April 1, 2015

faking brave

I recently read a novel where the young protagonist faces a lot of heartache. As she faces challenge after challenge, she is forced to soldier on into unfamiliar, yet ultimately freeing territory.  Toward the end, right before everything is resolved, she admits to herself, "I'm not brave, it's just that all other options have gone out the window."

Like her, I can put on the facade of bravery.  I can act like I have it all together and that everything is going fine, when really I just want to fall apart.  At times I let myself go, but all too often I soldier on and stubbornly fake bravery, sometimes to the point where my hands are shaking from the effort and I'm finding it hard to take a deep breath.  I can't always fall apart.  I'm a wife and a mother, and my family needs me.  So usually faking brave does seem to be my only option.  But I feel so weak on the inside.

I take comfort in the fact that God makes me strong despite my weakness, but His Word also tells me I'm to be strong and courageous.  Walking that truth out is easier said than done.  I may not be facing the walls of Jericho, but I have my own walls of self-doubt, depression, and anxiety.  How does one go about knocking these down?  By God's power alone.

So I'm going to keep marching around my "Jericho."  I'm going to take care of my family and love them fiercely.I'm going to run errands and cook dinner.  I'm going to read my Bible and pray.  I will fight to take pleasure in the mundane, and rejoice with thankfulness in the unexpected blessing.  If I have to continue to fake being brave until faking is no longer necessary because I can finally rest in His power and provision and love for me, then so be it.  I've come to the end of myself.  All other options have gone out the window.

October 18, 2013

Micah's Birth Story

I found out I was pregnant on January 30, 2013.  Given our history with miscarriages, I was immediately nervous about this little one.  What made things even more complicated was that my husband had just been let go from his job a few weeks before; while he had had a couple of interviews since then, nothing concrete was on the horizon.  I couldn't help but ask the Lord what He was thinking with this kind of timing.

I should have known better.

I waited till that evening to tell Randall, mostly because I was afraid of his reaction.  I should have known he wouldn't be anything but excited and hopeful.  He told me that God would take care of us and this baby.  A couple of days later, on a Saturday afternoon no less, Randall got a call from the district attorney's office in Canton, where he had interviewed earlier that month.  He was wanted for a second interview that Monday, and things looked very promising.  By Wednesday he was accepting their offer to be the newest assistant district attorney at their office.  My worrying had once again been for nothing; within a week of finding out I was pregnant, God secured a future for us.

We remained on my husband's old insurance long enough for me to squeeze in a few appointments at my current OB's office before having to move.  At 7 weeks we had our first ultrasound and saw our little bean, so we felt it was safe to tell immediate family our good news.  I chose to keep our secret from everyone else for the time being; I was so overwhelmed with all of the changes in our lives that I wasn't sure how to handle everyone knowing right then. And admittedly, part of me was still guarding my heart in case something went wrong like the other times.  At 8 weeks I had another ultrasound and the baby was still doing great.  My due date was slated for October 3rd and things were looking up.

I was around 10 weeks when Randall went on ahead of us to start work in Canton.  Caleb and I remained behind for another week to pack up the house and to get one more appointment in at the OB.  My parents came up to help with the packing and I'm so glad they did.  The fatigue was hitting me big time and there was no way I could have done it on my own.  During my 10-week appointment at the OB, I found out our old insurance was deactivated and we would have to pay for that visit out of pocket.  Unfortunately, the doctor I saw also ordered additional tests when he saw three miscarriages in my medical history.  I decided to go ahead with them and worry about the cost later.

We moved up to Canton and I received a call from my old OB's office soon after.  My tests had come back and it appeared as though I had a protein-S deficiency.  The nurse I spoke to advised me to find an OB up there as soon as possible to get it checked out.  I was feeling frantic at that point.  I had no idea where to even start looking for a doctor.  I researched a lot online and finally settled on the practice that was closest to my house since I knew it would be easy to find.  I told myself that if I hated them, I could always switch later on.

It turns out that the practice I chose was a great fit for me.  They were very open to my wanting to try for a VBAC this time and I only got weird vibes from a nurse once or twice during my whole pregnancy.  On May 15 we found out we were having a boy!  They also changed my due date to October 5 given my measurements.

I was referred to a perinatal specialist twice in regards to the deficiency.  They concluded that those tests probably shouldn't have been done when I was already pregnant since that can interfere with the results.  The specialist also said if I did have a deficiency, it didn't appear to be doing any harm to this pregnancy.  I was advised to take a baby aspirin every day to be on the safe side since the deficiency could cause blood clots, but for the most part I was in the clear.  And the upside to these appointments was getting additional ultrasounds done with better equipment.  I even saw my baby's face at 32 weeks!

In the meantime, I was getting nervous about childbirth.  I knew I didn't want another c-section if I could help it, but the thought of a vaginal delivery also scared me.  Then in late June I had a dream.  It was just a snapshot in my mind.  I was sitting up in a hospital bed, wearing the black delivery gown I had just ordered off the internet a couple of days before, and was holding our baby boy and smiling.  The caption on the photo gave me his name, Micah Jonathan, and the dream made it clear that I had just had a successful VBAC.  I woke up feeling peaceful.  Somehow this was going to work.

The rest of my pregnancy seemed to go by quickly.  I got bigger by the week, exceeding the recommended 35-pound weight gain but still staying well under the weight I had reached when carrying Caleb.  I was also pleased to see that I didn't get any new stretch marks with this pregnancy, and the ones I had developed with my other pregnancy didn't even pop back out!  When I was around 36 weeks, we drove back down to Albany for a weekend visit and some dear friends threw a diaper shower for me.  It was wonderful seeing everyone again, especially since I had yet to make any close friends in Canton and felt lonely some of the time.

Caleb spent a week at my in-law's in Florida after that visit.  I took advantage of the time alone and made Micah a baby quilt (I had already made him some flannel burpcloths, some appliqued onesies, a bedskirt for his crib, and a cover for his dresser top).  I also made some artwork for his walls out of scrapbook paper and letter stickers.  My in-laws had given us money to buy a changing table which also came in that week.  His room was really coming together and I was getting very excited!

At 37 weeks, we took a tour of the local hospital.  It's a small one (only 85 beds), but I got a very good feeling about giving birth there.  It just seemed more personal and homey.  I prayed that no matter how this birth turned out, it would be a healing experience for me, and I truly believed God would make it that way.

At my 39-week appointment (I was technically at 39 weeks and 4 days), I was dilated to 1 centimeter but my cervix was still very hard.  The doctor was comfortable waiting another week, knowing I wanted to try for a VBAC, but also told me if I went any longer than that we'd have to schedule a c-section soon after.  He also reminded me that since I had had a c-section before, they weren't comfortable with giving me pitocin to induce labor, so I'd have to go into labor on my own in order to attempt a vaginal birth.  When I went to make an appointment, the next day available was the following Thursday, so I had just given myself 8 days to go into labor on my own.

My parents had already been up for a week to help out with meals and to be there for Caleb when I went into labor.  So at this point it was a waiting game.  I prayed that something would happen before the "deadline" of October 10.

 39 weeks and counting...

On Friday, October 4, I began losing the mucus plug.  It was almost a relief for me, since I had been feeling crampy for a couple of days but wasn't progressing any further than that.  I was also thrilled that my water hadn't broken early like it did with Caleb.  I continued to feel crampy all through the next day, my technical due date.  My mom and I drove down to the mall to walk in hopes that something would happen later on.  But it looked like Micah was going to be fashionably late!

On Sunday, I began having little "practice" contractions at 3:30 in the morning.  This was all new territory to me, having had such an odd labor with Caleb, but I knew these weren't the real thing.  They were irregular and I could easily walk and talk through them.  I was still encouraged that something was happening.  In the afternoon, the contractions stopped altogether.  Randall and I went for a walk in the neighborhood, then I climbed up and down the stairs inside for awhile. I finally had to stop; I was so out of breath I went to our bedroom to rest.  I ended up crying so much that it turned into a panic attack.  I couldn't catch my breath and I was scared because I didn't know what my body was doing.  Randall managed to calm me down; at that point I laid down on our bed for awhile and listened to our iPod that I had already preloaded with worship music.  My parents took Caleb back to their RV so we could concentrate on the baby and each other for a bit.  That night I sat on my exercise ball while we watched a funny movie.  The tiny "practice" contractions came and went; I had given up on trying to track them since they were irregular, plus it was tough to tell when one started and stopped.  Still, we went to bed prepared with the hospital bag packed and the infant car seat in my car.

A few hours later, I woke up with the REAL contractions (again, at 3:30 in the morning.  What is it about 3:30 in the morning???).  They would start in the back and then build up to the front.  I got up and went to the living room to sit on my exercise ball again.  I watched the clock and mentally counted the seconds when each contraction started.  I wanted to make sure it was the real thing before I bothered waking up Randall.  He woke up soon after anyway and came out to help me time them.  After a few contractions, we figured out they were around four or five minutes apart already, lasting around 40 seconds each.  I got up and took a shower, then Randall did the same.  We took our time, knowing we weren't in a huge rush to get to the hospital since my greatest fear was getting there too early and then facing all of the possible interventions if I didn't progress fast enough.  When they got to be 3 minutes apart, we decided to go to the hospital and see what they said.

The hospital is literally a three-minute drive from our house, so we got there around 7 a.m.  We didn't realize it till we got there, but 7 a.m. was when everyone changed shifts, so it took several minutes after checking in for anyone to come down to get us.  Just being in the hospital again made me nervous (even though I had given birth to Caleb in a different hospital).  There were a few tears on my part, but Randall told me "This isn't going to be like last time."  That became kind of a mantra that he would repeatedly tell me whenever he could tell that the worry was building back up.

A nurse came down with a wheelchair for me, and let me just say, she was about the flakiest nurse I've ever come across.  She literally almost ran the wheelchair (with me in it) into a wall two or three times by the time we got up to the labor and delivery floor.  She had the kind of ditzy, overly cheerful demeanor that made her really hard to talk to, especially given the fact that I wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone once a contraction would hit.  Luckily once she got me settled in a bed in the triage room, she left and a better nurse came in to get my vitals and to monitor the baby.  We think she was supposed to have Randall leave the room for some of her questions (like she asked me right in front of him if there was abuse at home), but I'm glad she didn't since I was nervous and just trying to relax, and being alone in that room would have made things so much harder.  We hadn't seen the doctor on duty yet, but after seeing my vitals and hearing about my progress, he told the nurse to bring me breakfast and then have us walk the halls until he got out of surgery.

Or rather, the HALL.  I mentioned earlier this hospital was small, so we literally walked up and down the same hall for awhile.  I had to stop and lean against the wall whenever a contraction hit too.  After awhile we went back to the triage room so I could rest.  That was when the doctor on duty came in.  He was the lead doctor at the OB practice I had been going to all along, but I had never met him since they have multiple offices and my appointments always seemed to fall on days when he wasn't at the Canton one.  But I knew who he was before he introduced himself.  Let's call him Dr. L.

Quick flashback...a week or so earlier, I had come across someone who, whether they meant to or not, had a very negative opinion about certain aspects of childbirth.  She was also pregnant but declared that she was having her baby at home with a midwife.  She asked me when I was due and where I was having the baby.  She then proceeded to tell me horrible stories of people she knew who gave birth in hospitals.  She mentioned Dr. L by name, saying he was terrible and only concerned with getting your baby out as quickly as possible so he could get to his golf game.  Fortunately by then I already had such a peace that I was where God wanted me, my biggest problem with her was trying not to laugh at how ridiculous she was being.  I was also disappointed that she couldn't find one encouraging thing to say to me.  I realized that hospital birth isn't for everyone, but it was the choice I had made and I didn't understand why she was trying to change my mind when I was so late in the game!

Anyway, I had joked with Randall that it would be worth it to have a successful VBAC with Dr. L in the hospital just to prove that lady wrong.  And there was Dr. L, on call at the hospital, on the very day I went into labor!  Turns out he's a great obstetrician; he has a somewhat serious bedside manner but you can tell he knows what he's doing and that he cares about his patients.  He listened to me and my story of how Caleb was born, and also took my desires seriously.  I think he appreciated that while we knew exactly what we wanted out of this birth, we were also flexible and not putting him in a box by giving him any ultimatums.  For example, I told him I'd rather not get an epidural since they freak me out, but I would be willing to consider it if the circumstances changed.  After talking to Randall and me for a good ten minutes, he asked us how far away we lived from the hospital.  When he found out how close we were, he told us we could go home for awhile and labor there, since while my contractions were close together, I was only dilated at 3 cm.  He said I had a better chance of getting a VBAC and avoiding an epidural if I waited to be admitted to a labor room until I was further along.  I was thrilled with the idea of going home.  I had already realized that we had gotten to the hospital too early and was so relieved that Dr. L was willing to let me go back home for a bit.

The nurse who accompanied Dr. L into the room was very nice as well.  She gave us some paperwork to sign to get it out of the way, and also commented that she was almost surprised that Dr. L was letting us go home.  I knew that once again, God had gone before us and we were still on our way to that healing birth.

We drove back home and I took another shower (even though we were only at the hospital for a few hours, I could smell it on me!).  I ate small snacks throughout the day while we watched movies.  Right when we got home, my contractions got more intense, especially around my back.  I was thinking, so THIS is the back labor all those women complain about!  I tried walking around but that seemed to make it worse so I ended up sitting up on the couch for most of the afternoon.

Finally around 6:30 or 7:00 that evening, Randall could tell that I was getting more frantic with the pain and that it was time to go back to the hospital.  This time we got right into a delivery room.  The nurse on duty, Beth, was amazing.  She had no problem letting me wear the delivery gown I had brought with me, and once she knew that I wanted a VBAC she was so encouraging about it.

Dr. L came in (hmmm, guess he must have stuck around because he didn't have a golf game that day, haha!) and checked me.  I was only at 4 cm after all those contractions!  I think I actually swore under my breath because I just couldn't believe it.  They then suggested that they break my water to speed things up.  I hesitated at first.  My water broke early on with Caleb, so I was always a little nervous that it would do the same with this baby too.  The fact that my water was still intact was very important to me, almost like it was buying me more labor time if I needed it.  But I knew we had to do something, so I agreed.  After the job was done and we were left alone, I sat up in bed (the only position where I could still somewhat handle the back labor), listening to my iPod and praying.  I had kept a little notebook of Scriptures, quotes, and words of encouragement from friends that I had been reading over and over for the past month, so phrases from this notebook continually came to mind as I labored.

"Inside the will of God, there is nothing I fear."  A.W. Tozer
"Your body is NOT broken!" Word of encouragement from a friend
"The joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Randall watched the monitor, so he could tell whenever I had a particularly nasty contraction.  I kept my eyes closed but would try to focus on my breathing and relax whenever one hit.  He would also help me to the bathroom when I needed it, a trip I dreaded each time because it seemed whenever I stood up and then sat down, another bad contraction would hit and I'd feel like my back was going to snap. 

When they checked me again a couple hours later, I was at 6.5 cm.  I was encouraged but also getting worried.  Did I have what it took to do this labor naturally?  Dr. L mentioned an epidural again.  He didn't pressure me either way, but said he usually preferred to do VBACs with epidurals.  We told him we'd give it another couple of hours and then talk about it again.  Beth brought me a heating pad for my back, which helped some.  At one point, she came in and asked me to lay on my side for a few contractions since they were having trouble picking up the baby's heartbeat when I sat up.  I obeyed and when the next contraction hit, I about went crazy.  Something about laying on my side made the pain SO much worse.  I gripped the rail on the side of the bed and tried not to scream out loud.  After two contractions laying like this, I finally told Randall I couldn't labor this way so he helped me sit up again.  No one came in to yell at us, so I figured by then that they had a good reading of the baby's heartbeat so all was well.  Midnight came and went, and I came to the realization that no matter what happened, our baby would be born sometime that day, October 8, which also happens to be my mom's birthday.

A couple of hours later, I was really running out of steam and truly felt like I was losing my mind.  I had been awake and in labor for twenty-four hours and was feeling the exhaustion.  I would literally doze off sitting up between contractions, only waking up when another one would hit (and let me say, that's just about the worst way to wake up!).  I tried to be thankful that I was further along than I ever got with Caleb, but all I could think was, "How in the WORLD is this going  to be a healing birth for me??  This is terrible!"

Beth came in to check me again, and I was still at 6.5 cm.  She told me she didn't want to pressure me, but an epidural might help me out since my body would dilate better if it was more relaxed.  I had told her earlier that I wasn't trying to be a hero with this no-epidural thing; I really just had a phobia of them and the thought of getting one freaked me out almost as much as the thought of having a baby naturally.  She could see the fear in my eyes and went to talk to Dr. L (yep, he was still there!).  He told her to insert an internal monitor so they could see how productive my contractions were, and also to start a small Pitocin drip.

Pitocin?!  The very substance I was told I couldn't have because I had a previous c-section?  She explained that in this case, it was considered safe since they were using a small amount, I was already in active labor, and the doctor was on the floor in case of an emergency. I agreed to it, knowing that they were doing all they could for me to respect my wishes.  But I knew how Pitocin could speed things up and make the pain even more intense, and I wasn't sure I handle that on my own.  Randall was also concerned about it; he told me the decision was still mine to make and that he would support me no matter what, but I could tell he was thinking that the epidural was starting to look like a good idea.

I hadn't been on the Pitocin for long when Beth came back in and said, "Do you want my professional opinion?"  I didn't even hesitate before I said "YES!"  I knew she had held back for awhile out of respect for me, but at this point I was desperate for a medical opinion on what I should do.  She advised me to get the epidural.  She assured me I'd still feel pressure and know when to push when the time came; the epidural would simply ease the pain, help me sleep for a couple hours, and allow my body to dilate better.  I tearfully agreed and immediately started shaking all over.  I told you I had a phobia!

The anesthesiologist came in and started prepping me.  I'm not kidding, the ENTIRE time beforehand, I was shaking.  I asked Randall if I made the right decision, and he said, absolutely.  He knew I was exhausted and that having the epidural would most likely help prevent a c-section later on.  He repeated once again, "This isn't going to be like last time." So I made a real effort to stop being a wimp and quit shaking long enough for the guy to administer the stupid thing.  And it was horrible.  Especially when a nasty contraction hit right in the middle of the procedure and at least three different people simultaneously told me to "stay still."  I think if I wasn't in so much pain right then I would have laughed...."stay still?"  Are you kidding me??

Anyway, after that chore was done, I felt even more exhausted, and started shaking again (this time from the epidural).  Beth helped me get situated on my side and told me I'd feel the contractions less and less until the all I'd feel was pressure.  She also brought in pillows and blankets to set Randall up on the pull-out couch in the room.  She checked a few more things, turned out the lights, and ordered us to sleep for a couple hours.

I was certain I wouldn't sleep.  How could I with all that was going on??  What if after all this labor, after all the months of praying, I still had to get a c-section?  The Lord calmed my heart and told me He had this and that I could go to sleep.  I meditated on a verse from the book of Micah (the very name we were going to give this child) until I drifted off.

"As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show you miracles.Micah 7:15

I awoke sometime later.  I couldn't see a clock in the room but knew the two hours weren't up yet.  I had an indescribable peace that didn't really make sense considering I wasn't any closer to having answers than I was when I went to sleep.  I remembered that verse from Micah and realized God was preparing my heart for a miracle.  I did feel an enormous amount of pressure every 90 seconds or so, and it was lower down, so I prayed that that was a good sign.

Dr. L came in (yep, he was STILL THERE!) and checked me.  He always has a very serious countenance so it's hard to tell what's going on till he actually tells you.  He looked me in the eye and said, "You're at 10 cm and ready to push.  You WILL have this baby vaginally in the next hour."  Beth and some other nurses immediately began making preparations for delivery and I was just laying there, trying to let what I had just been told sink in.  Randall stood by kind of helplessly, waiting for instructions on where he needed to be and what he should do.

After that any small delay seemed to be torture for me.  First they couldn't get one of the stirrups to stay up so they had to go get another one and attach it to the foot of the bed.  Then a nurse would randomly come in the room to ask a question about another patient on the floor.  I wanted to say, "Are THEY having their baby right now?  Can't they wait???"  Finally, they had me set up to deliver and then it was just a matter of waiting till a contraction hit.  I pushed for a few contractions and Beth said she could see the top of his head!  She asked me if I wanted a mirror.  I said no (the thought of seeing myself from that angle, even if it means also seeing the baby's head, has never appealed to me).  She ignored me and went for the mirror anyway, and it ended up helping me push through the next few contractions.  It was crazy seeing the top of Micah's head.  I tried to ignore the rest of the reflection I saw in the mirror (because really, it's just gross) and focus on how the baby moved whenever I pushed.

Dr. L came back in and could tell that while I was making progress, they were having trouble getting the baby's head out.  It seemed I was rather tight, so he said, "I think it's best to give you an episiotomy.  Then the baby will be born really quickly and I'll stitch you up right after."  Normally the thought of such a procedure would be enough for me to freak out, but hey, I had already been in labor for 27 hours and had also handled an epidural like a rock star (well, relatively speaking).  An episiotomy?  Bring it on!  I gasped out, "That's fine, just do it" since I was recalling birth stories I'd read where some women had pushed for hours and I didn't want that.  I wanted to see my baby NOW, even if it meant another procedure.

He did the procedure quickly and I was told that Micah's head came through during the next round of pushes.  By then they had taken the mirror away since obviously I didn't want to see the reflection after being cut.  Dr. L told me in his serious way, "Your baby will be born during your next contraction."  I was overjoyed...the moment was coming!  It seemed like an eternity waiting for that next contraction.  Even though I was still mostly numb from the epidural, I felt enormous amounts of pressure and I just wanted some relief.  As soon as I felt the very beginning of a contraction (it wasn't even showing up on the monitor yet), I was like, "Um, I feel a contraction, I'm going for it" and they said to go ahead.

A couple of pushes later, Micah Jonathan Ivey came into this world.  They immediately placed him on my chest and started wiping him off.  The only thing I could say at first was "Hi Micah!  I'm SO glad you're here!"  Randall said later he thought it was about the cutest thing I'd ever said.  But it was true.  I had gotten my VBAC, and my baby was healthy and finally with me.

Since the hospital was small, they did all the initial testing with Micah right in the room with us.  Dr. L stitched me up while Randall took pictures of Micah, called out his weight to me (8 lbs, 5 oz), and updated anxious family members who had been on alert for over a day by now.  He had already told me he had had a dream a few days earlier about Micah being born and had seen his face; he told me that Micah looked just like he did in the dream.

Beth commented that she was so happy Micah came right before the shift change so she could be there for his birth.  That meant something to me; she had been so invested in both caring for me and for my desires for this birth, and it was great that she was able to see this to the end.  Dr. L also said he was glad to be there; we weren't sure what time he had started being on call at the hospital the day before, but he had obviously been there for over 24 hours by then so that meant a lot to us.  I never felt rushed into any decisions, and only felt respect and cooperation from him and everyone else who worked with us.

So I got my VBAC!  It hasn't been easy since then; turns out healing from a vaginal birth plus an episiotomy takes a lot of time and a lot of pain meds.  But it's still been way easier recovering from this birth than it was from my c-section with Caleb.  Micah's birth was the most difficult, most empowering, and most healing experience I've ever had, and I'm so thankful for an awesome and understanding OB practice and hospital staff who helped me achieve that goal.

This photo was taken within the first hour of Micah's life.  It's my favorite one since it captures an opportunity I never got with Caleb's birth...being able to hold my child so soon after he was born (not to mention, I was sitting up AND smiling!  That's impossible after a c-section, I don't care who you are).  It's also the same picture I saw in my dream back when God gave me his name and the assurance that He would carry me through.

Micah Jonathan Ivey
Born October 8, 2013 at 6:31 a.m.
8 pounds, 5 ounces
22 inches long

April 29, 2013

pouring out my soul

So you can guess from the lack of posts that so far 2013 has been one crazy year for me and my family.  During the first week of January, we found out that our son Caleb had two different irregularities with his heart (a murmur and a fistula...thankfully we would find out later that both were pretty benign).  A week later, my husband was let go from his job.  A couple weeks after that, I found out I was pregnant.  And that was all just during January!

But God took care of us.  A couple days after I found out I was pregnant, my husband got a call from a district attorney's office where he had interviewed a few weeks earlier.  He received this call on a Saturday (a day where most people aren't taking care of work-related stuff!), so right away I had the feeling that this was big.  He scheduled a second interview for early that next week, and within a week's time of finding out another baby was on the way, he had secured a position with that office.

Meanwhile, I was going to my obstetrician's office for blood tests and was experiencing the normal anxiety I get when I first find out I'm pregnant.  Thankfully when my husband was let go from his job, he received some severance pay as well as continued insurance coverage for a couple of additional months while he looked for another job, so again, God took care of us.  I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks, and for the first time since 2009, it was a good one!  We then decided to tell immediate family our happy news, but I hesitated to tell anyone else.  I was still afraid to get really excited about this little one, plus my mind was already reeling with the idea of having to pack up and move to a strange new town soon.

We found a house to rent in the new town, and I managed to get a couple more appointments in at my old OB before we moved.  Unfortunately our insurance ran out by the time I went in for my 10-week exam, and the doctor I saw at that appointment expressed concern about my past miscarriages.  I told him my normal doctor didn't think additional tests were necessary since my three miscarriages weren't consecutive.  He then told me his rule of thumb is TWO consecutive miscarriages and went ahead and ordered more labwork.  I was nervous since I knew we didn't have insurance to cover the cost, but something in me told me that I just had to get those tests done.  The doctor assured me that everything would most likely come back normal; this was just to rule out any chance of a late-term miscarriage or stillbirth.

We moved a few days later, and after we had settled in I received a call from my old doctor's office.  My tests had come back and apparently I had a protein-S deficiency.  The nurse told me that may have caused my miscarriages before and that I should get checked out up here as soon as possible.  I spent the rest of the day crying off and on, both for the babies I had lost and for the baby I was now carrying.  I still was unfamiliar with the area, but I managed to find an OB five minutes away from our house, so I got in that next week.  They referred me to a specialist to get the protein deficiency checked out, but also told me that those tests shouldn't have been done while I was already pregnant because the results may not be accurate.  I left their office with more questions than answers.  Was there really a problem with my body?  And if so, what was I supposed to do about it?

After prayer and some research, my husband and I decided that I should call the specialist and ask to postpone the appointment until we had insurance.  I was glad I did; the person I spoke with said that in the first trimester they don't do much for you, so we would have had to pay out of pocket for just some "counseling."  She said I could call back and reschedule once we had the insurance straightened out.  I hung up the phone and a peace came over me.  I knew I did the right thing.  And when I went back to the OB a few weeks later and spoke with an actual doctor, she said it was fine that I waited.  She said it would still be good to get checked out by the specialist, but since I didn't have a history of blood clots and the pregnancy had already lasted past the point of when I miscarried the other babies, it probably wouldn't be a major problem.  I would most likely need to be monitored a little more closely toward the end of the pregnancy, and if I needed to take anything, it would probably just be aspirin.

So here I am...17 and a half weeks pregnant.  I'm proud to say I'm more peaceful that I thought I'd be, but I think the hardest thing about it is just being lonely.  I don't have friends up here yet, and though I keep in touch with the old ones, it's not as good as having someone in the flesh to talk to.  Add pregnancy hormones to the mix and what I got was just sadness over the last week or so.  Whenever I get that way, my husband asks me, "When was the last time you read your Bible?"  So this morning I picked it up and read.  And for once our three-year-old didn't want to turn the pages for me.  :o)

I found myself reading Psalm 42.  While my situation probably isn't as serious as what the psalmist was going through, I found myself relating to some of what he said.  One phrase that struck me was "I pour out my soul within me" (verse 4).  To me it sounded like an offering of sorts.  The footnotes in my Bible led me to both 1 Samuel and Job for other uses of the phrase.  Turns out Hannah and Job said the same thing when they were in distress.  In Hannah's case (1Samuel 1:15), her affliction had to do with being childless, and as a result she prayed continuously to the Lord (even to the point where her husband asked her if she was drunk!).  In Job's case, he was lamenting over his current state of loss and humiliation (30:16).  In both cases, they were sad and the situation was weighing down on them...much like myself.  I found myself relating more to Hannah since her situation had to do with getting pregnant.  I find my sadness has also made me feel guilty since I think, "I wanted another baby, and this pregnancy is going well...I have no right to be sad!"  I also relate to Hannah because despite her sadness, she was doing what I ought to be doing more of....praying before the Lord.  Even the psalmist asks himself, "When shall I come and appear before the Lord" (verse 2b) and also instructs his soul to hope in the Lord (verse 5) because he must know that's the only way.

It dawned on me that when one pours out their soul within them, something must fill it back up.  Things like joy and thanksgiving that can only come from being in His presence (verse 4).  And worshipping and hoping in the "help of His presence" (verse 5).  And what I'm choosing to call active recall of all He's done before (verse 6b).   So I'm trying to pour out the junk and fill my soul with better things.  And when the loneliness creeps back up, I will do my best to remember:

"The Lord will command His lovingkindess in the daytime, and His song will be with me in the night." (Psalm 42:8)

January 15, 2013


We were just going in for a simple check-up.  My little boy had just turned three, and had endured nothing more than an occasional cold or scraped knee over the past year.  We drove to his pediatrician and I rejoiced that God had blessed Caleb with such wonderful health.

He charmed the nurses and hardly fussed at all when they pricked his finger to checked his iron.  He even thanked them for it.  We were sent to an exam room to wait for the pediatrician.  "Tangled" was playing on the TV in the corner of the room, which Caleb was excited about.  The doctor came in, declaring how much Caleb had grown over the past year and how he had the iron levels of a teenager.

Then he listened to Caleb's chest.

I didn't even notice at the time how long the pediatrician lingered doing this particular part of the exam.  I guess I just figured he was being thorough.  So I was caught off guard when he commented that he heard a murmur.

A murmur?!  Where did that come from?  And why now?

Looking back I'm impressed with how calm I stayed even with this startling piece of news.  The pediatrician assured me that murmurs were quite common in children, that most of them are benign, and sometimes they even go away by adulthood.  But since he hadn't heard this murmur with Caleb before (even with all the times we went to him when Caleb was a baby), he wanted to get us in at the hospital for an echocardiogram as soon as possible.

He finished the exam, and we even joked about how slow boys were with toilet training and how they laugh at their own body noises.  It was only when he left to call over to the hospital when I let everything sink in.  I called my parents, who were in town and waiting at the Starbucks next door, and calmly told them why we'd be a little later meeting them.  After what seemed like an eternity, a nurse came in with a piece of paper.  It had our appointment time on there (2:30 that very afternoon); I noted that the doctor had secured the "good" tech with over thirty years experience.

We left the office and went across the parking lot to Starbucks.  Poor Caleb was starving by then, so my mom bought us a blueberry scone to share.  As we sat and drank our coffee, my dad comforted me by reminding me that he too had a murmur when he was a child, but by the time he was examined by the draft board, they couldn't detect it anymore.  We wondered if these kind of things were hereditary or just a coincidence.

I had already called Randall about the news, so he informed his boss that he wanted to meet the two of us at the hospital later on.  Caleb and I got there a little early, so I let him check out the fountain by the main entrance; the kid loves anything having to do with splashing water.  As I sat there watching him, I thought about the last time we took him to that hospital.  He was just under two weeks old and was so lethargic the doctor was worried he had gotten some kind of infection.  I remembered how helpless I felt seeing my baby hooked up to so many machines and asking God what in the world He was doing.  Thankfully everything turned out okay, and a few months later, we were blessed with good health for Caleb from then on.

Until now, seemingly.

Once Randall got there, the three of us went in to check Caleb in and get the test done.  He was remarkably still and calm during the test (which is basically just an ultrasound of the heart and surrounding areas), and once again, thanked the tech when she was done.  Guess we've really beat saying "thank you" into his head!  Caleb and I then drove back home and waited.

I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back since it was a Friday afternoon.  But the pediatrician had written "STAT" on the referral, and I heard back from him that very evening.

He opened by saying Caleb's case was "interesting."  Not quite the word you want to hear when you're talking about your kid's heart.  He followed up quickly, saying that he was using the word "interesting" because what Caleb has, they don't see all that often.  In fact, they hadn't seen those findings around here in at least ten years.  A lesser experienced tech may have even missed it.

Turns out Caleb has a "fistula" on one of his coronary arteries.  The pediatrician explained to me what it looks like, but honestly, I didn't quite get it.  I'm a visual person so unless I can see some kind of illustration, it's lost on me.  My husband looked it up later (as an attorney he's used to reviewing medical information), and tried to describe it to me.  Basically it's an "abnormal connection" between a coronary artery and the heart.  Kind of an extension of the artery that's not supposed to be there.

The pediatrician assured me that in Caleb's case, it's not a cause for major concern.  The tech hadn't seen any weakening of the arterial wall or an aneurysm, so likely it wouldn't cause him any problems.  He had arranged for his echo to be sent to a pediatric cardiologist to confirm the tech's findings, and we'd go from there.  It took almost a week to hear back, but the news was good.  Yes, he does have a fistula, but it's not doing any damage to his heart.  The cardiologist recommended we get Caleb in to see him or another pediatric cardiologist at some point, but it wasn't a major emergency.  And likely, this is something we'll have to get checked every year for awhile as Caleb grows, to make sure nothing changes.  In the meantime, there are no physical limitations placed on Caleb, and the possibility of any surgery or other procedures seems remote.

I have to say, this whole thing has just been crazy.  The day after Caleb's checkup and getting the initial report back, we had his birthday party.  Seeing him run around with his friends and blowing out the "3" candle on his cake made me so thankful for all the time we've had with him and all the good years that are to come.  Seeing the pure joy on his face reminded me of what a joyful little boy he actually is.  He really has no idea about his heart and why it's different; he only knows he loves to run around and play, and that birthday parties are the most exciting times ever!

The other night my husband I were watching "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."  At one point in the movie, the spoiled cousin Eustace transforms into a dragon.  He is unable to speak, and though his cousins and the crew of the ship stay by him, it's unclear to everyone if he will ever change back into a human.  That first evening, Reepicheep the mouse sees that Eustace is crying, clearly upset about his fate.  He reassures him, saying that extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people, and based on what has happened to him, he must have a great destiny ahead of him.  May be cheesy, but it made me think of Caleb.  This fistula thing, it's rare.  And while it seems so random, God wasn't surprised by it like we were.  Rare and random can also mean extraordinary.  Caleb's heart is different, but it's also big and full of love.  That's extraordinary enough for me.  I can't wait to see what kind of great destiny God has planned for him, and I'm excited that I get to be a part of it.

November 13, 2012

in His arms

This time last year, I was saying good-bye to a child whose face I'll never see this side of eternity.  This time six months ago, more good-byes were said.  Makes me wonder where I'll be in another six months.  I truly don't know the answer to that, but I'm trying to rest in His love and goodness.

I've been corresponding with another Anne, who I'm sure is also struggling to live up to her "full of grace" name.  She recently lost twins to a miscarriage and we've been sharing thoughts, prayers, and advice for awhile now.  Reading her latest email, I realized she's where I was six months ago.  That place where you doubt God's goodness and you find yourself asking Him, "I know You had the power to save my babies, why didn't You?"  And you feel horrible for asking Him that.

I still don't have all the answers for her, much less for myself.  But I think it helps both of us to know that given time and prayer, it does get easier.  I can look at where she is and see how far God has brought me, and she can look at where I am and know that He will be faithful to do the same for her. 

I read in a novel recently about a shepherdess who searches for her lost lamb.  She finds it with a broken leg, so she scoops it up in her arms and comforts it.  The lamb protests at first, since the comfort jostles its broken leg and brings pain, but the shepherdess tells the lamb that it's all right; pain means more time in the Shepherd's arms.  That really spoke to me.  Even when God allows pain in our lives, His arms are always open.  When we're in pain, we can also rest.  The thing is, we have to learn how to do both at the same time.  If we despair when we're in pain, if we bustle around and keep busy rather than deal with the pain, or if we shake our fists at God and refuse His comfort, then we can't rest in His arms.

Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather not have any pain in my life at all.  But in this fallen world where pain and sadness are inevitable, my only comfort can be in His arms and in His constant presence that never leaves me.  In His arms, I can learn how to be content and peaceful even when I don't know all the answers.

There are still times when the pain finds me and I remember all that I've lost.  I start asking God the same questions my friend is asking Him now.  When that happens, He calls me to rest in Him and to spend more time in His arms.  I find once I'm there, all those questions fade away and I remember that He is good no matter what state my heart is in that day.  And I also find that He never was disappointed in my weakness of faith, and that finding my way into His arms does His heart good too.

I heard this song the other day for the first time in awhile.  The lyrics really made me think about the state of my mind and heart when I was in the darkest part of the pain.  I wanted to come rest in Him, but my flesh told me that I couldn't as long as I was questioning what He was doing.  I eventually came to understand that I can always come to God no matter what state I'm in.  He just wants to love on me.  :o)

Could I talk to You? Are You listening?
Would You let me ask the questions that burn inside of me?
I am reaching out, I am holding on
Feel like one of Your affections, but not quite like I belong.

I am numb today, everything's a blur.
I've seen too much to deny, too little to be sure.
Like a prodigal, like a distant son,
I can see You from a distance but I'm too ashamed to come.

Will You see me through this valley?
Will You hold my outstretched hands?
As the world caves in around me, help me understand.
~ "Outstretched Hands," Starfield

September 17, 2012

bondservant > SuperMom

So this past weekend I took a little time for myself to read an actual BOOK.  And it didn't feature a singing cucumber or a little red caboose.  It was glorious.  I really need to make a point to read more.  Anyway, the book was The Homeschool Experiment, a novel my sister loaned me.  Even though it's fictional, it has a Christ-centered focus and a lot of great resources.

The book is told through the point of view of Julianne, a stay-at-home mom who has been called to homeschool.  Throughout the book, Julianne struggles with self-doubt, as well as veiled (and not so veiled) criticisms from some family members about her ability to teach her children.  But in the end she learns that she only needs to please God, not others.  One verse that is repeated a lot in the book is Galatians 1:10:  "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ."

I read this verse again today, and it really struck me.  As moms, we really try to do it ALL.  Face it, we invented the WORD "multi-task."  We need a clean, sparkling house adorned with DIY projects from Pinterest.  Our children must be well-behaved and brilliant at all times.  And some of you moms have to do all this while also holding down a job outside the home.  We fear there's a stigma involved if we don't try to be SuperMom.  And this attitude simply isn't from God.

Check out the last part of that verse:  "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ."  I looked up the word "bondservant" in the concordance of my Bible to see what exactly is involved with being a bondservant of Christ (Paul called himself one, so I'm thinking it's a good thing to be).  :o)

"The Lord's bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God might grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."  2 Timothy 2:24-26

Those are all really good qualities.  Especially for moms.  Being kind, patient, and "able to teach" are all qualities of the mom I want to be.  But I can't be those things, and everything else involved with being a bondservant of Christ, if I'm doing what I'm doing for the wrong reasons.  Even if I'm kind while disciplining my son, if I'm doing it to please those watching me then I'm not a bondservant of Christ.  I'm a slave to their expectations instead of to Him and His will.

God has also showed me that being a bondservant of Christ is a powerful thing; not just for me, but for my son as well.  Caleb loves church, worship music, and praying cute toddler prayers that consist of "Thank You Jesus, Amen!"  But I long for the day he accepts this Jesus he keeps hearing about into his heart and truly lives for him.  According to 2 Timothy, being a bondservant for Christ can help others "come to their senses" (verse 26).  My son is still young, not quite three years old.  But when I gently correct him when he misbehaves, I may very well be helping him come to his senses.  I want to be an example of that "knowledge of the truth," and help lead him to repentance so he may also become a bondservant of Christ.  And this cannot happen if my focus is pleasing men (or other moms) instead of God.

I want to be able to look back and know that I did all I could to please the Lord, and in turn helped lead my son to Him.  Because when I'm not acting like a bondservant of Christ, I really do end up being quarrelsome, unkind, impatient, and not so gentle. If I hand over each day to God, He can give me the strength and mercy to be all those things that Paul describes, even when I encounter food spills, temper tantrums, and burnt dinners.

So I need to learn to wait on the dirty dishes and read with my son instead.  To hold off on mopping the floor so we can go exploring outside.  To get off Facebook and let him sit in my lap, because all too soon he'll be too old for cuddling.  To trade off what I think (and what I THINK others think) should be done for what God calls me to do.

And thinking about all this is actually freeing.  I feel liberated from the unrealistic expectations I put on myself all the time.  Instead of thinking "I have so much to do today," or "What would so-and-so say if they saw this mess?!" I really should be asking "Lord, what can I do to please You today?"  On days when I actually do the latter, I find that all that other "stuff" still gets done, or else it just doesn't seem all that important anymore.

So I'm letting go of the whole SuperMom mentality.  I'd rather be a lowly bondservant of Christ instead.  :o)

September 13, 2012

lessons from the transfiguration

I recently re-read Luke's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus (9:28-45).  Here are some things I learned that had not jumped out at me previously:

  • Jesus' appearance changed while He was praying (verse 29, italics added for emphasis).  He had taken Peter, John, and James up to the mountain to pray, and God's glory fell on Him once he started praying.  The same verse says Jesus' clothing became "white" and "gleaming."  My Bible says that the word "gleaming" here literally means "flashing like lightning."  So pretty much VERY glorious.  :o)  The take-home lesson I got here?  Miraculous things happen when we pray.  The very atmosphere can shift, as well as ourselves.  But we can't expect God to move if we're not praying for Him to do so.
  • Peter and the other two disciples had fallen asleep while Jesus was praying (is it just me or do they seem to do that a lot in the Gospels?).  It wasn't until they were fully awake that they saw God's glory manifested in Jesus' appearance as well as in Moses and Elijah who had appeared and were talking with Him (verses 30-32).  So we can't be spiritually "out of it" if we want to see God's glory.  There's no way around it...you have to be fully awake to see.
  • "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles..." (Peter, verse 33).  It had to have been indescribably amazing and wonderful to be on that mountain during the Transfiguration.  Why else would Peter want to stay there permanently?  Getting even a taste of God's glory always leaves us wanting more.
  • In verse 37, they "came down from the mountain." In the verses following, Jesus heals the demon-possessed boy when the disciples were unable to do it.  In verse 38, the boy is described as the only child.  In that culture and time, having boys was important and preferred; I bet having just one boy made for one very over-protective parent!  My translation says another word for "only" in this case is "begotten."  Which of course made me think of John 3:16; Jesus was, and is, also the "only begotten son."  Perhaps that's why the demon held on to the boy so tightly. 
  • When Jesus rebuked the demon and healed the boy, the people watching were "all amazed by the greatness of God" (verse 42).  God shows His glory everywhere, not just on the mountaintop.  Even in the worst of circumstances, His majesty is there.  Prayer can change the appearance of the situation so that His glory can be found in the difficult and the ugly.
There's my (somewhat disjointed) take on it.  :o)