Monday, March 25, 2013

postpartum: shifting hormones

It's in the night that I call out to You.

Image by kronerda on flickr.

Because it's in the wee hours of the night that the little one wakes up.
It's in the stillness of the predawn morning that I hear her little grunts.
I roll over, I fall back asleep as she feeds, and then startle myself awake to change her diaper.

Two hours later, and we begin the dance again.

And I'm thankful for the pirouetting that You've brought to us,
But that doesn't keep the hormones and sleep-deprived nature at bay.

Postpartum depression sneaks around the corner and lingers there --
Not completely present, but not completely absent --
Just waiting there -- for the right moment --
The time when lack-of-sleep and changing-hormones collide and make a big mess of my heart.

So it waits.

And that's why I call out to You.
Because I cannot weather the storm on my own.
Because I want to see the real joy that is before me in my life.
Because I don't want my sleepiness to take over and play with my head.
Because hormones shift and settle and re-organize in my system and I'm not in control.

So I call, and You answer me.

You answer me in the way my husband works from home and wears the baby.
You answer me in the meals provided from our church for two weeks.
You answer me in family being able to help out with the daily things of everyday life.
You answer me.

And sometimes, I don't know if You answer me.

Sometimes, it's just hard.
Sometimes, I just have to wait and let the day pass by.
Sometimes, I just cling to hope for a better night and a better tomorrow.
Sometimes, I just cry.

But I know You love.
I know I am Your daughter.
And I know that this time will pass,
And joy will be renewed once more.

And there is Hope before me --
In my arms -- in the wee hours of the night --
Wiggling tiny fingers and scrunching a tiny nose --
Burrowing like a bunny into my chest so she can hear my heart beating.

And there is Joy before me --
In the next room -- bounding awake with songs and giggles --
Pounding toddler feet into the wooden floors as she races by with glee --
Asking for a hug and snuggling deep into my arms for a cuddle.

And so I will continue to cling to my Hope and my Joy
As I wait for further answers, for further healing,
For further settling into this new kind of normal life.


Monday, March 18, 2013

natural birth, part 2: four takeaways

Note: If you haven't already read my previous birth story, I would recommend doing so to give you some context.

Alright, so I went through the natural childbirth thing.  This probably isn't a huge deal to a lot of people, but it's one of those things I never thought I'd actually do, and it really impacted me.  Here are some things I took away from the experience:

1) Appreciation of Birth
Not only am I absolutely in AWE of the POWER of birth after having been through it naturally, but I am appreciative of ANY birth.  In fact, this experience has really made me grateful for my other experience (ya know, the 36-hour one with pitocin and epidural and 3-hour-pushing marathon).  If I never went through that experience, I never would have known what experience I wanted from birth, I never would have had such a high threshold for pain, and I never would have known the difference between the two births.  There are pluses and minuses to both (seriously, the epidural is like magic -- erasing all pain, but also not allowing you to walk afterwards).  I don't know how to explain it, other than going through natural birth helped me think about the other birth in a different light.  I'm no longer sorry it happened the way it did; both births helped shape who I am today.  (I know that sounds corny, but it's true.)

2) Recovery Post-Natural-Birth = Awesome
Within ten minutes of giving birth (and let me remind you that I was basically passing out during the pushing hour), I was absolutely lucid and chatting away.  There must have been a HUGE rush of endorphins because all I wanted to do was chat-chat-chat (I'm not even like this on good days).  By the end of the day, I was even walking around a little bit by myself and could get up to change diapers.  The last time, I could barely walk even by the time I came home.  Within a few days, I felt like I could walk around outside.  From the recovery alone, I am convinced that I want to do a natural birth the next time.  Elliott and I just couldn't get over it.

3) Blocking Out Pain
Someone asked me which part was the most painful part, and I said afterwards -- when they are stitching you up -- that's when I wanted the epidural the most.  Someone asked me if pushing hurt much, and I honestly can't remember.  I remember that the contractions didn't hurt as much because they were being push to good use.  I don't remember it hurting as much as the contractions beforehand.  BUT when I said this to Elliott, he laughed and told me that it was definitely the most painful part for me.  I think in general, we women tend to forget exactly how bad the pain is so that we will want to have children later.  However, even in the midst of the contractions, I knew I wanted to do this whole thing again (my doula said that was incredible that I could say that during labor).  Even after having Amelie, I knew I wanted to do this again.  I can sit here and honestly say: YES, I want to do natural childbirth again.  In fact, I am looking forward to it.  It was so powerful and amazing.

4) Trusting My Instincts
In the post about my last birth experience, I mentioned that I just wanted to make the best choices and be proactive about the birth.  Even if I ended up getting an epidural, I wanted to feel empowered.  And I did.  Even from the very beginning, I weighed all the options and made very deliberate decisions.  Here are some of the ones that -- I feel -- just made the whole experience for me AND Elliott:

  • Going with a Midwife:  Did I mention she was with me for the ENTIRE labor at the hospital?  She NEVER left my side.  This was not my experience with doctors the last time, who just came in for pushing.  I also loved the practice in general -- all the midwives know me, the receptionists know me when I call -- I'm not just a nameless lady having a baby.  The last practice I went to, there were so many women I was just convinced my doctor didn't know me from anyone else.
  • Having a Doula:  This turned out to be so important -- not just for me, but for Elliott.  During labor, Joy was there to coach us through every little bit; she was armed with knowledge and we felt at peace during the whole situation (if she were not there, I think we would have been second guessing ourselves constantly).  If I needed something but wanted him to stay, Joy would go and get it.  When I wanted Elliott to stay with Amelie after the birth while they were stitching me up, Joy's hand was the one I held onto.  She was absolutely essential to this birth experience, and I am beyond thankful that she came into our lives.  I can't even begin to tell you how close I feel to her now!
  • Delivering in a Hospital:  We have an excellent birth center nearby and I was seriously considering going there, but I hesitated because you have to clear out within 12 hours of giving birth.  I knew I wanted to recovery in peace for a couple days, and I knew I wanted to be in a hospital "just in case." I am so thankful that I trusted these instincts.  I definitely needed the 48 hours to recover before coming home to Gwen, and we needed a doctor there who knew how to rotate Amelie safely so that she could be born.  Honestly, if it weren't for the doctor, I don't know what could have happened.  They don't tell you when things are going wrong, but Elliott said he knew something was really amiss and everyone looked worried.  It was the scariest moment in his life, but because we were in a hospital, everything turned out okay.
  • Trusting Myself:  Like I said in the previous post, I JUST KNEW when certain things needed to happen, and I trusted myself with those moments.  I KNEW when Joy needed to be there, I KNEW when we needed to get to the hospital, I KNEW a lot of things, and just jumped on those moments.  It was very primal and in-the-moment and inexplicable.  But it has given me great confidence.

So in conclusion:  would I do natural birth again?  In a heartbeat.  Yes.  Definitely.  Do I feel like I can do anything now?  Well, I feel like I can do most things physical, but I'm a little frightened at the prospect of parenting two children under two!  Here's praying God gives me the same grace he gave me during labor!

Thank you all for your encouragement along the way!  What a journey it's been!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

natural birth, part 1: it actually happened

Natural childbirth.

Natural childbirth?  Riiiiight.

If I were completely honest, I never really thought I could do it.
Turns out I was wrong, and I'm still sort of in the shock of it all.

I relive that day/night over and over again in my head -- playing the scenes out line by line, trying to understand how it all happened -- how, all of a sudden, I was in the hospital, being told I was already 9 cms, and realizing, "Oh wow -- this is actually going to happen."

But let me back up a bit.

Please note: this entry is really-super-duper long.  I really wanted to document as much as I could remember.  If birth stories aren't your thing, just skip to the part entitled This is Actually Going to Happen, and read from there.  Or, um, just skip the post entirely. 

That Morning
On Wednesday, March 6, I woke up experiencing what I assumed were Braxton Hicks contractions every 10 minutes.  I believe they had begun overnight while I was sleeping, and I didn't think much of them.  They had come with such regularity before, and they never hurt much at all, so I just ignored them.  Yet there was something different about the day -- something expectant in the air.  I'm not romanticizing it.  It just felt different.  Like something was about to happen.

My mom had come down the night before since we were expecting an impending snow storm and she didn't want to get stuck in North Jersey (they always get hit with the snow when New England gets hit).  I was feeling relaxed but also praying that Birdie would come while my mom was in the area.  That morning, Gwen couldn't get enough of talking to and tickling the baby in my belly, and she had even run up to it first thing -- laying her hands on my belly and requesting that we pray.

"Something is different."

I couldn't get it out of my brain.  But still, I didn't want to get my hopes up.  Like I said -- the BH contractions always came and went without rhyme or reason.

That Afternoon
My friend is a massage therapist and recommended I come in so she could massage the pressure points known to help speed labor along.  So with my mom at home, we decided, "Hey, why not?" and I headed over there to see if my friend could work some magic.

It was on the way over -- around 1 pm -- that the contractions noticeably changed.  They became painful.  Still, I was in complete denial.  Having read around the interweb about the difference between "real" and "fake" contractions, I had decided these were still "fake."  Everywhere basically said that I should be feeling the contractions start in my back and radiate towards the front.  These were all in the front.  So I went to the massage, telling my friend about the contractions, but assuring her they weren't real.  Her massage helped relax me, and who knows -- maybe helped to intensify the productivity of the contractions -- and I headed home.

By the time I got home, I faced the reality that these contractions were indeed getting more intense and had continued at a steady 8-10 minutes apart.  I texted Elliott around 3:30 pm to inform him that we should be on our guard.

That Evening
We were both very confused by all of this -- having literally no idea what to expect from non-pitocin-contractions -- and we were both so guarded against being excited.  So I called my doula, told her what was going on, and she wisely said,

"I don't like the term 'false labor.'  You're near your due date.  I would say that you're in the 'early stages of labor.'  Sometimes this lasts for days, sometimes for hours -- there's really no way to know.  I'll get my stuff ready in case you need me at any point.  In the meantime, I'd recommend you rest as much as possible as you might need your strength in the middle of the night."

Ah, Joy and her wisdom.  What would I have done without her coaching me through every twist and turn?  That was the turning point for me.  I realized that -- yes, this could go on for days -- but really, now was the time to make sure everything was in order (packing the last-minute items, eating my potentially-last meal), and yes -- now was the time to rest.  So I spent the rest of the evening in bed, listening to podcasts and catching up on some New Girl (and other guilty-pleasure shows which shall remain nameless *coughSmashcough* -- what?  No, I didn't say anything...).  

The contractions continued -- increasing their intensity but not their timing -- until about 9 pm on the dot.

That's when they stopped.  

I was so disappointed.  I texted a few people to let them know, and just took advantage of the opportunity to sleep.

Thank goodness I did, because the break didn't last very long.

(Later, Joy told me that she knew it wasn't over.  Apparently, it's very common for the contractions to die down for a bit, only to start up again with a fury not long afterwards.)

Through the Dark Recesses of the Night
At midnight, I awoke.

It was painful.

I jolted out of bed and checked the clock.

Five minutes later, another one came.

Naively, I thought perhaps I could lie back down and rest a bit more.  Five minutes later, I knew this was an impossible notion.  I had to get up.  I didn't want to wake Elliott yet -- I wanted to make sure they lasted consistently for at least 2-3 hours before waking him -- and honestly, if I weren't going to get sleep, I wanted to make sure my partner did.

I breathed through every contraction and attempted to distract myself.  I went online and checked the news, Facebook, wrote some random e-mails (some of you may have gotten e-mails around 1 am or 2 am -- that was me, in labor, trying to do anything other than think about being in labor -- I'm never up that late otherwise), and walked around.  My brother was randomly awake at 1:30 am, and called to pray with me (well, he prayed and I breathed heavily through contractions).

Around 3 am or so, I decided that perhaps I should call the midwife to let her know what was going on, but Elliott made me promise to wake him up before doing so.  So I gently woke him up and just as I did, my contractions went from 5 minutes to 8 minutes.  I was disappointed again, but within the half hour they started back up.  By this point, I was getting really tired, so I leaned myself up against the bed with some pillows (I was on the floor) to attempt to fake-sleep in between the contractions.  When they got to the point where I couldn't breathe through them but had to make moaning sounds, Elliott recommended we move downstairs so as not to wake Gwen (whose bedroom is attached to ours).  I think this was about 4 am.

So I sat at our dining room table and attempted to rest in between contractions -- head against a tower of pillows and an iPod in my ear with Bifrost Arts singing some hymns.  I'm pretty sure I was moaning through some song lyrics during the contractions.  In general, I guess I should say that my method to deal with the pain was to vocalize it.  I'm a vocalist/actress, and this was just what made sense in my body.  Somehow, it lessened the pain.  If I tried to breathe, it was like I would hyperventilate.  It also just didn't seem to work for me.  So vocalize I did.

And Then It Was Morning
I believe we called the midwife around 5 am, but the contractions were wavering between 3 and 7 minutes apart, so she told us to call back in a little bit when they were more consistently 3-5 minutes apart.  This was fine by me, as I just didn't feel ready to move into the hospital.  I called just to let her know what was going on.

It was around this time that I felt a shift happen in my body and brain.  The pain was more intense, and I just knew I needed my doula with me.  I wanted someone there who understood all about this labor stuff, who could suggest things and coach me through it, who could be with me when Elliott needed to attend to other things (ie. packing the car, getting Gwendolyn ready for the day, etc.).

While Joy was on her way, Elliott somehow convinced me to get into the bath (I've heard of some laboring women liking the freedom to move.  I don't know who you are or how you do it.  When I found a position that worked, I never wanted to leave it).  The bath worked wonders.  Joy arrived, and I told her that just being in the bathtub was taking away a significant amount of pain.  She called it "nature's epidural," and I decided that I would love to try a water birth someday (I think I decided this later -- not really sure if I had this thought at that moment).

At some point, we headed back downstairs and I went on the birth ball (it's basically like a yoga ball but bouncier).  Joy said that it helped to move labor along when women stand, but there was NO WAY I was going to stand, so the ball was a good compromise.  Joy also pressed certain pressure points in my back between contractions which relieved tension (seriously people: doulas.  They are A-MAZ-ING).  At this point, I was able to hold conversation between contractions, even joking around a bit with Elliott and Joy.

I stayed on the ball for a good long while until something happened -- but I'm not sure what.  Somehow I ended up on the floor, leaning up against the blow-up mattress that my mom had stayed on overnight.  I stopped being able to converse between contractions.  All I could do was close my eyes in between, and sort of drift off somewhere.  I just didn't feel very "present" any more.  That's when -- at some point, I just KNEW -- just like I KNEW I needed to have Joy with me -- I just KNEW I had to leave for the hospital rightatthatverymomentnodelay.  I couldn't imagine bearing through the pain in the car.  "NOW."  I said.  "I want to go NOW."

I tried to go to the bathroom and comfort Gwen as I left (I assumed she was crying because mommy was in pain -- but no, she was crying because Joy wasn't staying to PLAY with her.  Apparently it just sounded like I was singing loudly).

Just Like the Movies
So we're on the road, and this is when I start having these out-of-body moments, where I'm able to look at the situation somewhat objectively and think things like, "Wow, this is just like a scene out of the movies."  I mean, here we are -- Elliott's driving to the hospital -- and here I am, SCREAMING my HEAD off, begging the Lord to give me a break for the 10 minutes it would take to drive us to the hospital.  Of course, we ended up behind a STOPPED bus.  A handicapped person was getting on board, so the bus STOPPED.  Finally, Elliott found a way to sneak around, but he was so reluctant to do so -- not wanting to take any chances.  Also, unlike the movies, I was NOT begging Elliott to go faster -- I wanted him to go slower because each bump was sheer horror for me.

It's also important to note that the whole way there, I was saying, "I'm getting the epidural.  I'm getting the epidural."

We get to the hospital and enter through the ER entrance.  I'm in a wheelchair.  I guess Elliott had called the midwife before we got there because they were ready for me, but for some reason wanted me to wait for a nurse to come down.  I refused.  "No, we have to go up NOW," I said.  Mainly, I was concerned for anyone in the waiting room.  I mean, I was in SERIOUS labor.  I could NOT hide my pain or my yells.

After getting into the room, I apologized to all the nurses for being overdramatic.  At this point, although I was in a lot of pain, I really believed I was barely dilated.  I think I said, "I'm probably not even dilated," and one of the nurses laughed and said sarcastically, "Oh sure, you come in here like this and you're dilated at all?"  In my last experience with pitocin, the pain was SOMUCHWORSE than my current pain and I was only 1 cm.  So I figured -- maybe 4 or 5.  My birth plan specifically asked that I would not know my dilation unless my doula and husband thought it would be helpful for me.  Well I peaked and saw the midwife look surprised as she whispered to them.  They both immediately responded: "Yeah, she'd want to know."

Guess. What.

9 cm.

We got to the hospital just in time.

This Is Actually Going to Happen
That was that thought going through my brain.  I remember it so vividly.

This is actually going to happen.

There would be no epidural.
No epidural.

I was simultaneously thankful and fearful.  I was fearful of the inevitable.  Pushing.

Not much happened until the inevitable.  I remember lying on my back -- that lying down was such a relief from all the work I had been doing -- and not wanting to move because moving meant I would progress towards pushing.  I was NOT ready to push for a long time.  Then suddenly, I just wanted the pain to stop, and I knew that meant I had to push.  So I changed positions.

This is where I started experiencing out-of-body moments again.  Throughout the whole pushing experience, I was thinking of the BBC show Call the Midwife, and recollecting how similar my experience was to some experiences they've shown.  I was also thinking, "The next baby?  I'm getting an epidural.  This is so not worth it." (I later recanted this thought wholeheartedly, but I'll get to that in the next post.)

I was pushing for a good long while, so it seemed, and they kept having me move around because the baby's heart rate was dropping and they didn't know why.  Apparently, they were really concerned for my baby, and Elliott was really freaked out for both me and the baby.

Meanwhile, I was just getting annoyed with everyone.  They kept saying things like, "She's almost here -- just one more push should do it," and I kept responding with, "You keep telling me that but you keep lying!  Stop lying to me!  That's what they told me the last time!"  And for whatever reason, anything Elliott said bothered me, and I just kept yelling, "Shut up, Elliott!!  SHUT UP!!"

Although in reality, Elliott said I wasn't yelling at this point.  I was angrily whispering.  I do remember everything being really shaky and fuzzy, and feeling like I was going to pass out.  I remember getting oxygen. I remember saying, "Whatever you do, just get this baby out of me!"  I remember asking for a c-section (to which the nurses ALL laughed in response, and my midwife said, "We're a little beyond that point.").

And I remember the good doctor coming in to move my baby.  My baby was flipped -- not breech, but sunny-side up, as they say.  So with each push, the doctor would move the baby.  And after that...

There. She. Was.

Read Part 2.


Friday, March 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes: breastfeeding, garden gnomes, and a veronica mars movie?!

Time for something a little different today...

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 210)

- 1 - 

So I had a baby a week ago, which means right now my life is consumed with babybabybaby.  Burp cloths, sleepless nights (WHOA sleepless nights!), leaking diapers, cuddles, cooing, little itsy bitsy adorable eyes, an overload of pictures and videos on Facebook, and well -- you get the point.

Just a note on sleepless nights:  do we block these early days out of our brains completely?  I do remember being exhausted in the first couple of weeks with Gwen, but I do not remember her needing to sleep ON me for certain (long, extended) hours of the night and day.  Hopefully it's just the beginning and Amelie will get into a good sleep rhythm like Gwen easily did, which brings me to number 2...

- 2 -

We co-slept with Gwendolyn for the first 3 1/2 months, and would have done it longer if we hadn't moved and just decided to transition her to a crib and her own room.  I remember I hated that transition; I got much more sleep when we were co-sleeping.  I'm also convinced that Gwen got into a good sleep rhythm because she slept next to us.  The plan right now is to co-sleep with Amelie for about six months or until Gwen is ready for her big girl bed (and I'm waiting on her cues for that).

Here's what we use for co-sleeping:


...except we have it in the cocoa-brown color.

- 3 - 

Along with babies and co-sleeping comes breastfeeding.  Gwendolyn and I had a rough time of it due to various reasons, although we powered through it for 8 months (not as long as I would have liked).  I was determined to start out on a better footing this time.  So far, so good.  It's not perfect -- we still have our challenges, Amelie and me -- but I am having a lot more patience with the whole thing.

I've been reading up a storm on all-things-breastfeeding, and have especially been enjoying reading all of the posts Christine put up in the breastfeeding series over at African Babies Don't Cry.  I've also met some people through commenting there, and received the eBook More Milk, Naturally by Megan Kimmelshue.  Part of my issues with Gwen was maintaining supply, so as soon as I came home from the hospital, my mom and Elliott went to Trader Joe's to stock up on lactation-friendly foods (as recommended by the book).  It's been yummy, and I've loved eating to my heart's content (and have already shed 15+ of the 30 pounds gained -- I love breastfeeding!).

- 4 -
garden gnomes

One of my best friends (Victoria of Justice Pirate) is coming this weekend to take newborn pictures of Amelie.  She texted me the other day, something to the effect of, "Do you have a garden gnome or is that a little too much for a girl named Amelie?"

If you've never seen the movie Amelie, basically here's the deal with the gnome:  Amelie steals her father's garden gnome and has her stewardess friend take snapshots of it all around the world.  Amelie wants to inspire her father to travel after the death of her mother.

Anyways, I think it's a SUPER cute and original idea (I mean, how many newborn pictures do you see with a garden gnome?  And how fitting!) so I think Elliott and I are going to procure one for the weekend.  I always wanted a garden gnome anyways.  Now's the time!

- 5 -
my knight in shining armor

Oh my goodness.  My husband.  What an amazing guy.  He has been taking care of the three of us without complaint or any show of losing steam.  I let him sleep through the night, taking care of Amelie's diapers and burps and all, but then he lets me rest ALL day long.  And Gwendolyn is having the time of her life having daddy all to herself.  They go for long walks, long drives, long romps in the yard -- many times with Amelie wrapped around him in the Baby K'tan.  I've definitely been leaning on him for support as I recover, and I hope I feel recovered soon enough for him to go back to work!  Oh, how I am fearing that day as it quickly approaches!

- 6 -
missing my toddler

Apparently I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs until this coming Thursday (two weeks after delivery), so I've sort of been unable to spend a lot of time with Gwendolyn.  I've tried to do things as I can, and sometimes she cuddles with me in bed, but it's nothing like what we're used to.  This has been very difficult, but Elliott reminds me that soon enough, I'll have my hands full of Gwen again.  He's right, but I miss my days with her.

- 7 -
a (what?) veronica mars movie.  that's right.  she's back! (hopefully)

Um.  Have you heard of this??  No for real:  have you heard?  It's like the stuff dreams are made of.  How often have you fallen in love with a show only to have it cancelled -- have heard rumors circulating for YEARS about a movie being made only to find out it might actually happen?

I was OB-SESSED with Veronica Mars when it was on the air, and now the show's star (Kristen Bell!) and the creator (Rob Thomas!) have put it up on Kickstarter for fans to help support the movie being made.  And the fans have spoken: they raised all the necessary funds within six hours.  We are getting our Veronica Mars movie!!!

So there are some snippets out of my week.  What about yours?

Monday, March 11, 2013

birdie's arrival

So the other day, I had a baby.

Amelie Eden Simko
born on her due date (way to be prompt, baby!) - March 7 at 11:48 am
6 lbs 10 oz 19 inches

Her name means "In my work, I delight."
The scripture that pairs with her name is John 6:29 -
"Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who was sent.'"

To answer a few questions briefly, yes - it was a natural delivery.  
Yes, I am extremely happy with the labor and recovery.  
Yes, our baby is beautiful and doing extremely well.  
Yes, Gwendolyn loves her sister very much.

And yes, we are tired.
So a fuller birth story and other updates will follow in due time.

In the meantime, thank you for joining us in this celebration of new life!

Monday, March 4, 2013

when missing the recycling truck causes a nervous breakdown

This morning, I missed the recycling truck.

Not a big deal, right?
Well, two weeks ago it was President's Day.
The week after that, we could barely get out of bed with the stomach flu.
In short: we have a lot of recycling building up.

I was really looking forward to this morning to get rid of excess amounts of bottles and cans and paper.

I never really know when the recycling truck is going to come.  Some days, it's really early.  Other days, it doesn't come until well after noon.  Usually I can sneak my way out there during Gwen's quiet time, so that's what I did.  It was 8:30, and I started the trek to bring out the recycling (you should know we have a REALLY long driveway, and so it takes a couple minutes to walk even just one can down there, let alone 1 recycling can, 2 plastic bags full of plastic, and four paper bags full of paper products... while pregnant).

As I grabbed the first load of recycling to take down the driveway, I saw the recycling truck pass by.  There was no way to stop them.  The can was too heavy for a pregnant woman to run down to the curb.  It was pointless.

And then?
I started sobbing.

Ridiculous, right?
No really: you can say it.  It's ridiculous to sob over missing the recycling truck.

I sobbed all the way inside.
I continued sobbing until I realized that I wasn't really sobbing about the recycling truck.

I was sobbing because that immense peace I talked about two weeks ago is gone.  I am no longer the cool-and-collected pregnant woman just "taking things as they come."  I am frantic.  I am losing sleep over living in this anticipatory state of "WHEN?" -- clutching my clenching belly with hope, wondering if this fake contraction could possibly be the beginning of a real contraction -- waking up at night in a sweat, almost finding myself mid-prayer, "Please, God, please..."

Most of my life is lived in a false state of control -- thinking, foolishly, that I have control over my life.  From my daily schedule to my diet to my Bible study to my reading to a million other things, I feel myself in control.  But I'm not in control.  And there's literally nothing I can do to take myself out of the waiting game at this point.

I just have to wait.

And I hate it.

And it's getting to me.

So I sobbed.  And sobbed.  And told God, "I just can't do it any more.  I can't be strong.  I can't pretend I have peace.  I just can't."

The reality?
I never could.

And as I prayed-sobbed through some Psalms this morning, God helped me remember that my present struggles (and can they really even be considered struggles?) are nothing compared to the glory that will come someday.  And He reminded me that a few more days of anticipation -- a couple more weeks of waiting -- is nothing compared to the full story taking place here.

I am just part of the full story.
My daughter is just part of the full story.
I need to keep perspective.

It doesn't mean that I'm at complete peace again.
It just means... that God has heard my cry, and He has comforted me.
And I know that I wasn't meant to do it alone.  Any of it.

I’ve tried to stand my ground
I’ve tried to understand
but I can’t seem to find my faith again

like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short

please be my strength
please be my strength
'cause I don’t have anymore
I don’t have anymore

I’m looking for a place
that I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure

I cannot create it
I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping me

Please be my strength…

at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I’ve fought the good fight of faith

I pray your glory shines
through this doubting heart of mine
so my world would know that You

You are my strength
You and You alone
You and You alone
Keep bringing me back home

Gungor, Please Be My Strength

Sunday, March 3, 2013

why we don't reveal our children's names before they're born

Image by piccalilli days on flickr.

It's not because we're smug.
It's not because we think you're sitting there, biting your fingernails, on the edge of your seat, waiting for the Facebook announcement.
It's not even because we're introverted.

The reason we don't reveal our children's names before they're born is thus:

As much as we love you, we don't want to hear your opinion.

(Disclaimer: this probably sounds harsher than I mean it to sound.)
(Please don't take offense.)

When we started shooting names around with the first pregnancy, I was a little taken aback by all the opinions people held about names that we were actually considering to name our daughter.

"Ugggh, don't name her THAT."
"I knew a girl once with that name and she was awful."
"Isn't that a boy's name?"
"Oh... that's............interesting..."

I quickly came to the conclusion that once you name the baby -- after the baby is born and it has an official name -- people are much less likely to comment on how they don't like it or think it's strange.  I didn't want to be swayed by the opinions of other people; I wanted the naming of the baby to be between me, Elliott, and God.  

Another thing is that, as much as ultrasounds are accurate, there is always the possibility that the technician was mistaken.  I've known people and heard enough stories of, "We thought he was going to be a girl, had the whole nursery done in pink, and then he came out a boy!"  So I don't want people to call the baby a name, only to find out it's a completely different person.

And Elliott also brings up the "all or nothing" aspect.  If we were going to share the name with a few select people, we sort of feel like we'd have to share it with everyone -- or at least, that it would slip out.  We'd rather just keep it to ourselves.

I think a part of us also likes the "reveal" and "surprise" aspect of it too, but that's not the main reason.

A lot of people don't share this opinion, and I totally understand where they are coming from.  Many people like to call the baby by name, and to have others start calling the baby by name before it comes.  That makes total sense.  It's just not us.

And that's... that, I suppose.

And yes, we're still waiting on Birdie to arrive.  Waiting and waiting and waiting.

(Incidentally, we just asked Gwendolyn what she'd like to name her sister, and she said, "Sister...the Panda.")
  • What is your view on sharing/not sharing the baby's name before its born?
  • What did you decide to do, and why?

Friday, March 1, 2013

the fiery trials of depression and anxiety

Image by Vincepal on flickr

When I think about high school, the biggest thing I remember is that everything seemed grey and hazy -- and by that I mean, when I was living it, the world was grey and hazy almost all the time.  Foggy.  Dark, black fog.  That's what I remember.  Of course, there are other snippets of memories here and there, but it's largely blocked out of my brain.  High school was mostly spent at home, recovering from suicide attempts, being chartered to and from psychologist and therapist visits, and dwelling in a darkness that swirled all around me.  Sure, there were a few normal high school things thrown in there for good measure -- plays and projects and prom -- but mostly what I remember was depression.

In college, I started slowly undergoing a transition from depression into eating disorders and anxiety.  College was definitely a higher point in my life than high school, and most of what I remember from college was good and normal.  But if I really think about my emotional state, I was probably all across the board, from possibly-not-eating to panic attacks to punching walls.  Yes, I once punched a wall in (not a proud moment in my life).

Post-post-college, depression was virtually gone, I was on the road to recovery from eating issues, and anxiety was my main foe.  Uncontrollable fears and irrational thoughts clouded my brain and took over my body -- causing me to fall into fits of shaking and sweating whenever I had to go to social events or do something unknown.

Depression and anxiety are generally held at-bay these days, and by "these days" I mean my normal adult life, I suppose.  But pregnancy has a way of bringing these things up again in full force.  Not every day is consumed by depression or anxiety, but there are definitely some very dark days and some very scary ones. I am always (usually?) able to go outside my self and think clearly about what's going on, and think logically through the emotions I am dealing with.  In other words, I am not consumed, I am not controlled, I am not covered by these states-of-being.  I can think things like, "This will pass," or, "I know that I have nothing to fear," or, "The best way to cope with this right now is to..."  Whenever I see my therapist (generally one-two times a year), he actually says I have amazing coping skills and he usually doesn't know what to do with me, as he sees me as a very "healthy" patient.  So usually I just bear with the emotional turmoil, cry a lot, talk to my husband, pray to God, and wait for it to pass.

But in the moment...
In the moment, though, it is a great struggle.  I find myself thinking things like, "Oh how I wish I were someone different."  "It would be so much easier if I were not an introvert/if I did not have anxiety/if I never had depression."

When I say something like, "I wish I were an extrovert," I do realize that my introversion is somewhat separate from my anxiety.  Plenty of people are introverts who do not struggle with anxiety.  But for me, they are sort of intertwined and it's hard for me to separate them from one another.  When I say, "I wish I were an extrovert," I am basically saying to God, "I do not like the way you made me."  I am saying, "I know you made me in your image, but I don't like your image.  I don't like who I am; I don't like what you've made."  This belittles God as Creator.

When I say something like, "I wish I didn't have depression/anxiety," I wrestle with knowing the difference between accepting who I am and what God's given me and fighting against the brokenness and lies that Satan wants me to buy into.  I realize that depression/anxiety in my life can bring about good things -- empathy and comfort for others, for example -- but where's the line between saying, "God, I do not like what you've given me/who you've made me to be," and, "God, these things have no place in my life because they are a sign of the Fall?"

What Scripture says...
"Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed."
1 Peter 4:12-13

Okay, I am no Biblical scholar.  I do not know Greek.  I struggle with remembering contexts and all.  Here's the thing: when I read this verse, my first thought about the "fiery trial" is to think of the Last Days when we will undergo severe trial and tribulation when Jesus returns.  Maybe that's what Paul's getting at here.

But there's another thought that came into my brain today as I read the verse.  I am always afraid of these "fiery trials," and think of them as huge, worldwide devastation-like trials.  But what if some of the "fiery trials" I have to deal with are the above -- depression, anxiety, eating disorders?  And how appropriate for them to be labeled as, "fiery."  To be refined, something must be put through the fire.  To be redeemed -- to be restored -- I must face up to the trials that are in my life.  I can't ignore them and hope they will go away.  I have to experience them, to deal with them, to feel them at their fullest in order to be purged of them.

I want to be restored.  I want to rejoice in Christ, but that also means rejoicing in my sufferings.  My sufferings tend to be ones that most can't see.  They are very internal, but they are incredibly trying and difficult.  Sometimes they feel just as pronounced as a physical disease -- that's how much they are attached to my life and body and spirit.  

I guess what I'm saying is that in the moments of struggle, thinking, "God, I don't want to have depression/anxiety," is not helpful for anyone.  Instead, I should be thinking, "God, bring me through this and restore me to your original intention -- that I may rejoice through it, rejoice at your victory over it, and that I may be able to comfort others who experience it."

What do you think?
  • Have you ever had "fiery trials" of your own that God has helped you overcome?  Are you currently trying to overcome them right now?
  • Have you ever seen how your own trials have been able to bless others?  Were you aware of this possibility in the moments of severe trial, or was it not until long afterwards that you saw the blessings?
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