of the drive way and headed to gas up the car. I looked at Jimmy and said, “Can you believe we’re going to have a baby tonight?!” This was the onset of labor that I had been holding out for. Completely natural. Textbook. I had been encouraged by my midwife to be patient and wait— that my little one would come on her own time, when she was ready. Melissa was right! Now she was ready!

We arrived at our house and began to get things packed up and in the car. Amber arrived shortly after at 8pm and checked my cervix. I was almost 3 cm and contractions were 5 minutes apart. Around this time, active labor began. My contractions were productive; I could feel my cervix stretching and opening. I was relieved to have Amber with me for these first truly painful contractions. Her witty personality kept things light and positive, but her own motherly instincts and familiarity with the labor process gave me much comfort and encouragement for the journey ahead. When she left an hour later my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I had dilated to 5cm. I called my midwife, Melissa, and doula, Megan to let them know that I would be heading to the birthing center soon. I wanted to labor for as long as possible at home, but didn’t want to wait too long since our drive to Lakeland would take about 45 minutes. I spent the next hour in the bathtub, getting comfort from the warm water; Jimmy finished getting things in the car. Just before we left, at 10pm, I went into our bedroom to get one last thing, squatted down with my hands on my knees and cried. I guess I needed to get it out once and for all, because I shed not another tear throughout labor. I also had Jimmy take one last snapshot of my pregnant belly. I’m so glad I remembered to do that.

Jimmy called our parents, as well as someone from our small group to spread the word and pray. He was such an excited daddy! I called my friend, Missy, who prayed with me and encouraged me between contractions. Long silent pauses named the contractions and Missy, understandably, waited through them with me. The rest of the drive to the birthing center seemed to take forever, as my contractions were waiting only a minute to return. I called my midwife to warn her that I might have the baby in the car. She calmly reminded me that she was on her way and would meet me at the birthing center very soon. At this point we were only about 15 minutes away. I found that I was having a difficult time relaxing into each contraction. Laboring in the car might have had something to do with that!

We arrived at the birthing center in record time and beat my midwife there by a few minutes. She quickly arrived and after running the drunk man off the doorsteps of the birthing center, (it was Halloween night), she ushered us inside to get settled. She drew the bathwater while Jimmy put my things in one of the bedrooms and our food and other supplies in the kitchen. After weeks of childbirth classes and preparation, we came to this big event bearing anything I could possibly want during labor— specially made Passion Tea with apple juice, Gatorade, soup, crackers, cheese, fruit, ice pops, and several comfort measures—a rice sock, perineum compresses, herbal bath soaks, comfy clothes, and a most-precious list of scriptures and truths for encouragement throughout labor.

I stripped down bare, except for the nursing bra I bought especially for this occasion, and sank into the warm bathtub water. The contractions slowed and became less intense—a much-needed break after the car ride. Jimmy brought me water and Gatorade and sat with me until my doula, Megan, arrived. Megan and I met during the last half of my pregnancy and spent time getting to know each other. I shared my birth “plan” with her and she gave encouragement, support, and advice when needed. I was confident that her support during my labor and post-partum would be best for me, Jimmy, and our new baby.

Megan and Jimmy sat with me as I labored in the bathroom; my midwife and birth assistant were busy setting up the waterbirth tub and other supplies for the delivery of the baby. Thankfully, I was able to labor in a quiet, uninterrupted atmosphere, where the only intervention was when my midwife or birth assistant occasionally came in to check the baby’s heart rate. I never experienced fear throughout the entire labor process. I didn’t need or want to be checked for dilation. I was completely confident in my body’s God-given purpose to birth this baby. Whether or not this labor would result in a healthy baby girl delivered without complications…this thought truly never crossed my mind.

I found great comfort in the water and lost track of time as the contractions became stronger and stronger. I used breathing, internal focus, and relaxation- not a particular method, just what came natural from practicing stretching and relaxation throughout my pregnancy. Megan sat nearby on the toilet and at one point called me a “birth warrior”. I tried so hard to take her seriously, but truly just wanted to laugh. Between contractions, I cracked jokes and commented that I had no idea it was going to be this hard. Eventually, it became evident that I needed that time in between the contractions to rest and focus for the next one. When the contractions were strongest, I sat sideways in the tub, leaning my forehead on the cool porcelain. I repeatedly read the page of scriptures perched on the side of the bathtub. I swayed in the water, making my own rhythm of waves. As the pain increased, I desired to be covered by more water and slipped deeper in the tub, turning over to lie on my side. With one ear under water I focused on the distortion of sounds and the faint whispers between those attending my birth. My midwife and birth assistant had come into the bathroom to check on me. Before lying completely down in the bathtub, I experienced my first primal cry or moan. It was the strangest pain- both completely unbearable and freeing at the same time. I knew this was a sign that my cervix was opening even more. I would visualize the process of my cervix widening and could actually feel it happening within my body— a spreading taking place, ironically, at the same time as the strongest muscle in my body, my uterus, was contracting. I put my mouth under the water and focused on the temperature and texture of the water on my lips—another coping mechanism. Jimmy was quiet, in and out of the room, checking with the midwife, and getting me water and Gatorade to drink. He was very persistent with having me drink liquids even though I wanted nothing to do with eating or drinking. I recall him coming into the room at one point to celebrate the time. It was after one in the morning— no Halloween baby! He sat on a chair in the bathroom, waiting, watching. Ready for anything I needed. Little did he know, he was about to be given a new job that would last until the pushing stage.

Women in natural labor use rituals to manage pain and muster strength. Some rituals may be planned (strategic breathing or massage strokes during each contraction), and others are simply instinctual. I began to feel very nauseous at one point and asked for something to vomit in. Jimmy came back with a mauve colored hospital pan and held it for me as I pretend-vomited. This guttural noise accompanied with spitting became my instinctual ritual for every remaining contraction until I began to push, though I never actually vomited. Strange, I know!

As the labor pains grew more intense, Megan gave lots of verbal affirmation, along with Jimmy, especially when I began to get frustrated and restless. It was time for a change of pace.

Ready to try something new, and particularly something to alleviate some of my back pain, I sat for a few contractions on the birthing ball. Jimmy and Megan took turns squeezing my hips, relieving some of the pressure from my lower back. I found that being out of the tub in the open space of the bedroom felt unmanageable. After three or four contractions I moved back to the water— this time to the birthing tub. I was reluctant to get in the birthing tub, because I knew that the water temperature would be a constant 100 degrees. I liked being able to keep the water much hotter in the small bathtub. On the other hand, I knew I was now in the room where my baby girl would soon be born. We were getting closer.

It took me a few contractions to get comfortable in the birthing tub. It was more space to manage, and at this point, it was well into the middle of the night. I was getting very tired. Transition came soon—the few contractions that precede the pushing stage of labor. Primal cries and moans filled the air when breathing, rituals, or swaying rhythm just weren’t enough for coping. I called for my midwife and literally asked her “Am I making any kind of progress? How much longer do you think it will be? I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” As a promise, God never gives us more than we can handle. She, along with the rest of my birth team, assured me that I was "amazing" and to "keep doing what I was doing." I chanted “I can do this” over and over as the next contraction moved in and then out like a wave. My doula trickled water over my back as I swayed in delirium. Jimmy offered me water and faithfully held the mauve pan in place. I drank. I spat. I persevered because I knew it would be over soon.

Thankfully, transition didn’t last long, because the pain exceeded anything I could have imagined. [When recounting my labor experience with Megan days after the birth, she reminded me that at this point in my labor I really lost some of my couth. In early labor I referred to my urethra, which was now being called "pee hole"]. Shortly after transition, there was finally a time of rest. My body was gearing up for the most spectacular part of labor, pushing. The room was calm and quiet. I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and simply rested. The silence was penetrated only by the swooshing sound of the Doppler as my midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat. Another contraction was coming. By this point, I had personified the contractions and resorted to saying “It’s coming again” or “okay, okay, here it is”. I wanted so badly to escape “them”; I even admitted to my birth team, “I don’t know where to go. I feel like I just want to get away from them.” This time, the contraction was different, lasting only a few seconds before becoming something totally different… My eyes widened as big as saucers as I looked up at my midwife and said “I just had an urge to push!” She encouraged me to start slow and easy, pushing only with the urges. I was excited and hopeful; another step closer to meeting my girl. I was also a little scared. Having a baby had never been more real or within reach than it was in this moment. This was the work of bringing her into this world.

Everyone silently watched as I entered into the pushing stage, surrendering again to this new part in the birthing process. The first few pushing contractions were so different from what I had been experiencing; it took me some time to understand what my body was doing. Once I figured out where to push and became familiar with the pressure, I worked with each contraction, bearing down and feeling her come ever closer to born. I was so eager and, honestly, did not expect this stage to last very long. After a series of pushes on my hands and knees, my midwife checked my cervix for the first time since arriving at the birthing center. Only a slight lip of the cervix remained, but not enough to prevent her from continuing to descend into the birth canal. I would push through. I felt strong, driven, focused. I wanted to meet my baby and, in the moment, equally wanted labor to be over! At this point, I more willingly accepted each contraction, knowing that my work of pushing could only be successful when coupled with the natural pushing urges of my body. Within a few pushing contractions, I found that squatting while holding on to the bunched lining at the bottom of the birthing tub was a position that felt more natural and productive. I would later discover just how powerful this position was too!

Shortly before I delivered Grace Louise, my midwife told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. I did, unsure of what I would find. But sure enough… “Oh gosh! She’s right there!” I gasped. Everyone chuckled. And then it was back to work. Someone in my birth team placed a mirror under the water on the bottom of the tub and shined a flashlight so we could see more of this miracle unfolding. I don’t know exactly why, but I never looked down, and quickly asked for the mirror to be removed. I was serious about this work and wanted no time wasted. I may have been growing impatient at this point. I’m a bit regretful that I didn’t stop to enjoy this moment, but through processing this great event, I have learned to trust God, trust my body, and accept things just they way they were.

My birth assistant attempted to check the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler between contractions. The last attempt was unsuccessful, probably because of the deep position of the baby in the birth canal, along with my reluctance to remain positioned. Seconds later, as I felt the next contraction approaching, I knew this was it! No one in the room directed my pushing. I don’t know how else to explain it, but I knew in my spirit that this baby was coming out NOW! I had been a bit concerned about a sensation I was having in the previous two contractions- what felt like Grace Louise struggling to come out, wiggling her shoulders. I think I described it at the time as "kicking her legs". It startled me and for some reason (perhaps now known) created a sense of urgency to see her born.

I reached between my squatted legs, grabbed the tub lining with a firm grip and simultaneously pulled up with my arm strength as I bore down through my bottom. According to Jimmy, who apparently had never before witnessed such fierce strength in his wife, every muscle and vein in my body could be seen working toward this common goal. Typically, the baby’s head is delivered first, (allowing the mother time for a breather and possibly a moment to embrace this last step of childbirth), followed by the shoulders and body. In the third push of the last contraction, my face red and veins bulging, Grace Louise shot out like a rocket with no opportunity to embrace a partial birth. I wish I could have seen the look on everyone’s faces in this moment. Talk about making an entrance! 2:27 am.

Before I knew it she was out of my body and in the water; the umbilical cord was the only physical connection between us that remained. I reached down into the now blood-stained water, pulled her up, examining her parts (just to be sure) and said, “Baby Girl!” She was gray in color and had no movement in her body. Within what seemed like only a second, my midwife scurried to the side of the birthing tub where we were and calmly, but firmly said, “I’m going to need to take her.”

Seeing Grace Louise limp and without color did not alarm me the first second I saw her. (I’ve seen enough videos of births to know that babies don’t always come out kicking and screaming). Honestly, following the confirmation that she was indeed a girl, I only noticed how beautiful she was. The moments following truly seem like a blur in my memory. The birthing assistant was ordered to cut and clamp the cord— I now detected the severity of the situation in my midwife’s voice. She took Grace Louise over to the other side of the tub and laid her on a towel, rubbing her vigorously. Still no movement. I was leaning over the side of the tub; Jimmy was on his knees next to Grace Louise. Melissa asked what her name was (since we had still not shared it with anyone) and encouraged us, “Talk to your baby.” She called for the oxygen tank, which is routinely nearby for births at Labor of Love. Around this time, perhaps one minute after her birth, Melissa instructed my doula, Megan, to call 911. Jimmy told me to start praying, as he stretched out prostrate on the floor placing his hands on her tiny head. I remember seeing Melissa listening for her heartbeat as the birthing assistant helped bring the oxygen mask to her nose and mouth for Positive Pressure Ventilation. Both mine and Jimmy’s voices filled the air as we cried out to God in true desperation. We interceded for her life the best we could in the moment, praying for God fill her lungs with breath, declaring that He was the Great Physician, and frankly, just asking God to save her life. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the first sign of movement- a faint cough. I yelled out, “I think she just took a breath,” unsure if anyone else noticed. Jimmy immediately told me, “Start thanking Him. He’s gonna save her!” I began to say, “Thank you, Jesus! Hallelujah!” over and over. From where our help was coming from was surely not in question by anyone in the room. Death was in our midst that day, but so was our Healer and Author of Life!

Chosen and hung before her birth, one of the verses on the wall in Grace Louise’s nursery reads:

"For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you." –Psalm 71:5-6

EMS arrived three minutes after the 911 call was placed. Seconds before they walked through the front door of the birthing center, our midwife cleared the meconium from Grace Louise’s nasal passages, and we watched her take her first breaths and whimper a cry. Melissa took her vitals and APGAR score again before swaddling her in a blanket and handing her to Jimmy. (Her score was a 3 at one minute after birth and an 8 when taken again). Melissa informed EMS that they were called as a precautionary measure and rattled off some relevant medical information. EMS offered to take the baby to the hospital for a once-over. Unsure why this would be necessary if Grace Louise was truly doing great, I asked, “What would be the advantages of taking her to the hospital?” We later laughed at my Type A response. EMS congratulated us on our beautiful baby girl, wrote up a report, and left.

I totally forgot about the placenta, so when the next contraction came, I looked up at my midwife like, “I thought this was over! Is there another one?!” Still in the bloody water of the birthing tub, I rolled over on my back and reached to pull the placenta out. (What was I thinking?) I was more than ready to get out and be with my baby. Melissa told me to stand and cough, freeing me of my placenta, which I would later consume dried and encapsulated to help with post-partum hormone imbalance, iron levels, and physical nourishment. Weary and sore, they helped me get from the birthing tub to the bed. I was eager to hold my baby girl. Jimmy snuggled in beside me and we stared at her in awe, feeling her little fingers, giving lots of kisses, and talking about how beautiful she was… our own precious child! We talked about trying to breastfeed, but the pain was starting to really set in. I thought it best to have myself taken care of first. Jimmy took the baby in the living room, away from the bright lights needed to properly stitch my tear. He was already an amazing daddy! He held and rocked her, telling her about Jesus and the Gators.

Meanwhile, I had quickly turned into an unpleasant patient, overcome with shock and in tremendous pain from the traumatic delivery. Somehow, I managed to squeeze in a joke about my midwife being a great seamstress; other than that, I was completely unable to manage the pain and was definitely suffering from exhaustion and now, fear. Bless her heart, my doula tried to comfort me, but we had all just been through an extraordinary experience, and didn’t have much of anything left for coping. Jimmy brought Grace Louise back in and held her next to me. I was forced (yes forced) to drink some of my Passion Tea and eat soup and crackers. I can’t even describe the exhaustion that I felt, seriously unable to keep my eyes open long enough to eat. Though my blood sugar was probably at the floor, I needed rest more than anything.

I am racking my brain trying to remember the order of these events. I was truly overcome by fatigue— both by the strenuous task of birthing and also from not having sufficient nourishment. On my first trip to the bathroom I learned that I was unable to walk. (I literally could not lift my left leg to get my foot off the floor. I later found out that my abdominal muscles on the left side incurred a serious strain). When I finally made it to the bathroom with help, I was unable to urinate, partly because I literally couldn’t stay awake on the toilet. My behavior resembled someone who was very very drunk. After being carried back to the bed from the first trip to the bathroom, I elected for a straight catheter instead of trying to walk again. Who volunteers for a catheter? I was in tremendous pain!

Because of what we experienced the first moments of Grace Louise’s birth, Jimmy and I weren’t comfortable having her in the bed with us while we slept this first time. Our midwife graciously held her close on the couch while we got some much needed rest. It was 5 am. Jimmy and I lying alone in the bed together, beginning to process this experience, was, for me, a vulnerable and honest moment. I cried as I confessed that I would never be able to do this again. (Do we all say that?) I tried to describe how much pain I was in. And then we both talked about how surreal it was to finally have our baby girl. I asked about our parents' reactions when he called them with the news of her arrival. I wanted to know everything they asked and whether or not they just LOVED her very special name!

While I continued to rest, Jimmy ordered, according to my midwife’s instructions, the biggest breakfast McDonald’s offered. I woke up to daylight and birds chirping outside the window. I made it through the night. And I was hungry! I ate like a trooper and was now ready to be the best mom for my baby girl. Six hours after she was born, Grace Louise nursed for the first time. She was a pro! Perfect latching and an amazing bonding experience. It was everything I thought it would be.

Hours after my first attempt, I made it to the bathroom with help and was able to shower and urinate, both requirements for being discharged from the birthing center. I sat in the warm bathtub filled with healing herbs, my doula by my side, already reminiscing on the events from hours before. We signed our baby girl’s birth certificate and loaded her up in the car to go home about 11 hours after she was born. We came home to a clean house, baked goodies— appropriately including birthday cake, a perfect whimsical nursery, which smelled of Crabtree and Evelyn’s Nantucket, and very eager grandparents.

I must take a moment to acknowledge God’s hand in choosing my midwife or this story would not be truly complete. Jimmy and I saw a rotation of three midwives, one of which, naturally, we bonded with immediately. Another of which we quite frankly prayed would not be on call at the time of our birth. She was a part time ER nurse whose bedside manner was more clinical than I preferred. During one of our scheduled prenatal visits with our midwife of choice, we were informed that she would be leaving Labor of Love for another job. I was devastated, but quickly resolved to get to know midwife #2 a bit more since surely she would be the one delivering my baby. A week before my due date, you guessed it, my back-up midwife also left the practice. At this point, I was beginning to recognize that God might be up to something. I accepted that which I could not change, but still thought that other than examining my baby and taking care of some medical paperwork, my midwife would just be a backdrop. Oh, does God have a way of working through circumstances so that His sovereign plan can be complete in our lives! Not only was God’s choice perfect for me and my baby, but she was more than a backdrop— she was indeed part of a great miracle of God. Her experience in emergency situations made her well equipped to respond to my baby’s needs. There is a unique life-long bond between a woman and her midwife. Following Grace Louise’s birth, I have come to love and truly appreciate Melissa.

In the days and weeks following, Grace Louise was perfect and healthy, though my own recovery was not what I had imagined. Unable to walk from strained abdominal muscles and a vaginal hematoma, I required much help and support, both to care for myself and Grace Louise. Thankfully, Jimmy was able to take some time off of work and we received tremendous support from our family and friends. The first month postpartum was strangely a time of both remarkable joy and sorrow. Natural baby blues from postpartum hormones, coupled with the post-traumatic stress from the delivery and hours after, required me to rely on strength from the Lord and to find comfort, peace and promises for healing in His Word. For weeks, I read aloud the Psalms every night in the bathtub, trusting that the spoken Word would encourage and heal my fragile spirit. At the same time, the bursting-at-the-seams love I felt for my baby girl was like nothing else I had ever experienced. The love in itself was overwhelming. We are so blessed to have been given this little life to grow and nurture. It is a gift I could never pay for, but would give anything I have to keep.