Monday, June 6, 2016

Three Pregnancies and Three Births

Welcome to the world, little Hope Elizabeth!

I write from a hospital room in Kentucky, where the nurse is checking Hope in front of me as baby looks around with wide eyes and Isaac dozes in the easy chair beside me, tired out from four hours of sleep last night and taking care of the two of us.

Side note - as the blogging community has changed and faded, some of us that were blog friends have wanted to stay in touch, and now I'm getting newsletters, following some of you on Facebook, etc. If any of you who know me on here want to follow our family blog and newsletter, let me know and I'll get you signed up. Anyways....

I feel unspeakably grateful. For a smooth birth. For a healthy baby. For grandparents that are watching my other kids. For air conditioning, hot showers, American food made in the cafeteria and delivered to the room. For the caring nurses and doctors that provide so much support. I think of the hospital in Manokwari and what it would have been like to deliver there, and I don't quite know what to do with the privilege it is to be here. It's a mix of thankfulness and some feelings of guilt at this gift. I think of my friends struggling with infertility or major issues with the babies they are carrying, and I wish for redemption. When Hope latches and nurses I think of Elly's first days with the cleft palate, realizing she couldn't suction and nurse on her own, and again I am so grateful.

So here I am, peaceful, thankful.

I've now had three babies, and every one of them such different experiences.

Judah: 
  • Easy pregnancy, little in the way of aches and pain. 
  • Born on his due date 
  • 9 hour labor
  • Labored through the early hours of the night and morning, born at 9am 
  • Epidural meant basically no pain from contractions
  • 30 minutes of pushing. 
  • Cord wrapped around his neck, causing concern during delivery
  • 7lb 13oz
  • Between tearing/stitches and waiting for the pain killer to clear my system, I could barely move out of bed for my two days in the hospital and was sore for weeks
  • Easy feeding and sleeping - a dream of a newborn

Elly: 
  • Worse morning sickness than the first time around
  •  Hormonal acne worse than being a teenager
  • Round ligament pain that made it hard to walk and lift my legs, even midway through the pregnancy
  • Born a day before her due date 
  • 5 hour labor
  • Labored through the morning, born late morning
  • Didn't get an epidural until 8cm dilated, managed the pain to that point okay
  • Basically pushed once or twice - felt like it was over before it began in terms of pushing!
  • 7 lb 3oz
  • Discovered the cleft palate immediately and entered the journey of pumping and basically drip feeding a baby who couldn't create suction to drink
  • Back pain from the epidural that lasted a few days, but recovery in general was faster than #1

Hope:
  • Worst all-day sickness in the first trimester, with actual puking
  • Braxton hicks (especially at night) for 1+ weeks before actual labor
  • Born four days before due date 
  • 4 hour labor? Hard to decide when labor started (rather than braxton hicks)
  • Labored in the afternoon, born late afternoon
  • Natural birth with no pain killers 
  • Pushed three times
  • 8 lb 5 oz
  • Cord wrapped around her neck and she was born purple, if pushing had taken longer it might have been dangerous. 
  • No tearing and no epidural, so I was on my feet within a couple of hours and had minimal swelling and soreness.

Similarities: 
My water never broke before actual delivery.
I never "dropped", everyone would say the baby was carrying high all the way up to delivery
My only craving was really for meat, probably showing a need for fat/protein/iron. Mostly aversions, particularly to coffee and sweets. 

I don't know how long to say this labor was because those overnight braxton hicks never ended that morning. All morning long they'd randomly hit - light and inconsistent most of the time, but still present. I packed my toiletries bag up thinking maybe, maybe this meant real labor was coming (but really I'd been thinking that every day for a week so don't be too impressed by my intuition!). I had my regular weekly OB check scheduled for just after lunch and was thinking that even if I wasn't in labor, surely she'd tell me I'd progressed and things would be moving along soon. Well, contractions were coming regularly through lunch and as I got ready to go to the appointment, but I was still talking through them as if nothing was going on. We started timing them on the way to the appointment (1:15) and they were less than 10 minutes apart, which set Isaac on slightly-panicked mode.

The OB said I was four cm dilated and very soft, and that I would probably have the baby later in the day but that labor was in early stages there wasn't a need to rush to the hospital. That's just what I was thinking. With my other kids I very clearly went into labor and knew it and things progressed quickly, this whole braxton hicks thing was new for me and I didn't know what to expect in terms of how fast things would progress. I didn't want to check in to the hospital and wait around for hours of light labor.

We drove home, got our bags, told Judah we were going to have a baby, and left for the hospital. Contractions were about six minutes apart and I couldn't talk through them. I wanted to walk for a while rather than check in, so that I wouldn't get stuck unable to eat or move around for potentially hours of labor. However, within an hour of arriving at the hospital the contractions were just minutes apart and getting intense, so we went to check in. Whoops, somehow they were totally swamped and had no rooms available so I was sent to labor in the family waiting room, surrounded by people.

Man. That was the weirdest and toughest thing about the labor, I'd say, managing the later stages of labor in a waiting room chair surrounded by people. When they called me in and saw me managing a contraction in the hallway on the way to the triage room I think they knew things were serious, so they checked me right away and I was already 9 cm dilated and I think was "in transition", as they say, moving from managed contractions to waves of intense contractions right on top of each other, nearly ready to start pushing. I was hardly aware of hastily signing some papers, being moved to a wheelchair and run down the hallway and moved to a delivery room, but I was so thankful to be there!

My doctor and Isaac were coaching me through intense contractions. One of the reasons I didn't want an epidural this time around was so that I would have more control during the pushing stage, but man once you enter the transition period things are so intensely primal and physical, not very controlled for me. I was able to hear Isaac more than anyone else, and sometimes follow what he was guiding me to do. I was attempting to breathe through the contractions but was also feeling a ton of pressure. When they started asking me if I was feeling the need to push I'd already been feeling it for a while and half the work had been fighting that urge as they got me to the delivery room and everyone got set up and in place. With all my babies my water didn't break before hand, so once the doctor was in place she reached in and broke the water and I could feel a small gush and knew that we must be close.  I was so relieved when they told me to push. Again, I thought I'd have more control without the epidural, but at least for me it still felt mostly like a crazy overwhelming, just push with everything in me and no idea what I was actually doing or how things were going.

It took two or three pushes and she was totally out. I didn't know it, but she had the cord wrapped around her neck and the OB was pulling it off between two pushes. She came out purple but I think because things moved so fast, it was all okay.  They put her on my chest and I looked at her in wonder but was still panting and totally internal in the management of contractions and pain. That was different than with an epidural, where after the major pushing I was back to very calm and focused on baby. Without pain meds I was still managing lots of pain for a while after she came out.

The best part of no epidural was the recovery, actually. Hope was 8lb 5oz, my biggest baby, but there was no tearing, no back pain from the epidural, no numbness that kept me immobilized in bed for hours, and a real sense of control over my body and limbs after the major contractions died down. Recovery is great.

I am filled with the peace and wonder of this newborn stage, and deep thankfulness that we got to be here for this stage. Now that I have had medicated and unmedicated births, what's my summary of the difference? I'm really glad I did this third one all naturally. It's my personality to stand back and watch noncommittally until I feel like, "Yeah, I can do that." Third time around, I felt like I could do it, and yes it's empowering to have "done it", but that's not really a super good rationale for choosing an unmedicated birth. Also, I could get through the birth unmedicated because I have fairly easy births and this was my third. Laboring with no relief for the hours and hours that many women go through on their first baby - well, I personally say just choose an epidural! It allowed me to relax, to focus on baby, and not be traumatized. But, knowing that labor would most likely be fairly short and relatively easy, being unmedicated this third time around absolutely made for an easier recovery.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Notes from a Changing Culture

Note: this was written a month ago. We are now in America, walking through culture shock and the dramatic difference between our two cultures!


I love relaxed Sunday afternoons, especially ones like today where it's rainy and cool and we all managed to nap together, snuggled and close in the AC room. I feel this baby kick and roll and I marvel at Elly's tousled curls and Judah's steady even sleeping breath and am so thankful for all of this, for the beauty of family, and Sabbath, and worship.

It has been a fun weekend, full of surprises as life here usually is, but it is nice to feel like we roll with the punches without feeling quite as overwhelmed as we once did. We came home today to find a bird flying around the house. We don't know where it got in, but however it got in is probably where the mice get in, so... that would be good to know. Also found in our house this week – three or four little frogs, an enormous centipede (in contrast to the regular sized ones, of which we may see six a day), a crab, and a few other creepy crawlies.

Judah and I got invited to a wedding of a family we know from his school so I took him on a date, all dressed up, to the reception at a local hotel. Since weddings in this culture these days are largely in imitation of Western-style ceremonies, much was familiar. But then there are random twists, like the five foot tall 7 tiered fake wedding cake which was on top of a table on the stage, making it basically a 10 foot tall cake. There was a fake cutting of the fake cake with a fake samurai sword. Judah thought it was the best part of the whole thing.

Then there's church. I have said I love our church, and that's not because it's comfortable. It's often not comfortable as a foreigner, but truly, it is a highlight of life here. I know so many people living overseas say they miss worship and sermons in English, but I don't. I love this, my soul is nourished in this body and joining in worship is a great privilege. This week they sang this song that is set to some American jazz/rock tune that I can't place for the life of me but that we recognize. Luckily the pianist at our church is a blind Papuan man with an afro and dark glasses who also plays with the skill of Ray Charles and dude, the congregation was rocking out because Indonesians love to sing at the top of their lungs. And the words, the words are truth, and I wish you could have been there and sung it with us.

The speaker opened by saying he'd been informed the day before that he was on the schedule to preach today, which was a prequel to us finding out in the announcements that this week an all-church meeting will be at our house. No, it's not really okay here either to find out such things at the last minute, but it happens at the time, a symptom of a culture in which things are trying to be organized but it doesn't always completely happen?

It's so interesting to watch the cultural change happening. We have talked a lot about the timing of things, and how nothing ever starts on time. Except that that doesn't show that in actuality most people want to start on time, and they keenly feel that they need to adjust to the practices of the developed world and so they are really working to implement timeliness. That's not our influence, we see the "rubber time" thing as a cultural difference that we have to adjust to, but they are embarrassed by it and are trying to change. So, for instance, our assistant pastor preached shockingly directly to the church congregation about timeliness being respectful and lateness/laziness (he equated the two) not being okay, directly calling out the ladies Bible study (which started an hour late the first week I was there) and asking for a verbal agreement for timeliness. And since then it has taken me three weeks to realize that it was serious and they actually start on time now, even if only a couple of people are there.

The guest pastor this week, having had the preaching schedule failed to be communicated to him, came to church just 10 minutes before the listed start time thinking he probably had 30 minutes, and was shocked to find the leaders all present and all having prayed, and worship starting a couple of minutes before start time. Unheard of!

Or then we had a baptism service off site on Easter and the leadership exhorted the congregation to arrive 30 minutes before the buses were to depart. "Not Papuan time, ON TIME." Mostly people did arrive on time, but then one bus arrived at the departure time, one bus arrived 30 minutes later, and one bus never showed up. You can work to change one thing, but the rest of the culture may not be ready to adjust with you! So.... things are changing, but it's not always consistent or easy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Things going on right now


This week is a big one. Lots of stuff going on, enough that I don't have enough emotional energy for a full post, but lots of little thoughts.

- A high school friend died this week. He's the first of my generation to pass away, and it was a fast, unexpected death from an infection. He also happens to be our boss's son and co-worker's brother, so although I haven't seen him since high school, I have gotten all caught up on his life over the last year of being here. I grieve for our co-workers at the loss of a son and brother far too young. I also just grieve for my friend. There have been plenty of tears.  It's an odd thing, being from a "small town" overseas expatriate community. We scatter across the world and sometimes don't stay in touch, but oh, those people are like family, and when you lose one it hurts. How can you express to people you haven't seen or talked to in years how much they matter to you, no matter how much you've all changed and how much time has passed?

- We leave for the USA this week. We're having this baby and going to a wedding, but in between we'll be mostly with family and doing lots of medical stuff. Oh how I long, long for good family time and connection. I currently kind of hate skype. I am thankful for the chance to see faces, but when skyping with bad sound and crowds of people including demanding children, it's basically useless in terms of actual connection. To simply sit with and BE together? That is what I am most excited about. My kids, being totally unpredictable with being shy and reserved sometimes and other times not at all, may or may not connect with family. I reeeeeally hope they open up, but don't want to pressure them.

- Other reasons we are excited? Food, lets be honest. American fruits and veges, fully stocked grocery stores, cheese, multi-grain bread, restaurants from around the world... yep. And probably mostly not cooking everything from scratch myself. Isaac is also extremely, unreasonably excited about going to see movies and downloading TV shows. Especially the new Star Wars we haven't seen yet. I am ambivalent, except that going to see movies while being around family means we're going on a DATE! Sans kids!!! That has happened once in the last year. So. Excited.

- On the other hand, it's not at all like we're going home. That whole TCK thing, you know. We are going to see family, we are going to the comforts of the US, but it doesn't feel like we're going home. We're also a bit sad to leave at this point, to disrupt the continuing adjustment process for our kids, our language learning, our finding our place in the community. Returning will be worlds better than starting new for the first time, but it is a bit of a shame to leave at this point. I'm so glad it's just for a few months, part of which is summer break at our school here anyways.

- Sarah Bessey wrote a post titled "Rice Krispies" that I love.
All of a sudden, I was flooded with conviction under the kitchen table. It’s true: I believed I was good or too whatever to live my own ordinary life. I thought God was only “out there” – in the important work of the Kingdom which I had somehow come to believe was only visible or important or famous or set-apart. I had divided us into a system of castes – the full-time vocational ministry people who pastored or wrote books or preached or taught with eponymous organizations called “My Own Name Ministries” and missionaries and countercultural ones in tropical climates were at the tippity-top. The rest of us simply were pew-fodder, financiers for the “real” work of the ministry.
Which of us when presented with “ordinary” vs. “radical” wouldn’t choose the latter? Wouldn’t choose wanting to be special and different?

Why would I link to that, given the heavy criticism of the field I am actually in? Because I agree with it. Go read it. I agree with all she says. I believe, as she says, that God loves the world. And sometimes everyday discipleship results in work around the world, as we are doing. I believe it is good for the church in one part of the world to support work in other parts of the world. So, here
we are. However, I wish to do away with the over-glorification and adventurism and emphasis on changing the world. It is something I battle regularly. What does it mean to be bold and visionary as well as simply be faithful and obedient in the big and small?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Already But Not Yet - Part II

"To live a life of defiant joy, remain suspicious—in the midst of your circumstances—that God is up to something good."- Margaret Feinberg


A few weeks back I posted about living with the grief and suffering in the world. It was titled "Already But Not Yet, Part 1". This is Part 2.

As I have read and thought, it strikes me that we Christians should be the most mournful and joyful people, all at once, that is one of the things that makes us unique in the world. We, more than anyone else, recognize what was lost with the Fall, we see what we were made for and how tragic this broken life and world is in contrast. We recognize evil as evil, we see the depths of it in ourselves and around us more clearly with eyes enlightened and we rage against it, grieve because of it. We who believe in a final judgement and who simultaneously love those around us should be, more than anyone else, filled with sadness. We see how bad it all is. We should be people who mourn.

And we should be people of the greatest of joy and hope, too. We know that this is not all that there is. We know the redemption offered, we know He is doing something here, we see beauty and we rejoice, we see love and we sing, we well up with joy at the knowledge of a God who has pursued this broken bride, in a Jesus who is alive and holds his arms out to all who come. We sing because we see things being redeemed, we see new life, and most of all we see what's coming, the hair-raising end to all of this. We are a people of joyful hope. In the midst of the mourning.

It's a contrast I don't really understand, but I suppose that is exactly our challenge – to figure out how to live that out, day by day, through the Spirit in us. The New Testament is filled with what that life looks life, filled with goodness and love for each other.

I want to learn not to simply expect all the beauty and redemption right here, but discover what joyful hope means. That's what struck me in Romans 8. The current things are recognized as being tough. There is glory in the hope, the promise.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

So, that is my theme this year. Joyful hope.

In a greater way I understand more than ever before the longing and expectation of the early Church that Jesus returns. So much of the New Testament talks of waiting for His return. He has come, but when He comes again is when all will be made new, when justice will truly be done, when we will truly know Him. For that, now, I do groan inwardly, and I believe, He is coming, He is coming, and hallelujah, all will be made right!

“He now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” - Hebrews 9: 26-28

 As I grow older and I understand a little more the amount of suffering we wrestle with, this is a deeper, harder, but still more meaningful tension. The darkness increases. Childhood cancer, rape, depression, death, and sometimes the slog of daily life is real. In the face of that, do I believe that God is, as the quote at the top of the page references, up to something that is genuinely good? When I did some reading in the early Church fathers, one of the things that struck me most is the way they perceived suffering as honor, because in it they identified with Christ. And God is most glorified and the plans of Satan thwarted not when Job was a successful man but when Job continued to believe ins spite of all the suffering that seemed to reveal the absence of the goodness of God. There is much mystery here, much I cannot grasp and that philosophers continue to wrestle with. 

Here is what I see. If I believe that there is evil at work but that God is good and working out a great plan of redemption, then my life will be one of defiant joy.

1 Peter 1: 3-9
He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable.... kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith... may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
And so, on Good Friday I was brought to tears when we read Revelation and the Lamb says, "Behold, I am making all things new.... It is done."