Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Birth of Norah Blythe

I woke up the morning of Norah’s birth feeling more peaceful than I had since before I learned that our baby girl was breech. Luke and I got ready for the big day, thankful that we had thoroughly prepared our things the night before. We drove up to San Luis Obispo before the sun was in the sky. I felt full of nervous butterflies by the time we reached the hospital. With a little assurance from Luke, we walked into the hospital to become parents.

We checked in and made our way to Labor and Delivery. After an outfit change, I got into a cozy bed where sweet nurses covered my legs with warm sheets and encouraged my focus towards our daughter’s birthday. Luke sat by my side, calming my anxiety about the surgery. Our doula arrived with a comforting smile. We discussed the upcoming events as the nurses began to swirl about to place my IV. Unfortunately, my veins presented a challenge that took the efforts of two nurses and one supervisor—resulting in three needles (for someone who is not a fan of needles). My insides were churning. Was this a foreshadowing of what I could expect? Fortunately, Luke and Jenny (our doula) were optimistic and drew my attention to the positive as preparations took place. I noticed that our pediatrician arrived, which brightened my mood. (He would get to see our baby on her birthday! We love our pediatrician.) I noticed hospital staff arrive and began to prepare for the cesarean. One of the many kind nurses informed me that the anesthesiologist would soon be in to discuss the cesarean. Before I knew it, a kind man came and sat on my bed to explain some of what would take place. His warmth and confidence were reassuring.

Shortly thereafter, it was time to go and I was to be moved. A small team wheeled me down hallways, past friendly hospital staff sending well wishes.

When it came time to part with Luke and Jenny, my eyes welled up and the fear and anxiety bubbled to the surface. Leaving Luke felt unbearable. He read my face and looked equally sad. He told me he loved me and added that he would see me very soon. I tried to breathe, and my tears seemed to dissolve. I entered the operating room and became immersed in my interactions with my anesthesiologist and supporting nurse. The anesthesiologist began to ask me questions, and they helped guide me through the process of receiving my spinal. He asked about how we chose to come to French Hospital. I told him that I learned through my lactation educator-counselor training about how French Hospital had the lowest cesarean rate in the area. The three of us laughed. When he was done, I happily informed him that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. He laughed and said that is what he aims for. They swiftly laid me down as my legs began to tingle. Many people had joined us in the room. I became amused remembering a former conversation Luke and I had with Jenny about modesty. She asked how I might feel about being somewhat exposed around others. I assured her I would likely want to be covered to feel secure. Here I was: legs splayed in an operating room with plenty of people swirling about. However, the current situation didn’t bother me. I quickly gathered that these people were doing their job and were entirely respectful. I caught snippets of conversation as some of the OR staff discussed my case. I heard them confirming our daughter’s breech position. Later, I learned that the chats may have stemmed from my being a first-time mom with a scheduled cesarean. (It’s not typical unless there is something such as a breech position present.) Our doctor arrived and thanked me for the truffles we brought him and the OR staff. (We had planned on treating the midwife and birth staff, so why not treat the doctor and OR team?)

As the OR staff began to swirl around, my legs felt completely numb. I could feel my chest rising and falling. I was not scared that I wasn’t breathing, as I was told I might be. The anesthesiologist asked that Luke and Jenny be brought into the room. I was glad to see Luke and Jenny arrive - and they came to my side after turning on some music nearby. I quickly understood that the procedure was imminent. The hospital staff scurried about and a large sheet had been elevated just below my bust. Staff chatted and began a synchronized dance as Luke sat beside me. “How are you?” Luke asked, “What does this feel like?” I paused and examined my feelings and bodily sensations. “I’m doing well,” I replied. “I just feel… tugging. It feels strange!” I felt pressure near one of my ribs that often caused me discomfort during pregnancy. (I realized later that this is where Norah’s head rubbed.) There was pulling and more pulling. I heard the doctor confirm her breech positioning yet again. “It’s a girl! She’s beautiful!” The doctor exclaimed.

We overheard heard a technical term for her cord being wrapped twice around her body. “You’re born, Sweetheart!” our doctor said. Jenny was snapping pictures and assured me she would show me as soon as she could. Norah needed to be “reminded” that she was born so she was placed in a little area and rubbed as her color improved and her cry filled the room. “Ooh, she’s mad! You tell ‘em, girl,” our doctor said.

I watched as Luke stood by our daughter’s side and Jenny showed me pictures of our sweet girl. Jenny and I discussed her Apgar and how it was high. She was placed on my chest, very close to my face.

“Hi!” I said. (What do you say to your new human?!) I touched her face and her hands as she stared at me, wide-eyed. I had no idea babies born via cesarean could be so present. I was elated that I felt so present, with hands helping to hold our little Norah in place on my bare chest. I soaked up everything: the buzz around us, her waved hair, the vernix on her face, and her large, deep eyes. Jenny asked a nurse nearby if we could feed her yet, but we were told that they were just finishing mending me; we learned we would be moved very soon, where I could breastfeed our little one for the first time. Luke, Jenny, and I stared at Norah and chatted as they finished up. She blinked and stared right back. As she cried, I placed a finger in her mouth to temporarily pacify her.

As we prepared to leave the room, I thanked the anesthesiologist and the nurse who were by my side through the process. They chatted with me and carefully transferred me to a mobile bed. I was so thankful for this team who extended such great care and exuded warmth towards me and my new little family. As I passed back through the same hall I entered, hospital staff wished me congratulations and complimented us on our beautiful girl. I beamed and tried to absorb the moment. We arrived in a recovery room where we were greeted by more friendly nurses. I breathed a sigh of relief as I held our baby in my arms. She was here at last! 

The procedure that evoked such great anxiety was now over. The best part was that it was far from terrifying. The staff was pleasant and positive. The procedure itself was almost seamless and far from painful. (Everything was the exact opposite of what I expected.) We were supported as I fed Norah for the first time. She began to nurse right away, and I was surprised again at her responsiveness and powerful little presence. I felt overwhelmed and elated to be a mother.

The duration of our stay at the hospital was equally as awe-inspiring as the birth itself. We spent time with family, bonded with the nurses, and became acquainted with our fiery little Norah. Our time was drenched in sweetness—having Luke by my side, making progress after surgery, and catching naps with our little peanut in my arms. My birth was not what I first imagined it would be, and yet it happened exactly the way it needed to in order to keep our girl safe. We realized that the cord wrapped around Norah likely blocked our attempts to encourage her to turn. If we tried to have Norah vaginally, we would have likely experienced an emergency cesarean. I was overwhelmed by God’s grace and presence throughout Norah’s birth and the surrounding events. Sometimes we attempt to write our own stories, without the foreknowledge and clarity needed to do such things. I am continually flooded with gratitude that God was in control and knew exactly how our Norah Blythe needed to enter this world.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Pre-Birth Story

I spent time planning for Norah’s birth. I used to read books on natural birth for fun. Then came my lactation educator-counselor training through UCSD; it only solidified my desire for a natural childbirth. After learning I was pregnant, I did more research. Luke and I hired a wonderful doula and began to discuss our perspectives on birth. I enjoyed an entirely uneventful pregnancy until the last couple of weeks. We then experienced an emotional roller coaster which prompted Luke to remind me of something I used to say. I used to say that I strongly disliked the war created by the opposing camps of natural/home/minimal intervention birth vs. hospital/medicated/doctor-attended births. Luke reminded me that I used to say the polarization and ascribing to either extreme was harmful. I felt it was harmful for everyone involved in birth and especially women. I even said I felt it negatively impacted the mental health of women. After experiencing the unexpected as Norah’s birth approached, I realized how I had joined a side and placed myself in the “natural” camp. As a result, I felt hurt by the very extreme I said was harmful to ascribe to. 

It was a Thursday morning and I was heading to see the midwives. On the way to the office, I prayed that God’s will would be done throughout the remainder of my pregnancy and Norah’s birth. I told Him that His glory above all was most important—and I wanted to remember that.

I was almost 38 weeks pregnant and getting excited about meeting Norah. Our birth plan was finished and Luke and I were finishing our last preparations. I felt great. As I met with the midwife, we chatted and she palpated my abdominal area, feeling Norah’s body with her hands. She mentioned she was going to grab the ultrasound machine. I didn’t think much of it, although we only had a few ultrasounds throughout the entire pregnancy. “I didn’t want to speak too soon, but she’s breech,” the midwife said. I was baffled. I knew some babies were breech, but I had no idea what that meant for me. She told me that we should schedule an external cephalic version (ECV) right away. An ECV is where the doctor tries to turn the baby with his hands on the outside of the woman’s body. The midwife said that if the baby didn’t turn with the procedure—I would have a cesarean.  She asked me if I was alright, because most moms did not handle this type of news calmly. I assured her I was okay as she gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek. I knew Luke was teaching, so I sent him a text about the news. I called my mom to have someone to talk to; I was so thankful to not have to process it alone. After holding it together for a while, I drove past the waves on the coast. I started to cry—and I cried the rest of the way home.

There are many ways to try to turn a baby. I never knew about them until I tried to turn our baby. With the ECV scheduled for the next morning, I placed my body in various positions around our house: crying and praying for our baby to turn head down. The ECV appointment came quickly. I was riddled with anxiety as we headed into French Hospital and told the front desk we were there for a procedure. This was not what I thought I would be doing at 38 weeks pregnant. As we waited for the doctor, I was given an IV and a drug to cause my uterus to relax. (Ironically enough, the use of the IV was something I dreaded and set out to avoid during childbirth.) Our doctor came in and explained the procedure. He told us the ECV could be very painful and most likely would not be successful. (Not seamless and performed to “You Spin Me Round” like the ones on YouTube?) I prayed and held Luke’s hand, trying to be strong. The doctor pressed his hands around the baby’s body and tried to turn her. Our midwife was there, trying to coach me to breathe and relax through the pain. My whole body shook and it was a unique, intense pain that I had never before experienced. The ultrasound showed that she was hardly moving with the force of his hands. The doctor asked me if I wanted him to try again. At this point, I began to cry. I didn’t want him to do that again—but I felt like I was giving up.

They encouraged us to try other methods to get Norah to turn. We tried multiple methods. (If anyone is curious, I will happily entertain you with the variety of methods we explored.) From the time we discovered she was breech to the days leading up to her birth, we researched like mad and experienced a variety of emotions. I swayed from attempting to accept the cesarean to discussing switching providers with our doula (to attempt a vaginal birth). Our doula asked if we were interested in a homebirth. Although we thought about it for a moment, we couldn’t feel peaceful about the switch at 39 weeks and the potential risks for our little girl. Besides, if I was headed for a cesarean, wouldn’t I want to secure the best possible doctor? Our doctor had outlined the risks and benefits of our options. Although 50% of breech births are vaginal in the United States, the largest risks are posed to the baby—not the mother. We decided that moving forward with the cesarean was safest for Norah. We tried to find peace and take comfort in our choice, knowing that God had a plan for our daughter and our family. Our remaining days as a family of two were spent on the beach, eating cinnamon rolls (and other delightful food), and anticipating the arrival of our daughter.

Moxibustion, a technique involving heat, mugwort, and pressure points

When I say that I felt hurt by my dreams of a natural childbirth, I mean that I had to grieve the loss of an experience in which I placed value. I felt scared that the surgery would potentially put me in danger, which would compromise the well-being of my daughter. Additionally, I didn’t know how I would manage the emotional and physical results of the surgery. As a person who doesn’t medicate a headache, I was terrified of the medications. Additionally, I knew that medication impacts breastfeeding; I was terrified of struggling to feed my daughter. I was scared of being disoriented and missing the first, precious moments of our daughter’s life. There were many scary stories about cesareans. There were a few glimpses of positivity, but they were buried in the rubble of tearful stories. I looked towards my birth full of fear. I felt that I wasn’t going to give “birth.” I felt like my daughter was missing coming into the world in the “best” way. Little did I know that the day of my daughter’s birth would be filled with great joy—and the relief that came when I realized my fears were far from the reality I would experience.

One of our last, lovely dates as a family of two (my first time eating cinnamon rolls at Old West)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Truth Be Told

Pregnancy is a strange thing. I feel as though I am still waiting to feel... pregnant. Sometimes I look down at my (almost) 17 week belly and wonder if I look pregnant yet. I am starting to feel the baby move a little. Other than that, I am not sure I even feel pregnant most of the time. I take it back. The other night I was doing push-ups, and my belly touched the ground before my chest. That was a pregnancy moment, I suppose!
Inspiration for my maternity photo shoot... totally kidding. Image c/o Pinterest
You hear so many things about pregnancy as if they are your destiny. "Wait until..." and "Oh, you wait!" There are dozens of opinions about what you choose to do and not do. There are suggestions as to why you are experiencing pregnancy certain ways and not others. There are also women who express that every moment of pregnancy felt as magnificent as robotic unicorns with rainbow laser-shooting eyes.

One of my hopes is that I will be the type of mom who is honest with other women. I have friends who have felt bummed after seeing the image that other moms project online. It's not to say that people shouldn't express joy over their adventures in motherhood. But women should also be able to say, "Guess where my child had a massive diaper blowout?" and "I need some adult interaction to feel like a human today!"

Here are some of my personal pregnancy thoughts thus far:

-It is weird to see my body change. I expected to go from normal to pregnant-looking. I didn't expect the in-between to last so long. Don't throw things at me! I am not saying it's not beautiful or it's not a miracle. I'm just saying it looks like I wolfed down a monstrous burrito. The question strangers wonder is did she... and how delicious was it?

-I'm not weepy or super emotional (yet). I expected to be buying tissues in bulk. Luke says I'm just more spicy than usual. (He's nice.) ;)

-It's not always easy to bond with your fetus. Some people read their unborn child books or talk to him or her. I just go on runs and think and pray about the little human he or she will be. I don't know who he or she is yet! I certainly don't want to pretend or force myself to bond when it feels unnatural for me. I am looking forward to knowing if we are having a boy or a girl so I can know one thing about our mysterious unborn child.

And here's some sunshine for you so you don't swear me off forever:

-My best friend gave me some hand-me-down gender neutral baby clothes. (Our baby will fit in those little things?! How cute!)

-I might be nesting. Or I might be into organizing my house. Either way, I am loving simplifying and seeing our physical space change in light of the little one coming.

-I'm daydreaming about fall and Christmas when we will be a family of three. What better way to enjoy my favorite seasons than with our firstborn child? I can just smell the new baby and pumpkin latte now... ;)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Miniature Hawkins

I didn't expect pregnancy to feel so surreal. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I have been trying to convince myself that it was really happening. I told myself that nothing is certain and that I should not get ahead of myself. This mentality made the news slow to sink in. We initially told some family and friends. Then some more. Then it leaked. Even after the "news" was out, I was still waiting for it to feel real to me. The nausea and tiredness was profound, but still I wanted to be realistic.

The little ones at the preschool found out (earlier than planned). One of the many things I love about them is their faith. They teach me things about God all the time. Their faith is astounding. Their faith carried over to the news of baby. They had no doubts about me having a baby. It was instantly real to them. I could write so many pages on the sweet (and hilarious) commentary from the preschoolers, but I will spare you most of the details. However, our unborn baby has received more flowers from the preschoolers than I have probably received in my lifetime. Our baby has also received rocks, jewels, and other valuable tokens to preschool-aged children. They have all sorts of ideas about gender, names, which preschool class would be suitable, and when the baby should be born.

A pocket full of gifts
I've had two appointments and each one has further convinced me of this little life inside of me. It has been miraculous to see the baby move on the screen and hear the little heartbeat. The last couple of days have been really weird because people are starting to comment on my belly. (I have a belly?) I'm beginning to think it looks different from having a big burrito for lunch. ;) Luke's reaction to my new belly is hilarious. I think we're both a little astonished that the little being in there is starting to make his or herself visible to the outside world.

Pregnancy is so mysterious to me. This time in my life feels sort of like when we were planning to get married. You think of all your shortcomings and your past sins. You think of how you are ill-equipped although you've planned, hoped, and anticipated. You think of how hard it will be, but how long you have dreamed of the day you would have a son or daughter. But by the grace of God, He given us a baby. Only by the grace of God will I be a mother to this little one. God has blessed me so tremendously and I have gained nothing on my own. I hope that through this experience I can see the blessing-- and look up to the Blessor.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Who is Leading You?

Are there things in your life that prompt you to go into hyperspeed? For me, that would be four classes, student teaching, and work. My days have become increasingly busy. Four to five hours of homework in the morning. Work. Additional hours of homework in the evening. Don't get me wrong-- I love it. In fact, this morning I wandered around our little home on a break from learning about childhood obesity. I started noticing little things around our home that brighten my day. My lemon soy candle. The delicious and healthful lunch my husband prepared for me the night before. I opened the door so I could peek at the little birds making nests in front of our home. I could see the jasmine plant blooming. I could see the sea glass surrounding our miniature herb garden. These are some of my favorite moments.

This morning Luke was telling me about a small group he is attending at our church. The guys are reading a book on discipline. (This subject has been an interest to both of us over these last several months.) He told me he had to choose a concept to meditate on and that I should do the same. I instantly decided I should meditate on peace and balance before the Lord. (What could I need more?!) This morning I began to think about what it means to have balance as a believer in Christ. Suddenly I thought, I am always concerned with what I think I need instead of thinking about who is leading me. God knows how to lead me. 

Image c/o Pinterest

What a relief to have those thoughts this morning. Why be concerned with what you think you need? Can't you look around and see evidence... that God doesn't just know what you need. He knows how to love you and how to lead you. I will find comfort in that today and hopefully for many days to come. 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;I will turn the darkness into light before them    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;    I will not forsake them.-Isaiah 42:16

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Canopy by Janet Storer
Today started out just like any other Sunday. We always sleep in a little. We drink our coffee and get ourselves decent to go to our beloved Gospel Church. We arrived at church and worship began. Worship was so heartfelt and renewing this morning. I didn't anticipate that God wanted to work on big things in my heart. I began to feel like my perspective of life makes the things I do more stressful and less enjoyable. In fact, I realized that many people endure great challenges and difficult circumstances while making time for things that are important... expressing joy and gratitude for what God has done... and acknowledging God's control over their lives. Doesn't it feel better when we realize that it is not our job to have supreme control and power over our lives? (Who thinks they are good at that, anyway?)

At the end of church, we took communion. This is where I repent for things sins I have committed knowingly and unknowingly. Every time I take communion, I find myself asking God to forgive me for trying to be in control of my own life. I have worked so hard to feel like I have everything mapped out so it will "work out." The truth of the matter is I have made all my own plans and left no room for reliance on Him. How can I increase my faith when I don't lean on Him? How can I rest in Him when I am so busy making my own plans? Do I want to settle for my sub par plans, or lay down my religious tendencies and enjoy the plans that God has for me?

It is such an exciting time for us right now. We are feeling the pull between where we were in the past and where God is calling us in the future. I want to follow Him with more abandon, commitment, and joy than I ever have. I want to completely destroy my contrived plans for my life and allow myself to dream with God again. How will I ever live this life for Jesus if I am living in fear... fear of man... fear of failing... fear of imperfection? Undoubtedly, someone will disapprove. I will fail time and time again. And I will never achieve perfection as long as my heart beats and my feet walk this earth! I am ready to live differently. It will be scary-- and it will be different, but here I go...

Monday, December 17, 2012

After Tragedy... What Now?

I heard the news before I went into work on Friday. I felt disconnected and numb. I had to not let it sink in. I had to walk into my work, the preschool, and be full of joy and light as I look at all those little faces of children I am privileged to serve. As I held those little hands and listened to those little voices on Friday, I thought about how much each child has something incredibly unique and valuable to contribute to the world. I could tell you endless things that those children contribute to my life and the lives of those around them. It was not until I went home that night that I heard the President speak. I watched the news coverage. I lost it. I began to see all the faces of the children I love. I cannot imagine losing one of them. I began to feel frustrated that there is nothing I can do... there is nothing any mortal can do to prevent these disasters... to keep all children safe from horrendous tragedy. As sad as I feel for those families... for the children who passed... for the children who were escorted out of that building... we have to cling to hope in order to move forward. This morning I listened to a parent speak. He lost his little girl that Friday. Tears filled his eyes as he gave his sympathy for the family of the young man who killed so many. He proceeded to talk about the strengths of his little girl. He talked about how she made cards for others who were sad. She was so quick to want to help others and make them feel better. As much as hearing about this little girl breaks my heart, it also gives me courage. I need to trust that as people, we only have a limited understanding for what happens on this Earth and why. We have a God who is more than capable of making beauty from ashes. He heals. He binds up wounds. He is just. Although we can't undo the tragic event that took place at Sandy Hook, we can pray, hope, and trust that God is bigger. That community has to press forward. Our nation must work through the grief and fear that follows these events. We must work together to find solutions, to think creatively about how we can protect our children and spare the lives of innocent people. When I go back to work today, I carry a new appreciation and understanding with me. When I look into the eyes of those little ones, I understand they are fragile. They are mortal. They are not guaranteed to be with us. And I need to be strong for them. By being strong... I mean I need to trust the Lord. Rely on His wisdom when I don't know what more to do. I know that in serving Him, I will be ready to do whatever is necessary to keep these little ones from harm. To shield their eyes from evil. To protect their little hearts and bodies from anyone who could want ill for them. I am beyond grateful to be a teacher. To know these little people who are so malleable, so courageous, and so hopeful... with bright and brilliant futures ahead.

Thank you, God... for loving all of us more than we are capable of understanding. Thank you for being with those families who have lost their little ones. I pray you give them a peace that only You could provide. I pray you draw them in close to You as you mend their hearts. I ask that your will is done in that community... that You strengthen people and give them comfort in the company of each other. I pray that as a nation we can grieve together -- and then work together to make a difference in the future. Thank You, God, for the little ones You have entrusted in our care. I pray that You never let our hearts grow unappreciative or unaware of how truly blessed we are to be in the company of young children... they are so precious to You.

I'm sorry if you are one of those people who have seen "too much" of the news and heard "too much" through social media or otherwise. As much as I considered not posting something of this nature, I believe it is important to process and grieve when lives are lost. I hope and pray that as we are impacted by the media, we continue to think creatively and openly about what should be done for our future.