Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baby Blues: Things That Hurt and Things That Heal

So, I feel like in the past few days I've really turned a corner. I haven't blogged much about it yet, but I've been so, so emotional. I've been wearing my feelings on my sleeve in a big way on Instagram and Facebook. Actually, it's been a really good thing- so many people have reached out and told me that they felt this way, too, and it was so refreshing to have someone be honest about it. Anyway, even though it's gradually getting better, I wanted to do that in this space, too. And also- as I've said many times- I want this place to be a record of the hard and the happy times.

 I started writing this post and I decided I wanted to share some specific things- again partly for my own memory. But it's putting me in a difficult spot. I really don't want to offend anyone or hurt anyone's feelings. These emotions are all me and nobody has done anything wrong. It reminds me of the time right after Graves was born that I cryptic tweeted about how I was afraid one of my VERY BEST FRIENDS was going to judge me over not spanking Annie. I was so paranoid and I didn't handle that in the right way at all. We got past it, but I still wish I hadn't done that. I do think this is different because I'm able to provide more clarity and I think the nuance is obvious.

Before I share more of the details, one thing that has been interesting to me is how my post-partum hormones have manifested in very different ways all three times. With Annie I had TERRIBLE anxiety (on top of what is "normal" for me) and I just worried so much something horrible would happen to her. With Graves that was better and mostly I was just frustrated and incredibly exhausted because he was pretty high needs and also (mostly) because the transition was a lot harder for Annie than I ever anticipated. It's helped to remember those times and how I got through them and there was light on the other other side. 

I do think it's hit a bit harder this time, for some reason. I told myself so many days during this pregnancy that if I could just get through the hard stuff, it would be perfect once I held our sweet new baby in my arms and sniffed that baby smell. And honestly, my physical healing has been amazingly fast and I feel such relief not being pregnant anymore. But especially that first week, my mind and heart felt very, very broken. When a neighbor came over, she asked why my eyes were so puffy. I lied and said sleep deprivation and allergies. Which, actually, both probably have some truth to them. But it wasn't the real reason. The real reason?

Here's a brief rundown of several of the things that have had me in tears over the past two weeks (and the perspective I got latter on) :

- Cookie being so far away. You guys may remember how I cried and cried worrying about her being here for this baby's birth. And of course, against a lot of odds, she was able to be. But she was here two weekends in a row and she and Conrad haven't been able to get back. They'll be here in another week or so and maybe twice in July. It will be FINE. But I had a couple of big meltdowns about not having my family all here together.

- I've actually gotten quite worked up over several family things. Minnie was supposed to come over the first day Peyton went back to work. We had talked about it earlier in the week and I reminded her the day before but I didn't specifically say that Peyton was going back to work so she thought it was just a very causal invitation. The night before it had stormed and she started working in her yard and got totally immersed in it (as she often does). And then I couldn't get ahold of her or Mickey and started freaking out. I wasn't just hurt, I was scared. She called me back in tears and apologized and it was totally fine. It actually worked out better because a friend and her two girls dropped by that day and then Minnie came the next day.

- Peyton's parents didn't visit the baby in the hospital. Truly, that was NO big deal for me. They have a lot going on with their other kids and Peyton's grandmother, they were keeping our big kids, and actually, with Graves and Annie first few days the visitors at the hospital wore me out. We had just about the perfect amount this time! But Peyton's mom was having knee surgery the day after we left the hospital and it started to look like they might not meet the baby until after it. I got so upset. Peyton reminded me that his dad was trying to give US space and be considerate and not barge in on us as we tried to settle in. But I got all worked up about it. We took Sallie over to their house and his mom said she was SO glad we had brought her by because they change so much in just a week. I realized it did matter to her as much as it did to me and they were bending over backwards to love us well and try to allow us some rest.

- Back to the hospital. I cried twice because I didn't think to get Cookie to take any video during the birth. I didn't realize it until a couple of days ago when I was looking at the pictures again, but she's only one person and we only had one camera. If she had been videoing I might have missed out on some of those shots. And they are really priceless to me in a way a video probably wouldn't be. There's just something a bit more...special....about still images, I guess?

- The day Minnie did come over she started talking about a very special pitcher of my grandmother's that she put up so it wouldn't get broken. First I got terribly upset missing my grandmother (this happened a couple of times right after Annie was born). She is the first of four successive generations of Sarah that Sarah Lamar is named for so it felt extra heartbreaking that she isn't here. Then my mom had mentioned that she would be heartbroken if something had happened to the pitcher. I thought about how rough Graves is and all the times he's almost (or has actually) broken various things at her house and mine. I thought about how much *I* struggle not to be attached too much to things- mainly in a sentimental way- and to hold them loosely. I sent Minnie a text that said:
Would you resent Graves if he had broken the pitcher? I've started to ask you to move it a hundred times. I just need you to say we're more important than things- even the most special ones. Please don't be upset at me for needing to hear that.
THIS IS SO DAMN STUPID. Probably besides me and Peyton, nobody in the world cherishes our kids more than Sarah Ann Perry. I kind of can't get over myself. But this was like the worst period sadness every in the world. It was nuts.

The last two are the hardest things...

- I'm going to be incredibly honest here and say something, but I hope everyone reading in no way thinks I feel like they've done anything wrong or should do anything differently. Okay. Ready, go. Father's Day has been really hard for me the past two years. Because of the circles we run in, most everyone on social media spends a great deal of their tributes to their husbands talking about what a strong spiritual leader their husbands are. Everybody is leading everybody else to the foot of the cross.  Because we always leaned more egalitarian, I've never cared much about Peyton being THE spiritual leader, but I do deeply miss having him as a spiritual partner. I'm actually at a pretty good place with this and I'm truly glad for my friends for whom this happiness is a lived experience. I do not, do not, do not want anyone tiptoeing around me or feeling sorry for me. It's just that comparing ourselves is a very human thing to do and when you're bone tired and drowning in hormones, every joy and every pain seems exponentially greater.

- The other main thing that has been driving my tears (and I'm planning to write further on this later) is that this is our last little (biological) baby. It's like the moment she was born the clock started ticking. I just love it so much and even though I KNOW the joy just multiplies as they get bigger, I wish this stage lasted forever. I talked to a friend and wondered if I'll be envious every time someone has a new baby. I felt guilty about that. I told myself I needed to be sure to enjoy this. I felt so much pressure to do that. I have such a sense of closure with pregnancy and childbirth and I think I will with nursing when the time comes. All the reasons I really wanted another biological child. (We really thought for a while that Graves would be our last newborn and honestly until I saw her face I kept thinking this was a dream I'd wake up from.) Peyton reminded that Cookie will have babies and by then he'll be pretty much totally early retired and I can just go move to Nashville for a bit. And that one day Graves will attempt to convince his wife to go along with his plan of having "a hundred thousand babies" and they'll probably need some help. I started sobbing and said "What if his wife hates me?". It's so comical in retrospect. P said "you are not going to hate your mother in law if she's offering to move in and help with your hundred thousand babies". We were getting way ahead of ourselves. But HORMONES.

So, that's the hard stuff. But there's lots and lots and lots of good (often tiny, as is so frequently the case) things that are sustaining me right now:

-  The footies Sallie is wearing in the picture above that remind me of lime sherbet. Seven(!!!) years ago when Annie was a newborn. I asked my friend Ashley where she got the pjs with the little tags on them (now I'm not sure why I was THAT captivated by them, though they are cute). I so enjoyed putting them on our New Girl. Actually, I've taken so much pleasure in dressing her up. Maybe more so than my other two. And if you don't know, I took ALOT of pleasure in dressing them.

- Annie saying things she doesn't realize are funny like "I wonder if Minnie has opened my surprise yet. I think surely she's home by now (she had left five hours earlier and they live in an adjacent county less than ten miles away).

- The juxtaposition of these two things and the reminder that as much as I miss the baby she was, I adore the little girl she's become. 

- The people (not always my closest friends) who reach out and tell me in vulnerable ways that this is so, so normal and I won't always feel this way.

- But also: my closest friends. The first day I was feeling like a trainwreck Carrie and Mallory both showed up at the hospital and said all the right words and made me laugh and were normal when I needed normal and dug deep when I needed deep. And they keep showing up- texting me and checking in and reminding me that I won't always feel like this. 

- FOOD. People are so generous. The chick who cuts my hair (and I mean, is also a friend, but....) brought lunch to our house today and brought two Cokes just because she knows Coca Cola is my jam. A neighbor that I really don't know all that well brought down brownies and a mom from Annie's soccer team that I became friends with dropped off muffins she made a little happies for Annie and Graves. A good friend brought some of my favorites to snack on- pimento cheese and chicken salad and strawberries, angel food cake, and Cool Whip. She knows me well, too. Annie's Sunday School teacher brought about two weeks worth of spaghetti and a ton of cut up fruit. 

- Soaking up my baby girl. In some ways, I have systems and set ups that help me be so much more efficient than I was when Annie and Graves were newborns. I just do a lot more in the same amount of hours. But at the same time, those are another thing I'm trying very hard to hold loosely. I'm giving myself lots of time to let her nap on my chest and (even if she's sleeping) if I feel like picking her up, I do. 

- Which leads me to perspective. More on this later too but let's just say I'm at a very different place mentally than I was with Annie and Graves and I have more of a long view now that I've done this for seven years. I'm really, really (like every single day) grateful for the spacing and I feel like it was all perfectly timed.

- Peyton. He's been helping me so much. When Annie was little we were fighting tooth and nail to even function as a team. And things were much improved by the time Graves came on the scene, but it was just a different dynamic. I think lots of things, but particularly the way we grew and changed and learned to serve one another in New York, have made us kinder and gentler to each other and it's been so much easier this time.

- Annie and Graves. As unexpectedly hard as the transition was for Annie when Graves was born this has been (so far!) surprisingly easy. Which makes sense as they are clearly much more able to understand what's going on and articulate their own needs, but still I was prepared for some HARD days with them. I can't say I could have hoped for anything better.  

I've cried out of joy for these good gifts not a few times, too.

So here we are....feeling all the things very deeply. And I'm already a deep feeler. So even the good emotions are a bit of a beast of burden. It's all so much. But I'm so very thankful for it. It's a very rich life, indeed and I'm glad I get to experience it so fully.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Weekly Smorgasbord

Some new links to share! What redemption looks like, crowdsourcing motherhood, slow Summers, and probably a bit of excess in the Babylon Bee sharing. So much good stuff!

On Faith:

That’s the Law, Baby | Mockingbird

"I haven’t taken too many of my anxiety pills. If faith is a life-support system, then they’re actually just a crutch. It’s nice to have them nearby. They are a small, kind addition to an arsenal of oxygen–a mess of help–that was already there and always will be: Scripture, counsel, literature that reminds me of the Gospel narrative, movies suffused with grace, music, wine, Epsom salt baths, and the recent self-taught refrain I’ve mastered to whisper to myself–“That’s the law, baby”–whenever I feel the pressure of rules (little-L and otherwise) creep in and make me feel panicky. Examples: others’ expectations, approval from the general populace, children’s developmental milestones/sleeping locations, Facebook likes, etc. I suppose I’ve come to accept that my factory setting is jittery and that this isn’t cause for recall, but part of a design that suits me for a purpose I can’t fully see. Grace doesn’t transform my worrying (or any lack of faith) into a virtue, but it does allow my anxiety to drive me deeper into God’s own faithfulness. When it becomes debilitating, I check my oxygen levels and consider pills. And when “Hakuna Matata” comes on Pandora and I think to myself, This is total bullshit, I don’t immediately accuse myself of a character flaw that needs correcting. I consider the thought, and come to the conclusion, that it is. It is total bullshit. Because a problem-free, neatly-wrapped existence is not only boring, but devoid of the need for grace."

I love this. Especially where Stephanie says that her anxiety is "part of a design that suits me for a purpose I can't fully see".  I've often come to this conclusion about myself, though I'm not sure I've ever articulated it so well.

what redemption truly looks like

 "Gratefulness in this world’s darkness shines brighter than any other testimony one could give to the goodness of our God.'


“maybe you’re just not listening” (My mom . . . or God.) | Pete Enns

"I don’t think this person or others like him are in “rebellion” against God. Rather, I think they conditioned only to hear a certain kind of voice and when they don’t hear it they draw the conclusion that my friend did.
He wasn’t expecting an audible voice or anything like that, but he was expecting some concrete, tangible response—evidence that God is there and cares. After all, this is what we expect of any other being we communicate with. If we talked to family and friends and they never talked back, those relationships would eventually come to an end. Why should it be different with God? I think this conditioning is rooted in the modern notion that what is “real” is what can be demonstrated through some experienced, objective evidence. That idea works a lot of the time, but problems arise when Christians are either taught (or it’s caught) to apply this idea to spiritual matters."

I used to get REAL stressed about hearing/not hearing God. It was a huge source of anxiety for me. These days I'm learning (slowly) to see Him in new, less rigid, ways.

Failed Evangelist | Mockingbird

"I share my faith, my vital place of renewal through Jesus, with my family. My family points me to the truth, despite the fact that they don’t see Jesus as “the [only] way, the [only] truth, and the [only] life.” We share our messy lives and ask questions. Why does being (and having) a teenager suck sometimes? How should we deal with difficult people? Why is it so hard to make a sincere apology? How can we live our lives more magically? I try not to get in God’s way and wonder with them."

Lately I've stumbled across several articles written by people of faith who are married to people who...aren't people of faith. It's nice to read other's words and to see a way forward in what is an often difficult situation.

On Parenting:

The Case Against Crowdsourcing Motherhood | Brain, Child Magazine

 "The Internet makes crowdsourcing seem sensible. I wouldn’t buy a printer without reading the reviews on Amazon so why shouldn’t I crowdsource my parenting? In an age of endless access to information, it feels almost foolhardy not to use it. The problem is that none of this information or advice made me a better mother. All it did was remind me of what I didn’t know while making me forget how I really learned to mother. No matter how many articles I’ve read and online posts I’ve made, I became a mother in a rocking chair in the middle of the night, sobbing as my baby screamed into my engorged breast. I learned to mother each of my seven children uniquely and individually, as they, and I, grew up.'

So true. Case made.

Art House America - Art House Blog - My Daughter's Village

"It takes a village to raise a child, but I realize that my child has gathered a village of her own. And the burden I’ve carried to love and protect and nurture her is a little bit lighter as I watch them step in and do the job with ease. Someday, she might go to college, might get married, might have a demanding job, might have demanding babies. Maybe some of her old village will remain, or maybe the passing of time or a move to a different city will bring her a new one. Surely having tasted friendship that is good and true, she will recognize it whenever it comes again. I pray that when the stakes are higher than a baby swing, she will be surrounded by friends who are eager to help. Friends who will sit with her through the mundane, who will help pull her out of her darkest struggle, and who will chase the beauty in the world and make sure she doesn’t miss it."

Goodness. This was so poignant. It's interesting to think about my children's friendships and how they will develop over they years. 

For the Love of Mother's Day — Rebecca K. Reynolds

The weaknesses of her character, the weaknesses of her faith, the weaknesses of even her physical body will be brought to the surface in the middle of the night, when she is sick, when she is sad... when she thinks she has nothing else left to give. "She will be grieved by her failures at a level that is difficult to experience in any other pursuit, because she will know that she has hurt someone who is vulnerable and who needs her."

This one almost made me cry. What truth- being grieved by failures because you've hurt someone very vulnerable who needs you. Part of the story of motherhood.

The Decision | Brain, Child Magazine

"My narrative on love, marriage and parenting was tight and exact. Everyone in my family met young, married young, and stayed together until they were old. I grew up with parents and grandparents all who were still together and (mostly) happy. The people in my family loved their children fiercely. There was never a doubt in my mind that my parents would do anything for me or for my sister, anything at all. I never wondered if they wanted me, I never felt as though I didn’t fit in the family. There still is no doubt in my mind about that. If I call, they come. It has been tested more than once, even in my darkest days. That’s it.
I think, as a child, my understanding of this kind of love made me feel protected and safe. As I grew up and moved away, I set a goal for myself: give myself to other people, especially my future children, with a feverish protection of love."

On Slowness and Simplicity:

Art House America - Art House Blog - The Path of the Contemplative Writer

"To be a contemplative writer meant that I had to be a contemplative human being. I had to make space, slow down, and pay attention. I did that for a while with care and intention. I diligently wrote my morning pages, I blogged, I journaled, I wrote essays. And then life got in the way. The time I needed for reflection became more and more scarce as years went by. I still needed to create but found myself gravitating to photography and the immediate satisfaction it gave me. It was easier than struggling to make time for contemplation, for thinking and writing."

It is HARD to make this space, but I for one am trying. 

The Gift of an Unscheduled Summer ‹ Story Warren

"I remember loving summer as a child, despite the intense Texas heat. It wasn’t that I didn’t love school. I did. But there was something magical about that long period of freedom that nourished my soul.
But summers back then were a little different. Oh, we went to VBS and maybe camp for a week, but the rest of our days were fairly free. We swam and rode bikes. We read and played Nintendo. We climbed trees and caught lizards."

This is one of the things I love so much about Summer. It's a lazy time where you don't have to call it being lazy. 

On Fashion and Clothing:

Outfit: Saying "Yes" To Fashion Experiments

"One of the key "tricks" for me when experimenting with fashion is to pair the *daring* with the familiar. So from the neck up I'm trying out something new for me, but from the next down things are very familiar in my favorite dress shape, my over-worn black flats, and classic leather jacket. It's like trying some strange food for your appetizer, but getting something you already know you like for your main so you won't be starving!"

Great tip!

Wait Till You Get Your Hanes Back On You - The Hairpin

"But there’s something extremely pleasurable about buying your underwear in a four-pack, from the same store where you buy your tampons, your razors, your deodorant, and your chapstick. Underwear, for most of us at least, is a necessity, like paper towels and shampoo. It’s possible to occasionally treat it as such, while also finding the most pragmatic underwear Duane Reade can offer very sexy, the way that a uniform of all-black can feel like a distinct expression of style. Soon you’ll reconsider pantylines, the instigator of so many thong purchases, and look more favorably on them. Long live the VPL and that excellent ass of yours it’s drawing attention to. "

Poetry Worth Sharing:

All I Need | the beautiful due

"Some nights all I need is the
neighbor’s porchlight to dance
through nervous aspen leaves.
Seeing this morse code causes me to
fall asleep with hope as the
last thing on my mind.
Thinking that jim-dandy word causes me to
dream of my children’s future,
and of my place in it."

A color palette of human skin tones

Angelica Dass 
This is cool.

Famous paintings recreated with colorful masking tape

Nasa Funahara

Humor Worth Sharing:

Rob Bell Unable To Articulate Coherent Food Order At Applebee’s | The Babylon Bee

"The closest he came to placing a comprehensible order was when Reed asked if he perhaps wanted a hamburger, to which Bell reportedly replied, “I affirm the essence of hamburgers.”"

People In Tiny Houses Can't Have Sex - The Toast - The Toast

"Nice try, sir, but you cannot fit up there and neither can any sexual partner. Good luck finding space for floor boning."

PC(USA) Discernment Group Senses Holy Spirit Leading Denomination To Lose More Members

"“At the beginning of this process, I think we were all scared,” said Jack Fowler, chairperson of the 133-member Peace and Reconciliation Taskforce on Sexuality (PARTS). “We didn’t know if we would agree on anything. But in the end, after lectio divina and a lot of listening prayer, we all feel quite confident that the Holy Spirit wants us to decline by another 20 percent in the next decade.”
Although the report will not be voted on until the General Assembly later in June, several recommendations are already generating genuine excitement. For example, Recommendation 4 would allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals on months with 31 days, while only celibate clergy and heterosexuals are to be ordained in those months with 30 days. February will be termed a “Month of Jubilee,” in which ordination may be procured upon three payments of $49.95. Also promising is Recommendation 13, which would impose a $2.32 per member assessment in an effort to raise the necessary funds to install 3,000 solar panels and three dozen unisex bathrooms at the denominational headquarters in Louisville."

Man Of God Perfects The Side Hug™ | The Babylon Bee 

"Flynn is confident Scripture is on his side. “Luther wrestled with Romans 1:17, and I’m happy for him. But I’ve always wrestled with Ecclesiastes 3:5: ‘There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.’ After subjecting that text to a little exegesis, I realized it says nothing about the half-embrace. Biblically, there is always a time to half-embrace.”"

Quotes Worth Sharing:
"I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not. But I am not a universalist if you are talking about what people may do about accepting that happy-go-lucky gift of God’s grace. I take with utter seriousness everything that Jesus had to say about hell, including the eternal torment that such a foolish non-acceptance of his already-given acceptance must entail. All theologians who hold Scripture to be the Word of God must inevitably include in their work a tractate on hell. But I will not — because Jesus did not — locate hell outside the realm of grace. Grace is forever sovereign, even in Jesus’ parables of judgment. No one is ever kicked out at the end of those parables who wasn’t included in at the beginning."
~ Robert Farrar Capon, The Romance of the Word,

Noteworthy Stories:
Memorial Day in the Pharmacy:
Last night, about half an hour before I left work I got a phone call asking to speak with the pharmacist. When I picked up the phone a lady began speaking to me quite frantically. This isn't uncommon for people who call my store after 6pm on the weekends (i.e. after all the other outpatient pharmacies save 2 Walgreens in Central MS have closed for the day). I tried to slow her down by polite interruptions here and there, but that didn't really help too much. After she finished speaking I tried to recap and figure out what was going on. She was worried because her local Walgreens was closed and her son was out of his medication which he badly needed. She gave me his name and birthdate and I found he was on sertraline. His medication had no refills and would require a new prescription. As I continued to try to calm her down and reassure her that it would be quite simple to move her son's medication to my location that never closes and loan him a few pills so he'd be covered for the next 2-3 days, her anxiety lessened a bit and we could actually speak in a normal tempo. I fixed up the medicine and found out from her that he was a veteran suffering from PTSD and the beginning of this week will be an especially tough time for him. I was proud to be working at ‪#‎walgreens‬ in a situation where I could serve my patients, especially ones like this veteran who may have a tough time through the start of this week.  
[We've recently just starting talking to the children about how we hope when they choose what they want to do when they grow up they pick something they love doing and that is meaningful work to them and that helps other people, not just something that makes a lot of money or is well regarded in our society. Over the years, I've watched Peyton struggle to find the meaning and significance in pharmacy and to be honest (as I assume with almost anything) there are still days when this is a great difficulty. But I think one of the most meaningful things a person can do is to help another human make it through the day, through this life. I'm grateful for the way he does this so well both at home and in his profession.]{via Peyton}

Images Worth Sharing:


Friday, June 24, 2016

{Throwback Thursday} Babykins #3: Reflections and Comparisons at Thirty Five Weeks

Now that Sister Baby is here, I don't have nearly as much to say but I went to the trouble to take these pictures a couple of weeks ago (I actually took them the day after my due date- which was two weeks ago tomorrow) and I wanted to share them. I decided to share it would be fun to share them as a "throwback".

I actually didn't realize until I got to writing my thoughts down- many of which I've already shared on IG and Facebook- that it would be really cathartic and helpful to put them all down in one place and share the things I was feeling in that final stretch. I have quite a few posts relating to Sarah Lamar's first days but I wanted to get this one finished up before moving on to them.

Pictures first!

It was crazy hair day at swim team and we ALL got in on the action. I went to Target later that day in my Snoppy shirt and stubby pigtails. No shame in my forty plus week pregnancy game! I'm actually so glad I took pictures that day- I sorta love the messy piggies and goofy t-shirt. It basically epitomizes that last week!

Also, to compare my pregnancy with Sarah Lamar to mine with Graves as forty weeks, well, that's hard to do...
forty weeks to the day! 

As far as reflections, hmm...

- At my last appointment, the receptionist at the OB asked if there was "just one in there". The receptionist! At the OBSTETRICS CLINIC. Surely she's seen more outlandish things. Good grief. She then refereed to Sister Baby as a linebacker. I was starting to get pretty self-conscious. 

- I think I will always remember that final week as a really special time. I was tired and uncomfortable but I felt like I was "in the game" as much as I had been able to be the whole whole pregnancy. We were going to the pool every day at least once. We had a friend over for dinner the day before my due date. It was just a happy, eventful time. 

- I finished making the birth playlist, completed the sections I wanted to in the Bradley book, and in the span of forty eight hours we went to Briarwood four times (would've been five but there were thunderstorms one night!). I also designed my June header and churned out two blog posts- including this month's goals- that I really wanted to get finished. Then I started doing things that weren't baby related and I had no real need to accomplish in a timely fashion, like organizing our whole homeschool area.

- One thing that's sort of funny about labor is that of course you have no idea when it'll start. And I really expected it to be quick and strong (as it was). So we were carrying my hospital bags in the trunk all the time but there were other things like the camera, the laptop, and a bag with like my hair dryer and toothbrush that we'd literally take back and forth from the car every time we went anywhere. Also, those last couple of weeks, I took several showers at night or in the afternoon after we had been at the pool or outside. When I take showers late in the day, I typically don't dry/fix my hair but I since I knew labor was imitate and could start in the middle of the night, I fixed it every time. Of course it looked crazy by the end of the birth, but it would have driven me nuts to start things off with funky hair!

- Speaking of, Annie's math might have been the biggest undertaking I wanted to accomplish before the baby got here. It had been a bit of a labor of love lately. We're switching curriculums next year and I think it'll be a better fit for Annie. This was a grit your teeth thing for both of us. And her favorite time to do it was late at night after Graves fell asleep. Which, I really don't blame her. And it WAS easier. But near the end I had either been ready to go straight to sleep or just so touched out and in need of a break. BUT, we did it! She told Minnie how she had finished this curriculum and helped us pick (from among predetermined choices) the one for next year. I've mentioned it before, but Peyton asked me at the beginning of the pregnancy when I was having a really hard time what I'd do if I had a full time job outside the home. It really hurt my feelings but it also made me think. And now I have my answer. I'd show up in exactly the same way I'd been showing up for her at ten and eleven at night, sometimes pushing ourselves to fit in two lessons, not putting it off except on the very hardest days. And I'd try to have the same patience with my students that I struggled to find for her this year in this area. Praise God for another year of math in the books!

- When I woke up, I was particularly grumpy and miserable on the Saturday morning after my due date on Thursday. Sallie came that night (or really very early the next morning)!  I actually shared this in a closed Facebook group I'm in (and then later on IG because I have no real boundaries):
 40+ weeks pregnant life as an HSP: I woke up and the first thing I thought was that I couldn't stand the sensation of my own skin. I rolled back over and five minutes later my husband was scrapping a spoon against a plastic cup eating the last of his ice cream in bed. OMGGGG. I went in the kitchen and stepped in something sticky and just about lost my mind. He tried to initiate that act that sometimes gets the baby moving (which we've already done once) and I told him if any part of another human touched my body, I'd come undone. I'm about to go take a bath in solitude....maybe for the rest of this Saturday.
Y'all, it was a hard morning. 

- Peyton actually ended up having that Saturday off due to a scheduling mix up and we had such a great last day as a family of four, of course not knowing it would be the last. He baked muffins with the big kids and we got a sno cone and went to the farmer's market and I made some guacamole and yogurt pops and a peach cobbler. I had done so many things that week that helped me feel so settled and ready. 

- I need to blog about this more (as it's not really totally on topic for this post) but I really planned out the hospital experience a lot more and felt more prepared for things going in. In some ways, I put more thought and effort into this birth experience and even though it was crazy and chaotic, being intentional about it helped. So did tiny things like having new pjs at the hospital.

- A couple of days before she was born, we mostly settled on Sarah Lamar's name. We still left a couple of other options on the table and it was five hours after she was born when we officially decided. That was one huge thing that made me feel mentally prepared for her birth.

- Being able to sustain a healthy and uneventful pregnancy is something I'll never take for granted especially after a difficult pregnancy like this one was. That's something I'm incredibly thankful for. But I also have a huge sense of closure that I was not at all sure I'd have when I found out I was pregnant this time and knew it would be the last. There's a (big) part of me that wishes I could have a newborn indefinitely but I have had a strong sense of peace as the door closes on the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. As difficult as those things were for me this time, I loved so many aspects of those experiences and I'm incredibly glad I got to feel a baby move inside me one more time and have such a powerful birth experience again.

- Not only that, but my health is something I don't take for granted as much as I did. The comparatively small issues and inconveniences and hardships of this pregnancy that seemed so difficult brought to mind a couple of dear friends who suffer with chronic illness. I cannot imagine trying to work around intense chronic pain day in and day out but I think this pregnancy did give me a new perspective and new empathy for that struggle. 

- It's funny because for a while we really thought Graves would be our last newborn and honestly, until I saw her face, in some ways I thought it was a dream I'd wake up from. I still sort of have to pinch myself! As I've said before, it feels like I'd been waiting years for her, and in some ways I had. 

I think that's really it. I will always look back on that last week- even those extra few days that were really tough and discouraging in some ways- as a really happy time. I was so physically and mentally prepared for Sarah Lamar's birth and that was a huge gift. 

The biggest gift, of course, is HER and I'm grateful to be on the other side.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Weekly Happenings Post #370 (April 25-May 1)-- Papa Recovers and We Celebrate Five Years of Graves


This was a fun week. Peyton finally recovered from the flu and we got to FINALLY give Graves his special birthday day!

I got up pretty late on Monday, a bit past nine, and got a quick bath and got ready to go meet a friend at Target because she had a book on childbirth for me. Peyton texted me and asked me if I could go by the Y and pick up the trophies and pizza certificate for his blastball team's party later in the week. I did that and swung by and got a Sonic slush. I got home and sent a couple of emails and FB messages and then talked to Peyton. It was a really nice talk and I felt better about the week even though he was still so sick. We planned the week and talked about church, our marriage, and motivation/driveness. You know, little things.

Peyton found the perfect covers:fan ratio to deal with his fever. A single to sheet and the fan on the lowest setting. I was mostly trying to avoid our room entirely because it made me want to vom how the bed hadn't been made in three days and he had popsicle sticks all over the nightstand. Also: we stole this from the Ritz (the Herringtons at the Ritz, ha) on our honeymoon. It gets more hysterical with each kid. Shhhh...yeah right.

I texted a friend, started laundry, called in Newks, uploaded some pictures from my phone and backed them up, and then went to pick up the Newks.

We ate outside and I visited with Annie some and then we all came in. I sent a couple more emails, changed over laundry, and folded some towels. I played action figures with the kids (I was really trying to spend some time with them since I knew Peyton would be able to play with them that much that night). I fixed their lunch and dusted in the den, bedrooms, and study. They had rest time and I sent another email, finished Graves's monthly letter, and read some blogs.

 I was really trying to stay hydrated with this fun diffuser thing my brother in law left at our house when he lived here while we lived in Brooklyn. I was having some pretty strong (irregular) contractions the night before and I told Peyton this would be the absolute worst time to have a baby. Besides being six weeks early, he was doing much better but in no position to be around a tiny baby. He said "well, I know Carrie would do a wonderful job by herself in the delivery room". Look Carrie and I love each other but we were wanting to have dinner by ourselves, not have a baby by ourselves that night. Thankfully, she clearly held out PAST her due date =)

I made a phone call and then put clean sheets on the kids' beds and got ready for dinner with Carrie.

It took me a full week but we were finally back in business. I got the house vacuumed and dusted and finally caught up on laundry, math with Annie, and (sort of) the blog. I grocery shopped and the kids (and bathrooms!) have been scrubbed and have had their nails clipped. I washed their bedding and intended to wash ours the next day (I've been sleeping on the couch). It felt good to start the week like this! 

The kids ate cereal for dinner (a big treat for them) and got extra screen time to watch a Star Wars movie. And I ate out three times in one day (a Sonic drink while doing errands, Newks takeout for lunch, and a friend date tonight!). Maybe Papa should get sick more often  

Carrie swung by around six to pick me up. We tried to go to a Greek place but it was closed on Mondays so we went to an Italian place instead. It was great and after that we headed to get frozen yogurt and coffee. After that we went to Target and after that we talked for another hour or so in our driveway. Haha. It was around midnight when we finally said goodnight. I did a few things on the computer and made a list for the next day and went to bed.

Tuesday was a pretty low key day. I got up late and so did Peyton and the kids. Peyton was doing a lot better. I got on the computer, had breakfast, and took my bath and then we collected laundry. I texted Minnie, started a load of laundry, and folded some. We straightened some in the study. I was super tired and emotional and I spent the middle part of the day just kind of slugging around. Peyton and I had a bit of a tiff but I finally got up and did some dishes and felt better. I changed over laundry and the kids had lunch and I talked to Peyton. I got on the computer a tiny bit and then took a shower and did more laundry and we got ready for Annie's soccer party. We went to that and I actually felt better and then we came home and took a walk. Peyton got the kids to bed after I brushed and flossed their teeth and I made a really good salad for us and put the bedding back on our bed. We ate and watched a show and I actually fell asleep before the kids did. I woke up and changed over laundry and did a couple of things and then I had a snack and went back to bed.

Peyton and I woke up early on Wednesday and chatted and then went back to sleep. Graves got up around nine something and I straightened the kids' room for them, made our bed, took my bath, and got on the computer. I went through my email and reader and messaged a friend. I collected laundry and did a bunch of dishes and Peyton made breakfast. It was Graves's "birthday day" (his day to pick whatever we do- mostly).

Construction worker Bud with his two chainsaws at the Children's Museum yesterday. The last two years in Brooklyn they didn't have birthday parties so we had "birthday days" where they each got to (mostly) pick what we did all day. They are having a party this year (a month after their actual birthdays) but we love this tradition so much we kept it, too. Graves picked pancakes for breakfast, a trip to the Children's Museum and the Dollar Tree, Primos for lunch, and a visit to Mickey and Minnie's house.

We all ate and got ready and headed to the Children's Museum because that was Graves's first request. 

  I had to go back and find this picture of Annie from the Children's Museum so I could do a little comparison. It's funny because it was taken a little less than a month before Graves was born. It's so surreal to think about being in such a different place as we get ready to welcome a new baby again (Graves identified a cylinder because I let him participate in one of Annie's math lessons that week!).

We played for a good while and ran into some friends and after that we headed to Primos for lunch. We ran by the dollar tree and then headed over to Mickey and Minnie's for a visit. When we got home, Peyton painted Graves's face to look like Darth Mal and I organized my closet and then cooked supper. 

We ended the day with Darth Mal face paint and a movie (also pictured: Princess Laya and a ewok)!

We all ate and I cleaned up supper while Peyton bathed Graves. They watched a movie and he went to bed. I cleaned up the kitchen and bathed Annie and then we planned their birthday party and did math. I got on the computer briefly and had a snack and went to bed. Annie, Peyton, and I were all up way too late.

Thursday was a nice day. We got up and got ready and Minnie got here and we headed out for Book Buddies. Graves was still asleep but Annie woke up to see Minnie. It was our last time to read with our friends and it went really well. We came home and Peyton got ready to meet a friend for lunch. I collected laundry, fixed the kids lunch, and straightened. After they ate, they had some media time and I got on the computer a bit, folded some laundry, and did dishes. Peyton got home and took the kids swimming and I ate my lunch, took some pictures of some stuff I had been meaning to, read blogs, and uploaded pictures. I went through the pictures and deleted some and labeled the others. Peyton and the kids got home and they played action figures and I folded more laundry and then fell asleep for about half an hour while they had a snack. I attempted math with Annie and it started out great but she had a major meltdown. We were all going to go to Graves's end of the year blastball party but just the guys ended up going. Annie cried and cried and then fell asleep. I looked over some math curriculum a friend had loaned us and sent her a message about it and then I wrote a post and edited the pictures I uploaded.

I finally woke Annie up after about an hour and asked her if she'd like to come have a treat and talk. She said yes at first but when she realized she had missed the party, she started crying again. We went in the den and talked and Peyton and Graves got home and they really cheered her up. Graves  had a little prize from a $.25 dispenser and he had gotten her one too and she was excited about that. She had her treat and we all visited some and then Peyton read to them and got them settled. I fell asleep again while he was reading and then I finally made myself go in the attic and organize some. Peyton also helped me get some stuff (shoes and loungewear) down for my closet changeover and then he went to bed while I went through a box of t-shirts and my real clothes in the attic. Even though it was hot that seemed like it made more sense than bringing down whole boxes when I knew I could only use a fraction of it for the next few months. Peyton went on to bed and I replaced all my t-shirts I had grown out of with the size large ones I found in the attic. I folded up the too small ones from my dresser to take back up and then I got on the computer. I read some blogs and then Annie said she was hungry. She hadn't really eaten and I was planning on fixing her something once Graves went to bed. I told him to lay down and rest for a bit and I fixed her something to eat. After she ate, she finished math. I finished organizing pictures and had a snack myself and took a quick shower (I felt so gross from the attic). I made a list for the next day and went to bed.

We had a nice day on Friday. Peyton was working in Vicksburg but the kids and I slept really late. Then they basically wanted to play action figures most of the morning. We got up and all ate breakfast and then I got on the computer and checked my reader. I made our bed and straightened a bit and then the kids and I straightened their room. I took a bath and started laundry and organized some of the kids' books and some library books. We did an abbreviated version of morning school (critical thinking and finger plays and some read aloud- we didn't worry about the calendar and I hadn't planned for Bible). I actually wasn't planning to start back with morning school until the next week but it was good to ease back in. I played action figures with the kids for about twenty minutes and then talked to Peyton on the phone. They had media time and I did a few things on the computer- manually bookmarked some links since Delicious was broken and started a post and looked at some links Peyton had sent me about some educational apps for the kids on the iPad. I fixed the kids lunch and changed over laundry. While they ate I did two more drawers (pajamas and shorts/yoga pants) in my dresser and then they had rest time.

I fixed myself a grilled cheese, read a few more blogs, worked on the last drawer in my dresser (mostly random stuff) and then fell asleep. I feel asleep halfway sitting up and it was perfect actually because any time I take a nap close to lunch I get HORRIBLE indigestion. I got up and had a snack and then the kids had a snack. We got ready to do math and I COMPLETELY underestimated how long the prep work would take. We did that and then we actually all took a break before starting the actual lesson!

I totally underestimated the amount of prep work for our math lesson today. You had to build these three dimensional geometric shapes out of basically cardboard two dimensional shapes and rubberbands. Actually, to be totally honest it was something the parent is supposed to do ahead of time and I just didn't even look at it. Luckily, I have some fine helpers and they were more than happy to help with the construction work once I figured out what the directions were saying (which again, being honest, took the bulk of the time). 

We ended up doing some read aloud (a book about digestion from the library) and our Bible time first, then doing math, and then doing a little English (just some phonogram review and a short grammar lessons and worksheet) because Annie begged to. I fixed them supper and Peyton got home. They ate and visited with him and I did dishes, folded some bath towels, and then cleaned up the kitchen when they finished. We both got the kids settled and talked a bit and then I straightened a bit around the house, took some pictures of some stuff, and made a few lists. I took out the bathroom and study trash and Annie and I worked on filling out birthday party invitations and getting them in envelopes. I read some blogs and ate something and went to bed pretty late.

Peyton was working again of course on Saturday. Graves got up about nine and I had a bad headache so I visited with him but sort of dozed in between. I got up a bit before ten and Annie was HARD to wake up. I had breakfast and fixed the kids cereal, made our bed, and got on the computer. I went through my reader, messaged a friend for her address, and texted another friend about something she had borrowed. I took my bath and then collected laundry, started a load, and took out the recycling. I talked to the kids some and then they had some media time and I worked on a post and looked over some more math curriculums for next year.
 Nobody could be more happy about how deep their love for Charlotte's Web runs than I am.

After that, Annie did a few practice math problems and then I played action figures with them. I fixed them lunch and changed over laundry and started a new load and then I worked on my closet change over (shoes!).

The kids finished lunch and had rest time and I ate my lunch, read some blogs, finished a post, and started another post. I took a nap and woke up feeling horrible (I think sinus stuff and too heavy of a lunch did a number on me). I threw up and talked to Peyton on the phone and felt some better. I folded a couple of small loads of laundry and the kids played in the den. I read a little bit to Graves and fixed the kids supper and then I put up dishes, washed them, and got some of our stuff together for church the next day while they ate. They ended up taking so long, I went ahead and read their Bible story to them while they finished. They took a bath and I swept the kitchen and washed their supper dishes. I went through a bag of papers I had. I didn't finish it completely, but I pulled out the stuff to trash and sorted through the other stuff. I helped the kids finish their bath and Peyton got home. I did my kitchen quote and visited with him. I looked over some education blogs Peyton had sent me and added a couple to Feedly and then I worked on my personal finances for a good bit. Peyton helped me get two more boxes from the attic and then I did math with Annie. I went to bed around 12:30 after I ate a snack.

I slept SO horribly Saturday night. First of all, it took me over an hour to fall asleep and then I was up and down and so restless all night. I have no idea what it was but I did throw up on Sunday morning so maybe I just needed to get sick? Ugh.

I actually got up earlier than usual on Sunday since I couldn't fall back asleep and it made for a less stressful morning. I slept in the car all the way to drop Peyton off and I think it was the best sleep I had gotten since Friday. Anyway, something was wrong with one of the headlights and it was really overcast so when we got to Walgreens Peyton fooled with it. He got the night pharmacist who is sort of a car aficionado to come out and help him.  They got it fixed up and we had breakfast and the kids played. I did my make up  and texted Minnie and then we headed to church. I dropped the kids off and went to my Sunday school class. My friend Jackie had asked if it was okay to have a little "celebration" for baby #3 and I told her we had everything we needed but it was so sweet. She said she'd just let everyone know and bring refreshments. Well, everyone was so generous!

I certainly wasn't expecting anything as she's the third AND we already have a girl and a boy, but my Sunday school class showered Sister Baby so generously.

The kids did really amazing during church and I was so thankful. When church finished up, it was raining. Jackie's husband Jeff helped me get the presents to the car and we picked up Annie's and Graves's paintings from Sunday school. They were still a little wet and got on my dress. We headed home and I unloaded the car while the kids had a snack. I got our bags unpacked and took the presents to the study, and got the fresh flowers Jackie had sent in some water. I changed clothes, collected laundry, and started washing my dress. I sent Minnie an email and talked to Peyton on the phone and the kids had media time. I got on the computer and then worked on my finances some more. The kids helped me go through the presents and sort of consolidate the bags and then I fixed them lunch. I fixed myself lunch too and ate it while they were eating.

They had rest time and I uploaded some pictures from my phone and worked on a post and rested a bit and then worked on the post a little more. When rest time was over, they had a snack and I worked on finances a little more. We all picked up their room a little and helped them put up some clothes and straighten their closet and then they went outside to ride bikes and I started some more laundry. I vacuumed the couch since they had the cushions off anyway and did dishes. I fixed the kids' supper went through their dresser and tidied it and organized it and then worked some more on that post. We all got ready and left to pick up Peyton.

Both kids fell asleep and Peyton and I visited on the way home. Annie woke up when we got home and we talked to her some and then I uploaded pictures from the big camera and finished my post. I worked on getting all the baby's newborn clothes sorted and put up and Annie did a couple of math sheets. We went to bed around one.

Next up, May!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Amazingly Difficult and Beautiful Story of Sarah Lamar's Birth

This is loooong. With Graves's birth story, I wrote one post that was basically "just the facts", another one of pictures, and then another one of reflections, mostly comparing his and Annie's birth. This time I decided to chronicle the experience and share my feelings and the pictures all in one place.

I really like to write these right away and it feels like so much time has already passed. In reality, most of the details are still fresh, but I knew I wanted to go ahead and get it down quickly.

I'll go ahead and say that, much like the whole pregnancy, it was the hardest, most humbling thing I've done in my life. It was very, very different from Graves's birth. I think a lot of factors contributed to it- I'll explain more but for one thing, I didn't get off to as easy of as start. The car broke down on the way to hospital (no lie) and the admittance process was so long and tedious.  So that all already had me anxious. But I also just think the labor itself was very different. With Graves I got to the hospital and was dilated to nine centimeters but then I stayed there for SIX hours. However, I felt like those six hours were about as comfortable and relaxed as labor could be for me (they were by no means painless and it was hard, but I was surprised at how calm and in control I felt a good bit of the time). This was almost the exact opposite. I was only a six when I got there but from that point until the point Sarah Lamar was in my arms was literally about three hours. So it was a super quick labor. But it was much more difficult to manage. The contractions were strong and rapid and there was hardly any break between them. The other big factor at play was not having a doula this time. I think all three of those things (starting off highly anxious, it being a very different labor in and of itself, and not having a doula) came into play.

Anyway, backing up- at my doctor's appointment earlier in the week I had been about 4 cm dilated, eighty percent effaced, and at a +1 station. Even though all that was kind of really uncomfortable, it was nice that a lot of the work of labor was done ahead of time. My due date came and went on Thursday, the ninth. Friday was a bit frustrating but Peyton happened to be off work due to a scheduling mix up on Saturday and we had a great day.

Saturday night we got the kids to bed and I got on the computer and did a few things and did English with Annie. I prayed and prayed that I'd go into labor that night because I so desperately wanted Cookie to be there and she was in town for her best friend's wedding that night and was headed back to Nashville the next day.  Not only that, but I was starting to get bad anxiety about everything- I wasn't feeling the baby move as much, I was uncomfortable and in a lot of pain, and I was scared that the clock was ticking towards an induction even though I knew my doctor would let me go to forty two weeks.

I had some guacamole and started feeling some contractions. I tried not to get too excited because I'd been having irregular contractions for a month. But then I felt a significant change in the baby's position and knew she had dropped even more. The contractions got stronger and I started timing them. They were still about eight minutes apart but I woke up Peyton. He was pretty alarmed as he is when he's woken up. I was glad he had gotten a couple of hours of sleep because he had been so tired. He called his dad and we texted Cookie and Carrie and told them we'd keep them posted. I was still not one hundred percent convinced it was labor (mostly just because it had taken so long coming and I was still in disbelief that I was really going to get to do this one more time) but by the time his dad arrived and we got in the car, I knew it was the real thing. We kissed the kids goodbye and I was glad they were already asleep.

This is where the story gets crazy. On the way to the hospital the car broke down! It was seriously like a movie. We were about a mile from the hospital at a light and Peyton couldn't get the clutch out of neutral. He called his dad and we waited through several lights trying to figure out if we should call an ambulance or what to do. He finally jammed the clutch in and forced it into first gear and then in second and we just puttered that way to the hospital and then he left it in the road with the flashers on.

We went in and the check in process was kind of irritating. First of all, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork which was annoying especially since they had told me that since I had been to urgent care a couple of times during the pregnancy it was already done. I was having some HARD contractions and couldn't even sit still through them.

Well, then they finally got it done and put me in an observing room in urgent care. I explained that I wanted to keep on my t-shirt and not wear a hospital gown and they seemed weirded out but were fine with it. It's just not comfortable like the delivery room and it stressed me out so bad. Plus, several people had warned me about "third babies" and how fast they come, and especially with being so dilated leading up to labor, I didn't really want to push the baby out in there. I was getting highly anxious and Peyton was still trying to figure out about the car situation. He left at one point after I told him to but then I called him and told him he had to get back and deal with the car later. Apparently, he was actually going to get my bags so they wouldn't be towed away with the car. Which I'm INCREDIBLY thankful for in hindsight. They finally checked me and I was at a six. I was a little disappointed since I arrived at the hospital at 9 cm with Graves (but I also stayed at nine for six hours so I knew it was kind of irrelevant). They told me they'd get some stuff ready and send me up to Labor and Delivery. After that, I got in my own room pretty quickly. Peyton had been texting Cookie and Carrie and since it was one in the morning at that point and Cookie and Minnie were both heading up to the hospital they all determined that Carrie would stay home.

Later I realized (and it will be clear why) that I was really glad for how it worked out. Carrie is absolutely one of best friends but I wouldn't want anyone else in the world besides the two people who were in there to see what went on in that room. ANYONE. Honestly, I'm SO glad it was Peyton and Cookie. I was apologizing to Cookie about it and her JOB is vaginas (she's a nurse at a urology clinic). I'm so, so thankful that it is. I found out later from Peyton that she asked him if it'd be okay to for her to watch them stitch up my tear because she had never seen that before. He said he felt like he was sure I'd be fine with it :) And I'm also so grateful Peyton isn't one of those guys I read about one time who can never look at their wives sexually again after they give birth. Peyton is so exactly the opposite. He reminded me of the time he had the opportunity during pharmacy school to watch a mentally ill woman who was not taking good care of her hygiene needs have a breast exam and a pap smear. Ain't nothing gonna phase those two =)

I know I shouldn't be like this and that there's no shame in any of it and in theory I think birth is so beautiful, despite all it entails and honestly I wouldn't mind one bit being on the "other side" and think being a doula would be one of the most amazing things in the world. But I'm sort of modest with stuff like that and it felt mortifying since it was ME. It was literally the most undignified and vulnerable I've ever felt in my whole life. I was walking around in a t-shirt without bottoms dripping stuff after my water broke and having to use a bed pan. Now that I'm a few days out, though, I absolutely love reflecting on it.

Anyway, I moved up to the delivery room and Cookie and Minnie arrived. Minnie stayed in the waiting room (see the above paragraphs, Minnie would have come UNDONE). I explained again that I wanted to wear my clothes and they were fine with that. The nurses asked me a bunch of questions and I got my IV set up. They also explained that since I had tested positive for Group B Strep they didn't want to break my water right away because they needed me to labor long enough to get the antibiotics in. I had my water broken with both Annie and Graves but it wasn't until later in the labor so I wasn't too worried but it did make me a little anxious the more I thought about it.

I was having pretty heavy contractions really close together and was having a really hard time. I'd grab the bed rail or Peyton's hand and just try to get through them. This was probably around one thirty or two and they checked me and said I was still at a six. That was pretty disheartening as hard as the contractions were coming.
I felt like I really couldn't get on top of the contractions and there was just no way to relax. I wasn't like screaming, but I was REALLY vocal. It wasn't crying either but my voice was so shaky and "teary" and I kept telling Peyton I was scared. I think the thing I struggled most with was just not knowing how long I'd have to do it for.

Peyton actually left for a bit to deal with the tow truck and my contractions sort of slowed down. I finally got a break in between them, maybe a few breaks that were like five minutes. And I really was able to relax a bit. It helped me refocus and I was so glad for it because right after that I went to the bathroom and my water broke and I was able to be rested up for some more really strong contractions and the pushing. I was just in a better mental place than I had been probably since we left home.

The contractions got even closer and stronger after that. Peyton said there was literally no real break. He said that he was looking at the monitor (it goes from zero to a hundred) and I'd get up to about eighty five but then the lowest they'd go back down was like forty. That was TOUGH.

Then I started to feel the urge to push, even though when they checked me I was only at eight centimeters. The nurses really urged me not to because it can make your cervix inflamed, which makes the whole process even harder. But it was just pretty much impossible not to. I decided I'd make a deal with myself and try to limit it to once per contraction. I can't explain it but I just didn't feel like I could hold back more than that. It was like trying to hold it when you REALLY have to teetee. At some point, it's just going to come.  Plus, I knew I was going to be severely uncomfortable, not to mention anxious, if I didn't just let my body do it's thing.
This went on for I'm not sure how long but it was thankfully a pretty short stage. I went from an eight to complete in less than an hour- my guess is about thirty minutes.

The pushing was hardly anything. I mean, at the time I didn't feel that way. I told Cookie that I was "so scared she wouldn't come out", which is really similar to what I said when I was pushing with Graves. It seems so funny looking back on it. Anyway, I pushed through literally three contractions that were about a minute apart. The nurse said she guessed that I pushed for five minutes, definitely less than ten.

The minute the baby came out I felt so much relief. I distinctively remember worrying several times during the really bad contractions that I would be so exhausted and anxious and touched out from the experience it would be hours (or days) before I could really bond with her. That was decidedly, gratefully not the case at all. [With Graves, I did feel like I wasn't able to be as present in some ways in those very first few moments as I was with Annie because of all I had gone through, but for some unknown reason I didn't feel like that was the case at all this time.]

I held her on my chest and I was laughing and talking like normal while the doctor stitched me up. That was painful and so was delivering the placenta, but it was nothing compared to what I had just done. I apologized to the nurses for being so "high maintenance" and they basically told me I was a rock star, especially as little as I am, giving birth to an almost eight pound baby with no drugs. They were really sweet.

Cookie went and got Minnie after they finished my stitches (I had a small tear) I hopped up and went to the bathroom and put back on my shorts to get ready to move to the recovery room. The nurses laughed so hard at me bouncing around putting back on my shoes and shorts. That is one of the great perks of a drug free labor. With Annie I remember Peyton having to almost carry me to the bathroom a good while after the birth before my epidural wore off.

 They weighed the baby and did all that stuff and then I got to nurse her. She nursed for a LONG time.

I will say that I knew I would probably have a hard time with a lot of the strategies I had read about- breathing and relaxation exercises and such. I've mentioned it before, but I'm just not very self-aware when it comes to physiology. I can't make my body do things. I have a terrible time with Kegals and I can't even make myself burp. I loved having Carol Ann, my old doula, because she knew how to do everything- pressure points, and massaging, and directing me in what I needed to do.

This time, I came up with my own strategies for labor. I thought about how I'd mostly need to be in control of my emotions/mental space so I could regulate them in a way I couldn't regulate the physical stuff. I asked Peyton to think of encouraging things to say ahead of time (I think he forgot to do this ahead of time but he still did great with it) and I made a playlist with music I love (that I totally ended up not using because it seemed super abrasive and annoying in the moment). I reminded myself of how I'd be able to hold my baby soon and I prayed through it ALOT. Like a lot.

And my one big strategy that I didn't come up with until I was in the moment was counting backwards. I've actually done it before in painful/uncomfortable situations like getting blood drawn (and now I'm doing it when Sallie latches on to nurshe, ha!) but not for something so lengthy. Anyway, each time a contraction would start I'd count backwards from thirty, then from twenty, and then from ten. I'd keep counting back from ten until it was over. This would probably not be an at all effective strategy for like a twelve hour labor but since mine was so short this type of just "pushing through" the pain, rather than trying to relax through it, worked surprisingly well.

It's interesting to think about. Speaking of my reading, I was reading the Bradley book and it was talking about how MANY women describe their natural births as "pain free". Um? That's just not my experience. And I hate to invalidate anyone else's experience but I'm tempted to call BS. The book talked about how contractions are just a muscle working. Well, my uterus working like that feels way different than other muscles. (The Bradley book also says "nature always gives you a break between contractions". Okay, but no.) Peyton told me that during one of the most intense parts they asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten and I said "well, I want to say a ten but I know it'll get worse". But I didn't reconsider much and stuck with calling it a ten. Also, on the pain scale do you rate the pain against the worst pain YOU'VE ever felt or the pain you assume exists as possible to experience? I assumed the former. P says I'm not objective because people get their limbs shot off and that has to hurt more than a contraction. Which yes, but I've never felt that.

I tried to really notice the sensation of the contractions. I know this is weird and it's part of my compulsive nature but one reason I really wanted to do this again was because I just wanted to notice the sensation and experience it more than I did with Graves. Of course I did notice it but I wasn't aware it was possibly the last time so I didn't think to really try to concentrate and remember what it felt like. This is a big deal with me with lots of things. I just try to remember what it felt like the first time Peyton and I kissed, or the first time one of my babies nursed, or how their little hair felt on my skin. I don't know why it matters but it does.

I feel like contractions feel like a really sharp, cramp like pain. It's like the most intense period cramps multiplied by ten. Peyton and I were talking about it and I was saying how to me the contractions really probably hurt worse than the pushing part. I always say that and then it seems like it can't be true but Peyton said it really seemed that way to him from observing how I acted. Anyway, I was describing the difference and I told him that with pushing the baby out you feel your skin stretch and tear and it burns but I compared the contractions to one of those severe, sharp leg cramps you wake up in the night with and that it felt like getting hit, or really rather squeezed really hard in the stomach. He said he'd choose his flesh ripping over the leg cramp, too. I guess it just depends on if your prefer your muscles squeezed or your skin stretched. Haha.

I mentioned this in Graves's birth post, but I'm so fascinated by the sounds and expressions of birth. One of my only true regrets is that I didn't get a video. I will say that I'm abundantly grateful for the pictures I got and I feel like that almost didn't happen. Peyton knew how important that was to me but in the moment we were both so consumed. Probably less than an hour before Sallie got here, Peyton mentioned the camera and asked if I wanted Cookie to take some pictures. I said yes, for sure. They ended up being such amazing pictures that I'll cherish forever and I wasn't sad at all that we didn't splurge for birth photography. She took some really, really intimate ones that I doubt anyone but Peyton and I (and Sarah Lamar is she wants to) will ever see. I'm so thankful for them. I had really wanted that kind of pictures but I was a little embarrassed or something and I hadn't expressed it to anyone, even Peyton.

It's so my compulsiveness again, but there were so many tiny things I wanted to do differently about this birth/hospital stay. Just being more organized for the hospital stay (as for as what the big kids would wear and that kind of thing) and having a playlist and bringing cute pjs rather than grungy t-shirts. And then more important things- like the pictures. The fact that I'm bothered so much about the video really upsets me. I know it's post partum hormones but I feel like I'm doing a terrible job of appreciating what I've been given (e.g. spending too much time grieving hat this is our last little baby instead of just enjoying her). At the same time, like I said, I know in this case, a lot of it is my obsessive nature. I used to have a thing where if I did something wrong- took a wrong turn driving for example- I'd have to go back and redo the whole process, rather than just getting back on track. In kindergarten, I used to erase holes in my paper trying to get it perfect. Birth isn't like that. It's not sustainable to keep going back and doing it over trying to get the perfect outcome. And newsflash- the perfect outcome is the precious baby.

As far as the sounds go, I always make more high "whiney" noises rather than moaning sounds. This time I feel like it was a little different because I was a lot more verbal rather than just making noises. I remember telling Peyton so many times "I'm so scared". Which is interesting in itself. I remember pain being a part of Graves's birth, but not fear. I think the intensity and chaos created that fear. And I think the feeling I had that the pain I was dealing with wouldn't be sustainable for very long created fear.

The hardest part, I think was just not knowing how long it would be. They were so intense and the fact that they were coming right on top of each other (or it seemed like it- I really felt like I was getting NO breaks) made it so hard but I knew it would probably be a quick labor. I just kept thinking "HOW LONG?" though. If someone had been able to say "you'll be done in less than two hours" I probably could have relaxed a lot more. I mean, duh. But that was the hardest thing for me. Knowing it would get worse before it was over and not knowing when it would be over.

Clearly, it was a VERY short labor in the greater scheme of things and I'm not complaining but so many people who had been contracting for weeks and were as progressed as I was when they got to the hospital had told me that they pushed the baby out within an hour of getting there. So I was a little disappointed when they checked me the second time especially and I was still at a six. In retrospect, that seems so dumb given that start to finish the labor was like four hours.

Another thing that was really hard for me was feeling like I needed to be my own advocate in a lot of ways. First of all, Peyton and Cookie both reminded me a couple of times that I could get the medicine. Cookie was like "you do not have to do this, you don't need to torture yourself, don't be a martyr". But she said it one time and I told her it was really important to me and she never mentioned it again. Peyton didn't sugguest it as strongly and he said he brought it up two times at the beginning and once more and that was it. And he's apologized so much and been so kind to me about it. I know he and Cookie just had a hard time seeing me in so much pain. With Peyton he just wanted me to know I had the option and he wouldn't think any less of me if I took it.  Cookie said she never got worried about me during Graves's birth like she did this time. I looked back at the pictures, and yep, it even looks more serene:
 Graves's Birth_20110412_001Graves's Birth_20110412_005

The other part of that was the nurses. They were actually really sweet and in some ways UMC was great because they kind of let you do your thing (like wearing my own clothes). But there were several things that made everything more difficult. First of all, as I mentioned, I was positive for Group B Strep. They told me that they wanted to get a full dose of the medicine in me (by IV so it would take a few hours) and they didn't want to break my water until after that and that just sort of made me anxious since I knew that's what speed labor up with the other two.

They also had a really hard time keeping the baby on the monitor and at one point they told me that they really needed me to stay in the bed for a twenty minute stretch. I knew that'd be hard but I wanted to make sure she was okay so I agreed. Then one of the nurses said "and try to be as still as possible". WHAT? That's just not very possible with a natural labor. I did my best but I was so frustrated. And- this is in no way anyone's fault- but the whole not pushing thing was so hard.

 Then after my water broke they told me I really needed to stop getting up to go to the bathroom because they didn't want me to push on the toilet. First of all, I wasn't fully dilated so I wasn't going to like give birth in the toilet. Secondly, even if I was, I assume it'd take several pushes to get her out. This is one area where River Oaks definitely won out (the nurses there let me use the potty even after my water broke). I told them I had to be able to and that I not only needed to teetee but I needed to potty. OMG. This younger nurse kept telling me that she promised it was the baby. I was like "nope, I can tell the difference- I'm not good at knowing my own body- but I know what's my unborn child and what's the guacamole I just ate". Sure enough after I told them I HAD to do something about it, they brought me a bed pan. And sure enough, business had to be taken care of. Peyton knows that one of my WORST FEARS IN LIFE is pooping on the bed while giving birth so (much) later he was like "how did it feel to experience one of your worst fears in life?" I can laugh now but I was so, so mortified over it. At least, he reminded me, it doesn't compare to this story. OMG.

I did realize later that the nurse in L&D was right out of school. She clearly had a few months of births under her belt but this could have easily been one of the first natural births she's experienced. She was really sweet and at the end kept telling me what a rockstar I was but I do wish some things had been done differently.

I'll be really honest. I still can't believe I did it sometimes. There were several times I really thought I'd cave. With Graves I remember saying exactly one time "I don't think I can do this" but even then I didn't really feel like I was asking for the drugs. This time I remember saying "I'm just not sure" so many times when the option was presented to me. I do remember telling Cookie how very important it was to me and that I wanted to keep trying and I remember the nurse saying that I didn't have much longer of a window to get the epidural (I could still get some other pain medicine, though). And I remember thinking "I'll be glad when that window closes and it's not an option".

There's clearly no way to know how close I came to it, but it sort of makes me shiver thinking of how close it might have been. I know I would have regretted it forever and I'm pretty sure it would have put me in a bad mental place for awhile (not to say that any of this is good or admirable, or how it should be, I just know that's how I would have reacted). Fear of regret is a big motivation for me, I've realized. When we were picking Sarah Lamar's name, it's finally what helped me decide. There was actually a name I was more "drawn" to, that I'd been in love with for much of the pregnancy, but I knew in my heart I would have regrets about not naming her Sarah Lamar, regrets I wouldn't have about not using the other name. Looking back on her that night, I think fear of regret is one of the huge motivating factors that helped me achieve the birth I desperately wanted.

Another huge factor was quite simply the Lord. I didn't necessarily feel that as much with Graves's birth. But in this situation I leaned on Him like I have few other times in my life. From start to finish, I know He got me through it. I prayed so hard for Cookie to be there and that detail will never, ever be overlooked when I reflect on Sallie's birth story. And I prayed so hard through those intense contractions. I sometimes hate it when people say "It wasn't me, it was the Lord". Not because I don't believe them; I guess just because it sounds trite or something. And also sometimes I think it can come off as false humility. But it's true. I really don't think it would have happened the way it did apart from Him.

I've talked so much to Peyton about all these things and the craziness and chaos of the whole thing, it's almost hard to wrap my head around it, especially since it all happened so fast. He's been so sweet and encouraging and has told me multiple times how proud he was of me. And he's told me stories from those hours I don't even remember. Which, if you know me, is such a special gift.

Also, he told me that it was kind of special not having a doula. He said in some ways it seemed less crazy to him. I think because he was able to just squeeze my hand and tell me I was doing good and rub a wet washcloth on my face without someone giving him lots of directions. I know some husbands don't want to "share" the experience with a doula and that was never Peyton, but it seemed so sweet when he described it. 

I've sort of gotten off budget with my "spendy money" and Peyton told me that we could just figure it out within the budget rather than me having to pay it back (subbing next Fall, ect.) since we didn't end up spending money on a doula. Looking back, I guess I might do it differently but I'm sort of glad I didn't have one just because it was an additional new experience and because I showed myself that I could manage my own pain through a chaotic experience and even advocate for myself when things were really wild.

I feel like there were so many crazy things that were sort of working against me but I still did it and honestly, I don't think I'd change a thing about it. Like Graves's birth, it was so empowering, probably even to a greater degree because of the greater difficulty.

Aside that it is what brought us to our girl. I'm just a week away from it and I can smile so big thinking about what a fierce entrance our littlest spitfire made into the world.

For those interested:
The Amazing Story of Ann Peyton's Birth
The Amazingly Different Story of Graves's Birth