Not for the faint of heart. Part one.

“I’ll just breastfeed my baby.”

That is what I would tell people when they asked how I planned on nourishing my baby who was due to arrive October 10, 2014 (you can read her birth story here).  She came right on her due date and the two of us set about getting established with breastfeeding… and life… because it was so very different than I’d imagined it be after giving birth.

**There are pictures of breastfeeding in this post.  If you’re offended by breastfeeding, please stop reading now.**

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The me I used to be.

Becoming a mother has been scary for me.  It’s also been hard, easy, frustrating, fun, overwhelming and underwhelming.  It’s been better than I hoped and worse than I ever could have imagined.  For me, motherhood has been full of opposites.

*Please bear with me.  I want to address this.*

I’m scared of losing the me I used to be as I embrace my new role as mama and homemaker.  Can I still be me if I don’t have any funny anecdotes or quotables from my high school students?  Can I still be me if I don’t read books for fun or run long distances or if I don’t do little craft projects?  That’s the me I remember.  The one I’m afraid of losing.

I’ll admit that I was a little bit jealous of Wes when he would come home with stories of the lightbulb moments his students had or the witty one liner he said to a student.  I didn’t realize that I was jealous until I got nit-picky with him about other things.  I mean, I am very particular about the way I need want things done around the house.  (That’s also my teaching style.  My students used to complain comment that I was “such a stickler.”)  It’s true.  I’d much rather do every single thing myself.  Everything around the house (except dishes and laundry).  Everything with Laila Grace.  I seriously am my own worst enemy.  Especially since I’m not really in a position to do everything myself right now.  I have to ask for help…which is another thing I abhor.  But I was getting on him about literally everything.  I’m sure he felt he couldn’t do anything right. I was being harsh to him because of the way I felt inside.

My whole life is different. I would not go back to life before Laila Grace. She is such a light. Such a wonder. Such a lovely girl. My girl. Some days, I get down on myself because I’ve become that girl who has nothing to talk about except her baby. I literally don’t have anything else to talk about. That’s kinda lame… in a way. Lame because I don’t have anything else to talk about only because I don’t do anything else. I don’t do anything else because I don’t feel like doing anything else. I also don’t feel like I have the option of doing anything else.

I get nit-picky with my husband because while I feel that my whole entire life is different, his is still the same. Yeah, there’s that added pressure that he can’t get fired from his job since he’s the sole breadwinner but he can leave the house when he wants to, go to bed and wake up when he wants to. He can get engrossed in whatever project he happens to be working on without any consequences besides an unhappy wife. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. All the fun of children with none (or at least very little) of the work. I’ve made that situation hard for me, too. Remember when I said I like to do every single thing myself??? Well, I also want him to be able to magically read my mind and know when I want him to do something. I don’t want to nag. I don’t want to be super bossy. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the ways that he does help like washing the dishes and doing the laundry and working outside of the house so that I can be home with our girl. I am grateful. But, I want more. And I don’t want to have to ask because I hate asking. That frickin’ pride has been kicking my butt lately.

Remember when I said I was a stickler? Well, I’m that way when it comes to my girl, too. I want things done a certain way. If a person can’t treat my baby the way I do then I don’t want them dealing with her without me around… I hover like a freaking helicopter. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Which means that I ALWAYS have to be around. See… I am my own worst enemy. I’ve basically made it so that no one can watch my daughter except me…but I, sometimes, want an hour or two to myself you know, so I can do some of the things I loved to do before I became a mama. That’s where the problem comes in.

People ask me how I’m doing and all I can do is tell them about the newest cute thing the baby is doing.  I mean, the question ‘how are you doing?’ is a pretty loaded one. Can I really respond that I’m tired or I’m lonely or that I miss some aspects of the me I used to be?  Can I honestly say what’s on my heart without sounding like I’m complaining?  I don’t want to complain but I also don’t want to deny myself the right to feel what I feel.  And, yes, I do feel lonely sometimes what with technology encroaching in every facet of my life it doesn’t seem like I can have a face-to-face conversation with the ones I love most without hearing the tv in the background and seeing them scroll through their cell phone.  Am I boring?  I’m probably boring.  And, I’m just as guilty of doing these things, too. It’s sad.  And, I don’t really want to leave the house but I don’t want to invite anyone over, either.  Like I said before, I am my own worst enemy.

With all of my heart I want to be good at this mothering thing but it’s hard!  I always feel like I could’ve done something better or responded to Elle’s cry sooner or that I could’ve anticipated (and therefore prevented) that meltdown.  I always want to improve.  I don’t want to say how I’m feeling because I don’t want to contradict my heart that says that I am content.  I am content.  I amhappy.  But I’m also scared that when Laila Grace is all grown up and living her life that I will not know what to do with myself because while I was out trying to be the perfect mama, I lost myself.

Do I regret resigning from my dream job? Not at all. Do I miss it just the same. Certainly. I really loved my job. It was the best job at the best place with the best students and the best coworkers in the best school district in the state. That’s a whole lot of bests.

But I want to be available for my baby. I want to be available to my husband. I need to be available to myself. Does that make me selfish? How else will I ever be able to remember who I am if I don’t “have time” to do the things that make me feel the most like myself?

So? I don’t know how I will accomplish it. I don’t know how I’ll get there. I have no plan for how I’ll manage to save some piece of myself amongst the ebbs and flows of motherhood. What I do know is while I’m here mothering baby girl, God is allowing my love for her to grow more and more and more. Just when I think I can’t love her more than I do, He goes and amplifies it. He’s a cool Dude. And, maybe just maybe instead of holding on to the idea of the person I once was, I can ask Him to keep those good pieces of me and add to the new pieces of me to make me even better than the me I used to be.

sam

Grace personified: {Laila Grace’s birth story}.

Sometimes, God doesn’t give us what we want; He gives us what we need.  This statement is true for me with the birth of Laila Grace.  I wanted it to be easy but what I needed was to learn how to go with the flow.

What’s funny is that a month ago, I would have considered a birth story like mine to be terribly traumatic.  Sitting here, writing it out and thinking through everything that happened, I can only view my birth story as beautiful.  It is a sweet testament of God’s faithfulness to walk me through uncharted territory.  He took care of me.  And, Laila, well she’s teaching me about Grace.

{Journal entry from 10.9.2014- the day that I would go into labor with Laila Grace}

BB,

You’re due to arrive tomorrow and everyone is so excited about it!  Namely Daddy and me.  We can’t wait to kiss your cheeks, to study your little hands and your baby feet.  We can’t wait to snuggle you and get to know your personality.  You see, you’re the answer to our secret prayers.  You’re a way that God is showing His love and His provision.  You are our gift.

I’ve been waking up much earlier than normal every day this week.  Today and Tuesday “earlier than normal” has meant that I awaken at 3 a.m.  I’m not sure why.  The only reason I can think of is that I’m excited to meet you.

I went to an appointment at the Birth Center yesterday and I heard your heartbeat.  Hearing that blows me away every single time.  Why?  Because- besides your constant movement in Mama’s belly- your heartbeat is a sure sign of life.  I LOVE THAT.

I’ve probably already written this but I feel that I must confess: I don’t feel qualified to be your mommy.  I am still struggling with selfishness.  I still struggle with keeping my words and my attitude in check.  I’m not even nearly as perfect as I want to be but I guess that just goes to show that God sometimes tells us to “go” before we think we’re ready… or, rather, before we feel we’re ready.

You are my step of faith.

I am praying that I don’t let you down.  So, come when you’re ready but just know that we’re ready to meet you now.  It’ll be exciting to see which birthday you choose and which gender you are and which attributes you get from Daddy and which attributes you get from Mommy.  BB, I love you so much.  Thank you for the honor of choosing Daddy and me to be your parents.

Love,

Mama

Step of Faith

I’ve heard people compare birth to running a race.  For the record, my birth experience with Laila Grace was not at all like running a half marathon… or maybe it was.  My sis in law said it best.  She said that my birth was like running but without the runner’s high that comes as the reward at the end.

10:58 a.m. My water breaks.  It is at this time that I remember that I never quite finished packing the overnight bag.  I kept saying that I was going to do it but I never actually finished the job.  I guess now was good a time as any.  I kept forgetting what I needed and then water would drip all over the floor every time I moved.  I decided to get a towel to drag behind me as I walked through the house like a chicken with its head cut off.

They say I was pretty calm.  I know that I tried really hard to be calm.  I was freaking out on the inside, though.  I originally thought that I would have the baby on Tuesday.  I just had a feeling.  Tuesday came and went without any signs of baby’s arrival.  I also had a “feeling” that baby was going to be a boy…I was wrong about that, too.

Every once in a while, one of the tightenings (the word I used for ‘contraction’) would hurt and then I would pray and remind myself that giving birth did not have to hurt.  That I am free from the curse of pain in childbirth.  The pain would subside when I confessed these things.  I liked that.

I called Wes, Dawn and my doula, Jenn.  At my doula’s suggestion, I also called the Birth Center.  I was told to come down to the BC for a non stress test to make sure that I was actually in labor.  I was in labor.

I was so hungry.  I mean, my water broke at my (almost) lunch time.  Wes arrived home and made sure that I was okay.  He helped me finish packing, took the stuff to the car, gave me a kiss and off we went.  But, I was hungry.  There was no way that I would have the strength to give birth to my baby on an empty stomach.  We stopped at Carl’s Jr. I kind of regret the choice of food because it would be disgusting when it came back up a couple of hours later.

2:30 p.m. My favorite midwife and my favorite nurse are the ones who will be attending the birth because I am in active labor.  The midwife directs us to the stairs outside to walk around through my tightenings.

“The contractions are every two to three minutes,”  Wes says.  You know that numbers are his thing.  The two- three minutes is good news because had the contractions not been that close together then I would have needed to go to the hospital.  When the tightenings came upon me, I would sometimes tense up and sometimes (at the prodding of my doula and Dawn) I would remember to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.  Giving birth is a lot like practicing yoga with all of the deep breathing.  I didn’t practice or intend to use any sort of breathing method the breathing just seemed like a natural thing to do.

{Three hours of labor}  Four centimeters dilated and I really just want to take a nap.  This has been going on since the morning.  And I’m tired.  It’s the 4 o’clock slump except I can’t slump: I’M ABOUT TO HAVE MY BABY!!!

Wes, Dawn and I are directed to go walk the stairs.  Let me tell you that it was very hard to walk up the stairs!  The midwife wanted me to continue to walk during the tightenings.  Mind over matter.  Mind over matter.

It turns out the Laila was in occiput posterior position which means that the back of her head was against my back. Which would explain what happens later… The walking up the stairs was an attempt to get her to change her position so that she could make her appearance into the world.  I think she was being a little stubborn…I wonder which parent she gets that trait from?

{Four and a half hours} I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give birth in the water but I brought clothes that I could use to wear in the water should I choose to do so.  I decided to get in.  The water was marvelous.   The warmth enveloped my entire body.  I could float.  When I needed to, I could brace my feet against the edge of the table to take off some of the impact of the tightenings.  It was relaxing.  I felt so calm. Imagine wrapping your whole body in a heating pad that never ever got out of place no matter which way you moved.  That’s how it felt.  The tub wasn’t at all weird.  I thought it was going to be weird.

But it started to get kind of hot in there.  My doula and Dawn placed cold towels on my forehead and gave me ice chips.  Perfect.

Things got more intense when I was in the tub.  Not sure why.  I guess it’s just because the labor was progressing.  Wes came back into the room and I could. hear. him. breathing.  It drove me crazy.

“Get out,”  I said to Wes.  Pretty sternly, I guess.

Wes, being the guy that he is, moved in closer instead.  I had a towel over my eyes so that I didn’t have to watch everyone watching me give birth.  I heard him move but it didn’t sound like he left.  I lifted up the towel, looked him straight in the eye and repeated my directions, “Get out.”  And out he went.

MamaInTheTub

The midwife in training was sitting right beside the tub.  She kept clicking her pen.  Click. Click. Click. Click.  The sound was so irritating.  My aversion to that sound was not just a phenomenon of birth but a persistent pet peeve.  I remembered something that my mom told me: I could fire her if I wanted to.  And fire her I did.

I prayed a lot while in the tub. “Dude.  This is not what I was expecting.”  I remember praying this one specifically because I was shocked by how different the birth was as compared to my expectations.  I was expecting rainbows.  Double rainbows!  I wanted unicorns.  This was primal.  This was super intense.  This was…hard.

GraceLysaTerKeurst

{Eight and a half hours}  By this time, I have gotten out of the tub (with Wes’ help).  He came in to check on me or something.  I don’t really remember but I do remember that I needed him to get me out of the tub.  He’s strong.  I continued to labor by walking around (which was getting increasingly difficult to do).  The pain was in my back.  Yes.. PAIN.  It felt like when I had Valley Fever eating away at my spine and I was in constant pain.  It was like fierce, unquenchable achiness that could not be contained.  Not in my power.  Then Jenn, my doula, had the idea to use a scarf and tie it around my mid section.  When the pain would come, she, Dawn and/or Wes would pull on either side of the scarf to apply counter pressure.

The thing is that the counter pressure, while it relieved the back pain, seemed to make the contractions come on stronger.

Rebozo

{Twelve hours}  Yes.  It’s freaking morning…again.  The midwife checks to see how much I’ve dilated or progressed and the check, as usual, is both uncomfortable and painful and it makes the contraction come on again.  They would always wait until I was in a break in the contraction to check me even though the checking made me have a contraction.  I don’t really understand it but I’m sure there’s a method to the madness.  Maybe I asked the midwife to wait.  I don’t remember.

The midwife checks me and I’m still at 7 cm.  Not only that but there appears to be meconium in my fluid.  According to Medline Plus, meconium is the first stool that the baby releases.  This can sometimes be released into the fluid inside of the mother when births go past term or when the baby is under stress because the supply of oxygen and blood decreases.  I wasn’t past term.  As a matter of fact, now that it was morning again, I was actually laboring on my due date.  How cool is that?!

The meconium put the baby at even more risk than the long labor which more than likely caused the meconium to be released in the first place.  I need to transfer to the hospital.  The midwife looks me in the eye and says, “Sam, I know you don’t like to be told what to do but I really think you should get an epidural.”  I comply.  And, frankly, I was relieved that she suggested it.  I was going to receive relief soon.  If I was going to be in labor until kingdom come at least I would have some relief!

This was not my original “plan.”  Remember when I said that I wanted unicorns and double rainbows?  That wasn’t hyperbole.  During my entire pregnancy I tried to shield my ears from the terrible birth stories of people around me.  And, you know how willing women are to share their traumatic experiences when they see a pregnant woman as if said woman doesn’t have enough things on her mind.  I think I wrote about that before.  It’s a pet peeve.  It still is.

{Thirteen hours} We arrive at the hospital and are quickly admitted.  It felt like forever to me but, apparently, nurses were working at a record pace to get me in the system.   I’m so glad that the Birth Center had us go on a tour to the hospital!  I was admitted to the room that we saw during the tour.  That made me feel more comfortable.

The anesthesiologist had some issues with the epidural.  In fact, after two attempts, she was unable to place it.  Like seriously.  So, I had to wait…until 7 a.m. when the anesthesiologists changed shifts.  I had to wait through more intense contractions that seemed to have an even shorter break in between.  I think they said that the contractions were 180 seconds (sometimes longer) with 60 seconds in between and then they started to “even out” to 60 seconds with 120 seconds in between.  It felt more like 10 seconds in between but I guess I can’t argue.  I mean, they had me hooked up to a lot of high tech machines that knew what was going on inside of my body much more than I did.  Plus, I was sleep deprived.

The second anesthesiologist administered the epidural and still it takes two tries but he gets it on the second attempt.  I’m so grateful to him.  I needed the reprieve.  By 7 a.m., I had been in labor for 17 hours.  I never in a million years would have thought that I’d be one of those people with those terrible birth stories of having been in labor for days and days and days, yet, here I am.

{Twenty one hours}  The midwife comes in and checks me.  I don’t care this time because I won’t be able to feel it.  I also no longer care who sees me naked or half naked.  Birth has already changed me and I haven’t even finished the process yet.  Giving birth is freeing.

{Twenty two hours}  A doctor who works with the midwives at the Birth Center comes in to check me.  He says that I am 6-7 cm dilated.  So, basically, there hasn’t been a change in dilation since the previous day.  Even with the subjectiveness of the measurements, something needed to be done.  Pitocin is administered to try to “get things moving along.”

womenarestrong

{Twenty four hours}  The doctor and midwife come back to check me for what turns out to be the last time.  Even after the pitocin, there hasn’t been any change.  There is no way that Laila Grace will be born naturally.

After a little bit of discussion, we all decide that the best way for Laila Grace to enter the world will be via Caesarean section.  Wes was so curious during the C-section.  He actually stood up and watched the whole procedure (minus the initial incision).  He saw everything.  I was awake and could hear everything but I couldn’t see anything because of the curtain that they put up.  Kind of a big deal since Mr. Beard gets queasy with blood and such.

WesAndSamNICU WesNICUMamaAndLaila

 

On October 10 at 2:57 p.m., Wes and I were able to meet our remarkably strong, beautiful, lanky little girl: Laila Grace.

LailaGrace

 

{The adventure continues…}

Because of the extremely stressful labor, my positive Group B Strep test and the meconium that Laila Grace excreted into the waters, Baby Girl was admitted to NICU to get treatments of oxygen, antibiotics and for surveillance.  We were able to see her and touch her but this whole thing added a lot more stress to the birth situation. We prayed lots of prayers.  I cried lots of tears.  Both tears of joy and of tears of fear.LailainNICU

Every two-three hours, I went to NICU to visit Laila Grace.  Wes and I would sing to her, hold her, pray for her and have skin to skin time with our girl.  I didn’t have a good night of sleep until Sunday (October 12).  That’s when Laila was released from NICU.  Her blood sugars were finally stable and she no longer needed the oxygen treatment.  The skin to skin time did the trick…and the prayers, of course.

Another astonishing thing happened.  The nurses were concerned that Laila wasn’t eating and therefore wouldn’t be able to leave NICU.  One of the head nurses told me that they wanted to give my girl formula.  I refused.  Thinking quick on my feet, I asked about getting donated breast milk if Laila needed it.  The nurse didn’t really like my suggestion but she accepted it.  She had to.  I was the one in charge.  One of the lovely mamas from a breastfeeding group I found on Facebook, offered to give me milk for Laila.  We didn’t end up needing the milk but I was blown away by the generosity of strangers.  Everything came into place.

So, basically, things for Laila’s birth were most certainly not in my control.  I CAN say that it was what I needed.  Why?  Because I needed to learn to go with the flow so that I can be content in this phase of my life.  This phase where I am not doing the thing I planned on doing (teaching) but am doing the thing I never in my wildest dreams thought I could or would be capable of doing (parenting).  It’s easy to become dissatisfied with things going on in life when I feel out of control.  But I’m not in control and I never have been.  All of my steps have been ordered by Someone greater than me.  He knew what I needed.  He knew my capabilities and He still called me to do this… now… for Laila Grace.

Wes came across this a very interesting post on the meaning of our girl’s name.  It stated that, “Lailah represents strength where there is darkness.”   And, one of my sister friends sent me this text:

LielText

My girl has got a big mission from God.  A task that only she can complete.  She is the instrument through which God will help me learn to let go and go with the flow.  I will also learn about grace.  God’s grace.  To both accept it and to give it freely.  I’m glad I didn’t get the unicorns and double rainbows.  I got something much better: Grace personified.

LailaGraceSmile

 

sam

 

*I used the notes from my doula, Jennifer Bultman, to outline the birth story.  If you’re interested in hiring a doula, consider contacting the doula I used: http://www.lightandlovedoula.wordpress.com.  To find a doula in your area, try http://www.doulamatch.net

Sam. Day six.

20140606-075101-28261065.jpg

Words. I think the mere fact that I KNOW when I didn’t give my all to something is enough for me to strive for excellence always. I don’t really care who’s watching.

Chuck Swindoll (one of my favorites) had a very good blog post about attention to detail, etc. yesterday.

A solid biblical basis for such an emphasis on quality is not hard to find. Consider the superb manner in which the tabernacle was designed and constructed. Next, the temple built during Solomon’s rule . . . with its “windows with artistic frames,” elaborate beams, winding stairways, gold-covered cherubim, and “stone prepared at the quarry” so that “neither hammer nor axe nor iron tool [would be] heard in the house while it was being built” (1 Kings 6:4-8, 28). The name of God was exalted as people witnessed such detailed beauty. It still is.

What is true of grand music, great writing, priceless art, and quality construction is also true of the way some still practice medicine or law, do their architectural drawings, teach their students, type their letters, preach their sermons, play their instruments, cook meals, fix cars, coach teams, sell insurance, run a business, a home, a school, a restaurant, or a ministry. It makes them stand out in bold relief . . . clearly a cut above the average. It’s not for the money or for the glory or for the fame it may bring. It’s simply a matter of deep-seated personal pride and commitment. Nothing less satisfies. It all boils down to fine, rare, quality craftsmanship.  Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

 

I am the person who pays lots of attention to detail.  I like pretty little detailed things (which is part of the reason that Anthropologie is my favorite store that I can’t afford to really buy anything from just yet- everything in there is so detailed.  It’s fun to look through the magazine and even more fun to grab myself a Starbucks and go perusing through the store.  It’s just beautiful in there).  And it always blesses me when my sister friends (or anyone for that matter) also notices the importance of the detail.  My sister-friend, Priscilla, ALWAYS notices the little things.  I think it’s part of her love language.

As I was reading The Confident Mom by Joyce Meyer this morning- don’t worry, it’s summertime, I’m not usually this good at reading in the morning be it a devotional or not- she discussed the fact that there is grace to get us through those times when we know we didn’t do our best.

…I’m determined to do my best each day, but even if I miss it, I’m not going to be filled with worry over it. I’m going to trust God that if I’m doing something that’s really displeasing to Him, He’ll speak to me and show me how to change it.” Meyer, Joyce. “The Confident Mom.” Faith Words, 2014-01-21. iBooks

So during those times that I am too rushed to do something the way I want it done or the times that I give up my right to have it be just perfect and I allow someone else to do something for me (which will happen more and more as I’m learning to be a mommy who’s full of grace), I need not get down on myself.  God’s got me.

 

sam

Confession.

Confession.

I am NOT that girl who always dreamt of parenthood. I am, however, the girl who dreamt that she would be a career woman, independent. You know, that sort of thing. But, a few weeks ago…okay… a month ago…I found out that I am pregnant! Pregnant!
I’m only freaking out a little now. Which is better than I was doing: vacillating between scared-to-freaking-death and happy-as-can-be. Those are my legitimate feelings.

Here’s the thing: the other day, I had a discussion with my class. I asked them what sort of relationship they had with their parents and what ideas they had to make sure that the relationship they have with their own kids will be “better.” I was surprised to find that many of my students didn’t really have a relationship with their parents. Like, they didn’t talk at all.

So, being the inquisitive little grown ups that they are, they asked me about my relationship with my parents. I don’t know why, but I never give my kids enough credit for their questions that literally just get right down to the heart of the matter. I told them that I don’t really talk to my parents. They were surprised. They asked about my parents in law. I told my students that I talk to my in laws fairly regularly. They were still surprised. “That’s f—‘ed up, Miss!” said one student. “That’s probably pretty close to what my parents think, too,” I replied.

But this got me thinking that I HAVE to do better on that front. No better time to re-open the avenues of communication than when there’s a baby on the way. So, I used my kids’ prodding to “grow a pair” and call my parents. (Well… I actually texted them but that’s pretty much the same thing for me.)

I texted my dad and went to visit my mom and I reported back to the kids what I had done. They were happy. But, I think my kids are changing my life by virtue of being who they are.

I got a little off track telling that story but I said all of that about my kids to say this: The kids inquired about my greatest fear. It really was a hard question to answer. But the answer that I came up with is I’m a little scared of becoming a parent.

I have 6.5 months to get used to the idea. But I just thought I’d throw it out there. I am not that girl who dreamt of this day. I HAVE NOT been waiting my whole life for this. I don’t feel equipped for parenting but I do feel equipped to do the best that I can no matter what. I can do that. That’s all I can really expect of myself. I think that’s fair.  Besides, Wes is a pretty stellar partner to be doing this whole parenting thing with so I think the two of us (and lots of prayer- feel free to pray for us when we come to mind) can make this happen without our kid being scarred for life.

sam

p.s. This “secret” is also the reason that I didn’t want to blog.  I didn’t want to spill the beans but it looks as though I’ve done that anyway.  So, I guess that I’m back…