Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gabriel’s Birth Story


This birth story, like so many others, begins with the birth of my first child, Lydia.  I’ll keep this part brief, as I’ve written on her birth before (to read in detail, check out this blog entry: http://motheroflydiapearl.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-birth-experience.html). 

With Lydia, though I had been very clear about my wishes for a natural birth, I was induced for being “post-dates” at 40 weeks and 5 days.  Needless to say, one thing led to another, and after a traumatic journey, I landed in the Operating Room for an emergency Cesarean Section. 

I think I probably suffered through every intervention known to man.  I had labored 23 hours on Pitocin (20 of those with no epidural, and 6 long, awful hours of back labor) with just my husband as my labor coach (champ that he is).  I had dilated all the way to 9.5 cm, but still didn’t make it to 10, and at shift change, I went into reverse labor.  The doc on call diagnosed me with Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion, (though I didn’t know this term at the time).  When told of the need for the emergency c/sec, I had asked if I was a good candidate for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) for my next birth, and the OB said “No, I’m afraid your pelvis is just too narrow.”  I was devastated, exhausted, and confused, but hey, I had my healthy daughter, and the doctor and staff had saved both our lives, right?
Me with Lydia in the recovery room after her birth.
 

Not the way I see it.  If I had known then what I know now and allowed my baby and my body to decide when labor was appropriate to begin, our lives never would have needed saving in the first place.  But what did I know?  I was just the pregnant lady.  I trusted too much in a broken system.

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Fast forward a few months.  My husband and I wanted to have our babies close together, and so after I healed up and got into the swing of being a mommy, I began to research.  I decided not to take the OB’s word for it and sought a second opinion on the VBAC.  I met with one of the staff at the local midwifery, and she told me some interesting facts.  First was that my hospital’s rate of emergency c/section on first time mothers that were induced was between 60% and 80%.  Wow.  Seriously??!  I was REALLY angry that my OB (whom I truly trusted) had withheld this info from me when she scheduled my induction, especially after my incessant hammering of natural birth, natural birth, natural birth. 

Another, more heartening fact, was that, unless in the case of gestational diabetes, the vast majority of women DO NOT make babies that they cannot birth.  (CPD was more of an issue in the 1600’s when Rickets was prevalent and caused misshapen pelvises.)  That, and the fact that I had been in labor so long and dilated as much as I did definitely increased my chances of delivering vaginally for subsequent births. 

Well, I didn’t have to wait too terribly long to find out if I would be able to birth my next baby naturally, as I found out when Lydia was about 8 months old that we were expecting again!  Yikes!  And yay!! 
My positive pregnancy test, January 10th, 2012

After weighing our options, my husband and I decided that Home Birth was the route we desired to take.  This (as you can expect), caused alarm in some people we knew, but I trusted my body to do what God designed it to do.  I wanted a natural birth, and by golly, I deserved it!!!  We did, however, decide that we wanted to know the sex of our baby-to-be, so our midwife sent us to a local institution to have an ultrasound. 

I took my mother with me, because the midwife I’d be meeting with was the one who had been my mom’s Lamaze coach for my brother’s birth and the attending midwife for my birth thirty years ago.  (To be honest, though my mother loves her dearly and respects her opinion, she was not my favorite person.  She made me worry about my decision to have a VBAC, my decision to have a home birth, and made me question the credibility of the midwife I’d chosen to attend it.)  She talked me out of the home birth, and I switched care to the local midwifery.  Though I did feel they would do a good job for me, I was still extremely unsettled (terrified, really) about giving birth in the hospital again.  I knew there would be an operating room just down the hall waiting for my labor to “not progress” as the hospital staff saw fit.  I also did NOT want to be strapped to the electronic fetal monitor and have an IV port “just in case” – standard of care across the nation for VBAC.

So, after LOTS of prayer, more research, and anxiety over telling my husband I wanted to switch yet again, the decision was made to go once more for home birth.  My midwife was very gracious in taking me back for care. 

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All that said, NOW we can really get into my SON’S birth story! 

On Monday morning, September 10th, I lost a little mucous plug (I was pretty sure anyway) and I had thought FOR SURE that I was in labor on Monday night.  I’d been having regular contractions that were more than Braxton-Hicks, and just *felt* that it was time.  It wasn’t.  J 

Tuesday morning, I lost some more mucous plug, this time with a little blood in it!!  Tuesday afternoon, my wonderful chiropractor adjusted me (for free – out of the goodness of her heart she wanted me to be as best prepared for labor as possible) and told me to come back the next week if I was still pregnant. 

Wednesday afternoon, I had a prenatal visit with my midwife, and Thursday marked what we were pretty sure was my 39th week of pregnancy.  (There has been LOTS of discrepancy over my actual date of conception and due date.)   I had still been having regular contractions, and looking back, I realize it was prodromal labor, and I think I had been in labor that whole time, maybe even from Monday night!  I had no desire to leave the house, only to cook and clean and spend time with my 16-month-old and husband.   
Me and Lydia, taken by my cousin, Sarah Nix.  I think this was taken the last week in August.
 

Sure enough, about 9pm on Thursday, I knew for sure that I was in labor.  I waited an hour and a half, just to be certain, and then called my midwife to be on the alert.  She told me to rest if I could, but of course I was so excited, that though I sent my husband to bed, I stayed up.  I found a great contraction timer online (http://www.contractionmaster.com/ -- I don’t have a fancy cell phone to download apps to) and pulled up Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook to distract myself through each rush.  (Hey, whatever works, right?!)  My doula was awake, so we chatted here and there on FB.  She would be coming from a little over an hour away, so at 1 or so, I gave her the go-ahead to come on down.  (She was so excited!)  The hubbs was still sleeping at this point (poor guy had a NASTY cold – another reason I knew labor was imminent – Murphy’s Law, right?) but I woke him to tell him that if he came out of the bedroom to make sure he was dressed b/c company was coming.  J 

I called my midwife at 5 to let her know that I’d been up all night having contractions, and now they were about 5-7 mins apart.  I’d been doing low moaning each time I had one, leaning over the couch arms, as I felt it was rude to continue with my game now that people were with me!  As I felt the contractions come on, I would envision myself at the prow of a small boat, sailing on an ocean, and would rise up on my toes as I was cresting each wave.  (Ah, yes, the bliss of visualization!)

My midwife arrived about 7am on Friday morning (I’d told her to take her time) and everyone went to work setting up and filling the birthing tub.  I think I got in the tub about 9, and I was sooooo sleepy after being up all night.  The water felt wonderful!  It was great to be buoyant after months of feeling heavy and weighed down.  When my husband put our daughter down for a nap about 10, everyone lay down to rest and gather energy.  My contractions were SO much stronger in the bed!  I don’t think my husband got any rest.  When naptime was over, I got back in the tub after my labor team heated the water up.  (Funny, but I kept thinking about how wrinkled my toes must be after all that time in the water…)
Lydia LOVED the tub!  She kept calling it "BALL!!" 
I think b/c it was the same color as my birthing ball.
 

I don’t remember much between then and when Lydia got up from her second nap at 2ish.  I do remember that I asked James to call his sister and see if she’d be willing to look after our lil girl for a few hours as labor was getting really intense, and Lydia was causing me a lot of distraction.   I think something in me knew that I would be able to get more done without her there and I could focus 100% of my energy on getting my son earthside.  James left to take her and got back about 2:30. 
Resting between contractions.
 

My contractions were REALLY picking up by then, and my water broke (clear!) after I felt the urge to start pushing.  This was about 2:55pm.  I began to get really overwhelmed and had a good cry with James there at my side.  He was so wonderful and encouraging – he told me “You’re one of the toughest people I know” when I was ready to give up.  I told my midwife that I really felt like pushing, and she told me something like “your body won’t steer you wrong”.  (Pushing at the wrong time, thus causing swelling is part of what caused me to not be able to dilate all the way to 10cm with Lydia, but I was on too much Pitocin and had started pushing at 6cm.  Needless to say, I felt caution when it came time to push.)  I also remember asking her if I was in transition yet, and she told me we were WAY past that point!!  I was SO relieved!!!  I just wanted it to be over – it had been such a long and trying journey…
My husband was so supportive and loving through the whole journey.
 

(I’m cheating and using my Labor Record, by the way.  There’s no way I ever could have known what time all this stuff happened, lol!)

I kept talking to our son, kept vocalizing what I wanted to happen and for him to do.  My midwife said that was great.  She wrote down where I kept saying things like “I’m ready to meet you!”  “I am just ready to open up and have this baby!”  “Oh Lord, just open me up!”  “I am ready for some Oxytocin!!!!” 
 

I really began pushing at 3:45, and then at 4:15, on my Labor Record, it was recorded “feeling some big movement”.  I distinctly remember asking James what time it was and when he told me 4:15, I thought to myself and to God, dang it’d be GREAT to have this baby by 5!  At 4:40, my crowning peaked, and though the ring of fire was unpleasant, it wasn’t near as bad as I’d heard other women describe it (thankfully).  4:50 was the full crown, and at 4:56, his head was born.  That was awesome and terrible all at once!  What relief, knowing it was going to be over soon… 
 

I looked down at his little head there between my legs and said “he has some hair!”  I’d turned my body toward my husband, basically aiming myself at him so he could catch our son.  Then when my midwife saw the cord wrapped around his neck, and told James to unroll the baby, not the cord, but he decided that it’d be best if she did that, so he took over holding the light and she poised herself to catch him. 

At 4:59, the rest of his little body came out, wrapped up three times in his cord.  My midwife unrolled him and handed him to me.  I thought it was so cool that I’d gotten my wish to have him by 5!  I exclaimed “I have a baby!!”  I clutched him to my breast after checking between his legs to ensure that he was definitely a he.  He coughed and spluttered for quite some time, but he eventually cried.  I said “me too, baby, me too,” as I was feeling his pain.  He was so beautiful!!  So perfect!  He had the old man wrinkly feet and hands that Lydia had had, and he looked SOOOO much like his big sister!!

I was so very relieved that it was over.  Or so I thought…

I guess my Sister-in-Law had called when I was getting really close and said that Lydia was absolutely inconsolable, and James told her that we were really close to delivery and that he’d call her back soon.  (He didn’t tell me this -- wise choice -- until after our boy was born.)  He called Ashley back after the baby was born, but before I’d delivered the placenta, to tell her it was okay to bring Lydia home, as he didn’t want to be a burden (they have a little girl about Lydia’s age, too). 

I guess I didn’t think about labor not being over, and I didn’t think I’d have any difficulty delivering my placenta, but when my SIL and her hubbs came in with my niece and Lydia, I think it halted my labor.  It was chaotic for a few minutes – Ashley came over to me, gave me a hug, and said “you did it!!!”  We had her husband wait by the couch b/c I was quite indecent, and then when a few minutes had passed and I still hadn’t delivered the afterbirth, my midwife felt it was time for me to speak up and ask everyone to leave.  My mom also came to look after Lydia sometime around this point. 

I noticed at that time that I REALLY had to pee, but couldn’t seem to be able to go.  I think we got me out of the tub at this point, still holding the new baby, and moved to the bathroom.  I suggested cutting the cord and passing the baby off to someone else to see if that’d help the placenta come out.  My midwife told me that my since my bladder was so full, it was holding in my placenta and that the placenta was also holding in my bladder – that’s a heck of a catch 22!  I was extremely uncomfortable.  We tried many different methods to try to get one or the other out – holding my hand under warm running water, sitting in a tub of warm water, showering, taking a tincture of Angelica (it’s supposed to help expel the placenta), drinking more (big mistake!), sitting on the toilet, walking around, NOTHING seemed to be helping! 

It was getting later and later, and everything was chaos and pandemonium.  Poor James was being pulled in 50 different directions, trying to help our doula with the tub drainage and cleanup, worrying about me, trying to get my mom situated with Lydia’s dinner, etc.  I laid down on the bed on top of several chux pads (and a shower curtain covered by a sheet) in misery and just prayed that something would happen and happen SOON.  James and my mom prayed over me, praying that we wouldn’t have to transport to the hospital.  I REALLY didn’t want that, after all I’d been through to have this home birth!!  I was emotionally overwhelmed that so much time had passed and nothing had happened.  I think it was about 8pm by then.  We decided to try inserting a catheter, but I was so swollen that it wasn’t possible with the type of catheter my midwife had on hand.  She had called her midwifery partner to come with a different type of cath, when all of a sudden, I was able to pee a little.  It wasn’t much, but it gave us all hope. 

Then nothing again.  Finally, after another hour or so, I went in the bathroom by myself, just praying to God that He would get us through this without having to get medical assistance.  I sat on the toilet for a few minutes, felt the urge to push, and MY PLACENTA CAME OUT!  Then, sweet sweet relief – I must’ve peed for a solid minute!!!!  (I told James later that it was like the heavens opened up and the angels were singing just for me!)  Feeling like ten trillion dollars, I cleaned myself up, came out of the bathroom, threw my hands up, and grinned as I told my midwife, “I did it!  It’s all in the toilet!”  (Like anyone would know what that meant.)  Someone said “what’s in the toilet?”, and I said “Everything!  My placenta, my pee, everything!!”  I know that must sound strange, the way I put it, but I was just so excited, and yes, again, relieved.  It was 9pm when I finally was done delivering the placenta.

My little man had peed by then too, soaking a couple receiving blankets, and had gotten rid of a HUGE meconium stool.  With everyone cleaning up the tub, tending to me, holding him, bathing Lydia and getting her ready for bed, we didn’t have the chance to weigh him until after he’d pooed, so we estimated that he’d weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces at birth, with a length of 20 ¼”, and a 14” head circumference. 
Me and my new baby boy!!
 

Something I find unbelievable was all the time that had passed, and we still had not picked out a name for him!  (For those of you who don’t know, we’d settled on a name a few times, but then James would change his mind.  I got tired of getting attached to a certain name, so I told him that I wanted him to pick our son’s name and not tell me what it was til the baby was earthside.  Many people questioned my sanity at this choice, but I had faith.)  When everyone was gone for the night and the three of us were snuggling in bed together, James told me that the Lord had laid it on his heart to call our son Gabriel.  What a strong and beautiful name!  We decided the next morning that he would be Gabriel John – John is my favorite gospel, and a family name on both mine and James’ sides. 

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My labor had been 20 hours long.  This seemed like forever to me, but talking with my midwife after the fact, she said that she was highly impressed that he’d come before 10pm that night.  I felt like a champion – I’d done it!  I’d had my child MY way, on my terms, in my own time, in my own home.  I didn’t have to go anywhere.  I had such an extreme feeling of satisfaction.  I rode that cloud all the next day, too.  I must’ve looked like a cheese with my Permagrin slapped across my face the whole day! 

Talking with my husband (who previously had been heard saying “it doesn’t matter to me how the baby gets here, as long as he and Stevie are safe and healthy”, and though he was on board with the home birth, he would have been on board with an elective repeat c/sec, too), I am so glad he realized why having an un-tampered-with vaginal birth was so incredibly important to me.  I no longer feel the anger that I did after my daughter’s birth.  I feel peace, knowing that I could do it, that my body could do it, and that my uterus didn’t explode (like so many people had led me to believe it would, but which I never had felt was an issue for me). 

I also feel so much closer to James.  After Lydia’s birth, I didn’t realize what the c/sec had done to my emotional state.  I was a MESS.  Not only did I have to recoup from a major surgery, but I had a baby, and all the hormones that came with giving birth, and I could barely take care of myself, let alone a newborn and a husband to boot!  I don’t know what he went through emotionally with Lydia’s birth, but I did not feel close with him afterward.  With Gabriel’s birth, I can’t explain it, but I think it has changed the way James views me.  He has been very sweet, tender, and affectionate with me, not to mention more patient when I am hormonal and weepy (all.the.time).  I feel more like he is my ally this time, though I can’t say where the feeling had come from that we were on opposing teams last time. 

Bonding with Gabriel has been easier, too, as has nursing (though we are still trying to solve a clicking issue) than it was for Lydia and me starting out.  I have no regrets about my birth with Gabriel, where I cannot say that I would not have done things differently with Lydia’s debut had I known better.

My perfect son.  I am in love!!!
 

I am glad I stuck to my guns, glad I was too chicken to have a hospital birth.  People think I’m brave for giving birth at home, but I tell them that the brave thing for ME would have been to walk in to a hospital, having previously had a c/section, and tried to have a natural birth.  After 20 hours, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have had another c/section.  My labor was long at home, my haven, where I am most comfortable and I didn’t have strangers walking in whenever they saw fit, causing my contractions to stall or become less productive.  I can’t see how being in a hospital setting would have made it less lengthy. 

I am thankful that I didn’t go into labor and have to put my battle armor on to defend my right to a natural, vaginal birth.  I am just not that strong.  Or maybe I am?  I am glad I don’t have to find out.  J

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Search of the New Normal

Many of you have read my blog on the breastfeeding issues I had been facing a couple of months ago when I first found out I was pregnant.  That’s good.  It’s the prequel (if you will) to THIS entry.
I’ll tell you, being forced into partial weaning was not a fun adventure.  BUT we made it.  After I ran out of my own frozen milk and nothing I did or took increased my supply, James and I had a heart-to-heart.  I was extremely against the thought of ever giving any of my children formula, but he just wasn’t comfortable in giving Lydia someone else’s breast milk, though I had been offered by several women (many of whom I don’t even know!).  I like a peaceful household – James and I rarely argue, and when we do, it’s over quickly and we move on – so I deferred to his decision and we bought some organic formula.
At first, even with the stored breast milk, I HATED giving her a bottle.  But we got over that.  I found a way to hold her and hold the bottle that didn’t tie up my hand, and I am able to love on her since it is free. 
It was amazing how easily Lydia adjusted!  I had a much harder time than she did, and I was thoroughly impressed with her adaptability.  It took only a few days, and it was like she went through this incredible transformation.  She was on a consistent routine, taking two complete hour-long naps every day, eating two-three meals a day, and SO happy and content!  I could hardly believe it!
The Lord dealt with my pride in a big way using this unforeseen change in our situation, too.  I was so proud that Lydia had been exclusively breastfed, and I was convinced that she would never have to have any formula.  I admit that I looked down on mothers that gave their children formula.  I still DO definitely feel that the system sets women up for failure when they first have babies and don’t have a clue about nursing, and that’s why so many resort to the bottle.  (After all, breastfeeding doesn’t bring in revenue like formula does!!)  I am angry that on our first well-baby checkup, our pediatrician hands us a bag from Similac filled with formula and emblazoned with the logo “Breast is Best”.  I feel (ESPECIALLY now) that formula has its’ place, but that so many have come to rely on it b/c breastfeeding (at first) is inconvenient and can be uncomfortable.
Anyhow, I have been forced into the other person’s shoes, and though I don’t like it, God has used this to provide me with a different perspective.  I no longer look down on those that give their children formula – what if the choice truly wasn’t theirs?  (Some mothers cannot breastfeed due to breast reduction or augmentation, cancer treatment, milk supply never coming in, and many other reasons.)
Up until a few days ago, I was making enough milk for Lydia to nurse in the mornings and for me to pump an ounce or two at night (she won’t nurse when she’s hungry – she gets too frustrated) to mix with her AM formula.  However, yesterday and today, she turned away from me in the morning when I offered her the breast, and won’t nurse anymore.  I’m a little sad, but to be completely truthful, a little relieved as well.  Nursing and pumping have both become extremely painful for me, due to the pregnancy hormones.  It has been a real sacrifice to continue. 
It looks as though nursing may be done (for now) for Lydia.  It’s strange, but I still consider myself to be a breastfeeding mother!  I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to part with that label, even when my kids are grown.  I will try to tandem nurse when the new baby arrives and I have a plentiful supply and it is no longer painful.  I hear having a toddler around to nurse can provide a LOT of relief if you have oversupply!  For now, I am proud of the fact that Lydia never had formula until she was 8 ½ months old, and had breast milk until she was 10 months old.  That is very close to my original goal of at least a year of breastfeeding, and I know I gave her an incredible advantage that a lot of babies don’t get these days. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Breastfeeding Dilemma


Disclaimer: If you are currently trying to conceive and are having trouble, or have recently experienced a pregnancy loss, this may not be the blog entry for you.  I do not want to cause a rift between us because it seems that my troubles are troubles that you would LOVE to have right now, if circumstances were different.  Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic Christian artist) was once asked if she ever got tired of other people complaining about a bad day when she herself was paralyzed from the neck down, and would have given anything to be that person for just one day. She said no, to each person their own pain is very real, so just because it’s not the same as her pain, does not mean it should be less painful to them.  With that, I write.  (I'm not sure why that last section is gray -- I can't seem to be able to change it!)



Have you ever felt like your purpose has just been snatched from you?  I feel like that now.  This is not to say that I’m not pleased that my life is how it is – I am very blessed with a loving husband, a beautiful, healthy daughter, and we are expecting another baby in the fall. 

I have been nursing Lydia every few hours or so since the day she was born over eight months ago.  I love nursing.  I love everything about it – the perfect nourishment it provides her, the protection it gives her against sickness and disease, how it’s a source of comfort to her, and most of all, the bond it has forged between us.  It was our saving grace after her emergency C-section birth – causing us to depend on one another. 

With a successive pregnancy, if you are still breastfeeding, there is the strong possibility that your milk supply may drop off.  I had heard that this was most likely during the second trimester, but, unfortunately, this happened to me just under a week ago.  In a dramatic way.  (I am almost 5 weeks along.) 

We had been nursing like usual on Thursday all day, and then when it came time to put Lydia to bed, I noticed that when I put her to the breast, she was fussy and would turn away.  I’d try to help her latch on again, and she nurse for a second, then turn away angry and confused again.  I didn’t know what to do!  This thing that has always come so easily to us (after the first few weeks, that is) now isn’t functioning properly! 

Luckily, I had stored some breast milk in my freezer from when I had gone on my Encounter in November and had had to pump to keep my supply coming.  James and I have resorted to feeding her bottles full of that for almost a week now.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I am SO completely thankful that I have a small store of my own milk that I can give her for the time being, but when you’re used to the ease of breastfeeding, the bottle presents an unfamiliar disconnect. 

I cry every time we try to nurse and she tears away from me because there’s no milk, causing me extreme pain.  I cry often when I have to give her a bottle – a piece of plastic – when we are accustomed to sharing skin and time to look into each other’s faces.  I cry that instead of being able to touch her face and head and back and hands with my hand that is usually free, I have to cradle her with one arm and use the other to hold the bottle. 

I have tried so many different things to bring my milk supply back.  Eating steel-cut oatmeal; upping my intake of liquids and fats; eating leafy greens and whole grains; taking alfalfa; taking flax oil; pumping and breast compressions to encourage my supply; letting Lydia try to nurse frequently (which usually just ends in both of us crying); I just don’t know what else to do!  I can’t take Fenugreek because it’s no good for the baby growing inside me, though that is the best homeopathic way to increase milk production.  I can’t take domperidone (a milk-increasing drug) because of my pregnancy.  I am at a loss.

I was very proud of the fact that Lydia had been exclusively breast fed until we started giving her solids at seven months of age.  I was cocky in saying that she would never have to consume formula.  Now I may have to eat my words, and it makes me feel about as tall as this font.  There are some generous breast milk donors out there, and I may be fortunate enough to receive some of their shared goods, but maybe not.  Who knows?

I am upset that this doesn’t seem to be as big a deal to most everyone that I tell.  It hurts that I am hurting and only a couple of people have reached out.  I need compassion!  I need a solution!!  I don’t want to hear that she’s going to be fine!  I KNOW she is, but what about ME?!  (To those that have been supportive – which are more than I can think of at the current moment – I thank you for your generosity of spirit and your loving kind compassion.)

I feel like I’ve fallen into a depression.  I hardly leave the house – what if she gets hungry and I can’t just find a corner in a quiet parking lot to nurse her in?  I feel so out of place and so very, very sad. 

I feel like I did when I ended up with a C-section that was the complete opposite of what I had desired and planned.  I feel angry, sad, confused.  I feel like I had all these ideas of how nursing (and birth) was going to go, and now I have been robbed of that, and I don’t know what to do.  I feel lost. 

I hate that I may be coming across as unthankful for my new baby.  I praise the Lord many times each day for him or her!  I know that James and I are so blessed to have gotten pregnant without really trying.  I DO NOT take that fact for granted, I promise you! 

I suppose I need to change my attitude about the whole thing.  A lady from my church said, after I told her what was happening, “Well, I guess God just has a different plan for Miss Lydia!”  And I know she’s right.  Deep down, I know He’ll get us through this.  But that doesn’t make it any less difficult for the time being, and it doesn’t make the pain any less real to me.  And most of the day, I am okay.  It’s just at some points that I wish I still made enough milk to nurse her.

She fell over today and bonked her noggin, and I offered her my breast when she cried, but it just made her more upset because there was nothing in it.  She woke up at 1:50 am (an unusual time for her) and I couldn’t just undo the snap on my nursing tank top and nurse her like I wanted – I had to take in a bottle with me.  It’s times like these that it is the hardest. 

If you are a praying person, please remember me and Lydia when you talk to God.  She is just as upset when we try to nurse as I am.  She doesn’t understand it when Mommy tries to give her the bottle, as she is so used to having the real deal from me.  Please ask the Lord for guidance, comfort, and peace about the situation.  Please ask Him to help me figure out what to do for milk – be it donor’s milk, formula, goat’s milk, etc., or if it’s His will, that he bring back my supply.  I truly appreciate your love, thoughts, and most of all, your prayers. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Should we try to change our husbands?

God has blessed me with an atypically amazing husband.  Or has He?  I say this because, no matter how “in love” we were when we got married, no matter how “perfect” he was at that moment when he asked me to marry him, he is still human, and fallen in his nature (just as I am). 

The man I married has his flaws, his hang-ups, his quirks, and the little imperfections that make him James.  This is not to say that I don’t love him dearly.  I just mean to say that as our relationship has moved from the “in-love” stage to the “everyday life” stage, I have had to adjust my view of him as the perfect guy, to, the perfect guy FOR ME. 

I have no doubts in my mind that God brought us together.  James and I are opposites in so many ways, and the Lord has used those areas to help us realize the places in which each of us needs to grow.  For instance, one of his strengths is stability, where I am easily swayed and love change.  I am naturally outgoing, where he likes to keep to himself and those he loves dearly.  He is very intellectual, I am very creative.  I tend to speak before I think, he is very calculated and articulate in expressing his mind. 

It is easy to love our husbands SO much when things are rosy and life is grand, and particularly when the relationship is new.  We love everything about them -- the way they talk and the things they say; the way they look and the way their scent has an intoxicating effect; how their bachelor pads are endearing, as is the way they do laundry and cook; their habits and activities are things we adore.  So, my question is, as time goes by and we get used to one another, WHY DO WE SEEK TO CHANGE THEM?

I think it must be in women’s nature.  Something in us sees areas in which they could grow or be different, and then those thoughts turn to thoughts that they SHOULD be different in these things.  Can’t they see that?  Don’t they WANT to be better?  Don’t they WANT to be more of a spiritual leader?  Why can’t they see that THIS is my love language and quit trying to express love to me in THAT way?  Why does he always want to talk about THAT?  Why can’t he talk about ME?  Can’t he see that I hate it when he acts this way?  And the endless critical eye and ear take up a place in our day-to-day lives, and the awful, evil cycle of dissatisfaction has begun. 

Men are typically more realistic than we are, not having been wooed by tales of knights-in-shining-armor, cruelly-treated princesses, perfect weddings, and the like.  The movies women love are called “chick flicks” for a reason – they cater to the female need of needing to be rescued, causing us to live in a dream world where we think that “movie love” is how it REALLY happens.  We’re taught to think, if I just meet the perfect guy, we’ll fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, with fallen men, and we are fallen women, and ALL of us are imperfect in our sin. 

So life happens.  One disappointment after the next builds up, gathering like stones around our hearts until a complete barricade is formed.  We tell ourselves that it’s for his own good that we’re giving him the silent treatment, that we’ll quietly punish him for the wrong he’s committed. 

I was thinking about it, and when I ask James to change or tell him that he should be better in this area or that area, I’m telling him that he’s inadequate.  He’s not enough.  I want someone different.  Someone better. 

When I do that, I’m also telling GOD that the person that he gave me to be my lifelong mate isn’t good enough!  How could we ever dare to think that our Creator made a mistake?!  (Be aware that I am not judging here.  I believe that the Lord takes the things the enemy uses as tools, and like Romans 8:28 says, works them to the good of those who love Him – EVEN divorce.  My husband was married once before me, and he learned much from the duration and end of that relationship that has benefitted OUR marriage greatly.)

So I want to suggest a different tactic.  Why don’t we leave the change up to The Maker?  Why don’t we, when we see something that is not satisfactory, pray about it?  Why don’t we ask God, if it’s in His will, to change what we aren’t so crazy about in our husbands?  And when we ask that, why don’t we also say something like “and if it’s not your will, Lord, change ME.  Make ME content.  Make it not a big deal in MY heart.”  And He will answer our prayers, one way or the other, making the situation, trait, habit, or whatever, more tolerable, change, or disappear completely.  (Now when it comes to silly quirks of my own, the little things, I do still ask him.  Like the toilet paper being loaded onto the dispenser a certain way, the toothpaste being squeezed from the bottom, or wrapping his gum in something before he tosses it in the bathroom trash.  He could care less about that kind of stuff -- he is very accomodating in that respect.) 

I can suggest this because I know it works.  I long ago (within the first three months I was married) decided to give up trying to change James myself.  Whenever I’d suggest that something be done differently, I’d get an opposite result.  I’d get a closed-off, cold, detached husband.  I like my husband to be reachable, warm, and loving.  So, what I started doing, in things that I really cared about, is PRAY.  Fervently.  Urgently.  Frequently.  I’d go to God with my issues with James, ask Him what to do, to change James or change me, and tell Him how thankful I am for my husband.  Often, the answer would be a change in my OWN attitude. 

James has become much softer, sweeter, more interested in me and what I have to say, and MUCH less self-conscious around me.  Our marriage has become stronger.  We are closer to God and to one another.  I thank the Lord every day for my man.  My husband who provides a good, stable life for his family, who values time with his wife and also with his daughter, who causes me to be better, not only as a wife, but as a human being. 

I think that CHOOSING to be thankful and CHOOSING to see his good traits has made it much easier to be married and co-habitate.  In giving the Lord a thankful attitude regarding my husband, God makes James’ good traits more visible and more important, while removing the emphasis from the things that I might be driven crazy by.  He has made it easier for me to love my man for who he truly is – not how I want him to be. 

My pastor’s wife said once that she used to think that she was helping her husband by reminding him when he would forget things, for instance to call a certain person.  When she would remind him and remind him and remind him, she noticed that he became withdrawn and somewhat depressed.  So she changed her approach.  She began saying, “So-and-so is so blessed when you call them”, and he began to be uplifted, and things began to get done!! 

There is also a book that reiterates this point, and though it is a difficult book to read, especially in our society where women are so empowered, it has made all the difference in my marriage.  It is called Created to be His Help Meet, and it is written by Debi Pearl.  I recommend that any wife read it and implement what the author has to say.  You will notice a HUGE difference in your husband, and I bet it will come sooner than you expect.  It certainly can't hurt to try.  It talks about how women were created with a purpose, and that purpose is to be our husbands’ helper. 

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes.  It applies to EVERY aspect of our daily lives.  It’s about attitude.  Think of your spouse when you read it:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home.

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

“I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.” – Chuck Swindoll

Blessings to you and your marriage. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homemade Body Wash

James and I have been wanting to get back to basics as much as possible.  (This computer was a BIG step in the opposite direction for us, but hey, it’s helped me find fun recipes and also to connect with ya’ll!)  I’m sure you’ve seen on FB that I’m going to make my own laundry detergent, but I’m waiting til I run out of what I have before I do.  I’m sure I’ll blog regarding that, too!

I’ve been going NUTS on Pinterest (LOVELOVELOVE that site – here’s a link to my boards:  http://pinterest.com/stevieballinger/ ).  I found a recipe on how to make your own body wash on there, and was struck by the creativity fairy. 

YouTube is FULL of awesome “how-to’s”.  Anything you think you may want to make, just type it in the search bar on that site and who knows, you may get a hit or two!  I typed in “How to make homemade body wash” or something like that (b/c I am a visual learner and the Pinterest recipe didn’t have video) and here’s the video I came up with:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbXYv3DgUC8

(And now I shall cut and paste from a FaceBook comment string with a friend!)

The lady's a little... over-explanatory, if you will, but the recipe and technique are good. I like it better for the hand soap.  The body wash wasn't as moisturizing as I like it to be, but it worked!

I also used Sweet Almond Oil instead of Vitamin E oil, b/c that's what I had. I'd probably still go with it instead, though, just b/c it's so silky.

The hand soap is nice -- I like it way better than the Dial we were using -- it doesn't seem to dry my hands out as bad.  And you could use Tea Tree Essential Oil if you wanted it to be anti-bacterial.

You can get all the ingredients at Earth Fare (or I bet Fresh Market for ya'll in Hendo).   


       Here are the ingredients and utensils I used.


Instead of making big batches of both (the body wash calls for 8 cups of water and the hand soap for 10), what I did was cut the body wash recipe in half (so 4 cups of water and the 1/2 amounts of the rest of ingredients), and then when I was done mixing it all up, split it again, and added 1/2 cup water to make the hand soap.

That way I could see if I even liked it before I went into making a humongous batch that'd take me four years to get thru!

So here is my half-recipe:
4 cups water
½ tsp. Sweet Almond Oil
½ bar of grated soap (I used the Sappo Hill Lavender from Earth Fare – on the bottom shelf)
1 ½ tsp. vegetable glycerin
¼ tsp. lavender essential oil mixture (called Chill Pill by Aura Cacia)
1/8 tsp. sweet orange essential oil

***Oh yeah!  It started to look a little "gray", so I added 2 drops of blue gel food coloring and one of pink!***

All of the ingredients in the pan prior to melting.

Mix all ingredients in a pan or pot on medium heat.  I whisked it a lot, but it probably wasn’t necessary.  Pour 2 cups of mixture into another bowl and set aside to cool.  This will be your body wash.  Then, add 1/2 cup water to the remaining mixture and stir.  Wait til it cools, then put in bottles!
After the melting process.
Here, it's had the chance to solidify!

I'll probably play with the recipe a little, probably add more water to both hand soap and body wash, as they are both a little thick, and I may try to add more oil to the body wash or maybe less soap.  I dunno.  I love experimenting!!  I hopefully won't blow the house up in the process....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Treasured By Pearl: My Swing, Thermometer, and the Bumbo Seat.

So I guess it’s bad, but I let my daughter sleep in her swing.  Not ALL the time, just for naps and when she’s got gas at night b/c she won’t sleep at all in her crib.  I LOVE the swing.  It has been a lifesaver SO many times.  We have a Fisher Price Cradle n’ Swing that my brother- and sister-in-law bought us.  It has a mobile, mirror, and plays songs and “white noise”. 

When you get a swing, get one that plugs in to the wall or is battery powered.  I don’t know if they even make the hand-crank ones anymore, but I hear they’re a waste of time.  For travel, my good friend, Brittany loaned me a collapsible swing that Amelia wasn’t using anymore.  It’s battery powered, and it’s what Lydia naps in when we are at my dad’s house. 

I’d recommend a swing for every mama.  They seem to offer babies something that helps soothe them when nothing else will.   Just don’t get in the habit (like I did) of letting them sleep in it frequently.  I dread the day that she grows out of it!



The thermometer I have was given to me when Lydia was born by a fellow mama, Beka.  It is the Vicks Temporal Thermometer.  It is (as Rachel Lewis says) “worth its’ weight in GOLD”.  When you get up in the middle of the night to nurse and your baby feels like she might be running a fever but you don’t want to fully wake her, just run the thermometer over her forehead and you have her temp in 3 seconds.  No waking the baby by undressing her and sticking an unwelcome device in who knows what orifice.  Just add a degree to whatever the readout is and that’s a pretty precise internal temperature.  It’s nice too, b/c if you don’t use a night light, like me, it glows so you can easily get a read-out in the dark.  And it stores the 10 previous temps, too.  I think this runs between $30 and $40, probably cheapest at Walmart.  WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY!!



The Bumbo Seat is such a handy invention!!  It helps babies sit up before their little bodies are developed enough to do it on their own.  It cups them comfortably and safely in an upright position.  I went in the thrift store one day looking for one, and found it in the color I wanted for just $22, a bargain considering that new they are almost $40.  The lady working helped me try it out to see if it’d work, and sure enough, when I got Lydia situated, she grinned at us! 

It gives them the feeling of being “big” without needing Mommy or Daddy to hold them up.  I take it everywhere – I put it on the table at restaurants to sit in while we eat, I put it in the big part of the shopping cart at the grocery store facing me and she gets to look all around, at my dad’s house while I clean, etc.  The makers of the product place a warning on the back that says that it is only for use on the floor, but I just keep a watchful eye on her and I haven’t had any problems yet.

She has been using it since she was two months old and still hasn’t grown out of it.  I guess that’s a lot of mom’s gripe with the product – the baby just grows out of it too quickly; I’ve been blessed with a small baby though, and haven’t had troubles yet.  On the other hand, if you get one and want to use it but your baby is too small, I recommend placing receiving blankets around and under your child to take up a bit of the excess space, it worked well for Lydia. 

Okay, so I was done typing this article a MONTH ago!  I should have posted it before now.  Lydia has grown out of her Bumbo, but I am thankful that we used one, b/c I’m sure that is one of the reasons she sits up so well on her own now.  Anyhoo, I think I’ll quit beating around the bush and post this already!  <3

Monday, October 31, 2011

Treasured By Pearl: Children’s Consignment Stores & Events

Everyone is on a tight budget, right?  I know I am.  James and I were very fortunate to be given so much before and after Lydia’s birth and so we only had to buy her a car seat, stroller, a piece of furniture for her bedroom (more on that in this article), and a few other random, less expensive things.

I hope you are as fortunate!  My friend Jenn, spoken of often in this blog, gave us SO MANY clothes that her daughter, Shelby had grown out of.  Probably several hundred dollars’ worth, if not more.  Carter’s , Ralph Lauren, Baby Gap, Old Navy, you name the name brand, it was in one of the bags she gave me.  I am so fortunate to have met her when I did.  Lydia is now 5 months and is (fortunately) a small baby (still in 3 month clothes), and we haven’t purchased the first item for her to wear, thanks to her and all those that gave so generously.  (Okay, I bought her a pair of socks the other day, just because she has long, skinny feet and nothing seems to want to stay on, but I think that we’re doing pretty good so far!)  I am, however, going to have to break down this month and spend some money on clothes for her, as she must have recently hit a growth spurt and is in need of some bigger clothes. 
Good thing Wee Trade is coming up!  Have you heard of it?  OH it’s AWESOME!  It is 30,000 square feet of the Ag Center FILLED to bursting with pretty much anything you could want for your child.  Racks and racks and racks of clothes, rows and rows of tables with bedroom d├ęcor, toys, books, swings, bouncers, walkers, strollers, car seats, carriers, furniture, EVERYTHING! 
I went with Brittany to the one in August.  I spent $65 and got about $300 worth of stuff.  I couldn’t believe it.  I bought a baby tub that at Target is $18, but at Wee Trade was just $3!!!  I got a $60 activity mat for just $20!  (Great investment, BTW.  Lydia LOVED that thing.  One of the dangling toys was the first thing she grabbed, and though she doesn’t care for the mat itself anymore, she still plays with all the detachable toys!)  I got a couple Baby Wise books (see blog) for $10, brand new.  For some reason, I’m drawing a blank as to what else I bought there, but you get the idea.
The only bummer about the event is that you have to stand in a REALLY long line.  I didn’t mind b/c I had good company – Brittany and our gorgeous girls.  It moves a lot faster than you think it will, and the deals are worth it.  The next Wee Trade is November  18-20, and you can bet I’ll be there!  Admission is free, and if you plan on buying a lot, I suggest bringing a laundry basket or something to carry your stuff around in.  We saw one lady that had tied a rope to her laundry basket and was pulling it around behind her.  Some other people were using their strollers, which is what we did.  There are LOTS of people there, so just be aware that you will have to negotiate tight spaces if you bring your stroller.
I also LOVE the Children’s Consignment stores.  I have found three in the Asheville area, though I am sure there are more that I haven’t visited.  (I just did a Google search, and there are a couple more that I’ll have to try!) 
When I was 8 ½ months pregnant, James and I took a whole day shopping ALL OVER town (I think we went to about a dozen different places!) for a piece of furniture for Lydia’s room.  We had seen a hutch/changing table/dresser combo at Children’s Trading Post on Airport Road that was over $500, and though it was pretty perfect, we didn’t have that kind of money to spend.  Well, as that exhausting day was drawing to a close and we still hadn’t found anything, I decided to call CTP to see if that piece of furniture was still there, and it was. 
The beauty of consignment stores is that most of them have gone to a pricing system that lowers as the products spend more and more time on the shelves.  When we first saw that piece, it had been in the store for some time and the price had lowered once, but it was still too much.  When I called that day, the price had just gone down to $370!  Being originally over $1,000, I’d say we got quite a deal.  It’s in immaculate condition, and we can use it for our future babies, or Lydia can hang on to it when she is older. 
Also, Children’s Trading Post has a “frequent flyer” program, if you will, and for every $20 you spend, you get a stamp.  When you have 10 stamps, you get $10 off your next purchase.  At the Merrimon Avenue location, I put my first filled card toward my sling (see previous article), which worked out great!    I’ve gotten a couple other random things there, like my Hooter Hider (for nursing in public) for $8 (new they are around $20), and a package of gDiapers Biodegradable Refills for $11 (at the store, they’re anywhere from $13-$17, not a huge savings, but hey, every dollar counts!). 
My favorite children’s consignment store, however, is Lollipops.  Located in South Asheville on Hendersonville Road (near Asiana), it is just up the street from me.  I went in (even though the sign said “upscale” – I read “expensive”) and was pleasantly surprised.  It was clean, bright, and the employees were friendly.  The prices were comparable to that of the other stores, and unlike Children’s Trading Post, there was plenty of room to move!  (That’s my complaint about CTP – it is overly cluttered, and I have a hard time finding what I am looking for.  I usually just ask one of the employees, who are more than willing to help – usually.) 
On my first visit, I found a Bumbo Seat there in the color that I wanted (Lilac) for just $22, where at CTP they run about $30 +/-.  In the last article I wrote, I told about when I bought my Baby Bjorn, said that the price was unbeatable, but I forgot to mention that while I got the Bjorn for $34 at Lollipops, the same one (different color) was $77 at CTP! 
I “friended” them on Facebook and wrote a recommendation, and the owner sent me an email with a coupon for 25% off any one item!  Just goes to show how far a kind word can get you.  Lollipops also holds events at their shop, things like So Impressed and photo shoots. 
If you aren’t local, be sure to find the children’s consignment stores in your area.  They are a great source for most anything you need, and it’s a great way to save money.  I haven’t personally consigned anything yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know about my experience then I do!